The Daley Question
Sugar mice for a British Christmas
The Daley Question has a recipe for this tasty English treat.
These traditional British holiday treats are relatively easy to make. (Joy Skipper/Photolibrary RM, Getty Images / August 3, 2012)
—Allison Gibbons, Chicago
A: Sugar mice, complete with cotton thread "tails" are a traditional Christmas candy confection in the United Kingdom. I don't have my own recipe but those online seem fairly simple, especially if you are used to working with sugar and water to make a fondant, which is often used for decorations and icings. Beat in some food coloring or flavoring, if you like and, with a little patience, you've got yourself a whole lot of tasty mice.
Some online recipes use molds, other call for you to shape pieces of fondant into mice-like lumps which you can adorn with ears and noses and tails as you desire.
Here's a recipe from Food.com contributed by Mandy-Shea Eason. Though she lives in Rome. Ga., where she works at The Claremont House Bed & Breakfast will studying for a masters degree in education, Eason spent six years as a student in the United Kingdom where she first encountered sugar mice.
"The mice are a British tradition and can be found in high end candy shops throughout the season," she says. "Traditionally, when sugar was a luxury, one was left in a child's stocking with fruit, nuts, and small toys to make up the entirety of their Christmas haul. British children, and adults, delight in eating them much like you would feed the poor mice to a snake...dangling it by its tail."
Eason says her sugar mice recipe is easy. The work comes in fashioning them by hand so she can make "cute little ears" for them. I'm sure you can experiment using this fondant with your molds – perhaps using the fondant while it is still in a pourable stage.
While pink or white are traditional mice colors for Christmas, do experiment with other tints if you wish. Eason, for example, made "plague" mice for Halloween, using red fondant and dipping each mouse into melted chocolate. Red, crystal sugar eyes completed the eerie look.
Makes 30 to 40 mice shapes.
2 pounds granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup liquid glucose or 1/3 cup light corn syrup
5 to 6 drop peppermint oil (or flavoring of your choice)
4 to 5 drops food coloring (optional)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder or 1 teaspoon red food coloring
Clean white string or kitchen twine cut into 3-inch lengths
Put the sugar and water into a pan, and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Add glucose or corn syrup and the peppermint oil; boil until 240 degrees Fahrenheit is reached on a candy thermometer (soft ball). Take from heat; allow to cool until it starts to thicken
When fondant is cool enough to handle, work in any coloring, if you are using it, and knead it. Pat out into a square. Separate fondant into equal 1-inch squares for the mice shape; reserve some fondant for the noses. Cover pieces to prevent drying out while shaping the mice. Reserve
Roll each piece between hands till it's nice and smooth. Stick the string or twine into the piece to serve as tails. Shape into mice shapes.
Take a tiny bit of fondant, work in the cocoa powder or food coloring to make noses. Attach noses to mouse shape. Pinch the fondant up on the mice heads to make ears.
Place sugar mice on parchment paper; let dry for 24 hours. Store in a cool, dry place.
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