Wednesday, April 25, 2007
They come in a friendly yellow package with no frills. Just a the name blazoned across it and the simple description “Delicious Candy Coated Milk Caramels.” Think of them as jelly beans with a heart of caramel. (Mmmm, caramel hearts.)
Sugar Babies were originally made in 1937 by the James O. Welch Company. Not only was he the producer of the whole Sugar Family (Sugar Daddy and Sugar Mama and later Sugar Step-Mama) but also Junior Mints and Milk Duds as well as a long-gone line of fudge bars. Welch sold it to Nabisco in 1963. The Welch family of products changed hands a few more times, going from Nabisco to Warner-Lambert then to Tootsie in 1993, who makes them to this day.
The little morsels are rather soft. The chew is a little grainy at first because of the sugar shell, then becomes smooth with some nice buttery tones and burnt sugar flavors. Then it gets grainy again at the very end before dissolving into a sweet mess.
They’re such simple little candies and complement a wide variety of snacks. I always enjoyed eating them with some salted popcorn or Fritos (I haven’t had Fritos in probably ten years). They go great with ice cream (they get rock hard, then soften up), pretzels, M&Ms or Reese’s Pieces. And they’re cute! Look how cute they are ... have I ever mentioned that my dog is the same color as Sugar Babies?
For your enjoyment and education, here is the older Sugar Babies wrapper that I grew up with. The Tootsie site also features a recipe for a Molasses Spice cookie that uses Sugar Babies. You may also still be able to find the limited edition Chocolate Covered Sugar Babies.
The brand Gandour heralds they have the ingredients for happiness. Those ingredients include shea butter. Okee dokee.
The chocolate filling is rather firm, a little salty and pretty creamy. It’s not very chocolatey, more on the fudgy side. The crisp wafers are fun, though a little dry. The whole thing reminded me of the Happy Hippo, though there’s no hazelnut in this creme paste filling.
6 out of 10 (Halal)
This one is sporting a sassy jungle green wraper and woodsy font. Inside is a stack of wafers and creme then some caramel and crunchies with a mockolate coating.
It’s a big old jumble not jungle inside the package. The lumpy crispies and mockolate don’t quite get a good grip on the caramel and wafer center. It just doesn’t work for me. There’s too much mockolate and not enough caramel.
4 out of 10 (Halal)
M&M knock-offs made with mockolate. These were kind of a hybrid in size between Smarties and M&Ms. They’re bigger than M&Ms but thicker than Smarties. The colors were vivid. Though the package showed red, blue, yellow, green and orange, I only had orange, red and green in my bag (which held 17 morsels). The mockolate was less milky than the other products and passably good. It actually tasted better than Garfield’s Chocobites. Kind of smoky and rounded, though not quite the smooth mouthfeel of cocoa butter chocolate. For a treat for little kids, I guess these would be just fine, but I could probably only bring myself to decorate a cake with them.
4 out of 10 (Halal)
This is one that I had no clue about judging from the name. But the description and image on the wrapper seemed pretty agreeable. A biscuit bar with caramel and a chocolate flavored coating. So it’s like a Twix! The bar was just a little flatter and a little shorter than a Twix, but it’s kind of fun that they sell these smaller portions. It looked pretty good, with the same rippled appearance on the coating.
The inside was a lot different from a Twix. Instead of being a very dry shortbread, this one was a little salty and reminded me of a dense Ritz Cracker plank. The caramel was not chewy or gooey here, just a sweeter texture between the cookie and mockolate (and not always there either). The whole thing had a rather strong “butter flavor” to it.
5 out of 10 (Halal)
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Last night I was mentioned in a Slashdot post on the topic of the FDA considering the change in the definition of chocolate. I went to bed happy, because I saw quite a few new entries into the Keep it Real Raffle, which meant that the FDA was really going to hear what we thought. (There’s a lot of edumicated folks on Slashdot, the thread has over 600 comments, so I know that if they do end up telling the FDA how they feel it will be many different points of view ... which is cool and exactly they way it should be!)
This morning I found that the interview that I did with Bloomberg news was finally published: Hershey Battles Chocolate Connoisseurs Over Selling ‘Mockolate’ by Adam Satariano. I’m quoted and now everyone knows how old I am (at least Newsday didn’t run my photo ... then all the magic would be gone from Candy Blog). Later I did a companion pre-recorded radio interview with the cocoa-buttery-voiced Steve Geimann. (I’ll try to grab a link to that at some point, I might have missed it, there might be a podcast though.)
