Tuesday, August 30, 2011
A couple of months ago Jelly Belly announced a new jelly bean flavor: Candy Corn Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. Jelly Belly, which began as Goelitz Confectionery Company, has been making Candy Corn for over 110 years so I’d think that they know a lot about Candy Corn.
Candy Corn is a bit polarizing, since it’s a rather simple and cheap candy it becomes ubiquitous in the fall around Halloween and Thanksgiving. Some folks actually like it but I think most don’t have a feeling one way or the other about the candy itself, but might have some strong associations with the occasions attached.
So what is the essence of Candy Corn anyway? In my mind it’s a honey flavored firm fondant. So a jelly bean that’s Candy Corn flavored should have some aspects of that.
The bean has the requisite colors: orange, white and yellow. (In an ideal world though it’d be an orange background with white and yellow additions.)
The flavor is at first a little like fake butter but gets much better after that. I was afraid it was just going to be a honey toasted version of buttered popcorn. But it’s a bit more than that. The dominant flavor is actually a mix of the toasted marshmallow and honey bean. There is a butter note, but it goes away quickly.
Are they great jelly beans? Well, they’re interesting because they do in fact taste like candy corn. But part of what I like about candy corn is the layering. I like to bite off the crispy and dry white tips, then the orange layer, savoring the slightly moister and denser yellow base for last. The jelly bean has none of that interactivity. I can’t search through a handful of jelly beans looking for that misformed kernel that’s just orange or only two layers.
However, if you simply love the flavor of Candy Corn but have been wishing for a less pointy version of it, then Jelly Belly has the best solution.
Monday, August 29, 2011
In my recent travels abroad I picked up a lot of chocolate bars. Here’s a brief little run down of three of them:
As a little reminder, I went to Amsterdam and Cologne earlier this year. There are flavors there that just aren’t very well known in North America. One of the new flavor trends that I noticed was Absinthe (I’ve seen a little of it in the United States but its influence in The Netherlands was a lot more ubiquitous).
So when I spotted this bar from the Chocolatier Marc Antoine called Edelbitter Absinth Truffle, I though it would be a perfect item to pick up as it would probably travel very well.
The box was stiff and nicely designed with the sickly green swirls of anise & wormwood liqueur. Inside the bar was in a simple cellophane sleeve but remarkably unscathed by its journey.
The bar was big and the pieces were chunky. The dark chocolate was glossy with large reservoirs of the dark chocolate truffle filling inside. The truffle was smooth and creamy and very soft, almost like a caramel sauce. The scent was definitely on the grassy fennel side of things, even before I bit into it. The dark chocolate was smooth and bitter though had a lot of cocoa notes mixed with a sharp and tangy anise. The truffle center had a lot of licorice flavors, very soft and fluffy notes that were sweet along with a little hint of eucalyptus and some other botanicals.
I wouldn’t call it a hallucinogenic experience, but it was a wonderful, strong herbal bar that I enjoy quite a bit. There as a little alcoholic burn to it but it was more like tequila.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The package was a big, flat square, about 4.5 inches. The box was pretty and featured raised and gold embossed lettering for the logo and the image on the front of a clay oven. The chocolate is described on the front a little more puro ciccolato fondente con fichi affumicati or “pure dark chocolate with smoked figs” - so it’s the figs in it that are smoked, not the chocolate itself.
The back of the package is in a bunch of different languages and featured notices about recycling but most importantly that Cuorenero does not use any dairy products other other major allergens, that means no gluten, no eggs, no soy, no peanuts, no nuts with hard shell (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.), no celery, no mustard, no sesame seeds, no sulfur dioxide, no lupines, no shellfish and no fish. On top of that, all their ingredients are GMO-free.
The ingredients were: cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, smoked fig pieces, sunflower lecithin and flavours.
The bar is beautiful, a thick circular slab sectioned into 16 wedges. The bar smelled like molasses, deep and sweet with a lot of notes of smoke, leather and pipe tobacco. The chocolate flavors were tangy and had notes of coffee and charcoal. The figs were little bits with the occasional seed. There were notes of dark rum, raisins and the grassy fresh notes of figs. The smoke flavors were like cognac and fine whiskey.
If you’re a chocolatier and looking for a new flavor combination, please try smoked, dried fruit in dark chocolate. Then let me know how I can buy some from you.
