Pumpkin Spice Caramels

by Shawnda on October 7, 2012

in Candy,Pumpkin

Chewy Pumpkin Spice Caramels

It is the first weekend of October and I haven’t bought a single bag of [airquote] halloween [/airquote] candy. Air quotes required. Because any bag of candy purchased on October 6th probably won’t live to see October 11th around here. And by probably, I mean definitely.

And by around here, I mean around me.

(Side note: Are there people that can buy candy in early October and really still have it hanging around a month later? Is that will power contagious? Please?)

Last week, we had the Candy Talk. Rather than throw the feed store-sized bag of candy into the cart, I countered with a “How about I just make something.” Because I know my limits and they don’t stop at Blow Pops or Tootsie Rolls. [sigh] Or even Smarties. Or those off-brand M&Ms that fool no one but they’re still almost chocolate and sometimes there are days where that almost counts.

I quickly began to ramble about how I really wanted to do something fun with pumpkin or apple and started twirling my hair and blinking. Anything to distract him. (Almost anything, I’d hate to be shame-escorted out of HEB. Again.)


Instead, I just got The Look. You know the one, it’s part, “Why can’t you just pick up a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins like a normal girl and call it a day?” and part “I love you but I swear to the heavens that I’ll never put another dirty sock into the hamper for as long as I live if I find a stashed bag of those crappy orange & black candies in the house.” Peanut Butter Kisses have never gotten the respect that they deserve.

Chewy Pumpkin Spice Caramels

I settled on making caramels to appease Jason – they’re his favorite non-Reese’s candy that don’t come in cattle feed-sized bags.

I took his favorite caramels and gave them a fall makeover with brown sugar, molasses, and some homemade pumpkin pie spice. The cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice really add a nice warmth to the caramels that really compliments the richness of the molasses. Of course, adding molasses to the mix does make it a little trickier to know when to add the cream and spices (this is done when the sugar mixture turns amber… but it starts out amber in this recipe) so make sure you have a candy thermometer handy. They’re inexpensive and will save your caramel from dying a scorched, smokey death.

And if you’ve never tried the sea salt caramels, you must! They really are the perfect combination of chewy, sweet, salty, and buttery. And candy. If that’s your thing.

And for another treat, make Pumpkin Spice Caramel Syrup – rather than cooking the caramel mixture to 248, you simply add the cream mixture as directed below, let it bubble, stir it to mix well, remove from heat, and let it cool. Just add ice cream! Coffee! Or hot chocolate. Or anything else you’d drizzle caramel syrup over. Like those fake M&Ms. Because that’s the only way those things are edible.

Pumpkin Spice Caramels

Homemade pumpkin pie spice gives these chewy, buttery caramels a makeover for fall.


  • For the homemade pumpkin pie spice:
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/8 tsp ground cloves
  • For the caramels:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp light corn syrup (can sub Lyle's Golden Syrup)
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Stir together the ingredients for the pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl until mixed well, making sure to press out any lumps with a spoon.
  2. Leftover spice can be stored in a small airtight jar or a zip-top bag.
  3. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter parchment.
  4. Bring cream, butter, vanilla, salt, and 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice just to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Boil sugars, corn syrup, molasses, and water in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer and continue boiling without stirring (just gently swirl the pan occasionally) until mixture reaches 310-315.
  6. Carefully pour in the cream mixture into the caramel (take care, mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 246-248 on thermometer. 246 will give you a softer caramel that will stretch when you bite it but is easily squished or flattened, especially in a warm house. 248 will give you a firmer, still chewy caramel.
  7. Pour into baking pan and cool completely (about an hour).
  8. Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter is your best friend), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.


Yields: 64 candies

Adapted from Sea Salt Caramels with Vanilla Bean

Estimated time: 1 hour 45 minutes



Homemade Honey Roasted Peanuts

To me, the appeal of any recipe has always been that it was created with a good, solid base, allowing me to easily swap out a few ingredients and transform the dish into something completely new. Adaptability. Variability. Riffability.

(I’ll concede that one of those might not be a real word.)

One recipe I’ve been playing around with lately is honey-roasted peanuts. They’re sweet, salty, and addictively crunchy “plain.” But add crushed red pepper flakes (like the nuclear hot stuff we made from our serrano explosion) and you’ve got a sweet & spicy treat. It’s pretty much legal crack.

Add the warm flavors of pumpkin pie spices (stay tuned) and you get a crunchy snack perfect for fall snacking. Substitute almonds for peanuts? You’ve got a whole ‘nother ball game (and a healthier one, too).

