Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Sometime about a year ago I picked up some Root Beer Puffs, which were like buttermints but flavored like the soda. A few weeks later I got a note from a company called Red Bird Brand that makes candy puffs in a huge variety of flavors. It took me quite a while to find them, but I did pick up Soft Assorted Puffs at the 99 Cent Only Store that includes 15 different flavors. (Though perhaps not always in the same bag.)
The flavor variety is, well, extraordinary: Peppermint, Cherry, Lemon, Green Apple, Wintergreen, Strawberry, Orange, Grape, Peach, Blueberry, Butterscotch, Watermelon, Cream Penny, Cotton Candy, Passion Fruit. There’s a menu guide on the back that shows the key for the combination of colors and stripes. There are about 25 candies in the bag, but the flavors were not distributed evenly.
One of the differences between this style of Puffs and the traditional Buttermint of After Dinner Mint is the size. These are quite large, at about 1 inch across and all of them are individually wrapped. (No more candy dish with the stuck together.)
Cherry was bold and easy to spot. It’s a flavor that’s both heavily scented and with a light tartness to it. It was smooth and had a good melt, but overall, it’s not usually my favorite though at least this didn’t have a lot of red coloring in it.
The flavors not in my bag: Peppermint, Cotton Candy, Passion Fruit and Orange.
For the most part I didn’t like the fruity flavors. The others like butterscotch and wintergreen were more to my liking, even the unflavored Cream Penny were pleasant.
The puffs themselves are quite nice, I liked them more than the variety package. There’s a floral, sort of honey note to them. But they’re also quite cinnamony. I wouldn’t call them hot though, it was a nice heat but they never approached anything like the fire of an Atomic Fireball.
The cinnamon smell is strong, even when they’re in the package, so I had to keep them separated from other candies.
The package for the Assorted Puffs said it was Gluten Free, they’re also Kosher Pareve and appear to be vegan ingredients.
It was strange that I didn’t get the classic Peppermint in the Assorted mix, which is what Red Bird Brand is known for. Overall, the texture was good, they softened up nicely. The package mentions that they’re rather hard when they’re first made, but if you prefer a softer puff, to open the package and wait ... it was true. After a couple of months, mine reached the melt in your mouth texture that I was expecting.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
While on vacation last month I picked up some candies from the bulk bin at a candy shop. They were individually wrapped compressed dextrose Candy Rings. There was no label on the bin and nothing on the wrapper, so I can’t be sure of the brand.
I found three flavors: Cherry, Lemon and Lime.
They’re 1.33 inches wide and 1.6 inches tall. They’re flat, about a quarter of an inch thick. There’s a little gem design on the crest of the ring, two circles with a diamond shape in the center. It’s a clever bit of design, they’re stamped out like giant pills instead of being molded like most hard candies.
As adornment they’re not very comfortable. The rings are sized for small fingers, so they fit on my pinky and barely on my ring finger. The bands are chunky. With a file I suppose I could have made the ring hole bigger for my middle finger, as I think that would work best given the size of the ring. The design is cute, and the pieces are sizable.
I know that there have been a few makers of a few different kinds of compressed dextrose candy rings over the years. The version I got as a kid, I recall, was much chalkier and easier to bite than this version. They’re quite dense, like eating a piece of fired porcelain instead of some school chalk.
The flavors are mild, more sweet than tart, more perfume in most cases than flavor. The compressed dextrose they’re made from is less sweet than sucrose, but also lacks the full buoyant mouthfeel of sugar. Cherry is lightly tangy with an awful lot of jammy florals and a hint of cough syrup. Lemon was quite bland with even less tang than the cherry.
I prefer my SweeTart type candies a bit more chalky. I like less density, a little more air in them so that they can be crunched. I also prefer more flavor ... and maybe some other flavors. But for a cheap little wearable treat, these were passable. I’m glad they’re still around.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Candy Corn broke out of its traditional flavor set at least 10 years ago. It’s only natural, since the fondant candies known as mellocremes were capable of so much more than just being different colors for different holidays: reindeer corn and bunny corn.
But Halloween has always paid host to the more interesting varieties. Lately we’ve seen caramel apple flavors, fruits like tangerine and green apple or toffee. Some candy companies have even taken to covering them in chocolate. Brach’s has a large variety these days, my favorite from their assortment is still the Brach’s Halloween Mix, which is not candy corn but little Halloween shapes like bats, pumpkins and maple syrup jugs. They’re lightly flavored and come in cocoa, maple, banana and whatever that honey flavor candy corn is.
The Brach’s S’mores Candy Corn straddles the summer and fall line, as S’mores are often a summer camp favorite but can easily be made in the fall around a crackling fall bonfire.
If I understand the point of these correctly, it should be a chocolate base, marshmallow middle and graham cracker flavored top. I have to say that they’re pretty ugly. The base is a dusty purple and bleeds into the white center.
