Monday, 16 April 2012

Sweet and innocent.

That's me! Honest! Ok so maybe not so innocent.

Right then, what shall we talk about tonight? Any requests? How about something that doesn't get me reaching for the combats and war paint like my last post? Ok. I do want to touch on the gluten and dairy free thing again but I promise I'll play nice. Allergen free foods aren't going to be the backbone of my blog but as something that is so prominent in our daily life it is something I will come back to from time to time. Today though it comes down to chance as it just so happens we were making stuff today that our Mads can eat. It is also dead easy to make and quite a versatile little number. Today we made honeycombe. I'm sure everyone is aware of it. Has anyone never had a Crunchie at some point in their lives? You probably have half a dozen of the things in a cupboard after Easter! But what is it?

Honeycombe, honeycomb, yellow man, cinder toffee, puff toffee etc etc etc, the names go on and on but they are all variations on a theme. Yellow man for example is regarded as being the Irish variation, a traditional confectionery which I am told originates from the "Ould Lammas Fair" in Ballycastle on the Antrim Coast. Not llamas. They're entirely different. And not terribly well behaved creatures! The Ould Lammas Fair is a sort of carnival, bric a brac sale and farmers market rolled into one. Being an historical market - it's been on the go since the 17th century - historical Irish foods are popular. Potato bread, soda bread, champ and dulce. That sort of thing. And of course Yellow Man, which would have been brought in by vendors in large blocks and sold in pieces broken off by hammer and packaged in a cone. There you go, a little history lesson. If you happen to be anywhere near Ballycastle on the last Monday or Tuesday of August then go have a look. It's a nice day out in a very pretty part of the world.

Alright, for clarification, honeycombe is cheating a bit. Its not quite yellow man but its VERY similar and easier to make.

What you will need:

A saucepan
A candy thermometer. You can get these online or from somewhere like Lakeland. They're not expensive.
250g caster sugar
4tbsp of golden syrup
1tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4tsp vanilla extract
1tbsp water

Easy peasy, chuck everything apart from the bicarbonate of soda in your saucepan and give it a bit of a mix. Bung it on the hob on full power and pop your thermometer in. There's a bit of sweetie based science here. The mixture will go through stages as it heats. Basically you have soft crack, hard crack and burnt! Really for honeycombe you are after hard crack which is about 150 celsius. Don't panic if you go over unless its waaaaaay over. Personally i go for somewhere between the cooler soft crack (135 celsius) and hard crack as it creates a lovely crunch but with a chewy middle. Heaven!

Ok, so we're up to temp and ready for the fun bit. Now please be careful, molten sugar will ruin your day very badly if you drop it over yourself. The trick to this next bit is to do it as quick as possible so it doesn't run out of oomph in the saucepan. Ok...GO!!! Take the pan off the heat, throw your bicarbonate of soda in, stir it like crazy with a long handled wooden spoon, squeal a little with nervous excitement as it rushes up to meet you and pour the mix into a cake tin. And breathe.

On a side note I find the silicone type are perfect as it makes it easier to turn out when cool, this isn't essential though.

What to do now? First and foremost enjoy the smell in your kitchen while getting hot water in that saucepan to dissolve the left over mixture. This is much easier than the hammer and chisel approach required when its cold.

While it cools let see what we're going to do with our honeycombe. Obviously you can just get stuck in and theres nothing wrong with that but assuming dairy isn't an issue you can smash it into tiny bits and mix it into ice cream or yoghurt. Any flavour you fancy. A proper hard crack honeycombe is best for this.

You can break into lumps and coat in a good quality chocolate and you have homemade crunchies. Chocolate sauce though is by far the best. In a pan or a choc fountain or for those who got married in the 70s, go and dig that fondue out of the attic and fire it up. Lumps of honeycombe, marshmallows and a variety of fresh fruit, hey presto, a dessert the kids will love you for. Or a great party food. And for our family it is one of those great little treats that is wheat, gluten and dairy free for Mads but can be easily modified for Vale and Finn too. Everyone's a winner.

So there you have it. What are you waiting for? Get stuck in and enjoy telling everyone you know that you are cooking hard crack in your kitchen.

Again, thanks for reading and feel free to let us know your thoughts.

Love and kisses

Suzi. xx

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