Monday, February 28, 2011
Just Born has been steadily expanding the Peeps line of products for the the past five years or so. Beyond just new colors and shapes for the iconic sugar crusted marshmallows, they’ve also delved into flavors and more recently, the addition of chocolate.
The newest member of the Peeps repertoire is Peeps Peepsters Chocolate with Marshmallow Flavored Creme. They come in two varieties, milk and dark chocolate and sound like an interesting new version, more about the chocolate and less about the marshmallow.
I found them at the drug store before Valentine’s Day, so I paid full price for my bags - $3.99, which I found startling for 11 ounces of candy whose first ingredient was sugar and contained palm kernel oil.
I’ll start with the Peepsters Milk Chocolate with Marshmallow Flavored Creme which are enclosed in an easy to spot yellow bag with brown and green trim. The pieces inside are visible through a little window and foil wrapped in a matte pastel assortment of yellow, orange and pink.
The pieces are a little bit bigger than a Rolo. They feel solid and firm. Even without unwrapping them a vague soft vanilla flavor wafted from the bag. The little domes on the pieces have a little Peep on them, but that’s the only chicky thing about them. There’s really nothing that otherwise makes these feel Peepy except that the packaging tells me so.
The chocolate is smooth and has an excellent snap (however, it is rather cold in Los Angeles right now, they’ve been sitting in the unheated Candy Blog studio, which is about 58 degrees right now). It’s quite sweet but what’s most notable about the creme center is how firm it is. It seems to have the same density as the chocolate. So biting into it is like biting into a thick chunk of chocolate. As you can see from the cross section, there’s a lot of chocolate and not much filling.
The chocolate is sweet and milky, which adds to the marshmallow notes. The cream center does melt a bit on the tongue, kind of like a white chocolate but without the extra milk notes and malty flavor. Instead it’s all vanilla and sweetness. I didn’t get marshmallow at all. If this was served to me without a name, I don’t think think I would have come up with marshmallow as a descriptor. The essential elements of marshmallow are missing. (Lightness, fluffiness and smooth melt.)
The Peepsters Dark Chocolate filled with Marshmallow Flavored Creme are similar to the milk counterpart. They come in a blue bag with white polka dots and the same brown trim. The foil wrapping on the pieces is blue, green and lilac. (So you could mix these in a bowl and knowing the key, pick out your preference.)
The dark chocolate contains milk fat, so it’s not suitable for vegans ... but the creme center has milk products in it anyway. There is no gelatin in it though, so lacto-ovo vegetarians can indulge if they want to. The thickener used for the center is gum arabic.
The caloric density on the dark version is slightly higher, there are two more grams of fat per serving in this version.
Again there’s nothing Peepish about these. They have a much more pronounced vanilla smells to them, and less of the milky notes.
The chocolate is deep and rich, though not entirely well rounded. There are bitter, woodsy notes of charcoal and a lack of fruity notes to balance it all out. So it’s a very rough sort of flavors in combination - the one note sweet vanilla flavored center and then the cocoa powder outside. The balance of sweetness in this was much better though, so I definitely felt much less throat-searing on this version.
It’s an interesting brand extension from a company that I’ve never really though of much more than a sugar candy manufacturer. The foil is cute, but the ratio of center to chocolate was a bit off for something that I thought was going to have the lightness of marshmallow. The attention to detail on the production though is much better than my recent experiences with the Chocolate Covered Peeps. The pieces were well made and protected appropriately by their wrappings. I like that there’s no unnecessary food coloring used in the centers to make them violently yellow - so parents can feel better about giving these to kids. And for once vegetarians can enjoy a Peeps product.
But if I were to pick up an Easter themed cream, I think I’d stick with the Russell Stover eggs line, even though the ratio of chocolate to cream is pretty much the opposite.
UPDATE 11/29/2012: Just Born updated the packaging look for Peepsters this year, though the product remains the same. They also introduced a Christmas-themed version with red and green foil wrappings.
Friday, February 25, 2011
It seems like a natural extension, since they also made a Coconut version of M&Ms as a limited edition that went over so well they added them as a regular item.
The Twix package will be easy to spot, it has a white background but features the gold metallic background and red Twix logo in the center.
