Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Earlier this year Hershey’s provided me with a peek at some new products. I’ve been hanging onto the new Bliss White Chocolate Meltaway until it was closer to arriving on store shelves.
This addition to the Hershey’s line will set it apart from many other chocolate morsels such as the Dove line because instead of going super dark, they went all white.
The good news is that Hershey’s is using real white chocolate made with cocoa butter for their meltaway. Though it’s not a real gourmet product it’s still an excellent option for white chocolate lovers for a less-expensive treat. The ingredients list white chocolate as the first ingredient (sugar, cocoa butter, nonfat milk, milk, lactose, milk fat, soy lecithin, tocopherols, vanillin & salt). The meltaway center is made with a mix of the white chocolate and palm kernel oil. As you can imagine the saturated fat content is through the roof, with 6 pieces completing 45% of your daily recommended allowance of saturated fat but also 10% of your calcium.
The pieces are a creamy pale color with a little squiggle design across the rounded dome of the square. The smell sweet and milky and pretty much taste the same. The salt give them a little pop that makes the vanilla flavors come out more strongly than I would have expected. It’s like a vanilla pudding. A little bland but also a bit unchallenging in comforting way.
The difference between the white chocolate shell and the meltaway filling is rather marginal, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It felt like a piece of soft and creamy, sweet fat.
I liked the packaging - I thought the light blue, creamy white and gold were elegant and evocative of the product itself. I have a bit of trouble eating too many, so added to a mix of other levels of chocolate would be nicer. My only hesitation with them is that the Bliss line seems a bit expensive (regular price $4.99) for what you get. I’d prefer something without palm oil and with real vanilla. My go to white chocolate is still Green & Black’s.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I went back to Target over the weekend in hopes of finding more new Halloween goodies. Though it was mostly the same items I found there two weeks ago, the seemed to have a bit more in the way of their Gourmet Candy Corn line.
They have a lot of funny flavors that seem incongruous with candy corn like Tangerine, Green Apple (plus Chocolate Covered Green Apple), Toffee (which I already reviewed) and S’Mores. However, Pumpkin Pie sounded pretty good.
It’s in the same style of stand up black shiny bag that the other gourmet treats were in. They’re all terribly overpriced, but the packaging is nice enough that you could probably bring a bag as a hostess gift for the right occasion.
I found the colors off-putting. The tip is soft orange, the center is bright yellow but the base is some unworldly fluorescent orange that just makes me think of faded vinyl tub toys. I really couldn’t capture the color in the photo.
The bag smells sweet and creamy when opened.
The texture is soft and has very little grain to it. They’re sweet and lack that touch of honey that true candy corn usually puts forward. The pumpkin pie here is just a light blend of spices. Cinnamon is the boldest, but it doesn’t rise to the level of spicy or hot cinnamon. There’s a slight twinge of woodsy nutmeg or allspice ... but that’s pretty much it.
I was disappointed. I hoped for some more nutmeg or even a note of clove but instead it was about as bland as generic canned pumpkin pie mix. I think I’m done tasting novelty candy corn, at least when the price is $2.99 per flavor. So if you’ve tried some of the others, chime in with your experience to help out other readers.
While I usually think of September as the time to introduce new holiday themed candies, there’s a lot new everyday candy coming out. Most of the big news is in advance of NACS which is the National Association for Convenience Stores and Petroleum Retailing trade show. (Yes, they show a lot of candy and snack food at that convention.) The biggest news is that Mars has settled on some new products as a result of their years of limited editions. Some people are going to be very happy.
Name: M&M’S(r) Coconut Chocolate Candies
Name: M&M’S(r) Wildly Cherry Chocolate Candies
Name: Jots (Halloween)
Name: Color Me Candies
Name: MILKY WAY(r) Simply Caramel
Name: 3 MUSKETEERS(r) Truffle Crisp Bars
Name: ICEE Gummy Candy
Name: MEGA Candy Buttons
Name: ICEE Popping Candy
Name: TWIX(r) Java
All photos courtesy of their respective manufacturers.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Trolli Little Green Men are one of the newer novelty gummis from Trolli, which is owned by Farley’s and Sathers. They’re just as inventive as other gummi makers like Haribo, with a variety of shapes & flavor assortments.
