Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Judson Candies was started in 1899 by E.J. Jenner who later brought J.W. Judson in as a partner in 1910. Judson later bought him out and renamed the company. Most notably Judson developed the “more tart jelly bean” in the 1930s, which is the chewy sour ball that we all know today from so many different companies. Judson Candies was then purchased in 1983 by the Atkinson family (already a popular company in Texas with the Chick-o-Stick) and renamed Judson-Atkinson Candies.
I was hesitant to pick up a whole box of Cherry Sours (but ended up being given this box as a sample at All Candy Expo), so I was pretty happy when I stumbled across these little packets of Assorted Sours at the 99 Cent Only Store.
They do look like little gumdrops with a bright jelly bean coating.
The bag holds a variety of five flavors. Though the package design is a little, I don’t know, elementary-school looking. If you can’t make it out here in the photo, there’s a lemon about to slam dunk a cherry (who seems pretty happy about it) and a green apple off to one side waving his arms like he’s open (as if the lemon is gonna pass it to him and not do his dunk?).
All that aside, what’s inside is a candy that I think pleases all ages.
Each sour ball has a crunchy, crumbly candy shell like a jelly bean. The center is lightly flavored and colored. The outside is really brightly colored.
Green Apple has both the artificial chemical “invented” green apple flavor and a nice hint of real apple juice flavors. It’s not terribly tart, but certainly flavorful from start to finish.
Lemon has a bit of a powdery lemon flavor, like lemonade mix at first, which then mellows out into a rather nice zesty lemon. Not sour.
Tangerine was the one I looked forward to the most, as I love tangerine candies. It was similar to the lemon, it tasted more like tang than tangerine, but a little more on the tangy side.
Cherry is what Judson-Atkinson is known for. These taste like tangy, chewy Cherry Lifesavers. After the tartness goes away, it’s a little more medicinal than floral.
Grape is the one that really bugged me (really, I was fine with Cherry). It reminded me of violets and those scented magic markers more than grapes or grape candy. While the apple had real apple-ness to it, this one just felt more like too much red food coloring. Luckily there weren’t that many of them in my assortment.
The centers are very firm, but extremely smooth, probably because they use both corn starch and tapioca to give them a extra jelled texture.
I would love to see what they could do for Pineapple and Grapefruit ... maybe Lime. (A Blue Raspberry exists, but isn’t in this mix and a Tropical but that features Pina Colada, Peach, Mango, Watermelon & Fruit Punch.)
The ingredients list lots of artificial colors: Yellow #5 & #6, Red #3 & #40, Blue #2 and Carmine (which makes these unsuitable for vegetarians/vegans).
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The orchard where the cacao grows was planted in 1997 years ago by Dole, who wanted to diversify their agriculture in the area. However, around 2000 they abandoned the orchards, which became overrun with weeds (but the cacao & coffee trees were still there) and of course weren’t irrigated or fertilized. Later in 2004 the orchards were restored and only in the past three years have the fruits of their labor become available to the public. In this case the bar is by Malie Kai.
The farm has only about 17-20 acres devoted to cacao (about 650 trees per acre) so don’t expect huge quantities of these to flood the market. The trees are mixed varieties of Trinitario and Forestero. They’re grown pesticide free (though not certified organic as I believe they use non-organic fertilizers).
One of their bars is the Single Origin Waialua Estate bar featuring 55% cacao. It’s a petite bar at only 1.5 ounces, but a good size to give me a bit of the flavor and profile of this national chocolate.
The bar comes in a smart little box, that protects it well. Inside it’s in an airtight mylar pouch to further enhance freshness.
It has a pleasant fruity-raisin chocolate aroma. The melt is nice, but is very sweet, almost overwhelming the more delicate flavors at first. After it settles in on the tongue and melts I was able to tease notes like molasses, toffee and raisins.
The texture is smooth, with only the slightest sugary grain to it. There’s no trace of bitterness and though there’s a light finish, it’s not at all acidic or dry.
