When I was little my Grandma would send us bags of treats: home-made biscuits, cakes and sweets. Russian toffee and her fruit cakes were my favourite. For the uninitiated, Russian toffee is not toffee in the usual sense; it has a buttery fudge-like taste but with a more pleasingly crumbly texture. There is a similar confection known as Scottish tablet, though this usually comes in much chunkier pieces. I like to follow my grandma's lead and smooth it into flatter pieces. It is very sweet; a little goes a long way. I should warn you that although this recipe is very easy, you do need to stir the toffee constantly for about 20 minutes, so it is a recipe for a day when you are in the mood for a mindless, repetitive task. It is certainly worth the effort and makes a great present when visiting friends and family at any time of year.
A can of condensed milk (397g.)
A couple of tablespoons of water.
A few drops of vanilla essence (optional)
Line a baking tray with parchment and put a large saucepan on medium heat. Put the sugar and the water into the saucepan and warm to dissolve the sugar.
Add the butter and condensed milk, melt all ingredients together. Constantly stirring, bring the mixture to the boil. You want to keep the mixture bubbling gently, you may need to reduce the heat a little if it starts to spurt with the ferocity of an Icelandic geyser.
Keep stirring and bubbling until the mixture turns a caramel colour and thickens. After about 20 minutes, it will become more difficult to stir. At this point pour it into the baking tray and smooth down the mix with a spatula or pallet knife. You need to work quite quickly as the mix will start to set.
When it has cooled for a minute or so cut into pieces with a sharp knife and then leave to cool in the tray. Stored in a jar (the ones in the picture are 75 pence from Ikea), it will keep for weeks; decorated with ribbon they make a lovely home-made gift.