The secret to soft, melt-in-your mouth maple candies is to have sugar crystals -- formed once you stir the cooled syrup after heating -- that are as small as possible. The problem with doing this in small batches is that things cool off much more quickly, and you can be left with a pan of solid sugar if you don’t work quickly.
The secret to soft, melt-in-your mouth maple candy is small crystals, which form once you stir the cooled syrup after heating. The cooler you allow the syrup to get before stirring, the smaller those crystals will be. This can be tricky in small batches as things cool off much quicker, and you can be left with a pan of solid sugar if you don’t work quickly. To ensure success, use rubber or silicone molds that you can pour into easily. If your sugar cools to the point of being un-pourable, you can spoon and press it into the molds. It won’t be quite as pretty, but it will still be just as tasty. And if you do wind up with a pan of solidified sugar, just add a cup of water to it, put it back on the stove, and start the process over again.
Tip: You will need rubber or silicone molds and a candy thermometer for this recipe. —Carey Nershi
approximately 2 pounds of candy
pure maple syrup (Grade A Light Amber is ideal)
cream (to keep it dairy-free, use oil instead)
Before you begin, check the boiling point of water with a temperature, as it can vary depending on altitude. If it boils at 212° F, which it will at sea level, then you can follow the recipe as is. If it boils at a higher or lower temperature than 212° F, add or subtract that temperature difference to or from 235° F to determine your target final temperature for the syrup. (For example, if the water boils at 210° F, the final syrup temperature would be 233° F.)
Pour the syrup into a heavy saucepan with high sides. (The syrup will bubble and rise as it boils, so choose a pan that fits at least 2 quarts so that it doesn't boil over.) Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan so it’s submerged in the syrup, but not touching the bottom.
Without stirring, heat the syrup to 235° F. When it begins to bubble up and come precariously close to the top of the pan, add the cream. Once it reaches 235° F with the cream, immediately remove it from the heat. Leave the syrup undisturbed until it has cooled to 190° F. Remove the thermometer and begin stirring the cooler syrup slowly with a wooden spoon. After a minute or so, you’ll notice the syrup begin to lose its glossy look, and you should feel some crystallization on the bottom of the pan. Continue stirring until you can see crystallization throughout the syrup. As soon as it begins to turn a light, creamy color, start pouring it into your molds.
Let the sugar cool in the molds for at least 1 hour, then gently remove the pieces from the molds. The candy can be stored in an airtight container for several months, though they’re best when eaten within the first month.