France on film

I’m a big fan of film photography, and although I don’t take use my film camera as often as I’d like to, I adore looking through the pictures. Film photographs have that wonderful nostalgia, hazy quality that is so popular now with modern camera apps – but I always prefer the real thing. We usually just get the negatives developed, then scan them in ourselves. It’s more time-consuming, but means we can choose which ones to print out and immortalise on our walls.

We recently got the film from our Summer jaunt to France developed, and with the weather round these parts turning gradually colder, I’ve loved looking through pictures from warmer climes. To sum up, we drove to the Loire Valley to buy wine for our wedding next year: via Paris, down to Batilly-en-Puisaye, where we stayed in a treehouse; through the lovely town of Gien, then through miles and miles of wine country in Blois, Tours and Saumur; then to Nantes, where we visited Les Machines de l’île. We then drove up through Rennes, along the north coast and spent our last night and morning in France looking out across the channel, towards home. It was a busy trip, but a really fun one too, and I’m sure these photos from our last holiday together as “single” people will bring us joy for years to come. I hope you enjoy this bit of Summer in your Autumn.

(You can see more of my film adventures right here.)

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Treacle toffee

Continuing with the Autumn recipes, this week is all about treacle toffee. With bonfire night coming up tomorrow, I wanted to tackle treacle toffee as a treat for friends and family. I’d never made it before, and thought it was the perfect thing to bust out my never-before-used sugar thermometer. Treacle toffee might sound very daunting, but I found this great recipe over on The Pink Whisk. Ruth’s instructions were so clear and easy to follow that I actually found it enjoyable, not stressful!

And this treacle toffee is the real deal. Dark, powerful and really chewy. It’s up to you how hard or chewy you make your treacle, it all depends on the temperature you boil it to. Ruth recommends 120°C for a soft set, and 130°C for a firm set, i.e. you need to smash it up with a hammer. I was aiming for somewhere it between, but mine ended up more towards the hard, smashy kind. Still delicious, but you need some muscles to break it up once it’s stuck together.

It did the trick, though, and was the perfect pairing for our bonfire trip with friends last night. We wrapped up warm, oohed and aahed at fireworks, went on silly fairground rides, and made ourselves feel just a little bit sick with too much treacle toffee. Well worth busting out the sugar thermometer, I think. Plus, we bagged ourselves what is probably my new favourite tin. Winners all round.

Treacle Toffee
recipe courtesy of The Pink Whisk blog

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Ingredients:
450g dark brown sugar
450g treacle
150g butter

– Line a 20cm/8in square tray with baking parchment. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and melt over a gentle heat until everything is melted together, stirring occasionally.

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– If you have a sugar thermometer now is the time to put it in the mixture. Stop stirring, turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil. Remember, soft set is 120°C and firm set is 130°C. If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, the mixture should reach 120°C in four minutes and 130°C in five.

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– Take the mixture off the heat and pour it into your baking tray, being very careful not to burn yourself! Let the mixture set. After about one hour test the toffee by poking it carefully with a finger, if the imprint remains indented your toffee is done! It may take a little longer and a couple more hours for the softer toffee to set.

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– When you’re ready, lift the paper out of the tin. Grease the blade of a long knife with sunflower or vegetable oil and mark the slab into strips, pressing right down to the paper at the base. You’ll need to grease the blade after each strip. Then mark the slab into strips widthways.

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– Now you can start to break off the square pieces of toffee – although, like me, you may be best using a combination of your knife and scissors to snip the pieces off. It may take a bit of time and muscle to separate the pieces away, as they will be sticky and still setting.

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– Store the treacle pieces in a tin, separated by greaseproof paper. Beware, they will stick together if left touching! Something I didn’t know about treacle toffee is that it can be rescued if all goes wrong. If your toffee is too hard to mark out and cut into pieces, you can either smash it up into irregular pieces or put the whole lot back into a pan, melt it on a gentle heat until its all liquid again and pour it back into the lined tin to let it set again. If the toffee is too soft and will not set, heat it up again in the pan, boil it for two minutes and you’re good to go again.