Wednesday, September 3, 2008
There are literally hundreds of makers of candied almonds, also known as confetti or dragees, around the world. But the candy is pretty much the same everywhere, a single almond coated with a hard sugar shell. Some are colored and tumbled to a bright sheen, still others have a soft and smooth matte surface.
The process is rather simple though time consuming. Nuts are tumbled in a large rotating drum as sugar syrup is slowly added and allowed to dry, then added again until a thick shell is built up.
Sconza started in 1939 in the Bay Area and has been making distinctive panned candies since 1948. The company is expanding rapidly now, poised to take over the former Hershey’s Chocolate facility in Oakdale California later this year.
I was eyeing some of their Jordanettes a while back, but figured they were just Jordan Almonds and everyone pretty much knows what they are. Well, they just came out with their fall version and I simply couldn’t resist. Even though they came in a two pound bag.
The colors and matte shell was just so festive - it says harvest but it wasn’t all dark colors. Instead they’re pretty muted pastels in peach, yellow, green and terra cotta.
They looked pretty big too, but as is often the case with candy coated almonds, I didn’t know if it was that the almonds were big or that the candy shell was thick.
As is often the case with Jordan Almonds, I never know how thick the shell will be and sometimes I secretly suspect that there won’t even be a nut at the center - that it might be a rock.
Happily every single one I’ve eaten so far has had a fresh almond in the middle.
The bag smelled like vanilla pudding. Soft and sweet with just a hint of vanilla (fake vanilla actually).
The dragees are soft and smooth and after in the mouth for a moment they’re pleasantly slippery and fun to chase around with my tongue.
There’s not much flavor, just sugar-sweetness.
After a while I usually crunch. I find the best way to crush the shell is to put the candy between my rear molars and gently bite down on one of flatter sides. If it doesn’t yield, I try do dissolve a bit more and try again.
Jordan Almonds aren’t like M&Ms, unless you have some sort of super-strong teeth and fearless disposition, there’s no popping them in your mouth and chewing. Of course I never see them served that way and I honestly never see people simply eating them. (I know they’re a popular wedding favor, but I never recall getting any at a wedding either.)
The almond on the inside is soft and not as sweet as the sugar-shell, but still pretty sweet (not a crisp toasted almond either, they appear to be raw or merely blanched). These had only a hint of almond flavor. Mostly the whole thing was fresh-tasting.
I can’t say that I’d just buy Jordanettes again for munching, but I do foresee finishing the bag ... and when I say finishing, I mean I’ve already eaten a half a pound. These are certainly a good deal, high quality and beautiful to look at.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I realized when I started Candy Blog that there was no way I’d ever sample every single candy out there, let alone review them. What’s making it even harder now is that candies that I’ve already reviewed have changed and it hardly seems fair that the reviews here still stand against the present day products.
So, every once in a while I’ll revisit major products that have changed since my original review at least enough to warrant a new taste.
Hershey’s introduced the Take 5 in 2004 and it quickly became one of my favorite new candies. It combined all the great textures of crunchy pretzels and chewy caramel and creamy chocolate. But that was then, and this is now.
The package now says: made with chocolate & pretzels & caramel & peanuts & peanut butter. That “made with chocolate” part means that the coating may contain chocolate, but it has other additives such as vegetable oils that mean that it’s not pure chocolate. The actual chocolate as an ingredient comes far down on the list as the number 6 item, after vegetable oils and high fructose corn sweetener and before nonfat milk (you can imagine there’s not that much milk in there).
The bars actually still look quite fetching. Little rather rectangular lumps with a pleasant sweet & peanutty scent.
Mine were exceptionally fresh, the pretzel was good and crunchy, a nice salty complement to the sweet coating. The coating didn’t have much flavor but did add a creamy texture.
This one was passably good, but I’ve had others in the past few months (I picked them out of a mix of snack size in a bowl at the office a couple of times) and I didn’t realize why they were kind of empty tasting for what I remembered. I just thought they were stale ... turns out that they’re just not designed to be good any longer.
Hershey’s still has an opportunity to reverse this and make it real chocolate again.
Sunkist Fruit Gems are made by Jelly Belly these days. An alert reader let me know that the little “single serve” trays are back on store shelves, but instead of holding six fruit jellies, they now only have four.
