A few weeks ago J and I were attending family gathering at my brother's home. Like your typical family gathering there was some delicious food present and my sis-in-law Susan did a fantastic job. Ham and Swiss sandwiches topped with pears on croissants, a lovely MaryAnn salad with all the good stuff. It was wonderful, and to top that off there were no children except for those we were honoring. (Marc's 2 kids!) As Susan was puttering around getting everything ready I noticed her pulling something out of a shipping box. On to a dish the treats went and what a treat they were. Homemade caramels, but not your ordinary caramels, these were pumpkin caramels.
She had just received the package from an Etsy dealer, who in my haste, was never identified. I was too busy eating all the lovely stuff, and never found out where these delicacies came from. So fast forward a few weeks as I sit at my laptop searching for these pumpkin caramels. I couldn't find them in an Etsy store, but I found tons of recipes online. The only problem was, all the recipes stemmed from one recipe from the Food Network. I love the Food Network, but I did not love this recipe. First off it had things in it I don't like and just seemed way to intense for something usually so simple. The reviews this recipe got were very mixed as well. I figured I had a couple really good caramel recipes and it just couldn't be as hard as it seemed. Also I had just bought cream on sale so I figured I could afford a few mess ups.
I have 2 caramel recipes that I love and the one I used was from Hot Off The Garlic Press. If you haven't made candy before this can be a bit daunting, but if you have it's a piece of cake. First off you've got to know your candy thermometer, or have a good knowledge of the water method. I don't trust myself with dropping the syrup in water and seeing where it is on the candy setting stage. I use a thermometer. My neighbor never uses a thermometer, and her candy is always perfect so do what you are comfortable with. Also I live at 4800' above sea level which has an affect on the temp I take my candy too. So I'll give the perfect directions, and then tell you exactly what I did.
These caramels turned out much better than I expected. J love them and so did I. The kids weren't quite so keen to them, but all the better I decided:) They turned out to be a perfect little fall treat, with a bit of a twist. If you like pumpkin give these a try. Let me know how they turn out.
1 c. butter
2 1/4 c. brown sugar packed
1 c. half and half
1 c. cream
1 c. light corn syrup
2/3 c. pumpkin puree
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
tiny pinch of salt
1 t. vanilla at the end
In a large heavy bottomed pan place all the ingredients together except for the vanilla and whisk until smooth. Mostly you're trying to incorporate the pumpkin and the spices. Bring the ingredients to a boil over medium high heat. I usually just put it on high, but I have to watch a little closer so it doesn't scorch. Once it starts to boil it takes quite a while for the temp. to go anywhere. Be patient. Finally the temp. will start to move up. Watch it closely from this point. The caramel will start to burn if you don't stir constantly with a wooden spoon. As the temp starts to close in on the 230' F. temp I turn the heat down. I want the caramel to come to temp slower so I can control it better. If you bring it up fast it has a tendency to keep going and it gets to hot to fast. I bring my thermometer to 230' F and then turn the heat to low so it goes up to 232' F really slow. At 232' F. I take it off the heat and add the vanilla. Stir until combined and pour the caramel out into a greased 9X13 inch pan. It must be greased or you'll have a big mess that is un-usable. Let set an hour or two until cool and firm. Cut into squares and wrap in waxed paper. You could add toasted pecans or pumpkin seeds too to the pan before pouring in the caramel.
At sea level you would cook the caramel to the softball stage which is 240' F. but at my house it's not. To check where your softball stage is you can boil a pan of water. Place the candy thermometer in the water and note what the temp. is when the water starts to boil. If you're at sea level it should be 212' F. So if your water boils at 204' F. like mine does, then you softball stage is now 8' lower than 240' F. meaning 232' F. That's how I got my number. Is it clear as mud? Sometimes that's why candy is a little difficult. You know it's always better to error on the side of underdone than a hard caramel. You're teeth might appreciate it:)