Monday, February 18, 2013
Annabelle’s, the California company that now makes Abba-Zabas came out with a new flavor last year, the Abba-Zaba Strawberry & Peanut Butter. The little starburst on the side of the package says “PB&J with real peanut butter.”
The color of the package is extraordinary. The regular flavor is taxi-cab yellow and black ... for strawberry they went magenta and black. It looks like nothing else on the shelves.
I’m not a huge consumer of Abba-Zaba, I’m more of a Look or Big Hunk fan, as the Annabelle’s bars go. The concept is strong, but the flavor profiles & textures are just a little off for my tastes.
The Strawberry Abba-Zaba has a fruity taffy outside. It’s sweet, though not sickeningly. The bar is best if you smack it on the edge of a table before you open it to break it into easy to eat pieces. The taffy is flavored only with the scent of strawberries, it’s not a tangy taffy. So the idea of getting the flavor of a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich is a little off ... because it doesn’t taste like jam. It’s more like a strawberry cake - all sweetness and not tart. The chew is good, not too tough, it’s soft and combines well with the peanut butter center. The peanut butter is smooth and creamy, but lacking a big salty punch or enough texture to differentiate it well from the taffy when it’s chewed together. I like the graininess of peanut butter in candies like Mary Janes.
Overall, it’s not my thing. It’s different ... but I’d be more inclined to go for a honey taffy or maybe even Banana if it was just going to be sweet.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
A couple of years ago I got a preview of a new line of candy bars from Annabelle’s, makers of Rocky Road. The new Rocky Road Supreme bars didn’t even have wrappers yet when I tried them at the All Candy Expo in September of 2007. They were finally released last year, but it took me another full year to find them on store shelves.
I finally found them at a new shop in Burbank called Rocket Fizz. Though it’s supposed to be a soda pop store - with hundreds and hundreds of varieties of sodas sold in single bottles, it was also a candy shop with hundreds and hundreds of items to choose from. Amongst the mostly classic offerings I found the Rocky Road Supreme Peanut Butter Bar. Though it was a whopping $1.99, it’s also nearly 3 ounces ... so consider it a king sized bar.
The package describes it as Handmade Marshmallow and Peanut Butter with Crunchy Peanuts, Double Dipped in Velvety Milk Chocolate. I stopped eating several days ago in order to accommodate this extra 460 calorie pop.
The bar was a little worse for wear, though I tried to choose carefully from the bars on the shelf. I often have this problem often with Rocky Road bars ... they might benefit from at least a waxed paperboard tray.
The layers are nearly equal strips of marshmallow and peanut butter. Luckily the peanut butter is on the bottom, as it’s the densest. Considering how much peanut butter there is in this bar, plus the peanuts on the top, it doesn’t smell very peanutty. Just vanilla-sweet, a little milky and a little like roasted nuts.
The bar has a nice bite to it. The chocolate is soft and not at all flaky and the marshmallow is firm enough that it springs back easily but is dense enough not to give into the weight of the chocolate shell.
The flavors at first do well. The peanut butter layer has a salty pop and a mellow nutty flavor. The vanilla marshmallow isn’t too sweet and gives a bouncy chew to the whole thing. The chocolate coating is a little lackluster in the flavor department, but also not too sweet. The peanuts give a little crunch. The whole thing is a bit slick & fatty though, it never quite melts.
As I went on, I tried eating the separate elements. The chocolate is satiny smooth, but lacks a real cocoa punch. It’s all about the texture, I guess. The peanuts on top were kind of chewy instead of crunchy. The marshmallow is actually great, mostly because it’s foamy and has a smooth texture without being too sweet. The peanut butter layer though is weird. It’s very firm and has a greasy Crisco texture to it. A look at the list of ingredients reveals why #4 on the list is partially hydrogenated soybean & cottonseed oils ... that comes before #5 which is peanut butter.
Now I’m as much a fan of fat as the next person, but fat has to add texture ... it needs to give a pleasing mouthfeel as well as deliver flavors. This peanutty layer simply doesn’t. It’s like the grease is a cloaking device.
I really wanted to like this, I wanted it to be a powerful combination of textures & flavors. Instead it just left me feeling heavy & unsatisfied. (And I didn’t finish it, so now I get to have lunch!)
Here’s Sera’s review from Candy Addict.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Annabelle Candy makes a few good summer candy bars, ones that are exceptionally tolerant of the heat. The Abba Zaba is probably one of the best known, perhaps because of the name and whackable bar.
