Thursday, 6 November 2008

Guy Fawkes, Toffee Apples and Sparklers

Did you know that until 1959, it was illegal not to celebrate the date of Guy Fawkes arrest in England? The guy on top of your bonfire was not originally put there to commemorate Guy Fawkes as you would think but Pope Paul V, who after the Gunpowder Plot refused to allow Catholics to take the oath of allegiance to the Crown. So, presumably, the traditional cry of 'Penny for the guy, mister?' was never uttered by children until relatively recently.

Centuries ago children were allowed free rein at this time as the night before Guy Fawkes' Night was known as Mischief Night, when groups of young children roamed their neighbourhood looking for mischief and playing pranks. Children would also blacken their faces as Guy Fawkes might have done when he waited to blow up Parliament. The bonfire was originally known as a 'bone fire', to signify the 'bones' of the effigy. However, bonfires had been burnt at this time of year long before Guy Fawkes' day as they were an essential part of Halloween, which falls less than a week earlier.

Here's a straight forward recipe for Toffee Apples – and as for Sparklers . . . why not try a glass of sparkling wine? Crémant d’Alsace is a sparkling wine from the north of France cremant is the French word for "creaming" - this means that it is made with slightly more than half the pressure of champagne. This doesn’t give it any less sparkle but makes a wine with a fizzy mousse of bubbles and a delicious refreshing tingle on the tongue. Crémant d’Alsace is the market leader in at-home sales of AOC sparkling wines in France. It’s an undiscovered gem here in the UK. It’s a favourite of those vintners who make Champagne and you’ll find it gracing most celebrations and parties in France.

Toffee Apples

6 Coxes apples
6 wooden sticks (like ice-lolly sticks)
225g granulated sugar
100ml water
30g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
4 tbsp mixed nuts, finely chopped

Push the wooden sticks halfway into the apples at the stalk end. Put the sugar and water in a thick-bottomed pan and dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat.

Add the butter and syrup and bring to the boil. Boil without stirring until the toffee reaches the soft-crack stage or 290F. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the nuts. Dip each apple into the toffee, one by one. Make sure each apple is well coated and leave to harden on a baking try lined with baking parchment.