Monday, May 11, 2015
Like most Brach’s products, the package is vague about the product once you get past the name. There’s a list of ingredients, but other than that, I was kind of left to guess what was in my mix.
So, what do we have? Pretty much what the name says. There’s an assortment of two different shapes of chocolate covered nuts ... peanuts and almonds. Then there are some gumdrop looking things that are caramels and some oblong bits that are chocolate covered brittle.
The whole mix smells sweet, a little like peanuts and cocoa. The sweetness has a fake vanilla note to it that isn’t very encouraging, though the appearance of the mix is pretty attractive. The panning is good, everything is shiny and smooth.
Milk Chocolate Peanuts are satisfying. There’s not a lot of chocolate, but far better than Nestle’s Goobers. There’s a little hint of salt to make these much more of a snack than a sweet.
Dark Chocolate Peanuts also have a hint of salt and a noticeable bitterness to the chocolate which again keeps the whole mix from getting to sticky sweet.
Milk Chocolate Caramels were lackluster. The texture was excellent, the caramel was chewy but not too stiff and it had a smooth consistency. However, it lacked actual caramel flavor and didn’t offset the milk chocolate coating much.
Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle are easy to spot. They’re large and have a thick coating of chocolate. The brittle center may be big, but it crunches easily. The nutty flavor is not front and center, this piece is more about the textures of the crushed nuts, the dark chocolate and the sugary brittle. The nut bits are quite small, so it’s almost like the sesame brittle found in Kosher delis.
Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds are one of the larger pieces, though some are small enough to be mistaken for peanuts. The almonds have a light blanching, they’re not overly roasted. They’re crunchy and hold up well to the rather sweet dark chocolate.
This mix takes a lot of guess work out of what can be candy roulette. I liked all the pieces and didn’t really long for anything else that wasn’t in here. I thought the peanuts were great, and it all looked good in a little bowl. I certainly preferred it to the actual Bridge Mix that Brach’s sells.
The product contains milk, peanuts, almonds and soy and is made on shared equipment with other tree nuts, eggs and wheat.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Just Born, which makes the class Peeps marshmallows and Hot Tamales also make Mike and Ike. Since these are classic candies, recently they’ve been marketing them in nostalgic packaging, sold especially at places like Cracker Barrel and in decade themed gift baskets. Every once in a while they revive a classic flavor mix, as well.
This year Just Born announced the return of their Mike and Ike Cotton Candy, which was discontinued in 2002, and Mike and Ike Root Beer Float.
I’ve been looking for these since they were announced and finally found them at a Dollar Tree in Pennsylvania (but not at two I checked in California). I’m always curious how Mike and Ike does these limited mixes, especially since I know that cotton candy isn’t much of a flavor.
There are two colors in the mix, pink and blue, but it’s unclear if they’re intended to be different flavors of cotton candy.
The box smells like the box, no fruity or floral aromas, nothing that reminded me of the county fair. Cotton Candy isn’t much of a flavor to begin with. Originally cotton candy was just spun sugar, so the flavor is toasted but otherwise just sweet. But somewhere along the way cotton candy was colored (a great choice, in my opinion) and given different flavors. The flavoring of cotton candy is usually subtle, often strawberry or blueberry.
The blue and pink jelly rods tasted the same to me. They’re sweet, with that burnt sugar note and a the lightest hint of strawberries. There’s no tartness, no zest, not much else ... these could be sold without any color at all as minimalist Mike and Ike.
I found the flavor pleasant and clean. The texture as good, they felt fresh, kind of like that feeling I have about 10 minutes after a nice cup of jasmine tea.
I don’t know if I would buy these specifically for the flavor, but because of the extra mild flavor and the pastel colors, they’d be great for a party favor or decorating baked goods.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
On an episode of Candyology 101 last year we talked about this new product called PEZ Hedz. The come in two varieties currently, Bearz and Hello Kitty. I picked up the PEZ Hedz Hello Kitty variety because they were strawberry and raspberry flavored ... two winning flavors from the start.
The whole PEZ branding on them was kind of odd, I wouldn’t expect good candy out of them, because PEZ is really a toy company, not a candy company. Their toys just happen to have candy in them. However, PEZ Heds are made by Katjes in Germany. If it didn’t say that on the package, I would have guessed from its origin and the fact that they’re just the cutest little deposit molded faces. Katjes also makes other face-shaped candies like Tappsy and Percy Pig. So, that was a good sign, because Katjes does a great job with their candies.
