Thursday, May 6, 2010
Back when I was putting together my list of of Essential Candies I realized that I’ve been remiss with many of the Aussie favorites as well as cherry-based candies. So when I saw a Cadbury Cherry Ripe at Mel and Rose on one of my big candy buying trips I picked it up.
All I know about the bar is that it’s coconut and cherry. I’m not keen on cherry flavored things, but real cherries are delicious. The word ripe is pretty enticing and gave me hope that it was real cherries here.
Cherry Ripe is a classic bar, introduced over 85 years ago by MacRobertson’s. It’s the oldest candy bar in Australia. Other variations have come and gone, the Apricot Ripe sounds particularly good to me. (Can you imagine an apricot candy bar being popular?) MacRobertson’s was, for decades, the largest confectioner in Australia. They made products like Freddo Frogs, Old Gold Chocolate and Snack. The company was sold by the founder, Sir Macpherson Robertson, heirs in 1967 to Cadbury. Up until 2002 the Cherry Ripe and many of the old favorites still sported the MacRobertson’s logo but have now migrated over to the Cadbury brand.
It’s an impressive looking bar. A huge plank at 7 inches long, an inch and a quarter wide and a third of an inch thick. The rippled chocolate enrobing is just gorgeous. I wanted to take a close up photo and make format it as my computer desktop.
I was expecting a lot of coconut or cherry scent, but really it smells like candy - a little like chocolate, a little like raspberries.
The center is soft and chewy, not quite as moist as a Mounds bar, but not dry and crumbly. The coconut is sweet and well textured, not too fibery. The cherries are sweet and with a light hint of maraschino but not much else. I was hoping for bits of sour dried cherries but never quite got that. The dark chocolate coating is the lightest sheath of chocolate possible, it merely holds it all together. It has only a whiff of cocoa and woodsy coffee to it. It’s creamy and a little dry.
Overall I understand the appeal of this bar, it’s like a Cherry Mounds (or Cherry Bounty) and that’s a great notion. It’s big, bigger than I think I needed in a bar (but I’m used to my coconut bars in smaller pieces), but since I paid $2.99 for this (really, what was I thinking?) at least it improves the value. Now if only they’d bring back the Apricot Ripe as a limited edition.
I neglected this one yesterday in the KitKat roundup: KitKat Cookies Plus.
It’s not a bar, but a box of eight mini fingers (photo).
I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was different about it. The cream center is more front and center than the wafers in this instance and feels like it has crushed vanilla cookies in it.
They were quite tasty, I enjoyed them more than the beverage themed ones made with the white confection. They were expensive though, I think I paid $3.50 for it - for that price I think I’d pick up some really good candy.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
While the news that KitKat is now available in both Dark and Milk Chocolate is hot news here in the United States, Nestle continues to churn out fantastically inventive versions for Japan.
Japanese KitKat are getting easier to find in the United States, I picked up mine in Little Tokyo at various grocery stores. The price is a bit steeper than an ordinary KitKat, usually between $2.00 and $3.00 depending on the variety and the store. (Here’s one store in Little Tokyo.)
I get the impression that Royal Milk Tea is the Japanese version of what we know here in the US as Thai Iced Tea, a strong black tea mixed with lot of sugar and milk (in the case of Thai Iced Tea the shortcut is sweetened condensed milk).
It smells lovely though, like a cross between Jasmine and Earl Grey Tea. There are sweet vanilla notes and a little roasted barley or lapsang suchong in there. The actual texture of the white confection (a mixture of milk, palm oil and sugar) is a little greasy but otherwise smooth. The flavoring of the coating is mellow and a little spicy, like a hint of chai. Inside there’s more of a darker tea. It’s quite milky, as the whole Royal Milk Tea name might imply. I’m not much for milk in my tea, so that part of the confectionery simulation is lost on me.
I didn’t know that Ginger Ale was that popular in Japan, but I guess it must be if there’s a KitKat for it. Or Nestle has run out of ideas to make into KitKats. (Where are my Pixy Stix KitKats?)
The flavor of the white confection outside is sweet and a little lemony. Inside the cream has a warm and woodsy burn of ginger. There are little specks and pops of sour, like carbonation.
It’s a weird bar. It’s not comforting like I find actual ginger ale. But then again it’s more exciting, probably because I’ve never had a candy bar like this before. I can’t say that I’d buy it again, but I can see where it has its place.
I wasn’t quite sure what the actual flavor was, is there a strawberry soda that it was referencing, like those Ramune ones? Was it supposed to be like strawberries in champagne?
After opening I at least found out that it was a pink, strawberry flavored confectionery coating with the standard wafers and a tangy strawberry creme between.
The berry confection is milky and has less of a strawberry flavor than I would like. It’s kind of like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of Frankenberry. The startling and inventive part of this bar is the cream filling. There are little “pops” of flavor which emulate carbonation well. They’re not pop rocks or fizzing powder. Instead they’re granules of what I’m guessing is citric acid and/or salt. So the tongue gets lots of little explosions of intense sour or salt. It’s a good mix and fun to eat. I would have preferred more strawberry flavor or even dark chocolate (so it’d be like a dark chocolate covered strawberry with a glass of champagne).