The bar was 60 grams (2.1 ounces) and I think I paid about $6 for it at the Cologne Chocolate Museum Gift Shop (I think it was 4 Euros). Cuorenero Website.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Zotter is a popular maker of fair trade candy bars in Austria. They’re crazy. If you think smoked figs are off the beaten path, you have not explored the uncharted wilderness of Zotter. I’ve had two of their bars before, Banana Curry and Zitrone Polenta. They’re fair trade and organic.
This was another bar that I picked up at the Cologne Chocolate Museums Gift Store (which was a phenomenal chocolate store, if you hadn’t figured that out). It’s Zotter Mandel - Rosen which is almond and rose. (I passed up the Peanuts & Chocolate bar.)
The bar is about 4.5 inches long and about 2 inches wide and weighs 70 grams (2.47 ounces). It’s thin, for a filled bar but rather dense.
Inside there are two fillings layers. The base is a creamy but rather solid almond paste and sandwiched in between two layers of that is a rose petal jelly (which seemed to have a touch of raspberry in it). This was a great flavor combination, classic and sure, a bit Victorian in sensibilities. I liked the delicate almond flavor (no screaming Amaretto here) and even the rose was light and had less of a soapy taste than some other floral flavors I’ve tried. It was fragrant and sweet with that light touch of berry to it.
It wasn’t as crazy bar but like the others I’ve profiled here, it’s unusual for American tastes. It’s not the kind of candy you can get addicted to, it’s hard to find and the flavors come in and out of production. Check out their website.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Friday, August 26, 2011
I picked up a couple of these little licorice ropes at Cost Plus World Market simply because I loved the package.
These little Gatos Licorice (Gatos Extracto de Regaliz) were pretty cheap for imported candies (these are from Spain), only 50 cents for a little .39 ounce bar. There’s slimmer and lighter than a Panda Licorice (Finnish) bar and perhaps a little drier.
The little bars are about 4.25 inches long and are actually thick tubes. They have a light anise and licorice scent with a few hints of charcoal and molasses. Each package has only 35 calories.
The texture is stiff, it’s a wheat base so I expected it to be like a Twizzler Nib. Instead it was dry though not completely crumbly. The flavor took a bit of chewing or dissolving to release but then I really enjoyed the strong licorice notes, which are soft and sweet, woodsy and herbal and a little acidic twang to it all. The molasses wasn’t strong, the toasted caramel flavors were mellow. It’s not a sweet candy at all, there’s even a bit of a bitter burnt note. There was a bit of a stale cereal vibe to the whole thing that I didn’t care for, but it was mostly at the start of the chew and dissipated as the licorice grew, sometimes wheat based products can be like that.
These are fun to pick up and keep tucked away in a pocket, since they’re so small. Of course the bold and distinctive wrapper with the yellow, red and grey tones were what attracted me (logo & more photos here), so it’s a bit of a conversation piece. I don’t think I’d buy them on a regular basis, but I’m curious to try some more of their products.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Chewy, fruity and soft red licorice is just the thing on a hot summer day. It travels better than chocolate and of course the tart and fragrant flavor can give a little burst of thirst quenching without all that pesky drinking.
I picked up this package of Halva Strawberry Finnish Soft Licorice when I was at the ISM Cologne candy far earlier this year. I knew that they sold it at Cost Plus World Market here in the United States, so the brand gets around. The Halva brand is widely sold in Finland and is generally affordable but not necessarily gourmet.
The package is nicely designed, the format reminds me of the classic box of raisins. The stark and modern design uses a lot of white space, a bold photo of the candy (that actually looks like the candy) and some brief descriptions.
Each strip is about one and a half inches long and are soft and pliable, quite shiny. They have a coating of beeswax and oil, so they’re a little greasy. They’re slightly translucent and a light shade of red.
They don’t smell like much, but once I bit into them I got a lot of other sensory input. The texture is soft and chewy, though a little gummy and doughy. The strawberry flavor is nice, it’s very smooth but mostly middle of the road, not deep and jammy like Panda Strawberry Licorice and not crumbly and artificial like Twizzlers either. It’s satisfying in the sense that it fills me up, but irritating that it sticks to my teeth. The red food coloring has no perceptible flavor, so I enjoyed that part. The light tartness kept it all from feeling like it was too sticky.
The base of the candy is made from glucose-fructose syrup and wheat flour. In case you’re wondering if glucose-fructose syrup is pretty much the same thing as high fructose corn syrup, it is except that it’s probably not derived from corn. Use of glucose-fructose syrup is quite rare in American candies, not because of some high standards candy makers have or any health reasons for shunning them. Simply put, many of the sugars that candy makers choose are because of the way they perform physically and chemically. In a soda, HFCS will sweeten and bulk just the same as sucrose. But in a caramel, the free fructose (it’s bonded to a glucose molecule in sucrose and isn’t unbonded until well into the heating process of caramelization) will not work at all as the sole sugar. In the case of a wheat based chew like red licorice, it turns out you can use glucose-fructose syrup quite nicely.
