This candy is known by many names as I've discovered while researching recipes. Here, in the Milwaukee area, we call it Fairy Food. Other parts of the country call it Sponge Candy, Puff Candy, Hokey Pokey, Cinder Toffee, Molasses Puffs and Sea Foam. Wow! That's a lot of names for the same candy! Basically, Fairy Food tastes like puffed and crispy sweet molasses wrapped up in good chocolate. If you knew how expensive it is to buy good Fairy Food, you would know why I was on a mission to try and make it myself.
The making of Fairy Food is really a miracle of science. Water, sugar, and corn syrup are brought to a boil and simmered until golden amber. Then, baking soda is added and quickly stirred in. The volcano that erupts in the pan when the baking soda is stirred in is what creates the marvelous sponge-like texture of this candy.
Making this candy was definitely a labor of love for me! The first batch I burned. The second batch turned out tough and flat but the third time finally was a charm! Luckily, the ingredients to make Fairy Food are inexpensive - sugar, corn syrup, water, baking soda and a little honey. The only costly item is using good quality chocolate to coat the Fairy Food but you will only use the chocolate when the candy has turned out well. The candy should be crisp and delicate when it breaks.
Above is what a good batch of candy should look like.The candy should be about one inch thick with tiny holes, creating the spongy look. Don't be fooled by the word sponge, however. The candy should be crisp and delicate when you break it or bite into it.
This is NOT what good Fairy Food should look like (batch number 2)...
There are a few tips I can give you. Don't make Fairy Food on a humid day and don't make it in the summer because the candy could lose its crispness and become tough and chewy. That is why you can only buy Fairy Food from the end of September until April or May here. Also, make sure you have all of your ingredients and prepared sheet pay ready ahead of time as you will need to pour the candy out of the pan quickly once you mix in the baking soda.
And also, don't be afraid of failure. Sometimes, it makes us better people - with good candy to share during the holidays :)
I've adapted my recipe from several sources, working with different combinations until I got the result I liked best.
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Fairy Food Candy
After having some 'bloom' show up on my chocolate the day following coating my candy, I found this useful YouTube video on how to temper chocolate. You will again need a candy thermometer, a step I did not take when I tempered mine, likely leading to the 'bloom' the next day. There are many online instructions available on how to temper chocolate. I thought this one was very comprehensive.
(Adapted from Several Recipes)
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cups light corn syrup
½ cup water
1 Tbsp Honey
1 tbsp baking soda (sifted)
Melted dark or milk chocolate
Line a half sheet baking pan with sides with parchment paper.
Near the stove, have ready a small bowl of water and a pastry brush, the 1 tablespoon of honey in a small dish, the sifted baking soda in a small dish, an oven mitt and a long wooden spoon.
In a medium sauce pan with high sides (I used a 3.5 quart saucepan), mix sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water together. Stir over over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Clip on candy thermometer. Do not stir after it boils and you have clipped the thermometer onto the saucepan. Wash down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan Heat to 250F on the candy thermometer.
When the temperature reaches 250, drizzle the 1 T of honey evenly over the top of the syrup and gently swirl the pan. Continue to cook the syrup to 275-300 - until golden-amber colored (or the first puff of light smoke that rises from the pan). You do not want to burn the syrup so watch carefully.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit for about 1-2 minutes until most of the bubbling subsides. Put an oven mitt on the hand that will hold the pan and sprinkle the sifted baking soda evenly over the top of the syrup. Stir quickly, thoroughly and vigorously with a long wooden spoon (the mixture will rise to almost the top of the pan). Stir until all of the baking soda is well incorporated and you don’t see any white spots. Pour the mixture immediately into the prepared sheet pan. Let the mixture spread out on its own and do not tap or try to spread it as this will eliminate the spongy texture that was just created.
Allow to cool completely, about 1-2 hours. At this point, you may break the hardened candy into pieces or score the candy with a serrated knife and snap the pieces into neater squares.
To coat candy with chocolate, melt about 6 ounces of chopped chocolate (either dark or milk - your preference) in a microwavable bowl or in a double boiler until just melted. Add 3 more ounces of chocolate and stir in. Keep stirring until the new chocolate is completely melted but don't put back in the microwave or back on the heat, unless absolutely necessary.
Line a small cookie sheet with parchment. Drop pieces of candy into the bowl and swirl around with a spoon until well coated. Lift out with a tongs allowing much of the chocolate to drip back in the bowl. Place on the parchment-lined pan.
When the pan is full, place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes or just until chocolate is hardened. Remove from refrigerator and store in a cookie jar or other non-airtight container.