Kinako Ohagi KitKat shows a mochi with kinako (and probably bean paste inside). The idea of converting that into a KitKat, honestly, isn’t that appealing to me. I thought the red bean KitKat I tried a few years ago was interesting, but putting all the flavors of mochi into a KitKat just seems like too much. A KitKat is a KitKat and needs to maintain certain aspects. Throwing too many things into the mix just means that something is going to be done poorly and that leads to disappointment.
I was relieved to see that this was at least a milk chocolate bar.
It smells deep and roasted, milky and a little like corn chips. The milk chocolate is soft and fudgy but passably good. The wafers are crisp and crunchy and the kinako is, well, like soy powder. It’s a cross between the flavor of corn meal and peanut butter - it reminds me of protein supplements. The toasty flavors go very well with the wafers and milk chocolate. But the traditional KitKat was good before. This doesn’t make it better.
The last one confused me (and I didn’t take a picture of it, but you can safely substitute the Royal Milk Tea. It’s Milk Coffee KitKat but based on the box I thought it was Sakura Tea or something. What I also didn’t properly note was that this was on of the KitKat mailers, a box that has a little “dear” and “from” form on the back so that you can give it to a student to wish them luck on exams.
It smells sweet and milky and just slightly off. Biting into it the first time, I thought I was being poisoned and had a bad package. The center cream was just intensely bitter. Then when I caught on that it wasn’t cherry and it was coffee the bitterness didn’t seem so caustic. But still intense. Too intense to allow actual coffee flavors.
At least it was called Milk Coffee, with the milk first I was getting much more of the sweet white confection than coffee notes. Chewing helped, instead of my usual eating of the cream as a layer. It just didn’t have the rounded and complex coffee notes, it reminded me instead of what I thought coffee was when I was seven or eight years old - expensive bitterness.
Overall I was less than impressed with the heavy use of white confection instead of actual chocolate. (Nestle has been in trouble lately with animal activists over its use of poorly/unethically/unsustainably farmed palm oil - their response here.) I guess I’ve found after all this exploration (trying about three dozen different kinds over the years) that the plain old ones are great and the ones made with even better chocolate are phenomenal. They don’t need fancy flavors. But I’m not going to begrudge anyone who wants to have a little fun now and then.
A single origin Sao Tome bar with unrefined sea salt made by Pierre Herme Paris. It’s beautifully tempered, glossy and sharp.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I buy candy a lot of places, but probably the ones that fit best with the original intentions of Candy Blog are the dollar stores. Dollar stores and discounters like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar Store and 99 Cent Only Stores have a mix of closeout products, mainstream candies and then a bunch of weird stuff that you’ve never seen before and may never see again. One of the purposes of Candy Blog was to seek out those fringe candies and demystify them. Here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve picked up:
There’s no reason a couple of handfuls of fresh peanuts and some sugar can’t be dirt cheap and delicious. The good news is that I think Old Dominion has done an excellent job filling that niche. Old Dominion Butter Toffee Peanuts don’t come in the most attractive package ever, but the package has five ounces and boasts only four ingredients: peanuts, sugar, butter and salt. They’re Kosher and American made.
They’re a simple panned nut. A buttery toffee coating on whole peanuts.
They’re buttery, a little salty, crunchy and fresh. Not much more to say except that I wish they sold these in the vending machines in the basement of my office building. (My old office had PNuttles from time to time, which is similar, but a little more “toasty” where these are “buttery”.)
I bought the Zachary Thick Mints at the 99 Cent Only Store because they’re called Thick Mints. I mean, how could I resist. They’re mints and they’re thick.
They’re real chocolate, so they have that going for them. I don’t know much about Zachary as a brand for chocolate, I’ve had their sugar candies around Halloween and found them passable, but I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to sugar ... not so much when it comes to chocolate. The tray is flimsy and insubstantial as a serving piece (it bends and spills out the contents) but it did its job along with the box of protecting the product.
They are as advertised, they’re big and thick. They’re about the same diameter as the mini foil-wrapped York Peppermint Patties (about 1.33 inches across) but they’re at least a half an inch high. The inside is more like a Junior Mint (a flowing mint fondant) than a York Peppermint Pattie (a crumbly and dry fondant). The mint fondant is smooth, with a tiny grain to it but a smooth pull and strong almost alcoholic peppermint flavor. The chocolate is a letdown, not terribly cream and lacking a solid cocoa punch. It still does a good job of containing the minty center.
A couple of months ago I got the notion that I should review the chocolate covered caramel bites that come in Movie Theater boxes. (Yeah, a very specific genre of candy, but there are at least three of them.) This one got as far as the acquisition of the candy, photography and consumption. I just couldn’t think of much of a hook for it. But hey, I can’t let it go to waste.
I found Hershey’s Milk Duds, Tootsie Junior Caramels and Zachary Chocolate Caramels at the Dollar Tree. So they’re all the same price and basically the same thing. But very different.
