Maple syrup is the perfect ingredient for Thanksgiving. The turning maple leaves are a staple of fall decorating, the flavor of the syrup is sweet, natural and divine, and the dark and rich brown hue is perfect for the holiday table.
Yet most recipes out there insist on turning that syrup into a crystallized Maple Sugar Candy. Of course, those are great nibbles, but simplifying the recipe and letting that syrup harden offers an equally sinful snack that melts on the tongue and is as decorative as it is tasty.
There are two options when it comes to Hard Maple Syrup Candy. You can spend the extra money to go all-natural with syrup, or you can make a substitute that's easier on the pocket, yet equally tasty.
To go all-natural, all you need is maple syrup and cream of tartar. Simply boil the syrup with a dash of cream of tartar (1/8 tsp per 1 cup of syrup) mixed in (no further stirring), and when the syrup reaches the hard crack stage (300 degrees F to 310 degrees F), pour it and let it harden.
To go the cheaper route, follow this classic war-time mix. Butter, sugar, corn syrup, water, and maple flavoring come together to make a treat of the same hue and flavor. To add a little authenticity, I like to sub out 1/4 cup of sugar and replace it with an equal amount of syrup, but that's up to you.
Forming the Candy
This part is even easier than the boil. It's just a matter of planning how you'd like the candy to turn out and making the necessary adjustments.
For bumpy 3-D candies or lollipops, just pour the finished product into molds (following any mold-specific directions) and let it set. The candy cools and hardens quickly, so this shouldn't take long.
The classic technique is to pour the syrup onto a greased cookie sheet (a layer of foil can sometimes help), let it completely harden and then crack into chunks. Make sure the pan is big enough for the amount of syrup boiled. If there's not enough room to spread, the candy will harden into a thick mass that's a pain to break apart. When giving this candy to guests, pile some up and tie it with ribbon or twine. Topped with card, the candy makes for a killer Thanksgiving table placard.
To take it a step further without buying too many candy-specific materials, pull out the cookie cutters. Of course, you can only make as many shaped candies as cookie cutters available, but the effect is worth it. For this recipe, maple cookie cutters were greased, placed on foil and a small amount of the syrup poured inside. A little will leak out the sides, so every few minutes, press down on the cookie cutter to make sure leaks separate from the main candy. When completely dry, carefully push the candy out of the cutter.
Next up: A little holiday marzipan!