Candies and pastilles
Hard candies – A sugar- and glucose-based mixture is cooked in order to favour the vacuum-evaporation of water, thus obtaining a soft and compact paste. During the cooling phase, ingredients are added, in order to characterize the candy's flavour.
Following steps include paste modeling, completing the cooling phase and - in the end – packaging.
Filled candies – A typically Italian typology: candies of this kind may contain honey, fruit syrups, coffee, liquor. They are processed in order to prevent saccharose crystallization when the sugary syrup is concentrated. In this way, after the addition of flavours, fondants remain soft and tend to melt in the mouth quite easily.
Toffee – Invented by a confectioner from Paris, at the beginning of the XX century, apart from sugar it contains cream or milk cream, plus vegetable fats. The paste is processed and extruded, then cut and cooled, thus producing the classic dark/brown colour.
Gummy candies – They are soft and elastic thanks to the high percentage of gums. Among these, arabic gum – obtained by the exudate of the bark of an African acacia – is largely the most used. The arabic gum is purified and added the mixture composed by glucose syrup and other sugars.
Ancient pastilles – Pastilles are produced through a specific cold-processing of a mixture of icing sugar, tragacanth and arabic gums, flavours and other ingredients. Once it's homogeneous, the paste is rolled to form a sheet, which is subsequently modeled with a mould, and in the end the pastilles are left to dry up.
Soft and hard licorice – In order to produce hard licorice, the licorice extract is mixed with sugar and flour: the paste is then processed and shaped in long bands. For what concerns gummy licorice, the recipe also includes glucose syrup and arabic gum. As per the cube-shaped pure licorice extract, it is obtained simply by drying the extract up in small pieces.
Licorice is a perennial herbaceous plant – its scientific name meaning “sweet root”- that grows spontaneously in many countries of the Mediterranean area. A particularly fine licorice is harvested in Italy – in Calabria, Sicily and Abruzzo. It is produced in pastilles, comfits, sticks – and lots more. Licorice also has many healing properties, particularly for cough, hoarseness and even for gastroduodenal ulcer.
A true symbol of the United States, from where it came to Europe at the end of WWII, chewing-gum has usually the shape of a small ball, pill or sheet. It is produced through a gummy base enriched with colours and flavours, depending on the consumers' taste and on the producers' creativity.
According to some psychologists, chewing gums relieves muscular and physical tension, while renowned physicians think that it helps digestion. Furthermore, unlike the general opinion, it can even be useful for our teeth, too, since it provokes an intense salivation, thus favouring the protection process known as “re-mineralization”.
Italian chestnuts – and Piedmont ones in particular – have made marrons glacés a luxury kind of food. According to the legend, this confectionery art product was invented by Caterina de’ Medici. However, it is proved that both the Etruscans and the Romans made an extensive use of chestnuts' floury pulp, since this fruit abounded in Tuscany and Lazio.
Soft and coloured, jellies were born from the need to preserve fresh fruit throughout the seasons when it wasn't available. Jellies can be made by any kind of fruit, by processing the juice with a mixture of glucose syrup and other sugars, and with the addition of pectin – a soluble fiber, generally obtained by fruit, that thickens sugary syrups.
The Italian nougat's classic recipe consists of a delicate mixture of honey, almonds or hazelnuts and albumen. The typical taste is given by the lemon or sour almond flavour. Variations to the original recipe – developed in many area of Italy - include pistachio, chocolate, liquor or candied fruit. Once a typical Christmas product, today torrone is also available throughout the year, thanks to practical single-portion packagings, named torroncini in Italian.
A flagship of the Italian confectionery art, confetti are particularly widespread in Southern Italy.
Their production started in the fifteenth century in Sulmona, at the Santa Chiara Monastery: this is also the place that gave birth to the tradition of using sugared almonds – assembled through thin silk strings – to compose bomboniere (traditional Italian wedding favors).
Nowadays, Italian confetti keep being offered during family parties held on the occasion of baptisms, communions, weddings and anniversaries, too. Abruzzo, Campania and Sicily are the Italian areas where this particular production is highly concentrated.