I know I’ve been posting a lot of sweets here lately. Well, it’s the holidays and most of these recipes are either gifts or for parties. Besides, I don’t think it’s so terrible to indulge sometimes!
I’ll admit that I was pretty nervous to try this recipe at first. I like a pretty laid back approach to cooking and baking, while caramel requires a close eye and a fair amount of precision. But I have a family holiday party coming up this weekend with some people who are gluten free and caramel candies seemed perfect. So I headed out to Target to pick up a basic candy thermometer and a heavy bottomed three quart pot and dug in.
Many caramel recipes use corn syrup, which I wanted to avoid. With a little research, I found that corn syrup is an invert sugar; the slight amount of acid in invert sugars prevent the caramels from getting too hard as they cool off. Luckily, honey is also an invert sugar, and maple syrup — which this recipe uses — seems to have the same effect. Plus, the addition of lemon juice would be enough acid even without the maple syrup.
I was initially worried that I had burned them, which is a real worry with caramel, but they actually came out quite well, I think!
Salted Pumpkin Caramels
1 cup heavy cream (35% or whipping cream)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups white cane sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. large grain salt
In a small or medium saucepan, combine the cream, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin pie spice. Heat it until warm, but do not let it boil. Whisk to combine. Remove from heat.
In a medium (at least 2 quart, but 3 quart is ideal) heavy-bottomed pan, combine the sugar, maple syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is melted. Allow it to boil until it reaches approximately 244°F (the upper limit of “soft ball” point on a thermometer). Add the cream and pumpkin mixture, and stir gently until incorporated. Allow the mixture to boil and bring it to 240°F on the candy thermometer. It can take up to half an hour for the mixture to reach temperature, so be patient. I had to stir almost continually, moving the thermometer around to make sure I incorporated the caramel behind it, to make sure it didn’t burn, but I suspect that my pot wasn’t “heavy-bottomed” enough.
Once the caramel has reached 240°F, remove it from heat and quickly stir in the butter and lemon juice, stirring well until both are fully incorporated and butter is melted. Now pour the caramel into the pan. Let it cool about 30 minutes and sprinkle on the salt.
Wait at least 2 hours for caramel to fully set before slicing. Use a hot knife to slice them more easily, which I did by keeping a mug of hot water next to me, cutting them into 1-inch squares. If you have trouble cutting them because they are too soft, you can always chill them for 20 minutes before cutting. Wrap them individually in waxed paper.