If you love marshmallows and caramel, you are gonna love, I mean LOVE this recipe. What in the world is a Modjeska? Well, you’re about to find out. A Modjeska is a marshmallow that is covered with a buttery delicious homemade caramel candy. It’s that simple. This recipe originated years ago in my own birthplace, Kentucky. You see, many years ago, we’re talking 1883, a Kentucky candy maker, Anton Busath was inspired to make this candy. Also in 1883, a well-known European actress, Helen Modjeska, made her American debut in Kentucky. Anton Busath was so touched by her performance in “A Doll’s House”, that he asked her permission to name his newest confection after her. That, my friends, is how the Modjeska candy got its name. Unfortunately, in 1947, the Busath candy company was destroyed in a fire. Today, there are still a couple of candy companies in Kentucky, Bauers Candy and Muth Candies that make a version of the Modjeska, and I see the candy in some Cracker Barrel stores, but nothing compares to the homemade version.
Moving forward, when I was about twelve or thirteen years ago, yes….many moons ago, I had never heard of this wonderful confection called a Modjeska. Okay, it was Christmas time. My mother, sisters and I went to our church Christmas program. We lived out in the country and our little church Christmas program was very special to us. I got to be myself, an angel, in the program. Lol. Anyway, we always did a gift exchange. My mother was a Sunday school teacher and participated in the teacher gift exchange. When we returned home, my mother placed a box on our kitchen table and opened it. Inside was some sort of candy, wrapped in pieces of wax paper. I grabbed one from the box and immediately opened it and popped it in my mouth. Oh my goodness, a moment of bliss for my taste buds! Wonderful….wonderful….rich, buttery caramel combined with the taste of spongy marshmallow.
I asked my mother who gave her this wonderful candy and she replied that Mrs. Sullivan at church drew her name in the gift exchange and gifted it to her. Now, of course, I immediately persisted that my mother contact Mrs. Sullivan and ask her for the recipe. I just had to have that recipe, like NOW! Two days later, my mother and I made our first batch of these buttery caramels just in time for Christmas. My mother had to keep fussing at me to stop eating the caramel. Now years later, my daughter Christin makes sure that a Christmas doesn’t go by without me making these, and I’ve had to fuss at her a few times to stop eating the caramel!
Let me show you how easy it is to make this wonderful candy…
First, you need to butter a marble slab. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a marble slab, but if you happen to have one, butter it. It’s not always easy to get your hands on a piece of marble. Mine actually came from an old fireplace years ago, and it’s rough on the bottom. I finally learned to place a towel under it after several scratches to my island….I’m a little slow sometimes! So anyway, if you don’t have a piece of marble, just butter a heatproof countertop.
Now, open up a bag of large marshmallows. Using scissors, cut each marshmallow in half lengthwise, and throw them in a large bowl and set them aside for now. Now, I almost forgot, but you also need to cut several squares of wax paper for wrapping the candy pieces.
Next, you want to use a nice big heavy pot. Now place the sugar, syrup, butter and one cup of the whipping cream in the pot. Oh my goodness! Butter and whipping cream…..this should tell you where we’re headed.
Now bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly. Cook until the mixture reaches a soft ball stage, 234 degrees, on a candy thermometer. Now notice, in this picture I’m not using a candy thermometer. I prefer to test my candy using the cold water method. See how to test candy in cold water.
Now slowly add the second cup of cream, while making sure that you don’t let the mixture stop boiling. Continue to cook and stir slowly but constantly, until the mixture reaches 255 degrees on a candy thermometer, OR…
a hard ball when tested in cold water. If you use a candy thermometer, see how to calibrate a candy thermometer. Okay, let me explain something here….a hard ball is when you can drop a little bit of the mixture in cold water and then form it into a hard but pliable ball when you roll it between two fingers. Simply put…once the mixture has been cooled in the cold water, it should be the exact same consistency as it will be when you wrap it around a marshmallow. If it doesn’t look like it is hard enough to keep its shape when you wrap it around a marshmallow, then it’s not ready yet. When the caramel has cooked long enough, it will also be a nice caramel color, not too light.
