Friday, March 20, 2009
A few years ago, after trying a petite box of Valentine’s chocolates from Elmer’s Candy Company I decided to track down their two most famous products: Heavenly Hash Egg and Gold Brick Egg. Oddly enough last week I was contacted by Elmer’s as they were promoting their new introduction, a dark chocolate version of both of the flagship products (can there be two flagships?).
I requested that they send along some of the original, as I’d tried very hard to find them in my area and they had no webstore. Sadly, they didn’t include them so this review today is in a bit of a vacuum.
The packaging is rather bold, a black background with a fluffy blue and white cloud for the logo & description. (It does look like it belongs with the Hot Tamales Licorice Jelly Beans from yesterday’s review.)
The Dark Chocolate Heavenly Hash Egg is rich dark chocolate, tender marshmallow and roasted almonds. This is a pretty big egg, clocking in at 1.33 ounces. I’m guessing these are sold individually like the Russell Stover eggs are, though mine arrived in a tray of six. For reference the Toasted Marshmallow Eggs I tried a couple of weeks ago were just .75 ounces each.
The eggs are pretty big, though each was a little different ranging from 3.5 to 3.75 inches long and about 2 inches at the widest.
From the description, I assumed that the almonds would be crushed bits mixed in with the marshmallow. I don’t know why that was what I was expecting, but when I saw the candy out of the package, I thought it was really lovely. A marshmallow plank with four or five little lumps (almonds) covered in rippled and shiny dark chocolate.
The chocolate has a nice snap to it and adheres to the marshmallow well, I didn’t have any issue with flaking. The almonds, when encountered, provide a crisp crunch. They’re well roasted, most I came across had a good toasted flavor. And it was pretty easy to plan my bites so as to get some almond in each one.
The marshmallow is sweet and moist, but it’s a bit soft and forms little peaks when I bite it. (Vastly different from the Pete’s Gourmet, as you can imagine.)
There’s very little flavor to the marshmallow, though every once in a while I got a bit of a honey note from it (though none is listed in the ingredients).
The dark chocolate isn’t complex but is definitely less sweet than the milk chocolate from the Toasted Marshmallow Eggs, which is definitely a plus. However, since I still had a Toasted egg left, I tried one and much preferred the cotton candy flavor of that center to the rather plain Heavenly Hash. In the end, the textures and overall execution is much better with the Heavenly Hash.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The Dark Chocolate Gold Brick Egg package describes it simply as dark chocolate covered pecan melt-a-way.
The wrapper is similarly bold & dark, a black background with a bright yellow egg holding the logo.
This piece consists of a molded center, which is the melt-a-way which is then enrobed. Some of mine had big puddly feet, but the one I chose to photograph was more crisp looking.
There’s a slight rippling on the enrobing. They smell sweet, but a little more like fudge or hot cocoa than chocolate. It didn’t seem promising. Neither did the ingredients. It went like this: sugar, dark chocolate, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, pecans, chocolate, skim milk ... and so on to list the less than 2 percent ingredients.
Instead of a soft and melty melt-a-way, what I had here was more of a waxy and fudgy center. The texture wasn’t quite crumbly, but it certainly didn’t have that mouthfeel of even some candies made with tropical oils (coconut oil is good for that).
The flavor is rather empty, a bit like cocoa but not at all like deep, rich chocolate. There were a few pecan pieces, but they only provided some scant texture and not much on the flavor front.
Rating: 4 out of 10
I’m interested to taste the original Heavenly Hash, but have no interest in the Gold Brick. But they do have something called a Gold Brick Malt Egg that seems to be tempting me against my better judgment.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I was a little confused that this package says “new” since I saw them on sale last year, but the freshness date says best by 06/2010. I was also confused when I tried to find these via the Just Born website and it said they were carried by a handful of Albertson’s markets in Southern California ... but then I stumbled across them at the 99 Cent Only Store near my office. They also had the all-cinnamon Hot Tamales Jelly Beans and the Hot Tamales Spice Jelly Beans.
