My Favorite Holiday Treats – Island Sea Turtles

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Right now I am all about Christmas cookies. I can’t help it. I think it is mandatory this time of year. A yearly project for me is testing cookie recipes for the WE Energies annual holiday Cookie Book. I spend many months testing recipes and baking thousands of cookies, candy, and bars. Funny thing is, the testing is a late spring/early summer project. And in August we have our photo shoot where the top chosen recipes will photographed. I am responsible for making the “winners” and bringing them to the photo shoot. My good friend and photographer Grace Natoli Sheldon does her magic and the resulting photos are beautiful. It is one of the highlights of my year. So, when Christmas time comes I already know which cookies I love from baking so many throughout the year. I want to share some of my favorites with you.

First up is the Island Sea Turtles. They are definitely a candy that will be on my cookie trays this year. They are pictured in the bottom left of the photograph along with Spice Stars and Cinnamon Stick bars. I love love love turtles. I suppose anything that mixes caramel, chocolate and macadamia nuts is a sure winner for me. Here is the recipe from the 2014 WE Energies Cookie Book:

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 Island Sea Turtles

12 ounces dry roasted and salted macadamia nuts

1 cup coconut, toasted and chopped

½ cup plus two tablespoons butter, divided

1 cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup light corn syrup

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Sea salt, to taste

Arrange macadamia nuts into 36 clusters on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Using two tablespoons butter, butter the sides of a saucepan to prevent sticking. Melt remaining butter over low heat; add sugar, corn syrup and milk and mix well. Bring to a boil; continue to cook and stir until mixture reaches 244 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and coconut. Spoon a tablespoonful over each nut cluster; cool completely. Microwave chocolate for 30 seconds; stir. Continue to microwave at 15 second intervals until melted. Dip tops of caramel clusters in chocolate; sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate to set. Makes 3 dozen.

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