Tuesday, September 30, 2008
First thing I have to say about Brach’s Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy Corn is that the name is too long. If the name takes up three lines, it’s too long. These are tiny little pieces of candy ... the name should not weigh more than the candy itself.
I knew this candy existed, but I was having trouble finding it. I was delighted not only to find it at Walgreen’s, but also in this 7 ounce bag (instead of the 9.5 ounce Caramel Apple Candy Corn a few weeks ago and the mondo 22 ounce bag I got of the the Caramel Candy Corn last year).
The package says that it’s made with real cocoa and real milk. I’d never really thought about candy corn being a dairy product. (Makes me think about creamed corn.)
My bag was exceptionally sloppy. There weren’t many well-formed pieces, some were missing a color but mostly they were just irregular. Part of the fun is the attractiveness of candy corn. This didn’t quite measure up.
The base flavor is the caramel. It’s a bit salty and has that fake butter flavor to it that I can handle in tiny doses. The middle section has a light cocoa flavor and the white top is, of course, unadulterated sweetness. They taste a bit richer than the typical orange & yellow candy corn, but I found the fake butter a little too artificial to keep me eating these.
It makes me wish they sold these in 1 ounce bags. That would have been enough to satisfy my curiosity.
The ingredients list salt above the actual milk in here. There’s also gelatin, so no good for vegetarians and it’s not Kosher.
This was the first Brach’s package I’ve seen so far that makes note of the new Farley’s & Sathers ownership.
The package joyfully tells me it’s America’s #1! (It’s also made in Mexico.)
Honestly it’s been so long since I had the Brach’s Mellowcremes, I didn’t remember whether they were flavored or not. (The Autumn Mix is not distinctly flavored.)
These little fondant nuggets come in four colors and eight shapes: crescent moon, black cat, pumpkin, jug, jack o’lantern, bat, corn cob and sheaf of wheat.
The flavors are determined by the color of the Mellowcreme.
The package I picked has more yellow and tan ones, so I think I did well here as those are the ones I’m picking out to eat anyway.
The salt really helps these out. There’s 110 mg of Sodium in every serving, which is quite a lot for a candy (but an excellent stat if this was a canned soup). Consider it a boost to your electrolytes, maybe athletes will start carrying Mellowcremes as a recovery supplement.
I think the bragging rights are earned here. I now think that Mellowcremes are worth the search. (These also contain gelatin.) 7 out of 10
Monday, September 29, 2008
The tin describes them as crunchy toffeed espresso bits covered in dark chocolate.
Frankly, I was confused by them. They didn’t look big enough to be espresso beans covered in toffee and then chocolate, which is what the description made me think. And the word “pillows”? They’re the size of dried beans ... and they don’t sound like pillows. Pillows are soft and fluffy. These are pellets.
But I don’t think I’d buy something called Espresso Pellets.
The tin is awesome. The colors are compelling and reinforce the elements advertised: chocolate, toffee and coffee.
The little window let me see what was inside.
Most importantly, it was easy to open and snaps shut securely.
They smell sweet and chocolatey and a little woodsy, like cedar.
They vary greatly in size and shape. Some are the size and shape of a coffee bean, others are teensy little ball bearings (with nothing inside).
At first bite my confusion about what these actually are is completely diffused.
Inside of the panned chocolate shell is a little nugget of rich coffee toffee. Think Coffee Rio, only crispy and crunchy.
The center is rich, a little bitter, buttery smooth and barely sweet. The semi-sweet chocolate coating adds more flavor and makes the whole thing creamier.
This is one of those products I’ve been dreaming about. A really intense coffee candy that doesn’t have grainy little bits of coffee grounds in it.
The price is a little steep for the amount of product. I’d probably want to buy a whole tub of these and just refill my little tin. But then again, it helps with portion control. I can eat the whole tin and it’d only be about 350 calories.
Some of mine had little light colored spots on them, not full blown “chocolate bloom” but more like they got speckled with water or moisture somewhere along the way. All the ones on the shelf looked like that. It doesn’t seem to detract from the flavor or texture though.
This is not only all natural, with no preservatives, it’s also Kosher. However, it’s not vegetarian-safe for those who won’t eat confectioner’s glaze.
Friday, September 26, 2008
When I was a kid chocolate was regarded as something completely lacking in any merit nutritionally. As an alternative there were carob products. Usually things like carob drops for oatmeal cookies and carob covered milk balls as treats.