The coconut scent is convincing, it’s rich and buttery with that inimitable tropical note. The cookie is crunchy and sandy giving a great textural counterpoint to the chewy pull of the caramel. The chocolate is passable, it’s creamy and sweet but doesn’t pack much chocolate punch overall. The coconut flavor permeates all parts of the bar but actual coconut is nowhere to be found. So for fans of the Coconut M&Ms, these will be of equal fascination. For folks who were hoping for something more like a cross between a Mounds Bar and the old Cookies n Creme Twix (in this case the cream would be a real layer of coconut), well, you’ll be disappointed.
The first stick I ate, I wasn’t really that impressed. Twix really aren’t my favorite candy bar, I find them too sweet. But by the time I ate the second bar (which was admittedly months later), I really enjoyed how the coconut flavor moderated the sweetness and brought the textures together.
Like other limited edition Twix products, this was made in Russia. They are not Kosher and of course contain dairy, soy and wheat but also traces of peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. They’ll be available in stores in April 2011 (and sometimes these things pop up a little sooner due to eager store owners putting out the inventory early).
Thursday, February 24, 2011
It’s funny that I first found out about the new Dots Pink Grapefruit Sour Slices in Germany instead of right here in the United States. I was cruising by the American Pavillion at the ISM Cologne candy fair and spotted them right away on display as a new item. And of course the fact that they were grapefruit really made them stand out.
Tootsie has really expanded their Dots over the past five years with more than just new flavor assortments like Tropical and Yogurt. They also make seasonal varieties for Christmas, Valentines and even an Independence Day version. What’s interesting about these Dots, aside from the fact that they’re sour and sanded instead of smooth is that they’re also a single flavor.
The Dots are made of two colors, to mimic the layering of colors on a wedge of pink grapefruit. The base is supposed to be yellow and the top is pink. Though the package calls them Sour Slices, they’re the same gumdrop shape we’re all used to. They smell soft and sweet and were fresh and bouncy.
The outside coating is sweet and sour though lacking much in the way of other flavors. But the gumdrop center is all about grapefruit flavor. There’s a good, well rounded grapefruit zest base, a hint of bitterness and a long, sweet finish to it. The citrus oils linger with a satisfying ring.
I was hoping for a little bit more pop, but then again I found it easy to eat a few handfuls (the Sour Dots were just a little too zingy for me to do that and I only liked three of the five flavors). I’m really looking forward to seeing these on shelves at stores around here. I loved the Grapefruit Dots in the Tropical Mix, now I can buy the single flavor. I know they’re already available online, so some shops may already have them. They also come as Watermelon Sour Slices and Peach Sour Slices.
Dots are made in a peanut free facility and are also free of traces of tree nuts, eggs and gluten. Kosher and I’m guessing they’d qualify as vegan, too (all artificial colors & no beeswax).
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
During my travels in Germany I was enchanted by the extraordinary selection of Haribo products. In some stores they took up an enormous amount of shelf space with dozens and dozens of items. Their products spans a much larger range in Germany where they have gummies, jellies, licorice, chews and marshmallows.
In the United States the only licorice items I see from Haribo are the Licorice Wheels, which are competent starter or snacking licorice. I was hoping to find the more exotic stuff. I was excited to find this bag of Haribo Sali-Kritz which was both beautiful and an interesting product idea.
The candies are described on the package as Lakritz Dragee, basically licorice pastilles. They’re large soft slightly salted licorice diamonds covered in a flavored candy shell.
The lozenge shape pieces are large - about 1.25 inches long with soft rounded edges. They come in seven colors, all pastels: pink, green, yellow, soft red, blue, orange and white. They’re also flavored to match those colors, though I could find no code and kind of had to figure it out for myself.
The candy shell is a little thicker than a Good and Plenty rod. The colors are muted (they’re all natural) and sometimes a little less than consistent looking. The shell is crisp but grainy, but does a good job of keeping the licorice inside soft and chewy. The flavor of the shell was light, like the outside of a jelly bean ... and the inside was a very mild ammonia salt licorice. The most difficult thing I’m experiencing now as I’ve probably tried about 50 different kinds of licorice in the past month is that I don’t even know what I like any longer. But that’s something I can keep working at.
Some flavor combinations worked well for me, like lemon (yellow) or strawberry (pink) but others like pineapple (white) or apple (green) were just a little too different. But mostly what was a problem for me was the salted licorice center. The ammonia part wasn’t particularly strong unless I ate two or three, then I felt like every time I exhaled, I smelled like I needed to change the cat litter (which is alarming since I don’t have a cat). I think the salt level would have been moderated nicely by some stronger licorice, toffee and molasses flavors.
