The Enchanted Wood
I pretty much devoured Enid Blyton books as a child. Series after series, book after book. The Enchanted Wood enraptured me simply because I so wanted it to be true. It’s about three children who move to the country and discover they are living next to the Enchanted Wood. Nobody knows quite why it’s called that, but the children find out. Deep in the wood is the oldest and most magical tree possible – the Faraway Tree. The tree is so big, it’s home to a multitude of characters, from pixies to fairies to a man covered in saucepans to the wonderful character Moon-Face. The Faraway Tree reaches right up into the clouds and from its top branch, you can climb into strange and wonderful lands. The lands swing round so there are always new adventures to be had, be it in the Land of Roundabouts, the Land of Take-What-You-Want or the Land of Ice and Snow.
Keep track of what’s happening around you and explore those areas that appeal to you, staying true to your values.
Nearly every time the children visit the tree, they take a picnic with them, inevitably sandwiches, cakes, some fruit and lemonade. They share these with the tree folk who in turn share whatever they’ve got – and that always includes pop cakes. “As soon as you bit into them they went pop! And you suddenly found your mouth filled with new honey from the middle of the cakes.” They sound wonderful, and cakes with fresh honey in them are lovely – except the honey tends to soak into the cake rather and just how do you get a cake to pop? I’ve tried to recreate pop cakes and although each variation was delicious, none went pop or released honey as I think pop cakes should. Sometimes it’s good to simply accept that magical books must include magical food and unless I can do magic, I can’t recreate a pop cake.
However, all it not lost. Should I ever manage to find The Faraway Tree and climb up it, there’s only one way I’ll be coming down – on the Slippery Slip. The Slippery Slip starts from inside Moon-Face’s house and goes down through the middle of the tree, winding round and round like a spiral right to the bottom. It ends with a trap door that flies open when your feet touch it, so you land on a soft tuft of green moss outside. Moon-Face doesn’t just let anyone use the Slippery Slip, but he’s quite happy to take payment – in the form of a bag of toffee.
Now toffee can be made by anyone, magical or not. And if it want, you could always try making flat sponge drops with a small piece of toffee in them. The toffee will go runny as the cakes cook, so if you eat them warm, it’s almost like having a pop cake!
500g white sugar
250g golden syrup
2 tsp white wine vinegar
Place all the ingredients in a heavy pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly, stirring only occasionally, until a little of the mixture dropped into very cold water forms brittle threads (around 154°C on a sugar thermometer). The longer you cook it, the harder and crisper the toffee.
Pour into a buttered, shallow baking tray or onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and leave to cool. Smash into pieces with a toffee hammer or knife when cold and wrap in greaseproof paper.
If you toffee doesn’t work out quite how you want it, for instance if it’s too hard or too chewy, then simply melt it down again in a pan. Once it’s gone liquid, take it off the heat and add 100ml evaporated milk or coffee cream for a delicious toffee sauce. Bottle it up and keep it in the fridge. You can use it on ice-cream or other desserts and, if not devoured instantly, it will last for weeks.