We, like many families, are properly skint this holiday season, so I'm looking for ways to make special treats and extras for the family that won't break the bank, but will make us feel thoroughly festive and spoiled.
One of the things I have long wanted to try was cinder toffee - apparently a simple beginners confectionery if done properly (and as my great grandmother was a confectioner I kind of hoped the genes were strong and that my luck would hold out.)
I googled around and found a great article in the Guardian that not only gave the simple recipe, step by step, but also explained in passionate detail how and why the magic happens to create the wonder that is this particular treat.
(this image is from The Guardian and remains theirs - mine is not quite so perfect!)
So, armed with this article, the ingredients, and a confectioner's thermometer that set me back around three pounds on eBay, I made my first attempt.
The recipe and step by step instructions are below.
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Large, heavy bottomed pan
Tray lined with greaseproof paper
Put the golden syrup and the caster sugar into your large pan (it needs to be big because it will bubble up to a much larger volume later) and stir over a low heat: keep stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.
Once it's dissolved stop stirring and leave on the heat until the mixture reaches 145 degrees C. This is important so make sure you have the confectioner's thermometer. There are all kinds of tricks and tips on the internets for working out if you hit the right temp if you don't have one, but it's better to have one.
*Decide that you can hurry this process by turning the heat up.
*Wonder if you ought to be concerned that the pan you picked is, actually, TOO big and the mixture doesn't cover the whole base.
*Think it's probably going to be ok if you just VERY QUICKLY run for a wee whilst it heats.
*Grab the huge pan of burning sugar from the oven top, dump it in the sink, turn the tap on full, turn off your smoke alarm and open the kitchen door to air the smell and smoke out.
*Begin again from the start. It apparently DOES matter that you heat it slowly, that the mixture covers the base of your pan, and that you stay close through the process.
*Stir your sugar and syrup in the pan for five minutes.
*Wonder why the hell it isn't liquifying yet
*Wonder what that horrible smell is, then realise that you turned the wrong bloody hob on and your pan is still cold, whilst the hob with no pan on is burning hot.
When you've reached the right temperature add your bicarbonate of soda, remove from the heat and stir in quickly, then as it bubbles up like a volcano pour it rapidly into your greaseproof paper lined tray.
*Realise too late that you didn't line the tray. Put the pan down for a minute to do that. Stir it again, making sure you pop most of the bloody buggering bubbles trying to get it into the tray before it sets.
*Realise that you ruined this attempt too, by squishing all the BLOODY BUBBLES out of it, which are the WHOLE SODDING POINT of cinder toffee.
Leave your cinder toffee to cool completely, then break (or cut) apart into small pieces.
These will keep in an airtight container for a week or so.
*Hahahaha, as IF they will - eat them NOW before your husband gets home from work!