Monday, December 23, 2013
A few years back I reviewed one of the classic candies that Brach’s has been making for years, their Peppermint Holiday Nougat. The Brach’s style of nougat is made with egg whites, just like the European recipes have been for hundreds of years. This version is more of a chew, kind of a hybrid between a taffy and a fluffy honey-sweetened nougat from France, Italy or Spain.
The fun part about the Brach’s Christmas Nougats Mix is that they come in three flavors: Cinnamon, Peppermint & Wintergreen.
These kinds of nougats are assembled, truly, by hand. Large logs of nougat are colored and flavored, then stacked together to form the image inside which creates a much larger log. That is then placed on a machine that pulls it into a smaller cord and then cuts the pieces.
I’ve reviewed the Peppermint version before, and find the same opinion to hold true today. It’s a soft chew, very smooth with a nice pop of peppermint. The nougat makes it a short chew, meaning it’s not gummy and dissolves pretty quickly without much grain. It has a bit of salt, which mellows out the bulk of the sugar.
The Cinnamon version has a pink background. The cinnamon scent is quite strong and this chew was very soft. It’s a sizzling cinnamon, I was surprised at its strength, there was a bit of heat. It’s a unique sort of candy, so I appreciate that it’s attractive and well made.
The Wintergreen version has a light green background. As much as I’m a fan of the flavor, I can’t say that this is the best use of it. Like the cinnamon, this is very strong. And like cinnamon, a lot of wintergreen at once can give a sort of warming “sports rub” sort of feeling. Wintergreen doesn’t go well with many other flavors, it’s not like this combines well with chocolate or wine, if you were snacking.
These make an attractive bowl of candy, though I think in the future I’d stick with either the Peppermint or the Cinnamon. Wintergreen is just to strange for a candy assortment for Christmas, but certainly something to keep in mind for that person on your list that does have a predilection for the stuff.
Note: the packaging on this predates the Ferrara and Farley’s & Sathers merger (the copyright said 2012) and Brach’s is planning on changing their packaging design and branding again next year. This bag was made in Mexico.
Friday, December 20, 2013
SweetWorks, which makes many flavors of the break apart chocolate orange and Sixlets, also makes a wide variety of foil wrapped chocolate pieces and figures for all occasions.
Their holiday range is quite diverse, featuring chocolate balls, disks and semi-solid figures. The company sent me a huge box filled with confections to sample before Thanksgiving, and I’ve finally made it through all of the items before Christmas.
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Ornaments are one of the classics. They’re just a little solid chocolate sphere wrapped in foil.
Foil Colors: Solid Hunter Green, Solid Red, Diamon Silver, Diamond Blue, Diamond Red.
Taste: The milky chocolate is very smooth and has a lot of dairy notes to it. It’s on the sweet side but also has a lot of vanilla notes to it.
Verdict: Very nice, easily munchable. This sort of piece will appeal to kids and adults.
Rating: 8 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Crisp Balls
Foil Colors: Hunter Green, Silver & Red
Taste: The milky chocolate has a nice ratio of crisped rice. It’s creamy, a little softer than the solid chocolate bars but not quite as sweet.
Verdict: This is what I want from my candy in my stocking. It’s comforting and filling but still attractive.
Rating: 8 out of 10
SweetWorks Dark Chocolate Balls
Foil Colors: Hunter Green, Gold & Red
Taste: These are extremely dark looking, almost black. I checked and noticed the ingredients list: sugar, chocolate, chocolate processed with alkali, cocoa butter, butterfat (milk), soy lecithin, and vanilla. So this chocolate contains alkalized cocoa, which makes it darker. It also has butterfat in it, so it’s not vegan, which is too bad, because it’s hard to find vegan holiday treats. The flavor profile is a little odd. It’s definitely not overly sweet, but the particle size of the chocolate gives it a slight grain and a dry finish.
Verdict: I liked them well enough to pick them out as something to eat in combination with other things, like nuts, but I didn’t like the dry afterbite.
Rating: 7 out of 10
SweetWorks Solid Milk Chocolate Bells
Foil Colors: Hunter Green, Silver & Red
Taste: These are a bigger bite than the balls, about 2/3 bigger, so it’s a lot more chocolate at once. I noticed the smoothness of the melt much more in this shape.
