Friday, April 20, 2007
Valerie Confections has another seasonal nougat. This one is Lemon Hazelnut Nougat Covered in Dark Chocolate.
It’s heavenly looking stuff, with a good dark glossy sheen and sparlkling little slivers of candies Meyer Lemons from June Taylor. The chocolate is a buttery smooth dark Valrhona and the nougat itself is studded with organic hazelnuts from Trufflebert Farms.
I’m in heaven.
The price is, well, pricey. But Mother’s Day is around the corner, so if your mum is as nuts for nougat as I am, she might think you appreciate her or something if you were to show up for Sunday Brunch with a box of these. And maybe she’ll let you have a piece.
I think I was a little more fond of the Holiday nougat, which was orange and almond, but the fresh flavor of the lemon is really refreshing. There isn’t a trace of bitterness in the lemon zest, it’s just pure flavor and the chewy texture.
UPDATE 4/20/2009: I’ve just finished another box of this. I don’t know if it was the seasonal variation in the candied lemons, but this was divine. The bittersweetness of the chocolate and the bittersweetness of the candied peels was just spot on. I’ve bumped this up to a 10. I had a lot of fine candy around the house to eat, but this was what I kept going for. The price has also come down.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Oh, goodness, what do we have here? See’s makes a lot of seasonal treats and I think I’ve discovered my new favorite: The Scotchmallow Egg. I’ve reviewed the Scotchmallow Bar before, which is milk chocolate, but this one is more like the piece you get in the store (or a box of See’s). It’s dark chocolate (Guittard, thankyouverymuch) with marshmallow and caramel in the center.
The box has six eggs in them, which are about twice the size of a regular piece of Scotchmallow - about 2.25” long and 1.5” across at the widest. The box lists two eggs as a serving size, which works out to 200 calories ... so that’d make each egg one of those fashionable “100 calorie snacks.”
Diehard Scotchmallow fans know what’s wrong with this picture. The candy center is upside down. In the Scotchmallow Bar and the pieces the caramel is on the bottom and the marshmallow is on the top. The proportions area also a little different, with the marshmallow being 2/3 and the caramel 1/3. It looks to be halfsies here (or maybe more caramel).
Here’s my best guess on how this happened. (And this is just a guess, the extent of my research amounts to seeing California’s Gold tour the factory.) The Scotchmallow is a stacked candy - they make sheets of caramel and sheets of marshmallow and then cut out the little rounds and stack them up and enrobe them (for both the bar and the piece). That wouldn’t work for the egg because of the domed top. So they pour the caramel into molds (just a guess here, folks). Then the marshmallow is poured on top, they’re flipped over and out of the mold and enrobed. Some settling occurs.
That’s the thing, the marshmallow on these is not quite as fluffy. But who cares? It tastes great. The spectacular thing about the See’s marshmallow is that it has honey in it ... you know, something that gives it flavor. It’s also a moist marshmallow, not a dry one (Peeps would be somewhere in between, when they’re fresh). The dark chocolate is rich and not too sweet. The honey touch in the marshmallow is the first flavor and then the caramel kicks in with its dark burnt sugar flavors and buttery notes.
I have to mention that some of my eggs had caramel that was a little more grainy than I’m accustomed to. I’m not sure what caused that, but even though the texture was a little different, the taste was exactly the same. I think I still prefer the traditional chocolate box piece, partly because it’s not as messy, but also because I like to nibble the chocolate off the sides and top and then eat the marshmallow ... then the caramel. But I have to love the fact that I can just pop in a store and grab one of these boxes (and my free sample) without much fuss.
The box costs $4.80 and contains a half a dozen eggs ... that works out to about $14.25 a pound ... a regular pre-packed pound of See’s is $14.50. See, it’s a deal! And no pieces you don’t like! For those of you into just marshmallow they also do a Marshmallow Egg (but in milk chocolate).
Monday, December 18, 2006
My sister sent me a wonderful Christmas gift, which I opened early. It was an assortment of Clear Candy from Regennas in Pennsylvania. They were adorable little red, green and yellow hard candies in different toy shapes.
