We British love a summer trip to the seaside – almost everyone has fond memories of childhood days spent at one of the many popular resorts such as Blackpool (in the north of England) or Southend (in the south). The sunshine brings the crowds thronging to stroll along the wide promenades and sandy beaches, to paddle in the sea, build sandcastles, shop for presents in the gaudy souvenir shops and enjoy the brash excitement of the fairground. Mingled with the salty tang of the bracing sea air are the sweet, sugary aromas of unique seaside delicacies loved by generations of British children – glistening toffee apples, light as a cloud candy floss (cotton candy) and seaside rock.
Rock was invented in the 19th century when it was known as rock candy. A confection of boiled sugar flavoured with peppermint, it is most familiar as a lurid pink stick with the name of the resort running right the way through it in tiny red letters. Tastes in rock have changed over the years and although sticks of rock are still popular, nowadays they come in all sorts of colours and flavours. There’s also a huge selection of shapes, colours and flavours to choose from: baskets of ‘fruit’, with each ‘fruit’ flavoured with the appropriate flavouring; cardboard plates of ‘bacon and eggs’; ‘false teeth’ and even realistic looking ‘kippers’ are all made entirely of rock and destined to be bought as gifts for friends.
Candy Floss (cotton candy) that light, airy confection of spun sugar, was first made around 1900 as a fairground treat. Children today love to watch fascinated, as the sugar and pink colouring are sprinkled into a stainless steel drum, a wooden stick is placed in the centre and the attendant switches on the machine. The drum rapidly spins the sugar around the stick to produce the familiar puffy pink cloud and its sweet, sticky scent of hot sugar.
Toffee apples were originally a medieval luxury for the wealthy nobility of England. They were sold at the numerous fairs held to celebrate religious feasts and were made by coating apples with a mixture of boiling honey and beeswax. Toffee apples have remained a fairground treat, although nowadays affordable by everyone. The contrast of crisp fresh apple flesh with the sweet brittle toffee is delightful. Toffee apples are easy to make at home – although they are best eaten on the day they are made.
8 eating apples
450g white sugar
2 Tablespoons water
Wipe the apples, remove the stalks and insert a wooden stick into each stalk end. Put the sugar, butter and water into a heavy pan and heat over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring to the boil and boil the mixture to 280F/140C on a sugar thermometer or until a little of the mixture dropped into iced water separates into hard but not brittle threads.
Dip the apples into the toffee, then into cold water to set the toffee. Place on waxed paper and eat the same day.