Wednesday 2 March 2011

A Celebration!

My birthday boy

Hi! This is my new blog and I thought "what better way to start it than with a party?" I have so much to share that I will have to split this into a few posts.

So, birthday parties tend to be the bane of the failsafer. Bland, colourless food that no one else, let alone the failsafe kid himself, wants to eat. WRONG!

This was the party to end all parties. Mostly as I had told my son he had had plenty of birthday parties and they are a lot of work. But it was his first birthday with big school friends and his first failsafe party, so I wanted it to be spectacular and to make sure he didn't feel like he had missed out at all.

We chose a circus/carnival theme as he had been to a circus late last year and was completely in awe of it. It worked rather well as the decorations could be really colourful and make up for the less than colourful food.

The boy is currently gluten and dairy free as well as failsafe which makes it kind of tricky, compounded by his demand that he was to be able to eat ALL of the food at the party. This led to me making a few small allowances for the day. One was natural lollies of which I allowed him four, the other was milky bars and Werthers Originals in the piñata of which he was allowed one of each. The last allowance was a little bit of natural colours.

Planning makes a great party and I have to say that I am a fairly disorganised person. Lots of ideas floating around, but I have a tendency to leave things to the last minute. This was to be no exception. I got some stuff done in advance, but the week of the party was a little chaotic.

The food was simple fair/party food with a big emphasis on sugar and I enlisted the help of family on the day to pull it off.

There was Fairy floss, Donuts, chips, lollies, sherbet, chicken and chips and cakes and water and 'lemon'ade to drink.

The lollies - if you don't think you have the time or the ability there are a great selection of failsafe lollies available from We had musk sticks, marshmallows, pear drops and pear lollipops (which I didn't end up using as the piñata was too full), plus I made some beautiful lollipops, drops and sherbet myself to go with them and we had some natural jelly beans and party mix.
Vanilla lollipops


a selection

The basic candy recipe is

1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of glucose syrup*
1/4 cup of water

Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and then boil over high heat without stirring until it reaches 140˚C on a sugar thermometer (soft crack). Remove from heat. This is the point where you would add any flavour or colour. In the case of the pink vanilla ones I added about 5 drops of cochineal and half a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Stir it in quickly and then spoon into moulds or blob on a tray lined with baking paper and insert stick.

I bought a hard candy mould that I used, but I only had one, so with the rest I made blobs and then I thought I would try my hand at taffy pulling. It's not difficult, but it is fiddly and a bit hot on the fingers. I have since read the suggestion of putting band-aids on your finger tips under gloves. All you need to do is put a reasonable sized glob on a baking tray or similar and let it cool until the outside has started to set. Pick it up and start to stretch it, then fold it over and give it a bit of a twist then do it all again. It goes opaque and pearlescent. Before it sets too hard stretch it out one last time to a semi-uniform thickness (depends on how big you want your lollipops, mine were less than a centimetre thick) then start to roll it up, twisting as you go. Once it is the size you want (mine were approximately 4cm across) cut it with some scissors and poke a stick into it before it goes completely hard.

If it starts to get too cool to twist, just cut it into small pieces and you have lovely little lollies. Put them into the fridge for a little while to help them set and to stop them from starting to dissolve in the humidity. Then wrap them in some cellophane or some bags and tie them tightly. I got little cellophane bags from a local packaging shop which made it far easier than wrapping (which is what I did at christmas). Store them in a sealed container in the fridge until you need them.

I made three other variants on the lollipops - 'lemon', pear and maple syrup.

Lemon was made by adding 1/2 tsp of citric acid and a few drops of natural yellow colour at the end. That colour is actually quite strong and a few drops make it quite bright.

Pear was made by substituting strained syrup from canned pears for the water. It was a subtle flavour, but nice. I also added some natural green colour. This was mostly so I could differentiate between them, but I wouldn't bother doing this again as the green is a very weak colour and it took a lot more to make even a very pale colour.

Maple syrup was made by using 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup and halving the amount of water. This seems to completely change the way the toffee works and I wouldn't recommend trying to pull it as it sets way too quickly.

Set them out in nice jars or glasses with a colourful label and voila! Party lollies!

Even the grown ups liked the lollipops.
The kids loved it and the adults got into it too. An absolute winner. Any that didn't fit on the table were put into the piñata and any others were kept in the fridge as treats for other days (I really made a lot).

I'll write more on the party in my next post.

Trish :D

*Edited 17-2-12 - I have been making a bit of candy lately and was not so happy with using that much glucose syrup, mostly from a cost perspective, partly from a health perspective, although a lollipop is never going to be healthy. I have been using half the quantity listed with very good results, so use 1/4 cup instead.
Next step is to experiment without it at all.