Thursday, January 29, 2015
I keep a candy buffet going in my office, usually three to five jars of candy. I try to balance the offerings to complete a full “candy diet” of all the essentials: sour, gummi, spicy, chocolatey and nutty. Sometimes I’ll swap out chewy for spicy or creamy for nutty, but the basic goal is variety.
I mention this because candy buffets are big, they’re ubiquitous at events like weddings, showers and birthday parties. I like to curate my daily candy buffet based on what I’d want to eat, but a party buffet is a little different, because it’s also about being a decoration. Most candy buffet resources show off how to arrange candy based on colors, not textures or experiences. Sometimes there will be a nostalgic bent, so the packaging is the focus.
Yum Junkie is a new company based in the Los Angeles area that caters to the colorful candy buffet market with color-divided candies in most of the major sugar candy genres. When they asked me if I wanted to try some of their new candies, I opted for their Pufflettes, which come in the regular size and a mini called Petite Pufflettes. They describe themselves as Yummy, Gummy Bites. I got mixed bags, but they also come in single color/flavor packages as well.
Pufflettes are actually made in Spain in an array of six flavors. The candy is a puffy gummi with a white base and a fruity flavored top. The larger size is about 1 inch long and .75 inches wide and high. They’re a not quite round, more like an oval base. There are a few makers of candies like these, notably I’ve seen Trolli makes a strawberry version of these called Strawberry Puffs. Pufflettes are the first I’ve seen not only of a multitude of colors and flavors, but also the ability to buy them either mixed or separately. (But the minimum purchase is 5 pounds.)
Strawberry —Pink & White - this is the one that kind of got me interested in Pufflettes in the first place, because a few European gummi companies already make a strawberry gummi puff. These are, well, okay. It’s not quite as good as the Haribo layered Strawberries & Cream, or one of those artisinal real strawberry jam mixed with a vanilla marshmallows. The texture is nice and the floral-tart blend is good. But the white base could use more vanilla or toasted sugar notes.
The Petite Pufflettes are only .75 inches long and .5 inches wide. The product description online lists the regular sized ones at 75 pieces per pound, while the Petites are 125 pieces per pound.
Green Apple—Green & White - the listing said that green was lime, but it’s actually Green Apple. It’s definitely on the green side of things, with an almost grassy note to it. It’s tangy and vibrant.
I usually prefer my gummis to be much more intense. And the puffy texture, while fun at first, really just made them bigger than I wanted when it came to the regular sized ones. I’m more likely to pick up an intense gummi like the Haribo Ginger Lemon, so these are not going to be something I’d buy for myself.
As a decorative item to include in a buffet, these are great. They’re more substantial than a regular marshmallow, and more flavorful. They’re also bulky and provide a lot of visual impact per pound, because they’re fluffy. So I usually put about 3.5 pounds of candy into one half gallon candy jar (these Anchor Hocking dealies). I only needed about 2.5 pounds to make a half gallon jar look full (didn’t really matter which size). The mixed colors are beautiful and not too chaotic looking because the white bases give them a continuity. The individual colors are a great option of you’re making a buffet according to a design plan, especially if you need a lot of bang for you buck and don’t want to have only candies that people can get every day.
The Pufflettes are currently available on CandyWarehouse.com but I also saw them at the Fancy Food Show, so they may show up at other shops in bulk or other packaging.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
The newest trend, though, is unwrapped mini items, so Nestle has obliged with their 2015 version called Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups Minis.
I picked up a stand-up bag that holds a half a pound, but they also come in a king-size sharing bag.
The bag is appealing and easy to spot on the shelf. There are a lot of options on the morszelization front these days, with M&Ms as well as all the new unwrapped mini versions of things.
The design of the little unwrapped cups is well done. They’re fluted and have a rounded square top and circular bottom. However, they suffer from the same problem all of these unwrapped items in a bag do ... they get scuffed up. So they come out looking a little shabby, the chocolate dust often gives the appearance of bloom.
