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December 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Candy Cane Tootsie Pops

imageBefore Tootsie came out with their seasonal Candy Cane Tootsie Pops fans of peppermint and Tootsie Rolls were relegated to making their own. Though it was relatively simple to jam a Tootsie Roll on a chop stick and then smash a couple of starlight mints onto it, it just didn’t have the same classy, holiday flair as this store-bought version.

Candy Cane Tootsie Pops are a little different than other special flavor editions of Tootsie Pops. But not in remarkable ways. Yet I’ll list them for you anyway. First, the they’re in a clear cellophane wrapper. Second, the wrapper is done in a double twist at both the base of the pop and at the top of the pop. (Remember, the regular wrappers cover the pop and twist only where the stick meets the pop.) Third, the shape is not like the regular Tootsie Pop, which has a band that extends from the base up and around the top. Instead this band goes around the middle, just like a Charms Blow Pop. (Hmm, the wrappers are the same as Blow Pops too ... wouldn’t it be fun if they made mint Blow Pops?)

The wrappers are vexing. They’re sealed at the base, so hard to get off and not as easy to rewrap around the candy if you don’t finish it all at once.

The mint hard candy outside is peppermint. It has a pleasant swirl of red that goes through the white dominant base. It’s very smooth, in fact, smoother than a regular Tootsie Pop, fewer voids. Honestly, it made me wonder why Tootsie Pops aren’t all this smooth.

I’m a cruncher, so it didn’t take long before I was able to dissolve away enough of the hard candy outside to crunch into the Tootsie Roll center. Let me state that’s where this gets disappointing. A Tootsie Roll is just a chocolate flavored taffy. I like them well enough as a durable, all weather candy. But they’re really only good inside Tootsie Pops (orange). Because mint is rather one note (no tartness, just sweetness and cool mint) instead of complex like the fruit flavors (the flavor, the tart, the tangy all combined) the Tootsie Roll scent becomes very obvious. It smells like chocolate scented cardboard.

It smells like the box hot cocoa mixes come in after you take the packets out.

It’s just disappointing.

I think these are a fun idea, but there’s really no way to improve them without fixing the Tootsie Roll. The combo just doesn’t bring out the best that a Tootsie Roll has to offer and hide its shortcomings.

Related Candies

  1. Chocolate Dipped Altoids - Creme de Menthe
  2. Baskin-Robbins Soft Candy
  3. Tootsie Pop Drops
  4. Jo’s Peppermint Crunch
  5. Tootsie Rolls & Fruit Rolls
  6. Charms Blow Pops & Zip-a-Dee
  7. Hot Tamales Ice
Name: Candy Cane Tootsie Pops
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Tootsie
Place Purchased: Target (WeHo)
Price: $1.99
Size: 9.6 ounces
Calories per ounce: 100
Categories: Chew, Mint, Hard Candy, United States, Tootsie, Christmas

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:16 am    

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy Holiday Chocolate Figurines (Winnie the Pooh)

Winnie the Pooh Chocolate FigurinesI’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to entertainment tie-ins to candy products. I’ve found that most of them are sub-par. Mostly because good candy doesn’t need kitchy marketing synergy.

So I greeted these Disney Happy Holiday Chocolate Figurines in milk and white chocolate with a bit of an eye roll. However, I did look over the package pretty carefully before opting to pay the $1.99 and saw a few things that convinced me that these might be worth the premium royalties to the Disney company.

First, the ingredients are all natural. Second, they’re made in the United Kingdom, not China or Brazil. Third, they list the actual cocoa solid content on the back (30% for the milk chocolate). Fourth, the white chocolate is real, there’s no palm oil or coconut oil in here. Fifth, the product is nut free (and also says it’s suitable for vegetarians).

Kinnerton Nut Safety PromiseKinnerton goes so far in their Nut Safety Promise as to put this little info box on their products. Look at it!

They’re specific about the lengths that they go to and further, they give actual contact information for the company. Not some silly info email address, an actual person with a real email address and phone number (I didn’t try it though).

The box and little molded chocolate shapes reminded me of Advent calendars. When I browsed through the annoying but pretty complete Kinnerton website I found that they do make Advent calendars and most of their products are marketing tie ins with branded characters like The Simpsons, Barbie, Spiderman and Disney.

Winnie the Pooh Chocolate Figurines

The chocolate pieces came in three different designs:

Winnie the Pooh sits there looking kind of rolly polly. Eeyore with his little bow-tied tail looped over his leg with one paw up, he seemed kind of happy. And Piglet was holding a jar of huny.

The milk chocolate is smooth and tastes a lot like powdered milk. It’s super sweet but also has almost no grain to it, even though it’s pretty sticky it has an excellent mouthfeel and melt.

The white chocolate tastes like Easter, through and through. A bit on the grainier side, there’s a strong milk and fake vanilla flavor. The cocoa butter background does a good job of allowing the flavors (such as they are) to come through.

Overall, a little on the pricey side. However if you have a kid with food allergies, these have no other compromises. They’re cute, the piece size is excellent for little ones and the design of the tray & pieces is well done. However, the little icons aren’t exactly holiday themed, just the box that they come in.