But perhaps best of all, there are fewer (4! Maybe 5) and less-processed ingredients than its store bought counterpart and the names of all of those ingredients? They can be probably pronounced by your average 2nd grader or your incredibly gifted 1st grader.

Homemade Roasted Peanuts

The honey roasting process is simple. Peanuts are coated with honey before being tossed with sugar and salt and roasted in the oven. I changed the method just a bit to produce a crunchier, coarser texture on the peanuts – the coating on the peanuts accounts for 56.3% of the fun!

The trickiest thing about making the peanuts in my oven is preventing them from burning before the sugar and honey caramelize enough to produce a beautiful golden brown crunchy coating. Enter the Silpat.

Homemade Honey-Roasted Peanuts

My favorite rinse-it-off-and-wipe-it-clean baking mat keeps the temperature even and makes honey-roasting clean-up a breeze. If you’ve been around here long enough, you know that I’m a huge Silpat fan. I’ve used them for years – cookies, scones, macarons, salmon roulade, bread! – and have given a few of them away along the way.

Congratulations to commenter #352 – Ashley P! Please check your email for instructions on how to claim your prize.

And we have another one to giveaway today! Silpat has provided a “half” sized baking mat for a lucky reader, just in time for fall and holiday baking. The half size is made to fit the large jelly-roll style baking pans.

To enter the giveaway, tell us in the comments below: What are you looking forward to baking most this fall?

You can earn up to 5 bonus entries by:
– Leaving a separate comment that you’ve tweeted about the giveaway. It’s simple – just click here!
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Good luck!

The fine print:
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm (Texas time!) 9/24.
– Winner will be selected by one of those cold, soulless, unfeeling random number generator thingies and announced on this post after selected.
– Winners will receive a Silpat Half Size baking mat (maximum retail value of prize = $30).
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– Prize is being provided directly to the winner by Silpat.
– Official giveaway rules can be found here.

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanuts

Homemade honey roasted peanuts couldn't be easier to make with only 4 ingredients. Adding crushed red pepper makes a sweet and spicy (and addictive) snack.


  • 16 oz cocktail peanuts
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a silpat.
  3. Place peanuts in a medium bowl (large enough to stir the peanuts).
  4. Microwave honey and crushed red pepper in a bowl for 30 seconds and pour over the peanuts.
  5. Add half of the sugar and the salt, stirring well.
  6. Spread onto the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, making sure to stir the peanuts on the edges in to prevent burning.
  7. Let cool for 2-3 minutes and then stir the peanuts, scraping the honey from the silpat to coat the peanuts.
  8. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp sugar and stir again.
  9. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and let cool completely.
  10. Break up the peanuts into single/smaller pieces and store in an airtight container.


Yields: ~3 cups

Adapted from The Kitchn

Estimated time: 35 minutes



PPQ: Texas Pralines

by Shawnda on May 20, 2012

in Candy,Project Pastry Queen

Texas Pralines

I have working internet again. At home. To go along with the other two things I can’t live without: indoor plumbing and Diet Pepsi electricity.

Not that I’d think that I could ever get tired of using Chick-fil-A’s free wifi (hello, Spicy Chicken Biscuits!) but holy cow, was I tired of packing up the entire house just to go use Chick-fil-A’s free wifi. I have no idea how the pioneers did it.

I picked this week’s Project Pastry Queen challenge, Texas Pralines. It’s a food blogger’s dream: photographing blobs of brown.

Which only runs second to a food blog reader’s dream – looking at pictures of blobs of brown. So, you know… sorry. And they might have been prettier blobs of brown if I hadn’t gotten distracted.

But I got distracted. So they’re ugly, delicious little blobs of brown.

Pralines. They’re really just another way for Southerners to work pecans in to dessert, one that doesn’t require a fork. They’re sweet candies studded with chunks of roasted pecans. They’re pretty simple and quick, as far as candy-making is concerned. I used honey in place of the corn syrup for another layer of flavor and added the scrapings of a vanilla bean.

And then I beat the pralines for a minute too long – they should have flowed from the spoon onto the baking sheet instead of just… falling off the spoon. So if you’re going to use a mixer for the final step, don’t walk away to unpause the last 3 minutes of the season finale of Hart of Dixie! While it is your (spoiler alert) typical Zoe train wreck, it can wait for you to finish the pralines.