Monday, August 22, 2011
I’ve been on a roll with the Cookie Dough Bites line of products lately. This box of Cookies ‘n Cream Bites says it’s new, but the product was announced back in January 2010.
New! From the Makers of Cookie Dough Bites - Creamy White Chocolatey Balls with Crumbled Pieces of Cookie.
One of the wonderful things about the Oreo type cookies is the deep, charcoal flavor of the cookie itself. It’s not terribly sweet, crisp and with a sandy, crumbly texture that’s just had to beat either as a cookie or as the base of a cream pie. Crumble those cookies up and put them inside other things? Pure brilliance. Some ice creams put in the cream centers of the cookies, but this is completely unnecessary, the vanilla ice cream base takes care of the “cream” part of the Cookies ‘n’ Cream name.
Another dreamy component of the mix of ice cream and cookie pieces is the chaos of it all. In any bite you might get grainy crumbs or a large, dry piece of cookie, so big you can actually crunch it. The texture is inconsistent in the best way possible.
Now that you can see the cross section of these nuggets, you can see where this review is going to go. The center of the candy is a dough ball made up of a white “cookie” base with a few grains of the chocolate cookie. Then it’s all coated with the palm oil, sugar and milk “cream” along with a smattering of cookie bits.
What should have happened was the center should have been the dark cookie and the outside the mix of the cream and more cookie bits.
But I have to review what’s in front of me.
The Bites vary in size, from the size of a Milk Chocolate M&M to the size of a Peanut M&M. They’re kind of grey with little speckles of black from the cookie bits. They smell sweet and milky. The cream coating is fudgy and sweet, but with very little in the way of “melt in your mouth” qualities. The center of the bites are a little on the dough-side, not moist and with a light taste of raw flour. The center isn’t as sweet as the outside and sometimes I detect a little salt in there. The hint of cocoa and true cookies is completely missing. Sometimes I’d get a little sense of them, but only as some sort of rest from the overt sweetness of the cream.
I can say with confidence that these aren’t the worst thing that I’ve had in the Cookie Dough Bites line. But they’re also far from the best. The center of the Brownie Bites would have been far better in this instance. If you’re looking for a chocolate cookie candy without all that pesky chocolate flavor, then step right up. These are sweet and have only a smidge more flavor than the Cupcake Bites (and no artificial colors) so they get a 4 out of 10.
Friday, August 19, 2011
One of my favorite Japanese products are the Meiji Poilful. They’re not as easy to find in the United States as some other Japanese candies and are often quite expensive for a sugar candy. Every once in a while Meiji issues a new flavor variety. I found this Poifull Mint at the Japanese grocery store a few weeks ago. It features two flavors, Lemon and Muscat with an added dash of Mint.
These are not mere jelly beans, though they look like it. Instead they’re gummi beans. Inside the typical grainy sugar shell there’s a small gummi. Like gourmet jelly beans, the center is flavored, not just a plain sugary center.
I have to say that I find the flavors a little odd. The idea of mint and lemon is not that uncommon, though it’s something I associate with cough drops more than candy. (Though I admit that I do eat cough drops like candy sometimes.)
Lemon & Mint (yellow) starts out very tangy and zesty but the mint comes in like a strong menthol. It is absolutely like a cough drop but could probably use a little touch of honey to put it over the top. I liked the intensity of it, I was satisfied with one or two of them as the zest and menthol lingered.
Muscat & Mint (green) is much more subdued. The white grape flavor is tart and robust, with notes of grape juice and grape skin in there. The mint tastes more like mint than menthol, though still has that same cooling tingle. I still find it a strange and incongruous combination that I wouldn’t choose as a single flavor package, but I can enjoy as part of a mix.
Overall, I love how intense and authentic Meiji makes all of their fruit flavored candies, these are no exception. They’re a little fringe but make a nice change up for a little mouth freshener that’s different from Altoids. The box is nicely designed, unlike some other Meiji products where the box isn’t full, this one is and has a nice little flip top with a dispenser hole for sharing easily.