The cups are 3/4 of an inch across and about 1/2 of an inch high and each weighs about 4.5 grams (.16 ounces). The smell is like fake butter, the whole bag was a bit like kettle corn.
A serving is 9 pieces and has 220 calories. I can’t say for sure, but it feels like there’s a larger proportion of chocolate to the filling compared to the regular cups, but the ingredients and nutritional panel are virtually the same.
The chocolate is sweet, has a fudgy melt and is generally smooth on the tongue. The filling is a mix of small crunchy shards of Butterfinger center and a creamed peanut butter filling. It’s a nice texture with a good balance between sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy. The chocolate boost from the coating is nonexistent, I got more milk flavors from it than anything.
Overall, this version of the cup relies too much on the chocolate, a problem I also recognized with the Reese’s Minis as well. , It’s a shame that Nestle makes such lackluster chocolate, but at least this product is supposed to be about the other flavors and textures. They’re probably great mixed in with pretzels, nuts and popcorn as a snack mix. But they’re still probably too big to use as an ice cream topping. I don’t plan on buying them again, as the proportions for this size are just off for me and the chocolate is so bad.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
In the world of grouped things there are litters (kittens & puppies), packs (mules), troops (monkeys), prides (lions), passels (pigs), pods (whales & dolphins), scurries (squirrels), hives (bees) and orchards (fruit trees). So, Wrigley’s new variety mix is simply called Skittles Orchards since it contains Orange, Red Apple, Lime, Peach and Cherry flavors.
Right off the bat, I knew this wouldn’t have anything berry or pineapple ...
The package is a rich green color, so it was easy to spot on the shelf at the 7-11.
Red Apple is different from the new green apple that appears in the Original Fruits variety. It’s not as sour and has a more juice and peel type flavor that you might get from cider instead of a Jolly Rancher candy. The Red Apple flavor is the lighter of the two red colors in this mix ...why they couldn’t make it some other shade of red, I’m not certain because I kept getting it confused with the cherry at first glance.
Lime is, well, classic. It’s a little tart but mostly has the sweet and zesty notes of lime peel. I missed it.
Orange is rather sedate. There are a lot of juice flavors but it lacks a more powerful zest note that the lime has. This was an opportunity for Wrigley’s to put in something like Mandarin Orange or Tangerine ... instead they just threw in a flavor they already make.
Cherry is the darker red and I’m sure that lovers of the Starburst cherry are going to go nuts for this package of Skittles. I can’t tell if it’s actually different from the Wild Cherry that comes in the Wild Berry Skittles mix, but it is nice to see them putting Cherry into another mix.
Peach is disappointing, though I actually liked it. It’s a little tangy and has an immediate sort of balsam note to it, but it lacks that peachness. There more like a vague tropical punch flavor, which isn’t a bad thing.
As far as combining the flavors. Of course Orange and Lime went together, and Cherry and Lime went together. Peach and Orange were okay, but not stellar. And of course Red Apple was like the new Green Apple in the Fruits mix ... it just doesn’t combine well with anything but itself.
There’s nothing innovative about this packet of Skittles, but then again, that’s not what folks want. If that’s what they wanted, varieties like Chocolate Mix and Fizzl’d Fruits would have survived. Instead this mix delivers solid contenders for “I enjoy this flavor” though nothing that would scream, “I love this flavor.” That’s probably enough in the Skittles world where it’s about the variety, it’s all about the rainbow, it’s never about one color. I don’t think this version will survive long, Wrigley’s will move on to another mix up of other tried and true flavors that it’s done before within 18 months.
