The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year — filled with family, celebrations and delicious food that is saved only for these special occasions. It is one of my greatest joys, at Christmas time, to cook and bake for friends and family and it’s a fun tradition to put together gift baskets and trays of holiday goodies to share with them. Our kitchen is a whirlwind of activity, (and flour, sugar, sprinkles and chocolate) that is as much a part of the festivities and fun as the actual parties and gatherings. We bake dozens and dozens of cookies, and fashion candies of every variety each November and December; and these delicious treats make their way into decorative baskets, holiday tins and other gift containers to be shared with friends and neighbors. Because we do so MUCH baking, during this time, I like to have a wide selection of simple recipes, that can come together quickly, so we have time to make everything on our lists. This Caramel Pecan Cluster recipe is not only a family favorite, but incredibly simple. With the discovery of Kraft Caramel Bits, a couple seasons ago, this became one of my quickest and easiest Christmas recipes to prepare. I hope you enjoy it, as much as I enjoy sharing it with you, and that it will show up on your Christmas trays and and gift baskets for those you hold most dear. (and…Merry Christmas! Now, that it’s December 1, let me be the first to wish that for you!)
Assembling Caramel Peanut Clusters requires only four ingredients and about 20-30 minutes of your time. It’s easy to gather everything you need if Kraft products are pantry staples in your kitchen. Gather a jar of Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts, Baker’s Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, Kraft Caramel Bits and a little pat of butter.
I melt the Caramel Bits in the microwave with a smidge of water. My over-the-range microwave, recently “turned in it’s notice” and I am still working with a little bitty 700 watt counter-top model. I use high power, stir every 30 seconds and stopped at 1 1/2 minutes. Microwaves are finicky creatures and each one cooks a little differently. I recommend 30 second increments and then stirring, to be sure you don’t overcook or scorch caramels (or chocolate) when melting. There were just a few little globs of caramel left unmelted at the end of 1 1/2 minutes, but by stirring, the already warm and melted caramel finished off those small bits in seconds, so no further cooking was necessary.
Once it was smooth and creamy, I added the dry roasted peanuts to the melted caramel and stirred to coat every peanut. Then spoonful by spoonful, down they went onto my Silpat work station mat. You could do the same thing by buttering or spraying a piece of waxed paper and spooning the caramel peanut mixture onto that, instead. It only took about 10 minutes for the caramel to have set up sufficiently for the clusters to hold their shape; and while I waited for that to happen, I prepped the chocolate. Again, I used my tiny microwave and in about 1 1/2 minutes had a few chunks of chocolate still visible in the bowl, but most were already melted, so, simply stirring the warm creamy mixture melted down the last of the chunks and incorporated them into the chocolate dip.
Dip the caramel clusters into the melted chocolate, turning to be sure all sides are coated. Lift them out on the tines of a fork, so you can gently tap the handle of the fork on the chocolate bowl and allow excess chocolate to drip off the cluster, through the tines of the fork and back into the bowl. Lay them back on your prepared surface to set up. Serve or box as gifts, once the chocolate has fully hardened.
To get the complete recipe with ingredient list and directions, visit kraft.com.