Friday, January 11, 2008
On New Year’s Eve we tried something a little different. For the past few years we’d done grown-up things, like have a nice dinner party where my husband makes an excellent feast of something like homemade pot pies or a roast of some kind.
This year it was bit more low key, but I usually make the dessert so I decided to make it more interactive.
Specifically, after giving my studio a little purge, I gathered up the errant and orphaned candies into a bowl, bought two tubes of Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough and pre-heated the oven.
My neighbor Robin and I just took what was lying around and wrapped it in dough and baked it.
She was very conservative, erring with items that actually sounded good. Things like shaved chocolate with crushed almonds. Orange marmalade. Shaved chocolate with orange marmalade and so on.
I, on the other hand, was curious to see what would happen with things that didn’t necessarily sound good at first. My experiments included:
The process is pretty simple. Just follow the directions on the package of your Pillsbury (or other brand) Crescent Rolls. My biggest suggestion is to use baking parchment on your baking sheet, as it is extremely likely that something will leak and this prevents sticking and makes cleanup a snap. I baked them for the recommended time and found that the centers generally ended up hot and melted but not burned.
In general simpler, consistently textured items work best. While I enjoyed the less-sweet taste of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a Crescent, it was kind of dry because of the baked peanut butter and smaller proportion of chocolate that seemed to creep into the corners. A similar thing happened with the 3 Musketeers Mini. First, the Mini is too small, I think a Fun Size would work better. Second, the center stays intact but the chocolate goes everywhere. The center also seems to get a bit more grain to it, especially if you left the roll cool completely. The Peppermint Pattie was rather dreadful, as the center became inconsistent ... a little chewy in places and in other places downright chalky. The Pecan Pralines turned out fantastic, just like a Pecan Sticky Bun filling. The M&Ms’ shell seemed to lose its color (that’s the lavender blob in the first picture), which I’ve never had happen before with baking with M&Ms, there must be more moisture in crescent roll dough than cookie dough. The Lemon Jelly was tasty and moist but a little bland. The Java Twix was baffling, we couldn’t figure out what it was, it was just sweet and grainy. A twice baked cookie is probably not a good idea. (Though I’m still curious about what would happen with a KitKat.)
For the record, Robin’s Shaved Dark Chocolate with Blood Orange Marmalade was good, probably the best of the bunch.
After tasting about eight of them, we all felt a little sick and the rest remained untouched, so I can’t say whether they were considered successes or not. They’re definitely better right out of the oven, so if you’re making them for a small group, try baking three or four at a time in succession instead of all at once to pace yourself.
For kids it’s a fun little, “no mess, low stress” thing to do, maybe even for a party. I can also recommend marking them somehow ... we couldn’t figure out what some of them were and it’d only been 20 minutes since we made them! (Okay, it was New Years and we’d already had a bottle of wine.)
This is definitely an experiment I plan to continue. I saw that Pillsbury makes a jumbo roll, which might be better for larger candy bars, like a Snickers Fun Size. I also want to know what happens when you put taffy, hard candies, marshmallows or caramels in there. You can also just use candy-like ingredients like Nutella, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chips, Sprinkles, Crushed Candies and so on ...
So, have you ever tried something like this and how did it turn out?
I give the results of this project a 6 out of 10.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I wasn’t quite sure what it was (and it was $12) but was led to believe that some in the assortment were nougats (hey, they’re French, I love French nougats!) and jellies. Though they’re kind of a traditional Christmas sweet, they’re actually available year round.
The pretty little wax-paper-wrapped treats had little curly fringes and inside the wrappers are little riddles, quotes or cartoons. In France you can just buy them by the handful, and I must admit they’re so cute I wouldn’t mind finding a Christmas stocking stuffed with them. They’re popular in the Lyon region, the legend says that they originated in a confectionery shop owned by a man named Papillot and were invented by one of his workers who was trying to create something pretty to woo a co-worker. Papillot saw the marketing possiblities of the frilly wrapped treats immediately as did the customers. Of course I’m not sure if this is just legend or not. Papillotes means curly papers if I’m to believe some web translators. Are curly papers in general named for this candy or did the man who own the candy shop bear the name Mr. Curly Papers? (Could someone who speaks French educate me?)
Whatever the origin, they’re cute and come in four varieties:
Red = Pistachio Creme - okay, maybe it’s not pistachio, maybe it’s marzipan. Anyway, it’s a little too floral/medicinal for me. The good news is that there were only two of these in my assortment.
Green = Hazelnut Praline - this one has a dark chocolate shell with a light nutty truffle filling with a strong hazelnut note to it. Creamy, smooth and satisfying.
Blue = Orange Truffle - this one was easy to tell apart, it smelled strongly of orange zest. The milk chocolate was a little sweet, but the pieces of orange peel in there and the creamy texture of the whole thing was quite nice.
Pink = p?tes de fruits - I’m guessing this was a pear jelly, it was sweet and flavorful with that little bit of pearish grit to it. Not really the best flavor for me, but nice enough. I would have preferred a citrus or perhaps a raspberry.
The mix I got favored the green & pink wrappers with the exception of two red and two pink, so I lucked out with getting my favorites in quantity.
The little riddles were, well, like those little riddles you get in candy:
The answer is une armure. Oh, man, that’s funny! (Thanks to Wikipedia I now know that the French also suffer from Knock Knock jokes, which they call Toc Toc.)
