These turtle brownies were, in part, inspired by a favorite childhood candy: Kathryn Beich’s Katydids. Kathryn Beich’s (part of the Nestle company in the 1960’s and 1970’s and possibly longer) had operations in Central Illinois near where I grew up. They worked with schools and churches with fundraising programs where you’d order your favorite confections, including Golden Crumbles, Butter Mints and Katydids. I remember selling the candy for school groups in yearly fundraising efforts.
Today, the Kathryn Beich brand is barely visible and no longer part of Nestle. A Google search found some old pictures of those tin cans that required a key to “unlock” the vacuum seal.
For anyone who remembers these cans, can you believe we were actually allowed to open them as kids? The edges were so sharp that you could cut a bitch. Personally, I also loved the caramel filled chocolate bars which amazingly seem to still be available.
While that “technology” may no longer be used, I do remember it definitely locked in the freshness of the candy. The Katydids would melt in your mouth. The crunchy pecans and caramel were bite-sized portions of addiction.
This recipe for turtle brownies is featured in the Baked Chicago’s Simply Decadent Brownies Cookbook, available at Amazon.com. Thanks to the many readers who have shared that this is one of their favorites in the book.
Update on 10/26/13: America’s Test Kitchen has a great suggestion for making caramel in the microwave. For those who may be a bit timid about making caramel from scratch on the stove top (it does require constant monitoring), this might be a better solution. This recipe uses the stove top method for the caramel in the turtle brownies, but you can get similar results following the instructions in this video.
Preheat your oven to 325° F. Lightly grease the bottom of an 8×8-inch baking pan with butter or shortening. Melt the dark chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, set over pan of simmering water. Stir constantly until melted and smooth. Let the mixture cool slightly.
Whisk together in a large bowl this flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Whisk the sugar and eggs on medium speed with electric mixer until pale and fluffy (4 minutes). Add the chocolate mixture, milk and vanilla, mixing until combined. Reduce speed to low and add in the flour mixture, until well combined.
Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few dry crumbs. Let the brownies cool, about 30 minutes.
Bring 1/3 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Constantly stir until the sugar has dissolved. Wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook until the sugar is a medium amber color (5 to 7 minutes). Remove from heat and add the heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add pecans and stir until caramel begins to cool and thicken.
Spread the caramel over brownies. Refrigerate for one hour to help set. Let the turtle brownies stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows to make 16 brownies.