Intro: How to Make Honeycomb Treats
Honeycomb treats are a delightful sweet nibble, perfect for the outdoor festivities or as an after-dinner accompaniment to your coffee. Honeycomb goes by other sames such as cinder toffee or bonfire candy but none of them actually contain any honey. It's the closest you get to alchemy in the kitchen and is truely amazing to make. So let's get started!
Step 1: Ingredients
This recipe happens really quickly, so it's essential you prepare all your tools and ingredients so you're ready. To make a good quantity of honeycomb, you will need:
Sugar - 100g - I use granulated here, but caster sugar would be better. I imagine you'd get some real depth of flavour with demerara or light muscavado.
Golden Syrup - As much as you can get on a fork, twice - The biggest failure I've experienced with this recipe is too much golden syrup. I'll explain my esoteric measurement later.
Bicarbonate of soda - 1 teaspoon - This is the magic ingredient that makes it all happen. Baking powder might work (not sure about that).
1 large saucepan
1 cup of cold water
Step 2: Get It Together
First things first, prepare a sheet of greaseproof paper about 300x300mm to pour the honeycomb mix onto. I place it on a large shallow dish so that the honeycomb sets with a good thickness. You could pour it out flat, but it could end up only about 10-15mm thick. (Quick tip - if you need the paper to lay in a try or dish, scrunch it up to take the form better).
Pour the sugar into the pan and drizzle on top the golden syrup. For the quantity of syrup, stick the fork into the syrup and twirl it around to get as much on as you can then let that drip onto the sugar till most of it is off. Then repeat; at room temperature you should have about the same. I find golden syrup isn't something easily measured with spoons, but the fork is quite repeatable. Mix the sugar and syrup together till it clumps nicely which will make the melting more even. Then take it to the stove.
Step 3: Heating Things Up
Place the pan on the stove and put it on the lowest heat possible. Really low. If heated too quickly, the sugar will burn and go black and bitter. This might be tricky on a ceramic or electric hob, so keep an extra close eye on it and lift it off if it gets too hot.
You can stir it with a fork whilst it's heating up and ensure that the sugar melts nice and evenly. The syrup will thin out and the sugar dissolve and slowly start bubbling. The mix will slowly change colour from a dark yellow to a brown as it heats up so keep a steady eye on it. It will take about 10 minutes to get to the stage required. The critical point is to heat the sugar to a stage called "hard crack" around 160deg Celcius which makes the honeycomb crunchy and crispy, anything less than this and you'll have some tooth-extracting toffee.
Step 4: Hard Crack Test
If you have a sugar thermometer, superb, heat to the hard crack temperature. Most of us don't so the easy way to test is with the cup of cold water. Dip the end of the teaspoon in the syrup then into the cold water to set it. You might hear the sugar crack as it cools rapidly which indicates it's hot enough. Or just bite the syrup and if you can crack it off the spoon so that there isn't any left, then you're good to go. I find that it very quickly goes from "not quite hot enough" to "burnt", so move it off the heat while you check.
Step 5: The Magic Happening
Take it off the heat when it's ready and then quickly drop the teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into the syrup. Now as fast as you can, whisk the mix with the fork thoroughly. The soda and mixing creates the air pockets that give the honeycomb effect. As you're frantically stirring, move over to the paper. When you think it's sufficiently done, pour it out in a big, hot, airy dollop. This all happens in less than a minute as the reaction happens fast and you don't want to ruin the bubbles by stirring too much as the sugar cools.
Now leave it to cool for an hour or two and do the washing up. The syrup sticks hard to everything but easily cleans up when soaked.
Step 6: Ta Da!
After a couple of hours, it should be pretty much solid. You can place it in the fridge for a little while to speed it up. It's ready when the surface is no longer tacky to the touch.
The greaseproof paper will just peel off so you have a big honeycomb biscuit. Take your small novelty hammer and smack it to break into glorious shards of sweetness. It'll shatter quite happily and you'll have some tasty dust as well. And then enjoy! Store in a cool place to keep it from going sticky again.
Step 7: Extra Steps
I've tried some variations on the honeycomb and here's what's work and not:
Peanuts - worked pretty well as a crunchy, crispy peanut brittle.
Cinnamon - I added half a teaspoon of cinnamon along with the soda and it worked quite well, gave a bit of heat and spice.
Ground ginger - Much like the cinnamon, heat and spice which tingled nicely.
Cocoa powder - Didn't work so well. I was hoping for a chocolate honeycomb, but I think the fine cocoa ruined the structure and it kinda collapsed.
Chocolate coating - Much more effective, just melt some chocolate, let it cool a bit and drizzle over the chunks.
All lovely treats, easy and simple to make and quite impressive. Enjoy!