You can check out how the other PPQ members tackled candy-making this week here. Next week, we’re taking on the Mahogany Cake, a decadent chocolate + coffee combo. And I need to find 5 someones to come help me eat it.

Texas Pralines

Texas pecans make this southern favorite shine.


  • 2 1/2 cups whole pecans (I used halves)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • Scrapings of 1-2 vanilla beans (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spread pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 7-9 minutes, until fragrant.
  3. Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. Over medium heat, stir together the buttermilk, baking soda, sugar, honey, and butter.
  5. Clip a candy thermometer onto the pot and cook until you reach softball stage (~234-240F).
  6. Turn off the heat and remove the candy thermometer. (At this point, I transferred it to my mixer bowl).
  7. Beat in the pecans and vanilla.
  8. Beat by hand with a wooden spoon for ~10 minutes (or by mixer for 3-4 minutes), until the candy has lost its sheen and is thick enough to just flow off of the spoon.
  9. Drop heaping tablespoons onto a sheet of wax paper.
  10. Let the candies cool completely and then wrap individually in plastic wrap.
  11. Will keep at room temp for 5 days.


Yields: ~22 pieces

Slightly adapted from The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 45 minutes



Grasshopper Chocolate Bark

One of my husband’s favorite candies are Andes mints. They typically run a close second to peanut butter cups but during the holidays, they take the top position. When we were hammering out the details of our Christmas gift baskets, we came up with a super easy way to incorporate Andes mints with Grasshopper Chocolate Bark: a minty green (white) chocolate layer, a semisweet chocolate layer, and chopped Andes mints.

The beauty of chocolate bark is that the flavor combinations are limited only by your imagination. Or your pantry. It’s super easy to put together: you chop chocolate (the time-consuming part), melt it, pour it into a pan, and then let it cool. And thanks to that overpriced shiny kitchen store in the mall, people can’t get enough of it at Christmas time.

Grasshopper Chocolate Bark

A couple of notes on working with white chocolate: “Real” white chocolate is finicky. It doesn’t melt like regular chocolate – it’s delicate and can easily be overheated or seize. And considering how pricey it is, that’s a problem. If you’re going to use a pricey white chocolate, be sure to heat it gently and slowly in a double boiler (or a glass bowl set over a simmering pot of water, ensuring no water gets into the bowl). Mint extract and food coloring (I use Americolor gel paste) contain some water and can cause the white chocolate to seize – but it always smooths out for me after adding a little more vegetable oil. If you’re really worried about it, you can always omit it or add the mint extract to the darker chocolate layer. My favorite brand is Peter’s – I get it in 10 lb bars from a bakery supply. And if you’re wondering, yes, I used the entire 10 lb bar this Christmas :)

And then there’s white baking bars or melting chips (this is not candy coating or almond bark). This isn’t white chocolate but it has a similar buttery, sweet taste. And it melts much more reliably. If you’re melting down a few bags of baking chips or chopped baking bars, you shouldn’t have any issues at all. I’ve melted down Ghiradelli, Bakers, and even Nestle white baking chips before with great results.

Grasshopper Chocolate Bark

Grasshopper Chocolate Bark

A minty chocolate bark made with white chocolate and Andes mints.


  • 1 1/2 lbs (24 oz) semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chunks)
  • 1 1/2 lbs (24 oz) white chocolate, chopped (or white baking chips)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil or shortening, divided
  • 1 tsp mint extract (optional)
  • Green food coloring
  • 5 oz package of Andes mints, unwrapped and roughly chopped


  1. Line the bottom of a baking sheet with wax paper.
  2. Melt white chocolate or white baking chips in the microwave or a bowl set over simmering water (see tips above).
  3. Add food coloring, mint extract, and then 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, stirring just until smooth and uniformly green.
  4. Pour the green chocolate into the baking sheet and spread it evenly almost to the edge of wax paper.
  5. Lift the pan a few inches above the countertop and let it fall back onto the counter. Repeat a few times to bring any air bubbles to the surface.
  6. Let cool for ~10 minutes in the fridge.
  7. Melt remaining chocolate in the microwave.
  8. Stir in the vegetable oil.
  9. Pour over the green mint layer and spread it evenly, almost to the edge of the green layer.
  10. Drop the pan onto the countertop to get rid of any air bubbles.
  11. Sprinkle the chopped mints over top and refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes.
  12. Cut or break into pieces.
  13. Store in an airtight container in a cool place. I loosely wrapped several pieces in wax paper before gifting.


Yields: 24 pieces

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 1 hour


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