Chocolate cups have come a long way since the days when they were filled with nothing but boring peanut butter. The good news is they’re surprisingly easy to make at home, and making your own chocolate cups gives you the opportunity to fill them with whatever delicious ingredients you can imagine! This recipe pairs chocolate with the deep caramel taste of dulce de leche, toasted pecans, and a hint of crunchy sea salt.
Dulce de Leche Cups
Ready-made dulce de leche is available in many large grocery stores, but I prefer to make my own by cooking sweetened condensed milk until it caramelizes into a thick, golden mixture with the flavor of cooked milk and sugar. Making it myself gives it a fresher taste, and I can also control the stiffness and texture of the finished product, However, if you are rushed for time or want to skip a step, you can use 1 cup of ready-made dulce de leche in place of the condensed milk in this recipe. Now let’s make candy cups!
Dulce de Leche Cups Recipe
yield:about 30 cups
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 12 ounces chocolate candy coating
- 3/4 cup whole pecans
- 30 small paper or foil candy cups
- Clean, food-safe paintbrush
- Flaked sea salt, optional
There are numerous way of making dulce de leche from condensed milk. The classic version–and the one you’ve probably been warned against–involves boiling the can of milk in a saucepan of water for 4-5 hours. (This method is slightly dangerous, because there’s the chance the can might explode if the water level gets too low.) You can also make dulce de leche in an oven, using a pressure cooker, or–my favorite method–using a slow cooker.
As the name might suggest, the process is slow, but it’s also ridiculously easy and requires no work or brain cells, so I think the trade-off is worth it. All you need to do is place the can of condensed milk in the slow cooker, then add enough water to cover the can by an inch. Place a lid on the cooker, and heat it on low for 8-9 hours. (Like I said: slow! You’ll want to shoot for 8 hours for runnier dulce de leche, or 9 hours for stiffer dulce de leche.) Assuming you use a lid, you don’t have to monitor it and refill the water, you just have to have the patience to wait all day for your dulce de leche to cook. As you might imagine, this is a good step to do a day in advance.
While you’re waiting for the dulce de leche to be ready, prepare the rest of the recipe components. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast them in a 350-degree F oven for about 10 minutes, until they are dark brown and fragrant. Stir them once or twice during the toasting process so that none of them burn around the edges.
Let the pecans cool, then chop them with a large sharp knife. Aim for small chunks, small enough to be mixed into dulce de leche and used as a filling, but not so small that you’re left with pecan dust.
The next step is to prepare the chocolate cups. I recommend using chocolate candy coating for this step, as opposed to real chocolate. Candy coating can be found at many cake and candy supply stores, and craft stores. If you do want to use real chocolate, make sure that you temper it, since untempered chocolate will get soft at warm temperatures and won’t come cleanly out of the papers.
Separate out the candy cup papers on your work surface. Melt the coating in the microwave, and stir until it is completely melted and smooth. Working with 5-6 cups at a time, pour a spoonful of melted coating into the bottom of each cup. It should fill about a quarter of the cup.
Hold the cup in one hand and tilt it at an angle. Use the paintbrush to nudge the coating from the bottom of the cup up the sides, until the cup is entirely painted with chocolate on the inside. Hold it up to the light to look for weak spots, and make sure that any translucent spots or gaps are covered with chocolate.
Repeat this process until all of the candy cups are lined with chocolate coating. Set the cups aside to firm up until you’re ready to fill them, and keep the extra coating handy, as you’ll need them to top the cups later.
Once the dulce de leche is finished cooking, let it cool completely before opening the can, to prevent burns. (This is why it’s a good idea to make the dulce de leche a day in advance!) Once you open the can you’ll be greeted by smooth, rich, milky caramel.
Transfer the dulce de leche from the can into a bowl, and add three-quarters of the chopped pecans to the dulce de leche, reserving the rest for decoration. Stir everything together.
Use a spoon to drop small spoonfuls of the mixture into the chocolate cups. Make sure that you leave a little room at the top so they can be covered with chocolate. If the dulce de leche is on the stiffer side, wet your finger with water and press the top down so it’s a smooth, even surface.
Re-melt the remaining chocolate coating, and again working with 5-6 cups at a time, spoon a bit of coating on top of the dulce de leche. Use the spoon to nudge the coating to the edges of the cup, making sure that it forms a tight seal with the chocolate around the edges.
While the chocolate coating is still wet, sprinkle the tops of the cups with some of the remaining chopped pecans and a pinch of sea salt, if you’re using it. Repeat with the remaining cups, and let the coating set completely at room temperature.
These Dulce de Leche Cups can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks, or in the refrigerator for up to a month.
You can also use this method of making chocolate shells to create other candies. Try filling them with truffle ganache, caramel, mousse, ice cream, or whipped cream…but to be honest, once you taste the dulce de leche and pecan filling, you might not be interested in trying anything else!
All text and images (c) Elizabeth LaBau