Monday, October 20, 2008
De la Rosa Mazapan is a dulce de cacahuate or peanut confection. It seems like one of the most common candies to every culture is some sort of sweetened nut paste. Halvah, marzipan and if you throw in a little chocolate, gianduia, and all of their different variations.
I see these little disks of mazapan at the grocery stores all the time in Los Angeles, but this was the first time I saw them with their complete packaging with full ingredients & nutrition labeling. I picture them as something that a mom would tuck into their child’s lunch bag as a special little treat.
The ingredients are pretty simple and two thirds wholesome: peanuts and sugar and artificial flavors.
So first, I’ll tell you what I expected: I thought it’d be a sweet peanut butter disk. I thought it’d be like halvah, a little more crumbly than almond marzipan.
Here’s what it was actually like:
It was crumbly. When I opened the package it cracked into several large pieces easily. It smells wonderful, like peanut butter cookie dough.
But instead of being spiky and crystalline like halvah, it was smooth and cool on the tongue, dissolving like peanut butter flavored icing sugar.
Oh, it’s sweet. It’s absolutely more sugar than peanuts. The peanut flavor is throughout with some little crunchy chunks here and there.
I love the texture, though definitely not the mess. (Someday I’ll compile a list of “not keyboard friendly” candies and this will certainly be on it.) I wish it was just a little fattier, but far be it from me to mess with a traditional candy. Or maybe a little salt added, but again, that’s a personal preference, I like a bit of salt with my peanuts.
It strikes me that this would be a great hiking candy, a good mix of straight and easily accessible sugars and some satisfying protein. But again, it’s so very sweet and far too dry.
But I can’t really get behind it. Maybe I’ll give out the rest for Halloween. Or maybe try stuffing some into some crescent rolls to see what kind of a treat that makes.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I’m still on my quest to replace the Krackel bar and have been finding all sorts of chocolate and crisped rice bars that area actually better than I remember the Krackel ever being.
Not to spoil the ending of this review but I’ll say right now that the Ghiaradelli Luxe Milk Crisp bar vaults to the second slot on that list. Not that there are a lot of bars on the list at the moment. (Seeds of Change Isle of Skye is above it, seeing how it’s similarly priced and organic.)
This bar is new, part of Ghirardelli new expanded line of gourmet bars. It comes at a gourmet price though, I paid $2.99 for this 2.81 ounce bar. It is all natural, Kosher and made in the USA.
This rich and creamy milk chocolate made from the finest cocoa beans is perfectly complemented with lightly toasted crisped rice. Take in the heavenly aroma and let the ultimate chocolate pleasure linger.
(Bold emphasis theirs, really!)
The bar certainly does look awesome. It was near perfect, without the scrapes and nicks that many of the bars I pick up have.
What pleased me most at first glance was how many crispies there are in the bar.
So I took a photo of the bar flipped over so you could see it, too. Instead of those little engineered ball bearing sized ones that Nestle uses for their Crunch bar these days, these look like actual crisped rice grains (made with millled rice, sugar, salt and barley malt).
There’s another thing that this photo also shows, how thin the bar is. What I like about the Hershey’s Miniatures and the World’s Finest W.F. Crisp bar was how thick they were, it allowed the rice to be completely enveloped by the chocolate. Here the rice floats almost as a separate layer from the chocolate, not blanketed by it instead just a thin sheet of chocolate.
It smells more like breakfast cereal or toast than chocolate. Kind of like milk or mozzarella and fresh baked bread.
That aside, this crisped rice is insanely crispy and fresh. Rarely do I have a chocolate bar that makes so much noise in my head.
The milk chocolate is exquisitely smooth and creamy with a strong powdered milk flavor (whole milk powder is the only dairy ingredient). It’s hearty and sweet at the same time. Notes of caramel, yeast and malt.
I was all set to give this an 8 out of 10 because of the price, but then I looked it up on the Walgreen’s website and they list it at $2.29 ... which I find much more reasonable. I’d be torn at that price though between eating this and the Ritter Sport Corn Flakes (Knusperflakes) bar. This milk chocolate is better, but I love the malty crisp of the corn flakes. I prefer the thicker bite of the Isle of Skye as well. The other option for the same price is the Wheat Chocolate I found in Little Tokyo. What a happy day to have so many choices!
