With a certain amount of forethought, Mrs. Bug, Brianna, Marsali, Lizzie and I had made up and enormous quantity of molasses toffee, which we had distributed as a Christmas treat to all the children within earshot. Whatever it might do to their teeth, it had the beneficial effect of gluing their mouths shut for long periods, and in consequence, the adults had enjoyed a peaceful Christmas. Even Germain had been reduced to a sort of tuneful gargle.
Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross, Chap 34
The OK house was on a molasses high last week! Our mouths were glued shut by 4 different vintage recipes worth of toffee. In the end, I settled on a recipe that I adapted from “Practical Housewifery” by Marion Harland (New York, 1874). It makes rich, smooth toffee from a simple list of ingredients that many of us already have in our pantries.
The darker toffee is made exactly according to Mrs. Harland’s recipe, using 4 parts molasses to 1 part sugar. Delicious from my adult perspective, but heavy on molasses — a strong, slightly-sulphourous taste that most kids today probably won’t love. (My Englishman wasn’t particularly fond of it, either.)
To make the lighter pieces, I reversed the proportion of sugar and molasses in the original recipe. The result is a golden, mild-tasting molasses toffee that will keep even the most modern, young mouths just as tuneful and gargling as Germaine’s.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
Yield: approx. 6 dozen 1” pieces of candy
Delicious buttery toffee that tastes better ’cause it’s homemade. Use the best quality molasses you can buy and have a friend over to share the work (and the bounty)! If you are working alone, work quickly when pulling the toffee — it cools faster than you think.
White Vinegar – ¼ Cup
Granulated Sugar – 1 cup
Molasses – ¼ Cup
Butter – 1 Tble
Baking Soda, dissolved in a little hot water – ½ tsp
Vanilla or Mint Extract – 1 tsp (optional)
Generously butter a baking pan/cookie sheet with sides.
Pour the vinegar into a small, deep saucepan. Stir in the sugar, then the molasses.
Bring to a boil over med. high heat, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture boiling up and over the sides of the pan. Boil until the mixture reaches 250° F on an instant-read or candy thermometer. (Hard Ball stage — see tips below).
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and baking soda. Add the vanilla or mint extract if using, give it one last hard stir, then pour it into the middle of the buttered baking sheet.
Allow to cool 5-10 minutes. Have a bowl of ice cubes and water nearby to cool your fingertips. When the toffee is cool enough to handle like a hot potato, use a the edge of a fork to divide it in half. Pull one of the halves between your hands, fold it back on itself and pull into a rope again. Repeat over and over until the toffee turns a beautiful golden colour. Cool your hands as necessary in the water, but don’t get the toffee overly wet.
Roll it between your hands into a rope, about ½” wide, and lay back on the buttered sheet. Repeat with the other half of the toffee.
When cool, use scissors to cut into 1” pieces and wrap in squares of wax paper.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- Ensure the sides of your saucepan are at least 4” high to prevent the hot sugar syrup from boiling over.
- If you have a silpat, use that to line your baking sheet instead of buttering it.
Old School Tips:
- If you don’t have a thermometer, use this Candy Making Chart and a glass of cold water to determine when your toffee is to temperature.
- For a stronger molasses flavour, use 1 cup molasses and 1/4 cup sugar — be aware that this is definitely an adult taste.
- This recipe can easily be doubled or quadrupled. Just make sure your pan is big enough to prevent spillovers and you have enough hands standing by to get the taffy pulled in time.