Am I the only female under 30 who doesn’t care about the season of pumpkin spice lattes? My Pinterest is peppered with all things pumpkin spice, including a pumpkin spice enchilada cheesecake recipe and a drunken pumpkin spice cocktail. I mean, really people? Now, I’m not saying I don’t love roast sugar pumpkins as much as the next girl, and I’m happy to season my baked goods with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, but what is it about the season that turns everyone a bit mad?
I should mentioned here that I have actually had a pretty awesome homemade version of a pumpkin spice latte at Zazie’s last year (sidenote, also a great brunch spot – if you can handle the wait) but I guess it just doesn’t light my fire the way it seems to for the rest of my female friends. The leaves aren’t changing here in the Bay Area, so I am definitely not craving a warm beverage to enjoy indoors. Perhaps it’s all geographical. The lack of seasons has thrown me for a bit of a loop as I only just realized that Halloween is next week and I haven’t made any homemade candy. San Franciscans take their costumes pretty seriously, but I’ve always taken the holiday as an excuse to eat piles of candy. So before I head over to the thrift store to buy a flannel and some cowboy boots, I’m heading to the kitchen.
At first I thought about making apple cider doughnuts, because apparently no one on the west coast has realized how freaking amazing they are but since I didn’t have a ton of time I decided to whip up some pepita brittle instead. It’s been ages since I’ve made anything caramel or candy, and since it’s the season of pumpkins, I thought it fitting to swap out pepitas for peanuts or cashews. Despite the use of a candy thermometer and a handful of extra tools, don’t be afraid to try out this recipe. It’s still very simple and just requires a careful eye so as to not get too crazy with some molten hot sugar. David Lebovitz has some great tips around caramel (use a larger than you think you need pot, keep an bowl of ice water nearby, don’t stir the pot, just swirl).
I pulled this recipe from Karen Demasco by way of Smitten Kitchen, and laced the pepitas with a bit of cinnamon and sea salt. It’s quite addictive once it’s finished cooling, so be sure to make a large batch to share with friends and coworkers.
1 1/2 cups raw pepitas (7 oz)
1 tsp cinnamon (I love Penzy’s)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 cups sugar (14 oz)
1/3 cup light corn syrup (3.5 oz)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (5 oz)
4 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick)
Helpful tools: candy thermometer, offset spatula or fondant smoother
Toss pepitas in a bowl with cinnamon and set aside. In a small dish, combine salt and baking soda and set aside. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat, or with parchment paper and spray with vegetable oil and set aside. If using an offset spatula or fondant smoother (highly recommended) spray with vegetable oil or butter and place next to your sheet pan for easy access.
In a large, heavy bottom saucepan, add the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and water and stir together until all the sugar is wet. Cook over high heat, swirling the pan rather than stirring, until the mixture turns a medium golden. Be mindful that the mixture will bubble and froth, so you might need to adjust the heat as you continue to cook so that it does not boil over. After about ten minutes (candy thermometer 300°F), immediately remove from heat and add the baking soda and salt mixture, again being mindful that the caramel will bubble up.
Switch to a wooden or metal spoon, and fold in the cinnamon pepitas. Quickly pour the mixture onto the lined sheet pan, and spread it out over the pan using the back of the spoon or with a fondant smoother or offset spatula. You want to work quickly and spread it evenly and personally, I like it quite thin and crispy so I spread as far as possible. Once the brittle is completely cool, break it into bite-size pieces and enjoy!