Zachary Chocolate Caramels are the newest one on the market. The box is rather generic but at least well made. The photo of the baubles of milk chocolate are appetizing and the product within does actually look like that. The box holds 4.8 ounces, not the biggest value of the bunch, but still a lot of candy, especially if it’s real chocolate.
Of the three this was the only one that had a protective bag inside. They’re really big and have a decent milky smell. The milk chocolate is thick but not very flavorful. There are some dairy notes but the melt isn’t smooth. The caramel center is soft and easy to chew. It doesn’t have a strong butter or caramelized sugar flavor, it’s more like a cereal note. Just slightly toasty and sweet, it reminds me of Kraft Caramels.
The Junior Caramels box says that it has 10% more free, which is good because it doesn’t even manage to cram 4 ounces in there. The package says that they’re soft milk caramels in pure chocolate. (Here’s my original review when they were first introduced in 2005.)
The chocolate isn’t as thick as the Zachary ones and they’re not as glossy. They don’t smell like much and don’t taste like caramel or milk chocolate either.
The chew of the center is soft but not grainy. Again it’s lacking in butter, toasted sugar and that stringy pull that I love about caramel.
Milk Duds have been around since the 20s. They’ve gone through many changes in corporate ownership, packaging and formulation. Recently Hershey’s stopped using real milk chocolate to coat these choice little caramel bits which is too bad.
They really live up to their name when it comes to appearance, the caramel centers are rarely spherical, they’re flattened lumps. The caramel centers of Milk Duds are quite firm. The chew though is completely smooth and slick. The flavor is authentically toffee-like with a luxurious milky note. It’s so sad that the cardboard mockolate on the outside trashes the flavor with off notes and waxy cocoa. (I can’t say that the chocolate was great when it was real chocolate, but at least the flavor wasn’t off even if the texture was.)
It’s hard to declare a winner with this motley bunch. I love the center of Milk Duds, but the Zachary really do look the most appealing. I can’t say I want to eat any of them again and will probably dump out the rest of them before I flatten the boxes to be saved in my collection.
About a month ago we got a new dog. Since she’s a young dog she needs lots of exercise and my new ritual is to get up at 6 AM (I used to get up at 7:20AM) and taker her out for a two mile walk and several times a week stop at the dog park and let her play for a half an hour with other dogs. The relationship to candy? Well, losing an hour and a half of sleep and the addition of several miles of walking today (we walk in the evening too but I’m not losing sleep over that) is making me very tired.
Enter caffeine! Pocket Coffee is a chocolate covered espresso dollop. Three chocolates equals the caffeine in a single shot of espresso. Original review here. It’s a bit more expensive than plain espresso though, I paid $3.99 for a package of five pieces.
Monday, May 3, 2010
The idea of a dark chocolate KitKat Bar is nothing new. The new part right now might be that Hershey’s is introducing this KitKat Dark not as a limited edition item but as a regular product. (Though that is never a guarantee that it will continue to be produced.)
It follows on the coattails of Hershey’s introduction of the Dark Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup after also flirting with various limited edition releases. The construction is just as you’d suspect: a semi-sweet chocolate covered stack of chocolate-cream filled wafers all molded into a four finger bar.
Some folks who also spend an inordinate time not only eating candy but also reading about it may remember that the bar is one of Steve Almond’s obsessions mentioned in Candy Freak.
The package isn’t terribly exciting, it’s the same as the milk chocolate variety but instead of a beige swirl that says Crisp Wafers in Milk Chocolate it’s a bolder dark brown that says Dark and then followed by Crisp Wafers in Dark Chocolate. It may be hard to spot on store shelves if you didn’t know it was there.
It smells like sweet cocoa and cereal. The wafers are crisp and rather bland but provide and airiness to the candy. The cream center has a little bit of a greasy grain to it that I like so much that I often pry the planks apart with my teeth and lick it separately. The dark chocolate is quite sweet but has a woodsy and berry note to it that gives the candy a different flavor profile, it’s less about milk and more about cocoa. It wouldn’t call the quality great, but this is candy, not fine chocolate.
The ingredients don’t break out the difference between the chocolate coating and the wafers with cream, so it’s hard to tell what kind of chocolate is in there.
Hershey’s brings these out as miniatures from time to time, I’ve picked them up around Halloween before (2007 & 2008) but the mini size has different chocolate ratios. For the most part when I want a dark KitKat I was buying this 100 Calorie KitKat Singles Dark version from Canada.
It’s hard to top the Japanese KitKat Bitter I had about three years ago which used actually good chocolate. But this is a nice change of pace if I couldn’t get the Q.bel Double Dark Wafer Bar.
Candy for Dinner has some good photos of all the various domestic KitKat versions including two introductions of the limited edition darks. For reviews of the UK version made by Nestle check out Jim’s Chocolate Mission and Chocablog.
I picked up a few Haribo Cola Wheels at Mel & Rose a few weeks ago, mostly because I love cola but also because I love things that I can unroll.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.