The Origins of Butterscotch. Though butterscotch is common in Scotland, the “scotch” in the name does not refer to that country. In fact “scotch” is a very old English word for an etching, or scratch. Another instance of this suffix is in “hopscotch”, the game in which children jump across etchings or chalk-marks on the ground.
Scotch is also an old style of candy. To make scotches, sugar is boiled to hard crack, then flavoured and poured onto a buttered slab or dish. Portioning the individual candies while the sugar is still hot would yield sloppy candies with stringy edges, so once the sugar is partially cooled, the candies are marked out by cutting lines partway down into the mass. Once the sugar is fully cooled, the marked tablets can be gently tapped on the counter and broken into tidy pieces. Butterscotch was once made by boiling brown sugar with butter to hard crack and portioning the candies in this manner.
Butterscotch as flavour. Nowadays in North America butterscotch, like caramel, is thought of more as a flavour than a specific candy or preparation. I grew up, for instance, eating butterscotch pudding after school, and butterscotch ripple ice cream. The flavour of true butterscotch is browned butter and caramelized brown sugar. A touch of salt also helps.
Master Ratio – 1:3:3 butter, dark brown sugar, heavy cream
- 2 oz unsalted butter
- 6 oz dark brown sugar
- 6 oz heavy cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot. Add the brown sugar and turn the heat to medium-high. As you stir, the sugar will go from looking like dry sand, to wet sand, and after a few minutes it will look like bubbling lava. Cook until you can smell the browned butter and the caramelized sugar, the hallmark aromas of butterscotch! This will take maybe 10 minutes.
- Whisk in the heavy cream. It will boil vigorously when it hits the hot sugar-butter mix.
- Cool to room temperature and season. Add the vanilla.
Notes and Refrences
- This process is described in the butterscotch recipe found here: McNeill, F. Marian. The Scots Kitchen. ©2010 The Estate of F. Marian McNeill. Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland. Page 242.