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Chat Leftovers: The treacle-down theory

As you no doubt know if you unfurled this morning's newspaper and marveled at the fabulous, dripping, glowing orange popsicle pictured therein, this is summer sweets week in the Food section. And not a moment too soon, right? August is here.

So are some great popsicle recipes. Plus, Gastronomer columnist Andreas Viestad tells you how to make sorbet and ice cream using not much more equipment than two plastic bags. It's done in minutes, and it's a scientific learning experience for kids and adults alike. To top it all off, we turned to Elinor Klivans, who gives us four great recipes for ice cream sauces.

Want to talk about cold stuff? Join us today at 1 for our weekly Free Range chat. And of course you can ask questions about anything else that's on your mind. Like this leftover that we couldn't get to during last week's chat:

I purchased a can of black treacle and would love a recipe to use with it. I'm thinking semi-homemade, as in I don't much feel like heating the house I'm paying to cool down. Could I add it to store-bought ingredients for a lovely summer dessert?

Treacle and toffee.

Ouch, this is tough. I'm guessing you've never bought black treacle before, or you wouldn't be asking about using it in summer desserts, a category that I think it's fairly unsuitable for.

Black treacle is basically the British version of molasses. Its major culinary role, aside from starring in toffee on Guy Fawkes Night (more about that later), is in dishes such as baked puddings, spice cakes and cookies, where its assertive, deep flavor fits right in. There may be some summer recipes that include it, but I've never heard of them. Can anyone out there help?

Black treacle's pale sibling, Lyle's Golden Syrup, would better suit your needs. It's treacle, but its taste and color are much lighter. It is frequently used to sweeten grilled fruits, though it, too, seems to turn up more often in cold-weather recipes.

But since that's not what you bought, let's make the best of it. One recipe using black treacle that won't make you turn on the oven is this toffee, which is traditionally eaten by kids on Guy Fawkes Night. Give it to some Brits in your neighborhood and watch them go all nostalgic. A caveat: This is very sticky stuff that could give your teeth a workout. If you have any doubt about the stability of your fillings, don't try to chew it.

-- Jane Touzalin

Black Treacle Toffee

Children throughout the United Kingdom know this as "bonfire toffee" because it's traditionally eaten as the bonfires smoke and crackle on Guy Fawkes Night.

Black treacle is available at Classic Cigars and British Goodies, 2907 Wilson Blvd., in Arlington (703-525-6510), at Rodman's stores in the District and Maryland, and through several online gourmet foods purveyors.

Use a smaller pan if you want thicker candy. The wrapped candies can be stored in an airtight tin for several weeks.

Makes 35 to 40 pieces

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 tablespoons black treacle (see headnote)
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

Use nonstick cooking oil spray to lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or pan (preferably with squared corners).

Combine the brown sugar, butter, black treacle and water in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring to combine. Cover; when the mixture bubbles, add the vinegar, stirring briefly to combine.

Cover and let the mixture bubble/boil without stirring for about 6 minutes or until it reaches 255 to 260 degrees on a candy thermometer; cook to the lower temperature if you prefer a softer candy. Alternatively, if you do not have a candy thermometer, cook until a small amount of the mixture forms a fairly firm ball when dropped into cold water (known as the hard-ball stage).

Remove from the heat and pour into the prepared dish or pan. Let cool slightly; use a sharp knife to score rows of pieces; that will make it easier to break the toffee apart when it has cooled completely.

Cool for several hours or overnight. Use a mallet to break the toffee, or enclose the candy in a plastic food storage bag and smack it on a hard surface, such as a kitchen counter. The toffee might not break along the scored lines; that is okay. If the candy is soft, use a sharp knife to cut it into pieces.

Wrap the toffee pieces in cellophane, wax paper or parchment paper.

By Jane Touzalin  |  August 4, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags: Chat Leftovers  
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