Verdict: These are easier to peel and eat, though one piece is a little bigger than I prefer a bit of chocolate to be. But they don’t roll around, so that’s a plus.
Rating: 7 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Bells
Foil Colors: Green with Silver Trees & Red with Silver Trees
Taste: These didn’t smell like much in the package, but once unwrapped there was a nice fresh peanut scent. The milky chocolate is really smooth and the peanut center was part meltaway, part peanut butter.
Verdict: They’re not the same texture or peanut flavor profile as Reese’s, so as long as you’re okay with that, these are very satisfying.
Rating: 8 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Medallions
Foil Colors: White Snowman, Blue Santa, Green Teddy Bear & Red Reindeer
Taste: Milky, sweet and creamy.
Verdict: This was the most disappointing design as far as I was concerned. They seemed dated and missed an opportunity for something a little more splashy. A simple patterned foil or perhaps better artwork for the illustrations would have put these over the top. I like the format of the disks, as they’re easier to bite than bells and something that can be used in S’mores very easily.
Rating: 6 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Santas
Foil Colors: Dominantly Red with Green & Yellow Accents - 4 designs
Taste: Thin and long, it’s an easy two bite piece. They were exceptionally shiny.
Verdict: Like the medallions, the design of the Santa foil is a little dated. But in the case I found it utterly charming, especially since I could walk them around on my desk and set them up in little tableaus as if they were interacting. The bonus here is that the Santa is molded with quite a bit of detail, so even unwrapped they’re beguiling.
Rating: 7 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Santas
Foil Colors: Dominantly Red with Blue & Bronze Accents - 4 designs
Taste: This has a similar light peanutty flavor to the Bells. It’s not a deep roasted flavor, it seemed a bit saltier and a little thick/stickier in the melt.
Verdict: I didn’t like the ratios as much as the Bells, but I have to appreciate the cute little Santa expressions.
Rating: 7 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Hollow Foil comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. They have Turkeys in full feather, Santas, Nutcrackers and a Rocking Horse. (I think they also do a Teddy Bear.) These are very sturdy, the foil is thick and well designed. Instead of a bit piece that wraps around to the back, these are crimped. This means that there’s a full front and back design with a large seam where the two sides are pinched together.
The sizes vary, as you can tell from the photos. As an example, the SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Santa is a little shy of 6 inches and weighs 70 grams (2.5 ounces). The base of the Santa is thick, which makes it very stable when standing. They’re all very attractive designs and would be good as either stocking stuffers or as decorations on a cookie plate or as place settings at a table.
The SweetWorks Hollow Chocolate Rocking Horse is 3.5 ounces, so the same as a standard tablet bar, only in a fancier format. SweetWorks uses all natural milk chocolate for their hollow molded figures. The ingredients list only: sugar, cocoa butter, milk, chocolate, soy lecithin and vanilla. They’re also kosher and gluten-free though processed in a facility with tree nuts and peanuts. The SweetWorks Hollow Chocolate Nutcracker is the largest of the pieces they make for Christmas, at 4.5 ounces and is nearly 7 inches tall.
The SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Turkey is only 1 ounce, but seems like a far larger portion. The base, like the others, is mostly solid which keeps the figure upright whether it’s wrapped or not. The chocolate tastes milkier and smoother than the foil covered balls. (My guess is that the formulation is just a little different for the molded chocolate because of the production demands of filling the intricate molds.)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Like the others, the molding details are great, it really is a nicely sculpted turkey and completely recognizable when it’s unwrapped. I liked these much better than the Hershey’s or Dove versions found at Easter, but they’re not quite as rich as the Lindt foil figures. I really liked the Rocking Horse though, I thought its design set it apart from the other offerings on the store shelves. I saw the Turkeys at Dylan’s Candy Bar, and I think they were $2.99 but online they’re a bit less. I just wish they were easier to find. For Easter they make a 3.5 ounce Yellow Chick and 3 ounce sitting Rabbit. It makes me wonder if there are figures that could be more “year round” or generic for parties and decorations since the Teddy Bear seems like a natural item for a baby shower.
