Tuesday, July 26, 2011
In the world of trends in sweets, one of the biggest has been the rise of cupcakes. There are hundreds of blogs devoted to the various iterations of the small baked goods. Of course the trend is not limited to actual cupcakes, there are all sorts of merchandising opportunities as well as spin-off products like Cupcake Bites from Taste of Nature, the same company that makes Cookie Dough Bites.
The box is actively ugly with a mix of styles and cultural references that make little sense to me. First, the color yellow (background) with the pink “frosting” top with sprinkles is The Simpsons (see the movie poster) and the text style isn’t an exact copy but there are definite similarities. Other than that, the fonts are a mess, at least five different ones from different font families, a mix of serif, san serif and handwriting.
The description on the back (which is even uglier as they introduced green drop shadow text in yet another font) says: Bite sized cupcake morsels coated with sprinkles and white frosting. They’re egg free, kosher and made in the USA.
The concept is the same as the Cookie Dough Bites, a little moist nugget of some wheat based, sweet nodule is then covered in a confectionery coating. Here are the ingredients:
I’m just amazed that the White Kreemy Coating product doesn’t have a trademark notice associated with it. And no, that’s not a typo on my part with the listing of the first two ingredients for the white cake nor the lyrics to an Archies song.
The nuggets are unappealing. They look like white molding clay that’s been rolled around in other little bits ... it looks like the aftermath of a Mr. Bill clip.
The matte exterior is soft and has a light sweet scent, like inhaling a cake mix. The Kreemy Coating doesn’t even rise to the level of fake white chocolate, it’s just a stiff, sweet and slightly greasy coating. The cake center is a little doughy with a faint raw flour flavor to it. The whole effect is an absolute replication of bad grocery store sheet cake. Very sweet, mushy textures and no actual flavor to speak of.
The timing of the product is a little late for the trend, but I’m sure the company will still get some mileage out of it, as they’re the only product like it on the shelves. But if you get a chance, maybe try the cupcake bites on sticks that started this craze.
Like the other Cookie Dough Bites products, the theater box comes with a clear plastic bag inside that actually holds the candy (so eating it at the movies involves opening it before the show starts unless you want to make a lot of noise). Though the package notes that it’s egg free, it’s actually made in a shared processing environment so they have an allergen notice for soy, wheat, milk, peanuts and tree nuts.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Back in the roaring twenties there was a new innovation, it was chocolate syrup. Hershey’s led the way, but there were many other brands, such as Bosco, which not only had chocolate in it but also a touch of malt.
I remember Bosco pretty well, I think it was best known on the Eastern Seaboard. Hershey’s was probably the most popular of all, but I preferred Ovaltine since it had a stronger malt flavor and wasn’t so chalky at the bottom of the glass of milk.
I heard last year that Bosco Milk Chocolate Bars were coming out. This was an exciting development. I love how nostalgic brands are being revived and was looking forward to tasting a malted chocolate bar.
Here’s an old series of commercials for Bosco Syrup. The picture quality isn’t great, but the approach to the product and the unabashed joy still comes through.
I finally spotted the bars at Cost Plus World Market, which usually carries the nostalgic candies. The bar is the standard 3.5 ounce large bar. The package says Special Edition Collector’s Series. I don’t know who wants to collect chocolate bars, unless they’re just talking about the wrapper. The wrapper also says that it’s all natural (and Kosher).
The bar doesn’t actually look that good unwrapped. It’s poorly molded, there are lots of bubbles and voids, easily seen when I flipped over the bar when I took it out to photograph.
The ingredients are all natural, it’s true. The list is very short: sugar, whole milk, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, soy lecithin, vanilla. Remember when I said that Bosco was a malted chocolate syrup? Well, this is not a malted chocolate bar.
So as a milk chocolate bar it’s quite ordinary. You’ll notice the ingredients listed sugar first, it is most definitely sweet. The milk flavors come next and are strong with a slight powdered milk note to them. The chocolate flavors are faint and evoke cardboard, musty and sawdust flavors for me. Frankly, the chocolate tasted no better than the R.M. Palmer stuff I eschew around Easter.
It’s such a disappointing bar. The price wasn’t bad, at $1.99, I’ve certainly spent more in the past. But if you’re buying this for nostalgia, make sure it’s for the package and not the flavor.
