Turtles and I go way back. As a little girl, turtles were the ultimate treat—milky chocolate, sweet and gooey caramel, and crunchy pecans—the absolute, perfect combination. My dad used to gift my sister and I a box on special occasions, and I always remember trying to make them last as long as possible. As you probably guessed, it never worked. Plus, I'm sure my mom used to sneak in and eat a few when we weren't looking, but can you blame her?
I'm a little older now, and I seem to have lost my childhood sweet tooth. I'm not the biggest candy consumer anymore, and I like my chocolate extra dark, but I just couldn't resist idea of one sophisticated dark chocolate turtle. I had to make a few batches to get the quantities just right. More than 45 little turtles seemed to disappear in no time, and to be completely honest, I totally hid a few to savor all on my own—like mother like daughter, I guess!
This homemade version is just a little more grown up. The gooey, naturally sweet medjool date caramel is good enough to eat with a spoon, and flaky fleur de sel tops things off with that beloved salty-sweet finish. The chocolates come together with minimal effort and just a bit of wait time while they set in the fridge. These would make a great gift for special occasions or a sweet after-dinner treat for anyone who loves turtles—and who doesn't? The recipe below makes 15 two-bite-sized chocolates—and they're vegan to boot! —Jodi Kay ⎮ happy hearted kitchen
large medjool dates, pitted
pure maple syrup
2 1/2 tablespoons
coconut oil, melted, divided
water, or as needed
good quality dark chocolate (I used 70%), roughly chopped
Start by making the medjool date caramel: Place the dates in the bowl of a food processor or small blender. Add maple syrup and a pinch of salt and start blending. With the motor running, add in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the coconut oil and water as needed to make the mixture smooth, up to 1/4 cup. Mix until smooth and combined. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate and the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil in a double boiler. Stir often to prevent burning. While the chocolate is melting, line a cutting board or baking sheet with parchment paper. (To make your life easier, make sure the board fits into your fridge.)
Pour out 15 evenly spaced, 1/2-teaspoon dollops of chocolate onto the parchment, then spread each out lightly with the back of a spoon. Return remaining melted chocolate to double boiler before it resolidifies.
Prepare the turtles: Arrange pecans in clusters on top of each dollop of chocolate, overlapping the nuts a bit and preventing gaps so that the dates have a solid base. Scoop out about 1 teaspoon of the date mixture and place it carefully on top of the clustered pecans. Repeat for each turtle, then evenly distribute any remaining date mixture.
To smooth out the top of the date mixture, dip your finger tips in hot water, then gently smooth out the caramel while at the same time spreading it evenly over the pecans.
Top each turtle with more melted chocolate. (You should have just enough chocolate to give each one a good coating.) As you do so, rotate the sheet to make sure each turtle has been completely covered with chocolate, and no date mixture is showing. Top each turtle with a sprinkle of the finishing salt.
Place turtles in the refrigerator to set for at least an hour before serving. Gently peel each turtle off the parchment and serve, or place in a container for a later treat. Hide from husbands and mothers alike!