Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I love lollipops in the sense that I love looking at them, I like buying them and I enjoying having them. But I’d have to guess that I only eat about half of the lollipops I ever have.
Part of it is that lollipops are simply hard candy. And I’m pretty sure that most people don’t actually like hard candy ... in the sense that they’d be willing to pay three times as much for it simply because it includes an inedible holder with it. But this is part of the amazing enigma of lollipops.
If I were a sculptor, I would probably wish to make things of spun, twisted & boiled sugar.
If I were to have my wedding all over again today, I’d probably just carry a bunch of lollipops instead of a bouquet of flowers. (Or maybe some of those wondrous flowers made from sugar.)
At the moment though I just take photos of lollipops when I get a hold of them.
Today, however, I’m also eating them.
I have a set of Hammond’s Candies All Natural Lollipops.
They’re made without artificial flavors or colors and are hand crafted. They come in a variety of flavors, I have six that I’m going to profile
These are the middle-sized pops - they’re one ounce each and about two to two and a half inches across. (Honestly, I think some of these were more than generously oversized.)
The pops feature thick wooden sticks and are wrapped simply in little cellophane bags with a sticker on the back that lists the flavor, ingredients & nutritional info. The front is all about the look of these hand-crafted medallions.
The ropes of candy are built in layers, at the center is a slightly aerated hard candy center. The outer layers are smooth and for the most part “clear” boiled sugar candy. The slight aeration of the core means that it’s very easy to crunch & chew it up and has no noticeable voids. It also means the the candy has a slightly lighter feel to it than I think I would have guessed just looking at it.
The flavor is light and bright - a touch of tartness but mostly a floral berry flavor like cotton candy.
Pomegranate - satiny cream background with pink/red stripes.
This had a very light floral flavor at first, all sweetness on the outside. The core, though, has a bit of a yogurty tang to it and a mellow cherry flavor with a stronger pop of sourness towards the end. It’s not a very intense flavor - just a light and rather nondescript berry note. It’s more like a fruit punch and is an overall positive.
This was a big test for me, because for the most part I don’t like cherry flavored candies because I don’t like the aftertaste of the most commonly used red food coloring, Red 40.
The outside was sweet and has a little toasted sugar flavor to it. The interior has a nice, zesty sour pop to it along with the cherry flavor. It’s not the dark, black cherry flavor - more like a cherry pie note. I’d call it positive and definitely has no weird poisonous aftertaste. Call it a win for cherry haters.
Peppermint - deep red with a series of amber stripes inside cream bands.
The coloring on this one wasn’t what I would have picked out of the bunch as the mint flavored one.
The mint flavor is clean and crisp - fresh and cooling with a long-lasting aftertaste. The texture of the candy is a little odd at first. The outside is smooth and with few voids, but can be kind of sharp if you break or crunch it.
Most of the pops at this point I was eating by breaking them first, eating the pieces and then whatever was left on the stick. For the Pear, which was just slightly smaller than the others, I ate it whole.
The outer layer was mild & sweet and had a light orchard fruit scent. In this case the center is the same ... kind of like an apple kissed toasted marshmallow. For the most part I love fresh pears but have never cared for pear flavored candies ... but this isn’t very “pear-flavored” so I give it a thumbs up.
Lemon - yellow bands with cream mini stripes
The outside is zesty but just a kiss of sweetness to it. The center is only slightly tangy. The whole thing reminds me of the flavor combination of a lemon bar. It’s not going to burn holes in my tongue, so I’ll definitely eat the whole thing.
The size of these pops was just a smidge too large for placing in the mouth whole. The texture and smoothness of the outside & inside meant that they were both interesting and pleasant from start to finish. In most cases the outside & inside also offered different flavor variations, which was a good feature to offer when selling at a premium price. They also come in a huge variety of sizes, from this one ounce version to a 4 ounce (saucer) to a full pound (dinner plate).