I wanted to post this review after detailing what is and isn’t a gummi candy, just to clear up any confusion. Pez rightfully calls these soft candy chews, as they’re not quite gummis. The ingredients are interesting as they use a base of glucose (wheat syrup that’s gluten free) and sugar that’s thickened with pectin and potato protein. Though the colorings are from all natural sources, the flavors are a mix of natural and artificial.
When I first looked at them through the clear window in the package, they looked a lot like the Katjes Tappsy, which is a foamy gummi. (They’re not quite marshmallows, but a little fluffier than gummis.) There are two colors, the striking white face with the pink bow is the traditional Hello Kitty and is strawberry. The light pink color with the purple bow is raspberry.
The faces are big, about 1.5 inches wide and 1 inch high. They’re smooth to the touch, kind of like a cross between the soft texture of a river pebble and the flexibility of an eraser. Until I ate one, I wasn’t quite sure what the texture was going to be.
The texture is very smooth with a really vibrant flavor.The strawberry has a mostly tangy note at first with good floral and cotton candy scents that waft around when eating it. The pieces are big, kind of two bite portions. The raspberry was much more floral, a little on the soapy side but with a creamy vanilla note towards the end. The bows were actually more dense and sweet versions of the face.
The texture was a little tooth-sticky, like Swedish fish, but ultimately a little cleaner feeling in the end. There were no weird aftertastes (probably because there’s no Red 40 in there), so I found them to be exceptionally pleasant. I found they went really well with some strong black tea in afternoon.
They’re in no way like a vegetarian gummi, they don’t pretend to be. They’re more like Swedish Fish, with a bit of personality.
The package says they’re 99% fat free, gluten free, vegetarian and gelatin free. There’s a bit of beeswax in there, for vegans who were wondering and the package says they may contain traces of milk.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Though the name of the new flavor is a little trendy, the idea is pretty solid. Maple is a great, distinctive but mild flavor. It’s an ideal addition to Jelly Belly’s line because it can be combined with other flavor beans. Though I didn’t have any on hand to try out, I would think that Banana and Strawberry would go well.
The packaging is fun, an aqua gingham motif on the bag gives it a homespun feel. The image on the front, though is not of Vermont maple trees with running sap and buckets, like I might have imagined, instead it’s more in line with what I see any neighborhood diner, a plate of pancakes with butter and a little pitcher of syrup. (Now, I love my little diner I go to, but I highly doubt they use actual maple syrup because their menu just says syrup.)
The beans are uniform looking, a medium caramel color, kind of like Sugar Babies. The bag does smell a lot like maple syrup, which is a sweet smell with notes of bourbon and vanilla with a little molasses or pipe tobacco.
The interesting things is that these are not just maple flavor but also pancake, so there are other flavor notes to the actual beans. Though the primary flavor is definitely, and perhaps over-the-top maple syrup, I also caught sort of buttery notes. It’s not the overwhelming buttered popcorn flavor, just a sort of salty and creamy flavor to it. (There are 25mg of salt per serving.)
So, there’s lots of maple-y flavor and buttery notes, but no actual pancake, which is fine, because just a jelly bean that tastes like pancake topping is good enough.
The fun part for many candy fans is that Jelly Belly are gluten free and peanut free. So if you can’t have actual pancakes because you’re gluten intolerant, you can have these.
I think the trendiness of these makes them appealing in the short term for buzz, but maple should stand the test of time. Of course the Honey jelly beans introduced a five years ago didn’t do so well and I think those did better in combination with other flavors than Maple.
Monday, April 13, 2015
It’s rare that I get to chronicle the demise of a candy on this blog, it’s even rarer to then be able to report of its return.
Tart n Tinys was a fringe candy to begin with back in the early 1970s. They were one of the early confections introduced by Breaker Confections, which also made other compressed dextrose candies like Wacky Wafers (more history on Collecting Candy). The innovation for the candy came around 1977 when they added a re-closable top that acted as a dispenser for the maddeningly small pieces. Later they were added into the Wonka brand in the 1980s, which Breaker licensed around the time of the movie premiere. But still, they were never headliner candies, they were never the centerpiece of the Wonka brand, and rarely included in other formats for the candies sold for Trick or Treat or in large lay-down bags.
Tart n Tinys were then discontinued around 2007, and even then, they were different from the original candy. They sported candy shells, like mini Spree candies, though they came in a larger box now and with the addition of a blue raspberry flavor. There was a chewy version, which again, might have been confusing for the existing Wonka brand which also included SweeTarts, Spree and Mini Chewy SweeTarts at that time.
