Monday, May 5, 2008
Hershey’s has a line of sugar free candies, while they’re not a low calorie snack, they do have a lower glycemic index because they’ve substitute sugar for sugar alcohols. I gave their version of the Hershey’s Chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and York Peppermint Pattie a try.
As is always the case, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. While sugar alcohols may lower the calorie count, they’re also not as sweet as sugar and sometimes have unwanted side effects. Here’s what the packages say:
Sugar alcohols have another benefit, they do not promote tooth decay, as they cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria.
Say what? Polyglycitol? That’s a new one on me, so I looked it up:
I’m well aware the many of these sugar alcohols can cause intestinal upset (and other euphemisms to erupt). For this reason I was exceptionally careful not to eat too much. I only ate two a day, even though a serving as determined by the package was 3-5 pieces.
Hershey’s Sugar Free Chocolates
Well, they look really good. Each one was a pristine little chocolatey block.
But there was something amiss. It has the same slightly fudgy, slightly grainy texture. But it’s cool on the tongue and the chocolate flavors are a little too much on the high range, lacking depth. The milkyness was missing completely.
It doesn’t taste like Hershey’s chocolate. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really taste like chocolate ... it’s too sweet.
Here’s what I know about sugar alcohols: they don’t have as many calories as sugar, but they also don’t taste as sweet. In the case of maltitol it’s 90% as sweet as sucrose, which basically means that when they add it to something and they want an equivalent delivery of sweetness, they put more in. Putting in more sweetener means something else has to be reduced by proportion. My guess in this case is that they reduced the cocoa solids ... which are already pretty low in Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. (Or they reduced the milk, which may also reduce the flavor profile.)
As a low calorie treat, these do definitely have a lower caloric density:
139 calories per ounce for regular Hershey’s Chocolate
If you like R.M. Palmer chocolate, you might find this acceptable.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Sugar Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Like the Hershey’s bars, these were lovely little cups of perfection at first glance. They’re wrapped in orange foil, not gold, so it’s easy for trained candy eaters to tell them apart. They seem a little smaller than regular Reese’s Minis (just shorter) but otherwise are glossy and pretty.
They smell of sweet peanut butter.
The chocolate shell is similar to the Hershey’s bar ... the same cooling effect on the tongue, decent melt but lack of chocolate kick. No matter, the peanut butter center seems to overwhelm that in a satisfactory manner. The peanut butter is crumbly and sweet and creamy all at the same time. A little salty kick seals the simulation as being pretty close to the original.
145 calories per ounce for regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
I didn’t realize until after eating two of these that there was Sucralose in there too (this is the only one of the three that uses an artificial sweetener - though I could hear arguments that polyglycitol is also not natural at this point). I didn’t notice any of the ill effects that I get from Aspartame (headache, shakes & nausea) but there was a light lingering sweet and ever so slight aluminum-like metallic aftertaste.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (if it didn’t have the aftertaste, it’d be a 7).
Sugar Free York Peppermint Patties
They look exactly like the full-sugar York Peppermint Patties, smell a little chocolatey and very minty. The mini size is my favorite, so this was an easy one for me to wrap my head around.
The chocolate shell is only slightly sweet, which is pretty much the way the regular York is. If anything, this one had a better, less chalky melt to it.
The fondant center is a little different. First, it’s rather cool on the tongue. It’s a little grainy, which is fine with me, but then there were some other lighter grainy bits in there . But they weren’t sweet little grains, I’m wondering if the sugar alcohols create a different crystalline matrix. Even so, they’re tasty. Fresh, a bit chocolatey and of course melty and smooth.
102 calories per ounce for regular York Peppermint Patties
As a lower calorie alternative, these are real winners. There are 30 calories in each piece.
Rating: 7 out of 10
In general Hershey’s has done a nice job of approximating the experience of their full-sugar candies. They look great, which is part of the appeal of candy. The packaging doesn’t even feel like a compromise (though the price does).