The package looks like it’s geared towards kids. There’s a flying saucer behind the logo with a little bulgy-eyed alien at the steering wheel.
The bag comes with just one shape & flavor. In this case it’s a little green alien with a bulbous head and Cosmic Star Fruit flavored.
For the unfruity, Star Fruit is also known as Carmbola. It’s a strange looking creased/segmented fruit that looks like a five pointed star when sliced. The texture and flavor is something like a cross between a crunchy apple and the flavor of cataloupe and pears.
The gummis are rather startling looking. They have huge green heads and teensy little potbellied bodies. The heads are about 3/4” around and the whole fella stands only 1.5” high.
They smell fresh, a bit like melon and citrus. They’re soft and pliable, but not sticky or very greasy to the touch. The flavor is immediately lightly tangy but an overall mild berry or pear flavor.
They’re nice in that they’re a big bite of gummi. The flavor is different enough to seem distinct, but not too exotic to seem weird.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I’ve been on a HiCHEW spree lately. Partly because Morinaga went on a binge and released about a dozen flavors. Besides their traditional array of 6 or 7 standard flavors they have another half a dozen single flavor packs out.
HiCHEW is one of those rare Japanese candies that’s being distributed around the world. Here in Los Angeles, I can get Lemon, Mango, Strawberry or Green Apple HiCHEWs at just about any 7-11 or Cost Plus World Market. But the limited edition flavors, the seasonal and the specialty assortments are a little harder to come by and require either an order directly from Japan (I’ve been using JBox and Asian Food Grocer) or a visit to Little Tokyo to Marukai Market, Mitsuwa Marketplace or Nijiya Market.
Today I have the two from the Summer Festival (Matsuri) line: Candied Apple & Cotton Candy. (I don’t know if there were more than these two ... maybe a Kettle Corn or Deep Fried Butter version escaped my view.)
The packages are compact, they have only 7 pieces in them instead of the longer packs that have 10. Even without knowing Japanese the packages are bold and easy to understand. There’s a little picture of a man selling candied apples with some stylized fireworks above him. Then of course the big candied apple (which seems to be dipped upside down to the way I’ve always had them, the stem is a the top, not where the stick enters the apple).
On the side of the package is the little diagram of what the candy looks like. A pink outside and white core with little flecks of what I’m guessing are the candied coating bits.
It smells softly sweet, a little like milk tea. Biting into it there’s an immediate apple juice flavor then a background of sweet sugar.
The little flecks are sparkly crunches of sugar. I couldn’t quite get an actual flavor from them. It becomes quite juicy. The texture is quite smooth except for the crunches.
I don’t think I’ve had a candied apple in over 15 years, so I can’t say for sure that this is an authentic representation contained within a 1 inch by 1/2 inch block. But it was still fun.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Cotton Candy HiCHEW smells simply like sweet. Pretty much the same as the Candied Apple.
It’s sweet, but not sticky sweet or cloying. It’s simply fresh. Not quite vanilla, which can be a little boozy and not quite a toasted sugar flavor either. It’s creamy without being milky. It’s clean without being flavorless. It’s a mystery wrapped in foil and stuffed with little crunchy bits.
The combination of the texture of the HiCHEW which is a taffy/gummi product that’s at once bouncy and smooth and the little cotton candy grainy bits is odd. Really nicely done cotton candy always has these little bits of grain where either the sugar didn’t melt & reform properly or moisture has caused it to recombine into a hard candy bit. Yes, it’s grainy, but the grains give way to soft sugar flavors.
It’s like cotton candy in all the right ways. And it leaves out the sticky paper cone.
It’s just so hard to describe that all I can say is that after I took the photos of the first pack I got from JBox, I made sure to pick up two more packs when I saw them in Little Tokyo.
