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.)
Thursday, January 24, 2008
One of the new products I’ve been looking forward to at the Fancy Food Show a couple of weeks ago was Caffe Acapella new line of Coffee Confections.
It’s genius really. Instead of chocolate, which is a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter and sugar, this is a combination of coffee beans, cocoa butter and sugar. Let me warn you, it’s pretty intense.
I was careful to do my tasting of these in the morning because of the obvious caffeine content.
Caffe Acapella Espresso was the first on my list, I figure I should start with the strongest. The little heart is a solid piece, .35 ounces. It has a strong snap to it and a good melt on the tongue thanks to the cocoa butter and some milk. It smells rather like freshly ground coffee. It has a concentrated coffee flavor that includes those dark roasted notes, woodsy tones and of course some bitterness. It’s well rounded out with some sugar, perhaps a little too much, but then the bitterness kicks in again at the end.
The texture is good, very much like chocolate, only with slightly more grain than usual.
Honestly, I usually don’t like “whole bean” coffee candies, I’m kind of a purist and only want the water that has passed near a coffee bean, not eat the whole thing. But I think regular readers know my affinity for anything combined with cocoa butter. This is basically a white chocolate product.
Caffe Acapella Cappuccino looked pretty much the same color as the Espresso, I expected a slightly milkier appearance. It has a softer bite to it, and melts a bit quicker. It’s sweeter and definitely milky ... almost to the point of being a bit sticky. The bitterness is pretty much absent, but so are the more complex coffee flavors.
The Caffe Acapella Caramel Macchiato may look like the others from the outside, just a nicely puffed up heart. However, inside is a reservoir of salty caramel. I’ve never actually had a caramel macchiato drink, so I can’t say whether this is a good candy-version or not. I can say that it’s very sweet, verging on throat burning (which is pretty much what’s kept me away from the drinks ... that and the regular price). My least favorite of the three.
Caffe Acapella Coffee Confections come in two formats, the little individually wrapped hearts I have here and 2.5 ounce bars. I’m not sure what the caffeine content on these is, but I don’t think my little “one-cup-a-day-never-after-noon” system could handle a whole bar.
I don’t see this format of the product on their website, just the full-sized bars. If you can get a hold of these (and keep a sharp eye out at coffee houses and at the checkstand at upscale markets), it’s a good way to sample their product line. Personally, I’d stick with the Espresso one, just because I’d be eating these for the coffee kick.
You can buy online at their webstore or use their product locator to find a shop near you that carries them. (Raley’s seems to be the only place in California that carries them, so I think I’m outta luck.) The ingredients look all natural (except I don’t know if the mono and di-glycerides in the Macchiato qualify ... can someone make a call on that?).
Michelle at Candy Addict called these Awesomely Addictive. She mentioned a more noticeable grain in hers, it’s been a full year since her review, so I suspect they’ve been conching a bit longer to get this smoother product. She also said that a full bar would be too much, I’m guessing these little morsels are an answer to that.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Here’s another candy that has been around for years but I simply have not tried: Cookie Dough Bites. The concept of the candy is pretty simple, soft nuggets of “cookie dough” covered in chocolate. After all, loads of people love to eat cookie dough as they’re making a batch and how many romantic comedies feature the heroine sitting around eating a chub of the pre-made stuff to drown her sorrows in the third act?
I guess the main reason that I’ve never tried them is that they don’t come in a single-serve size, just in these big theater concession boxes. I don’t go to the movies that often and I’ll admit that I stick to my tried-and-true favorites: Junior Mints, Good & Plenty and SweeTarts.
All of the boxes make note that they are EGG FREE. Now, at first I looked at that and I though, what is E.G.G., is this something like Non-GMO? It took me a few moments to realize that they meant, eggs, plain old eggs. It makes sense that when you say cookie dough people might think that there’s raw eggs in there. Not only are there no raw eggs though, there simply aren’t any eggs at all. Of course the allergen alert does go on to mention that they’re made in a facility that also processes eggs (and peanuts, nuts, milk solids, wheat and soy), so it’s not like that note is anything other than an advertisement that there’s no salmonella.
The image on the front shows little bits fo chocolate chip cookie dough being drenched in milk chocolate. However, I bit a lot of these in half and never found any chocolate chips. Or even flecks.
No biggie, the chocolate coating takes up that contribution of chocolate chips quite well.
The center is not quite a moist dough, it’s a little more chalky ... but not quite shortbread territory. It reminds me more of sugar cookie dough than chocolate chip cookie dough, as CCCD has a touch of brown sugar.
