Little Crystals of Loveliness: Honeycomb semi freddo

October 30, 2013

I’m so thrilled to bring you another article from lovely kindred spirit and fellow food lover Claire. I’ve known Claire Harrison for well over 12 years and I’m tickled pink that she has agreed to share her wonderful musings and observations on food – how we use it, abuse it and love it as she embarks on an exciting new adventure!

I’m especially thrilled that Claire has written this article. As a Home Economist I use sugar. I eat sugar. Controversial I know! But I also know the function sugar plays in food from a chemistry point of view. So this is why I love this article!

From Dietitian to Chocolatier and Pâtissier: The little crystals of loveliness

As you know, I have made the transition from the side of good, to the side of evil. Of course the thing that defines upon which side of the line I fall is sugar. Ok so fat and salt might play a role, but sugar gets the Oscar.

Over the past few months, I have been indulging in the guilty pleasure of learning how to make pastries. And what a strange and wonderful journey it has been. Having spent the last 20 years finding ways to reduce sugar, I am now finding ways to include it. What has been equally fascinating is learning the science of sugar and how it influences the food we are making.

Did you know that the browning or the maillard, of your pastry and cake, is influenced by the level of sugar in it? That palm sugar, tasty as it is, is not as good for baking as its refined white cousin? And that if you are out of icing sugar, you can simply process your caster sugar to a fine powder, and use that instead. Furthermore, you can use sugar to balance flavours, sweeten a dish, preserve and even tenderize it. The uses are endless. But it hasn’t always been so.

Sugar was originally discovered as a wild grass growing in the South Pacific centuries ago. With trade and travel, the grass was exported around the globe, but for a very long time it was too expensive to be eaten by the masses. However, in the 1600’s, the British found ways to cultivate sugar cane crops in the West Indies and made a fortune selling it around the world. The French found ways to cash in on the same market which resulted in an over supply of sugar, and a drop in price. At last, sugar was available to all.

Since then, we have become more and more inventive with ways to include sugar in our diet. In the “old days” (yep, like 40 years ago!), sugar in our food was obvious. Because we COOKED!

Cooking from scratch, meant we knew what we were putting into our food, and sugar wasn’t hidden in it. We knew we were putting it there and we had some control over how much of it we were eating.

But somewhere in the past few decades, we seem to have lost control and sugar is being secreted into foods we couldn’t even have imagined would contain it. As we move further and further away from a diet rich in wholefoods, toward a pre-prepared, pre-packaged food supply, we find we are eating more and more sugar, and we don’t even know it.

Now I don’t know about you, but I love an artfully crafted pastry, chocolate or cake. I want to be upfront about it and know what I am getting myself into. I don’t want sugar hidden in my bread rolls, my cracker biscuits or my breakfast cereal. I want to enjoy every mouthful of that sweet, ooey gooey decadence, and not feel guilty or cheated by it. And that, I believe, is where the thin white line lies, between sugar being heavenly or hellish. It’s in the control we exert over it. In knowing what we are eating and taking pleasure from it. We don’t need a lot – just a morsel, enjoyed in the form of something beautiful that can be savoured slowly. Too much of a good thing is bad. Too little of a bad thing, is good.

So to get you in the mood, here is a quick and easy sugar hit – Honeycomb semi freddo served with your favourite fruit, that you can enjoy – just a little!

Until next time,


Little Crystals of Loveliness: Honeycomb semi freddo
Recipe type: Dessert
To make honeycomb:
  • 250g sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 5g bicarb soda
To make Semifreddo
  • 125g sugar
  • 125ml milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 500ml cream
  • 1 batch of honeycomb
  • Fruit
  1. Prepare honeycomb by boiling the sugar and water together, then whisk in the bicarb soda. Pour onto non-stick paper to cool.
  2. Prepare the semi freddo by firstly simmering the sugar and milk for 2 minutes, then pour onto the egg yolks whilst whisking. Whisk until cool.
  3. Fold in softly whipped cream, and then add the crushed honeycomb. Place into a terrine mould lined with glad wrap, and place in the freezer. When solid, cut a piece and serve it with your favourite fruit.


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