They’re a fun traditional treat the would make a nice little cultural exchange or just a bright little display on a table at a party. The chocolates are good, not phenomenal, but the story and interactivity with the little curls and wrappers is what sets these apart. (Here’s another French-filled review from Moko Wants Candy.)
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Sometimes I order stuff on the internet because I like the sound of the name. I saw Kasugai’s Fruits Lemonade (also known as Ramune Iro Iro) on JBox.com and since I was already ordering a gazillion rolls of Pineapple Mentos, so I figured I should get some other stuff too.
From the description it was clear that these were just compressed dextrose candies like Smarties or SweeTarts. But the intriguing part was it looked like they came in pineapple. As I was in a pineapple mood, it was quickly in my cart and on its way to me.
The little package is cute and has a variety of different sizes. Some are large sweets, about the size of four quarters stacked up. Others were little tablets in rolls - some were tiny, others were a little bigger (like the size of American Smarties).
Most of the rolls were of all one flavor: Lemon, Strawberry, Pineapple, Kiwi or Orange. They were color coded and had little images of the fruits, so I had no trouble figuring out what I was going to get. (Well, the green one was a bit of a puzzle, but I eventually figured out that it was Kiwi, either that or a honeydew.)
There were a couple of rolls that were combinations of flavors. It was extremely hard to tell as they weren’t really different colors. I kind of liked that it was all about the flavor and there were no colors in there.
The texture was softer than Smarties ... in fact, the large ones were downright powdery. There was one larger roll (shown above) that had truly dense ones, but the rest were about the same. While I like a softer style most of the time, because you get right to the flavor, these had an odd chalky taste to them. It was like there was something else in there along with the sugar, maybe some sort of calcium carbonate and I’m actually getting some nutrition or something.
Overall the flavors were more intense than Smarties, but not as flavorful as SweeTarts. They weren’t truly sour through, not like a lot of other ramune products I’ve had. However, the high proportion of Pineapple items in this was what made it truly tasty. Sure it’s called Lemonade Mix, but it was really all about the Pineapple.
As a small side note, I’ve been experimenting with my husband’s Nikon D70 DSLR. He shot the two photos above in a little session we had over the weekend. I’m debating a move away from my point & shoot Sony DSC-V3. While I love my little camera, the control I have on the focus is a little frustrating sometimes. For now I’ll just borrow his for a while. (I think his photos turned out fantastic. It’s very hard to get a crisply focused shot on cellophane items, and the control on the depth of field is also amazing.)
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
You know what makes a candy satisfying? Sweet fat and protein. It’s a delicate balance, but I find that peanuts are usually up for the job. Mars pretty much knows that and designed the Snickers bar to take full advantage.
When I first heard about the Limited Edition Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch I was wondering if it was going to be a Butterfinger knockoff, as the Butter Crunch portion of the name might indicate. Then I wondered if it was a remix of the Snickers Cruncher. But it turns out it’s something altogether different.
Instead of nougat, peanuts, caramel and milk chocolate in the regular Snickers, this new Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch is peanuts and some sort of peanut butter mass (something they call “peanut butter taste” on the wrapper) in milk chocolate. I’d characterize this stuff as a chewy peanut butter fudge or maybe a chewy peanut butter nougat. I think it falls into the nougat camp since there are egg whites in there.
The bar is a little smaller at 1.71 ounces, but still rivals the fat content of the regular Snickers which is 2.07 ounces.
It’s odd, because the texture of the bar makes me think that there’s some caramel in there, it is definitely chewy. But look at that cross section ... it’s jammed full of that “peanut butter taste.”
I like it, I really really like it. I actually like that it’s smaller than a regular Snickers bar, which is always just one bite too much for me. I like the solidness, I like that it’s less sweet and I actually like that it has 5 grams of protein. I’ll be curious to see if this becomes a regular item like the Snickers Dark did.
Monday, January 7, 2008
I was at the grocery store and saw these “petite mint chips” on post-holiday sale. At only $1.24 for a 12 ounce bag, I could hardly resist. Sometimes I find myself spending six or eight dollars a pound for these little beauties in pastels at a candy shop when I get one of those strange cravings. They come in two different sizes, the regular which are the size of a squat Hershey’s Kiss and these that I picked up are the petite size that are like little chocolate chips.
What are Smooth n Melty? Sugar, partially hydrogenated oils and mint ... and a few nonpariels thrown in for a little crunchy texture.
While that doesn’t sound good, they’re simply buttery melting mints. They’ve very sweet but not too minty. There’s a milky component to them, but it’s not an overwhelming dairy flavor. They’re completely unsatisfying in the sense that I have to eat them one after another until the whole bag is gone. (Well, there are a few left in the bag right now.)
The only thing I didn’t like about this “baking chip” variety over the pastels is that I had that little bitter taste from the red nonpariels (red dye #40 again).
Back in ‘06 when Hershey’s introduced their Candy Cane Kisses I was so excited. They were Smooth n Melty, only made with cocoa butter instead of partially hydrogenated tropical fats. Sadly Hershey reformulated those seasonal Kisses so they are no longer made with just cocoa butter so I didn’t buy them this year.
Now if the partially hydrogenated thing puts you off, I did talk to Gary Guittard about Smooth n Melty. He said that they are working on reformulating them to include no trans fats. (But Guittard has no plans to make a real cocoa butter version, drat!) You can also get the mint disks without the nonpariels on them (usually for melting & candymaking) but I prefer the little crunch.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.