The Look! bar isn’t summer friendly, but the Big Hunk is. For a long time I though that the Look! bar as just a chocolate covered Big Hunk.
The Look! is a narrow and flat bar of rich chocolate covered nougat with peanuts and if that sounds like a Snickers without the caramel, it’s a bit more simple than that. Basically, as the package announces, it’s Chewy Good!.
It’s about 6 inches long but only a quarter of an inch high.
I’ve never had one of these. Though the appealing wrapper tells me to Look! and I do, I never buy.
And what a fool I’ve been! It’s everything I love about Bit-o-Honey plus real chocolate and even a hint of molasses.
The golden nougat center isn’t easy to bite, so I’ve found peeling back the wrapper and nibbling off a little bite is best (not as big a picture, please, spare yourself that drama of “will it pull out my teeth!”).
The dark, creamy and smokey chocolate melts quickly into a buttery chocolate mess just as the peanut molasses chew starts to warm and soften. As the chocolate taste drifts away the lightly salty, woodsy and nutty chew comes forward. It’s smooth and pliable, reminding me a bit of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews (except for, you know, that real chocolate part).
The only thing I wish was that it was easier to eat. I need to find the snack size version.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Unlike the Look! bar, Big Hunk contains no molasses.
Like the Look!, the Big Hunk were first made by another San Francisco-based-confectioner called Golden Nugget Candy Company. Annabelle Candy took them over in 1972 and helped to expand these regional bars to larger national prominence via placement at drug stores and discount retailers. I’ve found, though, that they’re easiest to find on the West Coast.
I like to whack the bar to break it into pieces, though this isn’t always easy.
It’s studded with peanut & peanut pieces, the nougat itself is a bit lighter in color than the Look!, a bit on the yellow side, I’m guessing from the peanuts. It’s easy to bend, or if you bend it very quickly it also breaks. The wrapper also suggests microwaving for 5 to 10 seconds to make it super soft, but I don’t believe that candy should ever require preparation ... that’s veering into recipe territory. However, leaving on the dashboard of the car in the summertime can have the same result. It can actually become rather stringy this way, depending on how long you leave it in there and how hot it is.
It softens up quickly in the mouth, even at room temperature. It’s smooth and has a light honey flavor but mostly it tastes like dark roasted peanuts. It has far more flavor than the Abba Zaba and is a winner in my book. Besides chewing, you can suck on it to disslove it. It reminds me of Cap’n Crunch cereal milk - sweet, a little hint of malt perhaps and of course a creamy background.
I’m not as fond of it as the Look!, but it’s still very appealing and as mentioned earlier, this is an ideal summer treat. No melting but still a satisfying creamy experience along with the little boost of protein from the peanuts (3 grams). It’s also promoted as a low fat bar, and the fat that’s in there comes from the peanuts ... but that also means that it’s full of carbs ... which, you know, makes it pretty darn appealing in my book.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
There are a couple of other iterations of the famous red foil Rocky Road. One is Mint, which I found only recently but was in such bad condition, I could hardly give it a fair review. The second is this one, which I found at the Rite-Aid which is Dark Chocolate.
This bar comes in a pleasant, lightly gold-tinted wrapper. I’ve decided that all Rocky Road bars are dented and cracked as a consequence of the scant packaging. No matter, it doesn’t seem to affect the taste at all. This bar doesn’t smell quite as chocolately as the milk chocolate one does, but does have a very sweet aroma.
The marshmallow is thick and foamy, but not very moist. It has some good give to it without being too rubbery and a not-too-fake vanilla taste to it. There’s very little contribution from the cashews in the chocolate coating except for some texture. I think the bar might be better served without them, but then I’d probably notice that the quality of the coating chocolate isn’t really that good.
Overall, I liked it quite a bit better than the traditional milk Rocky Road, but its rarity is an impediment to purchasing it again. I’ve been in plenty of Rite-Aids in Los Angeles and this is the first time I’ve seen this there and it’s not good enough for me to keep going back to that particular Rite-Aid (Santa Monica Blvd. & La Brea).
Monday, October 24, 2005
Name: Abba Zaba
Again, I grew up on the eastern seaboard, so some of the candies I see on the west coast are unfamiliar to me. Abba Zabas are one of them. I think we had something similar, but I can’t recall what it was. The website for Annabelle’s is quaint, circa 1996, and entirely sincere like the candy. It’s a little disturbing that the ingredients label on the candy spells it Palm Kernal instead of kernel, but I have to admit that many spelling mistakes have made to the screen in this site.