On a side note, one of the hazards of buying these import candies are the little translated labels they put on them. The box is quite small, but the label is even smaller with microprint. I had to take this photograph and then zoom in on it in order to read the label.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Storck is a German candy company that makes some fantastically chewy stuff, such as Reisen Chocolate Caramels, Toffifay, Werther Caramels and Mamba fruit chews. While Germany is the homeland of gummis, it’s strange to see such a large, established candy company suddenly get into the crowded gummi market.
I found a fun new, and unlikely place to shop for candy. It’s a gas station convenience store simply called Food Mart near my mother’s house in Glendale, CA. I’d filled up with gas there many times before (because it was one of the least expensive places in the area, clean, well maintained and had soapy windshield cleaner). One day when I actually went into the store I was shocked to see a huge selection of international candies. They carry German products including the most popular items in the Kinder line, Ritter Sport bars (including the seasonal varieties), British bars (Mars, Cadbury, Maltesers) and a really wide selection of American candies.
So I picked up this little package of Storck Mamba Gummies which are called funny fruity gummies and feature banana, orange, raspberry, pineapple, watermelon and cherry flavors. They feature real fruit juice in the ingredients and no artificial colors.
What I thought was interesting about this flavor assortment was the fact that it included banana, not a common gummi flavor. After I got the little package home (it’s only 1.5 ounces) I noticed that I didn’t have the full assortment of flavors. Above is everything inside the packet, four different flavors.
The texture is soft and pliable, they don’t stick together though they do have a little touch of oil on them. The shapes are tropical, little palm trees, snakes, a chameleon, sharks and something that’s either a raspberry or a puffer fish.
Banana (yellow) is tangy but with that creamy banana flavor. It was less artificial tasting than some other banana candies that have more of a caustic flavor. This was pleasant and soothing.
Pineapple (clear) is tangy, floral and jammy all at once. It’s an excellent rendition of pineapple.
Raspberry (deep red) was by far the most common flavor in my package, which is just fine with me because these are well done. The flavor is a mix of the boiled sweetness of raspberry puree with a light touch of the woodsy seeds and a note of iced tea in there. It wasn’t overly tart like some “blue raspberry” versions of the fruit.
Watermelon (pink) was quite authentic, at least as far as watermelon candies I’ve had this summer. It had a sort of rind taste to it, not just the sweetness of the flesh. Watermelon really isn’t much of a flavor as an actual melon, it’s more of a texture.
So, I missed out on Orange and Cherry in my package. I think I scored overall, as these were all nicely done. The fact that it’s a small package (only 130 calories) with no artificial colors makes it a pretty light treat for kids.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Cadbury Adams, makers of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids have introduced a new product to their line of jelly candies. Sour Patch Kids Berries are a variety of four berry flavors of the classic chewy jelly candy covered in sour sand.
There’s no mention of this product on the Sour Patch Kids website, and the package is rather scant with details as well. There are four colors for the candies, but there’s no mention of the flavors. I think they’re: Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry and Grape.
The regular Sour Patch Kids come in four flavors: orange, cherry, lemon and lime. The Sour Patch Fruits come in watermelon, orange, lemon, lime, grape and cherry. Then there are the individual flavor packs like Watermelon, Peach and Cherry. It seems like cherry gets a lot of attention from the Sour Patch family, here it is in three different assortments plus a package all of its own.
Sour Patch Kids are a simple construction, a firm jelly candy is molded and then coated in a sweet & sour sand. They’re small, so one is a good bite.
Grape (Purple) is a great sour flavor. This grape is just like a jelly version of Pixy Stix or SweeTarts. There’s a lot of fake grape flavor to go along with the sour.
Cherry (Red) is as I expected, tart and sharp with the strong woodsy notes then sweet and a little on the medicine side, especially as the food coloring kicked in.
Strawberry (Pink) this was the flavor I wasn’t quite sure about. It’s soft and floral and more delicate than the others, perhaps even a little citrusy.
Blue Raspberry is a well rounded flavor. It’s quite tart at first then morphing into a sweet and floral berry flavor that’s reminiscent of the Swedish Fish.
Here’s something that’s been bothering me for years. Sour Patch Kids don’t look like kids. They don’t look like much of anything except maybe shaving brushes. There are little characters on the package, but I’ve never quite been able to make them out. Jelly Babies manage to look like their little characters on the package, so I know the molding technology allows this. Even Swedish Fish do an excellent job of looking like little fish.
It’s interesting to see a new mix of flavors for the Sour Patch Kids, even if the actual flavors are not new. There’s nothing earth shattering here or innovative, just a limited mix that might appeal to folks who don’t like the citrus flavors in the regular Sour Patch Kids or Sour Patch Fruits.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.