Yesterday in the butterscotch versus caramel post, I said that both confections require salt, although butterscotch needs more than caramel. And then I thought of that 1848 “recipe” for traditional Doncaster butterscotch, calling for one pound each of sugar and butter and a quarter pound of treacle. I was also pondering the fact that the proportion of sugar to butter in butterscotch is 1:1 while butter doesn’t necessarily play a role in caramel, and that’s when it hit me.
Butterscotch and caramel were probably both originally made using salted butter. So, the more butter called for, the more salt the end product contained. —Pronouncement by Me based on nothing but conjecture. But it feels right, doesn’t it? I mean, back before refrigeration, salt was put in the butter as a preservative, so it stands to reason that the butter Back Then was Pretty Darned Salty.
I read on OChef.com that some salted butters can contain up to 3% salt, or about 3/4 teaspoon per stick. Or up to 1 whole Tablespoon per pound. So, if the original Doncaster butterscotch was made with a base recipe of one pound of (presumably) salted butter, it would also contain about 1 Tablespoon of salt. Hence: salt is a Big Player in butterscotch’s flavor profile. Magical!
And with that, I give you Real, Traditional, Authentic, Amazingly Good Butterscotch Candy. With Options for changing the texture, as well.
UPDATE: Please note that I used Grandma’s Molasses and not blackstrap molasses. If you are using a stronger molasses, you may need to cut back. Please read the comments for other folks’ experiences. The other side of the molasses debate could also be that what we think of as “real” butterscotch now may be very different from real butterscotch back when this recipe was written. Perhaps it was a much more molasses-forward confection. If you’re feeling really spunky, make it with a strong molasses and a milder one and see which you prefer. Enjoy!
- 1 pound granulated sugar
- 1 pound unsalted butter (or try using salted. You still might need to add some more salt, so taste to see)
- 4 oz molasses (not blackstrap)
- 10-14 grams fine sea salt, or to taste (about 2-2½ teaspoons)
- Cut a strip of non-stick foil to the same width as the bottom of an 8" or 9" baking dish. Line the pan, making sure the edges of the foil extend up and over opposite sides of the pan. Don't worry about the unlined sides.
- Spray the whole shebang very well with pan spray, especially the unlined sides. Set aside on a heat-proof surface.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
- Stir in the sugar, molasses and salt.
- When the mixture is good and liquidy, increase the heat to medium to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Cook the candy to 250F and then pour into your prepared pan.
- Let sit out until barely warm, and then score the candy for later cutting. Run a thin spatula between the unlined sides of the pan and the butterscotch, and put it in the fridge to firm up completely.
- Remove to a cutting board sprayed with pan spray, and cut into whatever shapes you want. This will make about 65-80 pieces of butterscotch, depending on how you cut them. Or it might only make four pieces, but I wouldn't advise that.
- Store, covered, in the fridge.
To make a firmer candy that will hold its shape at room temperature, cook the ingredients to 260-280F, realizing that the higher the temperature, the firmer it will set up when it cools.
If you cook the ingredients to 305-310F, you've just made toffee, so pour it onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet covered with Toasted Nuts of choice, although almond is traditional.