Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bites

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Cait and I made these on one of our baking evenings where we wanted to put in as little effort as possible. While it’s inspired by this recipe, I had trouble locating large amounts of the ingredients it required so I ended up changing things around. My process shots for this are also terrible and blurry, and for that I apologize, but you can probably figure out how to make these for yourself without them. They are a quick and easy contribution to a potluck, picnic, or gift, and are simple enough that you can do this with small children if they want to make their own gifts.

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Start with a bunch of pretzels. Lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 250°F.

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On top of each pretzel, place one chocolate-covered caramel. The original recipe called for Rolo candies, but I could only find the miniature ones at Bulk Barn so I opted for these salted chocolate caramels instead and while they were wildly expensive, they were totally worth it.

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Grab a number of pecan halves equal to the number of pretzels and caramels and set them aside. Pop the tray with the caramel-topped pretzels into the oven and leave it there for 5 minutes or so, until the chocolate is melty and the caramel is squishy. The time it will be in the oven is dependent on the size and type of your caramel.

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Pull the pan out of the oven and press a pecan half into each caramel. Cait was concerned about the structural integrity of the underlying pretzel so she was unwilling to squish the pecan and caramel down with any force. As a result, when the ones she made were cooled, the pretzel came off the bottom and chaos ensued. So make sure to press the pecan down firmly into the caramel and in doing so, push the caramel into the pretzel to hold everything in place.

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Set those aside to cool and harden, then store in airtight containers until you eat them all.

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You can see that we have our festive Christmas tins ready to go here. I know it’s February, but tins are tins are tins, right?

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Salted Butter Caramels

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I had planned to include some form of caramels as part of my holiday baking this past season, and when I saw this one posted on A Beautiful Mess I knew that this was the version I would try out this time round. I quadrupled the amounts below because I have a lot of people clamouring for my candies, but this recipe will give you about 20 or so caramels, depending on how you cut them. My four batches yielded about 102 whole pieces and a handful of broken ones or end bits.

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As with most candy, it’s handy to have all your ingredients at the ready before you begin, because you often have to act fast. So gather together 3/4 cup granulated sugar (divided), 7 tablespoons heavy cream, 2 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

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You may also want to have some more salt or fleur de sel on hand for topping the caramels when they’re done. Now that your ingredients are ready, you should line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

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Now, take half of the sugar (3/8 cup sugar) and plop it in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons water.

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With the burner on medium, heat the sugar and water until they start to bubble and turn a deep amber brown.

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Then remove the pot temporarily from the heat and add in the rest of the ingredients – they will fizz up on you. Return the pot to the heat and stir to melt and combine all the remaining ingredients.

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Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and let the mix bubble away. Stir it occasionally so it doesn’t burn. You want the temperature to reach 260°F, which is the “hard ball” stage. It won’t take very long, so pay attention.

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Pour the finished caramel into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the surface with salt. Let that cool for at least an hour, but probably not much longer than that.

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Cut it into little pieces (it’s easier if you don’t let it sit much longer than an hour).

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Then you can wrap the little pieces in twists of waxed paper and either hoard them to yourself or give them all away! Or both.

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Chewy Caramel Brownies

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Some day, I intend to do this recipe right, the way that Smitten Kitchen actually did it, with DIY caramel and unsweetened chocolate.  But this is not that day.

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I had a bag of caramels I’d purchased with the intention to do something else, and I felt obligated to use them.  Plus I doubled the recipe and thus ran out of  unsweetened chocolate.  So basically this recipe is all wrong.  But it’s still edible (read: extremely tasty) so whatever.

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First you’re going to need to unwrap and cut your caramels.  Start with about 10oz wrapped caramel candies.

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Unwrap them and cut them in half.

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When you double the recipe there are a million to do.

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But finally they were finished.  I recommend keeping this bowl cold because the caramels like to stick together otherwise. I discovered this by accident. There was swearing involved in solving this issue.

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Now you can preheat your oven to 350°F and butter an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.  Line it with parchment paper and butter that again.

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Take 3oz unsweetened chocolate and roughly chop that up.

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Because I doubled the recipe I ran out of unsweetened chocolate, so I chucked in this Cadbury hazelnut bar as well.

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Throw your chocolate into a heatproof bowl with 1/2 cup butter.

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Set the heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and melt it until it’s almost all melted away.

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When you just have little bits left solid, remove it from the heat and stir it until it’s smooth.

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Whisk in 1 cup granulated sugar.  Then whisk in 2 eggs, one at a time.

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Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon sea salt over top and stir that in, too.

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Then slowly stir in 2/3 cup flour.

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Finally, add in MOST of your caramels (like 4/5 of them).

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Spread your batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining caramels on top.

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Bake that for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  In the meantime, feel free to lick the spoon.  I won’t tell your mother.  Just don’t tell my mother.  She’s always paranoid about salmonella.

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When your brownie is cooked, put it on a wire rack to cool completely.  Mine didn’t look anything like Smitten’s, alas.

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When it’s completely cool you can cut it into bits.  It’s easier if you wait until the caramel isn’t running around everywhere.

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Seal whatever you don’t eat in an airtight container.  Who am I kidding?  You’ll eat them all.

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