(Or “Salted Maple Christmas Caramels” if you insist).
The internet is full of recipes for “Christmas caramels – ideal for gifting! 😀 <3 :D” and the like, but you know what all of them have in common? A) they refer to this confection as caramel when it is sodding CLEARLY toffee and B) they require a sugar thermometer. NOBODY has a sugar thermometer. Nobody (If you do, either shhhhh or go and read a proper food blog). But it is perfectly possible to make confectionary without any specialist stuff – it’s basically just burnt sugar, after all.
For this variety of burnt sugar you will need –
150g white caster sugar
150g soft brown sugar
75ml maple syrup
200ml double cream
dash of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1. Prepare the following things – an 8×8″ tin lined with baking parchment. A bowl of very cold water. All the ingredients bar the butter and white sugar mixed together in a jug. A quiet household, where no one will burst into the kitchen to alarm you while you’re wielding a pan of boiling sugar.
2. Take your biggest pan. You won’t burn it HONEST. stick your white sugar in here with 25ml water and stick it on the heat. heat this up until it is a rich, toffee coloured brown. As with every step of this recipe, watch it like a bloody hawk. Also, do NOT stir it. Just swirl the pan about a bit whenever you feel like it.
3. When it has hit your desired colour, very carefully drop in the butter. Sizzle sizzle sizzle. Swirl swirl swirl.
4. Drop in all the rest of the ingredients. You will need to stir it this time, but keep a light touch, it’ll go all grainy. When you’re satisfied it’s amalgamated, but your spoon away and go back to swirling. This bit is fun but also a bit alarming, because a pan of molten sugar looks REALLY dangerous. See?
5. This next bit is the only tricky element. When it’s been bubbling away for a couple of minutes, start testing it for the right stage. What you need to do is take a little bit of the mixture on a teaspoon and drop it into cold water, then squeegee it between your fingers. When it forms a ball that is fairly resilient but slightly squidgy, it is DONE.
6. Immediately pour it into the prepared pan. It will look all bubbly and weird, but don’t worry, within a minute it’ll look like this –
7. Leave it all for a hour or so, until the mixture is cool and set. Then, take a sharp knife and a mug of boiling water. Cut the toffee into chunks with the knife, warming it before each cut.
8. And that’s it! Space them out on some baking parchment so they don’t touch each other and package up for presents. Make sure it is obvious that you MADE THESE rather than buying them, and that they should revere you for the domestic deity that you are.
These really are delicious, and there’s something about making sweets that is satisfying as all hell. Have a crack! It’s fine I promise and not as dangerous as it looks – but maybe lock the cat out of the kitchen. Just in case.