Even though I don’t think I had much of a sophisticated palate as a child (I ate Jell-O powder straight from the box), I still knew the difference and preferred real chocolate products.
But now I’m an adult with an awareness of my ability to set aside childhood traumas of being given this supposed treat of carob raisins instead of actual chocolate. (And I certainly question why anyone without allergies would replace chocolate with carob in our modern and well-informed world.) So I picked up what I thought might be a representation of good carob.
Carob is an evergreen legume that puts out little pods which are harvested and turned into carob powder. (If you’ve seen Locust Bean tree, they’re closely related and look like that.) It’s been used by humans for at least 4,000 years throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Early sugar was made from these pods.
Carob contains both sugar-sweetness and a roasted flavor that is reminiscent of chocolate in some ways but because it contains no substantial oils or fats of its own, it’s usually consumed as a powder (often called St. John’s bread) in drinks or baked goods. When combined with some fats it can be made into a pasty block somewhat like chocolate.
The simple paper wrapper for Goldie’s Premium Carob Bar says, “no refined sugar, no preservatives, no chocolate, cocoa or caffeine.” Wow, there’s a lot that’s not in there. And I love every one of those things save one.
The ingredients don’t sound too bad to me: Barley malt, fractionated palm kernel oil, carob powder, soy lecithin and milk. (I don’t feel great about fractionated palm kernel oil - I don’t know what it is.) But I love barley malt and milk!
Opening it up, it looks like a milk chocolate bar, but the back of it looks more like freshly poured brownie batter. I recognize that comparing this to chocolate is unfair, so I won’t for the rest of this.
The snap is kind of soft, but the product is solid, not gooey or melted at all.
It smells like roasted grains. It reminds me a lot of Postum (a drink made from, well, roasted grains).
The texture is rather like eating unbaked pie crust or shortbread dough. It’s thick and rather hearty but with really no melt-in-your mouth-qualities.
I could dissolve it, but it was always a bit waxy. Chewing it resulted in a bit more of a creamy puddle in my mouth as long as I kept it circulating, though it still had a bit of a peanut butter stickiness to it.
I liked the roasted flavors and that it wasn’t very sweet. But the flavor never really popped for me. I’m a big fan of barley. My favorite tea lately is Mugi Cha, which is Japanese roasted barley steeped just like tea (which I was introduced to as a latte at a little place in Hollywood about four years ago). I love barley sugar candy, barley flour in baked goods, especially just barley in soups, pilafs and stews and of course malted milk balls.
I found Goldie’s Carob Bar rib-sticking and substantial but sadly lacking in satisfaction. I could see being happier with it as an ingredient in a combination bar of some sort, maybe with nuts, caramel or wafers/pretzels of some sort. A dash of salty cashews might be a nice complement.
I don’t think carob is a bad thing, I just think it got a bad reputation back in the 70s. This is good quality stuff with a really intriguing flavor (kind of reminds me of halvah in a way) but just not for me.
The nutritional profile of carob is actually not as good as chocolate - no minerals, no calcium or fiber but some protein and virtually the same fat and calories per ounce.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Harry & David are known for their fresh fruit boxes & baskets. They also have a pretty good selection of candies, especially seasonal varieties. Like Trader Joe’s, some are made especially for Harry & David and others are just repackaged with their brand name on them.
When looking through their selections I like to spot the items that they carry that I don’t see anywhere else and saw quite a few a couple of weeks ago in their fall selection. Many items aren’t even mentioned on their website. (If you go into the store they’re always sampling things, too.)
Fruit jellies in general are a ho-hum candy. The kind of thing most of us will eat if it’s around but rarely buy. I’m a huge fan of gourmet pate de fruits which are more intense distillations of real fruits and I was hoping that these Harry & David Fall Leaves Fruit Gels were more like that than Brach’s Fruit Slices. Mostly, I bought them because they were pretty.
Each little “hand” is about 1.75” across at the widest. The colors are all vibrant and though they’re rather thick, still translucent. The sugar coating adheres nicely so they’re not at all messy.
This color was a little disturbing to me, kind of like antifreeze. Happily it tasted like a crisp pear-flavored jelly. Tart and with that strange melon note that pears always seem to have. The grainy sugar coating even mimics those little gritty bits in pear flesh.