My assortment did not disappoint. I was a little sad that four of them were broken beyond practical use. The group of twenty included a few duplicates and unfortunately one of the uniques, a red steamboat, was among the broken. Other shapes included a nursing cow, chicken, duck, elephant, rhinoceros, cow, tin soldier, dog, cat (with a broken ear, just like my mother’s real cat!), pig, locomotive, a wolf and finally the most enigmatic of them, an angel on a lion. All the toys are three dimensional (some, like the locomotive are kind of flat, but shaped on both sides) unlike other more common lollipops which are shaped only on one side. They all have a little base and can stand up, it might be fun to have a chess set made out of these (well, not if you live in a humid climate).
My favorite has to be the least toy-like of all of them, the wonderful green alligator (or maybe it’s a croc, it’s hard to tell).
If there’s anything bad about these, it’s that they’re so dense that it’s hard to break the more solid and prickly ones in order to eat them. The toy shapes don’t really lend themselves to sucking whole unless you’re keen on making lots of noises (I guess that’s why the lollipop versions are so popular).
The taste is like cotton candy or sunshine or love ... one of those, or maybe they’re all the same. They’re smooth, with few if any voids, delicate and soft on the tongue as they melt ever-so-slowly. All the colors are the same mellow sugar flavor. They are absolutely the best barley sugar candies I’ve had in my adult life. Some places flavor them, I like the plain sugar flavor best.
The only real detraction for me with these was the slight metallic flavor when you first start eating them. My guess is it’s either the mold or the light oil coating they have to keep them from sticking. I didn’t notice it on all of them, but when Amy also mentioned it, at least I knew I wasn’t imagining it. The other bad thing, of course, is that they’re so freakishly hard to find.
It’s sad that barley sugar candies aren’t made much any longer. I know they’re not as flashy as some of the new themed candies, and I understand the labor involved in these and the craftsmanship involved with the original molds is substantial. Regennas, in its fourth generation, only makes sweets for Christmas and Valentine’s Day and they’re all done for this year.
There’s another barley sugar candy company that I know of by Melville’s (you can order them here) which has an annoying site that plays music you can’t turn off. They have a huge variety of pops (including the excellent honey spoons).
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Part of the fun of Candy Blog is going around town buying sweets because it’s, you know, for the blog. But even with my wide travels, there are still things in my very own city that I’ve never heard of. And shame on me for not seeking them out! I got an email from a blogging friend of mine who wanted to hook me up with a candy making friend of his. (Any candy making friends of yours are always welcome as friends of mine.)
Thus I was introduced to Valerie Confections. I’ll skip right to the point. It’s freaktastically good.
I’ve been introduced to a lot of toffee and I wasn’t that keen on finding yet another toffee company, but they currently have a seasonal Holiday Nougat. The nougat is in the soft French style, with a mellow flavor, soft chew and intense orange flavor and then studded with crunchy almonds. It’s all covered in excellent bittersweet chocolate and dusted with some flakes of real gold.
The nougat is firm but very soft with small candied orange pieces that give a burst of zest to it all over again.
The pieces are large and generous (about 1.75” square) and drop dead gorgeous.
I was so excited at how beautiful and tasty they were that I invited over my neighbor who has been around the world and shared a piece with her, saying that it was “really, really, really good.” She instead corrected me saying that it was “really good, really good, no, really good.”
I shared half that box of Holiday Nougat, which is often the way I feel about great candy. Part of me wants to hoard it and gobble it up and part of me wants to give as many people as possible the same experience I’ve had. The latter usually wins out. The nougat experience, however, was also encouraging for the toffees that were still sitting in my studio.
Like the Holiday Nougat the toffees were just lovely. The packaging is amazing. The boxes are soft looking and the simple grossgrain ribbon give an air of sophistication that is seldom imparted to the pedestrian toffee.
The toffee assortment that engaged me most, of course, was the The Debut which was all bittersweet chocolate - Almond, Almond Fleur de Sel, Ginger, Mint, Orange and Classic Toffee.
