Chocolate turtle power

Chocolate turtle power

Updated: Sep 25, 2014 04:07 PM
© Michael Kraus / Bonnier © Michael Kraus / Bonnier


In 1918, a candy dipper in Chicago commented that the pecan-studded chocolate-covered caramel patties a salesman was hawking looked like turtles. Though the name stuck, these days most turtles we encounter are just dull brown blobs with no more resemblance to a reptile than a burrito (Spanish for "small donkey") has to an ass.

But when we stepped into Turtle Alley Chocolates, a charming candy shop in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the moniker started to make sense.

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The turtles here exude chelonian personality, the nuts peeking out like flippers from underneath glossy chocolate shells. Made by placing a nut-spangled round of soft homemade caramel atop a hand-molded chocolate base, then funneling on a bit more chocolate, each candy is as singular as a snowflake.

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While no match for nature with its upward of 330 species of hard-shelled reptiles, Turtle Alley proprietor Hallie Baker, who opened the store in 1999, is the creator of an ever-expanding turtle population with unpredictable physiognomy that includes domestic white, milk, and dark chocolates; gargantuan roasted macadamias, cashews, and almonds, in addition to pecans; and under-the-shell surprises that range from East Coast cranberries to chipotle chile, Turkish apricots, and bacon.

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"What I love most about the turtle is that it's a launching pad for so many different combinations," Baker says. "Whenever I find a great new product, chances are it will inspire a turtle."

When we last visited, she only recently had come across extraordinarily delicious dried strawberries. When she combined them with milk chocolate, pecans from Georgia, and her buttery caramel, a new luxury turtle was born.

Although some of what Baker makes is seasonal — cranberry-pecan turtles are generally a fall and winter offering, and white chocolate-blueberry a spring and summer combo — you can special order any flavor in her repertoire any time.

Baker believes that the secret of turtle excellence is balance. Her caramel is especially supple, a gentle presence that provides a tender counterpoint to the crunch of the nuts, which are covered by just enough chocolate to ensure their maximum exposure.

"If you are using good nuts, fully enrobed turtles are a mistake," Baker says. "Underneath the veil of chocolate, those nuts are going soft. That's why I want them sticking out as much as possible. A turtle needs to breathe."

Turtle Alley Turtles can be found at

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