The bar is distributed by Praim Group, not a well known brand but you may recognize their other partner, Bloomsberry & Co, which also make ho-hum chocolate in clever packages.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Mike and Ike are jelly bean rods sold in different fruity flavor combinations. The classic version, introduced in 1940, contains cherry, orange, lime, lemon and strawberry. They’re sold in boxes or little single serve bags. They’re, well, ordinary candies but comforting and dependable. Over the years there have been different flavor varieties introduced.
The twist today, is an actual twist. They’re called Mike and Ike Fruit Twists and instead of being a jelly candy, these are a wheat-based chew. That’s right, this is red licorice. The twist on the classic strawberry licorice twist is that these are filled.
Just Born has been making candy in Pennsylvania since 1923 but sometimes they outsource licensed products like this. So this one is made by a company called CandyRific in Spain. So its relationship with Mike and Ikes is pretty distant.
The Mike and Ike Strawberry Fruit Twists come in a green package with a bold Mike and Ike logo across the top. The branding is nicely done to fit with the existing Mike and Ike product line.
The king size package contains six twists. They’re formatted into two bars - each with three conjoined sets of twists that pull apart easily.
The twists are soft and pliable and rather shiny. The scent is a good imitation of strawberry, it reminds me of that strawberry glaze stuff you can get to make pie. The bite is good, not too chewy but still firm. The center of the red tubes is not quite creamy, but soft, like a paste made of Pixy Stix. It’s a little tart and has a mild strawberry punch flavor.
The combination of the two is a satisfying candy. I didn’t care for the artificial coloring aftertaste, which is kind of metallic and bitter.
Mike and Ike jelly candies come in at least eight different varieties and each is color coded. The orange package is my favorite version, Tangy Twister, so I was hoping that the Fruit Twists orange package would be similar.
The orange package is Mike and Ike Green Apple and Watermelon Fruit Twists. Like the Strawberry variety, the package heralds that they’re made with real fruit juice, are low in fat, contain 0 grams of trans fats and are a good source of vitamin C (that’d be 5% of your RDA per twist).
This package contains no conjoined triplets, instead it has six rectangulated twists neatly lined up inside. The red ones are Watermelon, and aside from not having any seams on the side from where they were joined to their brethren, they look exactly like the Strawberry. They smell like, well, ice cream. Not like any flavor of ice cream, just more like the muddled sweet smell of an ice cream shop. The flavor is mild and does actually taste like watermelon flavor. The tangy paste center is a little chalky but passable. The whole thing tasted a bit like modeling clay, there was something rather doughy about it, which could be the wheat flour.
The green ones were Green Apple which had the light scent of apple juice. The flavor was much more like actual apple juice than the Jolly Rancher fake apple flavor most candies go for. The tartness of the center helped out with juicing up the flavor profile. But again, the chew was a bit doughy and pasta like at times.
Overall, I found these lackluster. If you want a less-sour filled red licorice twist, well, this is probably what you’ve been looking for. They do fit well with the Mike and Ike brand, which is basically a mild jelly bean anyway. This product is coming to market kind of late. Twizzlers/Jolly Ranchers already has a version (and has had several iterations over the years) and Wonka has their Kazoozles.
I feel like they’re missing some real Mike and Ike-ness - maybe if they were little bullet shapes and sold in a box and actually came in an array of five flavors.
They’re not listed on the Mike and Ike website under the licensed products. I found these late last year at a wholesale store and then finally found them at retail at Walgreen’s. But I still can’t find much mention of them online, and Mark of Sugar Pressure noticed the same lack of marketing.
Friday, April 1, 2011
There was a time when tubes were the future. You know, back when the radio was being invented. This heyday of tubes continued into the mid-twentieth century and waned as things like transistors, liquid crystal displays and tubeless tires came into vogue. So maybe it’s quaint that so many candies are now being tubularized (that’s a word, promise). I noticed it a few years back with Wonka’s SweeTarts Squeez and Hubba Bubba’s Squeeze Pop. So maybe it is the wave of the future, that the confinement of candy to solid shapes was holding us back from confection perfection.
Something else aside from the fanciful thoughts of the idealized candy containment drew me to Chewbies Liquid Taffy, it was the fact that it said All Natural Flavors and Colors on the front. I actually looked at it in the store before Valentine’s Day and decided not to buy it, but then when I went back for my Easter prowl, I couldn’t resist the call of finding out what Liquid Taffy could be, especially when it was all natural.
I admit, the package looked an awful lot like another tube I already had in my shopping basket, which I shot a picture of for comparison.