I found it too sweet to satisfy my desire for rich dark chocolate, but the texture and size is great. I don’t see myself buying it again just for the taste, but I think it’s an interesting demonstration piece. I’m interested to try some of their other bars, especially the milk chocolate. (I tasted it on the floor at the Fancy Food Show ... but I tasted a lot of things that day.)
The bars are available in Hawaii quite readily. On the mainland
you’ll have to look sharp at upscale chocolate shops or order from a Hawaiian specialty shop. The bar also comes in a 38% Milk Chocolate version. (It’s not common to see single origin milk chocolate.)
Malie Kai also makes a line of flavored & inclusion bars: Kona Coffee & Roasted Almonds (dark & milk), Kona Coffee Cappuccino (milk), Kona Coffee Espresso (dark), Lemon Macadamia Nut (dark) and Orange Macadamia Nut (milk).
Guittard is also making a 70% cacao content chocolate from the same Waialua Estate beans.
Monday, April 21, 2008
This curious limited edition comes from Canada. In Canada there are fewer possessives in their confections. Hershey’s products are marked only Hershey Canada and Reese’s products have a logo that omits the apostrophe S entirely. (Okay those are the only two instances I could find.)
The package says it was Imported by Hershey Canada, Inc., but I guess Canadian labeling laws don’t necessitate saying where the product is actually from, just that it’s not from Canada. We certainly didn’t get these in the States ... I find it hard to believe that the American factory would churn these out for Canada and not us, and that only leaves the Mexican factories as a possible source.
I first learned of the existence of the Limited Edition Reese Hazelnut Creme candy on CacaoBug‘s blog. Even though she wasn’t pleased with them, I still wanted to give it a try and asked Canadian reader Amber to see if she could find them when she visited Los Angeles last month. (She’s my Canadian candy mule!)
The cups, as viewed here, are naked. They have no paper cups. They’re also smaller than the typical Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, these clock in at a mere 15 grams each. (About the same size as the junior size individually wrapped ones.)
They smell like Easter. I think you know the smell, sweet and milky. The “chocolate” is marginal. Not chocolatey and though it smells milky, it doesn’t taste like milk chocolate. The melt on the tongue is waxy, which I was willing to chalk up to the hazelnut butter until ... well, read on.
The hazelnut creme center is less than creamy. It’s stiff, not quite a peanut butter and though it has sweet and smooth melt, I wouldn’t characterize it a creme.
The whole thing, sadly, doesn’t taste much like hazelnut. Not like the giuandiua I was hoping for. Oh, wouldn’t a Nuttela meets Reese’s be nice? This isn’t it.
I understand that hazelnuts are far more expensive than peanuts, so I understand why the little cups are 15 grams instead of the full-sized 21 grams. But if you’re gonna go to all the trouble of making a special edition for hazelnut lovers, give them what you promise. Hazelnuts! The ingredients for a RPBC are: milk chocolate then peanuts then all that other stuff. The Hazelnut Creme cup has an unappealing list of ingredients that goes like this: sugar, modified milk ingredients, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, hydrogenated coconut oil, hazelnuts, cocoa powder, dextrose, soy lecithin, artificial flavour, propyl gallate & ascorbyl palmitate.
So not only are you not getting any actual chocolate in here, you’re getting a scant amount of hazelnuts and that creme is made from modified milk ingredients.
It may as well be from R.M. Palmer, because that “Easter” taste I mentioned earlier is pretty much the Palmer taste. The taste of disappointment.
Friday, April 18, 2008
I reckon one of the best things about traveling is finding new candies that reflect the local flavor. I’ve collected quite a few of them over the years from friends & relatives who travel and have presented quite a few of them.
Some of them are kind of hokey, but some truly reflect the local ingredients that the region is known for. (Just look at all the wonderful things the South does with pecans, molasses and peaches.)
