Sunday, September 18, 2011

Call it what you will.

This week, I had a strong desire to make something and candy seemed both frivolous and quick enough to hit the spot. The candy I chose was honeycomb (aka hokey pokey, sea foam, sponge toffee, sea foam, etc.), which has an amazingly light texture but a wonderful burnt sugar flavor. Not too burnt-- we're talking about caramel here.

Honeycomb is not only fun to eat, but fun to make, as well. Simply boil a sugar mixture, whisk in baking soda (which will cause the mixture to puff up considerably), pour onto a pan lined with parchment, and smash into shards once it has cooled. Fantastic.

If you use this recipe as stress relief, I certainly won't judge you.

The reviewers on the Food Network site, where I found this recipe after watching Nigella Lawson prepare this confection on her show, tell me that this stuff is fantastic in ice cream as well as dipped in chocolate. I have yet to try either of these variations, but both sound excellent. Finally, I must confess that the ingredients list I followed came from someone reviewing the recipe, rather than Nigella herself. This included the addition of brown sugar and swapping dark corn syrup for light.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Note: On the website, many people stated their honeycomb never set up, which appears to be due to a couple of factors. First, many warn not to make this candy on a very humid day, as much like meringues the mixture will remain tacky if too much moisture is present. Second, although Nigella eschews a thermometer and gives a basic suggestion to cook the candy for aboutfor 3 minutes we are making candy here and if it doesn't get past the soft crack stage it will never get really hard. In light of this, I heated mine to 290-295 degrees and it set up perfectly.

Makes one standard baking sheet of candy

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
8 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1. Place the sugars and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until combined. Many argue against stirring a sugar mixture as it cooks, but I always stir mine until melted and have never had a problem. Once it's melted and thoroughly combined, stop stirring but continue to cook, swirling gently as needed to evenly distribute the heat.

2. Check the temperature of the mixture often as it boils. You'll see the color change to a deeper golden color but make sure it gets to about 290-295 degrees. Once it reaches that range, remove the pan from the heat. Working quickly, add the baking soda and whisk the mixture until the soda is evenly distributed. Pour the hot sugar mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

3. Allow the sugar mixture to cool completely; mine took about 20 minutes. Once cool, pick the whole thing up and smash it against the baking sheet to break into shards. I tried using my knife to make the breaking more precise but whacking the candy against the baking sheet was an oddly superior method. To store, place the candy in an airtight container.

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