Before gourmet jelly beans came along, the only jelly bean I knew of that was sold as a single flavor was licorice. (It ranks among Jelly Belly’s top sellers.) I often felt like the beans were being segregated, like they didn’t belong in the regular mix of beans. I certainly had friends and family members that would sort them out of their mixes (and give them to me). But in this case, the Hot Tamales Spice Beans don’t actually include licorice, they are definitely sold separately.
The packaging is rather unusual. Though as far as I can tell the Hot Tamales beans are only sold around Easter, but they’re packaged as if they’re an all-year round item. No pastels, eggs, bunnies or baby animals on this package. It’s black and gray with the red Hot Tamales logo & fireball mascot.
The beans are attractive and very black. They’re rather tall and narrow - the same length & width of a Jelly Belly but much taller and boxier.
The bag smells a bit like licorice spice tea, but mostly like sweet beeswax (not unpleasant).
The beans are soft, they can easily be squished between my fingers (Jelly Belly tend to be firmer). The shell isn’t very thick so there’s not much grain to these beans.
The licorice notes are high on the anise side with a clean and sweet lingering aftertaste. It’s missing a lot of the darker woodsy notes that a licorice whip has but they’re definitely beans that I have no trouble eating, no sickly feeling of consuming too much sugar like those Bunny Basket Eggs can do.
Though the ingredients list pectin, they’re not a true pectin bean - they utilize modified food starch as the primary thickener. That said, it is a smooth flavor that’s not too sweet.
There’s a fair bit of food coloring in here, which meant that after a handful my tongue was greenish/blue. Licorice twists tend to be black because of the molasses ... it seems to me that licorice jelly beans sold separately could simply be uncolored and we could skip all that Red 40, Yellow 5 and Blue 1.
These may be Kosher, it’s hard to tell. It’s not mentioned on the package, but the Just Born website says that only their Peeps products are not Kosher. They are gluten free! (And made in the USA.)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Ever since I tried my first candy-coated chocolate sunflower seed, I was hooked. (And I wondered why these haven’t been around all my life.)
Kimmie Candy offered to send me their new varieties of All Natural Sunbursts, including their new dark chocolate version.
Kimmie Candy is rather new to the candy game, founded in 1999, they focus on panned candies. Based in Reno, Nevada (Free factory tours if you’re in the area.), they seem to have found a niche with some novel products and “better for you snacks.”
Their original Sunbursts come in a huge array of colors and are described as a candy coated, cocoa covered sunflower kernels. So yeah, it’s a mockolate product. I’ve had them, and they are pleasant, but I’ve been on the prowl for something that parents can really get behind for their kids.
All Natural Sunburst (shown above) fit that bill. They come in a mix of seven colors which are made from all natural colorings, plus the chocolate coating is real milk chocolate. At the center is a flavorful sunflower seed. Watch a video tour of how they’re made.
The colorings aren’t quite a vibrant as the unnatural varieties, but are definitely eye-catching and don’t feel muted and old like some candies can. The yellow, green and brown are especially nice. The pieces vary in size quite a bit, just like most nuts and seeds do. The shell is sweet and has a light crunch. The milk chocolate imparts a slight dairy flavor but not much of a chocolate punch, just a creamy background. The highlight is the sunflower flavor, which is bright and fresh - I didn’t come across a bad seed in the handfuls that I ate.
Their newest product (not even listed on the website) is Sunburst Natural Mix Dark Chocolate. This blend came with two colors in it, green and yellow. I really liked the combination, as it of course reminded me of sunflowers.
The smell upon opening the package was of brownies, toasty hot brownies.
On the tongue the candies have a slight bitter snap to them, but like the milk chocolate counterpart, the shell is sweet and crunchy. The dark chocolate coating is quite strong with smoke and coffee tones to it - they’re rather intense. The roasted nut flavors come through nicely. But the candy is really different from the milk chocolate variety.