Let me just say this about the the toffee itself. Imagine butter that’s been sweetened to the point that it’s crisp and caramelized. That’s this toffee. It cleaves in the front teeth in a way that almost crumbles, but without all those flecks that toffees sometimes leave.
The pieces are thin, unlike many rustic toffee planks out there. It’s incredibly buttery. Each of the toffee squares is a different flavor. They were all perfectly balanced with the Ginger as a special standout in my mind because of the way the earthy notes of the ginger blend so well with the burnt sugar flavors.
The Peanut Assortment was rather different from the toffee. It was crunchier and less obviously sweet. Half the pieces were milk and half dark, all were sprinkled with fleur de sal and topped with a single red-skinned peanut. The salt dominated here and brought out the very smoky and roasted notes of the peanuts. It was like a peanut brittle that was completely integrated (the nuts were crushed so it was more the flavor than texture). It’s little grainier than the regular toffee but very satisfying.
Valerie Confections also features a Milk Assortment which is more than just a milk chocolate version of the Debut, it features two flavors unique in this set: Hazelnut Toffee - plus Gianduja Rocher as well as the Almond, Almond Fleur de Sel, Mint and Classic. Nut fans may also be intrigued by the The Almond Assortment, Gianduja Rocher Assortment or Hazelnut Assortment.
High quality ingredients, attention to detail, freshness and spectacular presentation all mark these as premium candies. They’re expensive at $20.00 for a six piece box (96 grams) of Toffee and $50.00 for the insanely delicious Holiday Nougat. Great presents or hostess gifts. Also keep them in mind if you’re one of those people who are angling for a high-end wedding favor since they do custom orders and packaging. I can definitely see myself buying the Holiday Nougat again, but I think I’d only pick up the Toffee as a gift or for a special occassion ... unless I found a store that let me buy just one piece (then I’m in trouble).
Sunday, November 19, 2006
There once was a fantastic chocolate bar that surpassed KitKat in crispiness, that exuded such a creamy sweet experience that Hershey promptly mucked around with the formula and then discontinued the bar.
I’m talking about the Bar None.
It was a cocoa wafer, chocolate filling, peanuts and a milk chocolate coating and was introduced nationally in 1987. It was a wide bar, about the size of the current Whatchamacallit bar. The series of light chocolate wafers were filled with chocolate cream, covered with a light coating of crushed peanuts and then a coating of darker than normal milk chocolate.
I was irritated at the time that Hershey had just mucked up the Whatchamacallit bar by adding lame caramel to it. I’m faithful to bars that are faithful to me.
With Bar None I was immediately smitten. I would buy them at the convenience store just over the bridge from campus where I was going to college. I would buy them in vending machines, I would buy them in the six pack at the grocery store. I would buy them whenever I could. If there was a reason that they didn’t succeed, it couldn’t be attributed to my lack of evangelical devotion.
Later in 1993 Hershey’s reformulated the bar and added caramel but also divided them into two bars (kind of like the Reese’s Sticks). While they were tasty, they weren’t the same and I lost interest in them entirely.
I wasn’t alone and at some point they stopped making them in the United States. The retooled version is still made in Mexico.
I’ve heard that they’re okay, and I’m actually curious to try the Mexican version, because maybe I was wrong about the new Bar None. But I’m not curious enough to take that drive south of the border in search of it.
Instead, sometime in the late eighties I also discovered the Le Chocolatier cookies made by Pim’s.
These are flavorless wafers with a chocolate cream and covered in real chocolate. What’s even better is they’re sold in boxes so while they weren’t wide and ample bars, there was an ample supply of them. If you were a fan of Bar None and have pined for it all these years, try the Le Chocolatier. Or take a trip to Mexico and let me know how those are.
UPDATE 2/6/2009: Look what I found! This is exactly what I remember, it’s a magazine ad from 1988 or 1989. Also, check in here with this photos set I have of a fan newsletter I used to get called Chocolatetown USA! from 1990 that profiles that launch of the Bar None.
