Yellowman (or Yellaman or Yellow Man) is a traditional Irish toffee, golden in color and brittle (often referred to as honeycomb candy or sponge toffee). It is authentically made in big blocks from which small pieces are hammered off and served in small paper cone cups.
While Yellowman is a specialty of Ireland, traditionally sold at Lammas, it was also made in some areas of Ireland on All Hallows Even’ (Halloween) and All Souls’ Day. Since the 1950′s, Yellowman has also been served with a drizzle of melted chocolate over it, (from Wilmington family members’ recollections) and as a Halloween treat this would be recommended. Both bicarbonate of soda and golden syrup (corn syrup) were developed and manufactured for use in baking since the late 1800′s, and Yellowman, as a distinct type of toffee, was made soon after. Earlier types of ‘pulled’ toffee would have been sold before this time.
· 2 cups golden syrup (corn syrup)
· 1 2/3 cup brown sugar (demerara)
· 1 ½ tbsp. butter
· 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
· 1 heaped tbsp. of bicarbonate of soda
1. Grease the cooling tin lightly with butter. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the brown sugar, stir, and then add the golden syrup to the saucepan. Gently boil the mixture on a medium heat for a few minutes, stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
2. After everything has dissolved turn the temperature up under the saucepan and put the mixture on to a rolling boil, without stirring it, unless it needs it. You need to be careful the mixture does not catch and burn, (if it starts to catch turn down the heat a fraction and stir) you are looking for thousands of tiny bubbles across the surface and the mixture to visibly thicken, and also darken slightly. After a few minutes, test the mixture by dropping a small amount into a glass of cold water. When the mixture can turn into a ball on contact with the cold water, remove the pan from the heat.
3. Once the pan is removed from the heat add the white wine vinegar carefully, (this will spit as a cold liquid is being poured onto a boiling one) stir, then quickly add the bicarbonate of soda and stir the mixture rapidly.
4. Expect the Yellowman to vigorously froth up and turn bright yellow. Pour into a greased pan and allow hardening. If you did not boil the yellow man mixture enough to reach the ‘hard-crack’ before putting in the bicarb it will slowly sink and collapse as it cools, and you will need to start again.
5. As the Yellowman toffee cools it will sink a little, an inch or so, after about twenty minutes use a palette knife to lightly curl the edges of the toffee down (as in the photo on the right) to make a square slab when it is removed from the tin. This needs to be done when the Yellowman is still warm and flexible. As it cools it will become more brittle. Some people like to make Yellowman toffee spreading it out on a much larger tray, and make it not so deep, however I prefer to make it traditionally in a large thick slab.
6. Yellowman or Yellaman toffee is best eaten fresh. Cut into square slabs, small chunks, or traditionally take a clean hammer to it and smash small rock sized pieces off. If giving out to people (at Halloween parties, at Lammas etc.) make up some small paper cone cups and fill them full of the delicious Yellowman rubble (broken up by the hammer) and add a drizzle of melted chocolate. Yellowman can be eaten within five days if stored in an airtight container, but after the first day it will start to soften and loose its brittleness – so it is best eaten on the day it is made.
Tips: I use a non-stick and lightly greased cake tin with a heavy removable base (tightly fitted so as not to leak when the Yellowman is poured in) to ‘pop’ the cooled and brittle slab of toffee out (after about 90 minutes) use a thin metal palette knife to gently ease and separate the base of the tin from the toffee – also when pouring do it over newspaper to catch any drips. I place the cake tin on a trivet to aid rapid cooling as air can circulate under the cake tin. When smashing up the toffee cover it in a cling film, or greasproof paper, to catch the shards from flying everywhere, (remember it is sticky). When washing up the saucepan and cake tin I leave them to soak for a few minutes in boiling water which dissolves the stuck on toffee easily.