A Bit of Science & a Bite of Magic — Fairy Food

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When I was in school, I wasn’t particularly fond of science. It just seemed tedious and precise, and I could have cared less about velocity and volume and weight and centrifical force and the periodic table, blah, blah, blah. I knew that if I dropped something, it fell. Don’t mix bleach and ammonia. You can eat chalk. Let someone else have fun with the whos, whats, wheres, and whys; I’ll take music and art class, thank you very much. I might lose at Trivial Pursuit because of my lack of interest in science, but that’s the way it goes. If you’re going to lose, you might as well make it big, right?

But then there’s cooking and baking and all things kitchen-related. Ultimately, it’s all science at work. If you pay attention to the details (mostly), you’re going to get it right. If you don’t, well… explosions aren’t limited to the confines of the science lab.

What’s awesome is that, in a way, I can ignore the science. I can simply measure and stir, mix and sift to my heart’s content and come up with something simply edible and utterly delicious. I don’t have to think about how the baking powder reacts with the eggs and salt to create lift in my baked goods; I can simply pretend that there’s a little miracle that happens in my oven in a matter of 30 minutes or so. But then there are some moments when you see science at work and you can’t help but marvel at the results.

Take fairy food, for instance. It seems that fairy food is one of those treats not widely known but deeply loved by those who are familiar with it. Some know it by other names like angel food, sponge candy, and honeycomb. This candy starts as a typical boiled candy with sugar and corn syrup brought up to 300 degrees. But what happens when you remove it from the heat and add the baking soda is pure science and a little magic. It bubbles and foams and multiplies in volume and hardens as you pour it onto the prepared pan. And because of that baking soda, what could be a hard tooth-cracking concoction becomes this light, crispy, sweet candy that you break into pieces and smother in chocolate.

Upon sharing it with people, I often hear comments like, My grandma used to make this! and I haven’t had this in years! It’s fun when you can share in a piece of someone’s fond memories and give them a sweet bit of nostalgia. It goes well with an evening of Trivial Pursuit, too. 🙂

Fairy Food

While I remember my grandma to be the queen of baked goods, I remember her sister-in-law — my great-aunt Dot — as the queen of homemade candy. Peanut clusters, peanut brittle, and fairy food are some of my favorites. I’ve been blessed enough that she shared this recipe with me.

  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 cups light corn syrup (I’ve also used dark corn syrup with no noticeable difference)
  • 4 rounded tsp. baking soda
  • 2-3 bags chocolate chips, melted

 Mix sugar and syrup in a 3-4 qt. pan.  Boil over medium heat about 45-60 minutes or until candy thermometer reads 300 degrees or hard crackle (I don’t know that it’s ever taken this long to get it to 300, but it’s the recipe she gave me, so that’s what I share).  Remove from heat.  Immediately add baking soda.  Mix well.  Pour onto well-greased heavy aluminum foil (use baking sheet to support the foil).  Cool.  Break into pieces.  Coat with melted chocolate.

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