What greater way to end the year in a retro, warm, cosy party atmosphere, delicious food and some good old fashioned dancing songs, loved by adults and children. So, I’m turning back the hands of time, straight back to my childhood, with soft and sticky, sweet crunchy candies… I’d like to share some of my few favourite ticklebellies: the tasty, gooey caramel candies, think even toffee apples, sold on fancy fairs. You don’t need to have a sweet tooth to love them. Are you tempted?
Of course talking about candy, Willy Wonka, the most famous candy man ever (in the old days played by Gene Wilder), pops up in mind. “Scrumdidilyumptious”, he would say:
Did you know that Sammy Davis jr wanted to play the role of the candy shop owner in the film, but was turned down. In 1972, his version (my favourite), became the only single of his 40-year recording career, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
There is some discussion about where the word “candy” derives from. Is it from the Arabic “quandi” (something made with sugar) or from the Spanish “caramello” (caramelized sugar). Or do we go back to Latin “calamellus” (referring to sugar cane)?
Candy was actually medicine, a marriage of spices and sugar, having a therapeutic function. People in the old days had loads of digestive issues due to excessive intake of not very fresh or very well balanced food. The famous “comfit-boxes” or “drageoirs” were the little boxes in which people took medicine to their rooms.
The Egyptians started with preserving nuts and fruits with honey. Quiet a historical moment was the 1851 Great Exhibition in London: the French-style candies, filled with rich cream were on the market.
Anyway it is all sugar, as the Archies sang in their song:
Why not make December an even sweeter month, by taking some of our gran’s old recipes out of the box and produce some lovely caramel toffees and toffee apples, when hosting our party, to surprise our gourmet guests at the coming festivities in a very unique retro way. We’ll offer them a great wealth of flavors, blended with the good old times’ imagination.
Caramel toffees can consist of dark caramel (the most common) or light caramel (used for decorations, desserts). Real candy makers describe a too soft, too moist caramel as “short” and a chewy one as “long”. The best ones should be sweet and just a bit chewy!
The candy apple, another lovely childhood memory, goes back to 1908, William W.Kolb (New Jersey) experimented with red cinnamon candy for Chrismas, he put his apples for sale at 5 cents each. It was the start of a worldwide selling in candy stores, circuses and fancy fairs.
Enough talking, pick up your apron and let’s be adventurous and get ready to serve these luscious, original sins.
For caramel toffees, made the old fashioned way, you’ll need:
Water: ½ cup
Sugar: 2 cups and 1 cup brown sugar (500gr sugar in total)
Real (unsalted) butter: 75gr
Milk: 175 ml
Whipping cream: 300ml (with high butterfat for smooth texture)
Light syrup: 50gr
Vanilla: 1 packet
Put water and sugar to boil in a pan, till you reach a nice goldy brown colour.
Add syrup, butter, cream, milk, whilst stirring and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes (butter is melted, the mixture will have come to a boil).
Add another 35 minutes and test regularly towards the end, by dropping a small amount of your mixture into ice water (it should form a ball!).
Prepare a pan: put buttered baking paper in in.
Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and pour it into the pan, to cool for about two hours (you can even put it into the freezer, if you want it to go quicker).
Then you should be able to cut it into pieces, store refrigerated.
Make sure you get a bite, before they vanish! Pronouncing old-fashioned caramels, as the new hot candy!
Treat your guests! Yummy!