This 20-minute Turtle Bark, a delicious modern twist on the classic chocolate shop favorite, is sweet, salty and irresistibly delicious! It's pretty as a picture and the free printable labels make it perfect for gifting!
This Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bark has been evolving over the past month. It started with a New York Times recipe for Pistachio Chocolate Bark that I made for a dinner party a few weeks ago. It was an easy recipe that I threw together in minutes, although it looked quite fancy served on a pretty platter. I loved that guests could break off as big or little a piece as they preferred.
While everyone was enjoying the delicious chocolate dessert, ideas for adaptations began to roll around in my head. The Pistachio Bark was simply chocolate that was melted in a double boiler, spread thinly onto a piece of parchment and topped with pistachios.
What if I used the microwave to melt the chocolate? What if I made it in a round pan? What if I changed the topping to pecans? What if I took the pecans up a level by microwaving them with a pat of butter and a squeeze of honey to make them sweet, buttery and crisp? My mind raced on with even more "what ifs..."!
Oh... what if I drizzled the melted chocolate with caramel before topping it with the pecans? What if the caramel was simply melted store-bought caramels (to keep things easy)? And what if the final crowning glory was a sprinkle of flaky sea salt for a sweet/salty flavor profile?
I've been playing with all these what-ifs ever since and solving little obstacles along the way. I decided to call this confection Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bark because it's reminiscent of the classic chocolate shop favorite, simply known as "Turtles". I'm quite happy with the final results and everyone we've passed these chocolate/caramel/pecan circles to has been delighted!
With the short list of ingredients and a super easy method, this Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bark recipe is a perfect candidate for our category of recipes that we call Ridiculously Easy here at The Café. Our readers love these simple yet impressive recipes "that make them look like a kitchen rock star with minimal effort on their part".
You can read more about these RE recipes in this post and see the whole collection here. With the busy lifestyle everyone seems to have these days, these super easy, super delicious recipes can be lifesavers (in a culinary sense)!
A problem solved
I mentioned there were a few obstacles that popped up along the way as this Turtle Bark was evolving. The biggest one was how to get the circle of chocolate out of the pan without breaking it. A tart pan with a removable bottom was a great solution but I also wanted to make it work with a round cake pan, since not everyone has a tart pan.
Non-stick baking spray helped somewhat but it wasn't the perfect solution. A circle of parchment paper at the bottom of the pan was also helpful but the confection still wasn't coming out as perfectly as I hoped.
Then I got an idea. Why not make a simple sling out of foil so the tart can be easily lifted out? I tried it. VOILA! It worked perfectly. We took a few pictures to show you the easy technique:
To prep a round cake pan for this Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bark you'll need an 8 or 9-inch cake pan, some non-stick cooking spray, a strip of foil about 4 inches wide and a circle of parchment to line the bottom of the pan.
Spray the pan generously then fold the foil lengthwise to form a 2-inch wide strip. Center the strip in the pan with the two long edges hanging over the edges. Press the foil in the pan nice and flat across the bottom and up the sides.
That's it for the prep. Now you have a nice sling to lift the Turtle Bark out perfectly intact, once it's cool and solidifies.
Give it away!
This Turtle Bark is a perfect gift for neighbors, friends, teachers, and co-workers. It also makes a wonderful hostess gift and it's a sweet way (literally and figuratively) to lift someone's spirits who's going through a tough time or just having a difficult day.
You may have noticed the gift tags in some of the pictures above. We're happy to send you a free PDF that you can request in the comment section below. Just scroll to the bottom of this post and you'll find a place you can leave your request. We'll email you the PDF and instructions on how to print up the labels yourself. We'll also share ideas for packaging the Turtle Bark.
Keep a stash of chocolate chips, pecans and chewy caramels in your pantry. Then, whenever you have 15 minutes to spare you can make a batch of this Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bark for a surprise sweet treat, dessert for your next dinner party or for an amazing gift!
Café Tips for making this Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bark
- It's important to use good quality chocolate (chocolate chips will also work). I use Ghiradelli chocolate (or chips) for this recipe with great results.
- You can use milk chocolate, 40% cacao (semisweet), 60% cacao (bittersweet) or higher for this recipe, depending on your taste preferences. The bark made from milk chocolate is not quite as firm. It still comes out as a nice circle but just a little softer.
- There are several pan options for this recipe. You can use an 8-inch or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. You can also you an 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pan. The 8-inch pans will yield a bark that's a bit thicker. If you go with either of the round cake pans you'll need to do the prep mentioned (and pictured) above in the post.
- This Turtle Bark is also delicious with lightly salted whole almonds in lieu of pecans.
- This is a great make-ahead recipe. After chilling, the Turtle Bark can be stored in an airtight container or ziplock bag for several days.
- I like to top this Turtle Tart with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Maldon is my favorite flaky salt. It's more expensive than regular salt but it's a finishing salt which means just a bit is used as a salty garnish with a little crunch. You can find Maldon at larger grocery stores and online.
- I love to make a triple or quadruple batch of the pecans and stash the extras away in an airtight container. That way, when the urge strikes me to make this Turtle Bark or I need a quick gift, I can put together a batch within minutes!
Thought for the day:
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 teaspoons honey
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt I use Morton's
- 8 ounces of good quality chocolate or chocolate chips I love Ghirardelli
- 3 ounces store-bought caramels I use Werthers soft caramels and use 13-14 for a batch of this Turtle Bark
- 1 teaspoon half & half or cream
- flaky sea salt I like Maldon
Spray an 8 or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom generously with non-stick cooking spray. Give an extra spray right in the middle of the pan. (This will hold the parchment in place.) Line the bottom of the pan with a sheet of parchment and set aside. You can also use an 8 or 9-inch round cake pan for this recipe but you need to add a simple foil sling to the pan for easy removal. See the pictures and instructions in the post.
Unwrap the caramels and place them in a small microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup.
Combine pecans, butter, honey and salt in a medium-size microwave-safe bowl.
Cook on high power for 1 minute then stir with a fork to redistribute. Repeat this step 2-3 more times until pecans are fragrant and beginning to turn a light golden brown. Turn the pecans out onto a sheet of parchment paper and spread them out to separate. Set aside to cool.
Place chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a medium size, microwave-safe bowl and cook on 50% power for 2 minutes. Stir and continue to cook on 50% power for 30-second increments, stirring in between until chocolate is melted and smooth.
Pour the chocolate into the prepared pan, scraping it all out of bowl with a flexible spatula. Smooth with an offset knife to an even layer. Set aside while you prepare the caramel.
Add the one teaspoon half & half or cream to the caramels. Cook on 50% power in the microwave for 1 minute then stir. If the caramels are not completely melted, continue to cook in 10 second increments, stirring in between until smooth.
Working quickly, as the caramel will begin to thicken, drizzle the caramel decoratively over the chocolate layer. If the caramel gets too thick to drizzle before you’re finished, pop it back in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
Sprinkle the prepared pecans evenly over the top then finish with flaky sea salt. To use the flaky sea salt, grab a pinch with your thumb and forefinger. Then rub your fingers together to break up the larger flakes as you sprinkle it evenly over the bark.
Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least one hour before removing from the pan. To remove from a tart pan, lift up from the bottom of the pan, wiggling it slightly to release the sides of the bark. To remove from a round cake pan, lift the circle from the pan with the foil sling.
To cut the bark, allow it to come to room temperature then place it on a cutting board and use a long, sharp knife to cut it into wedges or irregular shaped pieces.
Store in an even layer on a plate covered with plastic wrap or on a plate in a ziplock bag. You can also store in pieces in an airtight container with layers of parchment in between.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn’t have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.