Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Homemade Turtles

When I saw these homemade turtles at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, I had to give them a try! What a perfect addition to my collection of holiday goodies. They looked easy enough to make, plus my grandma had sent 2 big bags of pecan halves home with me after Thanksgiving. I couldn't think of a better way to use some of them.

While the turtle construction is simple, it is also time consuming! First, you need to unwrap caramels and then, using a rolling pin, flatten them. My caramels were on the hard side, so this took some muscle!

Once the caramels are flattened, I arranged the pecans on a baking sheet in the shape of a star. 5 pecan halves for each. 1 for the turtle's head and the other 4 to make the legs.

Kristin, from Frugal Antics posted a link to the YouTube video where she found this recipe. I really wish that I had watched it before making these, because I would have been more likely to line my baking sheets with parchment paper. I strongly recommend lining the baking sheets, because many of my turtles stuck fast to the sheet after I melted the caramels. In the process of prying the turtles off of the baking sheet, some of them lost legs and heads and therefore were not acceptable to give as gifts (although perfect for eating at not a complete loss!)

Place a rolled caramel in the center of each group of pecans.

Then, melt for about 6 minutes in a 325 degree oven. Just long enough to melt the caramel and bind the pecans together, but not so long that the caramel melts all the way to the baking sheet and gets bubbly.

Now for the chocolate topping step: I just melted a bag of chocolate chips in the microwave and spooned chocolate over the caramel and smoothed it a bit. I will do things a bit differently next time. Read on to see why...

Once they had completely cooled, the chocolate on one batch of my turtles had lost it's sheen, and the other batched exhibited the dreaded chocolate bloom. Bummer.

What is chocolate bloom, you may ask.

Well, it is visible by whitish streaks or dots, fogginess, or even graying on the surface of chocolate and can be the result of two things. One cause of chocolate bloom is that chocolate that is allowed to get warm, allowing the cocoa butters to separate from the chocolate and rise to the surface in whitish streaks or swirls. This is not a sign that your Chocolate is inedible, just that it does not look as pretty.

Another type of chocolate bloom is "sugar bloom". Sugar bloom occurs when moisture is allowed to get to the Chocolate (such as in a refrigerator) and the water draws the sugar to the surface as it evaporates, leaving white dots of sugar crystals on the surface of the Chocolate. Though sugar bloom does not affect the taste of the Chocolate, it does result in a somewhat grainy texture.

I searched the web to find out where I had gone wrong. One site said that I needed to keep the temperature of the chocolate more stable, that it had probably gotten too hot. Another source said that the chocolate should have been cooled quicker. That I was working in a room that was too warm, that I should've put the turtles in the fridge to chill after putting on the chocolate. From watching the YouTube video, I noticed that the person making those turtles stirred in some vegetable shortening to help the chocolate maintain it's gloss and also that the chocolate was melted in a double boiler to keep the temperature stable. Next time I will apply those suggestions to my candy making.

That's great...for next time. But in the here and now I needed to fix my turtles! I certainly wasn't going to start over! For all of the information that I found about chocolate bloom and preventing it, I didn't find a single suggestion for how to fix it once your candies are made and cooled.

I came up with a solution on my own. I melted more chocolate and then, using candy painting brushes, my daughter and I "painted" over the chocolate bloom. My mother-in-law was visiting and she pointed out that the spots were "cute" and it looked like we had put them there on purpose for spots on the turtle's shells. She made a good point....but I was concerned that people would see the spots and be afraid to eat them.

And so we painted all of those spotted turtles. They turned out alright. Not candy store quality, but definitely delicious!
I boxed them up for gift giving. I purchased half pound boxes at my local candy making store, but you can also purchase them online: Candy Boxes 1/2 Lb. 3-Pack: White

My daughters and I had fun decorating the boxes. For teacher gifts, this is a neat way for your kids to personalize their presents. In our house it was also an excellent way ward off boredom on a snow day!
Our Tower of Turtles! Now we just need to put the finishing touches on our gingerbread cookies and hopefully we can start delivering treats tomorrow.

Homemade Turtle Candies

Pecan Halves (5 halves per turtle)
Caramels (1 per turtle)a bag has about 40 in it
1-12 ounce package chocolate chips
Vegetable shortening
Melt the chocolate chips in either a double boiler or a microwave. Place the pecan halves on a cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper!). Cluster together to form the turtle head, arms, and feet. Unwrap the caramels and flatten each one with a rolling pin. Place a flattened caramel on top of each cluster of pecans. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 6 minutes or until the caramels are just melted, but not bubbling. Remove from oven and spoon a dollop of chocolate on each turtle.


Val said...

These look incredibly good.

teresa said...

beautiful turtles, and great tips!

Julie said...

Too bad my poor husband is on a diet, he would love these. I kinda liked the spots too, and the boxes are just too cute!

chow and chatter said...

so cute and you fixed the blooming so no one would know
Merry Christmas

love Rebecca

Heather S-G said...

Well, now that you've done all the legwork...I must make some! I love! What a fun gift :D

Reeni said...

These are adorable Krista! They are a great idea for teachers gifts. I use the shortening trick - it helps thin out the chocolate a bit too so it's easier to work with and dries shiny.

Kim said...

Krista - One of the things I love about you is how resourceful you are. You are definitely talented in problem-solving! Great thinking to paint the spots on those turtles with more chocolate. I think your turtles looks awesome and would be a very happy recipient of one of those boxes. Excellent idea for teacher's gifts!

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