If you read women’s glossy magazines you’ll be well versed in the art directed images of Bonfire Night. Cosy looking smiley kids, wrapped up in matching striped hat, glove and mitten combos, a large bonfire lit in the background with caution over hedgehogs thrown to the wind, bowls of steaming soup, chilli and of course, toasted marshmallows on sticks served alongside whiskey laced hot chocolate (for the adults naturally).
Well, I’m here to inject a little reality into proceedings. Does any of this sound familiar?
- The whizz, whizz phut of the Catherine wheel accompanied to the whining sound of ‘is that it?’ from the children.
- No bonfire whatsoever for fear of setting fire to the house and of course, all those hedgehogs you’ve never seen in your garden. Blue Peter campaign messages die hard.
- Thus toasted marshmallows remain the stuff of magazine dreams. (See number 2).
- Realising too late that all hats, gloves and scarves are either at school or still in storage. Such a missed opportunity for a Boden style shot for Instagram. A sun hat and Mummy’s pashmina just won’t cut it.
- One adult (the one deemed most competent) assigned, ‘lighter of the fireworks’ will complain of a bad back for days afterwards from doing the ‘firework crouch-run’ after lighting said fireworks and then evacuating the vicinity running in a strange crouched position.
- Sparklers instilling fear beyond all fear in any mother with more than one child. You watch, trying to be ‘fun mum’ whilst silently planning how to deftly remove a sparkler from the hand of whichever child tries to poke his/her sibling in the eye with it.
- Truly understanding the meaning behind ‘hot potato’ as you watch your nearest and dearest try and eat a jacket potato with a centre hotter than the centre of a bonfire.
- Spending a good portion of your evening consoling a crying child/pet who doesn’t understand the need for a 400 year old tradition of burning things and loud bangs.
- Going into minor shock at the cost of fireworks. Really? That much? No wonder everyone goes out for fireworks.
- Alternatively going out to watch fireworks and being more than a little surprised at how short the display is. Fireworks are expensive after all…
Lots of great recipes like this in my books, Recipes from a Normal Mum, (available on Amazon, at The Works, Waterstones, WHSmith, The Book Depository and many smaller outlets) and The Power of Frozen (available exclusively in Iceland stores and through their website).
Fool Proof Toffee Apples
• 4 apples
• 200g castor sugar
• 50mls cold water
• 2 tbsp golden syrup
• ½ tsp white wine vinegar
- Boil the kettle and place all 4 apples into a large bowl. Remove any stickers and pour over the boiling water. Leave for 2 minutes (any longer and they may go a little brown), carefully fish the apples out and pat dry on a clean tea towel. Don’t rub, even if there are white marks on the apple. (This stage removes any wax which will stop the toffee from sticking to the apples).
- Twist the stalks off and insert a lollypop stick or wooden skewer into each apple, where the stalk used to be. You want to push through to just about half way through. Place the apples on a tray lined with non-stick baking parchment.
- Pour the sugar and water into a medium sized pan and attach a sugar thermometer. Place over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up straight away or the toffee will be more likely to go soft the next day.
Add the golden syrup and vinegar, measuring carefully as too much can result in toffee that won’t set. Swirl the pan gently to mix the ingredients together and turn the heat up. Watch it like a hawk until it reaches 149°C, then remove from the heat and place on a heatproof stand (I used a chopping board but beware the heat from the bottom of the pan will melt plastic boards and likely ruin worktops).
Take each apple and carefully place into the pan, stick end upright, one at a time. Take a metal spoon and use to eek the toffee over the apple, ensuring all sides are covered. Once it’s well covered lift up by the stick and place on the non-stick baking parchment. Repeat with each apple and leave to set at room temperature.
If the toffee has set too hard in the pan to cover the remaining apples simply reheat it gently on the stove over a low heat. And if you want to make more than 4 toffee apples, make another batch separately. Boiling enough toffee up for 8 apples can mean reheating it many times resulting in toffee that is grainy and too hard set.
Why not try… Adding a dot of gel food colouring to the toffee to create psychedelic apples? You could also add chopped nuts or sprinkles to the apples as soon as you’ve covered them in toffee.
Don’t forget… Toffee scalds so remove pets and children from the kitchen when making these and don’t let any toffee get on your skin. Certainly don’t lick the spoon!
A little tip… To get the pan clean: boil the kettle, pour into the pan and add a little washing up liquid. Leave for 5 minutes and then attack with a washing up brush. Replace the water as and when, until all the toffee has dissolved and washed away.
This recipe first appeared in Back to School magazine.
Get the monthly newsletter...
and subscribe to get all recipes straight to your inbox!