Friday, September 2, 2016
Since Labor Day is here, it’s the last opportunity to review a few summer candies. Mars introduced a new version of their revived Crispy M&Ms with their Crispy M&Ms S’mores.
This version comes, as far as I can tell, only in the larger bags, no single servings. The bag itself is green, just like the regular Crispy M&Ms, though a large part of the front is shaded in a toasty marshmallow brown.
The object of the flavor, as far as I can tell from the illustration, is to add the flavors and maybe textures of S’mores to the M&Ms. The chocolate is already there in a regular M&M,and of course Crispy M&Ms already have a cookie center, so this is all a good start conceptually.
The pieces come in three colors, a nice choice to evoke the marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers that go into a S’more. Upon opening the bag though, I found that they smelled ... a lot. The scent definitely has elements of graham crackers - a sort of maple and fake butter note. Then there’s a more buttery toffee note that I think is supposed to be the toasted marshmallow. But it all comes off overwhelmingly like a seasonal Yankee Candle.
The pieces are lumpy and inconsistently formed ... not like the smooth and regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms I’ve come to rely upon. Even though some are moderately spherical, they are still too lumpy to roll around on a flat surface ... so that’s a plus.
The flavor seems much sweeter than the regular Crispy M&Ms, though it could just be that there’s far more vanilla flavoring in there, which always makes me think things are sweet. It’s a soft sweetness, not too throat searing. The graham flavor is pleasant ... they’re not terrible, but I was really turned off my the smell. Once I let the package sit open over a weekend, it wasn’t too bad.
The odd thing was that I expected the crispy center to actually have something “graham” to it, but it looks the same and when I pulled some pieces apart, the center really tasted no different from the airy, ricey and slightly malty version in the regular Crispy M&Ms.
S’more are really about a whole immersion into the process of making them and then eating them hot. Reducing them to the neat and tidy candy coated morsels takes most of the risk away (no one gets burned, no one messes up any clothes) and also all the challenge. I have the ability to make S’mores in my home at any time, but I don’t, because they’re really about the environment that you create them in.
I’ll stick to the standard Peanut M&Ms for now ... or Almond M&Ms if I’m lucky enough to find them in stores.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Just Born continues with their Peeps limited edition flavors. This season they’ve released three new Delight versions which are fruity flavors dipped in a white confection tinted and flavored to match.
I found two varieties and picked them up: Raspberry Delight and Lemon Delight Peeps.
The Raspberry Delight Peeps package shows both red and blackberries, though the description isn’t any more specific than simply raspberry.
The face that the inside and the outside of the Peeps are color-coordinated is oddly unsettling. The sugar crust is sparkly and a rather vibrant purple, but the innards are oddly dead looking.
The texture is exactly what you expect with a Peep, a crusty sugar shell, a light flavor and bouncy marshmallow texture. I actually enjoy slightly stale Peeps, so I let these packages sit open for a week after taking the photos of them. (So I ate one in its fresh state and the others in their stale state.) The raspberry is very mild, floral and a little jammy. There are little sour crystals in the crust and maybe in the fudge. The fudge is sweet, but also lots more flavorful than the marshmallow. I can’t say that I liked it, but it did add a textural difference and a little creamy note to the whole thing.
In this instance I liked this better than the Candy Corn and Pumpkin Spice Peeps, but not by much.
The lemon flavor is mostly sweet and has a “cleaning product” sort of vibe, with the light citrus scent but very little nuance. The flavor also has a few hints of salt and sour, which does give a little respite from the sugary notes. Overall, they’re perfectly edible, but the fudge element is grainy and sweet and waxy.
The Lemon didn’t work as well as the Raspberry, but still came off as a decent piece of candy. I find these little dipped Peeps to be ridiculously expensive for the type of candy they are. I buy them because they’re novelties and there weren’t many other new Easter candies this year. In the future, I’d prefer to just find a good small confectioner that makes their marshmallow in house and uses high quality, high cacao chocolate.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
See’s is on trend this year with their new seasonal Lollypop variety, Strawberry Cream Lollypops.
The pop smells mostly of butter, but vaguely like strawberry as well.
The blocky shape isn’t the best for comfort, but it’s certainly a generous amount for a lollipop. For the most part the dissolve of the See’s pops is smooth. It’s more like a hard caramel consistency than a hard candy. The candy isn’t aerated, so there are fewer voids which makes for a creamy experience and a little slower melt.
The strawberry flavor here is very mild. I was expecting something similar to a strawberry ice cream flavor, mostly the sweetness mixed with milk and maybe a little jammy note. There’s no hint of either a fruity tartness or yogurt tang. It’s all sweetness, though not cloying or throat searing. The strawberry has a very slight boiled berry note but mostly it’s the floral scent.
