October 07, 2012

Salted Pumpkin Caramels

Here's something you won't see too often on this blog: a candy recipe. But I am completely smitten with these chewy caramels that taste like salty butter and pumpkin pie and all things cozy and autumnal. So here you go...

I am not much of a candy person. My sweet tooth is very directionally and enthusiastically aimed at the cookies / cakes / anything-made-with-dough category. But as a kid, I loved those little square, plastic-wrapped caramels... you know the ones people give out on Halloween? My mom wasn't big on sugary treats, in fact there was a time when I wasn't allowed to eat anything with refined sugar in it. Only honey, maple syrup and natural sweeteners were permitted. She relented one Halloween when my friend's parents accused her of child cruelty. (LOL, thanks friend's parents!) As a result, I was not as accustomed to sugar as some kids, and I remember sitting with a bag of Halloween treats, surrounded by those crinkly plastic caramel wraps, and one serious sugar hangover.

Since we recently harvested our pumpkins, the sight of this recipe from Food 52 got me whipping out the candy thermometer and getting down to caramel-making business in no time. And since today is Canadian Thanksgiving (my first time spending it in the United States), I wanted to share a pumpkinny recipe with you all.

These little guys were easy to make, except for the part when you're boiling the caramel and waiting for it to reach candy temperature. I got impatient and kept thinking I must be doing something wrong since it was taking for-EVER, but once temperature was finally reached and the caramel poured and cooled, it was an act of pure pleasure to slice through them and see that lo and behold, they had turned out perfectly. So be patient and don't worry if it's taking a while, even more than 30 minutes. 

I did make one key change to the original recipe which calls for part corn syrup, and part maple syrup, because you may remember how I feel about corn, so I opted to forego the corn syrup and use all maple syrup instead. I was initially worried it might skew the texture, but I did it anyway and the caramels turned out beautifully.

If there's one pumpkin dessert you make this fall, please make it be this one. I guarantee you won't regret it. And if you don't own a candy thermometer, it is worth going out and buying or borrowing one just to make this recipe. Seriously.

Adapted from Food 52  (and by the way, the genius who invented this recipe deserves a gold medal and good karma for ever and ever)

This recipe makes approximately 64 1-inch caramels

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream (35% or whipping cream)
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. each ginger and nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. each allspice and cloves)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. fleur de sel or kosher salt

    Toast the pumpkin seeds in a skillet until they start popping. Line the bottom of a buttered 8-inch square glass pan with buttered parchment paper. Spread out the toasted pumpkin seeds on top of the parchment in the pan.

    In the saucepan, combine the cream, pumpkin puree, and the spices. Heat it until warm, but do not let it boil. Remove from heat.  

    In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, combine the sugar, maple syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is melted. Allow it to boil until it reaches 244 degrees (the upper limit of "soft ball" point on a thermometer). Add the cream and pumpkin mixture, and stir gently until incorporated. Allow this mixture to boil and bring it to 240 degrees on the candy thermometer. This is the part that takes time, around 30 minutes, so be patient and watch it carefully, stirring often so it doesn't burn, particularly in the last stages when it gets very thick.

    Once it has reached 240, remove it from heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice swiftly, stirring well until both are fully incorporated and butter is melted. Now immediately pour the caramel into the pan, all in one go, on top of the pumpkin seeds. Let it cool about 30 minutes and if you wish you can sprinkle the salt on at this stage (or wait later and individually sprinkle salt on each square once they are cut). Wait at least 2 hours for caramel to fully set before slicing. Use a hot knife to slice them more easily, cutting them into 1-inch squares. You can wrap them individually in waxed paper. 

    Be careful, they are SO addictive!!


  1. Oh, this sounds fantastic!

  2. That looks so good, love the wrapping!

  3. OMG, I love the string on the wrapper!!! I developed this recipe and typically just tape the waxed paper, but tied with string is awesome!

    1. Thanks so much Christine! I'm so happy to have found the original maker of this recipe. You deserve a culinary award for developing this recipe, it is pure brilliance and genius. I am now an avid follower of your blog. :-)

  4. I really like your blog. Good job.

  5. I love your blog! A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!