Confectionery is the art of making confections, which are food items that are rich in sugar and carbohydrates. Exact definitions are difficult. In general, though, confectionery is divided into two broad and somewhat overlapping categories, bakers' confections and sugar confections.
Bakers' confectionery, also called flour confections, includes principally sweet pastries, cakes, and similar baked goods. In the Middle East and Asia, flour-based confections are more dominant.
Sugar confectionery includes sweets, candied nuts, chocolates, chewing gum, sweetmeats, pastillage, and other confections that are made primarily of sugar. In some cases, chocolate confections (confections made of chocolate) are treated as a separate category, as are sugar-free versions of sugar confections. The words candy (US and Canada), sweets (UK and Ireland), and lollies (Australia and New Zealand) are common words for the most common varieties of sugar confectionery.
The confectionery industry also includes specialized training schools and extensive historical records. Traditional confectionery goes back to ancient times, and continued to be eaten through the Middle Ages into the modern era.
Generally, confections are low in micronutrients and protein but high in calories. They may be fat-free foods, although some confections, especially fried doughs, are high-fat foods. Many confections are considered empty calories.
Confections are defined by the presence of sweeteners. These are usually sugars, but it is possible to buy sugar-free sweets, such as sugar-free peppermints. The most common sweetener for home cooking is table sugar, which is chemically a disaccharide called sucrose. Hydrolysis of sucrose gives a mixture called invert sugar, which is sweeter and is also a common commercial ingredient. Finally confections, especially commercial ones, are sweetened by a variety of syrups obtained by hydrolysis of starch. These sweeteners include all types of corn syrup.
Bakers' confectionery includes sweet baked goods, especially those that are served for the dessert course. Bakers' confections are sweet foods that feature flour as a main ingredient and are baked. Major categories include cakes, sweet pastries, doughnuts, scones, and cookies.
The United Nations' International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC) scheme (revision 4) classifies both chocolate and sugar confectionery as ISIC 1073, which includes the manufacture of chocolate and chocolate confectionery; sugar confectionery proper (caramels, cachous, nougats, fondant, white chocolate), chewing gum, preserving fruit, nuts, fruit peels, and making confectionery lozenges and pastilles. In the European Union, the Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (NACE) scheme (revision 2) matches the UN classification, under code number 10.82. In the United States, the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS 2012) splits sugar confectionery across three categories: National industry code 311340 for all non-chocolate confectionery manufacturing, 311351 for chocolate and confectionery manufacturing from cacao beans, and national industry 311352 for confectionery manufacturing from purchased chocolate. Ice cream and sorbet are classified with dairy products under ISIC 1050, NACE 10.52, and NAICS 311520.
Different dialects of English use regional terms for sugar 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 Australia and New Zealand, lollies. Chewy and Chuddy are Australian slang for chewing gum.
- In North America, candy, although this term generally refers to a specific range of confectionery and does not include some items of sugar confectionery (e.g. ice cream). Sweet is occasionally used, as well as treat.
Sugar confectionery items include sweets, lollipops, candy bars, chocolate, cotton candy, and other sweet items of snack food. Some of the categories and types of sugar confectionery include the following:
- Caramels: Derived from a mixture of sucrose, glucose syrup, and milk products. The mixture does not crystallize, thus remains tacky.
- Chocolates: Bite-sized confectioneries generally made with chocolate.
- 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
- Dragée: Sugar-coated almonds and other types of sugar panned candy.
- Fondant: Prepared from a warm mixture of glucose syrup and sucrose, which is partially crystallized. The fineness of the crystallites results in a creamy texture.
- Fudge: Made by boiling milk and sugar to the soft-ball stage. In the US, it tends to be chocolate-flavored.
- Halvah: Confectionery based on tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds.
- Hard candy: Based on sugars cooked to the hard-crack stage. 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. Also included are types often mixed with nuts such as brittle. Others contain flavorings including coffee such as Kopiko.
- Ice cream: Frozen, flavoured cream, often containing small pieces of chocolate, fruits and/or nuts.
- Jelly candies: Including those based on sugar and starch, pectin, gum, or gelatin such as Turkish delight (lokum), jelly beans, gumdrops, jujubes, gummies, etc.
- 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.
- Marshmallow: "Peeps" (a trade name), circus peanuts, fluffy puff, Jet-Puffed Marshmallows etc.
- Marzipan: An almond-based confection, doughy in consistency, served in several different ways.
- Mithai: A generic term for confectionery in India, typically made from dairy products and/or some form of flour. Sugar or molasses are used as sweeteners.
- 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.
- Taffy or chews: A candy that is folded many times above 120 °F (50 °C), incorporating air bubbles thus reducing its density and making it opaque.
Both bakers' and sugar confections are used to offer hospitality to guests.
Tourists commonly eat confections as part of their travels. The indulgence in rich, sugary foods is seen as a special treat, and choosing local specialties is popular. For example, visitors to Vienna eat Sachertorte and visitors to seaside resorts in the UK eat Blackpool rock candy. Transportable confections like fudges and tablet may be purchased as souvenirs.
Contaminants and coloring agents in confectionery can be particularly harmful to children. Therefore, confectionery contaminants, such as high levels of lead, have been restricted to 1 ppm in the US. There is no specific maximum in the EU.
Candy colorants, particularly yellow colorants such as E102 Tartrazine, E104 Quinoline Yellow and E110 Sunset Yellow FCF, do have many restrictions around the world. Tartrazine, for example, can cause allergic and asthmatic reactions and was once banned in Austria, Germany, and Norway. Some countries such as the UK have asked the food industry to phase out the use of these colorants, especially for products marketed to children.
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