But these are only good if you can tolerate the sweeteners. If you’re one of the unlucky majority (it seems to be a majority) of the public who experiences the side effects, it’s pointless to eat this stuff. (I had a full box of each of these from a photo shoot and passed some along to a friend of a friend who is diabetic ... who did not react well to them.)
If you want to know if you can eat them, please, start slow unless you have no plans for the next day or so. I seemed to tolerate it pretty well, but again, only two pieces a day, not really the way you want to eat candy you can otherwise eat because of dietary restrictions.
(Package images at top compiled from Hershey’s website.)
Friday, May 2, 2008
There are a few candies still on my list of “I can’t believe you haven’t tried that before!” and chocolate covered gummi bears were one of them. Once I had the Japanese version, I realized I should try the original. They were invented over 30 years ago by none other than the ultimate “if it should be covered in chocolate, we’ll cover it in chocolate” company: Koppers Chocolates.
When I was in San Francisco I found not only Koppers Milk Chocolate Covered Gummi Bears, but also the White Chocolate Polar Bears at Sweet Dish on Chestnut Street.
I’m not sure why I’ve been reticent about trying them. It might be that I was expecting a Haribo gummi bear, which are rather firm. Instead Koppers uses Swiss gummis (I don’t know anything beyond that) that they are appropriately soft.
I got just a quarter of a pound each of mixed milk & polar bears to try. What struck me at first was the fact that all the white chocolate bears were the same milky yellow color. Even held up to the light, there was no indication what color the gummi bear beneath was.
What I found out later, after diligently sucking the chocolate off of enough of them for a scientific sample, is that they’re all the same color (whether milk or white covered)! Though they’re yellow, I’m hard pressed to say that they’re lemon flavored, merely that they’re a sweet & tangy mix.
The milk chocolate was pretty smooth, and very milky tasting. It melted well and didn’t have that light waxy glaze that many other panned candies have. The white chocolate was similarly milky in its taste, but not too sweet. As a combination goes, I still wasn’t completely on board with having chocolate with my gummi bears. They’re cute and easy to eat, but I think I might like them apart.
Rating: 6 out of 10
To be fair, even though Koppers invented the confectionery genre of chocolate covered gummi bears, the ones I see most often in drug stores, movie theaters & discount chains are called Muddy Bears and are made by Taste of Nature (who also makes Cookie Dough Bites) which I think is an awesome name for an unappetizing looking product.
The box features a yellow bear who is entirely too happy to be covered in chocolate. I’m not sure if he understands that once he’s sealed in his confectionery shell he’s doomed.
I’ve only seen them in the theater sized boxes. Inside the box is a cellophane pouch that holds the bears and keeps them fresh. (And makes for extra wrapper noises at the theater and probably scowly looks from me if I’m sitting near.)
As unattractive as the Koppers were, I think the Muddy Bears are even worse. But since they’re meant to be eaten at the movies based on the packaging, I’m going to guess that doesn’t matter much. (For the record, I like candy that looks the same after sitting unwrapped at the bottom of my purse, so that when I switch purses and find it down there, I know what it is ... and then I eat it.)
One of the big differences in the products is the gummi center. Muddy Bears use multi-flavored gummis. Of course being covered in milk chocolate there’s no way to know which flavor is which. It’s a benign chocolate-covered Russian roulette. Mostly I seemed to get green apple.
The chocolate coating seems a bit crumbly, not as smooth melting as the Koppers and very sweet without much of a “chocolate” taste. I can’t see myself buying these.
Candy Addict did a review last summer as well, interestingly, their photo of the box says, “The Original”, I’m guessing Koppers took issue with the accuracy and they’ve changed it to the version I have.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Meiji Gummy Choco set the bar too high. Their candies come in lots of different flavors, they’re packaged so nicely, the price is right even for an import and if you get a flavor mix, they’re color coded. But if you’re not able to get a hold of those, give the Koppers a try (you’ll probably see them in bulk bins), if the shop also carries chocolate cordials, they’re probably Koppers.