UPDATE 2/18/2009: I think I found a pretty good replacement for the Bar None. It’s called the Q.Bel Crispy Wafer Bars. They come in Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate & Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter and have no artificial ingredients or hydrogenated oils. I love the dark chocolate version. They’re currently being sold at Whole Foods. Though they don’t have the crunchy peanuts in them, they do have some crisped rice in the chocolate enrobing!
UPDATE 6/12/2013: The Bar None has returned, made by Iconic Candy Company, it’s a pretty good replica of the original. You can read the full review here.
Thursday, August 3, 2006
There once was a company that made boiled sweets (hard candies) in Chicago. Founded in 1893, The Reed Candy Company used copper kettles to boil sugar and corn syrup and other things together to create flavorful treats. In 1931 they started making their most famous product, the Reeds’ Butterscotch candy roll. Later they added more flavors including Cinnamon, Root Beer and Butter Toffee.
At some point in their history The Reed Candy Company was bought out by another Chicago area based sweets company, Amurol Confections (known for their novelty gums like Big League Chew and Bubble Tape) ... and they in turn were bought by Wrigley’s (also based in Chicago). The larger distribution chain should have helped, but I still rarely saw them at drug stores or groceries. I usually saw them at newsstands. Reeds continued to be made with startling consistency from the taste and packaging I remember from my childhood.
For those who have never had them, Reed’s are kind of like Lifesavers, except there’s no hole in the middle, just a slight dent. They’re individually wrapped, which makes for extra-sanitary sharing as well as the ability to pop out the individual candies and put them in your pocket for later (try that with a Lifesaver!). They come with eight little pieces in a roll. But what was really extraordinary about them was the incredible amount of flavor packed into such a small candy. Part of this was the exceptional texture - these were high-quality boiled sugar sweets that had very few voids or holes so they were extra smooth on the tongue and dissolved well.
The Butterscotch ones used real butter and had a nice hit of salt to them. Though I’m sure the recipes changed over the years (going with artificial flavors and whatnot) they were still much more flavorful than many other candies.
Cinnamon was not for the faint of heart. The little dented red disk had a smooth and soft mouthfeel at first and then exploded with a very strong cinnamon flavor that could rival an Atomic Fireball. It was like the flavor popped and sparkled with itty-bitty reservoirs.
Other roll candies and mints came in cinnamon and butterscotch but no one else made a Root Beer candy. Soft and spicy with a complex flavor that just made you want to roll the little candy over and over in your mouth. Reed’s Root Beer were my go to roll candy - they had the satisfying freshness of a mint and the tingly “activate those salivary glands” stimulation of a fruit sour.
They were always a 10 in my book. But I guess I ignored them and now they’re gone. Back in April they told their distributors that they weren’t going to be making them anymore and the supply was cut off. There are still a few places you can find a reserves on the web (and happily these hard candies are pretty durable when stored correctly):
I got my last rolls at Powell’s in Windsor, CA but they said that they will not ship nor sell whole boxes at any discount.
UPDATE: Reed’s are coming back. Iconic Candy of New York is working on their final formulations and packaging design and hope to have Reed’s back on store shelves in a limited number of flavors by the end of the year.
You can see the preview of their new candy revivals here. They’re also working on Regal Crown Sours and Bar None.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
I miss living where there are lightning bugs. When I was in Pennsylvania last month it was a little early for them ... we saw one or two, but not the nighttime display I so longed to see. It was certainly fun catching them as kids and putting them in a jar and setting them on a bookshelf in my bedroom overnight to watch all night (and then release in the morning).
I thought this product was pretty cool looking. It’s just gummis shaped like bugs and they include a set of tweezers with a battery and LED at the tip that activates when you close them around something.
The tweezers work really well, they’ll light up when they get close to being closed, so you can grasp one of the gummis and without even squeezing hard they light up.
