When I was a kid, the next best thing to going trick-or-treating and bringing home a huge haul of candy was pumpkin-carving night at home. We would go out as a family and pick out our pumpkins and then a week or so before Halloween, we’d set aside a night to carve them. While I was never very creative with my pumpkin, always opting for a traditional jack-o’-lantern look, I went through the motions so that I could get to my end goal: pumpkin seeds! Once we laid down the newspaper on the kitchen table, my parents cut a big hole in the top of the pumpkin and helped us scoop out the insides. While my dad helped my sister and me design and carve the pumpkins, my mom took that massive pile of pulp and seeds and made magic happen. A little while later my mom was pulling fabulous roasted pumpkin seeds out of the oven. She’d clean them up, throw some seasonings on them and then put them in the oven. By the time we were done making a mess of our pumpkins, the pumpkin seeds were ready for snacking. I can’t remember the last time I carved a pumpkin, and I don’t miss it, but I do miss pumpkin seeds. I decided to not let another year go by without enjoying them. I did, however, want to try something a little different. Turns out, peanut brittle-turned pumpkin seed brittle is a fabulous way of getting your seasonal fill of pumpkin seeds!
Did you know that the inside of the pumpkin seed – you know, the actual little kernel that you end up with when you shell the seeds – is called a pepita? I didn’t know this until an embarrassingly short time ago. I just figured this was along the same lines of sunflower seeds. The insides are called… sunflower kernels. Not so with the pumpkin seed. I apparently need to study up on my pumpkin seeds; I’m probably the last person on Earth who did not know this!
Now let’s talk about this brittle. I absolutely adore peanut brittle, and had been thinking about different ways to change it up a month or so ago for another occasion. Naturally, when I started thinking about doing something different with pumpkin seeds, a riff on peanut brittle is immediately what came to mind. I played around with some different ingredient ratios and experimented with honey and brown sugar, but finally settled on this rather classic rendition. I wanted to spice it up a bit so I added a few traditional fall and pumpkin-inspired spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom, which gives it a nice little kick. Instead of using plain old vanilla extract, I used the beans from half of a vanilla bean, which is the perfect complement to the spices. It gives the brittle a smooth taste, and I just adore the little flecks of vanilla bean that you can see throughout the candy! Who says we have to wait until Christmas to enjoy some good brittle?!
If I go out and buy a pumpkin, do you think I could convince my mom to roast the seeds for me? Some things just taste better when mom makes them!
Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper; set aside. Spray a wooden spoon with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the pan as well. Discard the bean.
Place the pan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to a boil (still over low heat) and cook until the mixture reaches 330 degrees F on a candy (or instant-read) thermometer.
Remove from the heat and use the oiled spoon to quickly stir in the pumpkin seeds.
Quickly and carefully pour the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out as much as possible. Let cool completely and then break into pieces. The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.