Moment of complete honesty... I usually shy away from sharing recipes that I've just served to friends/ family (unless they're one of our regular dishes that I've made a million times) for two reasons: a) I'm usually too busy making them to think about taking photos at the same time and b) I'm always a bit nervous that I only like them because they're to my taste and I know all the hard work I put into them... I'd hate to think that they might read one of my posts and think "it wasn't all that"! Tonight though I've decided to be brave... we had a Christmas party with some friends this week and served these little dudes... and the sweet compliments we received gave me the courage I needed to go ahead and share them.
Have you ever had Daim bars? The yummy hard caramel bars with a thin coating of chocolate... the ones you can buy in Ikea? Well that's the sort of caramel we're talking about here... crunchy, buttery and smooth. Just instead of chocolate, we have pecans and just a hint of salt. Yum scrum.
OK, another moment of complete honesty. When I first made these, I was slightly concerned that they would break my friends' teeth. We're definitely not talking soft caramel here. I actually almost didn't serve them; but then Mr E practically inhaled 5 in the space of as many minutes and I started to think perhaps they weren't all that bad. Then I actually tried one for myself and I fell in love. This time I was considering not serving them for a whole different reason... I wanted them for myself! But being the kind, generous soul I am of course I did... well, except the half dozen we kept aside....
200g pecans, broken into smallish pieces
200g granulated sugar
100g unsalted butter, cubed
200ml double cream
1 tblspn flaky sea salt (NOT table salt... it's too, um, salty!)
50g butter, melted
Mini muffin tray
Mini muffin stamp
1) Cut the filo pastry into 3"/ 8cm squares and brush the top of each square with melted butter. Place two squares one on top of the other at different angles (to make a star shape). Place over a muffin hole with the buttered side down (so it will come out easily once baked) and then push it in using the muffin stamp. Using your fingers press the pastry against the sides of the muffin tray to make the cups as perfect as possible. Preheat oven to 180c/ 160c fan/ 350f/ Gas 4.
2) Pour the sugar into a large, high sided saucepan in an even layer. Melt it over a medium high heat, whisking continuously. It will start to clump, but please don't panic (as I did, the first time I made this!) keep whisking and your patience will pay off as it starts to melt. Once it has all melted stop whisking immediately, but swirl the pan every so often until it turns a deep amber colour. Some people use candy thermometers, but I was too cheap to buy one and firmly believe in trusting your instincts.... just watch for that beautiful caramel colour to appear and keep smelling it to make sure it isn't burning.
3) As soon as you have the perfect colour, add the butter all in one go (but be careful as it will bubble up and go a little crazy- this is why we wanted a high sided saucepan!) and whisk until it is completely melted and incorporated. Remove from the heat.
4) Slowly pour in the cream while continuously whisking (being careful as it will bubble up again) until completely smooth. Add in your sea salt and whisk again until completely incorporated. Return to a medium heat, stirring constantly, and cook until the caramel is thick enough that you can drag your spoon through it and leave a clear line on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat.
5) Add your pecans and stir them through the caramel. As it cools the mixture will seize and stiffen so this might get tricky, but be as thorough as you can.
6) Take one heaped teaspoon of the mixture and use another teaspoon to slide the mixture into the cups.
7) Bake for ten minutes until the pastry is lightly golden. Allow to cool for ten minutes before diving in!