Sunday, November 7, 2010

Salted Pumpkin Caramels

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!

Salted Pumpkin Caramels (From Cheese1227's recipe posted on Food52)

2/3 cup unsalted pepitos (pumpkin seeds)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (see note above if you do not have pumpkin pie spice)
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cups light corn syrup
1/3 cup good maple syrup
1/4 cup of water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in chunks
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel

Dry toast the pepitos in a skillet until they start to pop being careful to move them around so they don't burn.

Line the bottom and the sides of an 8-in square pan with parchment. Butter the parchment on the sides of the pan. (I actually didn't line the sides with parchment, I just heavily buttered them.) Evenly spread out the toasted pepitos on the bottom of the pan, on top of the parchment.

In a saucepan, combine heavy cream, pumpkin puree and spices. Warm the mixture, but do not let it boil.

In a second heavy bottomed pan, with sides at least 4 inches high, combine the sugar, both syrups and water. Stir until the sugars are melted, then let it boil until it reaches 244 degrees (the soft ball point on a candy thermometer). Carefully add the cream and pumpkin mixture and slowly bring to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir frequently and adjust the heat as needed.

As soon as it reaches the 240, pull it off the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Stir vigorously until the butter has melted.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Let cool 30 minutes and sprinkle the salt over the top. Let the caramels fully set (at least 2 hours) before using a hot knife to cut them into 1-inch squares. You can wrap them individually in waxed paper, or arrange on an elegant plate to present at a party. Or just hover over the counter in the kitchen and shovel them directly into your mouth as fast as you can :)


  1. Those look delicious. I love the salt and caramel combination!!!

  2. I love making caramels! i never considered using pumpkin seeds. Sounds good! Thanks for linking up to Topsy Turvy Tuesday's.

  3. Hi, your emails through your profile aren't turned on, so I thought I'd reply to you here and on my blog about your Modern Diaper Bag project. Stay stitching means to stitch where the seam line WILL be, through only one layer. Then clip the curve inside the line of those stay stitches and they act as insurance that things won't fray further and gives you a target for when you turn inside out and need to hand stitch the last seam closed. Make sense?