cold weather + mountains + log cabin + nieces and nephews = paradise in my eyes
While we were there, we took a trip up winding backroads, played pool in the cabin, soaked in the hot tub, rode a scenic sky lift over the city at night (that was maybe just a little bit scary), and ate great food. Before heading out of town, we stopped at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen for some sweet treats. This place is a fantasy land for both adults and children and is known for their taffy, which is made in the store. When I spotted their chocolate covered bears (also known as turtles), I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be making these little darlings in my own kitchen with a raw, dairy-free twist. And when I was mixing the caramel layer of my cheesecake, I was secretly plotting to use a similar recipe for this candy.
Last week, I made a batch of these Chocolate Caramel Pecan Clusters twice, because once just wasn't enough. They were so perfect and sweet and gooey and chocolatey and better than any other candy I've ever had. Yes, possibly my new favorite candy. Maybe because I love the combination of caramel and chocolate with tiny pieces of pecans and have never before found a version that my belly likes before now. Whatever the reason, I am excited to share with you this recipe. Do yourself a favor and make them next time your sweet tooth whispers its wishes.
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Clusters
Caramel Pecan Clusters
10 medjool dates, stoned
2 tbs. raw almond butter
2 tbs. pure maple syrup
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of pecans, chopped
You have two options here, depending on whether you want to use a food processor or not (I used my hands instead and loved how this turned out).
Food Processor Version
1. Place dates in food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Add almond butter, maple syrup, vanilla and salt and blend well, until you have a smooth doughy texture.
3. Place caramel mixture into a bowl.
4. Add pecans and knead the dough with hands until pecans are evenly combined.
5. Place a spoonful of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Gently mash the caramel cluster so it is slightly flat on top. Repeat until you run out of dough.
6. Place in fridge.
Hand Mixing Version
1. Place dates in a large bowl and mash with fork. I divided each date into half and mashed one at a time. It was a bit of work, but I prefer working with my hands when possible.
2. Add almond butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Mash together with a fork.
3. Add pecans to mixture and knead with hands until well combined.
4. Place a spoonful of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Gently mash the caramel cluster so it is slightly flat on top. Repeat until you run out of dough.
5. Place in fridge.
1/2 cup raw cacao butter, finely chopped
1/2 cup raw cacao powder, sifted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
*You will be using a double boiler and an oven-proof bowl to melt the cacao butter.
1. Place two cups of water into the bottom pot of a double boiler.
2. Place raw cacao butter into an oven-proof bowl that will fit on top of the double boiler pot.
3. Bring water to a boil.
4. Place bowl of cacao butter onto pot until the butter is completely melted.
5. Remove bowl from heat.
6. Add cacao powder and maple syrup.
7. Stir well, breaking up any chunks left in the powder.
8. Let the chocolate sauce cool until it thickens a bit. You do not want the sauce to harden. You do want it to thicken a bit so that it will slowly pour down the sides of the caramel clusters.
9. Once the chocolate is slightly thick, add a spoonful to each of the caramel clusters and cover the sides with the chocolate sauce. I used a spoon to assist this step.
10. Once you have finished, place the chocolate caramel pecan clusters into the fridge and let sit for an hour, until chocolate hardens. Store in fridge for up to a week. AMAZING!