My neighbor & friend, Robin, just brought these goodies back from Key Largo, Florida last week. They’re two different kinds of chocolate dipped coconut patties made by Anastasia Confections. (Robin & Amy are the same friends that sparked the idea for Candy Blog via their seating arrangement at their wedding reception seating plan ... and have also graced Candy Blog with other confections like the big old mess of Peruvian goodies, Charleston Pralines, Cowgirl Chocolates Hot Caramels & Rocky Mountain Huckleberry Gummi Bears.)
The first one I tried was the Key Lime Coconut Patties.
It has a lovely scent of lime, that unmistakable smell of key limes. Key Limes are softer on the tongue, I think. But they’re also more bitter but slightly less acidic. There’s something a bit chalky about key lime juice and the resulting key lime pies. This doesn’t quite capture all of that (as it’s not a custard), but it gets many of the notes.
It’s all sweet with an overtone of the lime essences and of course a lot of sickly sweet coconut. The coconut is moist and flaky and the chocolate coating is a nice counterpoint.
It’s not a treat I’d buy often or eat a lot of in one sitting, but it’s a fun item to have one of, maybe with some tea or a glass of milk.
Anastasia Confections are Kosher.
While Key Limes may sport a tart flavor as part of their profile, you can get by with just the essence of it and people will buy it. But in this case the pineapple here is only a faint waft. There are a light and creamy yellow color, still the same sweetness and crumbly flaky coconut. I liked it better than an actual pina colada (but no one’s quite figured out how to dip those in chocolate, have they?).
Another interesting thing I noted here is the resemblance of these to the Disney Mickey Coconut Patties I got last summer at Disneyland. I’m certain they’re made by Anastasia Confections (which is based in Orlando, Florida ... as is DisneyWorld). So if you enjoyed those at the park, you can get squared off versions via their website.
Amy went to Spokane, Washington on a separate trip over a month ago and brought this unique item back. It’s made by Spokandy a chocolatier that’s been around since 1913. At first I thought that’s what the actual product was called. Turns out it’s just the name of the company.
The box is simple and elegant and says that it holds some Huckleberry Almond Bark.
The picture shows something that’s an indescribable shade of lavender. It’s not pale, it’s shockingly bright, yet still a pastel.
The picture is actually accurate. It really looks like that. It looks just like that.
They call it a creamy bright, flavorful huckleberry chocolate coating with slivered almonds blended for the perfect balance of flavor and texture. THis mouth-watering treat is not complete until we top it with real dried huckleberries..
It smells like blueberries and has a nice glossy appearance. The berries were not actually distributed evenly. Some pieces had no bits and others had huge clumps. However, the bark itself had a nice integration of slivered almonds.
It has a nice smooth and milky melt. It’s very sweet. It tastes a bit like BooBerry Cereal smelled. I enjoyed the almonds and the berries when I got them. But it’s not a real white chocolate confection there, there’s no actual cocoa butter, just an array of tropical oils and partially hydrogenated palm oils.
The color I couldn’t quite peg? That’s FD&C colors Red #3, #40 & Blue #1.
What it really needs is some salt, so maybe their Huckleberry Pretzels have a better balance. If this is one of your wedding or baby shower colors, though, this might be the candy for you.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
It’s often puzzled me why there aren’t more organic candy bars out there. For the most part candy bars are made (or can be made) with all natural/organic ingredients pretty easily. Why no one does this is beyond me, so for the most part candy fiends with an eco bent have to eat just chocolate (sometimes flavored) or hard candies or pay for bars to be flown from far away places and pay ridiculous prices for kinky combinations ... in reality all I want is the tried and true candy bar, only made with pure ingredients.
Crispy Cat has a nice line of candy bars that seem to defy that notion that candy bars have to be made with sub-par ingredients. Their bars are also dairy free, gluten free, non GMO and use a large proportion of organic ingredients (70-90% organic, depending on the bar). In fact, their ingredients list only looks long because they put things like “organic” or “made with gmo” all over it.
They come in three varieties: Toasted Almond, Roasted Peanut and Mint Coconut ... all with dark chocolate.
Here’s what Joel, the founder of Crispy Cat has to say:
The Toasted Almond features dark chocolate, crispy rice & toasted almonds.