The lollypop is merely pleasant. It didn’t think it’s vivid enough or, if that’s not its intent, creamy enough. I ate all three that I bought, but I’ll switch back to the standards or wait for the exceptional Root Beer to return.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Easter is a time for the iconic Cadbury Creme Egg. However, it doesn’t come in a lot of flavor variations. So it’s understandable that someone else wants to get into the cream egg marketplace.
I found these Minion Milk Chocolate with Banana Cream Egg at Cost Plus World Market. It was hard to find out who actually makes them, because it’s not Cadbury. The foil wrapper was hard to read, but eventually I was able to flatten it out to see that it’s made by a company called Treat Street, that mostly makes licensed novelty treats.
It’s a great idea, to make a cream egg with a different flavored filling, and in this case it’s brilliant that they’ve picked banana and partnered that with a Minion themed foil wrapping. They’re quite arresting when viewed in the full bin. But the most notable part of this design is that all of the eggs are Stuart, as they all have one eye (I suppose they could also be other one-eyed Minions, but it’d be silly to pay a licensing fee to make candies with a minor character).
My issue with only one design is minor, because the foil itself is quite adorable. The egg inside is completely ordinary looking. It’s the same as a Cadbury egg, except it’s missing a starburst.
The banana center is very yellow, in fact, one might call it Minion Yellow. Before biting the egg just smells like milky chocolate. After biting, well, it’s all banana. The filling is gooey, a little bit thinner than the Cadbury variety and a little less grainy. It is absolutely sweet and has a strong artificial banana flavor, though it’s also a little on the green side. Some banana flavors can have a lot of acetone notes, this one at least seems a little bit more unripe.
The most disappointing part of the egg construction is that there is not one cream compartment in the center. In the case of these knock off eggs, they’re obviously made in halves which actually have a full coating of chocolate that creates a chocolate septum when biting into the whole egg. This means more chocolate and less filling. It also means that there’s no “yolk”. Though the filling is extremely sweet and quite strongly flavored, there’s so much chocolate to balance it.
As far as a knock-off egg, this one is very good. The chocolate is passably good for a novelty item and the filling is distinctive. Since it adds its own twist with the banana as well as the foil design to go with the Minion character, I’d call it a win. However, I can’t imagine ever buying this unless I was specifically looking for a banana Easter item or something for a Minion fan. The price of $1.49 was a bit steep as well for the quality level.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Brach’s has a few new versions of their classic Candy Corn this year, in addition to the return of Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie and Caramel Macchiatto. The Brach’s Sea Salt Chocolate Candy Corn says it’s made with real honey and comes from the same factory in Mexico that makes all the other Brach’s candy corn.
The image on the front of the bag shows what looks like chocolate truffles coated with far more salt than anyone should be eating. The good news is that it’s just an artistic representation, it’s there’s not that much salt on them and certainly none that’s visible.
Brach’s classic candy corn has 70 mg of sodium per serving of 19 pieces. The Sea Salt Chocolate version has 95 mg of sodium. The ingredients label lists both regular salt and sea salt as ingredients. The sea salt, which is the defining feature that the product leads with is way down at the end of the list after the first salt, after the palm kernel oil, after the natural and artificial colors and some extra dextrose. The only items lower on the list are gelatin, honey and the artificial colors plus sesame oil and soy lecithin.
So, back to that picture on the front of the bag, it took me a little while of eating the pieces in layers to realize that the picture is actually a code for the candy.
The base layer is sweet, though a little less sweet than a standard candy corn fondant. There’s a light cocoa note, like that feeling that you get when you go into the kitchen and realize that someone left a package of hot cocoa mix open. The next layer, the middle one, is pretty much the same, expect I think I caught some fake butter notes. Then the white top layer is not that “bland white tip of the candy corn flavor”, instead it’s actually salty. There are actually little crunchy bits of salt in there.
The whole thing tastes every so slightly less sweet than standard orange and yellow candy corn, but not actually chocolatey. It’s missing the honey notes and the weird butter flavoring really didn’t belong at all.
Of the recent novelty flavors, I think the Caramel Macchiatto was my favorite, but I’d love them to try an espresso or maybe affogato. This one seemed a little too late for the trend and not well executed.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Brach’s has introduced over a dozen flavors of Candy Corn in the past five years. There are the more traditional flavors like Harvest Corn and Pastel Corn, but also some more trendy flavors like Carrot Cake, Caramel Macchiato and Red Velvet.
Though I find myself a purist when it comes to certain candies, I think that the fondant candies are ripe for this sort of flavor exploration. I also think a lot more could be done with shape. I’m not sure why we’re hung up on the layered corn. Perhaps it’s just economical to use the same mold for all new variations and use color to distinguish them. So, I welcome these new Candy Corn shaped flavor experiences.
