While this isn't necessarily about returning to roots in terms of those basic food skills that we forget as we are further removed from the production of certain food items, this is about returning to roots in the sense of taking a moment to enjoy the little things... like pretty little sugar cubes accompanying an afternoon tea or a morning's coffee.
Food colouring and flavouring are certainly optional and infinitely customizable. You can mix white, brown or cane sugar with water... add flavour extracts... add colours. You can mix and match... you can opt for simple precision. I'm already dreaming up my next combinations.
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla syrup
1 tablespoon water
Mix your vanilla, water and food colouring in a small bowl. A little bit of food colouring goes a long way... four drops of red yielded a pretty pink.
Press the sugar into your ice cube trays or candy molds (these silicone ice cube trays from Ikea work great). Use the back of a spoon to compact the sugar and firmly pack it in the mold.
Flip the mold onto a parchment lined baking sheet and lightly tap to release the sugar. If you have compacted your sugar well, you should be able to slice the long stick mold into smaller cube-like chunks using a sharp knife.
Leave the sugar cubes to dry. Try not to prod and poke at them as they are still quite fragile and can crumble if manipulated too much. I left mine for a good hour before trying to move them. By then, they had dried sufficiently to hold their shape but the bottoms were still damp, so I flipped them on their sides or upside down and let them dry for another hour. The hearts were rather large so I left them for an additional hour to make sure that they fully dried. You can even leave them to sit overnight, if you want to be absolutely certain that they are dried fully.