From the Chronicle Kitchen
Blue Ribbon USA: Pecan Fudge Caramel Squares
For these sinfully delicious candies, Diana Doughty of Merritt Island won First Place and Best in Section awards at The Space Coast Fair in Cocoa. Beware: they are truly addictive! Cut into small pieces and share them with coworkers or neighbors. Covering seventy acres and offering more than two hundred rides, games, and shows, the ten-day fair presents a wide range of 4-H and farm exhibitions, cooking and crafts competitions, a rooster-crowing contest, bull riding, a monster truck show and race, demolition daredevils, and beer garden bands.
3 cups (12 ounces) pecan pieces, finely chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
One 14-ounce bag caramels
2/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream
8 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 350ºF. Combine 2 cups of the pecans with the granulated sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Mix with your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly. Press the mixture into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 7-by-10 1/2-inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes to toast the pecans and set the crust. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Combine the caramels and 1/3 cup of the cream in a small bowl and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir and microwave for another 1 1/2 minutes, and stir again until smooth. Pour the caramel mixture over the crust in the pan and tilt the pan slightly if necessary to form a smooth layer. Scatter on the remaining 1 cup pecans.
Combine the chocolate, the remaining 1/3 cup cream, the confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour evenly over the nut layer in the pan. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.
Makes about 42 pieces
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