Roald Dahl’s Treacle Toffee (Not)

I didn’t mean to make fudge this morning. To be honest, I never mean to make fudge. That way, I can’t be disappointed when I invariably fail to make fudge. For starters, I never manage to dissolve all of the sugar before the mixture begins to boil. I think I have the wrong sort of sugar. That’s it – it must be the sugar. I have the sort that won’t dissolve. It’s also the sort that loves to burn on the bottom of the pan well before the temperature reaches anything approaching that elusive soft ball stage.

So, how on earth did I end up making fudge this morning? Well, the thing is, I didn’t mean to make it. I was trying to make toffee instead. The fudge was an accident – a failure to make toffee.

I wasn’t feeling particularly confident about my ability to make toffee either, but M has been reading a book about Roald Dahl and found a recipe for toffee there. On page 82, to be precise. Roald Dahl said this toffee was “dashed good”, so naturally M wanted to try it. I did warn her about sugar crystallization, separation and burning but she didn’t really ‘get’ my sugar phobia.

As it turned out, the ‘recipe’ was simply a list of ingredients with a note that this dashing good toffee cost 1/10d to make. I hadn’t reckoned on undertaking a Great British Bake Off technical challenge so early in the day. The only things missing were Sue Perkins and the terrifying words, “On your marks, get set … bake!”

It all went well for a very short time. The sides of the pan weren’t sticky with undissolved crystals, the mixture hadn’t seized and I hadn’t burned my tongue or fingernails (yes, it’s possible to scorch your fingernails when you mistakenly think it’s a good idea to poke a bit of boiling caramel around the end of a spatula with them).

And then of course, it all unfolded with tedious inevitability. The mixture bubbled and began to burn on the bottom of the saucepan. I whipped it off the heat, stirred furiously and muttered all kinds of sorcerous curses. One more wasted batch of sugar destined for the sink … but not quite. My sugar thermometer was fairly sure we’d nearly reached the soft ball stage and so, in a final flourish of indifference to the science of sugar, I returned the pan to the heat and decided to go for fudge. Well, a burnt sort of treacle toffee sort of fudge, anyway.

And what do you know – it turned out to be the best treacle toffee fudge that I’ve ever made. Fudged fudge. Or, as M writes:

Today we made some toffee (not). Well it was supposed to be toffee but it came out as fudge.

Roald Dahl’s Treacle Toffee (Not)

Chocolate Covered Brownie Bites

June is a big birthday month in our family. First, there’s my Nan’s birthday on the 13th. She was 95 years old yesterday. Then, there’s my Mum’s birthday today. I won’t risk telling you how old she is, but it’s another ‘something-5’ milestone this year. She says she’s 21-and-a-bit, so let’s just go with that for the sake of family harmony.

Next week on the 20th, we’ll be celebrating M’s 7th birthday. I say ‘we’, but the truth is that M is busying herself with the job of celebrating her birthday already and has become an excitable bundle of cheeky high spirits in anticipation of the day itself.

As if that wasn’t enough, we also have to fit in a Father’s day celebration for my Dad (aka Grandpa) and O (aka Dad) at the weekend. Our kitchen table inevitably begins to resemble something from Santa’s workshop at about this point in the proceedings – wrapping paper, sellotape, scissors, card, colouring pencils …

Now that T has learned to write his name neatly and with all the letters facing the right direction (most of the time), there’s an even ‘bitterer’ fight over who addresses each envelope and signs their name first on each birthday card. Naturally, the winner gets the best spot right in the middle where their name is instantly noticed and appreciated by the recipient, whilst the loser’s name is relegated to a tiny leftover bit of space in the bottom corner. O and I are usually the losers.

Birthdays are also synonymous with baking in our family. My children feverishly discuss grand designs for their own birthday cakes (I’ve hidden my Debbie Brown book of so-called easy party cakes to avoid overstimulating them during this risky process) and we all get together in the kitchen to cook up some treats as gifts for Granny and Nan. This year, I decided to try out something that I’ve been considering baking for a while – namely, chocolate covered brownie bites.

