A sweet TREAT Great Britain, 17th cen­tury

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Bring in the long win­ter nights with lip-smack­ing bon­fire tof­fee


450g dark brown sugar 125ml hot wa­ter ¼ tsp cream of tar­tar 120g black trea­cle 120g golden syrup

Tof­fee ap­ples, or candy ap­ples as they are called across the At­lantic, are en­joyed ev­ery au­tumn. But while th­ese lol­lipops are closely as­so­ci­ated with Hal­loween, there’s an­other sticky treat to be en­joyed on 5 Novem­ber: bon­fire tof­fee.

Bon­fire Night dates back to 1606, when the English Par­lia­ment de­clared 5 Novem­ber a day of re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tion af­ter Guy Fawkes’s Gun­pow­der Plot was foiled. While the prayers and ser­mons thank­ing God for sav­ing the life of King James I & IV waned over time, the rev­el­ries marked by bell ring­ing, bon­fires, and fire­works grew in pop­u­lar­ity.

By the late 18th cen­tury, the night was as­so­ci­ated with may­hem and mis­chief. It was also around this time the ear­li­est men­tions of tof­fee ap­peared in Britain. Bon­fire tof­fee, also known as clag­gan in Scot­land, is hard, brit­tle and darker than the con­ven­tional sweet tof­fee. Some­times it was formed into lol­lipops, but more of­ten it was sim­ply smashed into shards. Though how it be­came as­so­ci­ated with Guy Fawkes Night is un­cer­tain, bon­fire tof­fee was reg­u­larly made each Novem­ber un­til the 1960s. To be­gin mak­ing your bon­fire tof­fee, line the base and sides of a rec­tan­gu­lar tray­bake tin with bak­ing pa­per. Grease it re­ally well to en­sure the sticky treat doesn’t ad­here to the parch­ment, then put your tin to one side.

Pour 125ml hot wa­ter in a heavy-bot­tomed pan, then add the 450g dark brown sugar. We use dark brown sugar rather than reg­u­lar brown as it has a stronger, more tra­di­tional mo­lasses taste. Heat the mix­ture gen­tly un­til the sugar is dis­solved. Rather than stir­ring it, tilt the pan if you need to move it around.

Our recipe calls for ¼ tsp cream of tar­tar, but if you strug­gle to find it, you could use 1 tbsp of white wine vine­gar – note the dif­fer­ence in quan­tity. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste ei­ther of th­ese in­gre­di­ents. Rather they will prevent the for­ma­tion of sugar crys­tals.

Weigh out your re­main­ing in­gre­di­ents. Note that if you put them in a re­ally well greased jug they will be much eas­ier to pour out. Once the sugar has dis­solved add all the in­gre­di­ents and pop the sugar ther­mome­ter in, you can use the ther­mome­ter to give it a quick swirl but try not to mix it too much.

Bring to the boil and boil un­til you reach soft crack on your ther­mome­ter (270°F/140°C). This may take up to 30 min­utes, be pa­tient and do not leave the pan unat­tended as it can change quickly. As soon as it reaches the temp, tip it into your tin and leave it to cool.

If you want even pieces, let the tof­fee par­tially cool. This can take 15-20 min­utes. Par­tially cut the tof­fee into even por­tions with an oiled knife, then break along th­ese lines once it’s cooled. Al­ter­na­tively, you can smash it up into ir­reg­u­lar shards with a tof­fee ham­mer or rolling pin once the dish has fully cooled. In ei­ther case, store it in an air­tight con­tainer with in­di­vid­ual lay­ers of tof­fee sep­a­rated by bak­ing pa­per.

Boys wear­ing masks pa­rade their Guy

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