Sometimes the oddest food cravings seem to come out of no where. If those cravings involve a real food item, I generally always give myself the go ahead to consume it. I feel it's my body and minds way of telling me I'm lacking something in my diet. Other times my food cravings are directly related to an idea, an emotion, a smell, a spoken word, or more often - an image. When my jaw dropped/eyes widened while viewing a stunning photo in the latest issue of Saveur magazine at the same time a hankerin' for dried apricots hit, chocolate turtles became my must-have on a rainy afternoon.
For those who don't know, Turtles are a chocolate confection/candy prepared and sold by Nestle. Full of chewy caramel, toasted pecans, and milk chocolate, Turtles get their name from the shape of the candy. The nuts peeking out the sides resemble feet, tail, and head while the rounded chocolate top resembles a turtle shell.
To satisfy my cravings, I decided to skip putting money into Nestle's pockets and prepare my own version of Turtles instead. If you're comfortable preparing a homemade caramel sauce, the flavour combinations you can create are endless and more importantly - delicious.
To prepare homemade Turtles, all you need is: melted chocolate, chewy caramel, and some sort of toasted nut or fruit for texture and flavour. I used combinations of dried apricots, cranberries, blueberries, raisins, unsweetened coconut, toasted almonds, cashews, pecans, and melted milk and white chocolates. I made my own caramel sauce (which I added a splash of spiced rum to) but if you're not comfortable with confectionery work, you could melt soft caramel candies and use them instead. The flavour won't be the same but it will work in a pinch. Here is a link to a page with a great description of candy making stages.
Chocolate Turtles - Recipe
Makes 32 candies
1 lb chocolate, melted (milk, dark, or white - your choice)
3 cups toasted nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews, peanuts, etc.)
1-2 cups of dried fruit (apricots, strawberries, cherries, raisins, blueberries, coconut, etc.) optional
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 T light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 cup 35% cream
6 T unsalted butter, cubed
1 t vanilla extract (and/or spiced rum)
Place sugar, corn syrup, and water into a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat, only stirring at the beginning to dissolve the sugar. Boil sugar until it changes to a golden-brown colour, swirling the pot (not stirring) to even out the caramel, about 6-8 minutes. Reduce heat and carefully pour in 35% cream and butter; stir until combined. The mixture will bubble ferociously when you add liquid to the sugar so be cautious. With the pot over medium-high heat again, bring the caramel sauce back to a boil until it reaches the firm-ball stage (245ºF), about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Allow to cool slightly.
On two parchment paper-lined trays, spoon 1 1/2 t of melted chocolate into a circular shape about 2-inches in diameter. Press toasted nuts and fruit into the chocolate. It's easiest to only spoon 8 chocolates at a time; the chocolate will cool quickly and the nuts will not adhere if the chocolate hardens. After all of the turtle bases have been completed, place the refrigerator until cool and somewhat solid.
Remove turtle bases from fridge and spoon about 1 t of caramel onto each mound of chocolate, fruit, and nuts. I like the look of the caramel oozing over the edges. Allow to cool.
Once the spooned caramel has firmed up slightly, pour another teaspoon or so of melted chocolate onto the turtles, using your spoon to create a swirled texture. If desired, garnish the tops (shells) of the turtles with a contrasting piping of chocolate, shaved chocolate, sea salt, or flaked coconut.
Allow chocolate turtles to harden completely before removing from trays. Store in an air-tight container in a cool place.
Pecan, raisin, rice crispy (homemade!) & milk chocolate.
Blueberry, flaked coconut, sliced almond & white chocolate.
Apricot, almond, flaked coconut & milk chocolate.
Cranberry, cashew & white chocolate.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.