I’m posting this sweet treat on Christmas Eve (!) because I’m betting some of you have holiday gatherings on the calendar all the way through the end of December. (With Brian and I both coming from divorced families, that certainly is the case for us.)
And I’m more of a last minute type of person than you might think.
But somehow I always have time for chocolate. ☺️ And Christmas Punch. Especially when filled with chewy caramel and toasted walnuts.
These mini chocolate cups are the cousin of a Snickers, without the work of a nougat. They use the ease of store-bought caramels, because I wanted these to be painless to make. (There is absolutely nothing wrong with semi-homemade sometimes!)
Dark chocolate because my more mature palette prefers that over milk.
And because all things are better with a little crunch, toasted walnuts tucked inside too, rather than peanuts. Rich and sweet tasting, they added the perfect touch.
What to do with walnuts in the shell:
This was my first experience with Diamond in-the-shell walnuts. I had no idea how easy they were to crack open! I used an inexpensive nut-cracking tool, and the job was done in under five minutes.
Did you know buying walnuts in the shell is best for long term storage? The shell protects them naturally, so that the fat contents are shielded from air, which is what would normally turn them rancid. For storage up to two years, keep them in their shells, and put them in the freezer.
Tips for Making Homemade Caramel Chocolate Cups:
I’ve found this tempering method to be the absolute best. Tempering is what makes chocolate glossy and smooth, without streaks. You can certainly just melt the chocolate without paying attention to the temperature, but in the case, I would sprinkle the tops fully with crushed walnuts so cover the bloom/streaks.
A mini muffin pan was the perfect holding vessel for the baking cups while I was building them! I used these mini cups because I wanted the treats to be bite-sized, and found that any bigger was a little too rich.
If you want to make homemade caramel, BRAVO. I suggest this recipe. I used the Kraft caramels you find in the baking section of the grocery store.
These will last for three weeks, so they’re a great make-ahead treat. Just store them in a covered container, at room temperature.
Add chopped chocolate to a microwaveable bowl. Microwave on 60% power, stirring every 20 seconds, until chocolate is completely melted. Or you can use this method to temper the chocolate.
Place mini baking cups in a mini muffin tin. Add about 1 1/2 teaspoons chocolate to each cup, and use a paintbrush or the back of a spoon to coat chocolate about halfway up the sides of the cup.
Add a few chopped walnut pieces to the chocolate cups. (You don’t want to add a lot, otherwise you won’t have room for the caramel and second layer of chocolate.)
In a separate microwave bowl, add caramels and cream. Cook on 60 percent power for 20 seconds, stir, and cook again, until just barely smooth and creamy. You don’t want the caramel mixture to be too hot.
Let cool for two minutes, then add a 1/2 teaspoon caramel to each mini baking cup. Finally, add more melted chocolate to the top, so you cover everything. Smooth out with back of the spoon if needed. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts, or leave them plain.
Let cups sit to harden, or refrigerate for 5 minutes to speed up the process.