Summer is ending, and with it, our delight in light, fruity hot-weather flavors. Fortunately, fall offers a veritable bounty of good tastes and smells. Instead of fresh berries and cherries, we can indulge in hearty baked apples; instead of burgers on the grill, we can fill our homes with the smell of roast turkey. Finally, instead of sugary-sweet popsicles, we can enjoy the more complex flavors of maple syrup candy.
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Maple syrup is a wonder-ingredient for so many reasons. For one, it contains all sorts of vitamins and minerals, making it a healthful alternative to sugar. More importantly, it boasts a deep, rich flavor that complements dozens of dishes, sweet and savory. In autumns past, I’ve used maple syrup in dumplings, in puddings, and even in a wild rice soup.
However, if you want to highlight the maple goodness, you must make maple syrup candy. Though the stuff looks like fudge, it is creamier than a dream, melting in your mouth as soon as you take a bite — if you do it right. I’m not the most adept confectioner, but after a few years of tinkering, I’ve finally mastered this recipe. Now, my family can’t transition from scintillating summer to fulfilling fall without my homemade maple syrup candies.
Before you launch into making these fun, delicious sweets, there are a few considerations to discuss. First, all candy making requires a specific set of tools. First, you need a reliable candy thermometer. I use a cheap and traditional Taylor-style thermometer which is easy enough to replace, but more experienced confectioners usually use a digital variety, which are a bit quicker at reading temperatures. Next, I do recommend you find some cute, heat-tolerant, silicone candy molds. You can pour your maple concoction into a rimmed cookie sheet — or baking pan — and cut the chunk into bite sizes later, but there is something simply satisfying about seeing your maple candies in autumnal shapes, like leaves and acorns.
When it comes to ingredients, this recipe could not be easier. Because you are working with just two ingredients, the quality of those ingredients matters. I use only top-shelf, barrel-aged maple syrup, which has a richer flavor than cheaper maple syrups. You should be careful to avoid maple-flavored syrups, which are just unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup in disguise. Additionally, I try to find cream from a local dairy, which tastes fresher. If you are dairy-free, you can use coconut oil or a similar oil with little flavor.
In all, I usually end up with about two pounds of maple candy — which is plenty to send to school with kids, give to teachers and neighbors, and still sneak snacks for myself.
- 1 quart pure maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon cream
- Pour the maple syrup into a heavy saucepan with high sides — ideally one that can hold at least 2 quarts. The syrup will bubble as it heats, expanding significantly, so bigger pots are better.
- Attach the thermometer to the side of the pan so the sensor touches the syrup but not the pan’s bottom.
- Without stirring, allow the syrup to heat up. When the syrup bubbles near the top of the pan, add the cream. When the mixture reaches 235 degrees Fahrenheit, remove from heat immediately. If you live above or below sea level, you should subtract or add the difference from a 212-degrees F boiling point.
- Allow the mixture to cool untouched until it reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the thermometer, and begin stirring slowly with a wooden spoon. The mixture should become less glossy and crystals should begin to form.
- When the mixture looks light and creamy, pour into the molds.
- Let the candies sit in the molds for at least one hour before gently removing them.
- Store in an airtight container.