Very much the epitome of a lime jelly. It has a strong zest to it, even a little bitter at times, a little tangy bite and an overall LifeSavers flavor (you know, back when LifeSavers made lime).
Biting into it, it has a bit more tartness than many fruit jellies, more like a strawberry-lemonade than straight strawberry. But the scent is wonderfully summery - that sweet mix of flowers and cotton candy.
Raspberry (darker red)
It has a nice berry fragrance and an immediate jammy flavor of raspberries. But something went weird toward the end, there’s a strange very sweet aftertaste, as if it has some sort of artificial sweetener in it (but of course it’s not on the ingredients list, which is what has me mystified). I couldn’t really investigate this anomaly as there was only one raspberry leaf in the bag.
Not as vibrant looking as the other colors, this was a little paler, I’m guessing because it’s tangerine and not orange. The flavor isn’t as intense as I’d like. Mellow and citrusy, but not tart or zesty.
I picked out a package with a lot of lemon because I assumed that I’d like them. The lemon zest was strong and reminded me of fresh lemon balm that my grandmother grew by her back door. As we’d leave her house after a visit we’d all grab a little sprig and rub it in our hands. The smell reminds me of long car rides on farm-lined country roads in Ohio. It’s only slightly tangy and quite smooth.
The price was steep for jellies that aren’t actually real fruit ($8.95) and I’m not likely to buy these again. But if I had a very specific need for an edible decoration such as cupcakes or as an accent on a dessert tray, these more than satisfy. If I’m going for inexpensive fruit taste, I’ll probably keep going for Sunkist Fruit Gems (only in the larger bags that include grapefruit, of course).
These are vegan (no gelatin and all artificial colors) but not Kosher.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Most of the marketing looks directed towards women with a tagline of a sweet break from life. This is probably why I’ve ignored them up until now. I don’t want chocolate that’s a break from life, I want chocolate that’s with me every moment of my life. I want a partner. But hey, it’s not like I’m a normal demographic and I think anyone who markets specifically towards people like me (obsessive candy bloggers) is gonna get fired for incompetence.
This particular version of the Nestle Treasures is also called Renew with Dark Chocolate (though it doesn’t really say that on the package, except on the other side panel. The back, near the flap says Say “I Do” to a whole New You. Really? A whole new me just from a truffle?
The box is a polyethylene terephthalate (PETE - coded 1 for recycling) stand up “bag”. It’s actually rather nicely done. The translucent bronzy brown plastic let me see that it was only half full (there were 14 pieces when I dumped them out and counted). The package could be at least a third shorter and still have lots of breathing room and probably save on material, space & shipping. (At least I can recycle it curbside in my blue bin.)
Inside the little pieces are individually wrapped in orange-gold mylar. They’re nicely molded, every one I opened was perfect and shiny.
They smelled deep and smoky and mostly of peanuts. Yes, roasted peanuts.
The shell is 50% cacao chocolate, so it’s middle of the road semi-sweet. (A little chart on the back reminds me that dark chocolate has naturally ocurring antioxidants which help to maintain health.)
It’s quite smooth and buttery. The “ganache” center is made from chocolate and palm oil and maybe more cocoa butter. It’s not quite the same as a real truffle made with butter or cream, but has a great slippery meltaway texture (not as slippery as a Lindt Lindor Truffle though). It also features a little sprinkling of cacao nibs. Not big bits, more like coffee grounds. They provide a nice crunch but not much flavor. But the peanut notes at the top are distracting for me. (The ingredients list both natural and artificial hazelnut & peanut flavors.)
They also come in two other varieties: Relax (milk chocolate & caramel) and Revive (milk chocolate & cappuccino).
There are lots of things I liked about these and I find myself continuing to eat them. But they don’t satisfy my desire for truffles, just my desire for something chocolate ... and not quite that either. Still, much better than the Hershey’s Bliss I tried recently (though not a one to one comparison as they didn’t really have a dark chocolate meltaway). They’re also quite different from the Dove Promises offerings as well, especially if you’re looking for something with nibs in it.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Seeds of Change makes chocolate bars that are both organic and donate a portion of their proceed towards sustainable agriculture. Unlike many other niche chocolate makers, they don’t have straight chocolate bars, instead each is an eclectic mix of flavors like blueberries with walnuts or mango, coconut & cashews.
