The slightly grudging blurb on the Siúcra sugar packet has always made me smile: “Sugar adds sweetness and many other functional properties to food products”. Over the last little while, as I’ve been experimenting with sugar a little more, this Home Economics-style missive has been ringing truer and truer. Take honeycomb for example, which is made with caster sugar, golden syrup (itself a scientific marvel), bicarbonate of soda, and has a texture like no other foodstuff: crunchy, sticky, bubbly…basaltic? It’s fun to make, if not exactly easy (my first batch went into the bin). That said, it’s not really very difficult either – as with all sugar cooking, you just need to know what you’re looking for. In this case, this means that the mixture should have turned a deep amber color and when a spoonful is dropped on a plate or into a glass of water, the mixture should harden completely, snapping cleanly when broken. If you have a sugar thermometer, this crucial “hard-crack” stage occurs at 150 degrees celsius.
Honeycomb (or Yellow Man, Cinder Toffee, Hokey Pokey, Sea Foam…)
300g caster sugar
200g golden syrup (or roughly half a tin of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. No need to weigh)
One or two tablespoons of water
One tablespoon white wine vinegar
Two heaped teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
Start with the deepest saucepan you own and dissolve the sugar in the golden syrup, vinegar and water, and bring it up to the boil. Stir it occasionally, or wiggle the pan a little. Line a tray with parchment. When the mixture has been boiling for a few minutes, test the mixture by dropping a little onto a plate. If it’s hard, brittle and snaps in half easily (with no stickiness) you can proceed to the next step. If not, keep boiling it, watching it all the while. When it has reached the ‘hard-crack’ stage, stir in the 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda. This is the fun bit, but make sure it doesn’t boil over or you’ll have quite a mess on your hob. Pour it into the parchment-lined tray and leave to cool for half an hour. Then happily smash it, dip it in Bournville chocolate or put it in pretty bags with tissue paper and ribbon.