Monday, February 14, 2011
With the news that Necco changed its classic Necco Sweethearts (more coverage here) in 2010, I found that Brach’s version more ubiquitous in 2011 on store shelves.
The package is bright red and easy to distinguish from the pastel-princess mess of the Necco reboot. I picked up the Brach’s Small Conversation Hearts at the Dollar Tree for a dollar for an eight ounce bag. The ingredients are similar, a sugar and dextrose (glucose) paste held together with a bit of gelatin and oodles of artificial colors.
The mottoes I noticed: Luv Me, You Rock, U Go Girl, Ask Me, Hello, Got Love? So Fine, Good Bye, I [heart] You, Be True, So Fine, E-Mail Me, Dare Ya and the ultra romantic, Hey You.
The pieces are well made, I found very few duds in the package - all thick and consistent. The printing was a little blurry on some but mostly readable, except for the low contrast pink on pink.
The flavors are pleasantly indistinct. I could tell the orange ones were a creamsicle orange flavor. The yellow ones might have been banana, but maybe a really bland lemon. The pink were slightly like the seashore (a mixture of cheap flip-flops and Old Bay crab boil and the burning taste you get when sunscreen gets in your eyes). The purple and green were too bland for me to tell apart in a dark room. The white was the comforting flavor of mint toothpaste you find in the corner of your mouth before lunchtime. The texture is smooth and not quite crunchy, though still very firm.
If you were a fan of the original Sweethearts and can’t find them, these are as close as you’re likely to find. But if you never liked either, there’s no reason to try these, they do nothing for the category except look cute. So basically, a nice decorative candy, but perhaps not for eating unless you’re trying to bring your blood sugar up.
They’re made in Argentina and produced on shared equipment with milk, egg, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts and soy.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Brach’s Christmas Nougats are classics. The disk shaped, mostly circular candies are wrapped in clear cellophane with green triangles on a red band at the edges where the wrappers are twisted. They’re about an inch and a half around. The style highlights the look of the candy, which features a green triangle (Christmas tree) in the center of the white chew. There are little red bands around the edge as well. To make the pattern, the candy is constructed like a giant burrito, the triangular green piece at the center, a little red piece for the “trunk” and then the mass of white nougat is wrapped around that with the strips of red added at the end. Then the whole thing is rolled out into a long rope and sliced to reveal the design.
The base of the candy is called nougat and I admit that there is some egg white in there, but the texture isn’t quite nougat as far as I’m concerned. It’s not as chewy as a taffy, but not as fluffy as most nougats. So I’m just going to call it a chew.
They’re soft and easy to chew, not stringy or particularly sticky but could be considered clingy. They’re strongly flavored with peppermint, but it’s a clean flavor. The texture is mostly smooth, though there were some grainy bits of sugar now and then. They dissolve pretty quickly, so I found it easy to eat them one after the other. There’s a little hint of salt to keep them from tasting far too sweet. They’re fresh, most definitely, I’m sure that old ones get tacky and stiff.
I can see why these are a classic for the holidays. They’re a little on the bland side for me, not quite enough like true nougats and I didn’t care for the aftertaste from the artificial colors. They’re quite pretty and easy to share.
They also come in Wintergreen and Cinnamon (I haven’t found those in stores).
Friday, April 2, 2010
They’re also crazy cheap, most of the time a theater box like this that holds 7 ounces is just a buck. When I looked at the flavors on this box I was a little confused about what made these an Easter version besides the box (Mike and Ike come in holiday boxes that are the exact same candy). The flavors are Blueberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. The flavors of the classic Dots box are Strawberry, Lemon, Lime, Cherry and Orange. So in this version the Strawberry has been swapped for Blueberry.
These were very fresh. Tootsie does a good job of sealing up the boxes well and Dots have a clear cellophane overwrap.
Once I opened the box I found out the big difference, it’s the color. Easter Dots are bright and opaque little nubbins.
Well, maybe there was another difference. These seem to be just as smooth but have a “shorter” chew to them, so they didn’t stick to my teeth like Dots usually do. I liked the freshness of the flavors, though it’s a little bland it’s also soothing. The blueberry was pretty convincing though I wish that one replaced the cherry instead of the strawberry.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Divine Milk Chocolate Speckled Eggs are all natural and fair trade milk chocolate eggs with a candy shell.
They’re freakishly expensive at $4.99 for 3.5 ounces, far more than I’d be willing to pay on a regular basis. I really only bought them because I’d been searching so hard for them it seemed weird to find them and then get decide they were too expensive. The chocolate is made from beans from the Kuapa Kokoo cocoa cooperative in Ghana. Seems like Easter is one of those holidays where folks may want to pay more attention to the social responsibility behind the treats.
The stand up box is charming. Inside is a little clear cellophane bag with a little more than a handful of eggs.