Friday, April 4, 2008
The American Licorice Company was founded in 1914 in Chicago, IL and began making something known as Raspberry Vines in 1920. In 1952 they tweaked the flavoring and renamed them simply Red Vines.
I’ve opened the can of worms in the Red Vines Giveaway about the category of confection called red licorice. In their defense, the American Licorice Company has always skirted this by simply coming up with a new and trademarked name of Red Vines for their Original Red Twists.
Red Vines are so popular (apparently they’re Crazy Delicious when combined with Mr. Pibb) that they’re the number one non-chocolate candy in the western region of the United States. I don’t know what the number one non-chocolate candy is in the eastern region. As is the case with things like tissues being called Kleenex, all colas are called Coke or adhesive bandages being identified as Band Aids, Red Vines are simply the default for red licorice. (Though in other regions that’d be the same for Twizzlers.)
What are ya gonna call it otherwise? A twisted, wheat-based confection? A long, red chew?
The candies are sold in a variety of formats, some single vines and others in a pull apart bar or textured bites. They’re exceptionally durable and can withstand temperature variations within reason inside the sealed package without much deterioration or flavor or texture. The standard in the tray is about 8.5” long and is formed via an extrusion method with a twist (four complete twists per vine). They are hollow and have crimped ends. Each vine has about 35 calories. All carbs, no fat, a trace of protein.
They smell faintly like coconut, new flip flops and strawberry shortcake lip balm. (Mmm, the smells of summer.)
They’re soft and pliable, unless you left the package open or bought expired ones, then they’re stiff and hard. Either way, they’re only lightly flavored. They’re not terribly sweet, the first ingredient is corn syrup, but the second is wheat flour ... then citric acid, artificial flavor and Red 40. That’s it. Pretty simple really.
Though it may have been raspberry flavored at one time, I think the flavor is now simply red licorice. It tastes like red. It has only the lightest tangy bite to it (the citric acid) and doesn’t leave a funky aftertaste and is one of the few red candies that I don’t actually taste the red food coloring in.
The cool thing is that it’s cheap, easy to share and has that lowest common denominator factor that you’d be hard pressed to find someone who won’t join you when you offer it (and it’s usually because of allergens, not true dislike).
I don’t eat the stuff very often. It’s fine for movies or when I want to share with my husband (they actually make a pack of Bites which has a mix of the black and red which I’ve bought just for that purpose). I’m not saying it’s bad candy, but I’m happier to give it away than eat it. Red Vines just makes me want real licorice.
Monday, March 24, 2008
I rarely go into a Starbucks, but I do drink their coffee at the office sometimes. I think my favorite blend of theirs is the Estima (which they don’t make available for our office, drat). At home I’m more likely to drink Trader Joe’s but I’m not a coffee snob, I’ll buy coffee at 7-11, McDonald’s, happily drink the stuff on an airplane and of course at many of the local coffee houses in Los Angeles.
I’m not a “coffee drink” person. I just like a cup of coffee with some milk in it for the most part, but I’ll drink a capuccino now and then. I think coffee is a flavor that’s good enough to be savored by itself. No need for caramel, hazelnut syrup or other intrusions of flavors. (I do drink Mexican Mochas in November.)
I was still eager to try the new line of Starbucks Chocolates and happily accept the offer from some PR folks for a tasting kit (shown here, which is not available for retail sale).
I am kind of picky about my coffee and chocolate combinations though. I like my chocolate smooth, and I don’t usually want to eat my coffee beans. (I had a seriously dangerous chocolate covered coffee bean problem in college that led to an EKG and some stern words from a doctor about moderation.)
So I greeted the new Starbucks and Hershey’s chocolate venture with a little trepidation, mostly worried that both would bring the worst they had to offer to the products (Starbucks high prices and Hershey’s inflated prices for substandard quality or playing off the cachet of their Artisan Confection lines Dagoba & Scharffen Berger without delivering).