When not in “review mode” I found that these were definitely an all day sucker for me. The price is a bit steep - at about $2.50 to $3.00 per pop (depending on where you buy them). I’ve seen these at department stores around Christmas (in cinnamon!), at Cost Plus World Market (they also have Root Beer, but I don’t think it’s all natural) plus upscale candy shops and of course on the internet at CandyWarehouse.com, NaturalCandyStore.com and direct from Hammond’s.
Hard candy has its place, it’s durable and can be packed with flavor or just sweet comfort. Mostly it’s an amazing concoction because it can be beautiful.
To finish this off, have a look at how they make some of their hand-crafted creations:
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
As a kid I experienced many disappointments with candy that fell on both sides - candy that cost too much, but mostly candy that was no good (no matter what the price). I think the biggest candy category that has this issue is foil covered chocolates.
Think about how many times you’ve gotten a chocolate coin and thought it was far better just to keep it than to eat it ... because of all those times when you peeled back the beautifully stamped & shiny metal to find a piece of sweet & greasy mockolate.
Back when I started Candy Blog I discovered Madelaine Chocolate Novelties via their cute & tasty poker chips & mint meltaway playing cards.
Their entire line of chocolate confections is extensive, built on a strong foundation of stunningly pretty items as well as some interesting innovations like celebratory color palettes of malted milk balls and realistic looking chocolate coins.
All of their products are Kosher (made in Rockaway Beach, NY) and some are all natural: including the little milk chocolate pops pictured here.
In the case of these cartoon animal pops, they’re quite simple. They’re .375 ounces each, plain milk chocolate on a stick.
The flavor is mild and sweet. The chocolate is quite firm and has a good snap. This means an easy and crisp bite. It’s not a lot of candy, so it’s a decent looking treat for a kid but not so much that it’d spoil anyone’s dinner.
They have a huge selection, not just for Easter (and their rabbits & egg array is huge): hearts, daisies, coins, balls, stars, medals, bells, poker chips, crayons, fish, bees, beetles, cars, cigars, leaves & lips.
These Solid Milk Chocolate Butterflies are huge. Each is a half ounce and measures 1.5 inches across, 1 inch wide and a half an inch high. They come in a variety of colors (they package them in these little 35 piece tubs as well as smaller sleeves).
The molding is lovely, the detail on the little butterfly is quite nice, with a little depth to it (because it’s such a massive piece). They’re unlikely to chip or break because of the brick-like ratios.
The chocolate for these is not in the all natural line (because they use vanillin instead of vanilla). The melt is smooth & creamy, soft & silky on the tongue. There’s a bit of a malty overtone and some light European dairy flavors unlike the American style. It’s a little darker tasting and not quite as sweet as the all natural version.
I find the chocolate extremely pleasant, very munchable and of course beautiful to just have sitting in front of me before I eat it. The foil is nice and thick as well, easy to peel off (and fold too, if you’re one of those origami at the wedding reception people).
As a party favor or something to keep in an elegant candy dish, these are an excellent option. I’ve seen these sold at upscale delis, both as single pieces for about 75 cents each or in the little tubs for about $20-25. They’re a bit more expensive, but then again it’s the kind of chocolate that adults actually want to eat, so for that I consider them a very good value.
Name: Le Whif
Name: Trolli Gummi Hearts
Name: Cranberry Raisinets
Name: Baby Ruth Crisp
Images courtesy of the respective candy companies
Monday, April 27, 2009
I’ve had my fair share of skoolkrijt (schoolchalk) licorice on the past few years, after being given some by a coworker returning from a vacation. Since then I’ve bought pounds and pounds of the stuff to eat over and above the normal Candy Blog review queue. For those who have never had it, it’s a mild fondant/cream inside a black licorice tube, then covered in a crunchy, slightly minted candy shell. The little pieces look like blackboard chalk.
The idea of fruit flavored licorice was more than intriguing. I had no idea what it’d be like ... would it be flavored licorice, like Red Vines/Twizzlers or the traditional black stuff? Would it be white?
The package explains it all pretty well - the candy coating outside is pastel colored and lightly flavored, then a black licorice rope filled with a creamy flavored center. There were three flavors: Lemon, Apple and Raspberry.
