Salted Pumpkin Caramels

By • October 11, 2010 • 349 Comments


4,081 Save

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.

Comments (349) Questions (11)

Default-small
Default-small
Default-small

about 1 month ago Affie Marko

Wow! This looks fantastic. Trying it today!

Untitled

3 months ago ♔ Anonymous ♔

Yummy

Default-small

4 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.

Default-small

4 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!

Default-small

5 months ago liz cunningham

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

Christine-28_small(1)

5 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

5 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?

Christine-28_small(1)

5 months ago cheese1227

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

Default-small

5 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?

Default-small

6 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!

Default-small

6 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

6 months 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

6 months ago Patty Schwegmann

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

Default-small

6 months 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!

Christine-28_small(1)

6 months 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

6 months 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?

Christine-28_small(1)

6 months 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.

Default-small

6 months 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.

Christine-28_small(1)

6 months ago cheese1227

So pleased they worked as advertised for you!

Default-small

6 months ago Tiffany

Made these yesterday, and they are wonderful. Had a piece with my coffee this morning and it was heaven! I was wondering what the shelf life would be?

Christine-28_small(1)

6 months ago cheese1227

I have had these caramels stay for a month, wrapped individually in waxed in a glass jar for several weeks.

Default-small

6 months ago Esther Heimberg

So, all you foodies out there, before I try and tweek the recipe I'll take a survey, since onece in many lifetimes Hannukah and Thanksgiving fall during the same time and I saw a recipe for Pecan Pie Rugela, which then reminded me of a recipe for a sweet potato pie with a pecan pie topping which led me to think of a sweet potato- pecan salted carmel after looking at this (so if you've followed my if-you-give-a mouse-a-caramel logic) what's your thought on a sweet potato pecan salted
caramel? Just subbing out mashed sweet potato for the pumpkin and toasted pecans for the pepitas?

Open-uri20131003-24754-1guezk7

6 months ago Shelly Shalomhandiworkgifts

Hi Esther Heimberg, I bought the items needed to make the above caramel, I will do this SOON, hopefully this week yet. I will post my results here. Anyway, you like Sweet Potato...IF somebody likes sweet Potato, I would not see why you could not make the trade and use it. I am not much help as I just don't care for the flavor of Sweet Potato. I don't know why, it is a generally good flavor overall, but for ME, I don't know...I just never have taken to it. I however LOVE RUGELA!!! Was Raised up on it and it brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. Hannakah is one of my FAVORITE Holidays, and even tho my Kids are raised, I still send them Gifts for Hannukah. Fun Fun!!!! SHALOM :-)....so, as far as MY VOTE....I vote for the PECAN PIE RUGELA, over the Sweet Potato Pie with a Pecan Pie Topping....just my vote, one of many I hope ;-)

Christine-28_small(1)

6 months ago cheese1227

Sweet potato has less water than pumpkin so I might use a little more cream. But I'd love to hear of the results.

Default-small

7 months ago Debbie

I had high hopes for this recipe. I have made caramels before many times, and always cook mine to 260F. So I was a bit apprehensive to try this given they are only cooked to 240F. But I decided to try the recipe as written since I happened to have pumpkin seeds on hand. Well, the flavor is terrific. But it will have to be used as a sauce.

Christine-28_small(1)

6 months ago cheese1227

Sorry they did not work for you. I have no issues with the temps here on the East Coast.

Open-uri20131003-24754-1guezk7

7 months ago Shelly Shalomhandiworkgifts

I would have to say Cheese1227 that even at 245 would be the LOWEST you could go for making soft (VERY SOFT) caramels, but for me, 248 is the magic number (and up to 252 on the far side of the moon). Also, for me I notice if I use fruit, any fruit, I tend to have to cook my caramels longer as their is more liquid in the fruit that needs to boil out to bring it to proper temp. With different ingredients added, it can change what the final temp of the caramel according to how much water/liquid. On a general rule, the more cream you add, the softer the final caramel will be. Less cream, a firmer caramel. Its true, it is NOT always about temperature. I DO believe that in the Kitchen for cooking Candy, one must COOK like a Grandma, and THINK like a Scientist. I watch for MANY factors when doing caramel. One, if it smells like its burning, IT IS. If you do the water test (like Grandma Does) and you get a nice firm ball, no matter what the temperature is, more than likely the caramel is done. On the other hand, I have had it go to proper temperature, depending on my own created recipe and varied ingredients, I have had it go to 248 and NOT even be close to being done. I always do the water test. And its a good thing too that I do both the temp reading and the granny water test. But I will say this...Some things are just not going to change. For an example, 212 is the boiling point for water, its just NOT going to boil at 112, no mater where you live in the world. I am NOT trying to insult you, as a matter of fact I am really trying to find out just what happened with you caramel to have it come out looking SO FIRM at a mere 240. I am NOT calling you a liar, their could of been all kinds of factors to give you that reading. Maybe your thermometer is not calibrated right. I suspect this as their are MANY who would testify to the fact that 240 is way to low. Try doing the TEST where you place your thermometer into cold water, then bring it to a boil. Check to see when it boils. You should be reading 212 for simple boiled water. I DO make caramel all the time, this is true, but I have NOT made your Caramel. So, I do know in about a week, I will actually make YOUR caramel and post my results here. It DOES look like a Grand Recipe indeed and from the reviews, very yummy. I myself have my OWN pumpkin Caramel that I make, but for this post and for trying something NEW, I will indeed make your caramel in the next week. Long story short I was in an accident last year, so I am limited to what I can do. Now I do ALL my cooking with great amounts of help, or, I give instructions to somebody, like my husband, and he cooks per my instructions. We make caramel every single week, and lots of it too. I look forward to getting back with you on my cooking review hopefully within the next week. SMILES, Shelly