The narrow tube is six inches high and holds 2.82 ounces. I picked out the Orange flavor, but it also comes in Strawberry and Apple. The back of the package says a serving is the whole package (280 calories). It also says that the squeezable confection is made in P.R.C. Honestly, I didn’t know what that was, I thought it might be a province or territory in Canada - after all, they keep making new ones and I have trouble keeping up. Nope, it’s the People’s Republic of China. Who puts PRC on a package? Probably people who don’t want you to know their product is made in China.
The ingredients aren’t quite taffy-like: Glucose syrup, sugar, water, palm oil, lactic acid, albumen (egg white), orange juice, soy lecithin, natural orange flavor, natural food color (paprika extract). Most taffy is sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, water, flavors, salt and sometimes a little butter or oil. There’s no egg white in taffy, but there is in nougat. But some other fine taffy-like candies also have egg whites, such as Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. So again, I was inclined towards optimism.
Taffy is known for its chewiness and the name of the product is Chewbies. So I’m going into this thinking that this Liquid Taffy will be chewy. That maybe it’ll be latexy and have a sort of liquid Silly Putty texture. Or maybe it’ll be like string cheese. I was hoping it had that strange quality of not sticking to things, sometimes candies with oils in them are good at that.
The stuff comes out slowly and is quite soft, but a single touch to the surface and it yields stringy, hot mozzarella stickiness. How the product is supposed to be dispensed and consumed is a bit of a mystery, so I took to squeezing a dollop onto my finger.
First, the scent is quite orangey. It tastes quite tangy and has a good orange flavor that’s both zesty and tart. The texture is smooth but has no chew as it’s far too soft for that. It’s kind of like a thick sauce or slightly gummy yogurt. It got me to thinking that perhaps drizzled on ice cream it might toughen up, so I created a few dollops on a piece of waxed paper and popped it into the fridge for a half an hour. This made it cold. It became slightly firmer, but really no chewier.
My hopes were dashed but the reality of the product’s shortcomings. Though the flavor is decent, the price per ounce is rather high for the fact that it’s a sugar candy and the fact that it’s so sticky when dispensed is more than enough to cancel out any other positive attributes. I don’t actually need squeezable taffy, the plain old wrapped pieces will do me fine in the future.
Sugar Pressure also pointed out this in a store recently: Mallo Pals - marshmallow in a squeeze tube. Maybe the squeezy future is in marshmallow.
Monday, February 14, 2011
With the news that Necco changed its classic Necco Sweethearts (more coverage here) in 2010, I found that Brach’s version more ubiquitous in 2011 on store shelves.
The package is bright red and easy to distinguish from the pastel-princess mess of the Necco reboot. I picked up the Brach’s Small Conversation Hearts at the Dollar Tree for a dollar for an eight ounce bag. The ingredients are similar, a sugar and dextrose (glucose) paste held together with a bit of gelatin and oodles of artificial colors.
The mottoes I noticed: Luv Me, You Rock, U Go Girl, Ask Me, Hello, Got Love? So Fine, Good Bye, I [heart] You, Be True, So Fine, E-Mail Me, Dare Ya and the ultra romantic, Hey You.
The pieces are well made, I found very few duds in the package - all thick and consistent. The printing was a little blurry on some but mostly readable, except for the low contrast pink on pink.
The flavors are pleasantly indistinct. I could tell the orange ones were a creamsicle orange flavor. The yellow ones might have been banana, but maybe a really bland lemon. The pink were slightly like the seashore (a mixture of cheap flip-flops and Old Bay crab boil and the burning taste you get when sunscreen gets in your eyes). The purple and green were too bland for me to tell apart in a dark room. The white was the comforting flavor of mint toothpaste you find in the corner of your mouth before lunchtime. The texture is smooth and not quite crunchy, though still very firm.
If you were a fan of the original Sweethearts and can’t find them, these are as close as you’re likely to find. But if you never liked either, there’s no reason to try these, they do nothing for the category except look cute. So basically, a nice decorative candy, but perhaps not for eating unless you’re trying to bring your blood sugar up.
They’re made in Argentina and produced on shared equipment with milk, egg, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts and soy.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Friday, January 21, 2011
Newman’s Own Organics has also joined in the all natural licorice arena. The front of the package is simple and classy. It’s a soft creamy color though made of a lightweight mylar and has an old timey font for the logo. It also mentions that the candy is made with organic sugar.
They come in four flavors: Strawberry, Tangerine, Pomegranate and traditional Black. I looked at three different stores for the black but couldn’t find it, so this is a review of the fruity flavors, which are pretty much their own type of product and probably shouldn’t be lumped in with black licorice.
