Nuttish - Reverse-Engineering The Rowntrees Nutty Bar

nuttishthumb.pngUp until some time in the 1980s, there was a confectionery bar made by Rowntree Mackintosh, called 'Nutty'. Sadly, it's just a memory now - discontinued before Rowntree became part of Nestlé.

It was my sister's favourite - and she often reminisces about it. Well, I thought it was time to try to bring it back - so here's my attempt to reverse-engineer it.

What Was Nutty?

It was a 4 or 5 inch bar of fudge, coated in soft caramel toffee and encrusted with halved, unsalted peanuts - that's it - no chocolate - just fudge, soft toffee, nuts.

Assembling The Ingredients

nuttish1.jpgFor this first attempt, I'm going to cut corners wherever possible - so I bought a few large blocks of ready-made caramel fudge from a specialist fudge boutique-kiosk in Portsmouth's Gunwharf Quays shopping centre.

Unsalted peanuts are quite difficult to obtain, but I found a couple of potentially promising bags. And in a traditional sweet shop in Portsmouth city centre, I found some wrapped fudge that was slightly more toffee-like in texture.

Nutty Nut-Nuts

nuttish2.jpgBlanched unsalted peanuts would have been best, but once I got them home, it was clear they were too big for this project, so the alternative was the smaller, raw redskin peanuts.

nuttish3.jpgTrouble is, they would need roasting and peeling - for authenticity's sake, but also just because the skins are quite bitter.I spread them out on a metal tray, covered with foil, and put them in the oven at 130 Celsius for 20 minutes to cook them through gently.

Then I turned up the oven to 170 and gave them another 5 minutes without the foil, to brown them up a little.

nuttish4.jpgIt's quite hard to get this right - oven-toasted peanuts in small batches can easily go from raw to burnt in just a few minutes - but I think I caught them just at the right time - they continue cooking a little after removal from the oven, so it's best to err on the side of undercooked.Getting the skins off was messy and laborious - not worth even attempting until fully cooled.

Grabbing handfuls of peanuts and grinding them together in my fist rubbed off the now-flaky and papery skins and to separate the nuts from the flakes.

nuttish5.jpgI took them outside in a large bowl and carefully tossed them into the air - if you get it right, the nuts fall straight back down into the bowl and even the gentlest breeze blows the skin fragments away (this is called winnowing).I cut the fudge into long bars, then rolled it into cylinders inside a folded nonstick re-usable baking sheet.

nuttish6.jpgWorking the fudge like this softens it considerably (and it was quite soft to begin), so I made a few of these, then set them in the fridge to firm up.Nextly, I prepared the toffee coating - I unwrapped about 175g of the other toffee-fudge and put it in a small saucepan. I wanted this stuff to be sticky and glossy, so I added about three tablespoons of golden syrup.

Taking care not to scorch it, I melted this mixture over a gentle heat, then it was time to start assembly...

Hot Sugar

Just a word of warning here if you're thinking of trying this - melted toffee or fudge will be hotter than boiling water, and will stick to skin at the slightest touch - take care with melted sugar.

nuttish7.jpgUsing metal tongs, I dipped and rolled the fudge cylinders one at a time in the molten toffee, then quickly transferred them onto the peanuts, sprinkling and rolling them to coat all over.

nuttish8.jpgIt was a little difficult to get consistent results, but I found it was possible to push extra peanuts into any gaps where the toffee was still showing

nuttish9.jpgI put them in the fridge to set the toffee, then got to work on the packagingThe original Nutty Bar was wrapped in distinctive crinkly brown cellophane - I looked everywhere, but couldn't find any of this, so I opted to make an inner wrapping from silvery gift wrap (silver side innermost) and wrap this around with a sheet of self-adhesive paper label, printed with a logo.

I found a freeware font that's close to the original Nutty logo (the font is called Funny And Cute) and I used Inkscape (open-source vector drawing program) to render it in orange with a white outline.

So here's the finished product:I tasted one of the spares/mis-shapes and it seemed pretty good. I don't actually have a reliable memory of what the original was like, so I don't know how close I got - will have to consult an expert....


Nutty Bar - Gone But Not Forgotten

The precise reason for the disappearance of the Nutty Bar isn't clear - but there are plenty of folks out there crying out for its return. All that remains of the product now is wistful memory and a few tantalising souvenirs - such as this perfectly-preserved wrapper:


Anything Similar, Anywhere?

Closest thing seems to be a product from the USA called PayDay, however, this is made with salted nuts - which is nice, as salt and caramel is a good flavour combination - but it's not the beloved Nutty Bar.


Reverse Engineering

That's actually what I'm doing here. I don't remember how this product tasted, so I've asked people to describe it to me - and from that, I'm trying to work out how I would make it.

That might not be the way it was originally made (probably isn't, as several of the processes - for example, melting the toffee or roasting the nuts - are inherently more difficult to control at a small scale) but this is mostly about outcomes - the end result, not the method.

You Can't See The Fudge For The Nuts

That was actually one of the advertising slogans for this product "You Can't See The Fudge For The Nuts". Interestingly, that's sort of a product description too...

Why Nuttish?

nuttishthumb.pngI don't own the trademark, and I'm not even sure I'm really making the same product, so I don't want anyone getting the impression that I am trying to pass off my confection as the real thing - so this is 'Nuttish'.


I cheated a bit this time and bought in some of the components ready-made (the large block fudge came from the stall pictured above), but I might try again with a proper from-scratch attempt.