Their new product line consists of chocolate bars and tasting squares. There is the standard dark and milk plus two infused with tea flavors (Passion Fruit and Chai) and then a Mocha dark chocolate and a Citron dark chocolate. As expected they also have chocolate covered coffee beans (in milk chocolate) and a line of four different kinds of truffle-style bonbons.
The venture between Starbucks & Hershey’s is a strange one. Starbucks makes the sourcing of their coffee beans part of their marketing effort, with a pledge that they pay above market rates to the growers. It’s not quite fair trade (though they do have the Estima blend that is certified fair trade), it has certainly raised awareness of the issue of growers of our non-essential items like coffee and now chocolate. In this case the package makes note:
It’s unclear from that webpage if the chocolate in the Starbucks branded chocolate products was obtained within these principals or not. The package (on the other side) says “Manufactured for Artisan Confections Company Berkeley, CA 94710 USA under the authority of Starbucks Coffee Company”. (Emphasis mine) I’m still not sure who made these products. (Clay Gordon tried to get more info on this subject, but was unable, but I agree that the couldn’t be made at the Scharffen Berger space in Emeryville and I’m more inclined to believe they were made by the Dagoba folks.)
The good thing is that the risk with these is low for the consumer. They’re all well priced items, none more than $5.49 and available at local drug stores and discount chains. (I already spotted the full line at RiteAid.)
The ingredients on all the items are good, real vanilla, no PGPR though no indication what the cacao levels are on the products. (Well, also no indication of what the caffeine levels are on the coffee ones!)
To start, I tried the Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans. They feature the Caffe Verona beans at the heart, sourced from around the world and prepared in the Italian roast style. Inside the little stand up box the glossy beans are sealed inside a clear cellophane bag. The size is 3.5 ounces and retails for $4.99 to $5.49.
They smell very sweet, the chocolate is milky and soft to the bite (so no flaking off). The combination of the crunchy bean at the heart and the chocolate coating is nice. A bit on the sweet side for me, when it comes to coffee confections, but still very nice. The consistent quality of the beans are a highlight. I ate at least a dozen and didn’t get a chewy or acrid one. (7 out of 10)
Milk Chocolate. They say it’s, “Sweet, silky indulgence; rich & rewarding” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a much smoother chocolate than I’m accustomed to from Hershey’s or even Scharffen Berger. It has some strong vanilla notes and a good milky texture. (8 out of 10)
Dark Chocolate. They say it’s, “Deep, complex flavors; smooth and satisfying” and I think that was overselling it. It was rather sweet but still smooth. It lacked a depth of flavor, but it pairs well with coffee, has only the slightest acidic tang and has a good buttery melt. (7 out of 10)
They come in both 3 ounce bars or a mixed bag of tasting squares (that include the Mocha Dark Chocolate). Bars are $2.99 and the tasting squares are $4.99-$5.49 for 2.6 ounces (kinda silly, really to pay so much more for so much less).
Passion(r) Dark Chocolate features a Tazo herbal blend of hibuscus & natural flavors. It has a very fruity scent and a grainy melt on the tongue. The little grainy bits are tangy and have a strong berry (and hibiscus) flavor to them with a tint of peach and passion fruit. It’s purely a personal thing but I thought this was dreadful ... from the texture to the combination of flavors, the sickly scent and the way it all overwhelms the chocolate. (4 out of 10)
Citron(r) Dark Chocolate is also a Tazo blend of tea leaves and lemon oil. This one smells pleasantly of lemon, but very little of chocolate. The texture is not as grainy as the Passion, but still not smooth. The lemon essence was strong, but had no citrus tang to it, thankfully. Still, no chocolate flavors came though, nor much of the tea base either. (6 out of 10)
Mocha Dark Chocolate should epitomize this fusion of chocolate and Starbucks, right? It smells wonderfully rich, a combination of chocolate and coffee and a dollop of vanilla. It’s apparent looking at the square from the back that it has ground coffee beans in it, not just an infusion of flavor. It’s a bit grainy but crispy when chewed. It’s much like the chocolate covered coffee beans, but has a stronger chocolate flavor to it that isn’t quite overhwhelmed like the others. Still, I’m not one for the bits in there, but I admit that’s a personal preference. (6 out of 10)
Chai Milk Chocolate includes Tazo tea leaves and natural flavors in milk chocolate. It smells quite rich, mostly of nutmeg, cardamom and clove. Though it looks grainy, it’s really quite smooth even with the little inclusions. It has a wonderful spicy mix of flavors without being too sweet. I’m a big fan of spicy chai but can’t stand how sweet it can be. This is a very nice mix, I almost like it better than the Dagoba bar (which has actual ginger pieces in it). (7 out of 10)
What I found most surprising about this collection of chocolate tasting squares branded by a coffee company was that three out of the six of them were tea infusions and only one was actually a coffee flavor. Their slogan for the line of products is, “when coffee dreams, it dreams of chocolate” but I think it should be, “when coffee dreams, it ends up with tea in its chocolate.” Some sort of self-loathing or something. (Or adverse reaction to cannibalism, of course coffee doesn’t want coffee!)
