All this sugar…this really is not a good idea. Lucky that I am still keeping up the New Year fitness regime, and so this means that it is therefore a brilliant idea, provided that I exercise a bit to offset all the sweet stuff I’m probably about to consume. And by “consume” I mean of course “enjoy“.
Yes, honeycomb candy. Also called cinder candy or sponge toffee. But most of us know it as “the stuff in a Crunchie bar”. I used to wonder how the “crunchy bit” was made – and it turns out it’s just a simple flavoured caramel with a little something extra to provide the puffed-up look.
I’ve made this a few times, and I must confess that my early attempts were less than successful. This was down to my rather cavalier attitude to reading recipes. Baking powder, baking soda…all the same. Eh, well actually, no – when it comes to making honeycomb, baking soda/bicarbonate of soda is your friend, and baking power just gets messy and unpleasant. At least you can learn from my errors!
Now, the flavour. You could just use sugar and caramelise it, but the flavour is a little flat. I added some honey (hey, honeycomb, it needs to have some connection with a real bee!) and some golden syrup, plus just the tiniest pinch of salt. Boil, add baking soda, allow to foam up and pour into a tray. And you know what? This works like a dream. It looks like honeycomb should, and in fact, I have to be slightly big-headed as the texture is, in my view, even better than a Crunchie bar, as there were a few big bubbles that continued the honeycomb-theme.
As you can see below, it’s a simple case of putting everything into a saucepan, and then just getting to the right point where the caramel, when dropped into cold water, becomes a brittle, spindly mass. You can use a sugar thermometer to measure when it has caramelised properly, but the “bowl of cold water” test works just as well in my experience.
Now, the problem with making anything that is virtually 100% sugar is that it very quickly absorbs moisture from the air, gets sticky, and rapidly becomes rather a mess. To cure this, what could be better than to dip pieces in chocolate? You end up with something that is a bit like a Crunchie, but the flavour is different – I think it has more of an adult side to it, all thanks to the use of good-quality dark stuff. A naughty, comforting little petit four to serve with coffee.
To make honeycomb:
• 200g white caster sugar
• 50g honey (I used manuka honey)
• 50g golden syrup (or corn syrup)
• 1 tablespoon water
• pinch of salt
• 3 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
Start by preparing a tin to hold the honeycomb. Line with foil, and grease lightly with just a little neutral oil (e.g. sunflower) or non-stick spray.
Put all the ingredients except the bicarbonate into a large saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar has melted and everything is combined. Keep cooking over a low heat until the mixture is caramelised – you know that the mixture is ready when it darkens in colour, and some of the mixture dropped into cold water becomes brittle. If the mixture is still pliable when you do this, keep cooking – we need brittle, but be careful not to burn the caramel!
Remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda, stirring well. The mixture will foam up very dramatically, so be careful! Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and allow to set. The mixture might expand a little more in the tray, so put the pan on a baking sheet to prevent any sticky mess.
Once the honeycomb is cool, break into chunks and store in an airtight container.
To dip in chocolate: melt 200g dark chocolate in a double boiler. Use your fingers to dip each piece of honeycomb, making sure it is coated all over. Share off any excess chocolate, and leave to set on greaseproof paper. If you find a “pool” of chocolate developing around the base of each piece of honeycomb, just lift and move to another piece of greaseproof paper. YOu can then re-use (or just eat) the chocolate left on the first sheet!
Worth making? Very easy and surprisingly delicious. Good fun to make if you don’t have the patience for fudge or tablet, and can be easily turned into a quasi-science lesson with children, followed by a messy afternoon dipping the pieces into chocolate. Healthy? No. Fun? Yes! So if you are stuck in a far away land and cannot get hold of the Crunchie bar you so desperately want, this might just keep you going in the meantime.