I have made Nigella's Hokey Pokey many times and can always taste the bicarbonate of soda, no matter how little I put in. Friends seem to love it but the bicarbonate taste spoils it for me. Maybe it's just me as I don't like sparkling mineral water for the same reason. Any substitutes?
Nigella's Hokey Pokey (from NIGELLA EXPRESS) is sometimes also known as honeycomb candy as it has an airy, sponge-like texture. This comes from bubbles of carbon dioxide that are created when the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) is added. The sugar cools and sets quickly enough to hold some of these bubbles. Bicarbonate of soda is slightly bitter and some people are sensitive to this but unfortunately in this particular recipe there is no substitute.
You could use the mixture without bicarbonate of soda to make a praline or brittle by pouring the hot syrup over some blanched and toasted almonds or some salted peanuts (about 75g/3/4 cup would work for this amount of syrup) on the greased foil. If you are looking at making Hokey Pokey as a Christmas gift then you could also try the Vanilla Fudge or browse through Nigella's Christmas gift ideas.