Thursday, January 31, 2008
I admit that they look more like hockey pucks than decadent candy. I’ve probably even seen them before, but walked right by them. But this year for the Fancy Food Show, because I had so little time on the floor, I prepared a hit list by clicking through to every website of any company that listed themselves in the confectionery category.
That’s when I found Colt’s Bolts. At first, by the name and photo of the product, I thought they were some sort of sports tie in. (Really, I had this whole story in my head that had formed about this southern Indiana hockey team - of course that makes no sense, Colts Bolts are made in Tennessee and have nothing to do with hockey or football.)
They’re gourmet peanut butter cups, with a little twist.
Instead of sitting in a fluted cup, these are a layered confection. A chocolate base, a peanut butter middle with crunchy whole almonds and then a chocolate layer to top it off.
(Oops, now that I’ve looked over their site again, they show the Colts Bolts flipped over with the small side on the top. How embarrassing!)
Inside the outer foil wrap the puck is wrapped in some plastic wrap ... and extra layer of protection.
After fumbling with that (it’s cling wrap ... it clings!) the scent of the peanut butter is quite strong. It’s a dark roasted smell, but the appearance of the peanut butter is rather light and has a hydrogenated vegetable oil in it as well as some actual butter. Biting into it, the peanut butter is smooth but not sticky. And then there are the almonds. I don’t think I took a single bite of this without getting an almond. They’re not huge almonds, but they’re crunchy and plentiful.
The chocolate is mild and melts well, giving a creamy and sweet counterpart to the otherwise “it’s all about the nuts” center.
In the Classic Dark Chocolate’s case it was true as well. This puck was much less sweet and more about the textures and powerful single notes. The flavor of the dark chocolate stood apart from the peanut butter. The textures though were amazing. The dark chocolate was quite buttery, actually slippery on the tongue which lubricated the stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth peanut butter, thus keeping it all swirling about.
This particular dark puck didn’t have quite as many almonds in it, but I’ll chalk that up to variations in a handmade product.
The peanut butter here is rather different from the crumbly & slightly crunchy version that Reese’s fans are accustomed to. This is truly a paste, very finely ground so it’s more about the flavor of the nuts than the texture.
They’re actually pretty well priced for an upscale treat at $29.00 for two pounds on their website (less than $1.00 per Bolt). I’ve never seen them in stores but if you do see them, they’re certainly worth $2 retail for a single.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Back when I could eat all the dairy I wanted, I loved milkshakes. Thick, chunky milkshakes with lots of malted milk in them. I prefered chocolate shakes, but my second favorite was strawberry. There’s something about the creaminess of ice cream and the fresh taste of strawberries and then that extra dark kick of malt that got my tastebuds-a-tingling.
But I admit that I didn’t just swoop into the nearest store and pick up the new Whoppers Strawberry Milkshake.
I mean, it’s not like Whoppers are fantastic to begin with, they have that greasy, waxy fake chocolate on what is an otherwise decent malt ball (see review of the candy coated holiday version). But I figured if I was going to eat fake chocolate, it may as well be fake strawberry confection.
I admit they smelled nice. Kind of like summer & shortcake, cotton candy & carnival midways. And they are quite pretty. Instead of an unnatural fuschia as I thought they might be from the image on the box, they were actually a lovely soft pinkish/peach color.
The candy coating was a little waxy, but sweet and had a nice creamy but mild strawberry flavor to it. No tartness that I’d associate with the berry which is often present in ice cream that uses berry pieces.
The malt center is crisp and mellow, it doesn’t have a super-strong malt hit, but still a very nice salty counterpart to the sugary outside.
I wish they used a real white chocolate compound with real cocoa butter in them, but Hershey’s is having other troubles and can’t be bothered with quality at the moment. But for what they had to work with and for 99 cents, they came up with a pretty good item here that actually delivers what they say on the package.
They’re a bit fattier than the Sno-Balls I had over Christmas (I haven’t compared them to Robin’s Eggs, which haven’t hit the stores yet) so I’ll probably stick to the sugar shell ones if I need a cheap malt fix and can’t fine real milk chocolate covered ones. Whoppers has also introduced a Reese’s Peanut Butter themed one. But to be honest, I think that a chocolate malt ball is just fine the way it is.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Those industry analysts say that licorice is the next big thing. It’s a trend. It’s fashionable. It’s hip. There will soon be licorice bars, licorice tastings ... licorice afficianado magazines. (Actually, I heard when I was a Miette Confiserie buying a Dutch assortment that they wanted to do a Sake tasting paired with licorice.)
I don’t know about all that, I’m not adverse to seeing more licorice available on the market, but I fully understand that some people simply don’t like it. Much like some folks don’t like coffee, root beer or cinnamon. (Otherwise referred to as irrational people, which does not apply, of course, to folks who don’t like cherry, butter popcorn Jelly Belly or Dr Pepper, who are perfectly rational.)
I got this ample sample of Australia’s own Kookaburra Licorice at the All Candy Expo.
These nuggets are pretty big, at least two bites in my-sized world. It’s a nice soft chew, sometimes I think it’s a little too soft, like they’re some sort of fleshy thumbs or something, so I left the bag open for a while. They didn’t get rock-hard stale, just a little drier.
I liked the flavor, definitely on the dark and smoky side even if it’s a little mild and more about the molasses than licorice. The first ingredient is treacle as well as some molasses, wheat syrup and raw sugar. These all go so well with the woodsy and very sweet qualities of real licorice. It’s very filling even though the caloric density is exceptionally low for candy: 92 calories per ounce. Kind of a “stick to your ribs” kind of candy treat.