Devoted fans bought up the last few cases of Tart n Tinys, I even held onto a few boxes (I have two or three, still). Then Leaf Brands started to buy up the old trademarks and research the recipes in order to revive the candies. (Leaf brought back Astro Pops in 2012 and is also promising a return of Wacky Wafers this year.)
The new Tart n Tinys are similar to the original packaging for the candy; a simple cellophane bag. They were expensive when I picked them up, at Dylan’s Candy Bar, for $3.49 for a 1.5 ounce package. Though they don’t have the candy coating of the version that was discontinued, there are blue candies in there. They’re made in America and a Kosher.
The wee little cylinders are 1/4 of an inch high. They’re about 3/16 of an inch in diameter. The candies were only slightly powdery within the package, which you can kind of see in the picture of the wrapper up there.
There are six colors and flavors: blue raspberry, grape, orange, lime, lemon and cherry. There’s no listing of the flavors on the package.
Blue Raspberry is sweet and tart with a pretty good floral berry flavor to it.
Grape is smooth and acidic but without much grape punch to it, though it’s hard to rival the SweeTarts grape.
Lemon is mild, a little tangy but not too much lemon in there either.
Orange is probably the best, a good mix of the juice flavor and tartness.
Lime is surprising, I was certain it was going to be green apple, so that was nice. It’s a good lime, not too artificial and not too much like a floor cleaner.
Cherry is pretty bold, sometimes it seemed like it was the most intense of the flavors in the mix. The black cherry flavors were well rounded, good deep notes and a puckery finish.
As a candy sold as tart, they’re not as sour as some of the modern Warheads or Toxic Waste type products.
The texture is generally smoother than SweeTarts, which tend to be a little crumbly and lumpy. However, the flavor is not as intense, so there’s plenty of tart but less actual defining flavor between them. This makes it easy to eat them together as a mix, but harder to chose over SweeTarts for flavor alone. However, I liked all of the flavors and didn’t have to pick any of them out, the fact that there’s orange, lime and raspberry in there makes this a unique mix among the sour dextrose candies.
The upshot of all of this is that, yes, they are very much like the original candy. However, the packaging is lacking the original flair with its recyclable dispenser box ... and the price (I admit that it’s probably not the normal price) is ridiculous. I’ll stick to SweeTarts until these come down to normal pricing. But, they really are fun to stack and arrange.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
There are now dozens of small-batch chocolate makers scattered around North America. One that caught my eye a couple of years ago won the Good Food Award in 2013. Raaka Chocolate is based in Brooklyn, New York and was founded in 2010.
The team at Raaka says,”We make virgin chocolate from unroasted cacao beans. Our unique process preserves each region’s wild flavors, bringing you closer to the bean.”
The unique style of their bars means that they use organic beans that have been naturally fermented and dried but not roasted. The result is a bar that is like the chocolate that we all know, but with some differences ... not necessarily things that make it better or worse, just different. The cacao is direct sourced while the sugar is organic and fair trade certified. Most of their bars are just beans and evaporated cane juice (no vanilla, no emulsifiers) but the bar I picked out for review was the Raaka Virgin Chocolate Bourbon Cask Aged - Belize 82%. This bar also has some maple sugar in it.
As you can guess from the name, the notable thing about this cacao is that it is first aged in oak bourbon casks from Berkshire Mountain Distilling. I’ve had chocolate that’s been aged in barrels before, but never chocolate made from beans that have been aged in barrels. For roasted cacao that wouldn’t work, because the roasting would probably remove the flavors the casks introduce, but remember Raaka is working with unroasted beans, the way the beans are treated before grinding will definitely affect flavor.
The bar mold is dead simple, just a 1.8 ounce plank with no scoring, no design. There’s a great snap to it, and glossy sheen on the outside, but a little rough looking inside.
The bar smells, well, a little like bourbon. There’s a vanilla note and some light peat along with some other more yeasty bread notes. The melt of the chocolate is not quite as creamy as some bars I’ve had, but certainly not gritty. It’s smoother than Taza, which is also stone ground. The yeasty notes are very strong along with an acidic bite and a light coffee and maple note. It’s undeniably chocolate, but with a kick that is a little more unformed, a little less refined. The bar also changed, as I nibbled on it over several weeks. The bitterness dissipated (oxidation can do that) and I found a few more berry jam notes to it.
For an 82% bar, it’s not as dense as you might expect. I’ve certainly had 70% bars that are more intense. This may be because there’s some extra cocoa butter added in, which counts towards the cacao percentage, but does help mellow its severity.
