confessions of a caramel pusher


I try to eat healthy… really, I do. And most of the time, I cook that way too (I mean really… kale and quinoa are staples of my diet – sometimes I even go crazy and put them together!). Oh sure… there’s plenty of posts about bacon here but in general, I try to keep it on the healthier side.

But I am suspect of anyone that doesn’t give in every once in awhile. Live a little. Everything in moderation, including moderation, is always what I say (although I’m pretty sure someone said that before I did). And I realize that some vices can land ya in jail, but the last I checked, caramel was not a controlled substance.

Food52.com had my number dialed. Somehow they knew there was a big bowl of toasted pumpkin seeds on my kitchen counter, and I found this recipe waiting in my email for one of my favorite things – caramel – flavored up for the season. It was too much to resist.

Salted Pumpkin Caramels

Makes 64 1″ caramels
Recipe from Food 52

2/3 cup unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp 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 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut in chunks
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp fleur de sel (I finished mine with vanilla salt)

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a skillet until they start to pop.

Line the bottom and the sides of an 8˝ square glass pan with parchment (you can use butter to stick the parchment to the sides of the pan if needed). Evenly spread out the toasted pumpkin seeds 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˝ high, combine the sugar, both syrups and water. Stir until the sugars are melted and let it boil until it reaches 244°F (the soft ball point on a candy thermometer). Then very carefully add the cream and pumpkin mixture, and slowly bring this mixture to 240°F as registered on a on a candy thermometer. This can take awhile – like 30 minutes or more – but don’t leave the kitchen. Watch it carefully and stir it more frequently once it hits 230°F to keep it from burning at the bottom of the pan.

As soon as it reaches 240°F, 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. Cool 30 minutes and then 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˝ squares. Mine were still pretty sticky so I threw them in the fridge for a couple hours to really get them to set up.  Serve in squares or wrap individually in waxed paper.

Warning: These are deliciously addictive. I’d think, “I’ll just have one. I can stop anytime I want” only to find the counter littered with little squares of waxed paper and me with discriminatingly sticky fingers. I took big plates of these to two different parties and handed them out left and right to neighbors and friends leaving a wake of homemade caramel junkies jonesing for more. I guess if that makes me a bit of a caramel pusher so be it – there’s plenty of time for moderation tomorrow.

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About bistroonesix

I have an interest in all things food and am lucky enough to be surrounded by people that share this same passion. There’s never a shortage of inspiration or partners in collaboration. Some of my happiest memories involve big tables covered with food, plenty of wine, and extra chairs pulled up to accommodate all the friends and family. If I can help facilitate these kinds of evenings, well then I’d say this is a great hobby to have. I live in Boise, Idaho with my husband and 2 adorable cats.

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