Fall is by far my favorite season. Especially here in California where you get those bright, sunshine filled days when the air is crisp and cool. It's like Fall combines the best parts of all of the other seasons- summery sun, cool winter temps and spring fresh air. My favorite holiday is also in the Fall. That magical day filled with family and friends, turkey and cranberries, parades and football on TV.
When it comes to Thanksgiving dessert, I have always been a Pecan Tart kind of girl. I like Pumpkin Pie, but never really get excited about it, if you know what I mean. I recently found a recipe that gives life to your old can of pumpkin puree. Salted Pumpkin Caramels. Now these I can get excited about.
The recipe calls for your standard caramel ingredients of sugar, corn syrup and butter and throws in some extra Thanksgiving-ish ones like pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and maple syrup. For a little festive punch, the bottoms of the caramels are lined with pumpkin seeds.
A side note about the pumpkin pie spice: if you don't have any, check your spice rack before buying some. If you have cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and ground cloves, you have everything you need. This recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. Just combine a scant quarter teaspoon of each spice listed above in a small dish. Easy! And it saves you $4.
I have found that the weather has a lot to do with how caramel sets. The temperature and humidity all effect how soft or firm the caramels turn out. You also have to pay close attention to the temperature of the mixture, so make sure you use a candy thermometer. Bring it up too high and you'll have rock hard caramels. Don't get it hot enough and the caramels wont set. The more you make them, the better you'll get a feel for how to get them just right. It really is more of an art than a science.
Resist the temptation to scrape the sides of the pan when you pour it out. The tiny crystals you scrape off will cause you to have grainy caramel. In the words of Alton Brown: Definitely NOT good eats. I realized this after the fact and had a few pieces that were sugary and grainy :(
Use a hot knife to cut the slab into equal quadrants. Original recipe states a 64 piece yield which means they will be about 1" cubes. If you're not sure if you're cutting them in the right size, but want uniformity, cut the slab into 4. Then cut each one of those pieces into 4 smaller squares. Each of those smaller squares will then make four 1" cubes. Make sense?
Don't these just look beautiful? So festive, and the pumpkin-y spiciness of it is very Fall :)
Original recipe can be found at Food 52, a new website I recently stumbled upon. From their site description: "At food52, we recognize talented home cooks by giving them a place to show off their work, a place where cooks of all kinds come to be inspired and engaged in lively conversation." How fun!