Unlike many American licorices, this boasts real licorice extract ... as well as “natural flavors”, palm oil, soybean monglyceride, artificial colors (Red 40 & Blue #1 & Yellow #5) among other things.
I think as super-soft licorice goes I might prefer Panda (especially for the ingredients list), but this is pretty good stuff. As for the naming, a Kookaburra is a bird, a species of Kingfisher. (While it probably doesn’t have much to do with licorice, it’s far more related to Australia than the Panda is to Finnish licorice. And while we’re not on the subject, there’s also a Cocteau Twins song called Kookaburra, which has even less to do with the bird, as all CT songs are wont to do, than Pandas do with Finnish licorice ... have I digressed enough?)
Monday, January 28, 2008
Years ago when I was in college I went to see Twelfth Night at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s a cool outdoor venue and in true Elizabethan style they had concessions (candies) available to eat right there at your seat. I bought a roll of licorice toffee, I believe by Callard & Bowser. I thought I was getting a roll of licorice medallions or a hard candy flavored with licorice or something.
Instead it was a roll of soft caramels ... licorice caramels. I quite liked them. I ate the whole roll.
I bought them whenever I could find them, which wasn’t very often. And then I never saw them again. Turns out that Callard & Bowser, also known for their Altoids, is now owned by Wrigley’s and many of the traditional candies they used to make are gone.
There are other licorice taffies out there, and those are nice, but don’t have that mix of true cream and dark licorice that I love.
Then at the All Candy Expo I noticed that there were a few places that actually had licorice caramels. I was on a quest for the best. I found J. Morgan, already known in Utah for its excellent caramels. (Utah it seems is a hotbed of confection, owing I believe to the LDS prohibition on alcohol & caffeine.)
The glossy caramels wrapped in clear cellophane were quite appealing to behold. (The above tub actually has a mix of all of their products in it, not just the caramels.)
The Licorice Caramel is wonderfully creamy with a light anise touch that leaves a kind of cool effect on the tongue. The texture is exceptionally smooth, the chew is a bit stiff, but gives it up after warming in the mouth. (The short-caramel of the Callard & Bowser was grainy and not nearly as satisfying as these.)
The plain Butter Caramel is smooth, not a bit of grain to it and a nice well-toasted sugar flavor.
The other one I tried was a Pecan Caramel. The pecans weren’t big or plentiful but still added a nice buttery crunch and nutty maple flavor to them soft chew.
They make two lines of caramels, the ones profiled here are their Signature Caramels line called Old Fashioned Caramels and come in sealed cello. Their other line which is more affordable in the Heavenly Caramels line called Butter Caramels and are nice but have a slight grain to them, a less chewy chew and come in twisted cello pieces.
The ingredients for the Butter Caramels are: Sweetened Condensed Milk, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Cream, High Fructose Corn Sweetener, Palm Kernel Oil, Butter, Vanillin, Salt & Lecithin. So the majority of the sugar is from the sweetened condensed milk & corn syrup, but it looks like there’s a dash of HFCS. But all that condensed milk gives these 4% of your daily RDA of calcium in just 3 caramels!
They’re all tasty, but the Licorice Caramels are a standout of smooth creamy chew with that lovely woodsy hit of anise/licorice in it. (I do wish they’d sell a mixed tub though, so folks can sample.)
Friday, January 25, 2008
Mars has messed around quite a bit with Snickers over the past few years with various limited editions. Snickers Almond (more nuts with added almond pieces), Snickers Xtreme (all caramel & nuts), Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch (all peanuts & nougat), Snickers Dark (dark chocolate) and Snickers Shrek (green nougat). What they haven’t done yet is put something in Snickers that wasn’t already there.
That comes to an end as Snickers thinks that we need to wake up.
They’ve introduced their new Limited Edition Snickers Charged which boasts 60 milligrams of caffeine, taurine and other B vitamins (about 10% of your RDA).
The bar is slightly smaller than their regular one, again this is the same with all the limited edition bars. It’s 1.83 ounces instead of 2.06.
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Of course a slightly smaller bar means fewer calories. This one is 250 calories compared to the 280 in the regular bar.
It smells much like the regular Snickers, has the same texture ... same crunchy peanuts, chewy caramel and super-sweet nougat with a hit of salt. And then it comes along, the caffeine kick. And when I say kick, I mean in the mouth. It’s a bitter aftertaste that sits high and in the back of the mouth. It just kind of lingers there, like maybe it’s not something you ate but something you smelled (sometimes strong skunk will do that to me). And it stays with you, probably as long as the caffeine is in your system. I clocked my aftertaste for eating one half of a bar at 90 minutes.
If you’re one of those people who doesn’t notice the bitterness of coffee, it might not be such a big deal. The nice thing about a regular Snickers is that it’s an anytime bar ... this one I wouldn’t be able to eat late in the day or the evening because I simply can’t sleep if I have caffeine that late. If they’d made this a coffee flavored bar like the Twix Java, well now then we’d have something!
That 60 milligrams is nothing to sneeze at:
1 - 8-ounce soft drink contains 20-40 milligrams (about 150-170 calories)
Honestly, it’s a great value as an edible dose of caffeine goes. A candy bar is usually about 75 cents at a convenience store. A cup of coffee is usually $1.25 and a soda is $1.00 ... you might be able to get an energy drink for about $2.00. (Let’s not even go into the caffeine, calories & price of those blended coffee drinks.)
I got four bars as samples from Mars and I’ll probably eat them all, but unless I have a specific need for unhydrated caffeine, I don’t see myself picking up one of these. (Add that to the fact that they’re limited edition, which will likely make them harder to find.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.