It’s difficult to say but this is the best colorless and flavorless candy I’ve ever had. How do the Japanese do it? (I’m also still obsessed with the Juntsuyu I wrote about several years ago and add it to my order at JBoxevery time.)
Rating: 10 out of 10
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Last week I told you that pandas have berry flavored noses. This week I’m telling you that all natural pandas are pink grapefruit flavored.
Bissinger’s Naturals line has an excellent array of exotic flavored & nutritionally enhanced gummy pandas. I was frustrated for many years because the only place I could get them was on their website and you had to order 4 packages of each flavor ... I’m more of a grazer than a consumer. So I would visit their booth at trade shows. I’d always arrive and they’d say “oh, we’re not tasting the gummys today.” Or if they were, I’d be directed to go visit a counter where the staff is dressed in white lab coats like they work for Clinique and I would be given one single gummy to try and no access to the packages & labels.
Finally at the Whole Foods by the coffee counter I found a whole display of Bissinger’s Naturals Gummy Pandas. They come in two package sizes, the little 4 ounce stand up pack shown here and some flavors were available in 100 calorie packages for a smaller taste. They come in Goji Guava, Blueberry Acai, Green Tea, Pomegranate White Tea and Pink Grapefruit with Grapeseed.
I was a little aghast at the price - $3.99 for four ounces, but it’s not like I don’t splurge on candy from time to time. (Yes, $16 a pound for gummi bears.)
These gummies are quite soft and a little greasy (coconut oil & beeswax keeps them from sticking together). They’re darker than I would have expected for a grapefruit flavored candy, but the coloring is all natural, from black carrot juice.
When I opened the package I found they smelled very nice - sweet and with a strong note of grapefruit oils and a little like the powder for Country Time Lemonade. It certainly made my mouth water.
They’re quite gummy & bouncy bears. The chew is stiff but squishy (I think gummi fans know what I mean). The flavor is tart, a slight bitter note of the grapefruit and a not too sweet base. The texture is ultra smooth.
The ingredients are interesting. The product is all natural, gluten/wheat free as well as containing no artificial colors or sweeteners. The main sweetener is tapioca syrup (organic) instead of corn syrup ... so if you shun corn this might be the perfect gummi for you. Later on the list is grapeseed extract. That’s supposed to add some antioxidants, but I don’t much care one way or the other if my candy gives me that sort of stuff.
The flavor is well rounded and doesn’t have any of that weird aftertaste that some all natural candies that are fortified can have. They’re a cute shape and the ability to buy just one flavor instead of a mix is often a bonus.
The bottom of the label does say that they’re produced in a facility that processes milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and eggs. So I don’t know what to say about that Gluten Free statement. Then there was a strange little K over at the edge of the back of the package. Last year Bissinger’s announced that they were going Kosher ... could this be their Kosher symbol? I couldn’t be sure and their website was no help. So I emailed them. A helpful woman named Jenney replied quite promptly to my question with this: The gummies are definitely certified kosher, and the gelatin is kosher and does come from pork. You are free to make of that what you will, I find those statements in conflict. Unless there’s something new in pigs that I’m not aware of.
Besides the price and the incongruity of their claim of gluten free with their allergen statement and this newfangled pork-is-Kosher I like ‘em a lot.
FOLLOW UP 10/10/2009: I continued my correspondence with Jenney at Bissinger’s. She insisted again that the product was both Kosher and porcine. She presented me with a certificate from the ingredient company, Gelita, that shows its status. With that I contacted Gelita who refused to tell me what’s in their Kosher gelatin, as they were bound by their confidentiality agreements with their clients.
I emailed again, telling Gelita that I was referred to them by Bissinger’s for more information but have heard no reply after a week of waiting. So folks who avoid pig products can take this to mean what they wish. I do not feel confident calling this a pork-free product and am extremely uncomfortable with a company that says their products are Kosher yet insists they contain porcine gelatin with no twinkling of acknowledgment of that incongruity.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Last year I spotted Brach’s Gummi Candy Corn but it came in an insanely huge nearly two pound bag and I had to admit that I just wasn’t curious enough to bring home 30 ounces. I was hoping they’d come out in a smaller mixed bag, but I still haven’t seen them sold that way.
