Hokey Pokey, Sponge Toffee, Sea Foam, Honeycomb Candy - whatever you may call it, I recently had an inexplicably intense craving to gorge on some - chocolate-covered ones specifically. This was right on the heels of my cravings for chocolate ice cream, iced chocolate, and chocolate cake, in that order. No, I am no longer pregnant, but cravings while one is breastfeeding can be just as powerful, if not more so. And in my particular case, it was all the more cruel as having a newborn on my hands meant I had little time to bake up my own treats. Unfortunately, store-bought chocolate treats are largely disappointing. Blame it on the fact that I've been eating and baking with Valrhona chocolate for almost 3 years now. I never set out to be a chocolate snob, but after you get used to the good stuff, it's hard to enjoy supermarket chocolate. They taste too waxy and milk-powder-like for me. I bought 3 Nestle Crunchie bars to satisfy my chocolate honeycomb craving. In the end, I barely finished one, and not before scraping off the chocolate to get at the honeycomb insides. I tried foisting the remaining 2 Crunchie Bars on my kids (how clever of me I thought), but while Sugababe 1 happily polished off hers in a jiffy, Sugababe 2 refused to eat more after a wee bite. Believe it or not, she's developed a taste for Valrhona chocolate too.
So if you are asking why bother with scratchmade honeycomb if you can get Crunchie or Violet Crumble, I would say, because you can use better chocolate, that's why. But if you are not partial to that then, by all means, save yourself the trouble.
Having said that, honeycomb really should not be that much trouble. The recipe is simple and straighforward, and if done correctly shouldn't take more than 20 minutes. I confess however, that having a newborn put me in such a very distracted mummy state that I burnt my caramel no less than THREE times.
Thankfully, once out of those three times, I ended up with caramel that was not TOO burnt, but salvageable for the purposes of making burnt caramel ice cream. It was one of those times when my attempts to manage a kitchen disaster brought about a most fortuituous result - an improvised no-churn burnt caramel gelato that didn't take more than 10 minutes to make (minus freezing time). Yes you heard right - an Easy No-Churn Salted Burnt Caramel Gelato. Otherwise known as Obesity 101. I will happily endanger your health by sharing the recipe in a future post.
In the meantime, back to the honeycomb. There are many recipes for honeycomb candy, all calling for largely the same ingredients - sugar, corn syrup and the magic-making baking soda. In the end, I struck honeycomb gold with a recipe that called for the addition of gelatine, which resulted in a better, crispier texture, with fine bubbles throughout.
Making honeycomb is fun and exciting, and always makes me feel rather like a science-experimenting lab genius. You'd feel the same too when you see how the hot caramel syrup bubbles up into a towering mass of candy foam once the baking soda is added. If you have older kids (who can handle molten sugar safely under supervision) I can imagine this would make a fun cooking exercise for them.
Look at those little golden nuggets, dipped in luscious milk chocolate. So much better than Crunchies. And super addictive too. My kids have been asking me for Hokey Pokey all day. These will surely be even more phenomenal with dark chocolate, but unfortunately I'm out. A good excuse, surely, to do the Hokey Pokey again!
***************************************************************************How to do the Hokey Pokey
(A recipe adapted from Wilde in the Kitchen)
¼ tsp gelatin
1 tsp water
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup corn syrup
1 tbsp baking soda (sifted)
Melted milk or dark chocolate (tempered)
Butter a 9x9 pan then dust with flour. Tap out excess flour. Alternatively, line pan with greaseproof paper.
In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 tsp water and allow to bloom.
In a medium stock pot with high sides, mix sugar and corn syrup together. Heat over medium heat and swirl the pot occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves evenly, and the mixture comes to a boil. Do not stir. Clip on candy thermometer and heat to 310° F.
Remove from heat and let sit for a few seconds, the bubbling should subside. Add gelatin and whisk, be careful, the sugar syrup will bubble up. Sprinkle baking soda over syrup and whisk vigorously. Return mixture to the heat and whisk for 30 seconds. The sugar will rise up in the pot, a lot!
Quickly pour into prepared pan, it should come out in a big blob. Do not spread the mixture, just let it settle into the pan. Allow to cool completely (about 2 hours or overnight) before removing from the pan.
Either break into odd pieces or cut into squares (this is a messy process!). To cut into squares - using a serrated knife, score the candy at 1-inch intervals. Snap the candy apart at the score lines. Then score and break into squares.
Dip sponge candies in molten tempered chocolate, tap off excess. Ensure that the honeycomb is completely covered with chocolate, as any exposed parts will absorb moisture from the air and quickly degenerate. Chill in the fridge to set the chocolate shell.
And that's what it's all about!
1) The original recipe also called for 1/2 cup of water to be added to the sugar. This is the 'wet method' of caramelization which takes a longer time. I prefer to use the dry caramelization method and therefore the adapted recipe does not require the addition of water. The caramelization will occur pretty quickly, so one must keep a careful watch on the colour of the sugar syrup. If you are using a digital instant read candy thermometer, great. If you are eyeballing it, stop once it turns a medium amber shade, otherwise you run the risk of burning it. My preferred method is to drop a few drops of molten syrup into a bowl of water every once in a while. When it reaches the hard crack stage (which is what we want), the syrup will form hard, brittle threads that break when bent.
If you are not careful and it becomes dark amber, it will be no longer good for honeycomb. However, if it has only a whiff of burntness but is still fit for cunsumption, quickly pour in 2 cups of milk or cream to stop its temperature from rising (and therefore being TOO burnt) and then make burnt caramel gelato with it.
2) If you cannot be bothered to temper chocolate (like me), simply use tempered chocolate (like Valrhona). When melting, ensure that you do it over low heat (whether in a double-boiler or in microwave) and stir often. Once 2/3 of the chocolate is melted, remove it from heat or microwave, and keep stirring until the remaining chunks of chocolate are melted.
3) Honeycomb degenerates quickly in humid weather. Make sure to store them immediately after making, in an airtight container with food-grade desicants, or they will degrade into a sticky mess within minutes.