The packaging also had Walgreen’s information on them, so I’m guessing these are packaged for sale in the US just for their chain. The Kinnerton website mentions Aldi as well as Toys R Us as distributors.

Related Candies

  1. Choceur Coffee & Cream
  2. See’s Hollow Eggs with Novelty
  3. Ratatouille Pocket Slider Lollipop
  4. Disney Branded Chocolate Candies
  5. Terry’s Chocolate Orange Confection
Name: Happy Holiday Chocolate Figurines
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Kinnerton
Place Purchased:
Price: $1.99
Size: 1.52 ounces
Calories per ounce: 158
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, United Kingdom, All Natural, Christmas

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:36 am    

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trader Joe’s Sweet Story

Trader Joe's Sweet Story BoxSome Christmas candy isn’t really particularly special for the holidays, it’s the packaging that sells it.

Long ago there were LifeSavers Sweet Story Books. They were just a folded box that looked like a book that had a bunch of LifeSavers rolls inside. They still make them, every few years the graphics and the rolls included inside change with fashion.

Trader Joe’s has their own house-branded version of this, called Trader Joe’s Sweet Story. There are six no-artificial-anything, vegan, kosher and gluten-free hard candy rolls inside.

The package design is pretty straight forward, it’s a box with a front flap that reveals a “story” on the inside, which is a little poem about the candies. (Probably not so fun for kids.)

Trader Joe's Sweet Story RollsI was pretty pleased to see the flavor array and that pineapple was on it. (The others are lemon, orange, cherry, pomegranate and raspberry.)

The box is well constructed (and is even printed on the inside). The rolls aren’t revealed inside the box flap though, you have to open it at the top to reveal them, all sealed together inside a cellophane bag.

Each roll is about the size of a LifeSavers product, 1.1 ounces. The rolls themselves are a bit more demure, a color-coded monochrome array.

Opening them was a disappointment and exercise in frustration.

Trader Joe's Sweet Story Sticky Packaging

Though it was not humid on Sunday when I bought these and photographed them, the paper-lined foil was stuck to the candies.

I resorted to picking the bits of foil off the candies before consuming (though still got a fair bit of paper in my mouth). Some rolls were better than others, but all had some degree of issues.

Trader Joe's Sweet Story CandiesLemon - one of the stickiest. Very tart, like a good lemon drop. Nice balance of zest, juice and sweet.

Cherry - Sucrets. Without the throat numbing properties.

Orange - really zesty, to the point of being slightly bitter at times. Sweet and tangy.

Pineapple - mild, more like those “low acid” pineapples these days that have a nice floral and strawberry cotton candy flavor but not that tart.

Raspberry - pretty much tasted like raspberry flavoring. A lot of sweet floral “flavor” and some tangy berry notes.

Pomegranate - a combination of raspberry and those winterberry scented candles. It’s trying too hard.

The package was $1.99, which breaks down to 33 cents a roll. Not really a bad price. And the flavor assortment was better than the current LifeSavers array. For those who need something that’s gluten free or all-natural, yeah, it’s a nice way to go. But I sure hope yours aren’t stuck to the wrapping like mine were, because that completely ruined it for me. And bumped my fiber intake.

Other remembrances of the LifeSavers Storybook: The Joy Of ..., Jason Liebig has an actual photo of an old one with the rolls still in it, Candy Critic, and of course The Imaginary World has some (I like this one).

Related Candies

  1. Hammond’s Pantry Candies
  2. LifeSavers
  3. Regennas Clear Toys
  4. Yummy Earth Organic Pops
  5. College Farm Organic Naturepops
  6. Goodbye Reed’s
Name: Sweet Story Candy Rolls
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe's
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake)
Price: $1.99
Size: 6.6 ounces
Calories per ounce: 113
Categories: Hard Candy, Mexico, Trader Joe's, Kosher, Christmas, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:04 pm    

Monday, December 8, 2008

Trader Joe’s French Truffles

Trader Joe's French TrufflesI love truffles. I love dreamy, creamy, extra fatty chocolate.

I’m kind of a truffle purist. In my world, a chocolate truffle is chocolate with extra butterfat added to it and sometimes, if you wish, egg yolks. My recipe for truffle ganache is pretty simple: combine 1 cup of heavy cream and 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler on low simmer. Allow to melt over the lowest possible heat, blend well - cool completely before refrigerating to solidify. (I usually double or triple that, but those are the proportions.)

Flavorings like mint extract or orange oil might be added. I usually make raspberry truffles by combining the ganache with seedless unsweetened jam or cognac ones by tipping in some cognac (then keep warm a while longer so some alcohol can evaporate to keep it from getting runny). But the list of ingredients is brief.

They can be rolled in cocoa or crushed nuts but I usually dip them, just because they keep better that way, are generally more attractive and are of course, neater than all that cocoa powder all over the place.

French Truffles - IngredientsTrader Joe’s has been selling French Truffles for years (though the package changes design from time to time). I tried them once, many years ago and thought something was off about them and never touched them again. Even though they’re an impossible price, at $2.99 for 8.8 ounces. And French! Because, you know, if it’s imported, it has to be good! (That was sarcasm.) I still didn’t buy them and avoided them when offered.

