Are you wondering what is that? We won’t keep it a secret for too long… This mysterious confection will be the subject of our new article!
This confection goes by many names… Some call it honeycombs, others hokey like, others cinder toffee… In our new, sweet article we will call it honeycomb, because that suits us best! We will learn what honeycomb is, find its names and versions around the world, unravel the magic behind its preparation and make our own honeycomb with fir honey, in two variations, with fresh oregano, and chocolate with fleur de sel (salt).
Honeycomb is a simple confection made thanks to a magical -or chemical for the less dreamy- reaction. To make honeycomb we must prepare a caramel with sugar, golden syrup and water and as soon as it reaches the right temperature we must pour a spoonful of baking soda… The mixture bubbles and when after cooling and stabilising it becomes a candy that looks like a honeycomb.
Honeycomb’s history is another sweet mystery… According to Σύμφωνα με την εγκυκλοπαίδεια The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani, toffee or taffy is a candy made of sugar, butter and other ingredients that gains chewy texture and great elasticity thanks to the cooking of its ingredient. The British name toffee or toffy possibly originates from the cheap tafia drink, a rum made with molasses that was used to flavor candy. Towards the end of the 19th century there was a trend among the young to meet and have candy pull parties where they would pull the elastic toffee.
We, unfortunately couldn’t find any information on when baking soda met caramel to make cinder toffee of honeycomb. Let’s see, though, the chemistry -or magic as we previously said- behind this impressive confection.
In order to make honeycomb you must first prepare a caramel. Most recipes we found call for sugar and golden syrup or corn syrup, which are inverted sugar syrups. In The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer we read that this means that an acid has been added to them. Thanks to that, these syrups don’t harden and don’t crystallise. They are used in preparations involving heating sugar, such as caramel, sorbet and Italian meringue, for their quality of preventing sugar from recrystallised. Glucose syrup has the same ability, which is an ingredient more easily found on the Greek market. These is why we use those syrups in making honeycomb.
In our recipe we substituted golden syrup for fir honey, for flavor and aroma, and it came out wonderful! After all, how do you make a honeycomb without a little honey? We learned that honey consists of fructose and glucose, having a similar composition to inverted sugar syrups, with the only difference being that it is naturally prepared, while the other syrups are artificial.
As for the other confection’s ingredient, baking soda, at a scientific website we read that when adding baking soda -sodium bicarbonate being its scientific name- to caramel, the mixture’s temperature causes the breakdown of sodium bicarbonate and the release of carbon dioxide bubbles. The bubbles make the sugar mixture expand. When it cools, it remains in this form and this way the confection obtains its cellular form.
The chemical reaction that takes place is an impressive experiment, which impresses young and old alike. It just needs attention, because the caramel has a very high temperature (150 ° C) and when it foams it is dangerous to burn. You must make your caramel in a deep pot, and of course if there are small children in the house they should see the experiment carefully and from a safe distance!
Are there honeycomb variations around the world? Their differences are mainly related to its name, but we have also found various interesting variations of its appearance. The name honeycomb, according to Wikipedia, is used in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and Ohio, USA. The name cinder toffee is often found in the UK.
In Norther Ireland there is a similar confection named Yellowman, a chewy candy with a shiny yellow colour.
In Wisconsin, USA, the dessert we are studying is called Angel food candy or Fairy food candy. Their difference is the chocolate coating and the fact that it is a beloved, traditional Christmas dessert.
In Scotland the confection goes by the name puff candy, while in Massachusetts by the similar name old fashioned puff. For the residents of the states of Maine, Washington, Oregon, Utah, California and Michigan it looks more like foam than honeycomb, since it is called sea foam. In other states it is called sponge candy, while in Canada sponge toffee.
Honeycomb has also reached Asia! In South Korea it is called dalgona or ppopgi. Its appearance is a bit more childish, a disk with imprinted designs attached to a stick, like a lollipop.
The Japanese make karumeyaki. The Japanese variation is cooked in a bizarre way, inside a giant ladle!
In New Zealand it is called hokey pokey and one will find it also in ice cream flavor, the hokey pokey ice cream with candy pieces in vanilla ice cream. As for the name, do you think that its first creators danced hokey pokey? Not unlikely at all…
In fact, we read that the name hokey pokey was widely used in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the UK to describe ice cream sold by street vendors or hokey pokey men. The term was first recorded in the United Kingdom in 1884 and in the eastern United States in 1886.
It is said that the sellers, mainly immigrants of Italian origin, used to shout “Gelati, ecco un poco!” which means “ice cream, here’s some” and hence the name hokey pokey, although this has not been historically confirmed. However, the simultaneous appearance of the term on both sides of the Atlantic shows that it was possibly brought by Italian immigrants.
Coming back to today, in modern pastry honeycomb gets included as an element in restaurant dishes and original creations.
Well, okay, we have probably convinced you by now that it’s worth doing your little sweet experiment too!
Ingredients for the honeycomb
|Baking soda||1 tbs|
|Vanilla powder||1 capsule|
How to make honeycomb
Start by preparing a caramel. Pour the honey, sugar, vanilla powder and water into a saucepan (it must be deep because later the caramel will foam!) and stir until the sugar melts, on medium heat so that the caramel doesn’t burn.
It’s a good idea to use a thermometer -we use a simple kitchen thermometer, it may not be accurate, but it does its job more or less!- since our candy must reach 150°C. If you don’t have one and want to make your attempt, try to judge by eye!
Once the caramel gets a nice color and reaches 150°C, carefully pour in the baking soda, stir quickly with a silicone spatula and see the magic unfold in front of our eyes! Immediately pour the mixture into a silicone mold (so that it doesn’t stick) or into a pan lined with parchment paper.
Now you can decorate the surface -we decorated half of it with fresh oregano leaves. On the other half, as soon as it cooled down a bit, we poured melted couverture and sprinkled with fleur de sel (salt). The honeycomb must be hard and shiny on the face, and crisp inside.
If your honeycomb comes out chewy, it means that you probably added the baking soda too early. Next time, wait a little longer! To clean the saucepan, in which the remnants of the preparation will have petrified, pour in hot water and they will melt immediately.
We will close with a wish: may the days of all of us be as sweet as honey! The difficult time we are going through is an opportunity to appreciate the little things that in the end are the sweetest of all!