Pure maple syrup gives these maple pecan caramels wonderful flavor. Maple pecan caramels are also versatile. Wrap them right after they cool for soft, chewy caramels or let them sit out for a day or two to get a praline texture. Or, dip them in chocolate!
I love Fall. The smell of leaves, the cooler temperatures, the beautiful colors. Sadly, here in Texas, Fall lasts about a week at the end of November but I still enjoy the treats that go with the cooler temperatures.
Probably because nuts ripen in Fall, everything seems to have nuts in it. My grandfather used to have a huge black walnut tree in his yard. I think black walnuts get their name from the black stain the fruit leaves when you touch it. The shells are also rock hard so grandpa would just leave them in the driveway and run over them to get rid of the fruit. He also had a special nut cracker to get past the rock hard shells. I’m glad I’ve got a pecan tree instead of the walnut tree. So much easier to get the nut out of the shell.
I remember touring maple farms in the northeast. I’m not a huge fan of artificial maple flavoring but the taste of real maple syrup is milder and goes so well with so many things.
I took a caramel class at Sur la Table last weekend and found out that one of the tricks to making soft, chewy caramel is to add a second type of sugar. White sugar is sucrose and works best for caramel. The second sugar is usually corn syrup which is a combination of glucose and fructose.
High fructose corn syrup really isn’t good for you so I asked about healthier options. Ok, you can stop laughing. Yes, it’s caramel and it’s basically melted white sugar but why not substitute anyway? As I was brainstorming with Chef Matthew, I mentioned maple syrup. He really liked that idea so I knew I was onto something.
Maple syrup works really well in terms of flavor. I love how these turned out. The maple and pecan go so well with the caramel. However, you can’t see when the boiling sugar turns color so you definitely need a candy thermometer to judge when the caramel is done.
Another tip Chef Matthew gave me is that caramel hardens up a bit if you leave it out uncovered. You boil the heck out of it so it won’t go bad. This means you can use the same recipe to get different candies. If you want soft caramels, wait until the caramel cools. Cut it and wrap it in wax paper.
Or, roll it into balls and refrigerate. Then dip them in melted chocolate. Santa Barbara Chocolate sent me some wonderful Vietnam Origin 73% dark chocolate that works really well. You can just use semi-sweet chocolate chips or your favorite chocolate. Or, just top your cooled caramel with melted chocolate to seal in the moisture.
If you want a harder caramel, leave your tray out uncovered overnight before slicing and storing. If you want a praline texture, leave your caramel out for 2 days.