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Candy-Making: Golden Butterscotch Pieces and Chewy Maple Caramels

Sure, you can grab a bag of butterscotch candies for $4 at the local grocery.

But this winter, why not enjoy an afternoon of fun the old-fashioned way, and spoon up a big batch of golden, gooey butterscotch in your own warm kitchen? Or try your hand at these easy and delicious maple caramels!

For the butterscotch, you’ll want to have a greased, shallow-sided baking sheet ready before you start. Then just mix the following ingredients into a large saucepan over medium-high heat:

* 2 cups of sugar

* 4 tablespoons golden corn syrup

* 2 tablespoons vinegar

* 2 tablespoons cream

* 1/2 cup butter

Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, bring the mixture to a boil and keep cooking and stirring until it reaches 290 degrees F on a candy thermometer.  That’s the hard-ball or crack stage, which you’ll know even without a candy thermometer by dropping a bit of the syrup into a cup of cold water. When the drop turns instantly solid and cracks when you squeeze it, it’s at the hard-ball (crack) stage.

When the candy’s done, simply pour the mixture onto the baking sheet and let cool a bit.  As it’s cooling, start impressing on the mixture the ovals or squares that will be your individual candy pieces. When it’s completely cool, break it into those pieces and wrap each piece in waxed paper. For an extra-special treat, or to give the candies as gifts, wrap again in pieces of shiny colored wrapping paper or tin foil.  Beautifully delicious!

Maple caramels, too, reach back to the days when most folks lived on farms, kitchens were stocked with the basics and “extras” were sometimes impossible to come by. These candy treats needed only store-bought brown sugar, and the rest came from the farm itself.

You’ll want to have a greased shallow tin or-sided cookie sheet ready.

In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, mix:

* 2 cups of brown sugar

* 1-1/2 cups maple syrup

* 1/2 cup cream

Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly and boil until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage.  That’s 238 degrees F on your candy thermometer.  You can test it without a thermometer by dropping a bit of the boiling goo into a cup of cold water. If you can pick the droplet up and roll it easily into a soft ball, your candy is ready for the next step.

At the soft-ball stage, add one tablespoon of butter to the mixture and remove from heat. (If you enjoy your maple with walnuts, this is the time to mix them in,)

Simply pour your maple caramel mixture onto your greased sheet or tin, and begin to cool.  As it hardens, cut the candy into squares or rectangles.  Line a candy tin with fresh waxed paper and serve, or wrap the pieces in waxed paper and put them all into an old-fashioned candy dish.

For added fun, while your caramels or butterscotch candies are cooling, add them to a silicone mold for fun shapes!

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