I am accustomed to the Venco brand of licorice chalk, but this was pretty much the same shape and size. One inch long and about one half an inch in diameter.
The pieces look an awful lot like chalk. They smell an awful lot like raspberry flavor ... doesn’t matter which piece I pick out of the assortment, they all smell like sticky, sweet, floral raspberry body wash. I separated out the pieces and dove in.
Raspberry is pink, of course. The crunchy shell is all sweetness, the cream center is more sweetness of a deeper more jam-flavor. The licorice is hard to discern, it contributes a slight woodsy and molasses note to the whole thing, but chewing quickly means missing it entirely.
Apple is light green. These were rather vague on the outside, perhaps because of the strong raspberry thing going on. On the inside though, the cream center is very strong and tastes of apple juice. The licorice is a nice texture variation, but there is no anise, no molasses, not beet-like root notes. I did not like apple.
Lemon in the lightest yellow is the redeemer here. The shell has a kiss of sweet lemon essence, like lemon balm. The cream center, though, is like a regular Skoolkrijt, a bit minty/menthol. The black licorice notes aren’t very strong, but dark and tasty.
I would buy just Yellow Chalk. I would not buy this fruit Schoolchalk. As it is, I’m just picking out the yellow stuff to eat. Eating the other flavors last week gave me a tummy ache and spoiled my appetite for dinner.
Made in Slovakia. I gave the Lemon a 7 out of 10, the rest a 5 out of 10.
The nice thing about the Leaf folks was that they were happy send along some of their other classic products to give me a sense of their product line. So after the Schoolchalk, I visited with their Licorice Allsorts.
Allsorts vary from company to company but are generally mild, sandwiched squares of flavored fondant and licorice along with various pieces of coconut fondant and the occasional jelly button covered in nonpareils.
I loved the colors and font on this package.
My favorite was the little cream filled licorice tube. The outside was a tough and only mildly spicy licorice with a lemon cream center. Easy to eat in one bite.
Next came the plain licorice bites. Tough to chew but a good woodsy flavor along with some beets & charcoal.
Chocolate sandwiches had a slight cocoa flavor to them. The licorice slabs were less flavorful than the plain bites, I figure they must leach flavor into the fondant. The yellow layers were lightly lemon and the pink ones might be a slight strawberry.
I was fond of the blue jelly dots, though the nonpareil crunchies kind of fell off large parts of them, and there were only four in the whole bag. They’re still so cute ... I wonder how necessary the blue food coloring is and if anyone makes a white version. The jelly center is lightly anise, soft and smooth.
The little pink and yellow circles were coconut. There may have been some flavor in there as well, but the coconut was the big player here. The licorice centers were softer than the other pieces.
On the whole the Allsorts were pleasant. I found myself picking through the assortment and finding enough to eat in there and nothing left over at the end that I found so unpalatable that I would throw it out (and I’m not shy about throwing out candy I don’t like). They’re pretty to look at and don’t necessarily get stale even when left sitting open on my desk overnight.
Made in Denmark. I give them a 7 out of 10
I know that licorice shapes are pretty popular, and in many European countries there are dozens. Here in the states I think that licorce comes in whips (twists or laces) and perhaps Scottie dogs, and that’s pretty much it.
I have no idea how licorice and pipes became so intertwined, but from the first moment I opened this package, I felt that Leaf had this one nailed.
Not only is this piece of black, wheat flour based & molasses sweetened licorice shaped like an old tobacco pipe ... it has glowing pink embers in the bowl!
The licorice is softer and maybe even denser than the others, perhaps because they’re individually wrapped. They smell like toffee, anise and a little touch of sulfur, figs and banana notes. The licorice isn’t that strong, not like other “Finnish” licorice like Panda. It has more of a dark & mild spice cookie-like texture and flavor.
Made in Italy. I give them a 7 out of 10.
Leaf is a Finnish brand but available widely in Canada at drug stores & large retailers (WalMart, Dollarmax, London Drugs, etc.). In the United States they may be harder to find, so stick to import shops.
