Chocolate “Crunchie” Bites (Or, Honeycomb/Cinder Toffee)

Apparently, these go by several names. I’ve always known them as “that bit inside a crunchie bar” or honeycomb (no, not the bee stuff!). They can also be called cinder toffee, and, it seems, “hokey pokey” which I thought was a kid’s party song, but oh well.

I actually bought some chocolate-coated-honeycomb last week at the West Midlands Vegan Festival which inspired me to make this! I’ve made it before as a child, with my mum, but not for a long time! It’s actually pretty simple if you make sure you have everything set up already.

You only need five ingredients – sugar, golden syrup, bicarbonate of soda, and chocolate. Some people use a sugar thermometer, but you don’t need one – I don’t have one! You need to prepare a bit beforehand: Get your tray that you want your honeycomb to go into ready – I used a 10×15 inch roasting tin. Line it with baking paper and then grease that with a bit of margarine or oil – you don’t want the paper sticking to the toffee!

Next, get all your ingredients ready, except the chocolate. Once you get started, it happens fairly quickly. I’ve put together a little picture guide to how you make it!

Chocolate Crunchie Bites

Ingredients

  • 200g golden syrup
  • 400g sugar
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 heaped tsp bicarb of soda
  • 400g chocolate

Directions

First, mix together your golden syrup, sugar, and vinegar in a large saucepan over a very low heat. Stir this with a wooden spoon until it is melting and is more liquid than solid.  Note: It’s good to use a wooden spoon as the sugar gets very hot, and a silicone/plastic spoon might not be able to handle it. Similarly, a metal spoon will get too hot and the handle will burn your hands!

Once the sugar has dissolved, remove your spoon, and turn the heat up. and let the mixture come to a boil. You need to boil this until it darkens in colour, which takes about 5 minutes depending on your stove. The sugar needs to reach the “hard crack” stage, this is 150C if you are using a thermometer. If not an easy way to test is by getting a jug of ice water ready. I did not have any ice (it’s October, why would I have ice?) so used frozen peas instead to cool my water down, ha!

Using a long fork or spoon, dip the handle carefully into the sugar mixture and then immediately put it into the ice water. Give it 10 seconds and then pull it out and test it. If the mixture is hot enough, it’ll have set solid and you’ll be able to “snap” it off like a boiled sweet. If it’s not and it’s just sticky, keep on cooking your mixture!

At this point, make sure your bicarb of soda is ready! If you let your sugar cook too long it will burn and taste nasty.

Once your mixture is hot enough, quickly add the bicarb of soda and mix very quickly. The mixture will soon increase in size a lot. You don’t want to mix too much – just enough to get all the bicarb stirred in so you don’t get any nasty packets.

Immediately pour the mixture into your prepared tin, and set aside on the countertop to cool.

You want to clean your saucepan now. The easiest way to do this is by boiling the kettle and filling the saucepan with boiling water. Then, the sugar will melt and you can scrub it off quickly.

Leave the honeycomb to set for at least 2 hours, until the top is hard to touch. Then prepare your chocolate. Break it into pieces, and melt it – I did mine in the microwave.

Remove the honeycomb from the tin. It should have shrunk a little while it cooled. Make sure it’s all set – if it’s not, leave it a while longer until it is.

Next, break it into bitesized pieces! Either just smash it with your hands, or use a serrated knife (like a bread knife) to help you cut it. Taste some if you like, it’s nice!

The next step is to dip your honeycomb in the melted chocolate. I did not get a photo of this as it was rather messy. But, use a spoon and a fork to dip, and place it on a tray in the fridge to set. Once it’s set – you’re all done, chocolate crunchie bites!

Keep in the fridge so the chocolate does not melt.

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West Midlands Vegan Festival

Last weekend was the West Midlands Vegan Festival, held in Wolverhampton Civic Centre, which turns out to only be an hours drive from us – so we decided to go along and have a look! It was the first vegan festival I’ve been to – sure I’ve been to vegan restaurants and shops, but never a festival!

It was a nasty, rainy day, and parking was admittedly difficult (we payed £6.70 for a 4 hour stay!) but once we got to the Civic Centre, it was lovely and warm and we soon dried off.

The event started at 10am and we arrived probably about 10:30 and it was already packed full! There were people in the streets of Wolverhampton holding signs pointing to the “Vegan Festival” so I’m sure that attracted more! At just £1 per person entry, it was great value.

Note: I apologise for the poor quality of the photos – I only had my phone with me!

First of all we stopped off at the Change Kitchen stall and my husband bought a samosa – for just £1 again! I found things were surprisingly affordable at this festival, I suppose I still had the idea that vegan food must be expensive, but it wasn’t for the most part. We then went on and I, being still cold, got a cup of hot Vanilla Chai Tea – which was milk, sugar, and caffeine free, but still so tasty!

I bought some makeup from the Beauty Without Cruelty stand which was great to see – so many vegan cosmetic companies seem to be only available online, and I hate not being able to try products first!

We stopped by the Harper’s Bizarre Candles stall – I won’t say too much about this because I have to keep some of it secret from prying eyes, but their candles have the most amazing scent! I can’t recommend them enough. We also went to the Handmade By Erica Jayne jams & chutneys stall, which had a little taster section where you could test the lovely food!

Next, we bought a box of cupcakes from Care for a Cupcake?, which I have to say were absolutely delicious! We shared them with Greg’s family who also liked them.

