1 cup chopped pecans
1 and 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 tablespoon whole milk or heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips, optional topping
Sea salt, optional topping
Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper and set aside.
To optionally roast the nuts (TONS of flavor and highly recommended, follow steps 3-5 . Otherwise skip to step 6)
Place a large frying pan on the stove top and turn to medium high heat.
As soon as the pan has warmed up, spread the nuts evenly in the pan. (No need to add any oil or cooking spray because the nuts already have enough oil to be able to be roasted)
Stir often until the nuts begin to smell fragrant. Remove from heat and the pan (don't leave them in the pan or they will continue to cook) and set aside. Watch the nuts carefully because they can go from perfect to burned very quickly.
Meanwhile fill up a shallow pan about 2 inches high with water on the stovetop. Warm the water on medium heat until very warm. (Reduce the heat to low as you add the chocolate.)
Place the chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl or another small pan and place the bowl with the chocolate on top of the barely simmering water in the other pan. (I just used a ceramic bowl and it worked perfectly).
Stir near constantly until a smooth chocolate is formed and it is completely melted and then remove it from the heat. (Don’t let water come in contact with the chocolate, and be sure the bowl and spoon or spatula are perfectly dry.)
Stir the toasted pecans into the melted chocolate and smooth evenly in the prepared 8 x 8 pan.
Quickly rinse and completely dry the chocolate bowl and add in the caramels, whole milk or heavy cream, and vanilla. Place in the simmering water and stir frequently until melted. Once melted, pour and spread evenly over the chocolate and pecan mixture.
If desired, melt the remaining 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips (on the stovetop or in the microwave). Pour the melted chocolate into a small plastic bag and cut off the tip. Pipe the melted chocolate over the caramel layer in stripes.
If desired top with sea salt.
Allow the bark to harden at room temperature. It takes a bit longer to harden than typical bark, but avoid placing it in the fridge.