Caramels on a Stick! (‘Nekut’:Traditional Finnish Christmas Lollies)

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Nekut Finnish Caramel Lolliesby Pia Rowe

I still remember the day when I found this recipe. I was about 10 years old, and flicking through my Mum’s old cookbook from the 50s. The cookbook was old and tatty, and full of recipes using nothing but the very basics. For most of them, baking times were not specified, and temperatures were often just given as slow, moderate and hot. Sometimes this meant that I was proudly serving only half baked cakes to my friends, but other times, such as this, luck would be on my side and making these every Christmas would become a family tradition that continued till I moved out.

In the past 10 years, I’ve only spent two Christmas holidays with my family and eventually just forgot about the recipe. Now, however, my children are old enough for us to start traditions of our own, and I decided to make them this very special treat from my childhood. The dark, gooey caramel lollipops were a hit, and seeing my children enjoy them so much brought me an overwhelming sense of joy and nostalgia. We may be very far from the white Christmas and sleigh bells in the snow, but some things can survive the distance. This seems to be one of them.

Ingredients:

Makes about 20 if shaped like cones

1 cup cream

1 cup sugar

1 cup golden syrup

1/3 cup slivered or crushed almonds

20 ice cream sticks (available from the craft stores)

baking paper

a container in which to set the ‘nekut

extra sugar for holding the cones upright

nekku 1

Method.

Before you start, prepare the cones. Cut 20 approximately 10x10cm pieces out of baking paper and use sticky tape to form them into cone shapes. Place these in a large dish that you’ve filled with sugar to hold them upright. Use enough sugar so that it reaches at least half way up as you don’t want them to tip over when you’re pouring the hot caramel in there.

Put all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Please note this caramel will bubble vigorously, so only half fill your saucepan.

Keep the mixture bubbling while taking care not to burn it, and keep boiling it for about 40-50 minutes. When it starts to darken and get thicker, drop 1/3 teaspoon of the caramel into a bowl full of cold water. If it hardens and holds its shape when you take it out of the water, the caramel is ready. Mix in the slivered and crushed almonds, and then pour into the prepared cones.

Place ice cream sticks in the middle, and leave to set. If you’re unsure about how big you should make them, err on the side of caution as they are very sweet.

Once they have set, keep them wrapped in baking paper as otherwise they will stick to each other. These will make a very nice present if you wrap a whole bunch in cellophane.

Store in the fridge as they soften at room temperature.

nekku 3

If you find the cone shapes too fiddly or you’re past the lollipop sucking age but appreciate the flavor of dark caramel, you can also just pour it straight onto an oven tray lined with baking paper, and break it into rough shards once set. These would look fantastic in a vintage tin with a paper doily on the bottom. If using this method, you can also add different nuts to make it more interesting.

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