Here (Instructables) is a fantastic discussion on using cold water to show what “stage” your sugar is at to decide when to take it off the heat. Honey doesn’t work the same way. Honey has three steps, soft ball, hard crack, and burnt.
These steps help you use the cold water test to get the texture of honey you want. Combines with the “sight” you get close to a consistent product every time you make candy.
You can also use ‘smell’, but once you smell the honey is burnt it is too late.
Henry Buttes in Dyets Dry Dinner* says “…ginger condite with honey, warms old mens bellies…it is very restorative.”
1/4 cup honey
pinch of ginger, ground (or saffron, black pepper, cinnamon)
1 bowl of really cold water.
Warm a frying pan on medium. Place honey in frying pan and bring to a boil. Skim the surface of any impurities as you work, stirring continuously.
You should notice the honey change from golden clear to a light brown at around 4-6 minutes. Drip a few drops of honey into your cold water. The honey makes a pale platelet that sinks to the bottom. If you touch it, and eat it, it is very soft and chewy. At this temp you get a sticky mess if you pour it out on your nonstick surface. Good for shaping or caramel.
After 2-4 more minutes the honey will suddenly change darker. Drip a few drops of honey into your cold water. The honey makes a darker hard platelet that floats on top of the cold water. If you touch it, and eat it, it is crunchy.
Quickly add the spice and stir.
Pour the mixture onto a non stick surface to cool.
break apart to serve.
You can test your candy by dropping it in the water as you go to reassure yourself that it hasn’t burnt. It will go from hard crack to burn in about 30 seconds so its good to test frequently.
Found at Early English Books Online as a pdf of the original printing, or my transcribed (annotated and redacted) version on amazon.ca
This savory tart should be fluffy not dense. If a dense tart was wanted the cook would use:
egg yolks not whites and
hard cheese not creamed
All ingredients should be room temperature (except the melted butter).
The recipe calls for adding foam and carefully not adding the liquid left after beating. This liquid is water. With the creamed cottage cheese being so wet, the pie would take longer to cook or become soggy if more liquid was added.
The rest of the redaction choices are easy–the cook gives very precise measurements.
To make a white Roman tart. Take a pound of white cheese of cream, then take the whites of six eggs, & beat then well until a foam forms on the surface like snow, & let a little stay in without beating, then take the foam from thereon, & cast it into the cheese, then beat the whites at the top until again foam forms on the surface like the first time, & cast onto the cheese, & make again two or three times as such, then take two ounces of melted butter, a little ginger, a little chopped basil, & make the tart, & cook like the others. Master Lancelot de Casteau, Ouverture de Cuisine (1604)
1 lb cottage cheese, creamed
2 branches basil, stems removed, chopped small
1 tsp ginger, grated
2 oz butter, melted
6 egg whiles from small eggs (1/2 cup), whipped
1 deep dish pie crust
Pre-heat oven to 350
Pour cheese into large bowl, then cover with basil, ginger, and butter but do not mix. Then cover with egg whites and gently fold ingredients together. The basil will be bright green and show if the batter has been mixed together.
Slowly pour batter into pie shell. Its ok if the mixture is taller than the crust, it is more or less the final height on the tart.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, or meringue is browned and doesn’t have a liquid-jiggle in the middle when pan is tapped.
Serve hot or once cooled.
Modern: make it in little ramkin dishes as souffles because OMG adorable.