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Friday, 20 December 2013

Blogmas #4: Christmas Treats!

I gave up giving out Christmas cards a few years ago. Not because I’m against them: I love when mum sends them to long-time friends and family and we get them back, often with little snippets of news or even photographs. But for me, writing out cards for my school friends meant only one thing: someone would be forgotten. As I’m sure you all know, it was never anything personal... it’s just always so hard to remember all those names! It’s also a worry sometimes to know who to give a present, and who a card... Then there’s the horrible moment when someone who you’ve spoken to maybe twice gives you one and you have to just go “Oh... thank you!” and sort of drift awkwardly away into the nearest crowd, or even better, crater full of hot lava...

So instead, a few years ago, I began to bake treats to give out to everyone at school. This way, nobody got left out and there was a little Christmas treat for each one of my friends, and for anyone who wanted one. I’ve been doing gingerbread for the past few Christmases, but each time I tend to forget how absolutely frustrating the sticky dough is and get into a huge exasperating pickle every December. So this year I tried something that went down just as well, if not better. So well, in fact, that I decided to post the recipe here for all the people who asked about it!

Christmas Honeycomb

I got the idea from Nigella, whose video can be viewed here , and tweaked it to make it a little more special. Here’s what I used to make a supply for some individual presents as well as a big tin for friends to dip into.

Of course, this isn’t really honeycomb—it’s basically like a Crunchie bar, except homemade and therefore superior in every way. Your friends will be delighted to receive it as a treat.

200g sugar (just normal white granulated sugar)
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 teaspoons baking soda
A baking tray covered with greaseproof paper (baking parchment in Ireland)
Chocolate and flaked almonds (optional)

1)      Place the sugar, syrup, honey and vanilla into a heavy-bottomed saucepan (the same kind used for my crème patissiere)
2)      Stir it together (don’t panic about this, just give it a bit of a mix) and then put on a high heat. It’s important not to stir after this point! Just have faith it’ll all come right in the end.
3)      The sugar will begin to bubble, at which point turn down the heat.
4)      Keep an eye on it till all the sugar is liquid, bubbling away.
5)      Add in the baking soda and begin to beat with a fork. The mixture will bubble up in a glorious golden cloud.
6)      Just as it begins to expand over the top of your saucepan, take it off the heat and pour the mix onto the baking tray.
7)      It should now resemble a Crunchie!
I added a little too much baking soda to this batch and I swear it was ALIVE. 

8)      Leave to set for about two hours. (Warning: at NO point should you touch the sugar as it gets EXTREMELY hot. I know it’s tempting, but STOP).
9)      Next, you can smash it up into smithereens (the Irish of which, incidentally, is smidiríni, in case you were wondering...)
10)   Melt some chocolate in a Bain Marie (do so by placing a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of boiling water). I used half dark, half milk. I found the milk was tastier to me, but the dark looked gorgeous against the gold honeycomb. Dip the pieces in and put them on another sheet of baking parchment.
11)   At this point you could sprinkle on some flaked almonds. I fund this yummy, but lotts of people didn’t like nuts, so probably leave this step out if you’re catering for lots of people.
12)   Leave them to rest in a cool place till the chocolate solidifies (probably overnight).
13)   Either pack them into little tissue paper parcels for special friends, or put them all in a tin for everyone to fight over!

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