What’s cool though is that this 54 treat pack bag has each little portion already sealed up. (This is a general problem with most candy corn sold in stores - it’s not good for handing out for Trick or Treat.)
Brach’s makes pretty good gummis, more in the American tradition of the super-soft but also very juicy. I flipped over the package to find out about the ingredients on this one as was pleased to see fruit juice on there ... but curiously I didn’t see gelatin. These aren’t gummis at all ... they’re a jelly candy. Which is disappointing on one hand for someone hoping for some fun little rubbery candy corns ... but good news for folks who eschew those sorts of animal products.
Each little mixed package holds a random assortment of the four flavors and holds about 15 grams though I found that some had as few as 5 candies and other had more than 10.
They’re the standard shape and size of candy corn, maybe a little slimmer and the jelly seems to hold a point. They’re a bit matte but also translucent, so it’s an odd effect, like they’re made of beach glass.
The texture is a chewy jelly, not too sticky but it doesn’t have that bite that gummis have.
Each layer is actually different flavors. The top is orange - a general light & tangy citrus without much zest. The base is pineapple. Again, a nice punch flavor but not too deep or complex. Eaten together it’s much more like a tropical punch, and not really a great effect for me.
The color of these was definitely like frosted glass. The grape flavor had a bit of a cherry note to it, but that could just be proximity.
I got a burning feeling in the back of my throat, a little effervescent note after I was done. Not my favorite of the bunch.
Like most jelly candies there were little bits left in the corners of my teeth when I was done.
This cherry seemed to dominate every package I found.
It’s like cough drops. Each layer is the same, but the top pink part is less about the food coloring and more about the medicinal woodsy cherry punch.
Honestly, I liked them more than the grape. I didn’t feel the need to pick around them.
I don’t know why berries and kiwi get lumped together as flavor combinations so often. This color combo is rather odd - not that I haven’t combined these colors in outfits in the past.
As a flavor kiwi is a little bit melon and a little bit citrus ... and mostly bland. The berry side is similarly like punch but has some strawberry notes.
It was the mellowest of the flavors and actually went well combined with the others.
On the whole the mixture is fun. It’s vegan (unlike actual candy corn which usually has eggs in it) so for kids who avoid gelatin/egg products, this is a fun & colorful mainstream looking product. However, the package says that it’s processed on equipment that also handles the top allergens: eggs, wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts & soy.
Monday, September 21, 2009
There’s been a bit of chatter about Cadbury over the past few months. First, Cadbury is going Fair Trade with their most popular product, the Dairy Milk bar. Since the bar is the United Kingdom’s #1 selling bar with $852 million in sales buying only fair trade cocoa will make a huge difference for cocoa growing regions. (It’s also #1 in Australia and India.)
The second bit of news is that Kraft, the global food powerhouse that owns not only a large corner of the cheese food world but also Toblerone, Terry’s Chocolate and Cote d’Or, made a bid for Cadbury.
Cadbury has chocolate factories all over the world and each one has slightly different local takes on the product. Here in the United States the Cadbury Dairy Milk products aren’t even made by Cadbury, they’re made by Hershey’s under a licensing agreement. (But it’s not like Hershey’s even makes it from scratch, the major raw material of the chocolate crumb - a mixture of dried milk and chocolate - is shipped to Hershey, Pennsylvania to be combined on site with sugar and other ingredients to form the end product.)
I found a nice single serve block of Cadbury Dairy Milk from the UK. It was in marvelous condition and looked like it had been stored well at the India Sweets & Spices where I shop - it’s kept at the end of the produce section in the refrigerated area - so it’s climate controlled.
I also picked up a few of the super cute Dairy Milk Buttons, which are little chocolate disks.
