I first spotted this recipe on Food 52 many months ago and I’ve been patiently waiting for “pumpkin season” to give it a try. It is one of the most popular recipes on Food 52 and now that I’ve made it (twice!) I can certainly see why!
Now, I love to cook and I love to try new recipes but, I always follow one rule when trying new recipes. I always make the recipe as written first. From there, I will note what I liked or didn’t or what I think might work a little better and I will adjust the recipe accordingly the next time I make it, to give it a try.
That’s exactly what I did with this recipe but, the time between the first and second time I made them was only a couple of days this time. Why? Because these caramels are really, really good and my family and friends ate them all up and then begged me to make more.
The second time I made them, I made a few tweaks. I changed the pumpkin pie spice specified in the original recipe to a combination of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg instead. I love this combination of spices and really wanted to try it in these caramels. I also decided to strain the pumpkin mixture to remove any solids, to give the caramel a clearer appearance and texture. (My daughter thought the caramels had a bit of a different texture and I thought straining the solids might help that). And finally, I increased the amount of Fleur de Sel, because I felt it needed just a bit more to perfectly balance the sweet/salty thing.
Everyone agreed that even though the first batch (original recipe) was really good, the second batch was even better. That’s good enough for me, so I’m sharing my adaptation of the recipe here. I hope you get a chance to try it and enjoy it as much as we did.
These caramels would be a great gift to share at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Simply place some in a pretty jar and tie a festive ribbon around it.
Recipe: Salted Pumpkin Caramels
Summary:These caramels bring a seasonal, pumpkin twist to the traditional salted caramels. If you’ve never made caramels before, I can assure you they are very easy to make providing you have the right equipment. That means a proper candy thermometer. Otherwise, you’ll be left to the mercy of unforgiving sugar syrup and may end up with soft, squish caramels or ones that will be so hard, you’ll have to get some pliers to remove them from your teeth! Not a pretty picture, so I’d definitely recommend dropping $3 or $4 dollars on a proper candy thermometer before attempting these. I found pepitas/pumpkin seeds at my local Bulk Barn or try the bulk section of large grocery stores.
Special Equipment Needed: Candy Thermometer, Fine Mesh Strainer
- 2/3 cup roasted unsalted pepitas/pumpkin seeds (I have used the salted as well, without problem. If you can’t find them already roasted, you can toast raw pepitas in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until they start to pop.)
- 1 1/2 cups heavy (35%) cream
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- small pinch ground cloves
- 2 cups white granulated sugar
- 1/2 cups light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup real maple syrup
- 1/4 cup of water
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut in chunks
- 1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
- 3/4 – 1 1/4 tsp. fleur de sel (use less if using regular sea salt)
- Line an 8×8-inch or 5×11-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving excess on the sides to grab when removing from the pan. I find it easier to just cut a piece that covers the bottom and two sides, extending above the edge on the sides. It just lays flat better. Then I butter the two exposed sides of the pan well. Sprinkle the pepitas evenly over the bottom of the pan, on top of the parchment paper.
- In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine the heavy cream, pumpkin puree and the spices. Heat until quite warm but do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Have your fine mesh strainer ready to hand.
- In another tall and heavy bottomed pan (with sides at least 4 inches high), combine the sugar, both the corn and maple syrup and water. (Don’t skimp on pot size. This mixture will really boil up and you don’t want to have to turn the heat down in the middle of cooking this. I used my enameled cast iron Dutch oven).
- With burner at high, stir the sugar mixture until the sugar is melted, then stop stirring the let the mixture boil until it reaches 244 ° F. on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage). Immediately but carefully, remove the pot from the heat and, placing the fine mesh strainer over the sugar mixture, carefully pour the cream mixture through the strainer and into the sugar mixture.
- Run a spoon around the strainer and scrape the bottom a bit. Discard any solids left in the strainer. Return the pot to a burner over medium-high heat. Stir the sugar/pumpkin mixture well and then slowly bring this mixture to 240 ° F. on a candy thermometer. This can take some time (20-30 minutes). Be patient. Stir regularly and then more frequently once it hits 230 ° F. to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pan.
- As soon as the mixture reaches 240 ° F, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice, if using. Stir well until the butter is completely melted and fully incorporated.
- Carefully pour this mixture into the prepared pan, over the pepitos. Let cool, in the pan, for 30 minutes to firm up slightly and then sprinkle the salt over the top. If using fleur de sel, the top should be well sprinkled with salt. If using regular sea salt, use less as it has a stronger salty flavour. Let the caramels fully set and cool in the pan, at least 2 hours.
- Remove the caramels from the pan by lifting the sides of the parchment paper liner and move to a cutting board. Using a large, sharp knife to cut into 1-inch squares. (*I found it easiest to use my knife to make indentations on the top of the caramel first to ensure consistent sizes and then to go back and cut all the way through each row and then each piece. Wrap each caramel individually in pre-cut pieces of waxed or parchment paper (Approximately 4 inches x 6 inches in size).
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 30 min
Total time: 35 min
Number of servings (yield): 64 1-inch caramels