Angelas Ashes

This remains one of my favorite books.  I remember reading it for the first time as a sophomore in college and it’s a story that I return to time and time again.

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. . . the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters . . . . ”

In Angelas Ashes, Frank McCourt invites us into his life growing up as a youngster on the streets of Brooklyn and on the damp and musty lanes of Limerick.  He was born in Brooklyn in 1930 and the family stayed in New York for a few years, but while most Irish families of the time were moving to America to build a new life for themselves, the McCourt family emigrated back to Ireland.

Through great detail he takes us on a journey of what is was like to have a mother who was on the edge of losing faith daily and a father who spent nearly every cent he earned at the pub.  There were many struggles that the family had to endure, but there were simple pleasures that he wrote about that really stuck out in my mind.  Even with the threat of starvation at their doorstep every day, Frank McCourt was able to find a sweet escape when he could buy a slab of Cleeves Toffee at the shop and stuff himself full of it while watching James Cagney at the cinema.

Every time I read his story I find myself drooling over what Cleeves Toffee might taste like.  Cleeves Toffee was produced by The Condensed Milk Company of Ireland Limited.  It was founded in 1883 by Thomas Cleeve and at the top of its game was the largest dairy manufacturer in the United Kingdom.  They were most famous for producing toffee and it was sold in Ireland until the 1980s.  You can find reproductions of the famous candy online but I wanted the challenge of producing my own version.

Since the company that sold it specialized in condensed milk surely the toffee was made with the same product.  When researching different recipes I found that most toffee made from condensed milk are pretty simple and the result leaves you with a satisfying and chewy candy that sticks to your teeth and won’t let go.

So here is my version of Cleeves Toffee…I hope you enjoy!

14 oz. can condensed milk

1 T. butter

1 t. pure vanilla extract

  1. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. It’s very important to use a nonstick pan for this.
  2. Melt butter
  3. Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.
  4. Stir constantly over medium to low heat until mixture thickens and caramelizes
  5. Pour mixture onto a silicon mat to cool
  6. After about an hour cut into desired shapes and enjoy!

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