Halloween Chocolate Caramel Spiders
(from Food Network Kitchens)
(yields: 30 spiders)
1 1/2 c. toasted pecans (I roughly chopped my pecans first)
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, in pieces
1/4 tsp. salt
5 ounces (about 25 pieces) black licorice strands, cut into thin 2-inch strips (for legs!)
6 ounces semisweet chocolate squares, roughly chopped
8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (or use milk chocolate chips)
Chocolate curls, optional
Candy Thermometer (a basic, cheap one will do)
To toast pecans: Heat a wide, shallow pan on low heat. Add the pecans, and toast for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and fragrant. (Be careful! Nuts are sneaky and will burn when you’re sewing the last couple of sequins on your costume.)
Line 2 baking sheets with waxed paper and lightly spray with nonstick spray. Mound 30 small clusters of pecans, about 3 or 4 pecans each, spaced a couple inches apart on the pan.
To make the caramel:
Warm the cream over low heat and keep warm while you cook the sugar. Stir occasionally.
Put the sugar and corn syrup in a deep, heavy bottomed large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring, raise heat to medium-high, and simmer until the sugar reaches the hard crack stage, or 305* on a candy thermometer, about 7 minutes. You will think this mixture is burning, because it will smell a little funny and start to brown, and you might panic and want to pull it off the burner, but it’s okay! You’re making caramel!
Whisk the butter and salt into the sugar mixture. Gradually pour in the cream and vanilla taking care since the mixture will bubble up. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar reaches soft ball stage, 240* on the thermometer, about 5 minutes more. Immediately remove from the heat and cool for a minute.
Ladle a tablespoon or so of warm caramel over some of the nut clusters, to make the spider bodies. Then press 6 pieces of licorice into the warm caramel to make the legs. Repeat with the remaining caramel and licorice. (It’s helpful to have an extra hand here, since the caramel can set quickly. If caramel hardens, warm over very low heat.) Let spiders cool for 15 minutes. (I found I had to keep my caramel over low heat. It’s sticky stuff!)
To make the chocolate: Meanwhile, put the chocolates in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth. (Alternatively, put the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt at 50% power in the microwave until soft, about 1 minute. Stir, and continue to heat until completely melted, 2 to 3 minutes more).
Spoon about 1 tablespoon of melted chocolate on top of each spider. Sprinkle with chocolate curls if desired. Let cool until firm.
Some ideas for next time: These are some crunchy desserts, but I’m a soft caramel girl myself. Next time, I’d like to try melting a bag of caramels with a little bit of cream and seeing if I can’t keep the caramel more flexible. Also, I think the taste would be better using pretzels for the spider legs…but then they would look way less spidery. Happy eating and happy Halloween!