The curious part is that Starbucks is not selling these at their stores or even on their website. They’re a Starbucks experience without a Starbucks shop. Like the Choxie line at Target, I think they’ve done a nice job of finding the essential nature of what they have to offer, packaging them nicely and charging the appropriate amount that people are willing to pay for a personal indulgence.
I’ll have a roundup of the Truffles in a separate post.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Since it was predicted to be so nice, and I had such a great experience with BonBonBar, I ordered two chocolate bars on Monday, February 11th from the beta chocolate company TCHO, located in San Francisco.
It’s February and the predicted high temperature all week was 66 degrees. At 1:30 PM today it was 65. Ideal, really, for chocolate.
However, the package shipped on Tuesday, February 12th and only arrived at my door on February 15th. Hardly Priority Delivery if you ask me. And really slow for door to door service a scant 400 miles apart and to major metro areas.
They came in a silver metallic bubble-wrap envelope (folded in half). It felt hot to the touch. I opened it immediately and pulled the bars out. They too were hot ... and squishy.
There you have it.
TCHO was co-founded by a space shuttle technologist. I’m not sure what end of all of the technologies integrated into the space shuttle he was involved in, but it couldn’t have had anything to do with insulating or maintaining optimal operating temperatures. Or getting things to arrive on schedule.
I’m not going to give it a full review at this moment. I ate most of the melted parts of the bar shown. It’s rather tangy, has some clear coffee and dark berry notes. It’s smooth, but not super-smooth (even a few gritty bits) and doesn’t have the buttery quality that I love so much about great chocolate.
I sent a note to the company before posting this, letting them know of the poor condition the package arrived in. (I’ll let you know the resolution of that.) The 50 gram bars are $4 each and the shipping was $5.
Since I took that photo the bar has re-solidified, poorly tempered now with swirls of dark and light and an irregular texture. So sad.
The plain truth is that I get a lot of gooey chocolate. Rarely stuff that I order, usually things that are sent to me as samples, and I’ve come to accept the fact that PR folks simply don’t know how to put together a box that can survive for 24 hours without getting melted. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that package that are packed tightly do the worst. A little airspace between insulated walls does wonders. In the case of this package, a reflective package is great but once it heats up to the ambient temperature of the delivery truck’s interior, it’s actually conducting the heat to the contents, not protecting it.
I think I’ll stick to buying my bars in stores.
(The good news is that I have a lovely box of Valerie Confections’ Lemon & Hazelnut Nougat that my husband gave me for Valentine’s Day to console myself.)
UPDATE: Looks like a very prompt note from TCHO was caught in my spam filter around 3 PM (very quick!). They said that they hadn’t implemented hot weather shipping yet, but will re-evaluate that. They’re sending out a replacement package next week. Looks like I can be a beta tester for both the chocolate and the shipping! (Honestly, it appears that more of the problem is with how long it took for the package to get from SF to LA.)
