White hot treat will earn brownie points

Life is sweet: Chef Zander White. PICTURE: steve parkin
Life is sweet: Chef Zander White. PICTURE: steve parkin
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Why elbow your way through a crowded high street in search of sweet Christmas treats for friends and family?

Ditch the shopping, put on a pinny and make your own. They will cost far less, are fun to make - and you’ll earn lots of brownie points. What could be more thoughtful than gifts straight from your kitchen?

The home-made sweets that chef Zander White gave as gifts last Christmas went down so well, he went into business.

“I am very “Bah humbug” about Christmas - I hate the insincerity of it and the way everyone feels pressured into spending much more than they can afford on gifts,” says Zander, 49, of Meersbrook.

“Last year I dreamed up some interesting flavours for fudge, toffee and caramel, made batches up, wrapped them nicely in cellophane and ribbon and presented them to friends and family. Everyone loved the fact that I’d spent time making them - and they really liked the flavours,” adds Zander, who had worked in hotels and restaurants worldwide until settling in Sheffield as a teacher and conservation worker.

They went down so well, this June he set up in business. Zander’s Sweet Delights sells online at www.zandersweetdelights.co.uk, at the Homemade Deli on Nether Edge Road and at local farmers’ markets and fairs.

He’s hit a sweet spot; he won Eat Sheffield’s 2012 Street Food Traders award.

Zander, who taught at Sheffield College for five years, makes up small batches using ingredients free from artificial additives, gluten and wheat. Caramels tasting of chocolate and Christmas pudding, apple and cinnamon and chocolate with ginger are sure to be 2012 festive hits, but he’s sharing a recipe for one of his top-selling sweets with Star readers.

“Give them a go, then give them away,” he urges. “People will love you for it.”

Zander’s Salted Honey Caramels

(Makes around 150 sweets).

Sugar 525g

Honey 525g

Cream 266g

Butter 133g

Sea salt 5g or more to suit your taste

Vanilla 1 tspn

Grease and line a 22cmx33cm tray with baking parchment.

Melt butter over medium heat in a deep, heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan.

Add the honey, sugar, and cream and half the salt. Gently stir over low to medium heat until sugar has dissolved.

Increase heat to medium and cook until the mixture reaches hard ball stage, stirring occasionally to prevent catching on bottom of pan.

You know this has been achieved when the mixture reaches about 128C (give or take a degree or two/three). Alternatively, drop a bit of mixture into a small bowl filled with iced water. It should form a hard ball when squeezed together with your fingers.

Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract (it will bubble slightly – beware of splashes), then pour into a prepared tray. Allow to cool slightly and sprinkle with remaining sea salt.

Cool further, then cut into rectangles of about 3cm x 1cm and wrap in squares of parchment paper. Store in an air-tight container.