They smell like a cross between the reliably over-sweet Candy Corn and graham crackers. The base is vaguely cocoa, but in the most watered down and flavored fashion. The middle layer is wonderfully vacant of flavors, kind of like a marshmallow. The orange tip has a distinct cereal and cracker note to it, like a graham.
The effect is something that’s very candy corn-like in flavor, but not very convincing as a S’more. I don’t see the point, really, especially since they’re not very attractive.
S’mores Candy Corn contains gelatin, no surprise as most candy corn does and certainly marshmallows do. It’s also made in a facility that processes everything else:peanuts, tree nuts, milk and eggs plus it contains soy and sesame.
As a side note, Brach’s has changed hands quite a few times in the last decade, and this has made some of their products a bit inconsistent. The company was owned by Farley’s & Sathers most recently and they have merged with Ferrara Pan and the whole company is now called Ferrara Candy. The Candy Corn manufacturing for Brach’s was moved off to Mexico at least two years ago and I’ve heard many reports from die hard fans that it’s not the same any longer (even though the ingredients list appears the same). I agree, it doesn’t seem as smooth and consistent as it used to be and I have switched to recommending the Jelly Belly Candy Corn if you’re actually going to eat it. Brach’s is still fine for decorative purposes.
Monday, September 23, 2013
In the ranking of Halloween candy, hard candies were usually pretty close to the bottom of the list. Unless it was Jolly Ranchers. A handful of green apple and cinnamon were welcome in my trick or treat bag, and even better if the home gave out the sticks.
It’s fun to see Hershey’s Jolly Rancher brand branching out a little bit for Halloween with their new Jolly Rancher Caramel Apple Lollipops. I found these at Target but saw them earlier at CVS and RiteAid (for at least a dollar more) so I think Hershey’s has given them very wide release.
It’s hard to believe that these will topple the current seasonal Caramel Apple Pop favorite from Tootsie.
The smell is confusing. I get a lot of buttery notes, but it’s like artificial butter flavoring or something. The flavor is immediately tangy and overly sour apple. But then again, this is a Jolly Rancher candy, so it I guess it just has to be mostly green apple. The green and caramel color swirls look like the flavor should vary, but I didn’t detect enough of a respite from the tartness of the green apple in the caramel.
The texture is good, I didn’t notice any voids or sharpness. The pieces were all perfectly formed and didn’t have any of that sticky/deformation/melting problem that the Tootsie Caramel Apple Pops have.
Overall, though, these are just too tart for me and don’t have enough actual caramel or toffee in them. However, they do seem to be free of actual dairy products, so if you’re looking for a caramel product without milk, cream or butter, this might be for you. I’m not planning on eating the rest of this bag, but I’m confident the neighborhood kids won’t be disappointed on October 31st.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
For me, Klondike Bars always seemed like a candified version of ice cream. So it seemed a bit odd to see that there was a new line of Klondike Bar themed candies, under license from Unilver and made by Flix Candy.
I picked up the Klondike Mint Chocolate Chip: The Candy! at Dylan’s Candy Bar, which is walking distance from my office. The candy bars there are stupidly expensive, this was $2.29, which is pretty steep for something that isn’t fair trade, organic, shade grown and packaged in a reusable, recycled tin. But the back of the package does say that they’re made in the USA.
It’s been years since I’ve had a Klondike Bar, but here’s how they described this room temperature,shelf stable version: Mint chocolate chip center covered in dark chocolate flavored coating.
Though it’s easy to shudder at what the chocolate flavored coating might mean, I reminded myself that most ice cream novelties also aren’t made with real chocolate, in order to get the right mouthfeel on a frozen dessert, many use other tropical oils in addition to the chocolate solids.
First, it’s not one big block, it’s four one inch square pieces. That’s fine with me. That was always one of the most frustrating things about Klondike Bars, they were too big for me to eat before they started to melt from holding them.
The coating is actually okay. It’s not greasy or slippery or too soft or too crunchy. It’s actually chocolatey. The filling is overwhelming tough. The pieces smell strongly of peppermint. The center is kind of like a frosting cream though not grainy. The center is a little smoother, maybe a little fattier than the filling of a York Peppermint Pattie. There’s a salty note to the center, which moderates the sweetness. If there were chocolate chips anywhere in the middle, I missed them.
Ultimately, I don’t see much reason to eat this instead of a York Peppermint Pattie or if I’m really going decadent, the Trader Joe’s Honey Mints. But I admit, the packaging is pretty good.
Monday, July 8, 2013
The trend towards mixing savory and sweet has been going on in the confectionery world for quite a while. Combining salty, crunchy pretzels and sweet milk chocolate is not a strange notion. There’s no reason that any number of herbs and spices can’t be combined with chocolate to great effect. It’s great to see different cultural takes on, like curry or smoked chili or lavender.
The Lindt Wasabi bar is certainly not the first chocolate bar to include the Japanese horseradish. But the others I’ve had were from Japan (the KitKat) or from small chocolatiers.
