After You Carve the Pumpkin: How to Bake Pumpkin Seeds

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One of the best parts of pumpkin carving is scooping out the seeds to season and bake into a delightful autumnal snack and then burning them to a crisp.

The trick to messing the same thing up year after year is to NEVER do it the same way twice, but to ALWAYS do it without paying a lot of attention. Well, this year I've bucked the trend. I paid attention. And I'm writing it down. That way next year I'll know exactly how I managed to not burn the shit out of the pumpkin seeds, and maybe how to avoid making them far too spicy for my kids to ever enjoy.

Baked Pumpkin Seeds
Image: Courtesy of Kelli Martinelli

Kelli and Cransky's Super-Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

Theoretical Ingredients:
2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Theoretical Cooking Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the pumpkin seeds in the olive oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ingredients to make the sauce. Then mix the sauce in with the oil-covered pumpkin seeds. Lay out the pumpkin seeds in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning the seeds halfway through.

The Real Ingredients:
Probably more like 3-4 cups of fresh pumpkin seeds, mostly rinsed, but a few pumpkin guts left.
An eyeballed amount of olive oil. Possibly a tablespoon, possibly more like 3.
2 tablespoons of light brown sugar.
A splash of water.
No allspice in the cupboard, so how about a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove? Yes.
Salt in an undetermined amount. Just don't overdo it.
A hefty pinch from an unidentified bag of red spice.
When it's clear that the sauce isn't enough to coat your seeds cause a) you can't see it on there and b) you can't smell it, go back and add the following, directly onto the seeds without whisking it in the bowl first:
I don't know, another 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar.
Definitely more cinnamon. A few hearty shakes. Then another.
Stir it all in together. NOW you can smell it. Ahhh.

The Real Cooking Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay them out as flat as you can on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a bit more salt, 'cause everyone likes salty nuts. Seeds, I mean seeds. Then put 'em in the oven, go drink a beer and set some mouse traps in the basement. Think the mice love the crumbs that your little crumbcakes leave all over the house? Well they're going to really love the seasoned pumpkin seeds that will inevitably litter the house for a month. So be proactive.

Go outside and play with the dog for 10 minutes. Come back in and check the seeds. Turn them with a spatula NOT YOUR HANDS. Repeat about four times. Don't get so distracted that the smoke alarm jolts you back to your failures. The brown sugar is going to make them a bit sticky. It's okay. Keep them in there until they look crisp and pull the little seedies out when they've got that sexy, smoky look about them. Leave them in the baking sheet to cool for about another beer.

When they're cool, pick them up by the fistful and gently squeeze. They will have stuck together because of the copious amount of brown sugar you put in with them, but they'll break apart nicely. Like meth.

When the temperature seems esophagus-safe, dig in. And then when it occurs to you that these are really delicious, but far too spicy for your children, put them in an airtight container and straight into a cupboard where the kids won't see them. Pre-pour baggies of Trader Joe's frosted maple and brown sugar shredded mini-wheats for them to snack on. Next year, kiddos, next year.

10 Barrel's winter ale was the perfect sweet and spicy seed accompaniment. 



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