Just to clarify, there are at least 60 flavors that have been released in the US flavor mixes before. Here’s the list that I have (in alphabetical order): Banana Berry, Berry Punch, Blood Orange, Blue Raspberry-Lemon, Blueberry Tart, Brownie Batter, Bubble Gum, Candy Apple, Caramel Ripple, Cherry Tropicolada, Cherry-Lemonade, Chocolate, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Pudding, Cool Mint, Cotton Candy, Dark Berry, Forbidden Fruit, Grape, Green Apple, Green Slushy, Key Lime Pie, Kiwi Lime, Lemon, Lemon Berry, Lime, Mango Lemonade Freeze, Mango Tangelo, Mango-Peach, Melon Berry Burst, Midnight Lime, Mixed Berry, Orange, Orange Creme, Orange Mango, Peach Pear, Peppermint , Pineapple Passionfruit, Pomegranate, Punch, Raspberry, Raspberry Sorbet, Red Licorice, S’More, Sour Grape, Sour Green Apple, Sour Lemon, Sour Orange, Sour Strawberry, Spearmint, Strawberry, Strawberry Banana, Strawberry Lime Burst, Strawberry Milkshake, Strawberry Starfruit, Strawberry-Watermelon, Sweet Mint, Vanilla, Vanilla Swirl, Watermelon, Watermelon Green Apple Freeze, Wild Cherry, Wintergreen.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Jelly Belly announced their new Champagne Jelly Belly just before New Years. I haven’t seen them in stores, but I picked up this sample bag, that calls them Jelly Belly Bubbly. I suspect they’ll be in stores for Valentine’s Day, but I haven’t seen them at my regular haunts like Dylan’s Candy Bar and Cost Plus World Market.
Jelly Belly suggests a flavor pairings with the beans, such as combining them with orange to create a mimosa. I’d imagine strawberry and peach would also go well.
The beans are lovely, with a light sparkling sheen to them. They have a light honey scent, but not much else going on before you eat them beyond the good looks.
The flavor is mild, not like the Draft version they made as a beer flavor. There’s a hint of white grape, a little yeast note ... maybe a touch of honey sweetness. But that’s about it, there’s not tartness or dry bite. They’re appealing, but if you gave them to me without telling me the flavor, it’d be pretty far down on my list of guesses.
Out of curiosity, I went to Dylan’s Candy Bar and picked up just a handful of the Champagne Bubbles, which are white grape jelly drops covered with nonpareils to compare them. They’re similar, the grape and honey notes are on the same wavelength, but there’s a distinct juicy tartness to the Bubbles that isn’t in the Champagne beans. They’re both quite cute and would make a lovely pairing for a candy buffet or favors for a wedding or engagement party. The beans are certainly less messy (the Bubbles do leave little white spheres around from time to time) and can be combined with the other colorful iridescent that Jelly Bean now makes for their favorite flavors.
As a special flavor, I’ll pass on these. I don’t actually like champagne, so a bean flavored like it isn’t of much interest to me. I look forward to seeing folks use them in bean combinations and of course they’ll look nice for special occasions.
Jelly Belly are peanut free, dairy free, gluten free, and considered vegetarian. There is no actual alcohol listed in the ingredients. The beans contain confectioners glaze and beeswax so aren’t vegan.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
It’s odd to think that the 10 most popular chocolate candy bars have been around longer than most of us. Those bars are Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, M&Ms, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate and KitKat, all of which were introduced before 1950. Plenty of candy bars have come and gone over the past century, but it’s so crowded at the top with those tried and true favorites. I bring this up because it’s rare for me to remember the introduction of a new candy bar that’s actually still on the market 25 years later.
Hershey’s launched a new line of chocolate bars in 1989 with a simple idea, that they were a little creamier than their famous Milk Chocolate and Milk Chocolate with Almonds. They came up with the brand called Symphony and introduced them with actual fanfare ... commercials featuring classical music.
Their tagline was pretty good: They’ll never be another unfinished Symphony.
The packaging design is largely unchanged since their introduction in 1989. There are two different bars in the line, the same as at the launch. There’s a plain milk chocolate bar (with red accents) and the Symphony Creamy Milk Chocolate Almonds & Toffee Chips with blue accents. Though they’re both still on the market, the Almond and Toffee Chips is the easiest to find, since it’s distinctively different from those other top 10 bars.