It has a wonderful dark, woodsy and chocolatey aroma. The bite is a bit stiff, it’s not quite crunchy and certainly not chewy. It’s just lumpy.
Once I got used to the complex center, I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures. It’s part crisped rice, a little bit of a caramel-like chew to hold it together, a toasted sugar flavor and some pieces of almonds for an added crunch. I would have preferred a lighter crunch to it, something easier to chew (either crispier or softer).
This bar also has a crisped rice center. In this case it’s a bit fluffier and softer than the others, with a light peppermint scent.
Instead of the firm and chewy center, this one was a bit crumblier and has big pieces of naturally sweet coconut in it. It’s an interesting flavor combo, very tropical and fresh, a bit of a grassy note to the whole thing.
I can’t say that I loved this one, in fact it was my least favorite of the three. But I can’t help but be pleased that someone is paying attention to coconut these days. I love the stuff.
The center felt fattier though had the same number of calories as the Toasted Almond at 220 it has 10 grams of fat (TA has only 9).
The dark chocolate is rather bitter but has a decent melty texture. The crunchy rice, peanut butter and peanut chunk center is tasty. It’s dark and nutty, a bit salty and only lightly sweet. This one hits it out of the park as far as a peanut candy bar can go.
It definitely tasted like a candy bar, not one of those nutrition bars.
I was kind of surprised to see that they weighed only 1.75 ounces, it’s actually bigger than a Snickers bar, which gives the perception of a much larger mass of satisfaction.
Overall, these are fun and have very few compromises. And what’s the biggest one? Price. These retail for $2.50 ... that’s three times the price you’d pay for a non-organic bar. Pretty startling. But compared to other premium meal replacement bars, they can hold their own. The two nut varieties have 4 grams of protein (not from soy, though they do use soy lecithin so they’re not soy free) and 2 grams of fiber. They also clock in at 220 calories, which is a decent snack. I’d probably prefer these in a smaller variety though ... they’d make an awesome Halloween Treat if they came in snack size.
The Roasted Peanut bar is the one most likely to appeal to kids but none are too mature to miss with a true candy bar fiend.
I’d also recommend a bit of a change in the design of the package. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to appeal to, but it’s not grabbing me. They call themselves “tree huggin’ treats” and have the image of a couple of arms around a tree on the left size of each wrapper. (I’m not sure where the cat comes in.) The website looks completely different and inconsistent from this (but I’m not keen on the web’s cartoon designs either).
I’m not quite sure about them, they’re definitely on the right track and I’d be most inclined to eat the Roasted Peanut again, but if I were faced with eating one of these or a Lara Bar, I’d probably go for the Lara Bar.
Want to win some? Check out Crispy Cat Chronicles, if you can guess Ann’s new baby’s height, weight & birthdate you can win three cases of the bars of your very own.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Ghirardelli has really expanded their line of chocolate bars over the past five years. Not only that, I see their products everywhere now thanks to the expansion of higher end chocolate into grocery stores and drug chains. They even have a charming chain of ice cream stores.
But I’ve ignored them on the blog for a long time. Probably because my initial impression of them has been that the chocolate bars is waxy and bland. But they’re wildly popular and have been making chocolate since 1852 in the Bay Area, one of my favorite candy destinations, so I needed to put those impressions to the test.
That’s not to say that I don’t use their chocolate chips, I prefer them to Nestle’s Toll House Morsels or Hershey’s Baking Chips and they’re often on sale for a decent price.
So I picked up this assortment of tasting squares after Christmas when they were on sale. They feature the new line of Intense Dark in three different flavors.
The Espresso Escape wrapper says: dark chocolate with finely ground espresso beans in 60% cacao. As usual I was worried about the bits of coffee beans, but in thsi case they really were so finely ground as they matched the particle size of the cocoa solids.
Roasted brewed coffee flavors mixed with the woodsy taste of real beans. Very little chocolate flavor here, it’s all coffee but with a smooth chocolate texture. Good cocoa butter melt, very silky. Light vanilla overtones. But the cedar and smoke is quite tangy.
