Why It Works
- The proportion of maple syrup to corn syrup and sugar boosts and deepens the flavor of these caramels without negatively impacting the texture.
- A reliable boiling time for the caramel helps compensate for the difficulty in gauging when the mixture is dark enough.
- A judicious addition of salt tempers the caramel's sweetness, adding a hint of savoriness.
I don't know about you, but I'm a total sucker for things like small-batch granola, locally sourced ricotta, and organic salsa. Because my appetite is so much bigger than my bank account, I've made a conscious effort to view these fabulous artisanal foods as inspiration. One of my favorite local foodmakers is Liddibit sweets, whose co-founder Liz Gutman was once a Serious Chocolate columnist. Their beer pretzel caramels blow my mind. And if they can do it, why can't I? It's candy, not quantum physics.
I knew that I wanted to include a hint of sea salt in my caramels. It really balances the sweetness and intensifies the butter taste. But I also wanted to flavor them with something else—something seasonal and unique. Maple syrup fits the bill. A generous half cup infused my caramels with pure, sweet, fall flavor. Each bite is salty, chewy, and full of maple sugar.
My recipe is quite simple, but you do need to have a candy thermometer—and patience. Once the cream mixture is combined with the sugar mixture it can take a while for it to reach 248°F or 120°C (the firm ball stage). Watch the pot carefully. It tends to hover around 220°F (104°C) for a while and then spike fairly quickly.
The only other tricky part is knowing when the mixture of sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, and water is ready. For caramel recipes without maple syrup, the mixture is simmered until it's amber-colored. But the maple syrup gives the mixture an amber hue right from the start. I timed it carefully and determined that six minutes was the perfect cooking time. You will notice that your syrup has darkened a little bit, from golden amber to more of a toasty chocolate amber.
Of course you know this already, but don't even think of using pancake syrup. Only the real stuff will do. Grade B will give your caramels a more pronounced maple flavor, but grade A is totally fine too. If you happen to have maple extract on hand, add half a teaspoon to the cream.
This recipe makes approximately 40 one-inch square caramels. They keep well for two weeks, stored in an airtight container at room temperature. The caramels are extremely rich, and a little goes a long way. I suggest dividing the batch into four small gifts (ten caramels each).
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon maple extract (optional)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Line an 8-by 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Line pan again with parchment paper, leaving overhang on alternate sides from foil. Lightly oil parchment or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Combine heavy cream, butter, sea salt, and maple extract (if using) in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately remove saucepan from heat and set aside.
Combine sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring, swirling pan occasionally until mixture has gone from light to dark amber, about 6 minutes.
Carefully pour cream mixture into sugar mixture. It will bubble vigorously. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until a candy thermometer registers 248°F (120°C). Pour caramel into prepared pan. Allow caramel to cool for at least 3 hours. Cut caramel into 1-inch pieces using kitchen shears and wrap pieces in wax paper. Caramels will keep for at least a week stored in an airtight container at room temperature, and even longer in refrigerator.
Candy thermometer or leave-in probe thermometer
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 4g||5%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||11%|
|Total Carbohydrate 9g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 9g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|