25th January marks the birthday of Scotland’s national poet, Rabbie Burns, when Scots the world over celebrate his life and work with poetry and piping, haggis, neeps and tatties, and usually a wee dram to toast the Bard. When Laura Ashley asked me to share something with their lovely readers to celebrate Burns Night, I had a favourite Scottish sweet treat in mind: tablet.
Tablet dates back to the 18th century Caledonia – it’s sweet and moreish like fudge but has a much grainier texture and firmer, toffee-ish set. Traditionally it was made using sugar and cream but this has a tendency to catch, so the recipe I’m sharing uses condensed milk instead. This perhaps isn’t one for if you’re trying to eat healthily this January – dentists and nutritionists look away now – but the great thing about tablet is just a wee morsel can satisfy sweet cravings. I’m a firm believer in everything in moderation; a little of what you fancy does you good after all!
Note: please be extremely careful with boiling sugar. Maybe not one to make in a hurry, but there’s something extremely soothing about tending a bubbling pot, especially at this time of year!
To make the tablet, you will need:
450g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
75ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
100ml condensed milk
Equipment: heavy bottomed pan, sugar thermometer (optional – although easier!), 20cm square baking tin.
First, line your baking tin with parchment paper. Combine the sugar, butter, milk, vanilla extract and water in a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently.
Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely and the butter has melted, then turn up the heat and bring to the boil gradually. At this point you need to stop stirring – it will take some willpower to resist the urge, but please do!
Boil until the mixture reaches soft-ball stage – you can test this by putting a small drop of the mixture into a saucer of water; if it sets then it’s ready – or when your thermometer reaches 116C.
Stir in the condensed milk, then bring the mixture back up to soft-ball stage. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the mixture to cool for five minutes. Don’t worry if brown specks start rising from the bottom if the mixture has caught a little – this is good as it will mean your tablet will have a delicious caramel flavour.
Make sure you have your baking tin to hand and then stir the mixture vigorously until it begins to firm up. Pour into the receptacle before it is too firm, making sure you score the top with lines to help you break it into more even pieces.
Leave to cool completely then turn onto a chopping board and cut into squares.
Don’t worry if it’s a little crumbly – that means it’s perfect! Store in an airtight container, if it lasts that long…
So there you have it, my favourite sweet treat for cosy January nights by the fireplace and the perfect accompaniment to any Burns Supper.
I went for a subtle nod to Scottish heritage in my picks from Laura Ashley’s new homeware collections: a touch of tweed from the copper cushion and the shades of the copper basket and blush blanket reflecting Wintery landscapes and seasonal skies.
I like to think this romanticism-inspired outfit – complete with corduroy dungarees from the SS17 collection and a vintage Laura Ashley pie-crust collar blouse (similar in the new collection here) – also gives a nod to the Bard’s roots too.
Recipe adapted from Claire Ptak (of the lovely Violet Bakery in East London).
Throw, cushion, basket and dungarees all very kindly c/o Laura Ashley in exchange for the post I put together for their blog, but all love of Scots confectionary and textiles entirely my own!