The LED is red, which is kind of disappointing because fireflies have a more green/yellow color to their luminescence in real life, but I understand the limitations of making a novelty product at a particular price point. The other thing that I found a little bit of a bummer is that the gummis aren’t actually lightning bugs ... they’re glow-worms.
The gummis are pretty good. A little different than a Haribo, more like a Trolli. They come in two different colors: red and yellow. They’re very soft and chewy. The orange one is citrus of some sort and the red one tastes like strawberry.
Once you’ve eaten the small portion they give you, the fun with the tweezers isn’t over. You can pick up all sorts of things with them. Light colored jelly beans worked well, gumdrops, hard candies (they’re really cool with these), vitamin gel capsules and of course any small gummis like the traditional bears. If the battery lasts as long as that light up lolly I got last year, you can have hours of fun with them!
I’ve never been particularly fond of most of the novelty items out there (such as clear plastic cell phones with little candy inside) but this one really seems to provide interactivity and promotes imagination ... as well as being a candy delivery device!
If you’re looking for a fun little party favor for a summer kids birthday celebration, these aren’t priced too bad at $1 per if you find a good sale. However, I’m seeing them online for about $1.50 each ... still not a bad deal for a little toy.
Monday, June 19, 2006
One of the things that I was asked in the FAQ was about the benefits of being the “famous” candy blogger and did I get an all-access, backstage pass. Well, no (not yet, anyway) but there are a couple of small but tasty benefits.
Witness this from last week: on Wednesday morning a large box appeared at the front door. It was marked Perfetti Van Melle. I thought, “Cool, they sent me more Airheads!” But when I lifted the package, it felt like there were three books in there.
When I was at the All Candy Expo I asked at the booth if they had any of the Pink Grapefruit (Pamplemousse) Mentos that I’d heard are so good but sold only in Canada and Europe. I saw that you can order them online, but I really didn’t want to commit to a full box of them without having a taste. But they didn’t have any samples at the Mentos booth. They said they’d send me some, and I figured that’d be the last of it, maybe I’d have my husband pick them up on his travels.
As you can already tell from the photo, they sent me not two or three rolls, but two full boxes of 20 rolls each! I scurried back to my little photo studio and quick-snapped some shots before going off on a long weekend trip to my sister’s wedding. I found that a couple of rolls of Pink Grapefruit Mentos make a lovely hostess gift when staying at a family member’s house. They are the perfect traveling candy.
The color is lovely, like the center of a Ruby Red Grapefruit. The ingredients are pretty intriguing too, with the first three being: sugar, glucose syrup, grapefruit juice (3%). Wow! The front of the package says artificially flavored, but mentions nothing about the natural part!
They don’t smell like anything, which make me a little suspicious at first, but a bite and a chew later and not only is there a wonderful citrusy tartness, but an intense aroma of freshly sliced grapefruit. There’s no hint of that terrible bitterness you can get with grapefruit, but it’s not lacking in complexity at all. There are the sweet and sour notes, but also that oily zesty feel and the fresh scent of grapefruits. There’s a lingering feeling of that grapefruit peel long after the candy is gone - far different from the green apple chemical feeling in the mouth.
It’s actually a fun candy to be around other people when they’re eating it. It’s like someone has lit an aromatherapy candle (the grapefruit scent is supposed to “increase self-esteem and bolster confidence”). Our Canadian neighbors are quite lucky to have these as a regular product. If I were a motivated person, I’d petition Mentos to sell them in the States, but part of me knows that it probably wouldn’t play well here.
I know someone is wondering if the grapefruit ones will work to make an explosive soda fountain, but I’m not gonna be the one to find out, I’m eating all of mine!
UPDATE 5/31/2008: I have word that Pink Grapefruit Mentos are discontinued. They are no longer listed on the Mentos website and I got confirmation from Mentos North America (as if they ever carried them here). However, they are also made in a Kosher version for Israel and still seem to be available at Kosher stores (I found them at Munchies in Los Angeles earlier this week). I took advantage of what may be a temporary loophole and bought a box of 40 of them from Koshermania out of Cleveland, OH a couple of weeks ago.
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