Along with toffee apples, treacle toffee and parkin, cinder toffee is a traditional treat for Bonfire Night. It’s a great project to make with children, and the process of making it is an appealing mixture of science and magic. If you haven’t tasted it before, it’s best described as ‘the inside of a Crunchie bar’ – a beguiling mixture of chewy and crunchy. Here’s how to make your own!
What you’ll need
- 160g Demerara sugar
- 160g caster sugar (you can use all caster sugar, but adding the Demerara gives a more caramelised taste)
- 60ml golden syrup or runny honey
- 4 tbsp water
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
You’ll also need a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and ideally, a sugar thermometer. Don’t use too small a pan, as the mixture will treble in volume at the end and if you’ve used too small a pan will overflow onto the counters, monster-from-the-black-lagoon style.
How to make cinder toffee
Put all the sugar plus the water, butter and syrup into the pan, and heat them very gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Don’t rush this stage, as burning sugar means you’ll have to bin the mixture and start again, and good luck getting it out of the pan!
Stir with a wooden spoon, and when you can no longer hear the sugar granules scraping against the bottom of the pan turn the heat up very slightly and bring the mixture to the boil.
Let it simmer for around 12 to 15 minutes until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on a sugar thermometer – it should also turn a nice rich golden brown colour.
If you do heat it to a hotter temperature it will still work but might be more brittle – take care not to burn it, as well. Adding water to the mixture stops the toffee becoming too hard and brittle.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can do a good old-fashioned ‘drop test’ – once the mixture has turned golden brown, drop a little spoonful into a bowl of cold water.
Remove the hardened droplet and break it to check the texture – if it’s hard and crunchy the toffee is ready, if it’s still soft and sticky it needs more cooking.
Meanwhile, prepare the tin. You’ll need a 20cm square tin, and grease it very generously with butter (this is so the finished toffee turns out easily. Don’t base line it with greaseproof paper, or it will stick to the toffee! If you do want to line it, foil works better.)
When the mixture reaches the right temperature, take it off the heat and quickly tip in the bicarbonate and whisk it in thoroughly.
This is the exciting/magical bit, when the mixture will bubble up like a volcano, triggered by the heat of the sugar.
This is what puts all the bubbles into the toffee. If you’re making this recipe with young children, let them tip in the bicarbonate but do the stirring yourself in case any specks of hot sugar fly out.
Pour it into the tin, smoothing it well out into the corners. Leave it to set for 10 minutes or so then score it into largish squares. Leave it to set completely, then turn it out and break it into pieces.
If you want to increase the Crunchie flavour, drizzle the squares with melted chocolate.
By Sara Walker