The bars themselves have changed quite a bit, partly because Hershey’s no longer wraps their bars in foil with a paper sleeve. The Symphony bar I picked up bore a striking resemblance in shape to the Hershey’s Almond bar ... once I opened it, it was pretty clear why. It’s now the same mold. The previous versions of the bar had segments with the Symphony logo at the center of each.
The current ingredients are not at all premium:
I found a wrapper online from 2001 that tells a simpler story (but the current bar is .1 ounces larger):
When I was photographing the bar, I noticed that it had a lot of voids and bubbles in it, so I weighed it to make sure that it was accounted for in the bar. Sure enough, the bar weighed 43 grams, the wrapper states 42 grams.
Though it looks like a Hershey’s chocolate bar, it doesn’t taste like it. That’s not to say that it’s spectacular or that different from many of the other inexpensive chocolate bars, but it definitely doesn’t have the Hershey’s sharpness. Instead of the bar is fudgy sweet, so sweet that there’s very little chocolate flavor. The dairy notes are good, and combine well with the toasty flavors of the toffee chips and almond bits. It’s exceptionally sweet overall, only the inclusions give a little relief.
For the most part the bar gave me a sore throat. The combination is refreshing for the price point, but for a little more I could just get a Ritter Sport bar or even a Toblerone (but really the same price per ounce), since their bars are two times or more the size). If Hershey’s wants to step up their game with this bar, I think it needs a brand refresh - I’m not saying they need to go dark chocolate, but actual better chocolate like the Bliss line or going with a certified cacao source would help it stand out.
Monday, January 5, 2015
I picked up the Lindt Hello Dark Chocolate Cookie while they had a sale earlier in December, as I was interested in trying a less-sweet dark bar from them. Dark chocolate with a creamy chocolate filling and dark cookie pieces. Experience your dark side!
The packaging and molding rivals a Godiva item for a fraction of the price. The box it comes in opens like a clutch style purse, and has some very nicely done graphics on the inside that really enhance the experience of decadence. The brown foil wrapper is generous enough that it’s easy to reseal the bar and tuck it back in the box for later. (There are 2.5 portions, according to the nutrition panel.).
The bar mold is enchanting. The pieces are domed and shiny with various motifs like the Lindt logo, the Hello logo, the motto “nice to sweet you,” and little hearts. It’s easy to break the pieces off, and each is a good portion in itself if you’re moderating.
There’s no mention of how dark the dark chocolate is, but I’m going to guess it’s not darker than 60%.
It smells sweet, more like milk chocolate than dark. The bite is pretty soft, since the domed pieces are filled and the filling is a bit softer. The chocolate is smooth, with a silky melt and slightly acidic finish. The filling is very much like the usual Lindt Lindor Tuffle, only with little crispy cookie bits in it.
As with the other Lindor items, the thinness of the ganache melt is disappointing, because the tropical oils do nothing to support and release the natural chocolate flavors. It’s a pleasant bar, but nothing I’d buy again. I’ve had it for about a month and still haven’t finished it. It sounds like it should be great, but it’s just okay. The quality of the chocolate is much better than most candy bars, but the use of palm oil really tips the saturated fat levels up to a space where it just wasn’t worth it to me to finish the bar.
Friday, December 12, 2014
Chocolate covered cherries are a broad confectionery art form. They vary quite a bit, from syrupy cordials to sticky fondant. Most contain a whole cherry, though even that varies depending on the maker’s wishes.
See’s Candy sells both a milk and dark chocolate cherry. You can’t buy them online, they’re available only in the stores, as far as I know, as they don’t travel well. (Though I recall seeing them in a foil-wrapped version before in the past.)
They’re big, quite big. I positioned one of the Trader Joe’s Liqueur cherries next to it as a comparison. The Trader Joe’s are about 12 grams and the See’s varied between 26 grams and 29 grams.
The See’s version is mostly a soft fondant, with a small reservoir of syrup. See’s calls them simply Milk Cherry and describes them as, A plump, dipping cherry surrounded by a liquefied soft center covered in milk chocolate.
