These old-timey candies are kind of like Storck’s chocolate-covered riesen, but with strong notes of molasses. They’re one part treat and one part granny candy. If you like molasses, chances are, you’ll love these. They’re sweet, but not too sweet.
For this recipe, squares of chocolate caramel get all dressed up in chocolate. They’re chewy and chocolate-y and have a deep, sweet earthiness from a generous amount of molasses.
The caramel is really easy to make. Basically, you toss the ingredients in a pot over medium heat, and stir constantly until it reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour into a pan and cool for a little bit, then whack into squares. Enjoy as is, or take an extra step and dip them in chocolate.
This is my take on a recipe from 1881 that the New York Times recently reprinted. You can also download a PDF file of the original recipe from The Times’ website. According to the newspaper, the novel thing about the recipe at the time was the chocolate, which was hard to come by—not the molasses.
Temper the chocolate before dipping
For extra pretty candies, temper the chocolate for the coating when you melt it. Tempering chocolate is a way of raising and lowering the temperature of the chocolate as it melts to help stabilize the chocolate’s crystalline structure. This helps ensure a smooth, glossy surface and a nice snap.
Tempering chocolate also helps avoid that white “bloom” that chocolate sometimes gets (which is still perfectly edible, but not that attractive). Here’s a good video from Chow on how to do it:
Old-Time Chocolate Molasses Chews
Adapted from The New York Times
3 Tbls. butter, plus more for greasing the baking dish
4 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup molasses
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, for dipping
Yields 80-100 pieces, depending on how large you cut them
Generously butter an 8-inch x 8-inch glass baking pan. Set it aside.
Make the chocolate caramel
Put 3 Tablespoons of butter, the bittersweet chocolate, milk, molasses, and sugar in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot. (I used a 3-quart pot.)
Set it on the stove over medium heat. Stir constantly until the ingredients melt together and are uniform.
Clip on a candy thermometer (I like to do this once the ingredients are completely melted. Makes it easier to get all the bits as they melt.) Keep the heat on medium. And keep stirring.
Eventually, the caramel will come to a rolling boil. Leave the heat on medium. (Resist the urge to crank it up! You risk scorching the caramel.) Continue to stir constantly, making sure to scrape at the bottom of the pot to prevent sticking.
As it cooks, the mixture will get thicker. Continue to boil, stirring, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees.
When it hits 248 degrees, yank the pot off the stove. The mixture will be very thick. Stir in the vanilla. (Be careful! Hot sugar is like napalm.)
Pour the hot mixture into your buttered baking dish.
Smooth the top down with a spatula. Let it sit on the counter to cool.
Cut the caramel into squares
When it’s cool enough to touch comfortably, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the caramel. It will wrinkle up a little. That’s just fine. (You can smooth it out later.)
Flip the pan over and remove the square of caramel. If it’s sticking, nudge under one edge with a dinner knife to get it moving.
With a buttered butcher knife (or kitchen scissors), cut the caramel into 3/4-inch wide strips.
Then cut the strips into squares. (Give one a taste. They’re earthy and molasses-y. They were a little plain for my taste, kind of like a Tootsie Roll. This is when I decided to notch it up a bit and dip them in chocolate.)
The edges on the caramels will be a little raggy from cutting.
Just smoosh the edges down with your fingers to smooth them out.
Repeat with the rest of the caramel.
If you’re going to wait to dip them in chocolate (or skip that step altogether if you want to keep them plain), store them in an airtight container between sheets of wax or parchment paper.
Dip the caramels in chocolate
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
Melt about 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips. (I do this in the microwave for about a minute on 50% power, stirring every 10 seconds or so. You can also melt them in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.)
Temper the chocolate if you like (see above for more info on how to do that).
Take one of the caramels.
Put the caramel with the top facing down in the chocolate (that way, when you flip it over, you get a nice chocolate swirl on top of the candy). Press it down so it sinks in a little.
With a kitchen fork, turn the caramel over to coat the bottom, and lift it out of the chocolate. Set it on your parchment-lined pan. If you don’t like the swirl on top, just fix it with your finger.
Repeat with the rest of the caramels.
Let them sit overnight, uncovered, until the chocolate hardens.
Store in a cool place between layers of wax paper in an airtight tin. They’ll keep well for about a month.
Enjoy! (And watch your fillings!)