A mom's journal of the sweet things in her life...

Thursday, December 9, 2010


My son's nut allergy has kept me from baking a lot of stuff I love. I really feel the pain at Christmas time. So many of the good recipes include nuts. Why can't he be allergic to liver? Or fruit roll-ups? Grilled cheese sandwiches even? Or, better yet, McDonald's? 

So when the talk started about getting some of the 'girls' from my family together to make my aunt's famous turtles, I was a bit torn. Turtles are a right of passage at Christmas time. No one should go without them. And dammit, I'm tired of feeling deprived. And then it came to me, in a moment of sheer brilliance, a rarity these days, why not make some turtles with a pretzel base so he can have them too? Think about it, a crispy, salty pretzel base used as the vehicle to deliver the chewy caramel and chocolate. I'm good.

Turns out I'm not a trailblazer after all. Thousands of people before me had already discovered this treat, probably around the same time they invented the wheel. So much for patenting my stroke of genius. 

But I digress. Meet the crew of turtle makers:
Me, my mom, my sister and aunt, Janette. That's us laughing. 
At nothing whatsoever.

We used my aunt's recipe. She's been making turtles for over 20 years and she's known for them in our family. She's also known as Mama J to some, but after our day of turtle making, I just call her Miss Bossy Pants, with love and affection, of course. And always behind her back.
In yet another stroke of genius, (I was on fire that week), I suggested roasting the pecans first, for the nut version. If you don't do this already, you must. It really does make a difference. We roasted them at 350 F. for about 10 minutes, or until they smelled fragrant. Allow to cool before you use them.
Then we lined several large baking sheets with parchment paper and  placed the pretzels a couple inches apart on some of the sheets
 and the toasted pecans in clusters of 2 on the others.
When cooking your caramel, you have to watch it closely, checking the temperature frequently, and stirring constantly. You can test it by dropping it into a glass of cold water and if it stays together as a solid 'mass', it's ready. I'm sorry if that sounded bossy - that'll happen. You try spending a day with Miss Bossy Pants.
At this point, you add the butter and vanilla and stir vigorously.
 Then the fun starts. Drizzle the caramel by the Tablespoon on to your base of nuts and pretzels.
Have you ever noticed that when you spend the day with your mother, your sister, and your mother's sister that you never get called by your actual name? 
 Don't worry if your turtles look sloppy. Once the caramel cools, it's moldable. You can shape them with your fingers.
 But make sure your fingers are clean though, cause that's important. And make sure your spatulas are clean too, cause there's always someone who loses their self control and forgets that their daughter is holding a camera and writes a food blog.
See what I mean? I was 'trying' to get a close up of the food. She has nice teeth though, yes?
Sorry mom. I know you didn't think those pictures would be 'published', but I couldn't help myself. In time you will forgive me. You're still gonna babysit for me next Friday though, right? Right?!
Before you answer that, mom, look at this face. 
Don't punish him for the sins of his mother. 

Okay, back to the turtles. Chop some milk chocolate and melt it slowly over low heat for dipping the turtles. I suppose you could use dark chocolate if you wanted to WRECK them. It's entirely up to you though. No judgment from me.
Note: this recipe only allows for enough chocolate to dunk the top half of the turtles into the chocolate. It's less messy that way too - and less time for them to 'set'. (Oh yes, less calories too.)
 I drizzled a line of melted white chocolate over the ones with the pretzel base - just to make it easier to identify which was which. Told you I was on fire with great ideas.
 And there you have it. Chocolate turtles. I was about to throw in that stupid jingle from the turtles commercial, "Mmmmm I love turtles", but I hate corny.
 I had big plans of gifting these beauties to friends. But upon further reflection, I decided that the whole 'sharing' idea that seems to go hand-in-hand with the Christmas season, is highly overrated. My friends can make their own bloody turtles. And so should you. Here's Aunt Janette's famous recipe - word for word.

Turtles (makes approximately 5 dozen)
(Source: My aunt, Janette)
1 C. heavy cream
1/2 C. milk (2% or whole, don't use skim)
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. white sugar
3/4 C. corn syrup
dash of salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter

Toasted Pecans

.3 to.4 kg milk chocolate (this is enough for dunking the tops only and do this to reduce the calories ha ha)

Combine the heavy cream and milk and divide in half, you use 3/4 C. at first then add second portion.

In large saucepan (dutch oven size) mix 3/4 C. of the cream/milk mixture, white sugar, brown sugar and corn syrup and salt. Mix and bring to boil over medium heat; cook to soft ball stage. While it is cooking you can get the cookie sheets ready using parchment paper to cover. Put 2 full pecans together in rows, 5 wide, 6 deep (you will use 2 cookie sheets).

To test for soft ball stage: one drop of syrup into very cold water and it should form a nice soft ball. Once it's reached soft ball stage, slowly add in the other 3/4 C. of the cream/milk mixture stirring continually. Cook until consistency is closer to hard ball but not hard ball stage. I test by putting a teaspoonful onto the cookie sheet and if it stays together and after a minute or two, you can mold it slightly with your fings and it stays then it is ready. Also the color should be a medium carmel color.

Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Mix again.

Drop caramel over nuts. Once you've done the whole pan, go back and mold with your fingers any that are irregular in shape. Put into fridge to chill.

Meanwhile melt chocolate.

Once turtles are cool, coat the tops in chocolate. Put back into fridge or freezer to set then package up.


  1. What a wonderful read, no kidding Heather you should have been a writer.....this was done so well, just loved seeing my nieces and two great nieces working together for a common goal....great turtles. I have yet to try them but I fear they will only grow on my hips. What a great idea with the pretzels, just how smart can you get Heather.
    Just loved it, keep up the good work.

    Tante Clem

  2. I think it's safe to say that I am now officially the favorite daughter/niece. :)

  3. Heather, sorry this comment is so late, but I had to fix things up with Google so I could post this.
    "Turtle Day" at Carie's house was so much fun, we laughed lots & got lots accomplished. I've kind of forgiven you for the pictures of me being silly...I can't help myself when I have a spatula full of caramel in my hand. Hopefully making Janette's turtles will become another
    Christmas tradition. They turned out FABULOUS!
    Love, Mom
    PS ....You know I NEVER say "No" to babysitting any of my grandchildren!


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