Chocolates are expensive for a reason: making them requires patience, precision, and undivided attention. But don't let that deter you! These dark chocolate clusters contain an easy-to-make honey-caramel recipe and simple method of tempering chocolate. Make caramel : In a large heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, and a splash of water. Over high heat, gently stir with a wooden spoon to immerse the sugar. Brush down the sides of the pot with water and a clean pastry brush. Cook the sugar mixture without stirring until it melts, bubbles, and turns to a golden caramel color; this will take 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your stove. Once the caramel begins to form frothy bubbles, use a candy thermometer to determine the temperature. Continue cooking until caramel reaches 320-350 degrees F.
Remove the pot from heat, and quickly whisk in milk before it hisses and splatters. Once milk is fully incorporated, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer to a metal bowl, and let sit to cool. Do not scrape caramel from the pot (it continues to cook and will have a different, tougher consistency).
Make tempered chocolate : Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water, and bring to a boil. Create a double boiler using a metal bowl that completely covers the rim of the sauce pan. Be sure that the bottom of the metal bowl does not touch the water. Pour 2 cups of chocolate pieces into a metal bowl and secure a chocolate thermometer to the side of the bowl to monitor the temperature of the chocolate. Stir gently using a rubber spatula.
Watch the temperature rise carefully, and remove the bowl from the boiler before the chocolate reaches 115 degrees F. Carry-over heat should bring the temperature to 115 degrees F. Do not allow it to exceed 115 or else you will have to start over!
Add the remaining cup of chocolate and stir gently, allowing the chocolate to melt. The temperature of the chocolate will cool as you stir. Stir and cool the chocolate to 84 degrees F.
Briefly return the chocolate to the double boiler for a few seconds and remove before the temperature reaches 88 degrees F. Carry-over heat should bring the temperature to 88 degrees F. If it exceeds 91 degrees, you will have to start the tempering process over from the beginning.
Test the tempered chocolate by coating the back of a spoon and allowing it to set up on a piece of wax paper. The chocolate is tempered properly if it is shiny, dark, and smooth. You will have to try again if the chocolate looks dull or has white streaks.
Make sure the chocolate stays between 88-90 degrees F while you are working with it. Reheat it briefly over the double boiler if it cools below the tempering range.
Make clusters : Line sheet trays with parchment paper or Silpat nonstick baking mats.
When caramel has cooled to 88-90 degrees F, stir it into tempered chocolate. Once caramel is fully integrated, stir in pretzel pieces until they are immersed in chocolate.
Using two spoons, quickly scoop 1 1/2- to 2-inch clusters and place them on lined sheet trays. Sprinkle course sea salt over clusters from a high distance to evenly distribute. Allow clusters to fully set up before eating. Store in an airtight container in room temperature.