Recently I had a problem. I made a pumpkin cake roll for Christmas and had extra pumpkin puree left. I made some in to pumpkin ravioli, which were amazing. But, being a Costco shopper, I still had some left over and needed to come up with something to do with it. It wasn’t enough for more cake or ravioli, so I decided to do what anyone would do in my place. I made candy. I had read an interesting recipe for pumpkin caramels several years before and, while I never tried it, I never forgot about it either.
For about a year now salted caramel has been all the rage. You can get it in candy and sauces, and it is showing up in every trendy dessert menu across the land. I had never made them before, so I decided to combine the idea of salted caramel and pumpkin caramel, added a hand full of pumpkin seeds (I keep them for salads), and the Salted Pumpkin Caramel was born. (But, like all good ideas, since then I have found other people who have done the same thing.)
These are sweet, salty, crunchy, and slightly creamy from the pumpkin. Best of all, this recipe makes plenty to share and to keep some for yourself.
A few tips:
- Pay attention all the time. Don’t leave the kitchen with a pot of caramel boiling and use a heavy-bottomed, large saucepan. And be aware that the boiling caramel is very hot so take precautions handling it at all times.
- Have all your equipment and ingredients ready. Pretend you’re a surgeon and have all your tools well-arranged before you start.
- Candy making depends on accuracy, so you’ll need a candy thermometer. Don’t use those one of those with a probe at the end of a metal cord. I use a simple bulb one, which you can get inexpensively in almost any supermarket or hardware store. If you’re unsure if your thermometer is accurate, bring a pot of water to a boil with the thermometer in it; at sea level, it should read 212ºF (100ºC.)
- Use a heatproof spatula.
- Don’t overstir the syrup. Sugar is a crystal and once you melt it, stirring encourages those crystals to reform.
- Waving the blade of a sharp chef’s knife over the flame on a gas burned to warm it will help you get nice, even slices if you do it before each cut.
Salted Pumpkin Caramels
2/3 cup unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon 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 pepitas (pumpkin seeds) in a skillet until they start to pop.
- Line the bottom and the sides of an 8-in square glass pan with parchment. Butter the parchment on the sides of the pan. 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. Get this mixture quite warm, but not boiling. Set aside.
- 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). Then very carefully add the cream and pumpkin mixture, and slowly bring this mixture to 240 degrees as registered on a on a candy thermometer. This can take awhile — like 30 minutes — but don’t leave the kitchen, watch it carefully and stir it more frequently once it hits 230 degrees to keep it from burning at the bottom of the pan.
- As soon as it reaches the 240, pull it off the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Stir vigorously so that butter is fully incorporated.
- 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 and wrapping them individually in waxed paper.
Makes 64, 1-inch caramels