SweetWorks can be found in the bulk bins at Dylan’s Candy Bar (and probably other places). Their foil balls actually come in a dozen colors and are also available as hearts year round in a wide color and texture palette. You’re more likely to find these online (you can buy direct from SweetWorks.net) and usually for a pretty decent price for all natural chocolate that isn’t Hershey’s Kisses.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
While other seasonal candies are chasing dessert and pastry flavors, 3 Musketeer’s winter flavor is all about the comfort of a hot cocoa. 3 Musketeers Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Minis were also available last year, but I didn’t realize I missed reviewing them until a Mars representative sent me a package that included them.
The 10 ounce bag holds oodles of the 3 Musketeers Minis, which are tiny cubes covered in chocolate with a frothy nougat center.
The little wrappers come in either silver or a light cocoa bronze. Each piece is about 25 calories, they’re about 124 calories per ounce, versus the 145 calories per ounce for a Snickers (nuts are more calorically dense). The little square are about 3/4 of an inch, though not quite that high.
The flavor is odd. It’s like they took the malt out of the nougat. So, the center is now cocoa flavored. Not chocolate flavored, actually more like cocoa and marshmallows. There’s that sort of empty flavor that cocoa has, a little dusty and unsupported and that has an added note of vanilla. They do remind me of cocoa flavored marshmallows, but not in a good way.
I’m not fond of these. The textures are good, but they’re extremely sweet and lacking the light salty, malted nougat flavor that I appreciate in 3 Musketeers. Other 3 Musketeers flavors have been more to my liking, so I’ll say that this is a personal preference. Other folks must be enjoying them because they’re back again, but I’ll take a pass. Someday we’ll get the Mocha ones back with more Mocha flavor in them.
Friday, November 15, 2013
I’m not usually a fan of R.M. Palmer candies (I can’t call their the vast majority of their products chocolate with any accuracy) but I do appreciate their packaging and design. I browsed their new Christmas offerings a few weeks ago and was actually excited by just the name of their R.M. Palmer Candy Cane Cups. Luckily at only $1.00 at the 99 Cent Only Store, the risk was low and possible rewards were high.
They kind of lost me at the description on the ribbon on the front of the package: Your Two Favorites ... Candy Cane Crunch in a Chocolaty Shell. I happen to know a lot of undiscerning people, but I can’t think of any of them that would call anything “chocolaty” their favorite thing. They might eat it pretty happily ... but most folks prefer the real stuff.
The ingredients include a lot of sugar and partially hydrogenated oils ... I’m not sure what will happen to these if the FDA bans artificial trans fats, though the nutrition panel lists that a serving of 4 cups contains 65% of your RDA of saturated fat, it doesn’t actually show any trans fats (though if it’s less than .5 grams, they can say there’s 0).
The cups are nicely designed. The foil is clean red & white stripes and easy to identify if you were to put them in a candy dish. The cup is a nice size, could be one bit or two small ones. (I always like to look inside.)
They smell quite pepperminty. The chocolate coating is oily but does have a melt-in-your-mouth quality because of all the tropical oils. It has a light cocoa note to it, but it’s barely discernible. The filling is firm but also has a melty but slightly grainy quality. There are little bits of peppermint candy in it that give a slight crunch and texture.
I was prepared to hate these, but it’s a great idea and though not executed with premium ingredients, they’re still passable. Now ... let’s see some real chocolate companies do better.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
One of the most popular tablet and phone games is Candy Crush Saga, which is a variation on the “match 3 on a grid” style of timed puzzle games. (I was a fan of Bejeweled when it first came out.) The overriding theme, of course, with Candy Crush is the fact that it’s candy-themed. Why didn’t they come out with this a year ago?
The game has finally been licensed for actual eating instead of just virtual play by King.com to Healthy Food Brands. The launch of the candy line includes four varieties: Candy Crush Sour Fruit Gummies, Fruit Mix Gummies, Jelly Fish and Color Bombs. They come packaged in boxes, with between 3 and 3.5 ounces in each. I picked mine up at Dylan’s Candy Bar where they’re priced at $4.00 a box.
The design of the box is trippy and colorful, matching the design elements of the game very well along with more animated characters on each box. Today I’ll review the Gummies together (the others later this week).
The Candy Crush Mixed Fruit Gummies box features a colorful unicorn on the front. There gummi flavors are: Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Lemon, Cherry, Orange and Grape. Each of the candies, as you’d imagine, relates to a candy piece within the game.
The gummis are soft with a bit of a matte finish to them. Most are about 1/2 an inch in diameter, with the red ones clocking in at almost one inch.
