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.
Friday, March 13, 2009
That’s kind of sad for the oldest candies.
Today I’ve got Candy Coated Fennel Seeds. From reading Sweets: A History of Candy by Tim Richardson, some of the first candies are still produced today. Those are the panned nuts and seeds.
The process is simple, a syrup of liquid sugar is drizzled over a bit that forms the center (in this case a fennel seed). After each layer dries, another is added. The most famous version of this is the Anis de l’Abbaye Flavigny, which creates a huge peanut sized pastille. In this instance the fennel seeds are coated with a little crunchy shell, like an M&M without the chocolate.
This variety is made by Al-Karawan based in Amman, Jordan (you know, Jordan, the place they named Jordan Almonds after). My mother picked it up for me at her local deli.
The summer before I went off to college I worked at an herb shop where I packaged up bulk products, including a version of this. I admit that I would sneak a spoonful when doing the little baggies. I might add that fennel is supposed to be a digestive aid, easing indigestion and suppressing appetite. It also freshens the breath. I usually see this stuff at Indian restaurants where you usually encounter a bowl of mints.
The colors are bright pastels: pink, green, yellow, blue and lavender. The size of the pieces varies greatly, some are tiny little spheres (with nothing inside) and others are the size of sunflower seeds.
The bag smells sweet and like a light anise. For those who are familiar with fennel, it does have a distinct, fresh anise flavor to it (licorice).
The sugar coating is sweet and crunchy and gives way to the seeds pretty quickly. The seeds are soft and fibrous for the most part. They have a light fresh flavor to them, soft anise mixed with some woodsy notes of beets, vanilla and root beer.
It’s kind of an odd candy. I find it very refreshing, though not terribly filling. It’s certainly pretty. For something exotic, it’s not that expensive (this bag had a price tag of 99 cents on it) for four ounces. For the most part it’s well made, but the bottom of my bag did contain a bunch of little bits that either didn’t get the full color treatment or were just single candy layered on a thread of fennel instead of a full seed. A little sifting might have eliminated that.
Al-Karawan lists Sugar Coated Cardamom on their site, now that sounds like something I’d like! The panning process is used on lots of other unlikely foodstuffs as well, like chick peas (garbanzos) and more traditional ones like almonds & pistachios.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I faithfully photographed the first package, but then ate them.
The second one, well, that was a King Sized version that I didn’t photograph, but then ate and realized that the proportions were different.
Then yesterday I was browsing my local 99 Cent Stores (yes, two of them, as they are less than a block apart and carry different stuff), I saw boxes and boxes of these. Since the expiration says 9K (November 2009), I figured they were well worth the 39 cents just so I could get these off my chest.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups made with crunchy peanut butter are not new. I remember them from the 90s and found this wrapper on Brad Kent’s site. Apparently they were also available in Canada, according to this wrapper on Mike’s Candy Bar Wrappers. This version is not to be confused with the Limited Edition Reese’s Big Cup with Nuts, which had whole nuts, not crushed ones.
They look, pretty much, like regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Fresh and nutty smelling, the tops were pristine on my most recent purchase (no oily puddles).
The chocolate is sweet and cool on the tongue, the peanut butter is immediately salty. The texture is the same as the regular cups except there are some big chunks of peanuts mixed in.
Most peanut butters are offered as either smooth or chunky, so it’s a natural evolution that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would come that way as well.
I liked these, I think they should be a regular item, but at the moment, if you have a 99 Cent Only Store the price is pretty darn good for fresh product. When those are gone, we can just wait for yet another limited edition or seasonal introduction. (I am kind of curious to try this crunchy style with the Easter favorite, the Egg.)
Side note: I saw a oodles of the now hard-to-find Reese’s Bars at the Fairfax & 6th 99 Cent Store.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Hershey’s is promoting their tie-in with March Madness (some sort of college basketball championship) and I have two (2) prize packages to give away!
The prize is a ball & mini basketball hoop and net that hangs on a cubicle or trash can (enhancing America’s productivity in this economic downturn), and lots of Hershey’s product (Kit Kat, Reese’s, Pay Day).
To enter simply send me an email to candybloggiveaway @ gmail.com with Basketball and Chocolate somewhere in the subject line. (You’re creative, come up with the rest, flattery isn’t necessary but certainly welcome.) Winners must be 18 or older and must have a USA address. Winners will be drawn at random from eligible entries (one per person). Deadline for entry is Sunday, March 15 at 10 PM Pacific.
For everyone else, Hershey’s is running a huge promotional tie in with March Madness, look for info on marked packages of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds Bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Joy Candy Bars, Kit Kat Wafer Bars and PayDay. The game runs through July 31, 2009 (winners get to go to the 2010 Final 4 or win other prizes). More on their special website.
Fine print: Emails not directed to candybloggiveaway @ gmail.com will be rejected. I will only share winning email addresses with Hershey’s PR folks (who will be doing the shipping) and will not use them for any other purpose. Winners must respond via email within 48 hours of notification, otherwise a new winner will be drawn. Do not send me your physical address unless you’re notified of winning.
UPDATE: I drew two winners (Jessica & Sheila) and the packages are being shipped out today. Congratulations!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.