While I enjoyed the texture quite a bit, the flavor was just a little too, well, Intense (tm).
The Mint Bliss package says: dark chocolate with natural mint in 60% cacao. What the front of the package doesn’t mention is that there’s also some unidentified “artificial flavor” in this as well.
Nice buttery texture, but an incongruous tangy and musty taste along with the peppermint. It’s more of a fresh peppermint leaf taste, not a pure peppermint oil, which is a nice change of pace from their Peppermint Bark that I had over the holidays. But the combination of flavors still doesn’t quite jive for me.
It has a nice buttery melt with a light cool feeling but the flavor is a little thin. It’s a little fruity, on the raisin side of things.
It’s sweet, only the lightest trace of bitterness. Light dry finish.
Ghirardelli has some other versions in their Intense Dark line, including the Midnight Reverie that has 86% cacao, Evening Dream with only 60% cacao and two other flavored 60% called Citrus Sunset & Toffee Interlude. They also have some filled bars that I haven’t tried yet.
Overall, it’s nice stuff, certainly worth the price and a fun little pickup for coffee or after dinner, maybe a mid-day munch. I like the 10.6 gram squares, it’s a good size for a little taste of chocolate.
Note: the Mint Bliss & Espresso Escape have milk fat in them, so are unsuitable for vegans, but the Twilight Delight is milk-free (though made on equipment that processes dairy).
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
In that grand shipment of goodies from Mars last month I also got a box of these, Starburst GummiBursts.
They’re a new product hitting the shelves in the US, described as Liquid Filled Gummies. They come in four flavors: Strawberry, Cherry, Orange & Lemon.
The package also boasts that they have Real Fruit Juice! and Great Fruit Taste(r).
I thought the package was a little light at only 1.5 ounces (a package of Skittles or Starburst are over 2 ounces for the same price). But then again, with the light caloric density, that makes a package only 140 calories.
Inside the little medallions are a little larger around than a nickel.
Each gummi has the juicy S on it and beneath that little dome of the letter lurks the burst. Biting into the firm gummi, there is definitely a thick flavored syrup center.
The gummi texture isn’t as rubbery as some, it doesn’t have that bounce.
The liquid is thick and tangy, but pretty much the same as the gummi, but in a different texture. The flavors, well, they’re the same as the Starburst chews.
At first the goo center squicked me out, but I got used to it. But it never really did much for me. They’re a “moister” feeling gummi, but that solves a problem I didn’t really have. The flavors in the package, though consistent with what’s in a regular Starburst Chews package, just don’t seem to do much for me. They’re not quite tangy enough to get my salivary glands going, they’re just plain ordinary. Of course if one of my initials was S, I’d probably be more partial to these.
These were announced by Mars early this year, but I’ve not seen them on store shelves and can’t seem to find them anywhere online.
The package says that they’re gluten free. They do contain gelatin (of indeterminate origin) and are unsuitable for vegans.
I love pudding. I don’t care much for pastries, I’ve never gone for cupcakes (or any cakes for that matter) but I cannot resist pudding. I don’t care what kind of pudding it is: tapioca, rice, custard, flan, creme brulee, butterscotch or bread pudding, it’s all good to me. You can put it in a crust and call it pie, but it’s all pudding to me. (Yes, custard has eggs in it, true pudding is just starch thickened milk & sugar. Instant pudding is like mockolate and does not deserve the pudding name.)
I usually make Jell-O Cook & Serve pudding. I’ve tried some organic stuff from Whole Foods but found it had far more sugar in it and less flavor, so I went back to Jell-O (I actually preferred Royal, but I can’t find that any longer). I usually make mine with Lactaid milk, as I’m not that good at digesting larger quantities of milk products and this is a good alternative to ice cream.
Here’s what you get from Jell-O for $1.50:
It turns out that it’s so freakishly easy, I’m kicking myself for not doing it for years.
(For the record, I did a search on the internet to see if I could find a recipe for just this and I had absolutely no luck ... so I worked it out on my own.)
