That subtitle is a reference to the fact that what we know as Honeycomb here in South Africa, is known as Hokey Pokey elsewhere. Or Violet Crumble, apparently. Or Cinder Toffee. Or Puff Candy. Or Sea Foam candy. Or…well, you get the idea. The simplest, easiest to follow, quickest sweet recipe I’ve found so far, yet the most complicated to name, it would seem. No matter what you call it, it’s really good candy and really, anyone can make it. And eat it…
I found so many recipes for this candy, ranging from the many-ingrediented to the complicated, to the vague, to the negatively commented on. I finally found the one I used as my basis at Honey and Spice Honeycomb Toffee , a fellow blogger here on WordPress. Just 3 ingredients and less than 15 minutes to make – my kind of recipe!
1 cup (200g) sugar (I use a cup of regular white sugar, just rounded (not heaped too much but not exactly level))
4 tablespoons (60ml) golden syrup (amazingly, honeycomb has no honey in it)
2.5 teaspoons (14g) of fresh bicarbonate of soda (Older bicarb doesn’t have the same oomph)
Here in South Africa, you can buy individual packets of bicarb which hold 14g. I found the 3 teaspoons given in the recipe a bit too much – left an aftertaste – and decided to reduce the amount. 1.5 teaspoons didn’t foam the syrup mixture enough, so with each attempt I added a bit more. My favourite ended up being about 2.5 teaspoons, which – by happy coincidence – was exactly how much the packet of bicarb held. So now I just add one 14g packet to the mix and it works perfectly.
A 20x20cm, 4cm deep, non-stick baking tin, well sprayed with non-stick spray
It’s handy to have a baking tray too – I put the pot on it on the stove while I stir in the bicarb. If it splashes or bubbles over, it’s into the tray, not on the glass-topped stove.
- Place the sugar and syrup in the pot, and combine with the wooden spoon till you can’t really see the whiteness of the sugar anymore. (It’s not really stirring, as the two ingredients don’t blend so much as clump together).
- Place the pot on the stove, with a plate set to a low/ medium heat, between number 2 and 3, to begin melting and cooking the syrup. (Modern cookware usually recommends that lower temperatures are used than you would have in the old days with the heavy metal pots. With the honeycomb, if I’m a little impatient I may have the stove plate set to 3 only while the sugar and syrup melt initially. Otherwise, I conduct the entire exercise on number 2. It takes a little longer, naturally, but reduces the risk of burning and spoiling your candy.)
- Don’t stir the syrup mixture at all – I’m super impatient, but even I resist the temptation to stir. It really doesn’t take long at all to progress, so there isn’t really a justification to hurry it along anyway.
- Once the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has bubbled together for a bit and starts to look more liquidy, I make sure the plate is on 2, and place the candy thermometer in the pot.
- Leave the syrup mixture to heat and cook. Don’t stir, or do anything to it, just watch the temperature on the candy thermometer – it must rise to 150C (300F). It will boil and bubble (without toil or trouble) and turn more golden as it heats.
- While the syrup cooks, this is usually a good time to make sure your prepared tin is prepared (in case you forgot to spray it earlier) and close to the stove. You don’t want to have to hassle or move too far after the bicarb is in, you’ll risk the airiness being lost and the mixture falling flat and the candy being really hard and chewy instead.
- As soon as the mixture reaches 150C, take the pot off the hot plate. Add the bicarb, and stir through with a wooden spoon. Use big motions – you’re stirring not beating – you don’t want to lose the airiness. The mixture will turn from clearish to cloudy and will foam up. Although the recipes I’ve read say the mixture can increase up to 3x in volume, mine never does, probably closer to 2x (maybe 2.5x). Don’t stir too long, as the mixture will be cooling and may start setting in the pot (not the plan!)
- Once you have stirred the bicarb through, and the mixture has foamed up, but does not seem to be getting any bigger, pour out into the prepared tin. Some don’ts: Don’t take too long with the pouring. Don’t touch the poured mixture. Don’t smooth it, let it stay and shape as it is.
- If you scrape the last bit out of the pot, do it into just one spot in a corner- it will be less airy, harder and chewier than the rest, so keep that area as small as possible (Top right corner in the picture above is my going-to-be-hard spot)
- Put the mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to set.
- While your candy is setting, it’s a good idea to do the dishes. Very hot soapy water works best for any sugar-based residue (it gets super hard super quickly, but also softens quickly with heat). If you really have a lot of hardened candy in the pot, fill it to 3/4 with water, add some dishwashing liquid and place it back on the stove at number 3. As the water heats, slowly work the hardened candy off with a wooden spoon, it doesn’t take that long. Once that’s done, I usually pour the (now very hot – be careful!) soapy water into the sink (with the plug in) and turn the pot upside down in it. This is to soften the bits that stuck to the rim while pouring, before washing the pot as normal. The thermometer and spoons also go in this water and can be easily cleaned in no time.
- After 30 to 40 minutes, the set candy can simply be tipped out of the tin (if you sprayed it enough).
- Place your candy block on a chopping board and do what you need to break it into pieces. I’ve found that the best way to get reasonably even/ squarish/ uniformly shaped pieces is to use the tip of a sharp, not serrated, knife with a firm blade to pierce the surface. Twist the knife ever so slightly to begin a crack. The candy cracks in its own pattern anyway, but doesn’t seem to smash and shatter as much as with the other ways (hammer, slice, smash, break). Thanks mum for showing me this technique.
(Any small pieces and crumbs from the breaking process can be kept for ice-cream topping, stirred through ice-cream, or simply tipped into your mouth.)