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Vacuum-Set Sugar "Honeycomb"?


Seattle Food Geek
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I have tried and failed several times to create a dish that I've had in mind for some time now. I'm looking for advice on how to achieve the texture I'm after.

I want to make a hard-set sugar sponge with large (1/4") bubbles, resembling a honeycomb. I don't care about having the bubbles perfectly aligned - rather, I care about creating a texture that is very lightweight but brittle. I've seen techniques for aerated chocolate that result in the texture I want, but I haven't been able to apply them to sugar.

What I've tried so far is melting wet sugar until it reaches hard-crack, then quickly adding it to a CO2 siphon, charging it, shooting it out into a vacuum canister, vacuuming to increase bubble size, and letting it set up. I always get stuck at the "shooting it out" part, because the sugar is far too thick to be expelled through my siphon. Usually, I just end up with a bunch of sugar laminated to the inside of my siphon and 2 days of soaking to clean.

I've also tried heating isomalt and blowing bubbles into it. This was fun but futile.

Is there a way that I can thin out the sugar, but still retain enough surface tension to hold bubbles, and still set up brittle when it cools? Or, is there some other way to achieve this texture with some type of sugar?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

SCOTT HEIMENDINGER
Co-Founder, CMO

Sansaire

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How funny, I made honeycomb yesterday and afterwards I was thinking about using a vacuum to make the air pockets bigger... next time...

As the others pointed out, all you need to do is add some bicarb soda, no need to worry about siphons. If you google around for honeycomb recipes (aka hokey pokey) you'll find a few variations- some are sugar only, some include Golden Syrup and/or Honey for flavour, and the instructions for boiling vary too. But the recipes in the link Matthew linked to above look more promising than anything I discovered through Google yesterday.

Getting the right amount of brittleness will come down to the temperature you take the syrup to before adding the soda, if it's too low then it will sink down again before it hardens and you'll end up with something more like soft toffee.

And one piece of advice - when it cools completely, it will stick to absolutely anything like concrete. So make sure you remove it from the tin and peel off any paper/foil you might have used while it is solid but still warm.

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Isomalt can cause indigestion if consumed in large amounts, but have you thought about an espresso steamer? Or would the pockets be wet?

The perfect vichyssoise is served hot and made with equal parts of butter to potato.

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Isomalt can cause indigestion if consumed in large amounts, but have you thought about an espresso steamer? Or would the pockets be wet?

I think the suggested pulling a vacuum on a sponge candy is going to be the best bet here. Shooting steam into a container of super-hot sugar doesn't sound like a good plan to me even if the moisture wasn't a factor... which it would be.

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just watched an episode of Heston Blumenthals 'In Search of Perfection' where they made aerated chocolate, he just put it through a cream sifon and then vacuum sealed it in a container with high edges, but he stopped it short, because if you vacuum for too long it will collapse on itself.

The perfect vichyssoise is served hot and made with equal parts of butter to potato.

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I actually have a set of vacuum canisters made for the FoodSaver that work very well for this type of thing. The problem I've had in previous tests was dealing with the sugar's extreme temperature and narrow temperature window for workability - too hot and it won't hold the bubbles, too cold and it won't expand. Perhaps I could hold the sugar in the goldilocks zone in a vacuum canister dunked in a sous vide bath, then slowly lower the temperature so the sugar sets up firm.

I'm intrigued by vacuum-set techniques. In fact, I built my own makeshift vacuum oven - a hotel pan with thick acrylic lid, an airtight seal, and a vacuum pump. I can put steel cookware in the pan, vacuum out all the air, and place the whole thing over an induction burner. The steel cookware gets hot and heats the food, all the while under vacuum. The same principle might work with very strong infrared heating elements, though I worry about melting my acrylic lid, since acrylic does absorb a lot of infrared energy (just hold a piece of acrylic over an electric burner - it will melt quickly).

Anyhow, poor man's vacuum oven :-)

SCOTT HEIMENDINGER
Co-Founder, CMO

Sansaire

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You could try canning jars, there are regular and wide-mouth attachments for FoodSaver, and the jars are meant to be boiled for sealing so they can withstand higher temps than the canisters.

This is not a bad idea, but I can tell you from experience you'd rather go with the wide-mouth canning jars; getting hot foamy sponge toffee base into the regular ones is messy, and it tends to get all over the lip of the jar. Also, you'll want to preheat the jars themselves, or else the candy will harden on contact, and you won't get the expansion you're looking for. Of course, preheating them may make the FoodSaver lids harder to use. I was trying just by putting the jar into one of the FoodSaver canisters, with a towel in the bottom for insulation.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Heating shouldn't make the FoodSaver harder to use; the seal is made with canning jar lids, the FoodSaver Jar Sealer slips over the canning jar lid.

Preheating is a good idea, these can be kept in a water bath or on a heating pad as long as the room temp isn't too cold.

I always use wide-mouth jars, it IS easier. The smaller ones, quilted 8oz, are the easiest to get things out of because the sides are straight. This size is probably too small for you, unless maybe you want to use circles of that diameter as the finished product.

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