For the American version I found a nice back of Dairy Milk Miniatures from Hershey’s Signatures line.
It’s apparent when putting them side by side like this that the American made (on the left) is darker than the UK made one (on the right). What I liked about these two products is that they single pieces of each were similar shapes & thickness.
Both have a nice sheen and are well molded.
I liked the deeply segmented bar that broke easily into pieces. Each is beveled, so it’s easy to snap off and easy to bite.
The bar smells sweet and rather cheesy, like cottage cheese or maybe yogurt. The cocoa notes are sweet, more like chocolate cake than cocoa. In fact, but those together and the closest I can get is this smells like a rich chocolate cheesecake.
The melt is thick and sticky; it’s sweet at first but then gives way to some deep toffee and caramel sugar notes. Then it gets sweet again ... a bit too sweet for me. After two pieces my throat was burning and I had to drink some water and eat some plain crackers.
The melt is consistent. Quite smooth but not silky or buttery. It didn’t feel fatty, it felt fudgy - like the sugar wasn’t quite integrated with the cocoa.
The dairy notes were decent, a little thick in the back of my throat but not as powdery tasting as some other European style milk chocolates.
Overall I would have preferred a much smoother & more chocolatey punch. However, that’s not what the Dairy Milk bar is about, it’s about the milk component as much as the chocolate, since there are near equal proportions. Milk solids clock in at 23% and cocoa solids are 20%. There are also about 5% vegetable fats in there taking the place of cocoa butter.
This is why the front of a Dairy Milk bar doesn’t even say chocolate - they’d have to put the vegetable statement on the front along with it by their current labeling standards.
I wanted to be as thorough as I could, so I also tasted a package of Dairy Milk Buttons which are kind of like Hershey’s Kisses in that they’re little nibbles of chocolate.
They’re about the diameter as pennies (though some were dime or nickel sized). The bottom has a little embossed Cadbury logo.
Each little piece is rather thin, so melts quickly on the tongue. They release the flavors quicker and taste more milky to me. There’s also a slight cool effect on the tongue.
I liked them, and the little shapes are probably very easy to combine with other items like nuts, popcorn or candies for a more varied mix of textures.
The American has a sweet, slightly tangy milk scent with a hint of toasted cocoa. The bit is soft but has a good snap to it. The melt is a bit on the sticky side but not overly sweet.
It has a bit of a fudgy flavor and texture, though much creamier. I wouldn’t go so far to call it silky, in fact parts of it were downright gritty. It had a good toasted & smoked taste to it, much darker in taste than the traditional Hershey’s or Mars.
The overt flavors are definitely of the dairy products, not of the chocolate.
It is Kosher ... the UK bar has no Kosher mark.
Okay, so they’re similar but not quite the same. I did some investigating on the labels:
First, it’s the ingredients.
Cadbury Dairy Milk from Bournville, UK
Cadbury Dairy Milk from Hershey, USA
Since the portions & packages were so different, I did a little Excel magic on them and standardized it to compare:
From what I can tell, there is a just a smidge less fat in the American but slightly more sugar ... now these are tiny, tiny amounts. Not enough, as far as I know, to account for the color difference. Also, the UK labels are more precise - American standards allow rounding, UK measures in tenths.
I have no preference, except to say that I don’t care much for plain Dairy Milk. I prefer it with nuts in it and they do have an ample variety of bars that have nuts. It’s just too sweet and doesn’t have enough of a cocoa punch. I’ve become spoiled by the high cocoa content of products like Scharffen Berger and Amano when it comes to just eating by the piece.
For those in the United States, the British made bars can be found at import shops and places like Cost Plus World Market. For those in the UK, I’m sure it’s near impossible and pointless to get the American made stuff.
So it all comes down to personal preference. There are lots of folks who prefer the American made because it’s what they’ve grown up on. It’s a little bit firmer because of the all-cocoa-butter content but not quite as milky as the classic British made bars. Have you had both? Which do you prefer?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.