Inspiration or Perspiration?
What is the secret behind making the perfect Scottish Tablet?
In a moment of inspiration you think “I’m going to make some Scottish Tablet!”. The thought excites you! In your mind you are a vision of Masterchef perfection stirring over hot stove to create the perfect sweet caramel flavoured treat your Gran or Nan used to make for you all those years ago. Your children will look at you with love and pride as it melts in their mouths. Your wedding guests will be so impressed by just how talented a bride you are and what an asset to their family you will be. Your sweet toothed boyfriend will love you even more and will suddenly bend down on one knee and propose…..if only you can make the Perfect Scottish Tablet.
So when you hand your kids a spoonful of runny tablet because it didn’t quite set or book that emergency dentists appointment for your boyfriend after biting down on rock hard tablet and you might just wonder where between your vision of domestic goddess and the cold hard reality confection production did it all go so horribly wrong?
The first thing to tell you is…..you are not alone! Being able to make Tablet is not like being double jointed…it’s an amazing talent bestowed upon you at birth. It’s something you learn and if you are like most of us, you learn the hard way. Most families in Scotland will have a relative who used to make Tablet and it is always the very essence of nostalgic dreams. So much so people are fiercely competitive when tasting an other families tablet recipe and before the sweet taste touches their lips they announce “I want to see if it’s as good as Aunt Agnes’s!” or “My Gran made the best tablet!” There is almost a braveheart quality about the way in which it is announced. But don’t be fooled into think that all you need to make perfect tablet is a great grannies recipe given to you in final last whispers. Even then things can go awfully wrong…….
Let’s be open and honest from the start here…making really good Scottish Tablet is actually a little bit of an art form (or at least that’s what all us Tablet makers out there would like you to believe) but it is something everyone has the ability to do. I’ll let you in on the biggest secret of all though…..if you want to make great tablet you need PATIENCE and lots and lots of it. Sure you can make ok(ish) tablet in a microwave but to make great tablet like your ancestors made you need PATIENCE.
How long does it take to make traditional Scottish Tablet?
Google this question and you’ll see lots of references to ten minutes boiling and twenty minutes to set…..or suggestions for making Scottish Tablet in the microwave in less than 5 minutes! Now whilst you may well end up with some sort form sugary treat at the end it is very unlikely to be considered to be a great Scottish Tablet. The reality is to make proper Scottish Tablet you really need at least an hour and a half. A great Scottish Tablet really does take time and that is because all the flavour and the texture comes from slow deliberate cooking. The slow cooking properly breaks down the sugar crystals to allow the tablet to melt in your mouth as well as ensuring it has both the colour and taste that only the slow caramelisation of the sugar can bring.
Even after the initial hour and a half you will need to restrain yourself (and all the family, neighbours and anyone walking by who catches the sweet aroma!) for another couple of hours to let the tablet cool and harden. Once you get to grips with making Scottish Tablet we promise you that this really will be the hardest part of the entire process!
Lots of people start off making fudge and graduate to tablet and we always say if you can make Scottish Tablet then fudge is an absolute doddle.
What recipe ingredients do I need to make traditional Scottish Tablet?
The basic ingredients for making traditional Scottish Tablet are really simple and the list is short. All you need is Sugar, Milk and Butter. Whether you use Condensed Milk or not the ingredients remain the same. Afterall good quality Condensed Milk only has two ingredients which are Milk and Sugar. Using condensed milk in the recipe theoretically lowers the risk of the mixture burning and allows you to make it just a little less time. Some Scottish Tablet fundamentalists reckon the use of condensed milk is cheating…others just think its progress. Being pragmatists we reckon if it gets you there a little quicker and a little safer and doesn’t affect the taste, texture or overall quality then the question has to be ‘why wouldn’t you?’
If you want really good tablet it’s really best not to use evaporated milk. It makes a very pale tablet imitation but it’s a long way from tradition Scottish Tablet.
Some people use Vanilla in their tablet and if you don’t have the time to allow the full caramelisation that comes from slow cooking Vanilla can help but nothing really beats the real deal.
What equipment do I need to make Scottish Tablet?
One hob / cooker top
One really large heavy bottomed pan
One large long handled spoon
A candy or sugar thermometer (is optional but very useful!)
Deep edged baking tray lined with parchment paper
That’s all you need to get started……..
