Last month, I was browsing in a local antiquarian bookstore and chose a couple of old paperback novels. When I got home, I flipped one open and this carefully folded letter fell out…
‘Dear Miss Cole..’ it began, and then carefully detailed several recipes for sweets that the two correspondents had obviously discussed. It’s a charming, curious letter so redolent of a bygone era when new friends would still address each other as ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’ rather than use first names; I’m guessing it must be at least several decades old.
The other thing that struck me is how simple the recipes were. Where today you might find an elaborate list of ingredients (‘scrape a vanilla pod’ …’add a pinch of sea salt’), the caramel toffee described by the author Nancy Evans contains just butter, golden syrup, sugar; a gloriously simple trio. Nancy goes on to describe ‘American Sweets’ such as nougat, marzipan, cream almond and peppermint creams, warning with admirable self-control that ‘all of these sweets are better if not eaten for 24 hours’. Nancy strikes me as a woman of discipline who would find the impulsiveness of our household a challenge…
So of course, I had a go at making the caramels, to see what happened.
The instructions are sparse (rather like the technical challenge in TV’s Bake Off programme, they leave much to the wits and imagination of the cook), offering only that you melt the butter, combine with the other two ingredients, boil and stir. I duly did this – whilst uncorking a bottle of wine with my other hand and pouring a glass – and then poured the boiling caramel toffee mixture into lined loaf tins to set. Once cooled, I placed them in the fridge for 30mins, at which point they looked like this (below); a shot that will not win any mouth-watering food styling awards..
…and then I sliced the caramel into inch-long pieces with an oiled knife and rolled each one in a small piece of greaseproof paper.
Apart from 3 small pieces which I ate, because it was the only responsible thing to do. They were…. delicious, if a little bland. I’d add a pinch of sea-salt, if you try this yourself, and so I duly sprinkled a little on the top of the second batch.
Then I decided to scan and print the letter to make up a couple of gift bags so that friends could glue their teeth together too, at the earliest opportunity;
In truth though, the caramel toffee-making was secondary; it was finding a very old letter tucked away in an dog-eared novel belonging to the mysterious Miss Cole that was the real magic…
Have a wonderful weekend!
and p.s. thanks for all the lovely comments on this post, which had me smiling all week x