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. I created a video of me making these caramels which you can see on our new YouTube Channel.
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.
- 2 cups white sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dark chocolate disks (I used Santa Barbara Vietnam Origin Chocolate)
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Butter the bottom and sides of a 9" x 13" or 8" x 8" pan and set aside.
- Put sugar, water, corn syrup and maple syrup in a heavy saucepan (I used a 3 quart size). Mix together and cook over medium high heat until mixture boils.
- Stop stirring and insert a candy thermometer so that it's in the boiling liquid but not touching the bottom of the pan.
- As the mixture boils, use a pastry brush dipped in water to get rid of sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan. Continue boiling until the mixture reaches 340°F. Remove from heat.
- Add heavy cream all at once stirring constantly. BE VERY CAREFUL because the mixture will boil up and may spatter. You can add the cream in 2 parts if your pan is on the small side.
- Add the butter, salt, and pecans and stir until well mixed.
- Pour into prepared pan and let cool at room temperature. Do not put pan in refrigerator to cool.
- Optional: Melt 1 cup chocolate and top cooled caramels with it. Or, roll cooled caramels into balls and refrigerate until firm (you will need to re-roll them because they will flatten out a bit). Dip caramel balls into chocolate and set on a silpat mat.
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