I am perfectly aware that my last post announced my need to consume anything other than sugar. Do not trouble yourself with pointing it out for me. Like any relationship that comes to some sort of end, there is always a rebound. I have no excuses or apologies; sugar was always waiting in the wings, barging into my kitchen with it irresistible presence. I flutter and find it hard to say no. These Blackberry, Passionfruit and Ginger Pastilles are worth saying yes to. Long name, for such a sweet little thing.
In my defence, I made these for my sister Mel who, in much more innocent times, was rather fond of candy. Especially boiled sweeties wrapped in transparent, crackly wrappers. Or bubble gum pink candy floss sold by the sun-baked Indian man at the school gates; bags and bags of pop-candy coloured clouds overwhelming his ancient, rusty bicycle. Those were the days when sugar and spice were all things nice. And less deadly on the waistline.
We were partners, Mel and I, all-in; sparring, playing, arguing or eating. Both of us occupied this hidden world, only accessible to the imaginations of children and we spent every afternoon in some fantastical, nonsensical adventure. One day, we were gymnasts at the World Championships, springing off a pommel horse (back of the sofa), the next; Victorian ladies, complete with long skirts (made puffy by wearing all our skirts together) and bonnets (fashioned out of sun hats); and in the evening we inevitably underwent a metamorphosis, transforming into mermaids (in the bubble bath…and Mel will kill me for publicising this!). I cringe while chuckling at the memory of it. Mel always finds the regaling of such tales rather toe curling-ly embarrassing. Which makes me talk of it more!
Returning to the present; these types of confectionary have diverse interpretations based on where you ask. Pastilles are rather easy to make and you will find various methods using citric acid, liquid glucose or gelatin. Annie Rigg‘s excellent book, Gifts from the Kitchen, has a simple Raspberry Pastille recipe which uses just fruit and preserving sugar. So that’s the one I adapted.
The base recipe unfortunately, does not have a temperature reading for the setting point. I did a bit of digging online and found rather conflicting instructions. A common method for making pastilles was to add liquid pectin after the bubbling mix registered a soft ball temperature of 116 deg C. Those recipes which used preserving sugar (which has pectin added to it already) called for a temperature of 103 deg C. I went with preserving sugar as that is what I had. My thermometer read 101 deg C when I decided that it was ready. Listen, a degree this way or that, is not a reason to doubt or panic. It will turn out fine. Mine did.
So these are the pointers that I look out for. The ‘jam’ (basically, pastilles are overcooked jams) should come away from the sides of the pan in one continuous mass, like it desperately wants to clump around your spoon. Have a wee bowl of ice cold water at the ready, to drop a blob of the mix into, when you think setting point has been reached. The blob or ball, should be at a soft ball stage. It should be firm enough to hold its shape well; soft without being squishy and it should have a bit of resistance. The sugar thermometer read around a 101 deg C for me. After a cooling time of 6 hours at least, cut your pastilles out with oiled knives or pizza cutters. Roll it in caster sugar.
Here the perfume of the berries, along with the fruitiness of the tart passionfruit, is balanced by the spiced heat of ground ginger. It has no bite, coming in as a subtle background layer; a warming finish to the tart beginning. Everything is better with a little soothing. So, drape yourself over a comfortable seat, in a satin dressing gown with silk slippers, and indulge in one jewel coloured square at a time. At least that’s what I would have done with Mel.
I sent these away to Mel when my mother was returning back to Abu Dhabi. I hope she likes them. I love the idea of indulging my baby sis by making home made candy, just for her. I know,I know… she is married with a wee girlie of her own now and possesses more sense than I ever could.
And yet, once a big sis…
To view and print recipe, click here.