But I was on the prowl this weekend for Trader Joe’s holiday offerings and decided it was time to give these their due on the blog.

Now, I understand how price and mass manufacturing techniques can change a time-tested recipe. So here’s what it’s done to the venerable French Truffle:

Ingredients: Palm kernel oil, sugar, low fat cocoa, whey powder (milk), cocoa powder, soy lecithin, natural vanilla flavor.

If you gave me this list and asked me what that was, I’d say that was mockolate. There is no chocolate in here. No cocoa butter. There isn’t even any milkfat in here. Just palm kernel oil. (And there must be a lot because these clock in with a caloric density of 177 calories per ounce.)

Now, to be fair, Trader Joe’s does not state on the box that they’re chocolate truffles. Nope, they’re just French Truffles. (In fact there’s nothing else on the packaging to describe them except for some little lines that say that it’s all natural and contains no preservatives. Oil is actually a good antioxidant.)

image

Inside the red box is a tough, gold mylar pouch. The French Truffles are just in there. No tray, no fussy packaging, just in an un-resealable bag.

The little domes of these French Truffles look like flattened spheres of pig iron we used to pick up on the railroad tracks when I was ateen. They look like little rusted bells.

They smell a little woodsy, a little like Elmer’s glue and a bit like cocoa.

The bite is smooth, they’re soft and yielding, but not at all chalky or crystallized like fudge can be.

The melt on the tongue is instantaneous. It becomes runny and slick. The sugar isn’t completely combined as it would be if chocolate was used, so there’s a bit of a grain to it. The cocoa flavors are mellow and rich with a strong smoky component.

They’re not terribly sweet, almost salty (as cocoa can taste sometimes) though there’s no additional salt added to them (the natural sodium is 30 mg per serving). The buttery texture is really compelling and they don’t feel greasy on the tongue or waxy.

All that said, after eating one or two, I don’t feel like I’ve eaten chocolate. I don’t get that same kick.

As a confection, they’re certainly worth the $3 for the box. But to get 80% of my saturated fat in five pieces, especially when that saturated fat isn’t of the non-lethal cocoa butter variety, I think I’ll give these a pass now and in the future. There are far better real chocolate products from France or Trader Joe’s.

Though it’s sometimes hard to tell who makes Trader Joe’s products, I’m quite convinced that these are made by CHOCMOD.

Related Candies

  1. Starbucks Truffles
  2. Trader Joe’s Irish Cream Chocolates
  3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
  4. Ice Cubes
  5. Frangos Dark (62%)
  6. Choxie Champagne Truffles
Name: French Truffles
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe's (Chocmod)
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake)
Price: $2.99
Size: 8.8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 177
Categories: Mockolate, France, Trader Joe's, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:34 am    

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mint Chocolate M&Ms

Mint M&MsOne of M&Ms Holiday Mixes isn’t just a color shift in the regular offering. It’s the Mint Chocolate M&Ms, which aren’t available during any of the other special editions for other holidays like Easter or Halloween.

I haven’t had these in years, as I used to find them to be dangerously addictive and for the past few years I’ve tried to concentrate on candies that were new to me.

But this year I was happy to hear that they were back and thought it was high time that I had some again and of course document there here so fans could squee with delight. (Also, they were on sale, so I bought this bag and a bag of the Holiday Mix Almond M&Ms, which I ate in two days.)

image

The lentils come in three colors: White, Green and Red.

I pulled out a few regular M&Ms as a comparison (on the left) for the photo because I thought the green and red were actually a different shade. And so they are!

It’s tempting to think that these are just minted Milk Chocolate M&Ms, but they’re a little different in several ways.

  • Size: they’re bigger. Well, most of them are bigger. There are a few that are the same size as regular M&Ms. But they’re not even all the same size.
  •  

  • Colors: aren’t consistent. There are two different greens in there. Though I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or a quality control issue. They’re both pleasant looking, though I prefer the darker green.
  •  

  • Shell:  the candy shell is thicker. This means it’s crunchier. I decided I really liked this feature.
  •  

  • Ingredients:  list includes salt. So the milk chocolate is not only lightly peppermint, it’s also not-so-sweet.
  • Yeah, they’re really good. I love mint & chocolate and though the milk chocolate of M&Ms isn’t spectacular, it’s certainly fun to put away.

    Related Candies

    1. M&Ms Mint Dark Chocolate
    2. M&Ms Premiums
    3. Mint Crisp M&Ms (Indiana Jones)
    4. Nestle Toll House Mint Holiday Gems
    5. 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate
    6. The Mint Kisses: Chocolate Mint & Candy Cane
    7. M&Ms Line
    Name: Holiday Mix Mint Chocolate M&Ms
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Mars
    Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Los Feliz)
    Price: $2.00 on sale
    Size: 11 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 140
    Categories: Chocolate, Mint, United States, M&Ms, Mars, Christmas, Kosher

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:34 am    

    Page 3 of 4 pages  < 1 2 3 4 > 

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