They’re suprisingly tasty. The chocolate isn’t at all notable, it smells a bit like chocolate, but isn’t really that creamy or satisfying. The easy chew & pop some more qualities make them an excellent movie snack.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The dark chocolate also isn’t truly dark, it has some milkfat in it, but it’s not like anyone expected these to be vegan otherwise.
The general texture and bite was similar to the milk chocolate, perhaps a little “drier” but still very munchable. I appreciated that they didn’t taste quite as sweet (those paying attention to the nutrition label will see that the dark one actually has more fat and less sugar). The dark chocolate was a little chalky sometimes, but had a dry finish that kept them from being too cloying. The cookie centers have a slight sugary grain to them that works pretty well.
Rating: 5 out of 10
They look just like the original Milk Chocolate Cookie Dough bites, but even after I took them out of the package for the photographs, I could tell them apart with a quick sniff. These smell like peanut butter all the way.
The chocolate seems creamier on this version than the other bites, I’m going to guess that the fattiness of the peanuts helped. The center is softer and not quite as chalky as the others, it seemed to almost melt in the mouth. The peanut butter flavor is light and fresh, but kind of lacks that “fresh roasted flavor” that peanut butter cups have. I could have used just a smidge more salt and perhaps a sugary grain to sell the dough part.
Though they’re not quite the same, fans of Reese’s Bites might enjoy this as a replacement of that discontinued product. (It’s still not quite as peanutty.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
The final variety is Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough Bites. This one had a nice brownie batter consistency for the center with a good sugary grain to it. The cocoa flavors of the center went well with the chocolaty flavor of the coating. They rated a little higher for me than the regular Cookie Dough Bites, but I still think the Peanut Butter ones are the most successful of the array.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The only ones I’ve actually seen in stores are the original at places like Target, Dollar Tree, 99 Cent Only and Walgreen’s, usually for about a buck a box. They’re also sold at movie theater concession stands, probably for about $3 a box.
My other basic complaint with the candy is the packaging. I think the box itself is a bit misleading. First, in order to preserve the freshness, the bites are in a little clear plastic pouch. That’s fine, although it makes it kind of silly to have the box itself, because it’s not like you dispense from the box. The box is 3.5” wide, 6” long and .75” deep. The bag dimensions are technically the same, except that it’s of course flat. It seems that the box could be flatter or maybe the bag be narrower but fuller to be more efficient. Each box has only 3 ounces in it. A similar sized Junior Mints box has 4.75 ounces. Dots have 6.5 ounces. (Granted, Cookie Dough Bites probably aren’t as dense as Dots.)
Maybe I’m getting too snooty or expected too much after Brian at Candy Addict rates the Milk Chocolate Covered Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites as Awesomely Addictive (tm). But hey, everyone has slightly different tastes, which is why it’s so great there are so many different review sites. Here’s a roundup of other opinions: Taquitos.net has Fudge Brownie, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip and Review Busters.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Here’s something I haven’t seen at the stores. Nestle has expanded their Crunch Stixx line into the coffee arena with these Nestle Crunch Cappuccino Stixx. They come in a vivid red box that actually stopped me in my tracks at the Dollar Tree.
I was actually a little worried that this was a product that had come and gone and these were remnants, but these had an expiry date of May 2008, so for just a buck (they’re $2 or more at the grocery store), I figured I should give them a go. (I’ll admit I’m still confused because they’re not listed on the Nestle-Stixx website.)
(This is the same Dollar Tree where I stood there wondering why there were two different package designs for Goetze’s Caramel Creams ... then I looked at the expiration date, some were perfectly fresh and new, the others expired in early 2006. They were both the same price. Seriously, why would I buy the old ones, except perhaps as a wrapper collector? I bought the fresh ones.)
The official definition of these on the package is milk chocolate covering a wafer filled with cappuccino creme. I think they’re positioned to be a calorie-controlled portion, as they’re only 90 calories per stick.
Honestly, I didn’t expect much. I expected sweet milk chocolate and fake coffee creme.
However, they smelled pretty good. Like a good hot mocha. The crisp of the wafer tube was good, bland but with a slight cereal taste. The inside cream had a strong coffee essence to it and some actual bitterness. I welcomed that light bitter bite to go along with the sweet chocolate.
This is what Coffee Crisp should be like ... good coffee flavor, not too sweet with some light crunch and real chocolate.
I ate them. I ate them all.
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