They’re very simple. Just bake a batch of your favourite chocolate brownies (minus any nuts or other gubbins you usually throw in), let them cool and then crumble them all up into little pieces. Children are good at doing this.

Next, scoop up a bunch of the crumbs, pinch them together and roll them into a ball between the palms of your hands. Children are good at doing this, too. Adults who have many years’ experience of gathering up scratty offcuts of playdough will probably also be at an advantage.

Finally, melt some of your favourite dark chocolate in a bowl. Use a couple of forks to dip each ball into the bowl and cover it entirely with the melted chocolate. Place the chocolate-covered brownie bites on a tray lined with baking parchment until the chocolate hardens. All the messy bits of chocolate can be cut away from the bites with a sharp knife once the chocolate has set.

I took a box of these brownie bites for my Mum to our tap dancing class this morning (don’t laugh – at the idea of me tap dancing, I mean) and they didn’t hang around for very long. I also hid a slice of uncrumbled brownie in a small tin for my Mum to enjoy on her own later …

Not A Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake

My oven and I have had a serious falling out. I want cakes with smooth tops. My oven obviously prefers cakes with cracked tops – because that’s what it keeps giving me. Volcanic eruptions and craters to rival those on Venus.

I know the theory. Peaked and cracked tops = oven temperature too high so the sides set too quickly and the uncooked batter pushes up through the top of the cake.

Simple, no?

I baked four chocolate fudge cakes last week, hoping to resolve my disagreement with my oven in time for T’s 5th birthday.

Cake 1: Having already discovered that my oven has a rather blowy fan, I reduced the temperature for the first cake by 10 degrees C. The top cracked.

Cake 2: I reduced the temperature to 160 degrees C. The top cracked.

Cake 3: I kept the temperature at 160 degrees C and used magi-cake strips. The top cracked.

Cake 4: I reduced the temperature to 150 degrees C and used magi-cake strips. The top cracked.

Cake 5: There wasn’t one. Or a cake 6 or 7 or 8. Huh.

I know for 99.9% sure that there isn’t a problem with either the recipe or with my mixing technique. And my oven thermometer is accurate. So, it has to be something the oven is doing. O said it didn’t really matter – T’s birthday cake would taste fine anyway. But that’s not the point – it DOES matter! (Well, it matters to me if not to O).

Frustrated (an understatement), I fired off a tirade of abuse against my oven in an email to Rose. She sympathized (phew, at last – someone who understands!) and wondered if there’s an upper heating element in my oven that kicks on every few minutes. She suggested putting the cake on the bottom rack and putting a sheet pan on the upper rack to protect the top. I’ll try that next time … if I can ever bring myself to forgive my oven for its attitude problem.

As for T’s birthday cake – well, I salvaged the two least-volcanic examples, grouted the cracks with generous dollops of buttercream, smothered the entire cake and crumbled a chocolate flake over the top. Far from disappointing, the extra chocolatey gooiness filling the cracks delighted T and his party friends. There’s no accounting for taste, I guess.

No, I didn’t snap any nude shots of the cracked cake tops – you’ll just have to image what they looked like underneath their chocolate clothing.

My recalcitrant oven did manage to pull off one redeeming success however. Conceived originally as nothing more than an attempt to use up the various odd bits of things in my baking cupboard, it’s a happy miracle that I actually kept some sort of account of what I was throwing into the mixing bowl. Without that, I wouldn’t have a clue how to make them again. And L has demanded more of these – even though she can’t say ‘Chocolate Cookie Choc Chip Bounty Bar‘ without getting her tongue in a twist.

Chocolate Cookie Choc Chip Bounty Bars (aka Not A Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake)

Cookie Base
7 3/4 oz butter
5 1/2 oz caster sugar
6 oz light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
9 oz bread flour
4 oz cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Coconut Topping
7 oz desiccated coconut
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
12 oz chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (depending on your relationship with your oven. Ha) Grease and base line a 20 x 30 cm baking tray with parchment (leave a couple of handles if you like so you can hoik the whole thing out of the tray when it’s cool).

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.

Lightly beat the eggs together with the vanilla and add gradually to the creamed mixture.

Mix together the dry ingredients, then stir into the dough until just combined.