Overall, one of the cool things about licorice and the family of licorice candies is that it’s rather low in calories (usually about 100 to 110 calories per ounce), colorful and fun and with some fun flavor combinations. They can be very satisfying because of the wheat flour ingredient, but of course that means they’re unsuitable for those with wheat & gluten issues. Schoolchalk contains gelatin, so is not suitable for vegetarians.
Friday, April 24, 2009
One of the most confounding stories from last year was not that Hershey’s degraded the recipe of some of their most favored & oldest chocolate bars including the Mr. Goodbar. No, it was the introduction of the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts.
Hershey’s spokesman insisted that consumers actually prefer the new formula of the Mr. Goodbar, which has a strong, salty & burnt peanut taste over the earlier Hershey’s tangy milk chocolate flavor combined with fresh roasted peanuts. So, why, if so many people like it would they introduce a new bar that is basically the old bar instead of keeping the old bar the way it was an introducing a new bar that tastes like the old bar’s new formula? (I told you it was confusing.)
The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts bar was introduced and sold exclusively at WalMart. I got mine at the 99 Cent Only Store. I don’t know if they’re supposed to be carrying it or these are just WalMart overruns.
So, what’s inside? First, the bar is 1.45 ounces. A standard Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces ... so this nutty Hershey’s is even smaller.
The ingredients are:
The bar has a soft snap, like most Hershey’s chocolate products. It smells like peanuts, but not quite the same soft scent of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. On the tongue the first flavor I get is not chocolate or peanuts but salt. The chocolate is a bit fudgy and grainy, but has a rather smooth dissolve on the tongue. The peanuts don’t taste as dark and charcoal-ish as the new Mr. Goodbar. But the saltiness made it taste like fake butter.
It’s not a bad bar ... and it’s not Mr. Goodbar. It’s just some other new bar that’s not distinct enough to warrant being more than a something in an assortment of miniatures. Which brings me to the fact that this Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts is not even, technically, a new confection from Hershey’s. I first had it when I bought at bag of Hershey’s Nut Lovers Miniatures in January of 2005. (Here’s a photo.)
I feel like the victim of an elaborate shell game where actually finding the ball under the right shell doesn’t actually mean that you get anything satisfying ... like your money’s worth. This new bar is nice enough, but why is it 1.45 ounces (same as the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds) instead of the 1.55 of the Milk Chocolate bar. Did peanuts suddenly become more expensive than chocolate?
Just for the record, here are the iterations of Mr. Goodbar:
Ingredients (as of 2008): Sugar, peanuts, vegetable oil (palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil) chocolate, whey (milk), nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, soy lecithin, salt, vanillin. (60 mg of sodium 1.75 ounces)
In this new mockolate version the bar tastes like it has more peanuts, the peanuts have a darker roast that gives it a slight bitterness that’s moderated by heaps more salt than before and what tastes like some sugary fudge/wax with very little cocoa taste.
Ingredients (circa 2006): Milk Chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, lactose, milk, milk fat, soya lecithin and PGPR as emulsifiers and vanillin, an artificial flavoring) and Peanuts. (20 mg of sodium 1.75 ounces)
If you really missed the classic Mr. Goodbar, the new Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts will probably make you happier than buying the current mockolate Mr. Goodbar. (Unless you’re on a sodium restricted diet.) I’d like to say that there’s an alternative, but peanuts & chocolate are kind of the domain of Hershey’s & Reese’s ... it’s sad that they don’t have something to offer that’s better.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I don’t do well in drawing that line. Fruit covered in chocolate, that’s candy. Nuts covered in chocolate, that’s candy. Cookies covered in chocolate ... hmm, if they’re bite sized, sure. Ice cream covered in chocolate? No, that’s still ice cream.
Wolfgang Skipjacks are milk chocolate covered oyster crackers (bite sized saltines).
They’re sold in stand up 7 ounce bags ...which sounds more like the packaging of a snack item than a candy item ... but I’m going to just call this candy. Otherwise I can’t review it and I’m currently eating the third bag I got from them after posting the new product announcement.
