The reason I love playing the highly popular ‘candy crush’ game is because I love the sight of the colourful boiled sweets that fill the screen. One can almost taste the crunch as they collide and burst into smithereens! Boiled sweets are somewhat of an addiction for my mother and aunts. They can never stop with one. And mind you they aren’t fussy at all about the kind of boiled sweet that’s available! Give them a hard candy lollipop and they are just as happy to indulge.They have been known on occasion to bargain with their grandkids for extras !
Long before sugar confectionery got more elaborate,it was the hard candy that was popular.The word ‘sweets’ referred to bright blobs of clear candy that was simply twisted in transparent cellophane and sold individually or in large packets. They are called boiled sweets because the process comprises of boiling sugar or glucose syrup until it reaches a particular temperature. A sugar thermometer is essential to get the consistency right. Once it reaches that stage, different colourings and flavourings are added.This sort of work requires the hand of skilled candy makers who have perfected the art after years of practice. In the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , Miss.Truly Scrumptious and her beau desperately try to market their hard candy !The toot sweets ,as they call it add much delight to the story as they always end up with a hole in the middle,making them far from perfect.
Boiled sweets are usually made with real fruit extract, which is why they leave a burst of freshness in the mouth as you suck on them. A simple example of our locally made hard candy are the orange sweets.Orange mittai as it is referred to makes an appearance without fail during most festivals. This yellow and orange coloured hard candy that is shaped like individual orange segments is a special part of the pongal festivities.In the farm,these sweets will be offered along with the other items such as sandalwood paste and vermillion powder. Even the cows get their share on mattu pongal day!Having introduced it to my kids a few years ago,I must now hide the packet once opened or it will be gobbled up in a trice!
On a recent trip abroad we came across packets of hard candy that excited, bedazzled and tempted us with it’s vivid colours and intricate patterns.These short cylindrical candies are called rock confectionery.It has it’s origins in the UK and the names are given according to the particular flavor or design that is added in the middle. So we have heart rock,mixed fruit rock ,smiley rock or according to it’s place of origin like seaside rock etc.The translucent quality that is unique to hard candy makes them resemble exquisite bits of coloured , patterned glass ! No matter which you choose , it’s hard to go wrong because they all taste delicious. They are rather tiny in size but more than make up for it in taste. As it dissolves in the mouth ,one can feel the outer coating melting away .The centre part is what holds the maximum flavor. You get an unmistakable burst of lemon or strawberry or watermelon and then it just lingers on your tongue. It is very cleansing on the palate and makes for the perfect after meal treat ! It is made by rolling the still warm sugar into a long tube and quickly cut when soft. As it cools it hardens into crunchy nuggets.They need to be stored in an airtight container. If not they turn rather sticky and tend to clump together. So before we greedily dip our fingers into the candy bottle,we must ensure that our hands are squeaky clean and devoid of any moisture.
Sugar free versions of the hard candy are also available. These are made using an ingredient called isomalt and sweetened further by adding a sugar substitute. The isomalt replicates the effect of the boiled sugar. It is used extensively by professional pastry chefs and cake decorators to fashion edible jewels,crystals and other intricate sugar work.
Hard candy may not be occupying pride of place on our supermarket shelves but there are many on line stores selling them in plenty both in India and abroad. Whether it’s the simple cherry candy and orange sweets or fashioning your own rock candy,they are all available at the click of a button.
Did you know that these candies originally made it’s entry in the form of cough drops? It was easier to take in the medicine when there was some sugar added to it. Now we know what Mary Poppins meant when she sang ,”a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…”
Some On-line candy sites