Abba Zabas are a white taffy with a stripe of peanut butter in the center. If you open the package and take it out, it looks like a white subway tile and kind of sounds like one if you whack it on the side of the table. They’re dangerous things, really, the taffy is firm and sticky, so if you have any sort of dental work (fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures) you’re liable to lose it or loosen it. If you have firmly planted teeth, you’re probably their target consumer.
I found the taste to be very nice, the sweet taffy is a really good backdrop to the peanut butter, but I have to admit that I prefer either a hard candy shell on my peanut butter or a molasses chew like Mary Janes or Peanut Butter Kisses. The dental destroying qualities are just too overwhelming for me, so I’ll leave this one to the kids.
Rating - 4 out of 10.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Like many of the other West Coast candy bars (Rocky Road), I think I ignored this one because I didn’t know what it was. After all, if it was good, I would have tried it by now. I’d never seen anyone eating one and certainly never heard it in conversation. Now I’ve heard two different pronunciations of it. One is: You-Know and the other us Ooh! No! I have no idea which is right.
Their website describes the bar like this, “Smooth, Rich Milk Chocolate truffle-like center, covered with Milk Chocolate and ground almonds. Guaranteed to melt in your mouth!”
The bar is huge but very light for its size. It looks pretty and smells chocolatey and less sugary than many other bars. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’d like to invoke that guarantee or not, but it definitely doesn’t melt in my mouth. I bit into it, and found it soft and yielding, but not mushy. It did melt, in the sense that it spread out on my tongue, but it didn’t give itself up, but kind of rolled around in a strange oiliness. The chocolate on the outside is a different matter, just nice and chocolatey.
The flavor of the center is like a fluffy truffle with a bit of grainy salt to it (which is actually a nice way to balance the sweet). As excited as I was to see that it was a fluffy truffle bar when I was photographing it, I was equally disappointed when I read the third ingredient on the label is Hydrogenated Coconut Oil and the bar packs 11 grams of saturated fat (I have no idea how much of that is trans fat). It’s just not a bar I can recommend to those who aren’t already terminally ill. I know, it’s candy and it’s all unhealthy, but let’s face it, there are other candies out there that can be satisfying and not nearly as laden with hydrogenated oils.
I know, you think it’s odd that the candy blogger is talking about health issues, so I should make a few things clear. I’m a fit person for the most part. I keep my weight within norms and I am pretty active. So I can afford some discretionary calories on candy (usually limited to 500 calories per day). But sometimes it’s not just calories that you have to look at. A lot of candies contain trans fats, but usually in smaller amounts. A candy that contains a large percentage of hydrogenated oils just isn’t a good idea for regular indulgence. If it’s just a once or twice a year thing, I’d say you’re in the clear. (Please do not substitute candy blog advice for that of a qualified physician or dietician.)
If they, however, created a new recipe using butterfat, I am so there!
Rating - 4 out of 10.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I know it seems odd that I’ve never had a Rocky Road bar before, but I’ve never been much of a marshmallow fan. To me the best thing about marshmallows is that they’re a dessert you can make on the grill. If marshmallows disappeared from the earth, I’d probably only lament the loss of Rice Krispies treats.
But, I thought it was high time I gave it a try - after all, how did I know I wouldn’t like it? First, the package is just fantabulous. It’s flashy red mylar and the lettering is bold and you can spot it easily from 20 feet. No wonder, it’s a big bar. At 1.8 ounces and the size of a tree limb, it’s a sizeable purchase for 75 cents.
The bar is rather unappealing when pulled out of the package, but really, when you look at most candy analytically it’s unattractive. I first pulled the bar apart for the photo and the sugary smell is just fantastic. It’s like putting your head into a box of Count Chocula.
The marshmallow isn’t overly sweet, but it’s foamy and has a good rubbery pull to it. The chocolate coating though is very sweet and the cashews are rather hard to discern. The mixture of textures is the real treat in this bar, with a real focus on the marshmallow, the light airyness of the bar sets it apart from just about everything out there. I hardly feel like I’ve eaten almost two ounces. It still hasn’t changed my mind about marshmallow in general, but I can see why it’s such an enduring favorite.
Rating - 6 out of 10
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