They’re very similar to Cadbury Mini Eggs. The shape is more football than pear. They beautiful muted colors and a matte finish.
The shell is smooth and softly decorated. The shell is quite thick and crunchy. The chocolate inside has a silky melt, a little sticky with a good caramelized dairy note. I liked them a lot and will probably buy them again next year. Hopefully they can be found in larger packages for better value. (Also, Whole Foods could do a better job of putting them where people can find them. I went to three different stores and it wasn’t until the fourth circuit of the one at 3rd & Fairfax that I found them - even after asking a stockperson.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
I liked the box a lot, it was easy to tell apart from the regular Sour Patch offerings. The only quibble is really the packaging. Like many theater box candies, inside the box the candy is inside a plain cellophane bag. As I mentioned above, the Dots are just tumbling around in the box and there’s a cellophane seal on the outside. For this version I have to open the box top completely to get the bag out, dump the candy into the box and then I’m faced with an opening that is really too large for dispensing.
They’re a little lighter in color compared to the Sour Patch Kids. Honestly, I prefer this. They’re colored enough that I can tell them apart and guess the flavor and that’s really all I need. Other than that, the shape was so vague, unless you told me these were bunnies I wouldn’t have known. Pink is the classic Swedish Fish flavor with a tangy coating. Green is lime, yellow is lemon and orange is orange. A biting sour coating, a chewy sweet jelly candy in the center ... they’re great.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The rabbit is similar to the white chocolate one I tried last year (and didn’t like that much, so I wonder why I was curious about this one). It’s a peanut butter coating (like peanut butter baking chips) with a peanut butter filling.
The three ounce flat rabbit is nicely molded. The butterscotch color is also really appealing. It smells like vanilla pudding and peanut butter. The coating though is a bit waxy and stiff, it melts but not in a dreamy way that good white chocolate does. But it’s not too sweet, which is a relief as well. The filling is a crumbly peanut butter with a salty note and a dry grainy crunch. I kind of got into it. I’d prefer it in a smaller format though, maybe one of the smaller eggs they do.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
They’re only 99 cents for a generous 9 ounce bag. Even at that bargain price, they’re not much of a deal. They’re pretty enough to look at and probably decorate with, but they’re inconsistent in flavor and execution. I also resent not knowing what’s inside. It’s not like the bag is tiny and has no room for information like the flavor array.
White is pineapple. It’s sweet and floral but bland. Green is lime and rather strong but lacking zest. Purple is grape and is utterly stupid ... seriously, it tastes like sweet stupidity. Black is licorice. All of the black ones seemed to be smaller than the other jelly beans. Still, they were tasty and well done. Pink is bitter and just dreadful. Perhaps it’s strawberry. Red is not as bitter but still dreadful. Orange is sweet and empty. Finally there’s yellow, which is actually pretty good, it’s like a sugared lemon peel.
Rating: 4 out of 10
I was hoping for rich flavors, but of course I know Brach’s well enough that I really won’t be getting much more than a decent looking product. The bag doesn’t promise much more than a good value, so I should probably adjust my expectations.
Red is a mild cinnamon, not as good as Hot Tamales and kind of tinged with some of the mint notes, but still pleasant like a cup of spiced chai. White is peppermint. I have to say that a peppermint jelly bean is a little odd especially since it’s so grainy but still fresh tasting. Pink is wintergreen which I really love except when there’s too much food dye like this one that has a weird bitter clove & plastic aftertaste - but at moments it’s kind of like root beer. Purple is clove and is actually mild enough for me to enjoy though true clove lovers will probably be disappointed. Orange is sweet and again lacking in any pizazz. Black is again licorice and pretty good (though it makes my tongue dark green).
I think the problem is that I’ve already had some pretty good spice jelly beans from Hot Tamales (Just Born) and there’s really no need to switch brands, the price is comparable, availability is the only issue.
Rating: 5 out of 10
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Friday, October 30, 2009
I was happy to see that Brach’s was expanding its Halloween offerings beyond candy corn. I love peanut butter and chocolate and though nothing really compares to the Reese’s products, a little foil wrapped sphere sounded good.
Brach’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins say they’re Rich Chocolaty Pumpkin With a Peanut Butter Center. There’s a companion product, the Brach’s Caramel Pumpkins. They’re both sold in 9.25 ounce bags and I was a little surprised to see that they weren’t even real chocolate. (The real shock came later, as you’ll see.)
The foil on the pumpkins comes in two different “faces”, one on each side of the sphere. There’s a happy one with its teeth missing (shown) and then on the other side is a triangle-eyed one. It’s an impressive look when they’re piled in a bowl. Each is one inch in diameter.
The foil is easy to peel off. At first I though mine were dented, but it turns out there’s a little divot in each where they’re molded. (But they are easy to dent as well.) The chocolaty ball inside doesn’t have any imprints on it, it’s just a sphere with a slight texture to it (like a miniature basketball).
