Salted Pumpkin Caramels

By • October 11, 2010 • 363 Comments

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Author Notes: I recently made the fetching brown butter pumpkin layer cake featured on the cover of the latest issue of Fine Cooking. That batter just cried out to be sampled. It tasted as I imagined pumpkin caramels would. Seeing as serving raw cake batter is frowned upon these days, I had to come up with a safer alternative to this wonderful taste profile. - cheese1227 cheese1227

Food52 Review: Cheese1227's caramels really evoke the essence of fall, and her approach is elegant not heavy-handed. The earthiness of pumpkin, softened with cream, permeates each chewy bite, followed by a whisper of spice, and the delicate crunch of fleur de sel is a clever detail, offsetting the sweetness of the candy. The toasted pepitas are addictive even on their own (make sure to save some for the bottom of the baking dish!); they give each of the finished caramels a beautifully lacquered, dusty green cap. - A&MA&M

Makes 64, 1-inch caramels

  • 2/3 cup unsalted pepitas
  • 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
  1. Dry toast the pepitas in a skillet until they start to pop.
  2. 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.
  3. In a saucepan, combine heavy cream, pumpkin puree and spices. Get this mixture quite warm, but not boiling. Set aside.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
Jump to Comments (363)

Comments (363) Questions (11)

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4 days ago Detrishious

Made these last night, a double batch. Can't stop eating them. Used spices ginger nutmeg cinnamon cardamom and clove instead of pumpkin pie spice. I took them off at 244 and they are a perfect chewy soft caramel. Thanks for sharing this!!

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4 days ago cheese1227

'Tis the season. So glad they worked for you. Candy is fickle.

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about 20 hours ago Detrishious

I only took them off at 244 because I was doing dishes and lost track of temp for awhile.

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8 days ago abbyarnold

Thank you Rev! I will try that tonight!

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8 days ago Rev kristyne

Dear abbyarnold, What to do with the xtra pumpkin...shmeer it over a freshly washed face and close your eyes for twenty minutes of so before washing it all off gently. Follow with the tiniest amount of coconut oil for moisturizing if you don't have oily skin...voila...you'll have the most moist and beautiful fall glow going.

Stringio

9 days ago CarmaFrancie

Made these yesterday and they came out perfectly. After reading many comments decided to actually follow the directions. At 240 I looked away and we went to 243. Cut and wrapped them this morning. Texture excellent although it is a rather soft caramel (that doesn't stick to my dental work!).

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8 days ago cheese1227

Excellent!!

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9 days ago abbyarnold

I made these once again yesterday; they are now a Halloween tradition and I sent them to my son at college. SweetE, I can't tell you what to do with the brittle except enjoy it. I have found that even my fabulous electronic thermometer is not very accurate when it comes to caramel, so I do the final cooking for about 20 minutes and then use the cold spoon/cold plate method of testing how solid it has become. There is a lot of magic to making caramel. Like Mary, I don't stock pumpkin pie spice mix so I used cinnamon, allspice, and a Chinese 5-spice blend, and grated in some fresh ginger. The challenge for me is what to do with that other half-can of pumpkin!

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8 days ago cheese1227

Love that you made them a tradition!

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9 days ago sweetE

Ok - I've been eyeing this recipe for quite some time and finally broke down and made them last night. Followed directions to a T - I know sugar can be finicky - and went to cut them this morning after sitting out temptingly all night. It is a brittle - not a caramel. What happened, and even more importantly, is there any way I can reheat it and fix it? Thanks for any help from anyone.

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9 days ago cheese1227

Oh no!! I know how disappointing that can be. Generally speaking, hard caramels are a result of cooking them to too high a temp. How accurate is your thermometer and where does it sit in your pot. If it was sitting to high, then you would get a much lower reading.

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8 days ago sweetE

Thanks so much for your reply. I couldn't help but keep staring at the pan thinking there was something I could do though. So the kids and I unceremoniously plopped the rock into a pan, added a bit of water, and brought it back up to a boil, and did the drop test in the cold water to see where it was (chewy). So I took it off the heat, added about 4 T more of butter, and spread it out on a buttered baking sheet with parchment. SUCCESS I am happy to report! So if you over cook your sugar once, try try again is my motto! And more butter doen't seem to hurt either. :)

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8 days ago cheese1227

Excellent news!

Stringio

about 1 month ago Mary Caputo

Made these with agave syrup--came out perfectly. I also use individual spices (ginger, cinnamon, clove, allspice) instead of pumpkin pie spice to suit my tastes. Everyone raved! Thanks!

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8 months ago Affie Marko

Wow! This looks fantastic. Trying it today!

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10 months ago ? Anonymous ?

