Thursday, April 12, 2012

Honeycomb – a Schoolgirl Crush that has Lasted and Lasted !

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I think many of my schoolmates will remember one of our science teachers – Mr Divine (uh huh!). Although he seemed ancient at the time, he was barely out of school himself and maybe that’s why he was among the few that were able to connect with a class of unruly 12 year-olds.
He set up experiments that interested us – distilling Poitín for instance, or manufacturing lipstick.  My favourite experiment seemed like alchemy to me – he combined a few simple ingredients, added heat, and made a huge bubbling mass of honeycomb. I think more than a few of us fell in love with Mr Divine that particular day.

While my schoolgirl crush on Mr Divine has long since disappeared, my love for this sweet treat has lasted and lasted.
For a sweet treat practically conjured out of thin air you will need...
200g caster sugar
100g honey
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon fine table salt
1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda 

1                  Line a 21cm (8”) square tin with non-stick parchment paper.
2                  Weigh the sugar and honey directly into a saucepan large enough for the mixture to expand up to 5 times its original volume. Add the water, vinegar and salt and heat gently until all the ingredients have melted together.
3                  Now, turn up the heat and let the mixture bubble without stirring (stirring can recrystalise sugar (although, feel free to give the saucepan the odd swirl if you like.) If you have a sugar thermometer it should reach ‘hard-crack’ (149° - 154°C or 300°F  - 310°F. If you are working by eye, let the mixture bubble until it is a dark golden honey colour. Do not go to answer the door. Do not pick up the phone. This stuff is hot and will burn the instant you take your eyes off it.

Do not pick up the phone! Do not answer the door! This stuff WILL burn.

4                  Have a whisk ready for the next step: Remove the saucepan from the heat, and quickly add the bicarbonate of soda. Give the mixture a quick stir to disperse the bicarbonate – it will foam up impressively. Quickly pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Resist the urge to spread it out as you’ll only pop the bubbles. It is self-leveling.
5                  Allow to cool – when nearly cool you can score it with a knife if you want to break it into regular shapes or simply break it into pieces when cold.  Store in an airtight container and use within 24 - 48 hours, particularly if the weather is humid.

Here's to the little guy who made it all possible!

While this honeycomb is rather good just as is, here are two more ways to enjoy it.
Melt 150 dark chocolate and give the cooled honeycomb a bath. Allow excess chocolate to drip off before letting the chocolately pieces set on non-stick parchment paper.
Take a tub of good vanilla ice cream out of the freezer and let it soften before stirring in a handful of finely chopped honeycomb and returning to the freezer to firm up.
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