Blog number 2 is a go….
One of our most popular products, year round is Cinder Toffee (Honeycomb). It has very simple ingredients – Sugar, Glucose, Honey and Bicarbonate of Soda. That’s it. We then dip it in milk or dark chocolate or leave it “Naked”. At Christmas we take the milk chocolate cinder toffee and roll it in sherbet Coal Dust, so the chunks look like lumps of Coal.
So, if you’ve been naughty at Christmas you get a lump of Coal in your stocking, but this Coal is delicious…
Whilst the ingredients are simple, the technique of making it/cooking it is far from simple. Or should I say, it is very simple, but incredibly tricky/sensitive to make well. The honey needs to go in at exactly the correct temperature, otherwise it doesn’t integrate fully. It needs to come off the heat at a precise temperature, otherwise its burnt and it needs to be left to cool for the perfect amount of time before you add the bicarb, or otherwise the bubbles are too small and you’re liable to break your teeth. Wait too long to break it up and its goes incredibly sticky too.
When Fortnum & Mason were looking for a new supplier of Cinder Toffee back in 2010, they didn’t approach us initially as they were worried we wouldn’t be able to handle the volumes required, but Elinor (my wife and co-founder of G&S) got wind of the fact they were approaching other chocolatiers and decided to give it a go. The first batch she made was perfect, we sent it off and ours came out top in their tasting – Great news!!
Except… as highlighted above Cinder Toffee is tricky and for the next few months we struggled to replicate that first batch. It was either burnt or overly sticky or wouldn’t set. Obviously we didn’t tell them that, but packaging was being designed, formats agreed etc. etc. So we had some time to get it right. (If anybody from F&M is reading this… It was never in doubt that we could replicate that first batch, honest ;-)). We got there in the end though
I make most of it now, and the recipe/technique above is not being passed on anytime soon. We think our cinder toffee stands up against any other version (whatever it might be called) and we would take the Pepsi Challenge (look it up kidz) against anybody else’s.
I can’t talk about Cinder Toffee, especially at this time of year without talking a bit more about our Christmas Coal. It was Fortnum’s again who approached us about this one. Not sure where the idea had come from exactly but they were certainly looking for a “solution” to sell lumps of Coal. Elinor (she is the clever one) immediately thought about rolling cinder toffee in sherbet and again once when we sent the first sample to F&M, they seemed very excited. It was an instant hit at F&M and with us in Henley and even featured in the Saturday Telegraph magazine a few years back. It’s still on the telegraph website, but you need to register to read, so I won’t include a link.
We restrict it as a Christmas product only but every summer we get more than one email saying “Can I get some Coal…” or “what’s the earliest date Coal will be available…” It’s great that it’s so popular still, but I really think we will keep as a Christmas product. I think its rarity is a virtue. We can’t dig for Coal all year. What’s the expression? “Leave them wanting more…” That kind of works, right?
Until next time.