What started this was that I got two cans from Equal Exchange last week ... when it was 90 degrees out. Not really hot chocolate season any longer, but pudding is always in season. One can is of their Organic & Fairly Traded Spiced Cocoa (shown) and one is of their Organic & Fairly Traded Drinking Chocolate. The difference between the two: hot cocoa is just that, cocoa and sugar (this one with spices as well) to be mixed with milk. Hot Chocolate or Drinking Chocolate has cocoa liquor in it and therefor a bit of cocoa butter.
Here are the ingredients of the Drinking Chocolate:
(The ingredients list would look shorter if they didn’t have to throw the word organic in front of everything because it’s two things: sugar and some sort of chocolate or cocoa.)
It took me two tries, the first one I did only 2/3 of a cup of cocoa mix and 2% milk. The second was best and is what I’ve listed below.
Deluxe & Politically Correct Lactose-Free Chocolate Pudding That’s Super Easy to Make from Near-Scratch
Have your destination cups ready. I usually use the little cups that came with my china pattern, they hold 8 ounces, so that’s what I put in them. But you can use ramekins or other dessert cups that hold the recommended dosage of a half a cup if you have self control (or if you have no self control and just like to do a lot of dishes).
- 3 cups of milk (don’t use anything less than 2% or you’ll end up with a disappointing slurry - I use Lactaid Whole Milk)
Put 3 cups of milk into a large, heavy saucepan. Sift the 1/4 cup of corn starch into the milk while stirring (I use a mesh tea strainer to do this, a fine screen colander works, too). This should avoid any of the dreaded lumps. When done, turn on burner to medium.
Put in 3/4 cup of cocoa mix, stirring constantly, scraping bottom and sides. This process takes about five minutes. Just be patient, work out any lumps or clumps in the cocoa while stirring, they get easier to integrate as the milk warms. The drinking chocolate didn’t look like it was completely melted until the very end, so have confidence.
Continue heating until mixture thickens. Do not allow to come to a full boil, but if you get a few blurples as it comes up to that temperature, it’s not the end of the world.
Pour into cups. Allow to cool. If you don’t like skin on your pudding, cover immediately with wax paper or plastic wrap touching the surface of the pudding.
I don’t mind skin, so I don’t cover mine at all, even when I stick it in the fridge (partly because I’m lazy and partly because it seems like such a waste of plastic).
I also like hot pudding. Yes, I’ll rinse out the pan and clean up my mess and then dig in with a spoon to my chocolate soup while it’s still steamy and a little runny.
In order to customize this, in both instances I followed the ratio of milk to hot cocoa mix on the package, so give it a try with whatever you may have around, but I’d err on the upper side of 1/4 cup per cup of milk.
The Equal Exchange Spiced Cocoa was a bit too spicy for me, but a really good, rich flavor (I might try it with half unspiced at some point). Not quite as fatty smooth as I would have preferred but this allowed me to sense the difference between that and the Drinking Chocolate (57%) was amazing. So deeply chocolatey, but silky smooth. It was like a freshly waxed floor and stocking feet ... my tongue was sliding around with that pudding going, “Whee!”
Yes, truly from scratch is probably best of all, but this is so elegantly easy and means that I can have hot cocoa on hand for guests and just need to have corn starch around for a scalable chocolate pudding mix at the drop of hat.
Pudding is a great year round dessert, easy to make larger batches for bigger crowds or use as a pie or tart filling.
I also tried Guittard Grand Cacao Drinking Chocolate late last year, which is absolutely divine as a hot chocolate ... next time I’ll try it as pudding, too. It’s the perfect ratio of chocolate to sugar (milk adds its own sweetness).
I haven’t (and won’t) tried this with an actual instant cocoa mix that you’d use water with ... that has powdered milk or “coffee creamer” type products in it. I don’t think it would work with soy, rice or almond milk products, part of the reaction that thickens pudding is the starch with the calcium in milk, if I’m not mistaken. But if it does work, it’d make this vegan.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.