These seem to be my most requested and most loved Christmas treat. I started making them a few years ago and managed to get everyone hooked. You might be familiar with other versions available in the stores but in case you’re not, they consist of a pecan half, covered in caramel, all covered with a chocolate shell in the shape of a turtle. How cute. How yummy! There are easier recipes in which you omit the use of the mold and simply make little piles of pecan and caramel and cover it with chocolate and allow that to harden but where’s the fun in that I say? I always use the molds. They just make these that much more special.
And they are special because I only make them once a year. They are easy enough but they do take a chunk of time. I usually commit an entire afternoon to the assembly-line type process that creates these tasty nom noms.
Ingredients are minimal: sweetened condensed milk, pecan halves and chocolate melting wafers (available at candy supply stores or for order online). The only special equipment needed are the actual turtle molds and a food-grade artists paint-brush, both also available at candy supply stores or online. I am lucky enough to live right down the street from a candy supply shop that has walls and walls of different molds and melting wafers in nearly any flavor you can imagine! This time of year they usually have a table set-up in the back with someone making festive candies of some sort, usually with samples to taste available!
As I said, sweetened condensed milk is one of the ingredients and it is the sole ingredient out of which your caramel is made. I have tried making a different, from-scratch caramel for these but the taste wasn’t as distinctly “turtle”. It has to be the sweetened condensed milk. To make caramel from it basically involves cooking it low and slow to achieve a thick, caramel-colored consistency. The “old-school” method of doing this is to place the can, un-opened, in a large sauce-pan, cover it with water and simmer it for about three hours. There is some danger of explosion involved in this method if you allow the water level to go below the level of the can at all. I have also seen methods described doing this in a slow-cooker. I have not tried either. Maybe I will live on the wild side one day… The way I have made my caramel most frequently is to microwave the milk in a glass bowl over 50 percent heat, stirring every 4 minutes, for about 30-40 minutes. This works well but is kindof annoying because you have to “live” by the microwave for this entire time, starting and stopping the thing. Another way to make the caramel that allows a bit more multi-tasking (which I am all about) is to bake the milk in a covered pie plate that has been placed in a larger pan with water, creating a water bath, for about an hour and then beating it into a smooth, thick consistency. This is the method I used this year and it worked wonderfully, allowing me to work on another project in the meantime…
So you paint your molds with chocolate, freeze, place a pecan half, cover with caramel, freeze, cover with chocolate, freeze, unmold candy, wrap/store. Repeat, repeat, repeat. If you work with two or three molds (I juggle three at a time) you can keep the process going, proceeding with the next step as another tray sets up in the freezer, until you have made the desired amount or run out of ingredients. The recipe I have written out below using 1 lb of chocolate and the number of turtles it will produce will vary depending upon how thickly you coat your molds, the size of your pecan halves, how much caramel you use, etc. I usually make a double recipe at a time because why not. This year I went a bit crazy and made a quadruple batch! Two pounds of milk chocolate, one of white and one of dark chocolate. I feel like no matter how many turtles I make I always wish that I had made more! These are Troy’s FAVORITE treat. He wishes I would make them all year long.
So give these a try if you are in the candy-making mood! Easy but you will need some time. Totally worth it though and they will impress those lucky enough to receive them from you.
*You will need 2 or 3 plastic turtle-shaped candy molds and 1 food-grade paint brush (small). Also foil squares if you wish to individually wrap your candies
*1 lb. of chocolate wafers, 1/2 can of evaporated milk and 1/4 lb. pecan halves will yield approx. 42 turtles (depending on how much choc. etc you use in each). I recommend you double this recipe, at least and just make a bunch of these all at once, instead of running out and wishing you had made more!
Ingredients for the Turtles:
- 7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
- 1 lb. good quality melting chocolate wafers (get at a candy supply store)- milk, white or dark
- ~1/2 lb. pecan halves (toasted if desired)
- Make the caramel. There are a few ways to do this: 1) Pour sweetened condensed milk into a small baking dish or pie plate and cover with foil, place that dish in a larger dish, pour water in the larger dish so that it goes about halfway up the sides of the small dish. Bake at 475 F for 1 hour, or until the milk is thick and brown like caramel. Beat until smooth. 2) Microwave milk in a glass bowl at 50% heat, stirring about every 4 minutes. Continue for about 30 minutes until thick and caramel-colored. 3) Simmer the can of milk (unopened) in a pan of water over medium low heat for about 3 hours. Allow to cool before opening. NOTE: I have never tried the simmering can method as it seems a bit dangerous to me…
- Melt the chocolate wafers. Again a couple of ways to do this as you want it to stay workable for a while after melting: 1) Melt gently over a double-boiler just be VERY careful not to allow any moisture to enter the bowl. 2) Melt in microwave over medium heat, stirring to fully melt the wafers. You may need to microwave from time to time as the chocolate may harden.
- Pain the inside of one sheet of molds with melted chocolate using your paintbrush until evenly and thinly coated.
- Place sheet on a level spot in your freezer.
- Paint the molds on another sheet and place in the freezer. Repeat with third sheet if using. By the time you are done painting the subsequent molds the first one will be ready for the next step.
- Remove one mold from the freezer. Place a pecan half in each mold. Cover each pecan half with caramel using a teaspoon. Return to freezer.
- Repeat with the remaining sheets of molds
- Remove the first sheet of molds. Cover the caramel in each mold with melted chocolate using a teaspoon so that it is a relatively flat layer, flush with the edge of the mold. Return to freezer
- Repeat with remaining molds.
- Gently flip the molds over a plate and twist just enough to cause the turtles to fall out. If they don’t come out easily, return to freezer until they do.
- Repeat entire process of filling molds and removing candies until ingredients are used up or desired number of turtles are made
- Wrap turtles with foils if desired and store in a cool place.