Last spring Ferrara Candy announced the new Brach’s Peanut Butter Cup Candy Corn and I was immediately intrigued. It’s a great idea, peanut butter cups are already layered and the flavors might translate well. Might.
The pieces look like a lot of other Brach’s candy corn pieces. They’re large and narrow and have a little notch that goes across the bottom layer and the middle of the center layer. The layers appear to be distinctive flavors, the base is cocoa, the center beige is peanut and the top is “white.”
The candy corn has an odd but convincing peanut aroma. It smells more like boiled peanuts than roasted peanuts, there’s a thinness about the scent that becomes more obvious when I ate them.
The ingredients list no peanuts or peanut butter. The only thing close is some sesame oil. There is cocoa in the ingredients list, in fact it’s the third item after sugar and corn syrup. I guess the peanuts are all in the natural and artificial flavors. I actually assumed they used defatted peanut powder in this, but sadly no.
The peanut layer is bland and has an artificial butter note to it and a sort of diluted peanut flavor, kind of like a cheap frosting. The cocoa base is decent and at least isn’t as sweet as the other layers.
I didn’t despise the Peanut Butter Cup Candy Corn, but I didn’t find it as good as I thought it could be. It’s still munchable, just not terribly distinctive. Throw it in with some popcorn or nuts for a snack, and it becomes more than passable.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Earlier this year Ferrero announced an innovation in the world of Tic Tac. They were creating layered flavors in a new line called Tic Tac Mixers and their first introductions would be Peach Lemonade and Cherry Cola. Because they’re beverages.
I wasn’t able to find the Cherry Cola but did see the Peach Lemonade at several locations and picked mine up at 7-11.
The press release described, “Peach Lemonade flavor Tic Tac Mixers: change from a peach flavor to the sweet flavor of lemonade.” But the reality is that peaches are sweet and lemonade is tangy.
If you’ve ever eaten a Yankee Candle Mango Peach Salsa Candle and thought, “That was unsatisfying.” You may find that this Tic Tac experience is preferable, but only slightly because this is actually meant to be eaten.
The initial flavor is definitely candle-like. It’s peachy in the most fragrant and least-food-like way. Unlike the candles, these don’t smell like anything in the package, the scent is only release in the mouth. The sweet peach layer gives way to a tangy layer that I think is supposed to be lemonade, but still has a strong peach note ... it’s tart and has a lot of zest but that combined with the lightly pine notes of the peach makes it all a bit caustic. The more I ate of these, the more my mouth burned like I might have been eating bits of lye.
The innovation of layering was definitely there, but I’ve always felt like Tic Tacs have a little layering to them. The standard peppermint has a bit of a fennel or anise on the outside and then peppermint inside. So doing a completely different flavor is cool ... but these are not the flavors I’m looking for. Strawberry Lemonade might be more up my alley.
I have to admit that the flavor did linger for a long time. I felt, for at least half an hour that I had “candle fresh breath.” That’s a thing.
Tic Tac Mixers are made in Canada.
Monday, July 6, 2015
Brach’s has reintroduced their whole line of chocolate panned candies over the past two years. They’ve redone their classic Bridge Mix and now have several varieties of chocolate covered nuts. One of the surprising new items is Brach’s Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bites.
The gussetted, resealable bag holds a half of a pound. Like most other Brach’s products, the description on the package is only contained in the product name ... nothing else to go on except the very long ingredients list.
The image on the bag shows some chocolate pieces, and then a cross section of the actual candies ... sitting next to that is a rustic pretzel nugget and a little square of caramel. That is really not what the product is.
The little spheres are a great size, about the same size as a garbanzo bean or hazelnut. The milk chocolate coating is shiny and the bag had a nice sweet scent, a little on the milky side. The pieces have a good crunch, the pretzel center isn’t too hard or crumbly. The pretzel flavor was good, not too much of the washed crust that can get kind of bitter, and no big bits of salt. But upon eating the pieces, this is where the caramel part comes in. The caramel is actually little shards mixed into the milk chocolate. So at first it’s just a pretzel with some milk chocolate, but after chewing, the chocolate melts away and the starchy pretzel dissolves ... and what was left was some sort of tacky residue of hard caramel. It was weird and kind of waxy and unpleasant.
So, after a while I took to letting the milk chocolate melt away instead of crunching them up, but that was unsatisfying because then my pretzel would get mushy before the caramel bits were all gone. I’ve had other confections like almonds, that had a little toffee coating before the milk chocolate, I’m not sure why that wasn’t the process here.
I’ll pass on these in the future, which is too bad because it’s a unique selling proposition in the rather crowded field of morselized products.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.