Make sure your pan is heavy bottomed as it’s about to get very very hot for at least 45 – 50 minutes! The long handled spoon will help not only keep your hands away from the intense heat and perhaps save you from the occasional splash but it also stops the spoon from slipping into the depths of boiling tablet.
The candy or sugar thermometer is completely optional. The more you make confectionery the easier it is to judge just how long you want your rolling boil to last. You’ll become very adept at noticing the way the shape and rapidity of the boiling bubbles let you know you are close to Tablet perfection. Alternatively if you are a novice then a thermometer works a treat! You could try some of the old school dropping some of the mixture in cold water to ensure it has reached a soft ball stage (or in the case of tablet a slightly firmer ball) but really a thermometer is so much easier.
So making Scottish Tablet is quite simple really!
In theory it is very simple. I mean what could be more simple than simply popping your ingredients into a pan and boiling them together and then pouring them out into a tray so they can be left to set. The reality as we say can be quite different!
It’s also worth noting at this point you are dealing with exceptionally hot and volatile sugar mixtures when cooking. Never underestimate just how serious a Scottish Tablet burn can be! We have the scars to prove it.
Making Scottish Tablet – What went wrong?
Why does my Scottish Tablet turn out like sugar?
Whilst Scottish Tablet does have a crisper texture to fudge it should never be like eating a mouthful of sugar. If it does taste like this then your sugar hasn’t dissolved properly. The two main reasons for this is either you don’t have enough milk or butter to the ratio of sugar or you have tried to cook the tablet too quickly and you just haven’t given the sugar the time it needs to melt.
Why does my Scottish Tablet burn in the pan?
There are two main reasons for your Scottish Tablet burning in the pan and that is either you aren’t using a heavy enough pan or alternatively you aren’t stirring it enough.
The pan you use needs to be large and have a heavy base because you are heating the mixture to such a high temperature. The volume of the mixture will also triple as it comes to the boil so if you don’t have a large enough pan to accommodate that you will get a very messy cooker!
Why does my Scottish Tablet always seem to have turned out grainy?
If your Tablet is grainy but not sugary but you’d prefer it to be just a little smoother then it is all down to the beating. Once you take your Tablet off the heat let it cool for 2 / 3 minutes and then beat it for a good 5 minutes vigorously. You’ll see the mixture dull and thicken feel it thicken and only at that point is it ready to pour. Pour too soon and you’ll get a very grainy mixture as the sugar crystals haven’t been fully stretched.
Why does my Scottish Tablet not set?
The most common reason for this is that you haven’t taken your tablet to a high enough temperature when cooking it. The Scottish Tablet mixture needs to be not only boiling for a decent time (approx. 20 mins), it also needs to reach a very high temperature to ensure it will set.
Why does the Scottish Tablet I make turn out like toffee?
If your temperature is too high for too long you’ll create toffee and the higher the temperature you go the harder the toffee will become right the way through to a proper brittle toffee which comes in at about 149 degrees celcius!
Why is the Scottish Tablet I make so pale in colour?
Don’t rush making tablet. It takes time (lots of time) and it takes patience…if you rush it you’ll get a pale sweet but you won’t get proper Scottish Tablet
What is the best way to store Scottish Tablet?
Tablet can be kept in a container or biscuit tin or cookie jar. It is at its best when kept in cool dry conditions and the storage container is actually best not being completely airtight as it can increase moisture levels. When we say cool conditions we do really mean not in a heat above 18 degrees celcius so always best to consider this when the heating gets cranked up in the winter.
How long will Scottish Tablet keep for?
Sugar is a natural preservative and given tablet is over 50% sugar it means it can keep well for a few weeks…that is if it ever lasts that long!
Other Scottish Tablet related questions
What is the difference between Scottish Tablet and Fudge?
There are two main differences the first is the sugar:fat ratios. Scottish Tablet is higher in sugar and Fudge is higher in fat. The second difference is the temperature they are cooked to. Fudge doesn’t need to be cooked to as high a temperature as Scottish Tablet.
Where can I get really good Scottish Tablet?
Just click here to order probably the best Scottish Tablet you’ll ever try!
Do you make Scottish Tablet for Wedding Favours?
If you drop us an email we can make you up a tray of Scottish Tablet for your big day. We aren’t the best at tying ribbons so we won’t make it all fancy for you we just stick to what we are good at and that is making amazing Scottish Tablet and fantastic Fudge.