PecanMania: Caramelized Pecans Covered in Milk Chocolate
I made a mistake, a big one. I decided to take Christophe Michalak’s recipe for milk-chocolate-covered caramelized peanuts and play with it. And when you play with something so addictive, you risk causing even more damage.
Pecans are one of my favorite kinds of nuts. In France, pecans are actually less popular than hazelnuts (noisettes in French) and almonds (amandes). In my opinion, pecans are great in desserts, and they go especially wonderfully with chocolate. One of the most unique treats I’ve ever tried in Paris is pecan praline (praliné). Praline is a spread made of caramelized nuts of any kind with a certain percentage of sugar (in France, more than 50% must be nuts in order for it to be called praline). Sometimes, praline is also known as nougat spread.
Hazelnut, or hazelnut-and-almond, praline is the most famous, but praline spreads can also be made of a variety of other types of nuts. For example, Alain Ducasse makes a pistachio one, one of the most unique pralines I’ve tasted. I first tried pecan praline at afternoon tea at the luxury Peninsula Paris hotel. More recently, I used it in an over-the-top cheesecake, which had a crust made of real French petit beurre cookies and pecan praline and was crowned with pecan praline whipped cream.
Back to my mistake, though: I decided to give the recipe a new life by making it with pecans. The result was…insanely dangerous! I ended up with a perfect delicacy of lightly salted caramelized pecans enrobed in excellent milk chocolate. The combination of the pecans in sweet-and-salty caramel and the delicate milk chocolate is simply divine.
*You’ll need a food scale and a candy thermometer to make these.
Caramelized Pecans Covered in Milk Chocolate
Makes 10 100-gram packages
200 grams sugar
40 grams water
60 grams honey
6 grams fleur de sel* (or 4 grams table salt)
2 grams baking powder
360 grams whole unsalted pecans, lightly toasted and preferably still slightly warm
20 grams butter
300 grams good-quality milk chocolate (I use Valrhona’s Biskelia, which has delicate biscuit and caramel flavors)
*Fleur de sel is an excellent salt that usually comes from Brittany, in western France. It’s collected from the top layer of salt before it sinks. In France, it’s common to use this salt in cooking and baking.
1. Combine the water and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Add the honey and cook to a temperature of 178 degrees Celsius.
2. Add the salt and baking powder, stir, and then add the pecans. Remove from the heat, add the butter, and stir.
3. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and using a wooden spoon, separate the pecans from each other—be careful; they are very hot!
4. Set aside and let cool completely.
5. Melt the chocolate, preferably tempering according to instructions on package.
6. If there are any large chunks of caramelized pecans, break them up into smaller pieces using a knife.
7. Add the caramelized nuts and smaller pieces to the melted chocolate and stir until all are covered with chocolate.
8. Line a baking sheet that fits in your refrigerator with parchment paper. Using a spoon, pull out chocolate-covered chunks of different sides and drop onto the baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes—then go nuts!