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What Is Butterscotch Candy?

Caitlynn Lowe
Caitlynn Lowe

Butterscotch candy is a confection made with brown sugar and butter, among other ingredients. The term "butterscotch" dates back to 1817, when Samuel Parkinson of Doncaster, a Yorkshire town in England, first described the candy in writing. Modern day butterscotch candy can either be hard or soft. Some confectioners even turn butterscotch into candy baking chips for use in sauces and baked goods.

A common assumption is that the "scotch" in butterscotch refers to "Scotland," but many historians disagree. The term "scotch" once meant "to cut or score." Original butterscotch candy was a hard, brittle confection, and confectioners needed to cut the candy before it hardened. As such, many believe the "scotch" in the candy's name refers to the process of scoring it with a knife prior to the cooling and hardening process. Alternatively, some believe that "scotch" was taken from the word "scorch," referring to the sugar scorching process that gives butterscotch candy its distinctive flavor.

Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

All forms of butterscotch candy include butter and sugar. The sugar is usually brown sugar. Most traditional recipes also include cream, corn syrup, and lemon juice. Modern manufacturers often substitute vinegar for lemon juice, however, since both act as a preservative and vinegar is easier to use on a large scale. Some candy makers also include other ingredients to enhance the flavor, including vanilla extract and salt.

A confectioner begins by combining the brown sugar and corn syrup in a pot. This mixture boils until it takes on a deep golden color and reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit (about 149 degrees Celsius), which is known as the "hard crack stage." Heating the liquid candy to this temperature produces a hard, brittle butterscotch. For a softer butterscotch candy, confectioners only heat the mixture to 270 degrees Fahrenheit (about 132 degrees Celsius), which is known as the "soft crack stage."

The butter, cream, and lemon juice are mixed in once the initial ingredients have reached the desired hard or soft crack temperature. After making these additions, the confectioner continues boiling the mixture until it works back up to the same temperature. He or she then removes the pot from the heat and pours the liquid butterscotch into a square or rectangular pan. When the butterscotch partially solidifies, the confectioner scores it with a knife to create pieces. Doing so makes breaking the candy apart easier once the confection completely finishes cooling.

Butterscotch baking chips, which look similar to chocolate chips, are another type of butterscotch candy. A confectioner combines the same basic ingredients and heats the mixture to a lower temperature, creating a much softer candy. The warm mixture is usually poured into a machine that creates uniform droplets of butterscotch. These droplets are allowed to cool and solidify. Afterward, bakers use them in sauces, cookies, brownies, or other baked goods.

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