The bar was just introduced, but when I saw it at Target, it already had a Clearance label on it (marked down from $2.49 to $2.11) while the expiration isn’t until the end of November. I believe Lindt already has a successful bar with their Chili and I also liked the Touch of Sea Salt Dark bar.
This bar is not particularly dark, it’s only 47% cocoa solids. And the ingredients aren’t anything special either, the wasabi is artificial.
Though I don’t like a lot of spicy foods, such as those made with chili peppers, I am fond of horseradish and wasabi. (I also enjoy curry and ginger.)
The bar smells sweet and earthy, with notes of horseradish right away. But there’s also a sort of metallic note to that as well, like a bag of pennies. The bar has a wonderfully smooth melt, though it’s quite sweet. It’s smoky and the chocolate is rich but immediately overpowered by the prickly wasabi flavor. It’s not terribly spicy, but has a little mustard seed kick to it and warms my throat.
As far as an enjoyable confection, this is not. It’s a novelty to me, and 3.5 ounces was far too much. I’m fine with the occasional fine chocolate that uses it as an accent for some sort of combination but for the most part I want my chocolate to either challenge me to search my taste archives for flowers, tea, exotic fruits and fine cognacs or to comfort me with the gentle flavor of plain old chocolate.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
The Skinny Cow line of candy from Nestle gives consumers the option of buying candy that has fewer calories than most other single servings.
The Skinny Cow Divine Filled Chocolates with Caramel is a slight offering, only 130 calories packed into only 1 ounce. As far as that making it a lighter version of candy, its caloric density is great than York Peppermint Patties (113 calories/ounce) or 3 Musketeers (122 calories/ounce). However, compared to other nuttier offerings like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (147 calories/ounce) or Snickers (134 calories/ounce), it sounds like a better choice. But the biggest issue becomes the satisfaction, because there’s no point in the empty calories of a treat if they’re not full of pleasure.
Line up the cute little medallion shaped pieces and you’ll be impressed. They’re adorable and because they’re so flat, even at about a third of an ounces they look like a lot of candy. They’re about 1.5 inches across. They smell like, well, sweet.
The pieces have a little stripe of sticky caramel inside. It’s not so much caramel as salty buttery flavored syrup. The milk chocolate is passable; it’s at least real but lacking in an satisfying chocolate flavor. The caramel’s salty kick balances out the overly sweet chocolate.
They’re disappointing, especially since I’ve had the Dove Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Promises, which are only 135 calories per ounce and about half the price per ounce. (Of course it’s up to you to control yourself and not eat a half pound in one sitting.)
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
It’s great when friends go traveling and bring back candy. My friend Amy (who often spits things out and then gives me her opinion) went to Tokyo and Kyoto. She was lucky enough to be there for the start of Cherry Blossom Season, which means that the limited edition KitKat Sakura are also on store shelves.
Sakura is a popular flavor in Japan. What that flavor is, is kind of a mystery to me. It’s not cherry or the orange blossom equivalent of orange. It’s just a soft flavor that’s more like almond to me, if other candies I’ve had are indicative.
This particular Sakura Matcha KitKat package is a little different from others I’ve had. It’s kind of like a King Size. The box is a little longer, and on the back is a little “to and from” space where you can add a personalize message.
Inside the package are three individually wrapped pairs of KitKat fingers. They’re not large, a bit smaller than the American version, as a matter of fact. They’re only 68 calories each (sorry, I couldn’t figure out the exact weight since it was all in Japanese).
It’s a white confection outside that’s flavored (and colored) with green tea. It’s not a very good white confection, a little greasy and waxy and very sweet. The green tea notes are not as bitter as some earlier varieties of matcha candies I’ve had from Nestle Japan. In this version, the Sakura adds a bit of a cereal flavor to it, maybe a hint of cinnamon and brown rice and a much lighter vanilla note.
As a whole, it was okay. It’s not a KitKat I would buy for myself regularly, even if I was excited that the trees were in bloom. I’ve had a few other varieties over the years, earlier versions were just cherry blossom with no green tea.
This is also what I’d call a gift variety, as I highly doubt people just go out looking for Japanese horseradish flavored candies. I love wasabi, but it belongs in my mashed potatoes and on my tuna and avocado roll.
The box in this version is very presentational, with stylized block print wasabi roots on the front. The box opens up to reveal 12 small, individually wrapped finger pairs of the candies.
Like most Japanese KitKats, the packaging is exquisite.
The flavor is, well, sweet. For the most part it’s a bland white confection, equally greasy and waxy as most other Nestle white KitKats. In this version there’s a peppery bite to it, like arugula or horseradish. It’s mild but noticeable. It was too strange, but also didn’t add anything to the experience. I think wasabi works best with starchy foods (mashed potatoes or rice), not with fatty foods like chocolate (or mock chocolate).
This is a novelty, not an extraordinary new flavor combination. I’m all for the combination of sweet and savory (umami), but this isn’t it.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.