It’s that time of the year when we start hoarding candy like bears preparing for a winter hibernation; from fun-size Snickers to candy corn, October and beyond is definitely the sweetest time of the year. So, we asked Jami Curl, owner of Portland-based Quin Candy and author of Candy is Magic: Real Ingredients, Modern Recipes (release date: April 18, 2017, Ten Speed Press) to give us her favorite fall candy recipe.
“These maple orange caramels are perfect—warm maple and bright citrus combine to create a unique (and delicious) treat—great for Halloween but equally impressive as the winter holidays roll around,” says Curl.
“Caramels are always the best selling item at Quin. We make a salty, a sweet, popcorn, chocolate and vanilla bean versions. People just love them,” says Curl.
Maple Orange Caramels: The DIY downlow
For total success in candy making, I insist upon the use of a kitchen scale. Using grams as a measurement may seem persnickety, but accuracy is the quickest route to the perfect candy.
You’ll note in the instructions that I advise you to “poke” the sugar and “swirl” the pot rather than stir the sugar or stir the contents of the pot. Agitating the sugar too much will make it more prone to crystallization which will result in a candy that is more granular than perfectly smooth.
(Makes approximately 117 1-inch square caramels)
—483 grams light corn syrup
—800 grams granulated cane sugar
—200 grams heavy cream
—100 grams maple syrup
—18 grams pure vanilla extract
—10 grams finely grated, fresh orange zest
—5 grams kosher salt
—250 grams unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
Lightly butter a 9x13 baking pan, preferably one with straight sides.
Weigh the corn syrup directly into a heavy-bottomed pot then set the pot over medium-high heat. Allow the corn syrup to warm until it liquefies and then starts to bubble. Once it has bubbled a bit in one spot, swirl the pot to distribute the heat.
Add the sugar, about one-third at a time, sprinkling it over the corn syrup. Using a heat-proof spatula, poke (no stirring) the sugar down into the syrup after each addition. Keep watch to make sure no giant lumps of dry sugar remain before you add the next installment of sugar. If you see lumps, keep poking. Once all of the sugar is added and has been poked down into the liquid so it’s wet, stop poking.
Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan and add the maple syrup, vanilla extract, orange zest and kosher salt. Stir to mix, then set the pan over low heat to warm up. You’re not looking to boil the cream. The idea is to simply warm the ingredients so they are not cold when they go into the hot sugar.
Meanwhile, let the corn syrup and sugar cook, swirling the pot occasionally, until the mixture is dark amber in color (the color of a copper penny). Time-wise, you’re looking at 13 to 15 minutes for the caramel to reach the target color. At first the sugar will turn pale brown, then darker brown. This may happen in spots around the pot, so it’s important to swirl the pot as the sugar cooks. Once the sugar is a uniform color, cook it for a second or two longer until you feel good about the color, remembering that you want it to match that dark amber target.
Turn off the heat and very carefully add the warmed cream mixture, immediately followed by the butter. Whisk the candy for 5 minutes, or until completely emulsified. This means that the fats have been completely mixed into the sugar with no chance of separating. The mixture will be homogenous, with no oily separation or bits of anything burnt floating around. After the 5 minutes of whisking, pour the caramel into the prepared pan and allow it to cool and set – this will take a minimum of 3 hours, but I like to let it sit overnight.
Cutting and Wrapping
Remove the candy from the pan by using a small spatula or butter knife to lift one corner edge up – continue to move along the edge of the candy, lifting and loosening as you go until the slab of caramel is loose and can be lifted (or tipped out of) the pan. Set the slab on a cutting board and score and then cut it into 1-inch squares.
Wrap each square in cellophane by placing the square of candy into the center of the cellophane, wrapping both ends over the candy, then twisting the ends of the wrapper to enclose it. Wrapped candy, when kept in a cool/dry place, has a shelf life of up to 6 months.
Candy queen Jami Curl in a cotton candy wig. Photos by Maggie Kirkland
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Portland OR 97214