Confectionery is the set of food items that are rich in sugar, any one or type of which is called a confection. Modern usage may include substances rich in artificial sweeteners as well. The word candy (North America), sweets (UK and Ireland) and lolly (Australia and New Zealand) are also used for the extensive variety of confectionery.
Generally speaking, confections are somewhat low in micronutrients but rich in calories. Specially formulated chocolate has been manufactured in the past for military use as a high density food energy source.
Confectioneries are defined by the presence of sweeteners, usually sugars. Most common is the disaccharide sucrose. Hydrolysis of sucrose gives a mixture called invert sugar, which is sweeter and is also a common ingredient. Finally confectioneries, especially commercial ones, are sweetened by a variety of syrups obtained by hydrolysis of starch, these include corn syrup.
Different dialects of English use regional terms for confections:
- In Britain, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries, sweets or more colloquially sweeties (particularly used by children, the Scottish Gaelic word suiteis is a derivative). In some parts of England, spice, joy joy and goodies are terms used, alongside sweets, to denote confectionery. In North-West England, especially Lancashire, toffees is often used as a generic term for all confectionery. Northeast England and the Scottish Borders commonly use the word ket (plural kets) and more recently chud, derivative of chuddy, a localised term for chewing gum.
- In Australia and New Zealand, "lollies" (used especially to apply to boiled sweets).
- In North America, "candy" - although this term can also refer to a specific range of confectionery and does not include some items called confectionery (e.g. pastry). "Sweets" is occasionally used, as well as "treat".
Confectionery items include sweets, lollipops, candy bars, chocolate, candy floss, and other sweet items of snack food. The term does not generally apply to cakes, biscuits, or puddings which require cutlery to consume, although exceptions such as petit fours or meringues exist. Speakers of American English do not refer to these items as "candy".
Some of the categories and types of confectionery include the following:
- Hard sweets. Based on sugars cooked to the hard-crack stage: a 2:3 mixture of glucose syrup and sucrose in water is concentrated to a plastic state, amenable to colouring and flavouring. Upon further cooling and standing the material hardens. Examples include suckers (known as boiled sweets in British English), lollipops, jawbreakers (or gobstoppers), lemon drops, peppermint drops and disks, candy canes, rock candy, etc. These also include types often mixed with nuts such as brittle. Others contain flavorings including coffee such as Kopiko.
- Fondant. This material is prepared from a warm mixture of glucose syrup and sucrose, which is partially crystallized. The fineness of the crystallites results in a creamy texture.
- Taffy. These are related to hard candy that is folded many times above 50 °C. This process incorporates air bubbles, reducing the density of the material and making it opaque. Often sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, is added to maintain moisture. Toffee, in British English, can also refer to a harder substance also made from cooked sugars which resembles toffee.
- Fudge: A confection of milk and sugar boiled to the soft-ball stage. In the US, it tends to be chocolate-flavored.
- Caramels. These are derived from mixtures of sucrose, glucose syrup, and milk products. The mixture does not crystallize, thus remains tacky.
- Tablet. A crumbly milk-based soft and hard candy, based on sugars cooked to the soft-ball stage. Comes in several forms, such as wafers and heart shapes. Not to be confused with tableting, a method of candy production.
- Liquorice: Containing extract of the liquorice root. Chewier and more resilient than gum/gelatin candies, but still designed for swallowing. For example, Liquorice allsorts. Has a similar taste to Star Anise.
- Chocolates are bite-sized confectioneries generally made with chocolate. People who create chocolates are called chocolatiers, and they create their confections with couverture chocolate. A chocolate maker, on the other hand, is the person who physically creates the couverture from cacao beans and other ingredients.
- Jelly candies: Including those based on sugar and starch, pectin, gum, or gelatin such as Lokum / Turkish Delight, jelly beans, gumdrops, jujubes, cola bottles gummies, etc.
- Marshmallow: "Peeps" (a trade name), circus peanuts, fluffy puff, etc.
- Marzipan: An almond-based confection, doughy in consistency, served in several different ways. It is often formed into shapes mimicking (for example) fruits or animals. Alternatively, marzipan may be flavoured, normally with spirits such as Kirsch or rum, and divided into small bite-sized pieces; these flavoured marzipans are enrobed in chocolate to prevent the alcohol from evaporating, and are common in northern Europe. Marzipan is also used in cake decoration. Its lower-priced version is called Persipan.
- Divinity: A nougat-like confectionery based on egg whites with chopped nuts.
- Dodol: A toffee-like food delicacy popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines
- Mithai: A generic term for confectionery in India, typically made from dairy products and/or some form of flour. Sugar or molases are used as sweeteners.
- Pastry: A baked confection whose dough is rich in butter, which was dispersed through the pastry prior to baking, resulting in a light, flaky texture; this dough might be used in pies and tarts.
- Chewing gum: Uniquely made to be chewed, not swallowed. However, some people believe that at least some types of chewing gum, such as certain bubble gums, are indeed candy.
- Ice cream: Frozen flavoured cream, often containing small chocolates and fruits
- Halvah: Confectionery based on tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds.
- Alfajor: a traditional South American cookie typically consisting of two round sweet biscuits joined together with a sweet jam, generally dulce de leche (milk jam).
- Dragée - Coated almonds and other types of coated candy.
Some sweets contain traces of nuts which poses risks for those who are allergic to them, while others contain dairy products which must be avoided by individuals who are lactose-intolerant.
- List of candies
- Confectionery store
- Richardson, Tim H. (2002). Sweets: A History of Candy. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 1-58234-229-6.
- Stroud, Jon (2008). The Sucker's Guide - A Journey into the Soft Centre of the Sweet Shop. Summersdale. ISBN 9781840247091.
- Weatherley, Henry (1865). A Treatise on the Art of Boiling Sugar. http://books.google.com/books?id=lH4EAAAAYAAJ. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
- Kennedy, Angus (2008). Kennedy's Confection Magazine. http://www.kennedysconfection.com.
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