Yummy

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11 months ago Tracey Wade

I made these last year and ended up with some very nice sauce. I tried again this year - and got beautiful caramel. I bought a digital thermometer and stirred for 45 minutes (wine in other hand, it was quite relaxing) until the thermometer read 242. I love caramel and am excited to have made my first batch. This one recipe needs its own blog! Thank you.

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11 months ago christine p

I just made these last night and they are amazing! Great recipe! I removed the mixture from the heat as soon as it hit 240 F and had no problems producing a chewy caramel. I will say, however, that they aren't quite as smooth as I had expected--they are almost on the fudgey side. But still, wonderful caramels!

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11 months ago liz cunningham

I refuse to use corn syrup, has anyone tried agave syrup instead?

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11 months ago cheese1227

I have not tested them with agave. But I have tested them with Lyle's Golden syrup as the suspended sugar agent and they've worked well.

Stringio

11 months ago Layla Corcoran

Has anyone ever made these with coconut sugar? It spikes your blood sugar less and tastes just plain better. But it comes in little chunks, not granulated. Does that matter for making caramels?

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11 months ago cheese1227

I"ve not worked with coconut sugar before so I can't give any educated advice.

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11 months ago chez cherie

i canNOT figure out what is going on. i have made this recipe four times, always using the same brands of ingredients (sugar, pumpkin, butter, pumpkin, et al) and the same candy thermometer. twice they have come out lusciously chewy--perfect caramel texture. the other two times, hard as rocks. beyond toothbreaking toffee stage. i really wanted to take these to a thanksgiving dinner this week, and don't have time to cook them again. the pepitas and salt are already on them. any ideas on how to salvage?

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12 months ago ScrubbedFace

What did I do wrong? They turned out grainy like brown sugar fudge not like soft, chewy caramels. I've made these caramels for Halloween for the past two years and they've been perfect. I used a candy thermometer and always noticed it took a long time to come to 240 after adding the cream mixture for me (like over 45 mins). I might have kept it a bit longer at that temp on the heat when I was stirring in the butter and lemon. Would going over 240 make the caramels grainy? When I was pouring in the pan, i noticed maybe a hot-spot in the middle that continued to bubble in the pan, surrounded by shinier caramel (now I think most of the mixture became crystallized). Thanks!

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12 months ago Anita

Check step 5 again. You must take the mixture off the heat and then add butter. I think you over cooked the caramel.

Stringio

about 1 year ago Maria Mooers-Putzer

I've made this twice using fresh pumpkin at high altitude (Salt Lake City) - it firms up nice at 240 and my family (in the much flatter Midwest) has always cooked caramels to around 240/238. They did soften up a little at a party under hot lights but were no where near sauce.

Stringio

about 1 year ago Patty Schwegmann

Thank you for the advice, I'll try that next time!

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about 1 year ago Carla Benzan

Great recipe! I've been looking forward to trying to make these all year and I was not disappointed.

I am keeping them in the fridge so that hopefully they will keep longer. Also, they are extra firm in the fridge. When kept at room temperature they take on the consistency of a soft caramel that still holds its shape nicely.

They are very sweet (as caramels tend to be). The pumpkin-spice flavours are subtle and a delicious seasonal addition. My partner who hates pumpkin pie loved these so it's not too overpowering. I used cinnamon, ginger and fresh ground nutmeg instead of prebought spice mix. Like others I added a bit of extra sea salt on the top. I really love the toasty crunch of the 'popped' pumpkin seeds on the bottom - I'll probably add even more next time. Make sure they pop and get toasty for a great flavour and crunch!

Regarding the problems with cooking times/firmness of the candy: I don't have a candy thermometer so I use a water to check for done-ness by the 'softball' stage. It does take awhile for the caramel to reach the softball stage after the pumpkin is added, but if you are patient it does happen!

PS I put the trays in the fridge overnight and then punched out circle shapes with the lid of a spice jar to form little circle shapes. Very pretty and impressive addition to a pumpkin carving evening with friends!

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about 1 year ago cheese1227

Love the cut out idea! Than you for sharing that and for the verification that the soft ball method works well for these. I plan to make my first batch of these for the season tomorrow.

Stringio

about 1 year ago Patty Schwegmann

I made these recently and loved the flavor, big hit!!! They had a nice consistency when they first set up, but then changed from being chewy to crystallized within a day. Never had this happen with caramels before, any ideas?

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about 1 year ago cheese1227

That sounds like the classic sugar in the mix issue. Try brushing the sides of the pan down with some water and a pastry brush once you've stirred the mixture initially but before you bring it up to temp the first time. Making sure all the sugar crystals in the pan have melted prevents crystallization further down the line.

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about 1 year ago Sandy

Found this recipe over at thetarttart.com via Pinterest.
I just took my first bite... oo'la'la! They turned out perfect. Love the crunchy pumpkin seed & salt combo. Was my first attempt at caramels. I'll be making these again.

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about 1 year ago cheese1227

So pleased they worked as advertised for you!