The pieces are about one inch in diameter and a half inch high. There are little squiggles on the top of the chocolate enrobing.
The crackers are flaky and crunchy with very little flavor of their own beyond the bit of granulated salt.
The milk chocolate is very sweet and has a milky and sticky quality to it.
The light and crisp crunch combined with the dairy milk chocolate is a good combo ... it’s definitely snackable, though not quite decadent they do satisfy.
The only thing that I found disheartening about these was the fact that they’re not all milk chocolate. Reading over the ingredients there are three components listed. Milk Chocolate, Oyster Crackers and then Bottom Coating Compound. Sure enough when I turned over the candies on some of them I could see a different colored chocolate dot on them. I’m sure this was a manufacturing decision and the only thing I can think of is the fact that these crackers, before getting coated, are probably devilishly light and maybe didn’t “sit still” while going through the curtain of chocolate to coat them. Maybe they needed a little chocolate foot ... why it has to be a mockolate foot, well, I don’t know. (They show a little of their enrobing in this video.)
Overall, I thought they were definitely worth it if you’re a crunchy with salt & chocolate person. I also thought the name was pretty cool, the package design is fun and spare (no unnecessary tray or inner bags).
Rating: 7 out of 10.
These are chocolate covered animal crackers.
This bag is 6 ounces instead of 7.
Like the Skipjacks these are milk chocolate coated (and have that same mockolate bottom coating).
The crackers vary in size - about 1.5 to 2 inches wide by one inch.
Like uncoated animal crackers, I had a hard time figuring out what creatures these were. Most I decided were zebras and rhinos, though they might have been lions or elephants.
The crunch on these little light shortbread cookies is denser than the Skipjacks and has a light toasted flavor, maybe a bit of a graham cracker note.
It’s a little sweeter overall, and I was satisfied much quicker eating these than the Skipjacks - maybe the salt makes me want more.
It says there are 6 servings in the bag ... in my experience there were two.
Overall, a nice change from chocolate covered pretzels or cookies ... but I can’t see myself buying these again. But I can see kids loving them and parents liking how they can give out just two or three pieces of “candy” at a time.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Long before Hershey’s got into the organic chocolate act by buying Dagoba in 2006, Mars bought a small organic & heritage seed company called Seeds of Change in 1999. Since then, Seeds of Change also became an organic food company (sauces, grains & frozen meals) and launched a line of organic chocolate bars.
Seeds of Change is dedicated to preserving food diversity and promoting organic growing techniques and food worldwide, and cacao is definitely one of those plants that needs that sort of nurturing. In addition to using organic ingredients they also donate 1% of their net sales to advance the cause of sustainable organic agriculture worldwide. I tried their bar called Isle of Skye last year, which I thought was an excellent and noteworthy crisped grain in milk chocolate bar.
This year, while browsing ExpoWest, a natural & organic products trade show in Anaheim, I found out that Seeds of Change has shifted their product line. They changed the names of their bars, dropped a few of them and added some more classic versions (a plain dark chocolate bar, for instance) and also redesigned all their packages. (I did love their previous wrapper images.)
I was excited to see the new package, which is a wallet style paperboard package with three individually wrapped bars inside. Perfect for portion control, great for keeping all pieces fresh and excellent for sharing. The three bars in a reclosable package may look familiar ... Dove introduced it last year.
The Seeds of Change version has little plastic wrapped bars instead of foil.
I picked their 61% Dark Chocolate with Mango and Cashew as the intro to this new look & product line.
The little bars are nicely molded, shiny and with a crisp snap. They’re scored into four pieces - the whole bar weighs only an ounce.
I like the thickness of it, as it allows a nice bite and a slow melt of the bar.
The dark chocolate is smooth and silky, it has a quick melt and a lot of cocoa butter feel on the tongue. Unfortunately it’s not a vegan bar, there’s milkfat in there.
