The magic of Cinder Toffee
The thought and taste of cinder toffee and treacle toffee take me back to bonfire nights from my child hood when I would make it with my gran, and we would be allowed sparklers and sing songs "Bonfire night, the stars are bright, all the little angels are dressed in white".
One of the simplest and most fun sweets to make at home is cinder toffee, also known as honeycomb or sponge toffee. But be careful – this is burning hot!
To make cinder toffee you will need:
100g Fair trade caster sugar
3 tablespoons of golden syrup
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
Step 1 Mix the caster sugar and golden syrup together in a heavy bottomed pan large enough to accommodate the rising sugar when it bubbles up.
Step 2 Put the pan on a low heat stirring with a wooden spoon until all the sugar crystals have dissolved, at this point stop stirring and heat until 145-150C. Watch the pan very carefully from this point on – boiling it steadily at a fairly low heat until the mixture turns amber (it should be the colour of marmalade) – this will take approximately 15 minutes.
Once the syrup is boiling the temperature can be measured and the cooking stopped at the appropriate temperature. If the temperature goes too high we start to caramelise the sugar; breaking the sugar molecules apart generating both appealing colours and an increasing complexity of aromas and flavours. Heat too much and these aromas become bitter and the syrup burns.
And if you don't have a thermometer? There are various methods you can try. One of the simplest is by taking a small amount of the syrup and dropping it into a glass of cold water. Take the solidified drop out and observe its texture; the harder the texture the higher the temperature. For making cinder toffee you need the sugar to form a hard ball that cracks on contact with the cold water (referred to as the hard crack temperature).
Step 3 Add the bicarbonate of soda, take off the heat, and stir or whisk.
This is by far the most exciting stage, when your hot sugar syrup will bubble up like a volcano giving your honeycomb texture. But be careful, the mixture will be very hot and sticky. Bicarbonate of Soda is generally used in cake making to encourage the cake to rise. In this recipe it is mainly the heat of the sugar that causes the bicarbonate of soda to break down making your runny syrup bubble furiously. It is really important to make sure it is well mixed or else your honeycomb may taste a bit salty.
Step 4 Quickly pour the gooey bubbling mixture onto a baking tray covered with grease proof paper or greased foil.
We cool the mixture quickly by pouring it on to a baking tray.
a) using metal spoons;
b) stirring once all the sugar has dissolved; and
c) the presence of undissolved sugar crystals as all of these can induce crystallisation.
Step 5 Leave to cool (for about 2 hours). When cold, prise the toffee out of the tin and using a flat knife break it up into chunks. If it is difficult to release from the tin, hit it with a hammer! Then transfer to an air-tight container (or your mouth). Or you can cover it in chocolate and then eat it!
If you are like my childhood-self who could never leave a bag of sweets unfinished it is unlikely that you will want to store the beautiful golden cinder toffee for any period of time. If you have the willpower then storage is best done under dry conditions!