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Pennant, Powys

Miss Gretta Jones, Parc, Bala cutting the toffee into small pieces.

Noson Gyflaith (Toffee Evening) was a traditional part of Christmas or New Year festivities in some areas of north Wales earlier this century.  Families, in their turn, would invite friends to their homes for supper, usually in the form of a Christmas dinner, and it would be followed by merriment, playing games, making toffee, and story telling.

When the required ingredients had boiled to a certain degree, the toffee was poured onto a well-greased slate or stone slab.  The hearth-stone itself was used for this purpose in some houses.  Members of the happy gathering would then cover their hands with butter and attempt to ‘pull’ the toffee while it was still quite warm.  It was a skilled art to ‘pull’ and twist the toffee until it became golden yellow in colour.  Both the skilled and unskilled would take part – the one being a source of envy, the other a source of banter.

Toffee-making was also practised in parts of south Wales, especially in the coal-mining areas.  As far as we know, it was not associated here with a particular festive occasion, but housewives were known to sell it from their homes or on local market stalls.  It was known by various names such as taffi, dant, or ‘fanny’, or indeed it could be known by the name of the person who made it, e.g. losin Magws, or losin Ansin bach.  Children would buy it – a six inch strip or two ounces for a penny.

The Recipe

You will need

  • three pounds soft brown sugar
  • half a pound salted butter
  • juice of one lemon
  • quarter pint boiling water (or a little more according to the consistency of the sugar)


  1. Using an enamel or steel pan, gradually melt the sugar in the boiling water over a low heat. 
  2. Stir it continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar is thoroughly melted.  (This usually takes from twenty to thirty minutes.) 
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the lemon juice and the softened butter, and stir into the sugar. 
  4. Boil this mixture fairly briskly for a further fifteen minutes without stirring it.
  5. Gently drop a teaspoonful of the mixture into a cupful of cold water, and if it hardens at once it has reached the required consistency. 
  6. Pour the mixture slowly on to a large, flat dish previously greased with butter.  (Do not scrape the pan clean as this mixture might turn the toffee back into sugar.)
  7. Butter the hands and ‘pull’ the toffee into long, golden strands while hot. 
  8. Cut into smaller pieces.

Pennant, Montgomeryshire.

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