I spent a lot of time cooking with my Mum when I was little. One of the most magical things we used to make was cinder toffee. As a child, realising I could recreate the middle of my favourite Crunchie bar was a revelation.
If you are wondering what cinder toffee is, you might know it as ‘honeycomb’ or, you may use the fabulous Kiwi name – ‘hokey pokey’. Even I cannot find any nutritional justification in making it, although you can at least use organic sugar when you make it at home.
The real reason it was so fun to make is because you get the bubbles inside the toffee is by adding bicarb of soda [baking soda] to the molten sugar and syrup. The syrup explodes and froths in a rather dangerous fashion that appeals to adrenaline junkie children no end. Of course, you need to be very careful when cooking with boiling sugar and children but a little common sense is all you need. In the run up to Thanksgiving I wanted to make something to take to a friends house to say thanks for hosting us. I asked my 3 year old if he wanted to make an explosion and, of course, he said yes.
To take the childhood recipe onto the next level I added sea salt to the toffee. I then dipped the cooled shards of toffee in Green and Blacks 70% dark chocolate and sprinkled them with Maldon salt. The day of the party both my boys napped at lunchtime – the first time they’ve napped together in 6 months so I got a bit carried away with the packaging and dug out a gorgeous vintage chocolate tin to serve them in.
One thing is to make sure that your bicarbonate of soda [baking soda] is pretty fresh, if it has been gathering dust in your cupboard for over a year it probably won’t have the oomph to make your toffee explode. I fell fowl of this and my toffee was distinctly lack lustre in the bubble department – it still tasted great though but it wasn’t quite as crumbly as it should have been.
The cinder toffee:
10 tablespoons of sugar (any old kind)
4 tablespoons of golden syrup [corn syrup]
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda [baking soda]
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 bars of dark chocolate – I used Green and Blacks 70%
around 1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
1. Generously grease a baking sheet [cookie sheet] or line it with a Silpat silicon sheet.
2. Melt the sugar and syrup in a high sided large saucepan over a low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up to medium and stand over it while it bubbles. You want to get it to the point where it is a rich, caramel gold colour. On my stove this whole section took around 8 minutes. Be careful not to go off and get distracted though as it will burn quickly.
3. Take the pan off the heat and carefully whisk in the bicarbonate of soda [baking soda]. Be really careful as the mixture will almost double in size in the pan – this is the exploding bit. If children are watching, make them stand back – I always tell my son to keep his hands on his head when I want him to keep his hands out of things!
4. Immediately pour the molten toffee onto your baking sheet – it is beyond hot so be careful again. Be sure to put the sheet somewhere out of the way of small hands while it cools. It will take around 40 minutes to really cool. Be sure not to let your children (or self) think they can lick the whisk clean – it too is stupidly hot.
5. When it is cool, break it into shards – very roughly 2 inches square. I find scissors help me get it into decent chunks as they half cut and half shatter it. It is your treat as the cook to dispose of any too small bits before anyone else gets to them.
6. Melt the broken up chocolate bars in the microwave for around 4 minutes, stirring every minute, until they are melted.
7. Set up your dipping station – I have the tray of toffee to my left, the melted chocolate in front of me and a clean tray with parchment on it to my right. Then I use two forks to dip the shards into the chocolate one by one. I hold the toffee on the top side of one fork then submerge it in the chocolate – still on the fork – then use the other fork to gently hold the top side of the dipped toffee while I give it a quick shake to lose any excess chocolate. Then I gently transfer it to the parchment – using the fork to push it off the holding fork. You’ll find your own way. It takes around 10 minutes to dip the whole batch.
8. Transfer the finished chocolates to the fridge to set up. After about 10 minutes, get them out and sprinkle them with Maldon salt. If you put it on the chocolate before then it just melts. After about 20 minutes they are ready to eat. Otherwise they need to stay in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them – they’ll sit happily for a week if you haven’t eaten them by then.