Drop large spoonfulls of the dough into the baking tray. Bear in mind that the dough will spread during baking – aim to place the spoonfulls so that they will spread into each other and cover the base of the baking tray. I had enough dough left over to make 6 or 7 cookies or so (sorry, I haven’t adjusted the cookie recipe so that it makes exactly the amount you need for the base. Just enjoy the extra cookies).

Bake for 7 mins until the cookie is just beginning to set but is still underdone underneath the upper crust. Set aside to cool a little.

Make the coconut topping. Mix the coconut with the eggs until they are well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Carefully spread the coconut mixture over the cookie base. Pat it gently with the back of a spoon but don’t press it so hard that it falls through the cookie.

Bake for a further 10 to 15 mins until the coconut is golden and set.

Leave to cool in the tray, then cut into bars.

Rocky Road Sticky Toffee Crispie Cakes

Don’t make these.

Just don’t.

Rocky Road …

Sticky toffee …

Crispie cakes …

You’re going to regret this.

Okay then, you can’t say I didn’t warn you …

Rocky Road Sticky Toffee Crispie Cakes

375g (x3 boxes) Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers
225g pitted dates
300g Green and Black’s 72% cook’s chocolate
300g Green and Black’s white chocolate
200g butter
100g mini marshmallows
115g Rice Krispies

Line a 20x30cm cake pan with baking parchment, leaving flappy bits hanging over the sides to use as handles for pulling the cake out of the pan.

Chop fingers into small, bite-sized pieces (the Cadbury’s chocolate fingers that is – not your own).

Whizz the dates in a food processor until they turn into a smooth paste.

Melt the chocolates and butter in a bowl set over a pan of warm water.

Stir in the dates and mix until combined.

Add the chopped fingers, marshmallows and crispies. Stir to incorporate evenly.

Scrape into the prepared cake pan and spread with a spatula. Leave the cake to set in the fridge for an hour or so, or for as long as you can put off eating it (whichever comes sooner).

Unmould and cut into squares.

Caramel Shortbread: Going, Going, Gone!

You’re looking at the final slice, the very last square of that single most delectable confection that has ever tortured your sweet-toothed craving heart.

Buttery shortbread.

Oozing caramel.

Smooth, dark chocolate.

Perhaps you can’t see the beauty in this sticky, gooey slice. After all, I’m posting this on an Easter Sunday already replete with chocolate gifts in all shapes and sizes. Although L’s chocolate feast was delayed by her chorister duties at the Cathedral this morning, the choristers all made up for this by clutching armfuls of chocolate eggs as they emerged from the vestry after Mattins. By that time however, her younger sister and brother had already consumed an entire chocolate bunny each for breakfast. Things have been going downhill since then …

But when you’ve emerged from the nausea of the chocolate-induced hangover, do give this recipe a try. It didn’t hang around for too long in our fridge and I had to be quick off the mark to snap even this very last slice for you. A moment later, there was nothing more than a few lonely crumbs on an otherwise empty baking tray.

Chocolate Caramel Shortbread


2 oz light muscovado sugar
4 oz butter
5 1/2 oz self-raising flour


3 oz light muscovado sugar
4 oz butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 x 14 oz tin condensed milk (NB not evaporated milk)


7 oz plain chocolate (or a mix of milk and plain)

Shortbread: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and base-line a 7″ x 11″ baking tray. Cream the butter and the sugar. Stir in the flour to make a smooth dough. Press into the base of the baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until golden.

Caramel: Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir over low heat until melted and combined. bring to a slow boil, stirring continuously to prevent burning. Simmer whilst stirring for 10 minutes until the caramel becomes a rich toffee colour and thickens. Pour onto the shortbread base, spread evenly and allow to cool thoroughly.

Chocolate: Melt then spread over caramel layer. Leave to cool, then cut into squares. Can be stored in the fridge for several days (if it hangs around for that long).

It’s probably best to cut it into squares before the chocolate becomes too firmly set. I left the whole tray for too long in the fridge before attempting to cut it into squares, hence the cracked chocolate layer. It’s certainly not a disaster – more of an aesthetic problem than a taste one!