I find that I can just eat one of these and be happy. The more I eat in one sitting, the less pleased I am. The novelty of a flavored shell is a plus, but the ammonia level on the licorice is a negative. For a starter licorice for those who want to experience salted licorice, this might be a good start.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wrigley’s (part of Mars) has quietly released a new variety of Skittles called Skittles Blenders. They feature blended fruit flavors.
The package is bright yellow with sky blue accents. I’m not sure if Blenders requires an exclamation point at the end or a tornado like the package shows. Unlike the Crazy Cores introduced about two years ago that have contrasting flavors for the shell and center, these flavor combinations are completely combined.
The package smells a lot like the Tropical Skittles at first.
Blue - Melon Berry Burst (tm) - the aqua blue Skittles have a distinct flavor that’s just like Tropical Punch but tastes nothing like the melon or berry mentioned in the name. It’s tangy and certainly vibrant.
I’m underwhelmed by this new version. There were two flavors that I picked out to eat, which left 3/5 of the package uneaten by me. I have nothing against the invention of new flavors or new flavor combinations but the fact that all of these are trademarked leads me to believe that there were more intellectual property lawyers involved in the creation of this candy than actual candy makers. I wish Wrigley’s/Mars would just stick to really great flavors instead of these strange mixes. They make a Citrus Mix for Australia, why won’t they give those a try in the United States?
The package states that they are gluten free and gelatin free. It also reminds you to do your part and dispose of the wrappers in the trash. Skittles are fortified with vitamin C and a package 40% of your daily recommended amount.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I found this box of Tootsie Chocolate Covered Raspberry Cremes in with the Valentine’s candy at Walgreen’s, but I don’t see why this is a seasonal item and it doesn’t say that it’s Limited Edition.
The box says that there’s Delight in each bite!. The design is, well, odd and out of place. There’s a little Tootsie logo in the corner, but I never really think of Tootsie when I think of Junior Mints, which is a similar product.
They look just like Junior Mints. They’re same size and shape and have the same deep dark chocolate shell with a glossy shine. They smell, well, like perfume made for fashion dolls. It’s a floral raspberry but has a soft fake vanilla note to it as well.
The chocolate is thin but has a crisp crunch to it and protects the gooey innards very well. The raspberry flavor is all sweetness and floral artificiality. It’s an interesting mix, the chocolate is not very strong, but has a decent cocoa punch. The fondant is sticky and sweet, and a little grainy like a frosting or glazed donut might be.
They were intriguing, but not compelling for me. The raspberry wasn’t overpowering but also didn’t wow me much. I like the idea of other flavored centers for Junior Mints, like orange or chocolate or maybe maple. I’m sure some folks are going to absolutely love these. If I were making them though, I probably would just keep them as a seasonal item.
Raspberry Cremes are made in a peanut free and gluten free facility. (The do contain soy, eggs and dairy.)
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
These little hand made candies are from Papabubble in Amsterdam. There are locations in New York City, Tokyo, London and Barcelona as well.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
While in Germany a couple of weeks ago I scoured the store candy aisle for products that were either unique or perhaps just like ones we get in the United States. I was excited to find this boxed selection in an Aldi Süd market in Cologne called Die Besten von Ferrero. It’s a dark chocolate mix of the best of Ferrero, makers of the famous Ferrero Rocher. This mix contains a luxurious sampling of their dark chocolate items: Dunkel Kusschen (10x), Mon Cheri (10x) and Rondnoir (6x).
The exciting part for me was twofold. First, I’ve never had the European version of Mon Cheri (more on that later) and second, that I found the Küsschen in the new dark chocolate version.
The box was nicely organized and though it felt like a bit of over-packaging from the viewpoint of someone who had to lug everything back to the States on the train/plane, it did the job very well. Each little compartment held its pieces in place. The whole box was shrink-wrapped, each piece was individually wrapped and the Mon Cheri has an additional sealed, plastic sleeve. All emerged un-scuffed and shiny. The package says that it’s a limited edition item, but it’s just this assortment and format, each of the items are available independently.
A few years ago I reviewed the American version of the Mon Cheri. It was a little nugget of milk chocolate filled with crushed hazelnuts and a hazelnut paste. People loved it, but it was confusing because in Europe the Mon Cheri is actually a liquored up cherry in dark chocolate. Slowly the hazelnut Mon Cheri disappeared from American stores. However, I noticed overseas that there was a product that was like the American version, the Küsschen. The Küsschen was introduced in 1968 but this dark chocolate version is a little more recent.
