2 1/2 C pecans
1/2 C butter (I use salted butter)
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C light corn syrup
7 ounces of sweetened condensed milk (1/2 of a 14-ounce can)
1/2 cup vanilla
1 package (12 ounces) milk chocolate chips
1/2 t shortening
Combine 2 1/2 cups of pecans in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they blacken slightly and smell good. This should only take a few minutes.
Use 2 large cookie sheets. Line them with parchment paper and spray them with cooking spray. Arrange your pecans in clusters, three per group works well. You need to leave a little space (about an inch) between each group.
Make your caramel (complete tutorial with pictures found here). Put 1/2 C of butter in a medium saucepan. Melt it over medium heat. Add 1 C of brown sugar, 1/2 C of light corn syrup and 7 ounces of sweetened condensed milk to the pan. Increase the heat just a little and stir continuously. Cook and stir until the temperature reaches 235-240 degrees. I usually remove it from the heat when it reaches about 234 degrees. The temperature will continue to rise a little even without direct heat, which will give the caramel the desired texture.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.
Gently pour about 1 1/2 teaspoons of caramel over each walnut cluster. You will need to work quickly as the caramel will begin to take shape. Make sure the caramel touches all the nuts in your cluster. The caramel works like glue, gluing the nuts together.
In a microwave-safe bowl, pour 12 ounces of milk chocolate chips. Microwave for 30 seconds, stirring after each cooking interval.
Add 1/2 teaspoon melted chocolate shortening. Let stand for a minute or two (to melt and make the chocolate chips easier to spread). Stir it all together.
Place about 1 1/2 teaspoons of melted chocolate on top of the caramel and nuts. Turn the chocolate on top and make a nice twisting motion with your spoon.
Let the chocolate take shape. Once it has hardened and cooled, you can serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container.