It's Finally Fall!: Salted Pumpkin Caramels

The long, hot, humid, and rainy summer we had this year in D.C. seemed like it would never end. Even in early October it was still in the 80s. It wasn't until after Columbus Day that the weather took a dramatic turn where the temperature suddenly dropped about the 20 agrees, along with the dew point. With the arrival of crisp, cool weather, I wholeheartedly embraced fall flavors. And so I brought out a recipe from Food 52 that I had stashed away during the summer, for Salted Pumpkin Caramels.

I make caramels pretty regularly, especially around the holidays. And while I've made spiced caramels before, I was intrigued by the fact that this recipe actually includes pumpkin puree. Step one in the recipe is to toast some pepitas (pumpkin seeds). I opened a brand new bag of pepitas from Trader Joe's, with a use-by date many months in the future -- only to discover that they were rancid. I dumped the pepitas in the compost bin and decided to make seedless caramels.

To make the caramel, I brought a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, and water to 244 degrees; added a warm mixture of heavy cream, pumpkin puree, and spices (you're supposed to use pumpkin pie spice but I didn't have any so I substituted a 3:1:1:1 mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves) and brought the mixture back to 240 degrees; took the mixture off the heat and stirred in butter and lemon juice; and poured the mixture into a parchment-lined 8-inch square pan. I sprinkled fleur de sel on top and let the caramels set overnight before cutting and wrapping them.
These caramels were easy to cut -- they weren't too hard and they didn't stick to the knife. While they were definitely set, they were malleable such that when I wrapped them in wax paper, the caramels molded to the shape of the wrapper when I twisted the ends. They were chewy but soft. I thought they were absolutely delicious and tasted like salted caramel + pumpkin pie. Not only because of the spice, but because I could actually taste the pumpkin as well.

This recipe was easy and delivered the fall flavors I was craving. But I would be happy to eat these caramels any time of the year!

Recipe: "Salted Pumpkin Caramels" from Food52.

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