Candy is great. There’s no two ways about it. Most people get hooked from the get go. All those sweet baby foods eventually lead to small candies and from that point on it just keeps getting better.
Sugar is such an essential ingredient of life that everyone in the world enjoys some form of it. By definition, candy could mean any sort of sweet confection. For our purposes, let us consider that a ’candy’ is limited to the class of purely sugar-based sweet treats. For more discussion on chocolates, pastries, biscuits, and cookies, please refer to our other sections.
All candy is made of sugar and water (or corn syrup instead of water). We’re not talking the relative amount of sugar that you would put in a cup of coffee. Typically the amount of sugar used turns the entire mixture into a sort of sludge. By varying the heating temperature, confectioners can vary the grade of density from hard to soft. Using a hot temperature boils off more water, thus leaving behind a harder sugar-rich material. A lower temperature retains more water and thus the material ends up being chewy. That’s it. That’s the whole secret to making a candy base.
Everything else is a matter of food coloring and flavoring. By using a number of synthetic food dyes, or even natural food dyes, confectioners can color their candy to suit their whim. Flavor can be added via two routes: synthetic esters can simulate most fruit flavors to a certain degree, while fresh fruits can be added to the mix and allowed to stew with the candy mix.
From here on in we will discuss a few choice favorites, starting from the hard candies and moving our way
Those small little mint candies you get at the restaurant have quite a history. Indeed, many historians attribute the Ancient Greeks for the first use of mint leaves for any purpose. The mint leaf is quite versatile, and is the ultimate flavoring in candies.
Popular brands of mints include Lifesavers (founded in 1912 by Clarence Crane) and PEZ (invented in 1927 by Edward Hass) and a number of mint flavored chewing gums.
Though later on in life the lollipop may take on a different kind of innuendo, the only thing kids care about is the ease of eating them. Lollipops are made with sugar and corn syrup. Flavors and colors are essential to a tasty lollipop that all kids can enjoy. There are many variants of lollipops out there. Some are excessively large, some come with bubble gum in the center, but all must contain the essential ingredients: a hard candy with a stick protruding from it, all wrapped in plastic.
What is the holiday season without large boxes of candy canes? Like mints and lollipops, sugar and corn syrup is cooked in a kettle. Afterwards, starch is added to help hold the peppermint that is added next. It’s sent to a mechanical kneader that slowly turns the whole concoction brown. Then, a puller stretches out the blob so that it turns white. After a number of other complicated steps, the rolls of candy are striped and shaped into canes. There are so many variants of candy canes out there it’s impossible to consider them all.
On the softer side of things lies the world-famous jellybean. No one really knows where it originated, though some point to the Turks with their hard and chewy ’Turkish delight’.
Jelly beans are soft candies with a hard coating. Traditional jelly beans only have flavoring in that coating. More recent ’gourmet’ jelly beans also feature flavors inside. All jelly beans take about a week to make. By varying the cooking times and ingredients, the softer and smaller gourmet beans can be made.
The inside of a jelly bean is just sugar and corn syrup. These are allowed to harden somewhat overnight and then sent to a pan. Panning is an essential part for many ’coatings’ in all kinds of candy. In this case, the jelly bean centers are rolled around in a drum while more and more sugar is added. This part of the process adds the hard shell to the soft center. After this, most beans go through a polishing phase that can take several days.
Gummi bears were originally conceived by a German candy maker named Hans Riegal in 1922. They were a smash hit across Germany, and the fever soon spread to American high school students who studied German. Manufacturing gummi bears is quite complicated. It all begins with an artist’s mold. Next, the molds must be duplicated and used to make molds for starch. Gummi bears are made with sugar, glucose syrup, and some gelatin. Colors and flavors are essential for a good gummi bear as well. The mixture is pressed into the molds and allowed to cool. Gummi worms and other gummi treats are made with a similar process, but different molds.
Licorice is really a name for a flavoring herb derived from the Greek Glycyrrhiza plant. It was popular with Egyptians Pharaohs and Greek soldiers alike. The flavoring spread across Europe and reached England. That’s where it was first used to make licorice candy in a solid form. Eventually, licorice reached American shores through importers, and the craze caught on here too.
The candy is made with sugar, corn syrup, and licorice. By varying the heating of this mixture, confectioners can create hard and soft licorices. Once complete, most are also glazed. It can come in many forms, short and long, thick and thin. Licorice is a versatile candy that’s great for munching throughout the day.