Edible gifts are the biz. They look good, they’re super tasty, they’re thoughtful, and they won’t clutter up anyone’s house for long. Tablet always goes down well – it’s deliciously decadent, keeps for ages, and is easy to make all fancy gifty, whether you bag up some cubes, or wrap a bar.
I’ve made it quite a few times, but it had been a while. And what I’d forgotten, was how much every recipe for tablet is just a MASSIVE WEB OF LIES. Seriously, I’ve not found one that – in terms of how long it will take you – hasn’t been out by at least a couple of hours. I dunno what I’m doing wrong, but all of them, no matter the ratios, suggest simmering your mixture for 20 minutes, and then beating for 5-10 minutes. NOPE. For this latest batch, I was prepped and had iPlayer on in the background – I got through an episode of Casualty *and* an episode of Holby City and was still far from done. For the batch I made a couple of weeks before this, I also went massively over time, got fed up and assumed it must be done by now, poured it into a tin, left it overnight. It was beige and soft and didn’t harden. The next day I admitted defeat, scraped it out, reheated it, and simmered it for another 40 minutes. It turned out delish, but I mean COME ON.
So lest I forget, again, this is how I make tablet that turns out super melt-in-the-mouth tasty with just that right bite to it.
225g salted butter (just under one block)
1 tin condensed milk (397g)
1.8 kg caster sugar (9 cups)
500 ml water (1 pint)
I have a massive saucepan that I – ahem – acquired from a previous job so it’s good and tough. I heated the water and melted the butter, then chucked in the sugar and mixed it til it dissolved. I brought it to a simmer, then added the condensed milk (using a spatula to get it all out the tin). I mixed it in, then turned up the heat and brought it to the boil. I used the biggest hob for this.
I let it bubble for a bit, then turned it down to a simmer, but a bubbly simmer. And then, I waited. I stood by the pan, and stirred regularly, but I didn’t stand over it stirring constantly because that is hot and tiring and because, as mentioned, this bit took a LOT longer than twenty minutes. I had my phone next to me so I could check how many messages I wasn’t getting, and as mentioned, the TV on in the background. I don’t have a sugar thermometer and although I have genuinely tried to do a soft ball test every time I’ve made this I never feel confident with it and just end up with a cup of water full of sticky sugary creatures. So basically, I just wait for it to thicken, so there’s some thick mixture sticking to the sides of the pan that starts to set, and for it to darken, so it’s less beige. I like to feel like it’s just about to catch at the bottom of the pan – so when I stir it it is darker at the bottom. This took over an hour. This is all approximate, of course – I think it does vary a lot depending on your ingredient ratios, pan and heat.
And then, I took the pan off the heat and placed it on a wooden chopping board. I beat it with an electric mixer. I *think* this is to make it nice and smooth which for me is an essential element of tablet, I hate it if it’s grainy, but it also begins to set a bit more and give you a good idea of where you’re at. I beat it for about 30-40 minutes. It’s noisy and quite tiring, I won’t lie. I felt happy when it was really starting to stick to the sides and dry out and I had to scrape it back in to the mix, and when it was sticking together so much I could see the bottom of the pan. (I suspect I didn’t need to do it for this long, as obviously it’s no longer cooking. But it turned out better when I did.)
So then, I poured it into my buttered tin. It really was setting at this point so I just managed to pour it in (quite a heavy pan, some slapstick naturally ensued) and spread it out – I had to wet the spatula to smooth out the top. I left it for a few minutes, then cut it into cubes – I didn’t leave it long enough, actually, it was still quite soft, and as I dragged the knife through it pulled it out of shape so I probably should have just stopped and gone back later but because I’m me I didn’t so my cubes were a bit wonky.
The tin I use – another acquisition – measures 11 ½ x 16 inches. I got, I think, 160 cubes out of it. They were most definitely not all the same size. For gifts, I use a square of plastic wrap, chuck some cubes in the middle, pull up the corners and tie some silver ribbon around it to fasten. You could also cut it into bars and wrap them in greaseproof paper, which looks really nice too.
Just in case you know people that, mysteriously, would like their sweet treat not entirely full of butter and milk, vegan tablet is definitely doable!
I used the Vegan Cookie Fairy’s recipe as a rough guide, and multiplied by 4:
5 cups Vegan spread (I used Pure, soya)
2kg caster sugar
300g Creamed coconut (this was quite approximate, I’ll be honest – something not quite two Blue Dragon blocks)
2 cups water
And basically followed the exact same steps. It came out really nice – perhaps could have been done a smidgen more, but it had a nice bite and was really melty. Using the creamed coconut made it quite like that 80s delicacy Coconut Ice, which for me was a good thing.