I was contacted by NPR for Talk of the Nation and went to their studio at lunch today to do a little 10 minute piece on the subject. The other guest on the show was Fran Bigelow of Fran’s in Seattle. (I didn’t tell her that her salted caramels are lovely ... I had to stay on topic.) The host, Rebecca Roberts, was really on top of things and I think helped to bring a lot of the nuances of the issue out. (Blog of the Nation link.)
I also did a phone interview with a reporter at the Washington Post. I think that’ll run tomorrow.
And tomorrow is when it’s all over. Well, that’s when this chapter ends. (Go log your opinions at the FDA site!)
My sincere thanks to everyone who has been working so hard to pass the word along. Instead of reacting to something like this after the fact, we’re able to have a voice and exercise our power to remind the FDA that they are supposed to be working to protect us. It’s a nice warm feeling, isn’t it?
UPDATE: the comment period may have been extended to May 25, 2007. (It’s not on the FDA site, but Don’t Mess with Our Chocolate says so.) Stay tuned!
UPDATE 04/27/2007: The comment period is extended to June 25, 2007. Here’s the new page on the FDA site for entering your thoughts.
Monday, April 23, 2007
I got an email from Marvo at The Impulsive Buy alerting me that there were some new Snickers and M&Ms to celebrate Shrek the Third. I spotted the bags of minis at Target but just couldn’t bring myself to buy a whole bag, so I was happy to see the single bars at 7-11 the following week. The wrapper has a little drawing of a cross section and an arrow pointing to it with the words With Green Shrek Filling - Same Snickers Taste” next to it.
Can I just say that I’m wondering if they include smell in that?
It smelled a bit like feet to me. Perhaps Shrek’s feet, I can’t be sure, as he’s an animated character and likely smells more like pixels or ozone. Maybe “feet” is too strong. Latex balloons ... yes, that’s it: chocolate, peanuts and rubber gloves.
It tasted the same as the regular Snickers ... but perhaps a little peppery. (It’s not Wasabi that makes it green, is it?)
I’m just glad they didn’t cover it in a green “white chocolate.” A Snickers bar without the green filling gets an 8 out of 10. This one only gets a 7 out of 10. Until it goes on sale at five for a dollar later this year.
The other movie tie in are Ogre-Sized M&Ms Peanut Butter ... which might be similar to the M&Ms Peanut Butter Speck-tacular Eggs. Can anyone confirm that?
I’m happy to report that Newsday picked up my Chocolate/Mockolate editorial and printed it in today’s edition. (You can catch it on their website here.)
The print edition actually has an illustration accompanying it. (I was worried ... they asked for a photo!)
The image was made by William L. Brown, who has a really fun website featuring his work and a passion for candy as well. (He gave me some great recommendations which I have every intention of following up on.)
A couple of funny things to report as well:
I have no control over the headlines they give the piece. It’s odd, they printed it exactly as I wrote it (well, it was edited, but all with my cooperation), but on the LATimes website it had two different headlines and another in the print edition. Here Newsday has given it another one.
The original one was “A chocolate rose by any other name” which I came up with but didn’t like. The one that I thought they were going to use in the print edition was “Lowering the chocolate bar” which I think is the smartest of all of them.
There is another unsigned editorial that first appeared in the Sacramento Bee and was then picked up by a bunch of other related outlets. The curious thing about that is that they ask readers to sign a petition. That’s inaccurate. There’s no petition, what you’re supposed to do is submit your comments to the FDA. It’s just a proposal and now is the time to stop it in its tracks.
UPDATE: the FDA comment deadline was extended to June 25, 2007. Get your comments in today right here.
I’ve never been to Baja. I hear that the experience in the lagoons where the Grey Whales nurse their calves is amazing. I also hear they make great fish tacos there. But I also hear they eat these. It still hasn’t been enough to get me to drive that 200 miles south.
The Starburst Baja California commericals make it seem to be a paradise.
It might well be.
I admit that I’m always enchanted with candy that’s named for a place.
Limon - this was strange. It started with the distinct flavor of bubble gum. I can’t explain it. Then it got very tart with a pleasant lemon-lime flavor and a slight hint of key lime.
Strawberry Watermelon - yes, this tasted just like you’d think a strawberry and watermelon Starburst should.
Baja Dragon Fruit - as a blue flavor, I was a little put off, I can’t quite put my finger on the flavor. It reminded me of mango and a little bit of plum.
Aztec Punch - the first time I tried this I thought I got my mixes mixed and it was a cherry one. So I dug out another one and the same thing happened. It tastes like cherry. Maybe that’s what the Aztecs put in their punch.