I do hope that Ghirardelli comes out with these in the little individual squares, since no one else is making a single bite version of a crisped rice & milk chocolate these days.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I reviewed Kookaburra Liquorice last year and then was intrigued by their chocolate coated variety. There are quite a few licorice companies out there coming out with chocolate varieties, but a lot of them aren’t real chocolate.
I was concerned that was the case with Kookaburra, mostly because it said Choc Coated and thought maybe “choc” was code for not chocolate. But it’s really just short for chocolate. (Sometimes called choccies as well by Brits, Candians & Aussies.) I looked over the ingredients carefully and it’s the real stuff, even includes real vanilla. However the actual licorice contains artificial colors, which is kind of silly when you consider that only folks who bite stuff in half and peer in there are gonna notice.
The package is a stout peg bag with a tufted bottom that allows it to stand up. I liked that it was compact and narrow instead of one of those wide & flat bags that don’t tuck into my fall bag as well.
These are pretty big nuggets, about the size of one of my lesser toes.
The chocolate coating is shiny and smells vaguely of chocolate but mostly of licorice.
It’s pretty thick, which is good for matching the strong woodsy flavors of the licorice and the hearty wheat-based chew.
At first I really didn’t like these. I actually like a bit of anise mixed with dark chocolate, but it didn’t seem to go with the dairy notes I was picking up on the milk chocolate.
But after a few more pieces, it grew on me and over several days I’ve eaten the whole bag. It’s quite satisfying because it had both a creamy component and the chew plus some strong flavors.
It wasn’t cheap though, at $5.99 for a bag that only holds 6 ounces, there are probably more satisfying treats for me. (Like the Venco Skoolkrijt that I bought on the same trip.) But it has intrigued me enough that I’m going to do some more chocolate & licorice sampling.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I thought, “What am I missing here?” Well, first of all, plain old Nestle Milk Chocolate bars aren’t that easy to find. But with a bit of persistence I did find this fresh 5 ounce “great to share” size bar.
First, I looked at the wrapper pretty carefully. Though Nestle is a Swiss company, this bar was made in Brazil. The ingredients don’t make it sound great, but I try to keep an open mind: sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, nonfat milk, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR & vanillin.
So in this case the milk was much lower on the list than other milk chocolates (M&Ms and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate), so maybe it’s a darker tasting milk chocolate.
The Nestle website reveals this little tidbit about the Nestle Milk Chocolate bar’s past:
Okay, at least I’m not crazy, because I don’t remember plain Nestle chocolate bars being around when I was a kid. There was another strange line on both Nestle’s corporate page and their chocolate classics website, NESTL? Milk Chocolate tastes the way you expect great chocolate should taste, offering a milk chocolate alternative that the entire family can enjoy any time. So what the blazes is a milk chocolate alternative? Or is it the any time part I should be clued into, is that some sort of code that means that this is a morning chocolate bar?
It does look a bit darker than many mass-marketed milk chocolate bars. It was even and glossy and has a pleasant powdered milk and chocolate scent.
The bar has a rather soft snap but look well tempered. The melt on the tongue is fudgy, not slick or silky smooth, it’s still pleasant. I got a slight aftertaste, kind of like that from powdered milk.
The taste isn’t very chocolatey. It’s not overly sweet and has a lot of milk taste to it, but really lacks much else. It would go well with inclusions like crisped rice or nuts but as a bar where this is all I had to go on, it really didn’t satisfy at all.
I’m not one to be disrespectful towards other people’s preferences (ya like whatcha like!) and this bar was certainly inexpensive, but I wouldn’t rank it higher in quality than Hershey’s Milk Chocolate or M&Ms Milk Chocolate. In fact, I think I throw it a notch below Hershey’s, just because I didn’t enjoy the flavor. (That doesn’t make it a bad bar, before you go thinking I’m a hater, I just didn’t like it.)