Christine-28_small(1)

7 months ago cheese1227

I look forward to hearing of your test results of these caramels.

Default-small

6 months ago Esther Heimberg

So after reading all that you wrote and considering the results of others I used both the thermometer and the water test. My thermometer is not easy to read for the in-between numbers and since 248-252 was mentioned I split the difference and went to 250 for the temperature after the addition of the cream and pumpkin. I did double the recipe if that matters in anything, I suspect it affects the cooking time as the surface area allows for only so much evaporation of water unless I used a wider pot. The caramels are a bit on the hard side initially, but when warmed by my mouth soften up enough to be enjoyed while eating and are quite tasty. So, my question is, what is the (theoretical) effect on firmness of the TWO times the mixture must be brought up to a certain temperature? Once before the addition of the pumpkin/cream and once after? Also, since it took so long to bring the whole thing up to temperature why add the water as it seems that the purpose of boiling the mixture is to increase it's boiling point by increasing the concentration and leaving out the water would shorten the time.

Christine-28_small(1)

6 months ago cheese1227

I don't double the batch. I make it in the same pan every time. I don't sell these, so having 64 around is always plenty for me.

Christine-28_small(1)

6 months ago cheese1227

I add the water because this is a site for home cooks and adding water to the caramel helps, in my opinion, ease the process or (or the anxiety about) making caramel than just melting the sugar straight away.

Open-uri20131003-24754-1guezk7

7 months ago Shelly Shalomhandiworkgifts

I am a Professional Caramel Maker...240 for a Temp is way to low. I cook like a Grandma, but Think like a Scientist. I would be highly surprised to find out that the picture provided was made using the temp. of 240. That looks like a perfect formed Caramel, not to chewy, not to soft. To get that, its going to be closer to 248-252. I have made more caramels in my life than most people ever have, so, if you are reading this and you want to make this recipe, as is, you will get closer to something of a thick goo, great on ice-cream, not great for caramels used for gifts giving and such. Just my 2 cents worth ;-)

Christine-28_small(1)

7 months ago cheese1227

Thanks for your professional commentary, Shelly. Now you have me wondering why these work at 240?! I am wondering if it is the addition of the pumpkin?

Default-small

3 months ago L Kaylor

I agree 248-250 is my magic no. for caramels! I think people have to check the accuracy of their thermometers, they do go bad over time.

Default-small

7 months ago david patrick

what an inspiration, didn't have pumpkin but i had a cooked pineapple and habinero sauce that i had left over (left over because it was too spicy for my meek guest) pretty much sautéed fresh pineapple a little butter and a whole habernero. I substituted pineapple habernero for pumpkin. I added a little cocoanut extract but it didn't come through (used just a quarter of a teaspoon, could have used more). Anyway, I can't believe how beautiful the caramel came out. strong pineapple flavor with heat at the end. Thank you for inspiring me. Serving it to night with a side of cocoanut sorbet. Can't wait to have other left overs to inspire me.

Stringio

7 months ago enthous

These are a wonderful change of pace. I make traditional caramels by the dozen every Christmas, and enjoyed these, although they seem sweeter to me than regular caramels, I'm not sure why. I think the pumpkin and spices seem to enhance the sweetness. I added more salt because the 3/4 tsp didn't cover them well, but I still wish there was more. I might used salted pepitas next time. I almost didn't use the pepitas, thinking they'd be a distraction, but they're lovely and I wish there were more. It was difficult to pour the hot candy from my heavy pan without moving them, so I have some that have no pepitas, and some with a lot more. Oh well. Maybe my candy thermometer is off, but mine were not quite as dark as the picture, but I don't like hard caramels and they were nice and soft. Refrigerated them to cut them, but once cut, they're fine at room temp. The estimate of 30 min to get to 240 degrees was low, it took a lot longer. I finally cranked up the heat and that did it, and didn't have any scorching, so I was probably being too careful with the heat. Yum.

Default-small

6 months ago Esther Heimberg

I salted on the pepita side and the exposed side because of your comment. I think to add salt to the one side would not be a good idea but using salted pepitas or sprinkling some sea salt on the pepitas is better!