But this array in Starburst Tropical of flavors sounded pretty good.
Mango Melon - I don’t know. It was kind of melon, kind of mango, but not the best aspects of either of those flavors. Not tangy enough, not zesty enough.
Strawberry Banana - I don’t consider strawberries a tropical fruit. If something is indigenous to England, it’s not tropical. This was bad. I wanted to like it, as I love real strawberry and banana things, but the banana was just ooky, a little too fake and a little too much like a scented candle.
Royal Berry Punch - another punch flavor. It’s like they thought that there weren’t enough specific tropical fruit flavors so they had to do these punchy things. This is nice though, a little note of coconut with some melon and citrus and maybe kiwi.
Pina Colada - very coconutty and with a good tingly blast of pineapple. It doesn’t have that buttery flavor that coconut stuff often does, but the fully-rounded notes of the pineapple are great.
If I were to create a Tropical Fruit mix, I’d keep it simple and pick from these: Pineapple, Mango, Lychee, Passion Fruit & Banana. The ultimate mix from these two packs would consist of: Limon, Pina Colada and Royal Berry Punch. No, I can’t even manage to pick a fourth. They’re all okay, but I prefer the original mix best (because of its high citrus content).
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Michael brought up a very good point in the comments here. Where is the proof that Big Chocolate is trying to degrade the standards of chocolate?
If you’ve gone through the files that are up for public view listed under 2007P-0085: Adopt Regulations of General Applicability to all Food Standards that would Permit, within Stated Boundaries, Deviations from the Requirements of the Individual Food Standards of Identity you will see that there is a letter from the FDA, a letter about a phone conversation between the FDA and the Grocery Manufacturers Association and then two documents from the GMA (with co-signatories): the cover letter and the citizen petition. (PDFs)
Nowhere in these documents does it say anything specifically about allowing a one hundred percent swap of cocoa butter in chocolate for vegetable fats to be called chocolate.
However, in that Citizen Petition it mentions (page 4) that there is an Appendix C ... a handy chart that breaks things down. But where is Appendix C? It’s sure not on the FDA’s website. I have it (thanks to Gary Guittard) and you can view it right here. Though it’s only a brief explanation of everything asked for in the proposed changes, it’s quite clear in the first example in the second column that they are asking to swap cocoa butter for other vegetable fats.
Since the Citizen Petition had many signatories, and the primary one was the Grocery Manufacturers Association, not the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, I decided to contact them for an official statement of their position. This is what I said:
I got this reply:
This was what the attached letter said:
As for the confusion about the changes not being entirely public (honestly, I’m not sure what else is in there), it is completely deplorable that the public comment period on these proposed changes ends on Wednesday, yet to this date there has been no coherent posting on the FDA’s website as to what we’re commenting on.
I was a bit panicked at first, after all, I was just getting my information from the Don’t Mess with Our Chocolate website. I actually waffled for a moment ... I can see a case being made for looser standards when it comes to using newer ingredients and keeping in step with other countries. But there came a reality check for me that I wasn’t just making this up in my head on the basis of one little old website. There have been quite a few articles written about this, with comments from the industry itself. I’m not sure why Hershey would respond to it (as they did in this article) if it weren’t true. I’ve also talked to two other journalists, one from ABC News and the other from Bloomberg.
But yes, it would be nice to get a hold of the actual document. Wouldn’t it?
Friday, April 20, 2007
Valerie Confections has another seasonal nougat. This one is Lemon Hazelnut Nougat Covered in Dark Chocolate.
It’s heavenly looking stuff, with a good dark glossy sheen and sparlkling little slivers of candies Meyer Lemons from June Taylor. The chocolate is a buttery smooth dark Valrhona and the nougat itself is studded with organic hazelnuts from Trufflebert Farms.
I’m in heaven.
The price is, well, pricey. But Mother’s Day is around the corner, so if your mum is as nuts for nougat as I am, she might think you appreciate her or something if you were to show up for Sunday Brunch with a box of these. And maybe she’ll let you have a piece.
I think I was a little more fond of the Holiday nougat, which was orange and almond, but the fresh flavor of the lemon is really refreshing. There isn’t a trace of bitterness in the lemon zest, it’s just pure flavor and the chewy texture.
UPDATE 4/20/2009: I’ve just finished another box of this. I don’t know if it was the seasonal variation in the candied lemons, but this was divine. The bittersweetness of the chocolate and the bittersweetness of the candied peels was just spot on. I’ve bumped this up to a 10. I had a lot of fine candy around the house to eat, but this was what I kept going for. The price has also come down.
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