I don’t know what the pieces are supposed to be in the game, if they have names or represent some sort of real world candy.
Orange Oval is orange. It’s mild and ordinary. It’s a soft chew with a nice balance of zest, juice and tartness.
Green Cube is green apple and it’s completely weird. It tastes rather ... grassy. There are the apple juice notes and less of the fake Jolly Rancher flavor to it, but mostly it was weird. It was also inconsistently sized. Some were cubist, some were flat.
Purple Berry is grape. The shape indicates it should be raspberry, but the flavor is definitely grape, as in grape soda. Nice, not too dense and artificial but a note of the colorings does taint it with a bit of a metallic note.
Yellow Drops are lemon. These are nice, well rounded with a lot of zest, a zing of tartness and just a little sweet lemon poundcake note.
Red Stripes are cherry. Well done black cherry. It’s much more intense than the orange or purple flavors, a better gummi version of Life Savers than the Life Savers gummis.
Blue Dots are blue raspberry. This is quite nice, they’re understated and rich. There’s a floral note to begin with, then a sort of black-tea seediness that really sells the berry flavors. They’re a little tart, so it’s kind of jammy. I’m not usually a fan of the blue varieties of raspberry, but this one is good.
The gummis are good, the flavor variety is different from the standard Haribo or Life Savers gummi combination, so there’s that going for it. The pieces are quite small, so you can get quite a few flavor combinations in a single handful if you’re into that.
The Candy Crush Sour Fruit Gummies are just a sour sanded version of the fruit mix. The flavor variety is the same: Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, Lemon, Cherry, Orange and Grape. This box has a green theme and a friendly alligator on the front.
(Nope, there are no plays on this game board.)
Orange Oval is orange. Sour orange is actually less flavorful than the regular one. It seems less about the zest flavors are more about Tang.
Green Cube is green apple. It’s hard to say much about these since I only had two of them in my bag. They have the same weird grassy flavor combined with apple juice but this time it’s quite sour to start then too sweet at the finish.
Purple Berry is grape. Shazaam! These are a curious little, poppable version of grape soda.
Yellow Drops are lemon. These retain all of their zest but get the extra zing of the sour sand. Very well done without being too acidic.
Red Stripes are cherry. These are quite tart, which brings out more of the wild cherry flavors and less of the dark berry notes of the black cherry. (As if there’s much of a difference.)
Blue Dots are blue raspberry. The seed flavor that’s kind of like iced tea doesn’t quite work in the super sour version. It’s still floral and tart, but towards the end it gets into something that’s trying to be sincere but just feels sarcastic. It’s too sweet with a sort of vanilla note to balance with the earlier tartness.
Of the two candies, I preferred the Mixed Fruit. The sours just weren’t as good as many other sour gummis I’ve had. As far as whether or not they meet my expectations of what the candy from the game should be, I kind of though the candy pieces were different kinds of candy - that some were like Runts, others hard candies and some might be jelly beans.
According to their website, Healthy Food Brands is the international marketer of “better for you” confections and chocolate products. The Candy Crush Fruit Gummis are made with white grape juice from concentrate, along with sugar and corn syrup, a touch of sorbitol (a sugar alcohol that bulks up the product but adds less sweetness than sugar) and a bunch of artificial colors and flavors. They’re made in Mexico.
This isn’t the first game-app-themed gummi I’ve tried from Healthy Food Brands, as they also make the officially licensed Angry Birds Gummis. Those packages were also made in Mexico but marked as peanut free and gluten free. I don’t know why this product couldn’t also qualify for that notification. There’s actually no allergen statement at all on the package. If you have questions, they list only a mailing address… no email, no website. Not exactly what I’d say fulfills something called a healthy brand.
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.
Monday, October 21, 2013
After experiencing the lackluster Super Caramel Apple Blow Pop last week, it’s a wonder that I was still looking for the Candy Corn Super Blow Pop. An astute reader said that Walgreen’s was carrying them (which is where I found the Caramel Apple version) so I tried what I call the Super Walgreen’s in Hollywood. It’s near the Arclight Cinema/Cinerama Dome and Amoeba Music, so it was easy to find a reason to be over there this weekend. The store is like a movie set of what a Walgreen’s should be (and maybe it is used as a set for their commercials). The cosmetics have LED lights on each shelf, the aisles are wide and they have a snack bar and prepared sushi in a refrigerated section. And of course there’s a huge candy aisle that’s both clean and has a wide selection. It bears virtually no resemblance to the Walgreen’s where I usually shop in Echo Park, which isn’t even 5 miles down the same road. (Though the staff at both is quite good, no complaints.)
