Monday, March 7, 2011
Caramels are best when they’re made fresh with only a few ingredients. There are decent caramel simulations found in commercial stores, but the true stuff cannot be readily imitated with the shelf life necessary for large scale business.
These small boxes from Helliemae’s Caramels contain a half a pound each; they’re like little sugar and dairy bricks. The caramels themselves are made from the classic ingredients and nothing else - sugar, butter, cream, vanilla and sea salt.
Each caramel is a large square, about 1.3 inches across and a little less than an inch high. They appear to be molded instead of cut, because they have slightly angled sides, like ice cubes. The Classic Salt Caramels have a generous dusting of flaky sea salt on top.
When I first bit into them I was impressed by the smooth texture, firm chew that wasn’t too tough. They’re a bit sticky but when consumed with some hot tea or coffee that dissolves quickly. But the salt on top was too much for me. The caramel itself was perfectly salted to begin with ... a few grains up there would have done me fine, but it wasn’t a flurry, it was a blizzard with consistent accumulation.
I’m a bit more sensitive to salt than many of my pals, so I handed some off and found the same comment - far too salty. So for the rest of them I found myself scraping the salt off as completely as possible or eating from the bottom and discarding the crusty tops. 7 out of 10
I was also given a single sample of the Cardamom Caramels. Cardamom is a hard spice to use, especially with a confection like caramel which tends to boil away the intensity of flavors. In this case the cardamom is added as a coarse powder of the seeds of the pod itself. The cardamom has flavor notes of pine, bergamot, lemon, vanilla, nutmeg, cola and eucalyptus. In some candies I’ve had the cardamom seeds can be intense and distracting though still imparting an amazing flavor that still manages to make up for it by being so engaging. In this case the grain was smaller than ground espresso so it was virtually unnoticeable. The flavor was citrusy and really brought out the vanilla and toffee notes.
In this case there was no salt on top, so I was quite pleased. 9 out of 10
The final flavor I tried was another half pound sampling of the Coffee Caramels. These were pure perfection. The coffee flavors were intense but smooth, like a fine espresso with the perfect head of creama. They were bitter and had loads of toffee and roasted java notes but also an appealing tangy note of woodsy coffee that rounded it out.
Since there was no salt on top, I found this to be exactly how I like my caramels. 9 out of 10
Fresh caramels need to be consumed immediately. I ate and shared the majority of these within two weeks of getting them, but the few that I saved for review did kind of lose their mojo after about three weeks - getting sticky and grainy around the edges. I liked that the format that was easy to bite and that the wax paper was easy to unwrap. A chocolate coated version might be stupendous, especially if it was a super dark that offset the sweetness and salt.
They’re a bit expensive for me but for an impulse item if I lived in the area and saw one at the cash register at the store of a cafe, I would definitely go for one even at $3 a pop.
Friday, March 4, 2011
While I was sorting my candy from the ISM Cologne trade fair, I usually grouped products together in little baggies according to the manufacturer. At one point I found that I had a lot of little cream fudge pieces that had pictures of cows on them.
I reviewed this version of Polish Cream Fudge last summer.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
One of the earliest international candy obsessions I developed because of Candy Blog was HiCHEW. They’re made by Morinaga in Japan and come in a wide variety of fruity flavors. The packages are flat, contain only one flavor and feature individually wrapped pieces that are easy to share.
They’ve been popular in Japan for since 1975 (and existed in different formats for at least 40 years before that). Lately they’ve become more widely available in the United States and Canada, starting with large metropolitan areas with large Japanese populations. Now they’re pretty commonplace here in Los Angeles, I can get them at 7-11 or Target and the packaging has been Americanized with English wrapper and full nutrition facts.
The American ones are made in Taiwan and feature slightly smaller packages at 1.76 ounces and sporting a price of about $1.00. The flavor set is rather ordinary with strawberry, orange, green apple, mango, lemon and melon (and sometimes banana) available. The Japanese also come in similar flavors with seasonal or limited edition varieties coming out all the time.
I decided to pick up a package of each and really put them to the test.
The Taiwanese version is more intensely pink in the center. The chew is stiff at first, but still smooth. It’s slightly tangy and has a good strawberry flavor that errs more on the tart side than the floral sweetness though it does get a little jammy towards the end with cooked strawberry notes. The chew lasts a long time and never gets grainy.
The Japanese version is a little softer and chewier. The flavor is also a well rounded berry with good sweet and sour notes, a little hint of floral and a creamy component (which might be attributed to a splash of yogurt in there). Instead of strawberry jam it was more like a strawberry smoothie.
Given a choice, I would pick up the Japanese version. Yes, I like to be able read my packages, but I also like my flavors bold and as authentic as they were originally conceived. I feel like the Taiwanese HiCHEW is like the Turkish Haribo Gummi Bear, not as good as those made in their homeland. However, I love the fact that this candy is able to get a wider audience. It’s a good introduction and perhaps die hard fans will work towards getting the real thing released in North America.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Name: Hershey’s Kisses Air Delight
Name: Bosco Milk Chocolate Bar
Name: Black Cow
Name: DryScream ~ Ice Cream Candy
Name: Pine Bros. Throat Drops
Name: Chocobloc Air
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Christopher’s Good News bar is something of a mystery to me. It’s currently made locally in Los Angeles by Adams-Brooks but before that it was created back in the late thirties by Ben Myerson for his newly founded Ben Myerson Candy Company. In 1955 the Ben Myerson Candy Company acquired Christopher’s Candy which was already a venerable confectioner in Southern California since 1887. In 2006 Ben Myerson was bought up by Jelly Belly, who quickly gobbled up the Sunkist Fruit Gems brand and spun off the chocolate products like the Good News bar and Christopher’s Big Cherry to Adams-Brooks.
The bars were extremely popular as a gift parents would hand out to friends heralding the birth of their baby. The package design to this day looks like a newspaper masthead and my bar even had a little sticker that said “it’s a girl”. But the curious thing about this bar was instead of going national, as other brands within Ben Myerson’s company did, the Good News bar became hyper-regional. In fact, the only place it’s still sold widely is in Hawaii. I happened to find my bar at Marukai Market in Torrance, CA which is a Japanese grocery store that also carries a lot of Hawaiian favorites (as many Southern California Japanese folks either immigrated through Hawaii or have relatives there).
The bar’s description is rich milk chocolate, peanuts, caramel. What the description doesn’t mention is that there’s also crisped rice in there. Looking at all that, you can see that it’s actually a unique bar, there are no other nationally distributed bars that match this element combination.
The bar is beautifully enrobed in a rippled, dark looking milk chocolate. The center is a combination of caramel, peanuts and crisped rice. The ingredients are wholesome and easy to understand and probably the worse thing on the list is a little bit of hydrogenated cottonseed oil towards the end.
The chew is firm and light with a good balance of crisped rice. There weren’t that many peanuts in my bar, enough to impart a nutty flavor but the cereal flavors of the crisped rice definitely won out. The caramel had a milky flavor that was far stronger than the chocolate, which was passable and well-tempered. I was afraid the bar would be messy to eat, as sometimes chocolate coatings flake off, but this was easy to bite even slice.
I’m not sure why these bars aren’t more popular. The elements are similar to a 100 Grand but with a few peanuts tossed in (and an extra quarter ounce for the same price).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.