these amazing folks. Snooks Candies in Folsom, CA is one cool place. I'm all for candy stores and chocolate shops, but a place where the candies are created on site...just magical. And family-owned to boot - plus, the people at Snooks are truly lovely, although they don't know me from Adam. I happen to be friends with Snooks on Facebook, and while this probably means little to them, a couple of weeks ago they posted a photo of their pecan caramel turtles going through the milk chocolate enrobing process (and while we're on the subject, how marvelous is the idea of a chocolate enrober? Beats a paltry "chocolate fountain" any day).
I remember my introduction to the candies known as turtles - I was about twelve years old. We had a secret Santa game going at my Catholic school, and I freely admit I was probably the third-least-popular kid in the class (as for the other two, one was certifiably insane and the other didn't bathe) - so when I got a box of "turtles" I was suspicious, to say the least. In my defense, I knew the giver already and she'd bragged about going on vacation to Panama in the summer (she'd meant this place, which I'd never heard of), and I knew that couldn't be right. Turns out turtles are a wonderful chewy combination of toasted pecans and caramel, blanketed in chocolate (usually milk), and they are delightful. That may have been the only time I've ever eaten a turtle.
Still, this picture got me thinking...what if you turned that into a cupcake? I've done it with Heavenly Hash, Twix, Snickers, M&M's, and Almond Joy - so why not another candy? And this really did turn into more candy than cake. That's not to its detriment at all - this is one good cupcake. It's rich and heavy as all get out. And let me tell you it didn't turn out at all as I expected.
~ Says Julia Child, "“You should never apologize at the table. People will think, ‘Yes, it’s really not so good.’" ~
I'm not apologizing! This just isn't how I expected these cupcakes to turn out. I was leaping from crisis to crisis and changing the plan with every step! Plus, this took forever. I actually stretched the process over days, I was getting so frustrated. So believe me when I say that although this cupcake it totally worth it, you'd better commit yourself. To the cupcake, I mean.
~ Retailiates Ms. Child, ""The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a ‘What the hell?’ attitude." ~
Well, okay, then. What the hell? (Sorry, Mom! I'm not exactly swearing...I'm quoting!)
~ Chocolate Pecan Crust ~
- 2 cups pecan pieces (ground up in food processor)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
~ For Cupcakes ~
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 milk chocolate chips
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plain yogurt
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in vanilla and melted chocolate.
In separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir into butter mixture. Add in the yogurt and mix until combined, but don't overmix. Spoon into your prepared muffin cups, about 2/3 full.
Bake for about 15 to 17 minutes or until a tester inserted into the cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack; let cool.
~ Soft Caramel Filling ~
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 8 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, hot
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Stop stirring and let the syrup boil until it reaches a deep amber color (about 300 degrees, for you precise people). Remove the caramel from the heat, and carefully pour in the hot cream. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon.
Return the pan to very low heat, and continue stirring until mixture is uniform in color, 1 minute. Remove the caramel from the heat, and stir in the butter. Let it cool for about five minutes, and stir in the vanilla and salt. Let it sit, undisturbed, until you can touch it (wait about 20 minutes before you try. I will not be held responsible for your fingers). Gently stir in the vanilla, and allow the caramel to cool until no longer hot to the touch, stirring gently three or four times.
|Don't touch it!|
|Color change starting. You'll also start to smell cooking sugar. Don't touch it!|
|Okay, so I skipped some steps. I was making caramel, people! I'm not a photographer!|
(You can take a break now. You want to top the cupcakes with the pecans and the ganache as the last step, together. It's almost over. The hard stuff is definitely behind you.)
Actually, I don't even want to talk about these cupcakes right now. I want to talk about this guy.
"Conan the Barbarian" was our family movie when I was growing up. No lie. Otherwise, we watched PBS. I have seen this movie so many times...it's full of awesome images (green soup with heads and other body parts in it!), the music is so dramatic that it comes in second in my book ONLY to Star Wars (I wish I could host some awards ceremony and only play music from Conan and Star Wars...but no one would come), and it's chock full of quotes that really, you ought to throw into your conversation tomorrow morning at work.
Mongol General: This is good, but what is best in life?
Mongol : The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.
Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.
Conan: Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!
That's right, Crom. Stick it where the sun don't shine!
My Conan is not this Conan.
Not that the new movie is bad, because it isn't, especially when you don't look at it as a remake, but as its own entity. I'm not saying it's good, but I wasn't angry about it either. But, of course, the villain wasn't this guy...
|You know you love this guy.|
Too bad he gets his head lopped off.
Okay. I feel strengthened now, and can carry on. Let's move forward with the cupcakes.
~ Candied Pecans ~
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 cups pecan halves
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
~ For ganache ~
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
~ Final assembly ~
On top of each filled cupcake, scatter some candied pecans. Using a large spoon, pour a bit of ganache over the top of the pecans until the top of the cupcake is mostly covered. This doesn't have to be perfect. Chocolate turtles aren't exactly pretty and these cupcakes aren't either; they don't have to be. Which is good, because I bet you're pretty tired of looking at the damned things.
(Yes, Mama, I swore there. I earned it.)
Keep these in the fridge, or they'll melt everywhere, but I promise, these really benefit from coming to room temperature before serving. And do remember to serve them with a napkin.
|Are you contemplating??? ARE YOU????? Dooooooommmmmmmm!|