The milk chocolate is very nice, I enjoy the custom blend that Guittard makes for See’s, it’s milky and has a light toffee note to it. The creamy melt goes well with just about everything, including the first bite of a soft fondant. The fondant has a cherry cough syrup note to it and a strong vanilla flavor. The best part was the truly large cherry at the center ... it as so big that I feared that it still had its pit and I bit into it quite gingerly. The pink coloring is pretty awful, but I take it as a traditional aspect of this candy.
The Dark Cherry was supposed to be less sweet, but since mine weighed more (about 2 grams), I figure they just made the sugary center even larger. It’s simply too much for me. The fondant is a wonderful texture, but it, too, tastes like bubble gum. Bubble gum is nice, but really not as a chocolate item.
Since I’ve had quite a few of these in the past few weeks, I can say that I don’t think I like the fondant, I prefer the liquid or syrup centers. But if you’re a fondant fan, this was exceptionally smooth and imbued with quite a bit of flavor. In the future though, I’ll pass.
Friday, December 5, 2014
I have nothing against cherries. In fact, I love fresh cherries. I’m not fond of cherry flavored candies, so it stands to reason that I should actually like chocolate covered cherry cordials since they do have a real glace cherry at the center.
So a few years ago I tried the European version of Ferrero Mon Cheri ... which features a whole cherry in alcohol. That went well. But still, I’ve been hesitant to try some other varieties I see at drug store chains.
Though it seems odd, I thought I’d start at the bottom. I picked up the cheapest, but most widely available line I could find: Queen Anne Cordial Cherries which are made by World’s Finest Chocolate.
The boxes varied in price between $1.50 and $2.49 for a box that holds 10 cordial cherries totaling 6.6 ounces. Queen Anne makes cherries in a few versions: Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate as well as newer versions in French Vanilla and Black Cherry Cola. They also make a cordial blueberry, but I’ll save that for another time.
The packaging is far from elegant, but it is serviceable. There are ten candies in the box, each tray has five little plastic cups and the whole thing is sealed with a plastic film on top. The two trays are stacked in the box. The chocolates were in good shape, even though I’m guessing they get tossed around a bit en route.
Queen Anne Dark Chocolate Cordial Cherries were a good place to start. The chocolate can’t be particularly dark, as sugar is the first ingredient and the chocolate itself also contains anhydrous milk fat and PGPR. The cherries are souped up in high fructose corn syrup, citric acid and some extra Red Dye #40. The ingredients also mention another “dark coating” made from partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils and cocoa along with sugar.
They do look quite good and smell like, well, cherries but the cocoa notes of the chocolate do actually come through.
They’re a messy affair if one who likes to bite and not pop. I like to grab the cherry in the first bite to make sure I get it with the least amount of sugar ... leaving the syrup behind in the remaining hemisphere. The cherry is crisp and chewy with only a lightly tart note. But it tastes realistic and not quite as strongly of maraschino as some others.
It’s all overly sweet though, especially if I was going to eat the other half that didn’t have a cherry. The chocolate is passable, not overly sweet but also lacking a good quality creamy smooth note.
Though the nutrition panel says there’s only one more gram of sugar in this version over the dark, it’s astronomically sweeter. It’s pretty much inedible for me, though I’m sure some folks will enjoy the sugary vanilla blast. The cherry flavor is completely lost on me, which is too bad because the texture was spot on.
Oddly enough, this was the version I was looking forward to most. A bit of extra spicy flavor from the cola might help, and it actually did. The textures were the same, the cherries were firm and of good quality. The cola flavor was extremely mild, though. It was a little hint in the smell, and then maybe a whiff of it in the second bite. This one had the most maraschino flavor to it.
None are ever going to pass my lips again, not because they’re necessarily bad candy, but they’re certainly not the candy for me. There are better chocolate covered cordial cherries out there. A starting place will be finding better quality chocolate, as it should not just be treated like a container, but a gateway. So if I’m going to reset my brain to enjoy them, I think I should spend some time finding better ones.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.