Armed with a straight-forward recipe I found online, I brought all of the ingredients and my candy thermometer over to my grandparents' house bright and early. Pop arranged the pecan halves into foursomes on a cookie sheet, grouping the broken nuts together to make larger clusters.
Meanwhile, I combined the ingredients (corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar, butter, heavy cream) for the caramel into a saucecpan on the stove. Once the mixture started to boil, we attached the candy thermometer and just waited for the temperature to reach 246 degrees, stirring continuously to avoid burning the caramel.
It took a while but after about 15 minutes, I was able to remove the caramel from the heat, add in some vanilla and let it cool down. I spooned it onto the pecan formations and slipped the entire tray into the freezer so that the candy could set.
Using a double boiler, we melted dark chocolate and then dropped on top of the pecan caramel clusters once we took them out of the freezer.
The clusters tasted great. The caramel was soft, but not chewy, and kind of firm at the same time, if that even seems possible, and it had such a fresh, buttery taste (Pop suggested letting the mixture get a bit hotter next time so that when it hardens, it's not as pliable). I do think that the humidity contributed to the stickiness of the final product but I'd be interested to try again when the weather is cooler to see if the results are different.
My grandfather suggested nougat for our next candy-making adventure. I'm just glad he had enough fun today that he's willing to give it another try.
My grandfather's concoction with the remaining caramel and some chopped cashews.