We bought some cashew cheese from a stall called “Annie Mae” and it was lovely – the person behind the stall was also very helpful with letting me know the ingredients of the cheese when I asked because of my intolerances!

Not the greatest photo, sorry!

We also stopped at the Vegan Store website’s stall where we bought chocolates! Honeycomb toffee and some iChoc white chocolate – mm.

Next it was lunch time! We were so spoilt for choice here. There were so many stalls selling food and I wished I could have tasted them all! We actually bought some samosas and pakoras to take home from the Centre for Conscious Awareness because we couldn’t miss out!

But in the end, we decided to go with a hot dog from Shambu’s, which was slathered in lovely onions, mustard, and ketchup, and a “Loaded Nacho Plate” from Mex It Up – nachos, beans, pulled jackfruit, salsa, cheese sauce, and jalapenos!

The food was absolutely delicious and I wish I could have it every day!

After that, we headed home. And got soaked in the rain on the way to the car, but it was well worth it!

So my recommendation is – if you have a vegan festival anywhere near you? Go to it!

Rhubarb & Custard Swirl Cake

The weather is starting to get cold, the evenings are drawing in, it’s pretty conclusive – winter is on its way. In some ways, this is great! Think of cosy evenings in warm jumpers curled up with a hot chocolate….or of snowy landscapes looking beautiful…lovely, right? But at the moment, I don’t have any of those. It’s just cold, slightly rainy, and I miss summer! So, I decided to make something with summery ingredients. I would say I planned ahead for this very occasion, and kept the rhubarb in the freezer intentionally, but in reality I just had too much and so froze some anyway! But really, freezing produce is a great way to have seasonal foods at not-so-seasonal times!

Rhubarb and custard is such a great classic flavour and I decided to combine them in one cake! I recently discovered that custard powder is actually vegan, which is great because if you make it up with vegan milk you can use it just as you would regular custard – great on puddings and desserts! But this time I just sifted the powder into the cake itself to lend its taste.

This stuff is vegan!

Since my rhubarb was frozen, I defrosted it first (I did this in the microwave but you could do it in the fridge overnight if you’d rather) and then drained off the water. You don’t want it to be too wet otherwise the cake just gets soggy – not good! I then put it in a saucepan with a little golden syrup (use brown sugar if you don’t have golden syrup) and vanilla, and let cook until it broke down. It’ll break down into a sort of compote which is what you want it to be!

before cooking

Then I made up the cake batter, and poured that into a pan – I used the same tin I make brownies in, which is rectangular, but you could use a round pan if you like – and made the “swirl”.

This is pretty easy – just take a spoonful of the compote, drop it in the cake batter, and using the spoon swirl it about a bit. Don’t worry if it looks a little messy – it still looks great when baked!

Rhubarb & Custard Swirl Cake

  • Servings: makes 1 traybake
  • Print

Ingredients

    for the cake:
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 2 tbsp custard powder
  • pinch salt
  • 100g vegan butter, melted (or use 100ml oil)
  • 90g brown sugar
  • 75g white sugar
  • 250ml milk of choice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • for the rhubarb:

  • 300g rhubarb (if frozen, defrosted and drained)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup

Directions

    Preheat the oven to 180C/360F
  1. First, make the rhubarb compote. In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb, vanilla, and syrup over a low heat. Cook until the rhubarb breaks down and becomes like a compote – about 15 minutes for frozen rhubarb, more if fresh.
  2. Next, make the cake. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt, and custard powder into a large bowl.
  3. In a jug, measure out the milk and add the vinegar. Leave for a minute or two so it curdles.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugars. Whisk in the milk and vanilla.
  5. Slowly add the wet mixture to the dry one. Stir thoroughly.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into your tin and smooth.
  7. Add the rhubarb compote in spoonfuls, swirling it through the top of the cake.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Walking in Matlock

So, Vegan MoFo 2015 is over for the year! You can see all my posts this year here if you’d like to re-visit them. It’s been great reading everybody’s blogs and seeing all the great recipes posted!

Now that the month of food is over, I shall make a post pertaining to the “Walks” part of this blog’s name!

We moved to Derby a few months ago and this leaves us in the great position of not being very far from some lovely walking areas. We decided on Sunday to drive up to Matlock and go for a short walk there.

The River Derwent

Matlock itself appeared to have some sort of fair going on so we swiftly left the town and found a route by the river. It was part of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way which is a 55 mile trail which begins at the Ladybower Reservoir right in the heart of the Peak District, and ends near Shardlow at the edges of Derbyshire, where the Derwent joins the Trent.

Our first view in Matlock however was the impressive Riber Castle, which stands high on the hills above the town and yet is somewhat incongruously flanked by a crane and building supplies. It is not open to the public, and from what I can tell is in the process of being converted into apartments.

Riber Castle

The first part of the trail was not particularly interesting being just a small path by the roadside, however we quickly came across a train station and just missed a steam train puffing by!

Matlock Riverside Station

The station appeared to be small and unstaffed and the train did not stop there. The route then turned into woodlands and countryside which was particularly beautiful in its autumnal colours.

Me in the woods.

The path soon opened up further into fields and countryside full of sheep and other farm animals!

Sheep in the fields

Finally, before we turned back, we came across a lovely orchard full of many different apples which made me wish I could jump over and sneak a few away! We stopped for a snack in one of the fields which the Derwent ran through, then turned back to Matlock!