The smell like wonderfully fresh roasted peanuts.
Biting into it, it depended on the temperature what the filling was like. When I first got these it was quite hot, so the ambient temperature was over 80 degrees and the peanut butter center was gooey and slick. It was quite nice, not quite a meltaway, but definitely a whole different experience from the dry and crumbly Reese’s peanut butter. When the weather cooled and I tried them again the peanut butter was firmer, a bit more dry but still quite smooth. The roast of the peanuts is dark with a slight bitterness to them. It’s salty and satisfying.
The coating is mockolate. Unlike mockolate products created by Hershey’s, these don’t have a trace of cocoa butter at all in them, It’s all partially hydrogenated palm kernel or palm oil. It’s quite cool on the tongue and has a bit of a greasy melt. It lacks all chocolate power, it’s more of a cardboard version of chocolate flavor. When it’s all chewed together it’s not as noticeable, but nibbled off separately it’s quite bad.
The Brach’s Caramel Pumpkins were even less appealing. (Well, the one thing they had going for them was 20 fewer calories per serving, but of course lacking all the nutrition that the peanuts provide.)
The foil wrapping is gold instead of orange but still has the same faces & green stem for hair.
They smell like butter flavoring and sugar.
The bite is similar, the chocolate-flavored-coating tastes grainier and of course lacks true chocolate flavor. The caramel filling is interesting, it’s a little like a pudding - sweet but not actually cloying. It’s smooth and not quite flowing but not stiff enough to be chewy.
The whole thing was a dreadful mess.
The worst part though was if you look closely at the photo above you’ll notice a tiny little logo on the sphere. It’s the R.M. Palmer logo.
These are just the R.M. Palmer Creepy Peepers! And Creepy Peepers are cheap - usually about a buck for a 6 ounce bag, these Brach’s things are over $3.00 a bag in stores.
I just don’t get it. Brach’s used to distinguish itself from the bagged candy as being just a little better ... this repackaging of something most of us wouldn’t dare touch is pretty creepy. I hope Brach’s gets its act together and goes back to its core value of quality candy.
If you like these, well, skip the Brach’s middle man and just get the R.M. Palmer. They sell them year round in sports shapes (I think that’s the basketball texture).
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Last year I spotted Brach’s Gummi Candy Corn but it came in an insanely huge nearly two pound bag and I had to admit that I just wasn’t curious enough to bring home 30 ounces. I was hoping they’d come out in a smaller mixed bag, but I still haven’t seen them sold that way.
What’s cool though is that this 54 treat pack bag has each little portion already sealed up. (This is a general problem with most candy corn sold in stores - it’s not good for handing out for Trick or Treat.)
Brach’s makes pretty good gummis, more in the American tradition of the super-soft but also very juicy. I flipped over the package to find out about the ingredients on this one as was pleased to see fruit juice on there ... but curiously I didn’t see gelatin. These aren’t gummis at all ... they’re a jelly candy. Which is disappointing on one hand for someone hoping for some fun little rubbery candy corns ... but good news for folks who eschew those sorts of animal products.
Each little mixed package holds a random assortment of the four flavors and holds about 15 grams though I found that some had as few as 5 candies and other had more than 10.
They’re the standard shape and size of candy corn, maybe a little slimmer and the jelly seems to hold a point. They’re a bit matte but also translucent, so it’s an odd effect, like they’re made of beach glass.
The texture is a chewy jelly, not too sticky but it doesn’t have that bite that gummis have.
Each layer is actually different flavors. The top is orange - a general light & tangy citrus without much zest. The base is pineapple. Again, a nice punch flavor but not too deep or complex. Eaten together it’s much more like a tropical punch, and not really a great effect for me.
The color of these was definitely like frosted glass. The grape flavor had a bit of a cherry note to it, but that could just be proximity.
I got a burning feeling in the back of my throat, a little effervescent note after I was done. Not my favorite of the bunch.
Like most jelly candies there were little bits left in the corners of my teeth when I was done.
This cherry seemed to dominate every package I found.
It’s like cough drops. Each layer is the same, but the top pink part is less about the food coloring and more about the medicinal woodsy cherry punch.
Honestly, I liked them more than the grape. I didn’t feel the need to pick around them.
I don’t know why berries and kiwi get lumped together as flavor combinations so often. This color combo is rather odd - not that I haven’t combined these colors in outfits in the past.
As a flavor kiwi is a little bit melon and a little bit citrus ... and mostly bland. The berry side is similarly like punch but has some strawberry notes.
It was the mellowest of the flavors and actually went well combined with the others.
On the whole the mixture is fun. It’s vegan (unlike actual candy corn which usually has eggs in it) so for kids who avoid gelatin/egg products, this is a fun & colorful mainstream looking product. However, the package says that it’s processed on equipment that also handles the top allergens: eggs, wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts & soy.
