Caramel Pecan Chews

Serves

In a season where parties reign, treats from your kitchen are always a welcome hostess gift. This simple recipe for a deliciously fudgelike, nut-studded sweet has been a staple in our consulting chef Pam McKinstry's family for decades. Many of us find candy irresistible, and it's easy to eat a lot of it during the holiday season!

Note that a candy thermometer is essential for success with this recipe. The caramel pecan squares will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for about 10 days — if they last that long!


Ingredients

3 cups granulated sugar (divided)
1 cup half & half (or light cream)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into small dice, plus extra for greasing pan)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups pecans (toasted and chopped)


Directions

Generously butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Set aside.

Place 2 cups of the sugar and the half & half in a large (at least 2-quart) pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts. Set aside while you make the caramel.

Place the remaining sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a skillet and place over medium heat, cooking and stirring until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, without stirring, until the syrup turns a deep caramel color, swirling the pan so that the syrup colors evenly. If sugar crystals appear on the side of the skillet, brush them down with a wet pastry brush once or twice. Immediately add the hot caramel to the sugar-cream mixture; be very careful, as the mixture will bubble and expand.

Increase the heat to medium and place a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 244 degrees F. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Next add the butter, stirring vigorously until it melts and the mixture is smooth. Let the candy stand until it cools to 160 degrees F, about 30 minutes. Resist the temptation to stir it.

Add the vanilla and stir the candy until it loses its shine and begins to thicken. This will take about 5 minutes and some serious elbow grease — think of the calories you’re burning! Mix in the pecans, then transfer the candy to the prepared pan. The mixture will be very stiff, so use your fingers to press the candy into an even layer (wet them if necessary so the candy doesn’t stick). Let the candy cool completely before cutting it into small pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

 

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