Last week the lovely Stacie sent me this very thoughtful gift, with a beautiful card, audio book (seeing as reading is still a challenge for me) of A History of Hand Knitting, and a handful of lollies. (Thank you Stacie! You rock!)
I immediately searched online to see if anyone in Australia sold anything similar, but I haven't found anything. So the next stop was to find a recipe. I found this one, and gave it a try. The toffees ended up a little too chewy (ie tooth breaking!) and the tea flavour was very weak/non-existent. In the second batch I cooked the syrup to a slightly higher temperature, and got a better hard consistency. But the tea flavour was still too faint.
After several batches and various trials and tribulations, here is my final recipe. I hope you enjoy it too!
Jejune's Tea Candy
- Large heavy saucepan
- Metal spoon
- Candy thermometer (essential!!)
- Baking tray
- 1 cup white sugar
- 100 ml glucose syrup (115g) or light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup tea essence (recipe below)
This quantity makes a small batch, about 270g of candy. The recipe can easily be doubled or even quadrupled. NB : bigger batches will take longer to cook, a quadruple batch takes close to an hour to get to 164ºC (as opposed to 20 minutes for a small batch).
First of all, make the tea essence:
Put ~1/8 cup loose tea leaves, or 6 tea bags into a heatproof bowl or mug. I used regular black tea, but use whatever your favourite is!
Pour boiling water over - you need about 1/3 cup of liquid for the candy, so add at least 2/3 cup of boiling water (as the tea leaves will sop up a fair bit of the water). Let this mixture sit for at least 10 minutes. You can also boil it in the microwave for a few minutes to further concentrate the tea flavour. The stronger the better! Strain the tea leaves out just before you use it.
1. Place all ingredients (sugar, glucose syrup, tea essence) in the saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until all the sugar crystals are dissolved. Put the candy thermometer into the pan, so the base is sitting in the syrup.
2. Bring the syrup to the boil. This is a Thou Shalt Never Leave the Kitchen recipe ... you can do other stuff while the syrup boils (you know the dishes need washing), but do not leave it! The syrup should just be bubbling along nicely on medium heat. You don't need to stir it.
3. Use the pastry brush dipped in water to wash any stray crystals off the sides of the saucepan back into the mixture.
4. While the syrup boils, prepare the pan - you can line it with foil if you like (not essential). The main thing to do is grease the tin with a plain vegetable oil like canola or sunflower oil. You can also use mini muffin tins, candy forms, a gem scone tray, or other metal pans as the mood takes you.
5. Keep a close eye on the temperature! The magic number is 164ºC (330ºF). This will give you a hard crack candy, without burning the sugar. I found that while a plain syrup set well at 168º, when I added the tea essence at the start of cooking (rather than at the end, as per the original recipe I tried) 168º was too hot and burnt the candy.
From the start of cooking to reaching the end point of 164º takes me about 20 minutes (using a gas stove on medium heat). A quadruple batch will take close on an hour.
6. When the syrup reaches 164ºC, turn off the heat and gently pour the mixture into your prepared pan.
7. After about 5 minutes, score the candy with a sharp knife. The window of opportunity for scoring the candy is only about 5 minutes, before 10 minutes have passed. Use a pot holder to hold the tin, and be careful - the candy is still very hot! You don't need to cut all the way through to the tin, just press down to make grooves.
8. Leave the candy to cool completely, at least an hour. Then tip it out of the pan and break it up into cute little cushions. It should snap satisfyingly along the lines you scored.
9. Place in an attractive container, and either give as a gift (this batch is for my brother-in-law) or have as a treat in the pantry. They are very hard candies, like lollipops, good for sucking on.
Clean up is easy if you just let everything soak in hot water for a while, the hard candy will just dissolve away.
I'd love to hear how you get on with this recipe. I still think it needs to have a stronger tea flavour ... let me know if you come up with any improvements!