Hokey Pokey & Other Nonsense

No doubt some of you have visions of me working in an immaculate kitchen, flicking open my recipe books and smiling serenely - whipping up a recipe and taking a few quick photos and putting together a post. I’m all about realism so I thought I’d share with you how I ended up making Hokey Pokey today.

Clambering out of bed I looked out my window and this was what greeted me.

Spring is here with a vengeance and with it, the rain. I have a day at home today, a day to potter about, read books and flop around in my slippers if I wish to. It’s days like this that I make sure the house is cosy and there is often a hot cup of tea by my side. Breakfast time consisted of leisurely mouthfuls of wholegrain porridge topped with peaches and brown sugar, watching a youtube video on raised garden beds and Sopapillas and listening to a cat snoring gently beside me. Yes, my cat snores.

I contemplated doing this.

That seemed like too much effort. The granny squares would have to wait a little longer.

I ambled about the house a bit not really knowing how I was going to spend my morning. I’m not used to having huge amounts of free time. I picked up a cookbook that a friend sent me, there are so many things in it that I want to try. It’s a cookbook from the 1940’s; when low fat was not considered and gelatine ruled. Anything from peas to pineapple was suspended in wobbling, elaborate moulds. Cold jellied soups were in fashion and food was in layers, mosaics, stripes, swirls and ordered lines. If you had something to hide in a dish you tacked “surprise” on to the name of it. Tuna Surprise - meant there was most likely some leftover liver instead of tuna lurking under the sauce.

Housewives wore their ironed house dresses with neatly frilled aprons and bridge parties were the ultimate way to socialise. You were obligated to freshen yourself up before your hard working husband arrived home from work and all the children had to have their hair brushed and be productively occupied and waiting for the master of the house to come home. Kit walks in the door and is invariably asked to help with something or other. As for having a wife that is freshened up wearing her pearls and best apron? Well… lets just say it’s not going to happen any time soon in this house. Have a look at this - I have to tell you I am not going to make these recipes, but just on the off chance you ever need them, now you know I have them.

The 1940’s housewife knew how to cook everything - and I do mean everything. Reindeer Pot Roast anyone? There are a lot of lessons to be learned in this book about cooking from scratch. I suspect a 1940’s housewife would be horrified to see the things we buy at the supermarket, when all of them could be made at home more economically and no doubt they tasted better. Everything from noodles for soup to… umm roast squirrels.

I love this book, I’m going to be sharing more of it with you in the coming weeks. I wasn’t feeling the 40’s housewife vibe today though so I put the book down for another day.

The rain continued to pour down I didn’t want to go out and I had a hankering for something from my childhood. I’d been thinking about hokey pokey all week, wanting to make it, but not daring at the same time. You see, hokey pokey making is something I’ve never been able to get right - ever.

Hokey pokey is a candy that I made (badly) so many times in my childhood, I loved to see it puff up like it had a life of it’s own once the baking soda was added in.

Hokey pokey is known by many names - honeycomb candy, fairy food, angel food candy, sponge candy. It’s in Violet Crumble bars and also in Cadbury Crunchie bars. It’s the ingredient in New Zealand’s number one selling ice cream flavour. Hokey pokey ice cream.

It’s only got three ingredients so you’re fooled into thinking going to be a cinch to make. You’re wrong. So very wrong. Hokey pokey perfection is one of life’s challenges.

When I was little I would make this and eat it regardless, but it was always grainy, and slightly chewy or burnt. No golden shattering crumbling hokey pokey for me. I could never get it right. I decided was time to exorcise my hokey pokey demons.

I took a deep breath and headed into the kitchen to prepare myself for multiple failures. I don’t cope well with failure. I tend to get very petulant and my mouth forms into a small tight white line.. and .. well that’s another story. I looked through all my books and on the internet for the secrets to hokey pokey making - some people seemed to find it easy, others impossible to get right. I thought I’d start with what I knew.

First Trial - grainy - chewy - exactly as I remembered it. Strike 1.

You can see all the little sugar granules in this if you look closely. Not good.

Second Trial - I figured if I could get the sugar to dissolve before it boiled that would fix the graininess. I added a little water and only swirled the pot - no stirring - it fixed the graininess! But I did not cook it long enough - trying to avoid it burning I took it off the heat too soon. So it remained soft. Strike 2.

There’s a rogue blob of baking soda lurking there and you can just see it’s too soft. But no graininess this time. Progress.

Third Trial. By now my mouth is somewhat numb from a high sugar intake and I think some of my taste buds have died. I swapped in caster sugar to dissolve faster and resisted the urge to take it off the heat early, I didn’t add the water.

Success! Beautiful, golden hokey pokey! Not burnt. Not grainy and not chewy. I’ll share my secrets with you, so you don’t have to suffer through hokey pokey failure.

No Fail Hokey Pokey

  • 4 Tblspns caster/superfine sugar - do not substitute
  • 3 Tblspns Golden Syrup
  • 1 tspn Baking soda (sieved - you don’t want any small lumps)

Place your caster sugar in a saucepan along with the golden syrup. Place on the lowest heat possible on your stove top and heat gently swirling the pot occasionally.

Don’t stir it. Do not let it boil until the sugar has dissolved completely.

Once your sugar has dissolved leave it at the lowest heat setting and allow it to boil. Boil it for 4-6 minutes or longer if possible - smell it regularly to ensure that it is not burning - you all know what burning sugar smells like right? Swirl the saucepan occasionally. It’s going to look very bubbly like this.

Remove from the heat when you’ve left it there as long as you can without it burning - add in your tspn of baking soda and stir or whisk quickly to distribute. It will puff up and look like a golden cloud. Work quickly.

Tip on to a piece of baking parchment - do not spread it out - just leave it in a big lump. Wait until completely cool (about 20 minutes) before breaking into pieces and storing immediately in an airtight container. Left in the air it will be sticky in a short space of time.

Crunched up it looks like gold dust, sprinkle shards of it over desserts, coat it in chocolate, put chips of it into cakes and cookies or just eat it. It goes without saying that it’s amazing sprinkled on top of icecream. It has to be stored airtight, or it will get sticky very fast. The best way to keep it long term is to coat it in chocolate.

Finally I can make a hokey pokey I am proud of. Also - the sun is shining.