UPDATED UPDATE 2/19/2008: Wow, when TCHO says they’re gonna put some new bars in the mail, they mean same day. They arrived today and in good condition.
Monday, February 4, 2008
I bought this one just for you, dear readers. I’m not sure why I thought you wanted to read about it, but here it is, the Palmer Bee Mine hollow milk chocolate figure filled with compressed dextrose candies.
This actually came in another variety, which featured a cow and some pun I can’t remember, like “you moo-ve me” or something like that. If they had a little train that said, I choo-choo-choose you, I would have bought a case even if they were made from mud.
But the Bee Mine features Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees Inside! and if there’s one thing I have trouble resisting it’s Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm). (Well, I don’t really know what Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm) are, but I figured I’d find out and then I’d know for sure if they’re irresistible.)
First, the box design is nice. It featured the choco-creature inside well, the cutouts are attractive. The box is a bit big, but I forgive that when it comes to molded chocolate items, as I know a little space tends to preserve shape. The foil design is also nice. It’s bold and endearing. It’s also a nice heavy foil that’s easy to unwrap and re-wrap.
The little guy inside was also nicely designed. He happend to be kind of cracked open already, but I think that might have been because I kept shaking the box. I figured yummy honey bees liked to be shaken before being set free. The little face molded in chocolate actually matches the foil design.
What’s more, it’s designed in 306 degrees. He has a little stinger and six little feet.
Like many Palmer chocolate products, he actually smells pretty good too. On the smoky side of the chocolate smell spectrum, but not overly sweet. He has a nice sheen and was pretty blemish free thanks to the packaging.
But first the chocolate. It’s Palmer chocolate. Basically, disappointing. Well, saying that I was disappointed means that I had expectations ... I have no expectations of tastiness when it comes to Palmer. But I do credit them for cute and attractive products. It was far too sweet, had a grainy melt and virtually no taste of chocolate or milk. It was like a Tootsie Roll flavor. (I did a little computation and Palmer chocolate has 12% sugar in it than Hersheys ... which is already pretty sweet stuff.)
My Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm) are a compressed dextrose candy (like a SweeTart without the tart). They’re an attractive beige and smell like the Palmer chocolate. They’re shaped like a little bee, just like the package says they are ... in fact, the package has them at 100% scale. They’re okay ... I mean, who wants to eat compressed dextrose flavored like honey? It’s sweet and has a little dark honey flavor to it, but that’s about it. I give them points for originality though, I don’t know if I would have ever had a honey flavored compressed dextrose bee if not for this.
This was only $1.50 on sale, so it’s not like I paid a lot. (I think they’re $2.50 regularly.) The back has a greeting card layout “to” and “from” so you can just use a bold Sharpie and hand this to someone instead of a Hallmark card and have change to spare. But I’d say only give it to someone you want to confuse with your intentions ... bad chocolate does not say you care. It says, I was thinking of you ... but I wasn’t thinking nice things.
Oh, and for the record, I now have no trouble resisting Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm).
Note: the logo on the back proudly states that this product is Made in USA but the Yummy Honey Flavored Candy Bees (tm) were made in Malaysia.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I’ve talked a lot over the years about Candy Season and the accompanying seasonal candies that go with each. Slowly the candy companies are seeing that those seasonal favorites can be re-purposed into other seasons. Just like M&Ms are found in color combos for every time of the year and Russell Stover is making a marshmallow-filled pumpkin, Santa and egg, it seems that Cadbury doesn’t want anyone to miss out on incorporating their egg-shaped candies into the major holidays.
This is where the Cadbury Ornament Creme Egg comes in. It’s just a Cadbury Creme Egg with a red foil wrapper.
It seems silly, but I’m going to re-review these, even though they’re no different than the Easter version. However, the last time I ate one was back in ‘06 when they were 1.38 ounces. This made for a very large reservoir of fondant ... which is not my favorite part of the Cadbury Creme Egg. (My favorite part of the Cadbury Creme Egg, for the record, was the clucking bunny commercial.) The more recent version is 1.2 ounces.