The back of the package has more info as well. They mention that they’re fun to eat, full of flavor and low fat, which is a great thing to mention. These twists are very low in calories, my calculations put them at 88 calories per ounce (because they’re wheat based) or about 25 calories each.
Each twist is only 4 and a half inches long. They’re shiny and quite firm, but not at all sticky or oily. They’re also stiff but pliable enough to bend completely in half without cracking or crumbling. They have a little hole in the center, but it’s rather narrow and sometimes smashed, so I wouldn’t quite call them straws.
Strawberry (left) smells sweet and floral. The texture is really tough though generally smooth after chewing. The strawberry flavor is tangy but a little watered down. They take a lot of chewing, which I guess makes them last a long time but it also makes me dread eating more than one, especially since some of the bits stick in my teeth.
Tangerine (middle) smells fantastic. It’s a realistic zesty citrus smell that got me drooling quickly. This version was just a little softer, but also a bit easier to bite and chew. However, the citrus blast was just too much. The tartness was mild, not even as noticeable as the strawberry, however the zest was too oily and ultimately bitter. The bitterness lingered, a kind of caustic burn on my tongue and gums.
Pomegranate (right) looked pretty much like the strawberry but smelled like raspberry. This stuff was tough, like chewing Kevlar or something. The flavor was a great blend of berries, deep and fruity with a long floral note afterwards that gave my mouth a fresh feeling. There was only a hint of tartness (which is too bad because I like the dry tangy note of real pomegranates). But the texture was just so much work. Sucking on them just gave me a puddle of paste in my mouth. I couldn’t finish them.
Overall, I’m not hopeful about trying the black licorice variety when I find it. The texture is just so far off from what I expected or even find pleasant. I generally find Newman’s Own candies to be hit and miss, they’re often too sweet, lack a strong sense of flavor and are overpriced even for organic products purchased at Whole Foods. They’re made in Mexico and there’s no statement on there about nut status or other allergens (except the obvious ingredients like wheat).
Thursday, January 6, 2011
There are some candies that sound like fantastic concepts. Even new readers to Candy Blog know that I would favor any confection made of caramel, pecans and cinnamon. About five years ago Cinnabon, the little bakers of fresh cinnamon buns in malls, licensed their flavor and name for a line of candies made by Standard Confectionery Company. Standard is known for their GooGoo Clusters, so it’s no surprise that this line features various iterations of the ingredients all in the plopped cluster shape.
Back in 2006 I went to my first candy trade show, the All Candy Expo in Chicago. This was my first experience with “tasting everything”. This was an amazing time where I could keep an open mind and take small bites or samples of items that I probably wouldn’t consider buying for whatever reason. Most was exactly what I expected, but there were some surprises (both good and bad). I learned quickly that even in small bites there were things that demanded to be spit out. While there I spit three things out. The first was the Cinnabon Cinnamon Pecan Caramel Cluster.
What I didn’t know when I ate that sample was the actual description of this item: Rich Makara Cinnamon Caramel Topped with Crunch Glazed Pecans and Toffee Bits, Drenched in Milk Chocolatey Goodness. You already know where this description went awry ... in fact this might have been the item that mobilized me for the fight against anything that referred to mockolate “goodness”. I’d go so far as to call it “evilness.”
Years went by and I tried them again and had a similar reaction to the overly sweet, strangely grainy and waxy confection. Yes, the cinnamon notes were fantastic, but air freshener smells fantastic, that doesn’t make me want to eat it.
The Cinnabon Cinnamon Mousse Pecan Cluster says it’s Rich Makara cinnamon mousse topped with crunchy glazed pecans and toffee bits, drenched in dark chocolatey goodness. My spell checker knows that chocolatey isn’t a word, and I know that it isn’t chocolate.
The packaging is nice, it has an accurate image on the front and I actually liked the little swirly bun designs on the edges of the wrapper. The pieces are 1.5 ounces (about 2.5 inches in diameter), which I think is a nice portion for candy, in this case it clocks in at 180 calories.
My candy had a slight bloom on the top, not bad, just a light haze in some spots. The lumpy shape gave me hope that there were plenty of these glazed pecans.