Now, just so you know, Nestle does make other true Swiss chocolate and I have tried that and found it quite tasty, just not American (North or South, as the case may be) and also costs four times as much.
Thank goodness the wrapper tells me it’s great to share, otherwise I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Way back in the ancient days of the 1920s the Stark Candy Company of Milwaukee (well, Pewaukee to be exact) made an innovative little candy called the Snirkle (photo here). There were a couple of varieties but it was basically a swirled caramel & taffy pop. (They were also sold as individual pieces without the stick.)
Later in the 60s, when the whole world was going day-glow with color TV, Stark came out with the Slap Stix. It was based on the original and popular Snirkle, only this pop was a swirl of vanilla, cherry & banana taffy inside a caramel pop. The Slap Stix are made to this day and come a variety of sizes, a little .7 ounce variety and this attractive 2 ounce version.
Stark, who also made a conversation heart product, sold their company to Necco in 1990. Necco recently closed the Pewaukee Stark Candy Factory but transferred production to their Revere, Mass plant.
The pop is about the size of a business card and doesn’t really make a slapping sound when thwapped against a hard surface. But it does okay when smacked against the palm.
The pop smells sweet and caramelly. The caramel outside is rather firm, like a Milk Maid Caramel but has slightly more “pull” to it. Once bitten there’s a strong banana flavor. I didn’t really notice the cherry layer at first, but later on there’s a slight bitter aftertaste and a slight cherry flavor. The banana and caramel go well together, the chew is substantial and not too sweet. I could use a little hint of salt in there and would probably prefer strawberry to cherry. It’s not a slick & smooth caramel like a fresh Sugar Daddy, more like Laffy Taffy on a stick.
It’s a fun and really attractive treat. I found it a bit overpriced at $1.25 at Cost Plus World Market, but I’m sure they’re around for a bit less if you look carefully.
I don’t know why Necco doesn’t make the Snirkle any longer. It’s such a great name.
Monday, October 13, 2008
With the discontinuation of Reed’s Candies by Wrigley’s, I’ve been searching for similar candies. Hammond’s Candies is based in Colorado and makes hard candies and caramels using traditional methods and equipment. They’re known for their stunning hand twisted lollipops, ribbon and pillow candies. But they also make all sorts of traditional boiled sugar sweets including a line called Pantry Candies.
Each comes in a cute tin with a little clear window on top. Inside they’re tucked into a plastic bag to protect them from moisture.
Cinnamon Drops - these are sizable pieces, bigger than my pinkie toe. They’re sanded with a bit of sugar and have a soft and grainy appearance. The hard candy is smooth and flavorful. Instead of being just straight hot cinnamon, this hard candy has a bit of a touch of the woodsy, powdered spice as well as the burning cinnamon oil.
They have a satisfying crunch or simply dissolve without many voids or holes. It’s not quite the smooth & transcendent experience of Reed’s Cinnamon though.
Sour Balls - these are teensy little drops, smaller than a regular marble but larger than a pea. They come in lemon, lime, orange and cherry flavors. They have the same sanded exterior and a smooth dissolve. The citrus ones are nicely tangy but with a good rounded zest flavor (orange is a bit more muted though). They’re an old-fashioned sour though, don’t expect anything approaching battery acid.
Butterscotch Waffles - these were gorgeous little candies. They’re flattened squares (though some were little rectangles) with a smooth surface and little dimpled waffle pattern on them. They were a creamy, buttery flavor but lacking that little dash of salt though they are the closest I’ve found to the old Reed’s Butterscotch.
Licorice Drops - these definitely look the part. The same format as the Cinnamon Drops, they’re big and black and sanded. They’re made with real licorice root, so it’s a more complex flavor than just “flavored”. The big gripe I have with these, and it’s a huge one, is the large amount of artificial colors in the candy. It made my mouth greenish-black with only one. Not appealing or subtle at all. As much as I liked the taste (and finding licorice hard candies isn’t easy), the bitterness of the Red 40 (to my tongue) added with the unappealing mouth just turned me off and I didn’t finish the tin.
