Dark Days Week 11: Maple Sugar Candy

It feels like I have been planned this week’s Dark Days Challenge for an eternity! During week ll-12, all participants were challenged to create Valentine’s Day Sweets using SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients. Not an easy task when you start cutting out chocolate! As soon as I saw the challenge in my inbox, I knew I had to make maple sugar candy.


The kitchen partner’s family has been in the maple syrup business for as long as I’ve known him. Growing up he’d strap on snow shoes and wade through the deep snow collecting buckets full of sap to bring back to the ‘sap shack’ for cooking. We’re fortunate to have a steady supply of maple syrup to top our pancakes with, and I do my best to substitute it for other sweeteners when I can. I can’t think of a much more SOLE ingredient than maple syrup:
Sustainable – trees are tapped year after year
organic – it comes from a tree!
local – the trees have grown in the kitchen partner’s neighborhood for decades
and ethical – his family works hard to make sure that the forests remain healthy and balanced to produce the highest quality trees that yield premium sap.

When you’re searching for Valentine’s candies and sweets, so many include non-local chocolate, sugar, or corn syrup. Maple sugar candy is the simple alternative. There’s only two ingredients: pure Wisconsin maple syrup and unsalted butter from Hope Creamery in Hope, MN. No special equipment is needed either. Just a pot with deep sides, a candy thermometer and a mold for the candies. I wasn’t able to afford the expensive heart-shaped candy mold I saw at the cooking store, so I instead filled my mini-cupcake pan. You can also spread it out in a cookie sheet and use cookie cutters.


The kitchen partner eats these just like chocolate truffles. I’m not much of a sweet tooth, so I prefer to stir a piece of maple candy into a warm bowl of oatmeal or cup of coffee. The sugar slowly melts into maple amazingness. I also crushed up some of the candies that didn’t pop out of the mold cleanly to use later as a brown sugar replacement.

What’s better than a Valentine’s Day treat that shows the one you love how much you love local food too?

Maple Sugar Candy 

Adapted from About.com and Pure Maple Products.com

Ingredients 

2 cups pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Instructions
1. In a deep sauce pot (maple syrup will bubble and if it goes over the sides you’ll have a huge mess!) melt butter in maple syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to very low and insert candy thermometer.
2. Without stirring, bring maple syrup to 232° F. Remove from heat and allow to cool 5-7 minutes or until maple syrup is at 110°F.
3. When it has cooled, stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for 2-3 more minutes until it becomes thick and no longer glossy. You’ll start to see it change and then it will cool very quickly. As soon as it starts work quickly to pour it into the molds. Stir too long and it wont form in the mold, pour it in too quickly and it wont harden.
4. Allow to completely cool in the mold 30 minutes to 1  hour or until candy easily pops out from mold.

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