I don’t know what Makara Cinnamon is. I’ve looked it up and can’t actually find that there is a real thing, it’s just like the Colonel’s 11 Herbs & Spices, a proprietary blend of some sort. Its mystery aside, the cinnamon does smell good. It’s a tantalizing blend of woodsy notes, a sort of heady volatile oil similar to menthol and a warm resin. The patties have a nice bite and texture. The mockolate coating is marginally flavorful, it’s overpowered by the cinnamon but the texture is smooth enough once it melts. The center of the patty is a sort of soft fudge that tastes kind of like the sweet center of a pecan pie, but a little more grainy. The pecans are nicely glazed with a sugary coating that gives them a salty crunch. Other than that hit of salt though, the whole thing is sickly sweet and quickly made my throat sore.
This version comes in a white wrapper and is easy to distinguish from the other versions. It also reminds me that Cinnabon has the flavor that warms the soul.
The description on this one is Rich Makara cinnamon cream topped with crunchy glazed pecans and toffee bits, drenched in white chocolatey goodness. Now, I get how the dark one can claim some sort of “chocolatey goodness” since it does have some cocoa solids in it. This product has not one gram of cocoa content whatsoever. It can’t be like chocolate because there’s nothing that’s even chocolate adjacent about it.
Even the color of the white confection coating is odd, it’s not at all like white chocolate, which has a yellow cast and a translucent quality. It’s opaque, like a primer coat.
It does smell smooth and buttery though, and I loved the way the fake butter smell combined with the Makara cinnamon, in that way that actual Cinnabon kiosks can draw you in.
Again I liked the glazed pecans - they were small but had a salty crunch. The white coating was sweet and had a less convincing melt than the truly chocolatey one. There are toffee bits advertised in both of these, but I noticed that they’re more like corn flakes (rice flour is listed as an ingredient)
Sweet, strange and unreal. I don’t mind candy that becomes fantasy - but this was just a poor imitation of real things that could be fantastic. Call it the uncanny valley of candy.
If you’re a fan of candles instead of candy, well this is the stuff for you. If you’re looking for something that emulates the fresh baked Cinnabon experience, I’d say stick to your memories of that and wait for the real thing.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The Wonka Exceptionals Line is brand new this year, so it’s a bit surprising that Nestle already has a holiday version of one of their sub-brands when it seems like it took them decades to make holiday Gobstoppers.
The line of upscale Wonka Exceptionals includes new chocolate pieces. They’re little rectangles that are individually wrapped and feature a little bit of a different take on the standard morsel. The first introductions were Scrumdiddlyumptious (cookie pieces in milk chocolate), Chocolate Waterfall (milk & white chocolate swirled) and Domed Dark Chocolate (milk & dark stack) In addition, Wonka came up with Marvels and Fruit Jellies with all natural colors and flavors.
The holiday Wonka Exceptionals Peppermint Shortbread Chocolate Pieces come in a tall box like the Jellies and Marvels. (The previous Pieces I reviewed came in a purple hologram emblazoned bag.) Inside the slim box is a purple mylar pouch with the Wonka Ws all over it. The box only holds four ounces of the foil wrapped chocolates and at nearly $4 for the package, that’s a dollar an ounce. That’s about what I pay for See’s by the pound. (There are approximately 12 pieces in the box.)
So, Wonka is trucking along, reinventing the brand. They’re going for quality and recapturing the imagination that everyone loves so much in the Dahl books ... and then this Christmas candy comes along. The previous candies in this Exceptionals line have been good, a little expensive but they also have a unique selling position - they’re made with all natural flavors and colors. So I bite into one of these new milk chocolate pieces that have peppermint candy pieces and shortbread cookie morsels.
There are red bits in there. They’re bright red. They’re kind of minty but they’re also kind of bitter to me towards the end, there’s something slightly off about them. They have artificial colors in them. Why? They’re inside! Why would you put coloring in something that’s not even meant to be seen?
That aside, the milk chocolate pieces are creamy. They’re very sweet and don’t have a huge cocoa punch, it’s quite mild and overshadowed by the mint and a bit of the milky flavors. The candy pieces are crunchy and then there are little bits of shortbread sometimes - they’re a kind of sandy and crumbly cookie crunch that has a light salty note to it. But they’re really sandy sometimes, like cornmeal sandy.
The whole thing wasn’t working for me. It was too sweet and though most of the texture components were right (except for the lingering sand, like that stuff in your jeans pockets after going through the wash). I was irritated that I paid $4 for a box of candy I didn’t want to eat. They’ve already shown that they can do better, so I want Wonka to do better next time around.
I got a handful of these as a sample from Nestle at first, but I didn’t get the box or label with it, so that’s why I went out and bought them, so I could find out how expensive they were for myself and see that there Red #3, Red #40 and Blue #1 in there. Bah, humbug.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.