Lemon Drops - for those who don’t want to pick the lemon drops out of the Sour Ball assortment, here they are all alone. These large drops are perhaps a little muted in flavor, but the flavor goes all the way through and has a nice barley sugar tone to it.
Root Beer Drops - as with the cinnamon, I was hoping for a Reed’s experience here. Instead it’s rather more like a Root Beer Float than a plain old Root Beer Soda. These two-toned drops have the mellow woodsy flavor of root beer along with a creamy vanilla component. They’re smooth and flavorful but not quite spicy enough for my desires. Well, I take that back. This was the second tin I finished. (Butterscotch was the first.)
Ginger Drops (not pictured) - these little opaque candies were kind of peach/flesh colored. They didn’t smell like much and really didn’t taste like much at first either. Then the longer it dissolved the warmer it got, a light woodsy and rooty flavor, it was definitely ginger.
The offering in this line also includes Horehound, which I refuse to believe is a candy flavor but also suffers from over-coloring like the licorice.
They’re expensive, but nicely crafted and packaged and make a nice hostess gift or something to keep on your desk for those moments where you just have to have something. I like them much better than their lollipops which are exquisite to look at but don’t have the density of flavor and smooth texture of these.
Friday, October 10, 2008
While I’m probably painted as something of an anti-mockolate crusader, I don’t hate all quasi-chocolate products. Things like Andes Mints and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chew are pretty good even though they’re not quite real chocolate candies.
So I thought I’d give the Andes Fall Harvet limited edition mix a try.
It includes three flavors: toffee, orange and cocoa. Each little plank of candy is individually wrapped and comes in a nicely designed bag with orange leaf outlines all over it. Instead of the usual Andes logo on each piece of candy, these have three random embossed harvest themed designs.
The ingredients aren’t promising: Sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (palm kernel & palm), nonfat milk, cocoa, lactose, milk protein concentrate, cocoa processed wtih alkalai, corn syrup solids, soy lecithin, salt, baking soda, molasses, orange oil, natural and artificial flavors, artificial colors (yellow 5 & 6).
This piece is the only one of the set that’s not layered like Andes Mints. Instead it’s a milk chocolatey confection with toffee bits mixed in.
The toffee bits are very crisp and crunchy and remind me more of a brittle (which is often a bit foamy but not quite a honeycomb or sponge candy). The crunches are a little salty as well. The mockolate confection is very sweet but doesn’t have much cocoa flavor to it. A little on the waxy side at room temperature, it does okay texture-wise in the mouth.
It smells like orange confection, kind of like a cheap version of Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
It’s quite sweet and a little grainy on the tongue (kind of like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange). The orange essence is quite pronounced with a strong zest and slight bitterness to it. To balance that there’s plenty of sugar. But don’t expect any dash of chocolate flavor in there. It might be a cocoa colored confection on the top and bottom, but the orange flavor goes straight through.
It’s the same light colored mockolate confection as the other two, this time with a darker mockolate sandwiched in the middle.
It’s a little saltier than the orange one, which helps. It does taste a bit like hot cocoa, but also a little like cardboard and Tootsie Rolls.
Four pieces provided 50% of my daily intake of saturated fat ... and not even a good one like cocoa butter.
I think I’ll stick with the original from now on.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
It’s a molasses taffy with a pocket of peanut butter in the center. They’re wrapped in black or orange wax paper.
This bag is from Melster, but my favorite brand is Necco that makes them under the Mary Jane monikker.
At only 99 cents though, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to try another variety.
The ingredients list seems impossibly long:
Is it just me or is that may contain list a little scary? What the heck is sodium hexametaphosphate?
Oh, here, Wikipedia has some info:
So it’s an emulsifier, a deflocculant for ceramics, tooth whitener and water softener! But who knows if my saliva will have fewer dissolved minerals and my teeth white because I don’t know if it’s actually in there.
Have I digressed enough?
Basically these are worth about 99 cents. The peanut butter flavor doesn’t pop and the molasses aspect of the chew is barely noticeable.
I’ll probably finish the bag, but I don’t think I’ll buy them again. If I’m going to have these as a treat only once a year, I want them to be as memorable as possible, even if I have to pay a dollar fifty.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.