Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, December 2008 (page 226)
Makes About 24 Clusters
I prefer this recipe with Valrhona Manjari chocolate (which works especially well), but a 52- 54% Callebaut chocolate, or ghirardelli chocolate chips also work well. If you prefer to cover the clusters entirely in chocolate, be sure to melt 12 ounces of chocolate, instead of 6 ounces.
If you do not have a non-stick baking mat, no worries, used a piece of parchment paper sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (be sure not to use the cooking spray with flour).
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup whole milk
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ cup water
¾ cups granulated sugar
4 ½ ounces (1 heaping cup) walnut pieces / halves, toasted
4 ½ ounces (1 heaping cup) pecan pieces / halves, toasted
2 ½ ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces (¾ cup) bittersweet chocolate / semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Bring 1 ½ cups sugar, the milk, and the salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir the mixture just until the sugar dissolves. Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat (the mixture may look separated).
Bring the water and ¾ cup of sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan** over medium-high heat. Wash the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, undisturbed until the sugar begins to turn light gold, about 5 minutes. Swirl the pan, then cook until caramel turns amber, about two-minutes. Immediately remove pan from heat. Carefully stir in the milk mixture (liquid may bubble up, be careful!), the the walnuts and pecans. Place the pan over medium heat, and cook, stirring often, until the caramel registers between 242ºF (117ºC) and 248ºF on a candy thermometer, about 7 minutes.
Remove pan from heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Continue stirring until the caramel cools and becomes very thick and some-what difficult to stir, about 10 minutes. Drop small mounds of caramel onto a baking sheet lined with a nonstick baking mat (read head notes), and let cool.
Place melted chocolate in a medium bowl. Using an offset spatula or a spoon, dip the bottom of each cluster into chocolate. Leaving the top partially un-dipped (read head notes). Place the dipped caramel clusters on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Once each of the clusters is dipped in the chocolate, use the remaining chocolate to drizzle over the top of the clusters.
Allow the clusters to stand until the chocolate is set.
** Please avoid using a pan with a non-stick coating, as it may be damaged by the high heat and the coating could leach into the caramel.
The clusters will keep, covered for up to five days.