I find that very often, when there’s a message I need to hear at a particular time, it seems to repeat itself in various ways. Floating around the blog world, written in magazines, posted on instagram, the importance of kindness seems to be repeated frequently; both being kind to others, and being kind to myself. Last night, someone on a TV show I watched said, “Never confuse kindness with weakness.” Well, in honor of National Chocolate Day, I choose to be kind and weak.
Lately, I have been enjoying my chocolate in chip form. I keep a bag of dark chocolate chips in the freezer and I love grabbing a little bowl full after dinner. There’s something about the crisp, cool, dark, chocolate… it’s the perfect way to end my meal and my day. However, in celebration of National Chocolate Day today, I felt it appropriate to dress up my chocolate.
After coming across a recipe for a “healthier” caramel, I knew I wanted to include it in one of my desserts. I love replicating foods I used to eat prior to having to change my diet, and these “turtles” don’t feel like a compromise at all.
I served these chocolates at a family dinner and since not everyone in my family eats pecans, I also made a version with cashews, and I think it could be an interesting variation to use a mixture of nuts. Like my chocolate chips, I served these straight from the freezer to prevent them from melting and to provide extra crunch. As much as I enjoyed eating these myself, the best part was definitely seeing the excited reaction my family expressed when they had their first taste. The combination of the rich, toasted nuts, decadent, sweet, dark chocolate, and sprinkle of salt make these “turtles” a real treat.
To make the turtles, I used semi-sweet chocolate, with dark chocolate drizzled on top but if you prefer dark chocolate, you could use that to cover the nuts instead. These would also be beautiful with an elegant white-chocolate drizzle.
Pecan and Cashew “Turtles”
1 cup toasted pecans
1 cup toasted cashews
1 9-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used 69%, Gluten Free, Vegan, Enjoy Life Brand)
Maldon Sea Salt
- 1 14-oz can full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
To prepare the caramel sauce: In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the coconut milk and coconut sugar. Over a medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, constantly stirring to prevent from burning. Once it has reached a boil, turn the heat down to low and continue to stir as it slowly bubbles. Continue boiling for 35-40 minutes, stirring frequently as the caramel thickens to a syrupy texture. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla extract, oil, and salt, and allow to cool. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools, so stir occasionally to keep it from separating. Set the caramel aside to cool before using for the turtles.
Toast the cashews and pecans if needed. I was able to find roasted unsalted cashews but had to roast my own pecans (5 minutes in a 325 degree oven, watching them closely, as they may go from toasted to burnt quickly.)
Cover 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Arrange nuts in little piles, using 4-5 nuts for each “turtle.” Drop 1 tablespoon of the cooled caramel sauce on each pile of nuts and place in the freezer for 5 minutes to harden.
While the caramel is setting, melt the semi-sweet chocolate in a stove-top double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place the chocolate in a small glass or stainless steel bowl, nestled on top of a small saucepan filled with a couple inches of water. Over a low heat, stir the chocolate, being careful not to let the chocolate come into contact with any water.
Remove the caramel and nuts from the freezer and use a tablespoon to top the caramel with chocolate. Place sheet trays back in the freezer to set for about 5 minutes.
While they are setting, melt the semi-sweet chocolate. When the dark chocolate has set, drizzle with the semi-sweet chocolate and sprinkle with sea salt. Finally, place back in the freezer before enjoying! I recommend keeping in the freezer until just before serving.
*To break up the process a bit, you can also make the caramel sauce in advance and store it in the fridge.
*Make sure the caramel has cooled fully before using. I tried using it while it was still warm, and it spread out all over the sheet pan, resulting in a big, sticky, mess!