Their seasonal aisle had a good selection of the specialty Halloween items (though not as much bagged candy as other places like Target or KMart). I found the Super Blow Pops there on sale at 50 cents each, so I bought two. Instead of an opaque printed wrapper, this version of the Blow Pop uses a clear wrapper to show off the candy inside, something I’ve not seen them use on the Blow Pop line before. There are only two colors on this, orange and yellow ... there’s no white top on the layers.
The candy part of the Blow Pop is just like the flavor of the Charms Candy Corn Lollipops. It’s a mellow, salty sort of butterscotch without the creamy texture. I found these far brighter and more fun to eat, as the colors were sparkly, unlike the Caramel Apple version which was downright depressing with its brown and dark green. However, the sparkle in this case was created by adding some air to the hard candy, this can create sharp areas as it dissolves. Because the pop is so large, this meant I had a couple of sore spots on my tongue by the time I finished.
The gum at the center smelled terrible, just like the Caramel Apple version. There’s some sort of caustic chemical scent to it and the chew is stiff at first. Biting it sounds like tearing a phone book, a multitude of ripping layers all at once. It softens up and in this case, the flavor is pretty bland. It does become a bubble gum eventually, for a few minutes there’s a right balance between flavor and sugar before it all gives up and becomes like a wad of chewed paper. I’m not sure what flavor the gum is supposed to be, it’s not green apple, it’s not colorful ... it might have been butterscotch.
The initial experience was probably better than any other I’ve had with a Blow Pop this year, but that’s not saying much. But I’ll go ahead and give this a positive review, if you want a jumbo butterscotch Blow Pop, this would be the lollipop for you. It’s pretty, it’s pretty cheap.
Charms pops are made in a nut free and gluten free facility, but always check the labels or call the manufacturer if you’re in doubt.
Monday, October 14, 2013
If you like Charms Blow Pops and thought to yourself that you’d be happier with just the candy and not the gum, they make that. They come in rectangular foil packs called Assorted Charms.
There are five flavors: Cherry, Strawberry, Lemon, Lime, Green Apple, Orange, and Raspberry and 10 pieces in the package. They’re not necessarily distributed evenly among the flavors. I got three cherry and three lime while I only got one lemon, one green apple and one orange.
The fun things about Charms are that they’re square but have a little dimple in the center, and that they’re individually wrapped. So they’re less likely to end up as a sticky single piece like Life Savers. (Of course there’s no pineapple or tangerine in their flavor assortment.)
I’ve seen old candy ads that show that they used to come in single flavor packages, but the only way they sell them now is in the mixed flavors.
The pieces are just shy of 3/4 of an inch square.
I like the individual wrappers, as I’m the kind of person who likes to eat the flavor I want, not the one dispensed to me. It’s actually pretty easy to dump them out of the packet without tearing it, and then put them back.
Orange is nice, well rounded, a little tart but not very complex. Raspberry was good, it’s very floral with an overall soft flavor and a hint of tartness. The Cherry is like time traveling to the 70s for me. It’s not quite as “black cherry” as Life Savers, but of course has the same taste as the Cherry Blow Pop. Strawberry is interesting, as it’s pretty uncommon flavor for hard candy. I didn’t care much for it, it was more like a watery popsicle than jam. Lime is quite citrusy, though not very sour. There’s a lot of zest to it, and even a note of bitterness. Green Apple was nice, it was extremely mild at first, but then warmed up with a lot of juice notes. Lemon was a little too tepid for me, I was hoping for something like a sour ball but it had more sweetness than tart/zest notes.
There’s a lot to like here about the simplicity of the candy. The flavor assortment is different from Life Savers, though I can’t say that they’re better or worse. The packaging is truly charming and simple. The package holds only 1 ounce, so you can’t really feel too bad for chomping through all 10 pieces. There’s no nutrition label but hard candy is usually 95 to 100 calories per ounce ...so these are unlikely to be more than 100 calories per package.
There’s no info on the package about allergens, though other Charms products are gluten and peanut free (but please check before consuming).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.