Worst part of this news? The grapefruit one was missing. (What is it about grapefruit disappearing lately? Is it because of the news that grapefruit juice interacts with some prescription drugs?) This is not to say that the Sunkist Fruit Gems don’t come in grapefruit any longer, just not in this particular package.
Seeing how Sunkist is known as a citrus company, the fact that they made an assortment the neglects one of the citrus fruits and includes a berry is beyond me. The package is also similar to the old one and actually includes images of grapefruit (though the text clearly says which flavors are in the package).
The change in manufacturing location and ownership, as far as I’ve been able to tell, has made no difference at all for the actual candy. It’s still a nice, soft and flavorful fruit jelly without too much of a granulated sugar coating.
The only real difference here is that you get only 2/3 as much as you used to. I was hoping when Jelly Belly took over that they’d sell the jellies in individual flavors like they do with their famous jelly beans. No such luck yet. (For now whenever I see the Jelly Belly booth at a trade show I pick a half a dozen grapefruit jellies out of their sample bin and move along.)
Mars used to make a bar that was called, appropriately enough, the Mars Bar. That bar was discontinued and reintroduced under the much more famous Snickers umbrella of products as the Snickers Almond.
Then something happened, Mars mucked around with it and created the “More Satisfying Snickers Almond” which was really just the Snickers Almond with peanuts thrown in to make up for a lack of, well, almonds. It wasn’t a bad bar, but it wasn’t really distinctive.
Well, the old new Snickers Almond is back. It’s a white lightly sweet & salty nougat with a caramel stripe and whole almonds covered in milk chocolate.
I like the bar (though I prefer the dark chocolate version) and I’m glad they brought it back.
Monday, September 1, 2008
While I’m a big fan of excess in the right circumstances, I was puzzled about what could be so great about a giant gummi other than the fact that it weighed over 12 ounces and was four inches tall. One of the great things about gummi bears is the variety and the fact that you can put a whole one in your mouth, or several at a time for flavor combos.
But this had a lot going for it, first, the price wasn’t bad. At $3.99 for 12.3 ounces (350 grams) it was at least what I considered a fair deal. Yeah, it’s made in China (not one of my favorite gummi-producing countries) but the ingredients looked decent enough to get this just for the sheer joy of photographing it.
They come in five flavors: Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Grape, Green Apple and Orange. Obviously I chose orange, mostly because I thought it would photograph best but also because I think orange is a good flavor.
The packaging is spare and still great. It’s basically the mold for the bear, a hard clear plastic shell, sealed with cellophane tape all around. When done with the bear, the little plastic box can be re-filled and closed up and even has a little loop hole at the top for hanging.
The nutrition facts are a little odd. They think this package holds only one serving, which is 1120 calories.
He’s a little shiny and filmy on the outside, as many gummis are. (This one has carnauba wax.)
The gummi itself is very soft and pliable, quite bouncy and stretchy.
The big question after opening it was serving suggestions.
I trotted out the giant gummi yesterday when we had friends over for the block party on our street. Ernessa is a huge gummi fan, so she was quite smitten with the idea of a large gummi. Her husband, Christian, is one of my few licorice buddies (though he’s a fan of the salted stuff) ... it’s good to have candy friends.
So I served it up on a paper plate and we debated whether to cut him down the middle (there’s a seam) or across. I decapitated him. (There was talk of just picking him up and taking a bite but that’s the candy-equivalent of double dipping.)
A few slices of the head and we were all enjoying a piece of the gummy. It’s very soft, more like a piece of firm Jell-O than a gummi bear. It smelled great, like fresh orange juice. The texture as very smooth and melted in the mouth better and didn’t require a lot of chewing, it was almost like a piece of intensely flavored Turkish Delight. It had a lot of zesty notes to it, a good tingly tartness and of course a sweet and mellow background flavor.
I was pretty impressed with this bear. I was expecting nothing more than flash and style and no substance. I can say that at least in the orange flavor they delivered a really good gummi bear experience. The ingredients list both pectin and gelatin, which is what I owe the even texture to. I’m not sure how well this would do sitting out of its little clear plastic housing. It sat up well for the photos, but I don’t know how it’d do in humid or really hot conditions.
They’d be a fun hostess gift, a great addition to a gift basket or Christmas stocking or if you could find a good deal in bulk, a party favor (and maybe place card holder). As something for one person to eat, it seems a little silly, but it’s definitely a fun thing to share with others. On the whole I prefer the variety and look of the regular-sized ones.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.