I didn’t have to look very hard to find Seeds of Change, it was at Long’s Drug, along with jumbo Hershey’s bars, Dove, Lindt and Cote d’Or. Happily it was also on sale for $2.69 for a 3.5 ounce bar.
I picked up the Isle of Skye which boasts dark milk chocolate blended with crispy puffed grains. I thought this might be the answer to the gaping hole in my candy life, a really good crisped rice bar.
This one starts with 40% cacao milk chocolate with crisps made from oats, wheat, rice, barley and millet.
The wrapper is beautifully designed with lovely engraved flourishes. It illustrates the origin of the name of the bar, the Isle of Sky is an agricultural area in Scotland that grows the various grains featured in the bar (well, maybe not the ones that are actually in the bar, but you get the idea).
The bar does look pretty dark. It smells deep and smoky and a little like milk and malt.
The crispies aren’t quite as dense as I would have liked, but they’re still plentiful, making up the bottom third or half of the bar.
The chocolate is smooth and creamy, deep and complex. It blends the milky tastes of dairy in a European-style along with some noticeable burnt notes and a little hint of raisins.
The crunchies are crispy and hold up well. They have a distinct cereal taste of breakfast cereal, though not at all sweet there’s a bit of hint of malt and salt.
While I often characterize myself as a dark chocolate lover, this sort of very dark milk chocolate might be my true passion. The more I try these sorts of bars, the more I fall in love with the combination of dairy notes and smoothness with the complex flavors of the cocoa bean. (I do take a little milk in my coffee, so maybe it’s just the way I roll.)
It’s a really tasty bar and for an organic bar the price is pretty stunning, about the same price as many other mid-range brands and socially and environmentally responsible to boot. (They’re only $2.45 on the Seeds of Change webstore.) I’m accustomed to paying about this much for Ritter Sport’s Knusperflakes (Corn Flakes) bar. I wish it came in a single serve size, it could definitely out-compete Nestle Crunch even at twice the price.
Made in Italy and Kosher.
The bar is not 100% organic (the label is pretty clear about this) the soy lecithin is the only item in the ingredients that isn’t.
So I’m curious what Hershey’s is saying to consumers when they write in. (I’ve had my own experience that I’ve documented.)
So, if you’ve written to Hershey’s, tell us here what their response was! (And if you haven’t, give it a try.)
Monday, September 22, 2008
Brach’s is pretty much the gold standard for Candy Corn for me. There are other good quality makers out there too, like Jelly Belly and Zachary, but I prefer the Brach’s stuff because I can actually taste the honey and that’s what I prefer.
Brach’s has a pretty extensive line of candy corn products and they’ve returned to shelves for fall. I’ve seen the Autumn Mix, Indian Corn and regular Candy Corn on shelves. I picked up this newer version called Milk Maid Caramel Apple Candy Corn this year. I tried the other flavor introduced last year as well, Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn which I found tasted more like buttered popcorn than caramel.
Unlike my experience with the Caramel Candy Corn, this didn’t smell at all before opening the package. Once I did, I found it a pleasant mix of apple, sugar and vanilla - exactly what I would have expected from the name.
Most of the pieces seem pretty big and dominated by the red center.
Like most candy corn, this bag had its assortment of not-quite-ready-for-primetime players. These were shorter pieces that were missing one or more colors. I rather like the variation and ability to eat just one of the flavor layers if I want, so I don’t hold it against them.
The red center has a light apple flavor, rather like apple peels not the sour green apple candy flavor. The brown caramel layer at the bottom has a light salty hit to it and a butter flavor that bugged me when I just at the brown bits alone. But as I’ve noted before, confections that use Red 40 tend to leave a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. So I enjoy these for about five minutes and then I regret eating them. Then I toss them in a drawer in my desk, go away for the weekend and come back and it’s like I’ve completely forgotten about the aftertaste (maybe it has some sort of short-term memory wiping properties?).
As a novelty flavor, I like these better than most. I wouldn’t mind it being added to the Autumn Mix, but I still prefer Indian Corn. Brach’s also makes a Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy Corn which isn’t even mentioned on their website but I saw on ebay. I’m still looking for it.
This candy corn has gelatin in it, so it’s unsuitable for vegetarians and isn’t Kosher or Halal.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.