The egg has a wonderful sweet dairy chocolate smell to it that reminded me of powdered milk. Both of mine had a small sticky problem around the seam (and I tried to hard to pick good ones).
The nose cone of both seemed extremely thick, which gave a good dose of chocolate to the otherwise too-sweet fondant density.
The fondant creme center is sweet, it’s nice and smooth indicating its freshness (an old Creme Egg will have a slight grain to the fondant). But really, it’s just a big hunk of sugar, and while I often enjoy big hunks of sugar (rock candy anyone?), I still felt a little too much of a sugar rush aftewards.
I think I prefer the smaller one. I’d love it if they made a mint one (and I did find the orange one a bit better). That said, it’s still not a favorite of mine. But I’m sure fans of the Creme Egg will be happy to see it now as their stockpiles from Easter are probably long gone.
While I can fault them for doing nothing more than slapping a different color wrapper on it and the word “ornament” to make it a Christmas product, I did find that making the Mini Eggs into little spheres for their new Christmas thingies did actually muck with perfection.
Friday, November 2, 2007
In the Autumn a candy lover’s fancy turns to Licorice. (Well, if you like licorice.) The cooler air and shorter days seem to beg for the earthy flavors of a good molasses-based licorice. I get that not everyone likes licorice. It’s like mincemeat and cloves ... not everyone gets it.
There are lots of different versions of licorice, but one of my favorites are pastels, which are little nibbles covered in a candy shell. (Just like candy covered chocolate like M&Ms are a great way to eat chocolate!) I’ve had at least a dozen different varieties, from Good & Plenty to Koppers to Jelly Belly. They’re all good ... but after Good & Plenty, they get kind of expensive. (I’m not sure why.)
I was pretty happy to find Kenny’s Licorice Pastels at the All Candy Expo. They do great things with licorice, including using real licorice extract and making their products affordable (you’ve probably seen them repackage and sold under house brands or in bulk bins before).
They’re made from a very thin piece of licorice, think laces chopped into little segments. Nothing wrong with that. But the coatings are irregular. Some are chipped, which may have been me treating the package like a bean bag in my travels. Still, the coating wasn’t complete on some, with little bits of licorice sticking out or appearing just below the thin veneer of sugar shell.
The color choice is interesting. White, Green, Mustard Yellow, Black, Purple and Hot Pink.
They were soft and fresh. The sugar shell didn’t have a sharp and crisp crunch like the ones I get in the little bulk tubs at Cost Plus World Market. I like that kind of shell, but this was okay ... more like the Good & Plenty side of things. The licorice inside is nice and chewy and has a good note of roasted molasses and real licorice and anise extracts. (The anise is detectable in the shell.)
The thing that spoiled it for me (and this is just me) was that there was Red #40 in them. It was absolutely detectable in the pink and purple candies. (I even did several blind tests to see if I was just being dramatic.) It made them bitter. I had to separate them out from the rest of the bag ... and not eating a third of them doesn’t really make them cheaper. (4 out of 10)
I love root beer barrel hard candies and the root beer Bottle Caps, which are pretty much the only candies that incorporate root beer well into their pantheon of flavors.
Kenny’s also makes a huge line of flavored Juicy Twists (I’m loathe to use the term “red licorice” which is like saying “unsweetened sugar”.) They come in watermelon, green apple, chocolate and of course, Root Beer.
The twists aren’t really that twisted (only a half twist per length), but have pleasant ridges. They’re shiny and rather firm (but not stale). They don’t have the firmly pinched ends that other brands like Red Vines have. But they are hollow (if you’re a straw person).
The root beer flavor is sweet and has a nice balsam quality, not as intense as some other more spicy candies, but still a good match for the flour-based twist. I’d love it if they were more intense, but this is often my problem with root beer in general. I want lots of flavor. But, as I mentioned before, I take my root beer enjoyment where I can. These are a fun change from hard candies. (7 out of 10)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.