Monday, December 15, 2008
I first had Trader Joe’s Peppermint Joe Joe’s last year and thought they were tasty - a chocolate cookie sandwich with a mint cream filling, but like Hydrox. I had a bit of trouble with the fact that the cookie part wasn’t quite as good as the Oreo.
The regular Joe Joe’s come in a one pound package, which is pretty dangerous in my house. Though I’m not a cake or baked goods fan in general, I do have a cookie problem. (If Candy Blog were to ever expand, it’d be into cookie reviews.)
The cute tray was sealed in cellophane and protected every single cookie from any damage in transit.
There are ten in all. Each is dusted with a bit of crushed mint candies.
They smell very minty, to the exclusion of all other flavors, such as chocolate.
They’re also pretty hefty, clocking in at about one ounce each. (And 150 calories.)
The cookie is crumbly and has a dark toasted cocoa flavor. The chocolate is creamy and perhaps a little sweet. The cream filling is where this doesn’t go as well, it’s grainy, which is fine, but it’s also a bit greasy. If I eat it all as a sandwich together, it’s great. Eating just the filling is a disappointment.
The ingredients list was pretty clear. Real chocolate, no artificial flavors or colors ... the only item that gives some folks pause is palm oil. (But some of the sugar is actually organic evaporated cane juice.)
Overall, it’s super tasty and should be enjoyed like a candy and not a cookie. (If you’re wondering what the difference is, I’d say that a serving of cookies like Oreos is three, but for these, the serving size is one.)
Rating: 8 out of 10.
I had Nabisco’s Pure Milk Chocolate Covered Mint Oreo Sandwich Cookies earlier this year. I found them in a little package at a drug store in Santa Monica while picking up some items for a beach picnic. I ate them in the car on the way there. It wasn’t until I was shopping at Target last week that I found them in a larger package.
This is a dangerous thing. I like them a bit too much.
The Oreos come in a tray with individual slots. There are 12 cookies in the box instead of 10 in the Joe Joe’s (but this box weighs only 7.5 ounces instead of 9.4). I don’t know the regular price on these, they were $2.50 on sale so were less per ounce than the Joe Joe’s.
As I expected the ingredients list wasn’t quite as wholesome, but I’ve got to give credit to Nabisco for not coloring the cream centers pink or green. The chocolate is real, but there’s palm oil in there and way down on the list is a bit of high fructose corn sweetener. All the other ingredients are pretty much the usual stuff.
The tray protected the individual cookies well, each one was glossy and had wonderful little ripples of milk chocolate on top.
These also smelled strongly of peppermint, and a little bit of milk.
The cookie crumble of the Oreo is spectacular. It’s a little sandy and releases immediate salty and smoky cocoa notes. The soft crunch is punctuated by the smooth milk chocolate, which isn’t as sweet as I would have expected (especially after having the Joe Joe’s). The cream center is grainy, lightly minted but without any greasiness to the fatty cream.
Each cookie is 90 calories and weighs about .65 ounces.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Years ago there was a candy bar called Peanut Butter Snickers. It was the eighties and peanut butter was all the rage. The bar was simple, some peanut butter studded with peanuts and then the classic Snickers caramel all covered in milk chocolate. Then it was discontinued and people were sad.
Then last year, Santa brought a present to Peanut Butter Snickers lovers in the form of, well, Santa! The Snickers Peanut Butter Santas are an updated, Christmas novelty version.
I was curious if they were like the Limited Edition Snickers Nut & Butter Crunch which was a peanut butter nougat with peanuts in it covered in milk chocolate. This package doesn’t actually have a description, so I had to buy it to find out.
The package came with six little molded milk chocolate Santas, individually wrapped units not for individual sale. (Though I’ve bought the Snickers Caramel Creme Nutcrackers individually before.)
Outside of the brick red wrapper, the Santa is nicely molded. It looks exactly like the image on the over-wrapper, which is a comforting thought. (Though there really aren’t any other “promises” on the wrapper that it needs to live up to besides the fact that they’re supposed to be one ounce.)
Biting into the little fellow, I found that it wasn’t quite the old Snickers Peanut Butter nor the more recent Snickers Nut n’ Butter Crunch.
Instead it’s a hybrid of the two. It’s a peanut butter bottom. On top of that is a layer or thin, gooey caramel with crushed peanuts. (Not the thicker caramel of the classic Snickers.)
The milk chocolate has a nice snap but is very sweet. The caramel inside comes across loud and clear - it’s a bit sticky but also very salty (55 mgs per Santa). The peanut butter base is solid, the ingredients list it as a “peanut butter coating” which is made from sugar, palm oil, peanut flour, nonfat milk solids, peanut oil and some other stuff. It reminds me of those peanut butter baking chips ... or the inside of Reese’s Pieces.
It’s a nice size, not too big. The flatness means there’s a lot more chocolate flavor than a usual Snickers mini. Overall, I thought they were tasty and ate
four of them. They’re not quite as dense and filling as the old Snickers Peanut Butter, but still a tasty holiday treat.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Before 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.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
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).
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.
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.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
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.)
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.
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.
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).
Monday, December 8, 2008
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.
Trader 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.)
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.
Friday, December 5, 2008
One 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.)
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.
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.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Hershey’s introduced their Signatures line last year, which is an upscale set of offerings within the traditional Hershey’s fare that’s available at grocers, drug stores and discount retailers. (The Reese’s Clusters were the first item in this line that I found.)
Hershey’s Bliss is also part of this Signatures line. The initial launch of Bliss included milk chocolate, dark chocolate and a milk chocolate meltaway.
As the winter holidays approached, the Hershey’s Bliss Creme de Menthe Meltaway Center appeared on shelves. I first spotted them at Hershey’s Chocolate World back in October, but they smelled so overwhelmingly minty without even opening the bag, I was afraid that the airline would think I was a drug mule trying to cover the scent of something illegal from the famous contraband-sniffing-Beagles of LAX.
So I waited for them to show up locally and sure enough Target has them in stock (on sale, though I’d hardly call $3.50 for an 8.8 ounce bag of Hershey’s a great deal).
Last year Hershey’s released a limited edition Hershey’s Kiss in Mint Truffle (and they’re back this year).
The exterior packaging is pretty, it screams mint & casual indulgence. The interior foil wrappers are not so nice. I was not keen on the shift from the elegant bronzy tones on the outside to the screaming goldenrod text with the green foil.
Inside the pieces were a little soft, a little greasy looking. But beyond that ... they were quite dreamy.
The chocolate is smooth and creamy and the center is just slightly fudgier with nice mint flavor that had both peppermint and spearmint notes (the spearmint part was a refreshing change). It was also a little salty, just like the Mint Truffle Kisses, but the chocolate was silkier.
I really didn’t think I’d like these, but they’re a very successful little morsel. Everyone at the office seems to agree, as the bag is now empty and folks have asked if there are any left.
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