Arachnacandy – A spider that you can bite

A spider that you can bite – And it’d be tasty too. Chewy caramel, toasty pecans, salty pretzels and scrumptious chocolate? Who could resist biting into these spiders? Perched individually, or in a group on a platter, these sweet and salty treats are the perfect addition to you Halloween night table. You also won’t have to raid your children’s candy hoard for sweets.

The caramel is the most demanding component of these spiders. Cooked above or below the target temperature and the resulting caramel will either be too firm to chew, or so soft it won’t set up. Since accuracy is vital with this recipe, make sure to calibrate your thermometer before beginning. Simply submerse the thermometer bulb in a pan of boiling water. We know that water boils at 212°F. If your thermometer reads exactly that, it’s calibrated correctly. If not, either add or subtract the number of degrees the thermometer is off when heating the caramel.

Candy thermometers are the standard for making candy. They are cheap and easy to read, and most are annotated to help you determine what temperature you should be cooking your candy to. Instant read or meat thermometers are not recommended for making candy. Digital thermometers usually have alarms that sound when a target temperature is reached. But since sugar can quickly heat the last 5 to 10 degrees, you can easily overshoot the target temperature if you aren’t paying close enough attention. With targets ranges of only 3 or 4 degrees, it’s best to use the method that keeps you focused on your task.

We’ll be using some sticky ingredients and some fast assembling techniques. We’ll only have a short amount of time to get the caramel onto our spiders once the caramel is firm enough to stay in shape but before it firms up beyond use. As such, the spider bodies need to be assembled and resting on non-stick aluminum foil or parchment paper before you even begin the caramel portion. A light spritz of cooking spray on the spoon you are using to scoop out the caramel will help alleviate sticking. You may need to respray between scoops.

We’ll be using semi sweet chocolate to coat these spiders. Either chips or baking bars will work fine. The caramel needs to be completely cooled before adding the chocolate layer. Melting vegetable shortening into the chocolate helps soften the chocolate once it sets up. You can add candy googlie-eyes to your spiders is you choose or use colored melting candy to add dots of color to the spider faces.

These spiders can’t jump, but they will surely fly off the plate the next time you invite the ghouls, goblins and ghosts for treats.

Caramel Chocolate Spiders

Makes about 75 spiders

  • 1 pound pecan halves, toasted
  • small pretzel sticks
  • 12 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chips or baking bars
  • 2 tablespoons shortening 

Toast pecan halves in a single layer in a 350°F oven until they begin to brown and are fragrant, about 8 minutes. Melt the shortening and chocolate in the top of a double boiler, stirring until it is smooth. Arrange the toasted pecan halves on lined baking sheets with enough room between them to attach the legs to each nut. Break the pretzel sticks in half and dip each broken end in the melted chocolate. Attach the spider legs to the pecans. Each pecan should have four sets of legs. Chill the spiders in the refrigerator while you prepare the caramel.

Chewy Caramel

  • 16 ounces, by weight, light brown sugar
  • 2 cups light cream or half and half
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup lightly salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanillla 

Melt the butter in a 4 quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add the sugar, syrup, and half and half to the pan and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Stirring frequently, bring the mixture to 242°F. This will take close to an hour. Do not leave the caramel to boil unattended since the temperature can quickly rise, especially in the last few degrees. Once the caramel reaches temperature, remove the thermometer from the candy and the pan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Allow the caramel to cool in the pan until it can hold a mounded shape, about 15 minutes. Working quickly, scoop a tablespoon of caramel onto each spider top. Spraying the spoon with cooking spray helps prevent sticking. Excess caramel can be poured into a pan coated with cooking spray.

Allow the caramel to cool completely, about an hour. Remelt the chocolate if necessary, over a double boiler. Spoon and smooth about a teaspoon of melted chocolate onto each spider. Press in candy eyes if desired. The spiders can be refrigerated for an hour to completely set the chocolate.

Serve at room temperature.