Now pour the caramel onto a buttered marble slab, or countertop. Note: If using a marble slab, the slab does not need to be chilled first.
Now, as soon as it cools enough that you can handle it in your hands, either tear off pieces with your hands or use a knife or sharp spatula to cut off small pieces. You want the pieces to be just big enough to wrap around one of the marshmallow halves. As you keep removing pieces of caramel, keep removing it from the outside edges as you go. The edges get cold the quickest.
Now wrap a piece of caramel around a marshmallow half…eat a piece….wrap a piece. Notice my hand in the picture….you don’t need to butter your hands….trust me! Now at this point, you can feel free to cover both ends of the marshmallow with the caramel, but I choose not to. Why? Well honestly, for years I covered the whole marshmallow half. However, the reason I leave the ends of the marshmallows exposed these days is that there are believe it or not…those who don’t like marshmallows. I would hate to see one of those marshmallow haters bite into one of these wonderful caramel confections, only to realize after the fact, that there is a marshmallow hidden inside. Then what happens….toss it…..ooh…what a waste of a delicious piece of candy!
Now, wrap each piece in a square of wax paper and twist the ends. These don’t really have to be stored in an airtight container. I toss them in a large bowl….then I hide the bowl. Over the years, my daughter Christin has always found my hiding place….lol. These are best when eaten within a couple of weeks. After that point, the sugar tends to start breaking down in them. Trust me….don’t worry…..they won’t last that long!
Okay….wait…..we’re not done here, my friends…..
Try my “Caramel Pecan Log” variation of this recipe. One day I decided to just experiment with a batch of my Modjeska caramel, and here is what happened….I had a bunch of extra pecans in my pantry from Christmas baking, and I wondered….hmmm….wonder what the Modjeska caramel would taste like with pecans….that’s when the “Caramel Pecan Log” was born. Yum!!! Homemade caramel and pecans together…..where have I been!!
All I did was line an 8 x 8 ” dish with foil. Then I cooked up a batch of my Modjeska caramel. I tossed in a cup of coarsely chopped pecans that I had lightly toasted for five minutes on a cookie sheet in the oven. I mixed the caramel and nuts together real good, then poured the mixture into the prepared dish. Once the mixture cooled, I lifted the caramel and foil out of the dish.
I cut the caramel into small squares….
Then I rolled each piece between the palms of my hands to form a log. I wrapped each piece in a square of wax paper and twisted the ends. Voila!!!
Rich, buttery, melt in your mouth bites of caramel bliss, describes these wonderful little confections.
- 2 cups white sugar
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 stick real butter
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
- 1 bag large marshmallows
- squares of wax paper for wrapping
- Cut the marshmallows in half lengthwise and place in a bowl. Cut squares of wax paper, large enough to wrap around a caramel coated marshmallow half, approximately 40. Butter a marble slab or counter top.
- Place the sugar, syrup, butter and one cup of the cream in a heavy pot over medium low heat.
- Bring mixture to a boil while stirring constantly. Cook until the mixture reaches 234 degrees on a candy thermometer or forms a soft ball in cold water.
- Slowly add in the second cup of cream while stirring constantly, but not allowing the mixture to stop bubbling.
- Cook until the mixture reaches 255 degrees on a candy thermometer or forms a hard but pliable ball when a small amount is dropped into cold water.
- Remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot caramel mixture onto a buttered marble slab or countertop. Working around the edges of the caramel, cut or pull off small pieces of caramel that are big enough to wrap around a marshmallow half. Keep working from the outside edges of the caramel as you go, (it cools and sets up the quickest), until you’re finished using all of the caramel.
- Wrap each Modjeska in a wax paper square, twisting the ends.
- Store the Modjeskas in a large bowl, until ready to eat. You might want to hide them as well. They don’t need to be refrigerated.
- Modjeskas are best eaten within two weeks of making. After two weeks, the sugar begins to break down in them and they start to taste grainy. Don’t worry, they won’t stick around that long anyway!