I appreciate the bar, and enjoyed it quite a bit. I kept in my purse for several weeks, but never felt the need for more than a little half inch square at a time. The rustic melt was not as decadent as bars I usually prefer, so sometimes this felt like it demanded more attention to enjoy, like the different between classic sonnets and some free verse.
Their facility and bars are vegan, nut free, soy free, gluten free and made from all organic ingredients.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Like the other Russell Stover eggs, this one is one ounce. I found mine on sale for 39 cents, though they’re usually two for a dollar and sometimes as much as 59 or 69 cents each.
The Lemon Cake Egg wrapper is just a touch confusing. The picture on the front shows a nice yellow cake with white frosting. But this egg is lemon cake filling with a dark chocolate coating. Not a big deal, but it seems like it would be easy to make it a lemon cake with chocolate frosting in the picture ... or perhaps a white chocolate coating on this egg.
It’s very lemony. Even just opening the package, the zesty lemon scent is strong. Biting into the egg, the yellow center is quite bright, like a cream made from highlighters.
The chocolate shell is bittersweet, which is a nice complement to the lemon cake. Like the other dessert-themed eggs, this is a paste type filling made from actual cake mix. The consistency is thicker than batter and thinner than cookie dough. Though there’s wheat flour in there, it doesn’t taste raw like some cookie dough items do.
The lemon flavor is very well balanced, there are a lot of citrus peel notes, so much that there’s a light bitterness to it, which might also come from the chocolate. The whole thing is far less sweet than some of the other cake-themed eggs, like the Birthday Cake and Red Velvet. It’s rather refreshing, less cloying. I wish there was just a little more of a vanilla note, like a rich pound cake. But I do give them credit for trying something a bit out of the ordinary.
The eggs contain wheat (gluten), milk, soy and actual eggs as well. They may also contain traces of tree nuts and peanuts.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Just Born is best known for their Peeps line of marshmallow candies. Easter is high season for Peeps, which now come in all known colors visible to the human eye. So all that’s left is the extension of the brand into other areas. Target had a nice display of the Peeps brand line, including some Peeps lollipops in various colors and two different shapes. (They came in a Peep shape, which was a little less attractive than the bunny one.) The candies were on sale, your choice of two for $3. I thought $1.50 was a bit steep for a lollipop, but the Just Born website lists them for $2.50 each.
They also had matching tubes of the Just Born Teenee Beanee Jelly Beans to go with the pops. The packaging was spare but appealing and the flavor for this set: Indian River Orange sounded very appealing.
The Lollipop was interesting in that it was not only shaped like a Peeps Bunny, but it also had a sugar crust on one side. The texture of the candy was fantastic, it’s more of a barley sugar candy, which usually has few voids and a milder sweetness. Think of it like a less intense Jolly Rancher, the texture is a very light dissolve that becomes pliable when the piece is small.
The orange flavor was delicate, no tart bite, just the orange zest note. I loved the dissolve, but I admit I didn’t care for the grainy textured side of the pop, which meant that the pieces were rough when I bit them off. The size was good at 1.2 ounces, quite a bit of candy, but not so much that I could finish it in an afternoon at my desk. There was a fresh, citrus aftertaste that lasted quite a while.
Though it’s tempting to think that these were just cheaper Jelly Belly, but they’re not. Teenee Beanee are pectin beans, which means that they use both starch and fruit pectin to get the jelly center just right. They’re just a little bigger than Jelly Belly but not nearly as large as traditional jelly beans. The color is a little inconsistent, as some were more translucent than others, but I found this variation very attractive.
The orange flavor is vibrant and mostly zest-based. There was only a light hint of juicy tartness around the margin of the shell, but not at all like a Jelly Belly.
The tube holds 5 ounces and for $1.50 I thought that was a pretty good deal for a more premium bean. I liked them quite a bit, but part of it was that I just like orange jelly beans and the fact that I didn’t have to pick them out of a mix was good. The tube is easy to open and stays closed, and is pretty minimal overall. It also featured a real cloth ribbon bow, which is a nice touch if you’re going to put these into an Easter basket or make it part of a hostess gift.
The jelly beans were made in a facility that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk, wheat and soy. They use a confectioners glaze so are not considered vegan. Teenee Beanee tubes also come in La Jolla Lemon, Napa Grape, Chesapeake Cherry, Savannah Strawberry and Laredo Lime tubes with matching lollipops.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.