The flavors are pretty simple. It’s rich coffee & woodsy flavored chocolate, a little bit of dark charcoal and then some grassy notes of the cashew pieces. The little dried mango bits are a little fibery but pack a powerful punch of tangy chew - kind of orangy-citrus with a hint of peach and green tea.
The little inclusions are rather small. The cashew pieces weren’t big enough to be crunchy, which is too bad, because I think the buttery crunch of cashews would really bolster this bar.
As it is, the shining star here is the chocolate followed by the mango notes. Aa good, fun taste combination.
The complete list of products in their line is now: Milk Chocolate (43%), Milk Chocolate with Puffed Grains (formerly Isle of Skye), 61% Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate with Cherries & Vanilla, Dark Chocolate with Coconut. It’s an interesting array because besides the plain chocolate, the flavors are different from the usual offerings when standing in the chocolate bar aisle. I’ve seen Seeds of Change at drug stores (Long’s Drugs in California). Oddly enough, Seeds of Change also just sent me some of the other new bars, so I’ll have reviews of those soon, too.
In recognition of Earth Day, Seeds of Change is running a contest (deadline July 21, 2009) - submit you video, photo or essay to tell the world what you’re doing to make a difference.
I buy their sauces and think they’re very tasty and usually well priced for organic products.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I’d say that I don’t review about half of the candy that I acquire. Some is for personal consumption or gifts, but a good proportion I just never get around to. Most of that you’ll never even see. These shown below are ones I at least took photos of, yet I still couldn’t muster a review.
Do if you’ve had any of these, please feel free to chime in with your thoughts so that at least other folks can get some feedback on them.
Brix Chocolate - Special milk & dark chocolate blends made just for eating with wine. It comes in huge blocks that seem like they’d be difficult and messy. I picked up these tasting squares at the Fancy Food Show. I photographed them, I ate them. I read some other reviews.
These are Valerie Confections liquid caramel eggs in a dark chocolate shell with a dusting of gold flakes. They were divine and I ate a half a dozen of them in a matter of three days. (Along with a fabulous box of my favorite Lemon & Hazelnut Nougat.)
I bought this in Pennsylvania last year at the grocery store near my sister’s house. Eurocrem Blok - it sounds like it could be the name of any number of products. A brand of butter. A solid deodorant stick. Maybe a fine chocolate.
I bought it because of the name and the package design, not because I thought it’d be good. Even though the package clearly says it’s good until October 2009, it was bloomed. Could have been my fault, could have been something that happened in my luggage. Could have been the store. But it wouldn’t be fair to review it and I’m not really into eating chalky chocolate.
Brandini Toffee has been suggested for review several times by readers. I thought that the Fancy Food Show was a perfect opportunity to do that. They gave me these itty-bitty samples (mostly because I visited them on the last day, not because they were stingy or anything ... not that any candy company is obliged to give me free samples just to get reviewed, because that’s also not true).
Not really the way to review toffee. One of these days I’ll find it in stores and buy a real-sized portion, not these sugar-cube-sized stuff made for Barbie dolls.
I diligently picked out these samples of the missing flavors in my set of Lake Champlain truffle eggs when at the Fancy Food Show.
These are the Java Truffle Eggs.
Then I ate them. They were good. I did actually intend on getting more of them, since they were already photographed at the Whole Foods by my office, but sometimes I get lazy.
I picked them up because I thought it’d be interesting to taste the chocolate base for the bars that seem to be so popular at Target and come in a bajillion flavor combinations except just plain chocolate.
I never got around to it and then I lost these eensy little pieces. (Seriously, you think they’re small, but they’re actually smaller than that.)
Goat’s milk is a little gamier, a little tangy and sometimes a little musty tasting compared to cow’s milk. These Beurre et Lait de chevre were no exception. It was like eating a bit of cream cheese with my caramel.
At the point where I ate them after the Fancy Food Show, I’d completely forgotten where I got them from. Then I found the second one a few weeks ago and I have to say that I think they’re product best eaten fresh.
So there you have it, if not full reviews, at least lots of eye candy.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.