The Kimmie Candy website sells direct to consumers and has some excellent prices (especially if you’re willing to take a chance on their “oops” items). They also make ChocoRocks and other panned candies. The original Sunbursts have a wide variety of package options (single serve to 8 ounce bags) at retail stores. I hope they’ll ramp up production of these and maybe do the snack sized portion package in large bags for Halloween. It might actually make them a trick-or-treat item that doesn’t break the bank but satisfies both picky parents and picky kids.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I literally stopped in my tracks at the Fancy Food Show in January when I saw that Ferrara Pan had a booth. While I love their Atomic Fireballs and Lemonheads, there’s no way they can be considered “fancy.” Little did I know that Ferrara was actually making fancy candy!
They were at the show to introduce their new chocolate panned line which starts with five products: Dark Chocolate Covered Biscotti, Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, Milk Chocolate Covered Almonds, Chocolate Covered Mixed Nuts (Macadamias, Cashews & Pistachios) and Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans.
I was drawn to one of the more unique items in the line for my first experience with their chocolate: Dark Chocolate Covered Biscotti.
The box is hexagonal in gold foil with an attractive but simple design to it. I finally saw them in the grocery store (for $3.99 for a 6.25 ounce box) which is usually my signal to get it up on the blog.
Inside the box is a heavy plastic pouch in a similar but matte gold color.
When I cut it open I was met with a nice smoky sweet aroma of coffee, vanilla and cocoa.
The bits are little dome shaped, shiny dark chocolate nuggets. They’re about the size of a garbanzo bean or hazelnut.
I ate a few when I took the photos and thought they were a little odd, a little bitter, a little gritty.
Then I read the box (which, you know, I probably should) and found out what that was:
Oh! That’s real coffee I taste in there! Why didn’t they say that on the front ... possibly even include it in the name of the product?
The biscotti center is rustic, made with oat and rice flour. There’s a slightly salty and malty flavor to it. The crunch is crumbly, but dry and not buttery like some cookie centers (like Twix).
Though the ingredients say that center is coffee flavored, I get it more from the chocolate coating. The chocolate shell is very mild (not a true dark chocolate because it contains some dairy fat). It’s sweet, has a nice melt to it and the proportions keep the flavors on the chocolate end of things.
I had a similar product last year from Albanese Confectionery, their new Cappuccino Biscotti Bites which were milk chocolate, but I’ve never actually seen them in stores or on their website.
For a product available in the grocery store, I thought it was rather well priced for the quality and quantity. The chocolate covered nut mix they have sounds interesting to, since it’s both a mix of dark and milk chocolate and includes the less-common nuts: pistachios, cashews & macadamias.
Nutritionally, I was kind of surprised by these. Yes, they have a fair amount of fat at 11 grams per 40 gram serving (chocolate is like that), but there’s also 2 grams of protein & dietary fiber and only 35mg of sodium.
The other interesting thing about this product that may need some investigation is that they do not contain wheat, just oat flour and rice flour. Though it doesn’t say gluten free on the package, it also doesn’t list wheat as one of the allergens or mention wheat as one of the shared equipment warnings. So for those with gluten restrictions, this might be an interesting line to pursue (please educate me in the comments on how to help by reading the labels). They’re also Kosher.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Since starting Candy Blog I’ve found there is a wonderful world of marshmallows out there beyond the See’s Scotchmallow.
Pete’s Gourmet Confections does something that I haven’t seen very often: they offer gourmet marshmallows (mallows, as he refers to them) and other handmade confections that are certified Kosher. If you want to see Pete Coyle making mallows, check out this piece from the Food Network (it looks like sticky, sticky work).
I was definitely intrigued when they contacted me, so they sent me some samples of their most popular products.
This set of four was a good introduction, it’s their year round product, the Gourmet Assorted Dipped Marshmallows. Each piece is about a one inch cube.
Dark Chocolate covered Marshmallow - spongy and soft, a little on the dry side with a nice latexy chew. Fresh and satisfying, but doesn’t leave me feeling full.
Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberry Marshmallow - a similar soft and bouncy texture with a kiss of strawberry scent and a faint pink color. There no hint of tartness, just the sweet floral flavors of strawberry. It tastes a lot like sunshine.
White Chocolate covered Marshmallow - this is definitely not for those afraid of sweet. Though the marshmallows themselves are mild, the white chocolate is very milky and sticky sweet. It has strong vanilla notes as well.
White Chocolate covered Chocolate Marshmallow - the texture of this marshmallow is a bit more dense, it’s not just a touch of cocoa in here for color. The cocoa flavors don’t really infuse the marshmallow so much as temper it to be less sweet and a little on the smoky side (maybe even a touch on the salt side). The white chocolate, though, bumps it back up with a dose of sugar.
But chocolate covered handmade marshmallows, that’s been done, right? What bowled me over was the look of the Easter version, these beautiful chocolate dipped eggs.
Pete’s Gourmet makes two different versions for Easter. The ones shown here are the Ukrainian Easter Eggs.
Ukrainian Easter Eggs (Pysanka) are a folk art tradition characterized by geometric & stylized patterns made in the process of wax-resist. As a kid I loved making ornate Easter eggs and learned to blow them (make a small hole in either end of a raw egg, take a long pin or needle to pierce the yolk and then blow into one end to force the “scrambled” egg out into a bowl). The empty egg was then ready to be decorated. The traditional Ukrainian style is quite involved. Designs are laid onto the shell using melted wax, then the egg is dyed, more patterns are put on with wax, so that the lines and shapes are different colors. The final background colors after many layerings of dye are nearly black.
Then the egg is carefully heated with a flame to melt the wax, and wiped off to reveal the colors beneath (and gives the egg a bit of seal and shine).
These marshmallow eggs bear some of those designs on dark and white chocolate transfers.
The Ukrainian mix of eggs come in Vanilla, Lemon and Strawberry. There was no key with them, and I think I gave away my lemon one, so I didn’t really get to try anything new here from the regular square version.
The Modern Chocolate Marshmallow Easter Eggs version is a spring pastel mix of flowers, waves and patterns. These are also white or dark chocolate - all over the classic vanilla marshmallow.
What I enjoyed, about this format was that they’re not nearly as thick as the squares. These varied but were generally about one half to three quarters of an inch thick. There was more chocolate per bite than the squares, so the marshmallow to chocolate ratio varied (depending one whether I was at an edge).
They’re also just stunning, everyone whom I’ve showed them to has admired them and also found them just as tasty as they look.
The other amazing thing is the price. For a handcrafted confection, I was surprised to see on their website that they were only $12.99 for a box of 12. Each marshmallow is about
one ounce and over two inches long.
One other item I have to mention is the lavender marshmallow. (I have a chocolate piece here much like the squares.) It’s available as a flower-shaped pop which must look as amazing in person as the eggs do.
The marshmallow has a wonderful dark floral flavor of lavender (which reminds me a lot of rosemary). It balances the roasted notes of the chocolate and the sweet marshmallow so wonderfully, it’s like it’s holding hands with both of them. I’m now driven to distraction thinking about all the other floral/herbal flavors that could be infused into marshmallows: rosewater, orange blossom, lemongrass, bergamot, pistachio and even violet.
Again, at $10.99 for 12 pops (less than a dollar each), they sound like an incredible deal and would make wonderful favors or party decorations.
The packaging isn’t as modern and chic as some other gourmet artisan folks, they’re simple foil-type boxes with either a similar lid or a clear plastic lid (like the one show at the top) with the company sticker on it. But hey, I don’t need fancy boxes if the candy is good and it does its job of keeping the candy fresh & whole. This was fresh, extremely well priced, attractive and for those seeking Kosher marshmallows, it’s just the ticket.
If you’re eager to order, there’s a random coupon deal right now if you click on the little logo at the bottom of the home page.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.