Second Candy Cooking Lesson
Do you like fancy name-brand candies? Do you like pecans, caramel and chocolate? If so, then these Pecan Clusters will delight your sweet tooth and make you a homemade candy addict. These are basically pecans wrapped in caramel topped with chocolate. If you want more homemade candy recipe lessons, I’ll be adding Southern Pralines this weekend and Peanut Brittle early next week. (More to follow.)
Like a good girl, I followed the instructions and put waxed paper on cookie sheets.
In retrospect, I should have followed my instincts and used a well-buttered cookie sheet. I had a difficult time getting the paper off the bottom of the candies. So, do as I say, not as I did. 😀 Butter at least three cookie sheets. You may need four, depending on the size of the sheets.
Place 1 cup of butter, chopped up, 1 cup of corn syrup, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 2 & 1/4 cups of brown sugar in a large heavy saucepan. (Pack the brown sugar into the measuring cups as tightly as you can. Push down with the back of a spoon.)
Before you turn on the heat, measure by weight 1 & 1/2 pounds of pecans, preferably in halves rather than pieces. Take the lid off a can of sweetened, condensed milk. Get out the vanilla bottle and measuring spoons. Set all close to the stove.
Turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir until the sugar and butter are all melted.
Gradually pour in 1 can of sweetened, condensed milk.
Stir until the milk is all blended into the sugar mixture.
Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. (If it hasn’t boiled by fifteen minutes of stirring, your fire is too low.) After the mixture comes to a boil, continue stirring and boiling until a candy thermometer reads 248F (firm-ball stage).
My candy thermometer isn’t working correctly, so I did it the old-fashioned way. After fifteen minutes of continuous stirring and boiling, I checked the syrup by taking a small spoonful and dropping it into a glass of cold water. The syrup dropped into strings.
I took the strings with my fingers and made a ball. It was firm, so it was done.
When the syrup is done, turn off the heat. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir in. Then dump the pecans into the cooked syrup. Stir until all the pecans are covered with syrup.
Take a metal spoon and a small spatula. Dip the spoon into the pecan/syrup mixture and drop onto the buttered cookie sheets, scraping the mixture out of the spoon with the small spatula.
Chill. You may put the sheets one at a time into the refrigerator, or, if you live in a cold climate, stick them out on the back porch. Put them high enough so your pets can’t get to them. 😉
After a sheet of clusters has chilled, prepare the chocolate topping. Put 2 tablespoons of shortening into a small pan and melt it.
Pour a bag of chocolate chips into the melted shortening.
Stir over low heat until the chocolate is smooth, with no lumps.
Spoon a dab of chocolate on top of each pecan cluster. Chill again.
If you are using these for stockings, wrap each one individually. I turn them upside down and wrap them so the plastic wrap is wrapped on the bottom and the chocolate tops are clearly visible when I turn the right side up.
Pack in tins and store in a cool place.
If you are just making these candies for Christmas eating, you could pack them in tins with a circle of wax paper between each layer instead of individually wrapping them.
And here’s the recipe.
1 cup butter
1 cup light corn syrup
2 & 1/4 cups of packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 can (14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 & 1/2 pounds pecan halves
2 cups chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening
Heavily butter two to four cookie sheets and set aside. Cut up the butter. Place in large saucepan. Add corn syrup, brown sugar, and salt. Turn heat to medium. Stir until the butter and sugar are melted. Gradually stir in the milk. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil until a candy thermometer reads 248F (firm-ball stage). This shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes after the boil starts. When the firm-ball stage is reached, turn off the heat. Add the vanilla, stir in. Add the pecans. Stir in. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto the buttered cookie sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 10-15 minutes. Melt the shortening and chips. Spoon over clusters. Chill until firm. Store in the refrigerator or a cool place. This makes from 4 to 6 dozen, depending on how big you make your clusters. Enjoy.