The Küsschen wrapper is a light paper foil with the name clearly marked (though hard to tell from the milk version) and a little image of the candy on the front with some hazelnuts.
The Küsschen is a little piece, about the same size as the Mon Cheri or Pocket Coffee. It’s a hard chocolate shell filled with a thick, nutty chocolate cream filled with crushed hazelnuts and a whole nut at the center. It’s exactly one inch wide at the base and about 2/3 of an inch high.
The piece smells much sweeter than it actually is. The scent is a combination of hot cocoa and dark roasted hazelnuts. The bite is crisp; there are a lot of crunchy nut pieces in the filling. The filling, however, is not like I would have expected. I thought it would be a bit of a Perugina Baci clone. Instead the center isn’t sticky or sweet, just a bit of a firm ganache type filling. The nuts take front and center, and by center I mean the middle of the piece is one large, perfectly roasted hazelnut. It’s crunchy and has wonderful toffee and pecan notes with no fibery chew that I get sometimes with the Oregon variety. The filling is airy, which promotes the hazelnut flavors mixing with the dark chocolate shell. The chocolate is smooth with a light bitter trace to it.
Overall, a not-too-sweet and satisfying little nugget.
The Mon Cheri was a bit of a mystery to me. As far as I knew, it was a cherry centered chocolate candy. There was no need for me to try it, because I knew what it was, something that by its very conception and design was not something I could like.
Each piece is a similar format to the Ferrero Pocket Coffee (in fact, I think they use the same mold). It’s a whole cherry and some liqueur encased in a dark chocolate shell. They’re wrapped in foil and an extra piece of clear cellophane. (I bought them once before last year and was disappointed to find them either oozing a grainy syrup or looking a bit hollow so I never even bothered to photograph them.)
The pieces are messy if you’re the type who likes to bite things open, then place them on a table to shoot with a camera. In fact, I recommend not biting them unless the whole thing is in your mouth.
The cherry is firm and crunchy, with an authentic Bing or Rainier cherry flavor. It’s tart and sweet with some deep raisin or fig notes. But the part that sells it is the liquor. This isn’t just a dash of the stuff or something within a sticky fondant. This liquor syrup is, well, all liquored up. There’s a slight alcoholic burn with some light rum notes to it. (The package and Ferrero website don’t specify the alcohol type.)
I loved the combination, the cherry brings a fruity sweetness, the chocolate has a creamy and slightly dry finish while the liquor syrup give it a decadent appeal of a cocktail. I’m not a big fan of harsh spirits (though I love a really herby Gin and Tonic sometimes) but there’s something about what a liquor does when it infuses a piece of real fruit.
I reviewed the Ferrero Rondnoir when it was first introduced in the United States in 2007.
At its heart is a small dark chocolate pearl floating in a mass of chocolate paste inside a crunchy wafer shell. That is covered in a crispy chocolate sprinkling. They’re wrapped in an elegant, textured brown foil and packaged in a little fluted cup.
I see them sold in the US, unlike the other two components to this box, at drug stores and discount chains like Target or KMart. They come in a little single serve package of three or in full boxes and sometimes in mixes, especially around the holidays.
As I’ve already reviewed them, this is just a little review for myself to confirm that they’re not only a unique product, they’re also quite tasty. In fact, I think my original review pegged them as tasty (8 out of 10) but I’m upgrading them to yummy (9 out of 10). That could just be the liquor talking though.
I feel like Ferrero is preparing to release the Küsschen in the United States, though I have nothing more to go on than the fact that they discontinued the hazelnut Mon Cheri. The big issue would be to find a name for it that doesn’t require an umlaut or resonates more with Americans. The fact that it means little kiss might be a trademark issue because of both the Hershey’s Kiss and possibly the Italian Perugina Baci (also means kiss).
This was the perfect sort of box of chocolates for me. It contained adventure (I tried something new), tried and true comfort and a conclusion to the search for a replacement for a discontinued product. The fact that they’re also all dark chocolate and less sweet than some other Ferrero products was a bonus for me. Some of these assortments can be purchased online as well as in Duty Free shops at airports around the world - the family of Ferrero Rocher products are quite popular in Asia.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.