Monday, June 22, 2009
the new Indulge gable-box line includes some boxed chocolate items (like Cherry Creme Clusters) as well as the standard bridge mixes and chocolate covered nuts.
I picked out these two from the samples that Farley’s & Sathers sent me: Coconut Almond Escape and Caramel Almond escape because they both have almonds at the center but were definitely outside of the normal panned nuts offerings.
Besides the color coding of the boxes, it’s hard to tell the candies apart from the pictures on the package ... they’ve obviously taken some artistic license or are able to produce identical candies in both dark and milk chocolate. (Click to see it a bit bigger on Flickr.)
Coconut Almond Escape is called Rich, creamy, coconut covered almonds coated in luscious dark chocolate.
They make it sound simple but it’s really not. There is an almond at the core and there is a “sweet chocolate” coating (which has lactose as the second ingredient after sugar and before chocolate & cocoa butter). But that white stuff in between goes like this:
So that “coconut covering” has very little actual coconut in it ... as far as I can tell the smallest dash of coconut oil and maybe that natural flavoring.
They certainly smell coconutty - like suntan lotion. The pieces are glossy and large. The almonds are crunchy and nicely toasted. The white cream is soft and has a good melt on the tongue ... not quite fondant and rather salty. Sometimes I get a fake butter flavor from it, which turns me off. The whole effect is rather good otherwise and rather different.
I was hoping for the elusive Dark Chocolate Almond Joy experience, but without actual coconut flakes, all the chewy texture is provided by the almonds. It tastes rather fake, but the hit of salt gives them a good munchability. But on the other hand I’m hesitant to recommend a candy that has more coloring (titanium dioxide in this case) than salt. But I don’t know what my daily recommend intake of titanium is. Maybe it makes my cell phone reception better. Or makes me impervious to UV radiation.
Caramel Almond Escape is Rich creamy, caramel covered almonds in luscious milk chocolate.
I should have photographed these two candies together to show the difference in size. Most of these are about the size of a Peanut M&M.
These milk chocolate pieces look great otherwise, very nicely panned they’re shiny and smooth. I was rather surprised when I opened the package that they smell like maple.
I was hoping for a nice chewy caramel, but probably expecting a Brach’s Milk Maid Caramel.
Instead it’s more like a maple fudge instead of anything resembling a caramel. And it’s an awful like like fake maple.
The nuts are crunchy, but their tiny size leaves the proportions here a bit off as well. I’ve been eating the, but I have a hard time believing that I’d buy them.
Rating: 4 out of 10
It’s nice to see Brach’s bringing production back to the United States, but I’d like to see some less convoluted recipes ... or I’ll just stick to the Bridge Mix, Candy Corn and Spearmint Leaves that they do so well.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Brach’s (now owned by Farley’s & Sathers) sent me some samples of their new Indulge gable-box line a few months ago. I’ve been hoping to see them in stores before posting the review, but perhaps some eagle-eyed readers have seen them so far.
The new Indulge line is all about panned chocolate items. First up are the Indulge Cookie Nibbles.
They’re described as Crispy, mini chocolate chip cookies covered in rich and creamy milk chocolate. While the description seems pretty simple, the ingredients list is ginormous ... I’m guessing because baked goods are often more complicated than candies (and the simple act of using flour means all those enrichment ingredients have to be included on the list).
The pieces aren’t very large, just little mostly-round bits about the size of flat-sided garbanzo beans.
The chocolate coating is shiny & rather thin. They smell like Chips Ahoy - sweet and a bit like cereal.
The cookie centers are dry, a little sandy but not quite a crunchy crisp. They’re like a cross between a commercial cookie like Chips Ahoy and the cookie center of a Twix. They’re not always consistent either - some are more grainy and some more sandy. They’re much more textured than something like Chocolate Covered Cookie Dough Bites.
It’s a milk chocolate coating that doesn’t really offer much of a cocoa punch, but a creamy sweet counterpoint.
It’s a fun snack, and I did find myself munching on them ... but never quite craving them. It was more because I thought I had to eat some of them. The box holds 6 ounces and has a retail price of $3.29. They’re not exactly a premium product and the packaging is a little, well, not quite a spiffy and modern as I would have hoped for a new product launch but still serviceable. But unlike many of the products in the Brach’s line these days, these were made in the United States.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Brach’s Robin Eggs are a beautiful version of this. They’re simply a solid milk chocolate egg covered in a crunchy candy shell. They’re light blue, about one inch long and speckled to look like a real robin egg.
I found mine on sale at Long’s for only $1.99 for the 7.5 ounce bag.
Upon opening the bag I found that they smelled a lot like most other sweet Easter candies - like sugar & milk, fake vanilla & cereal. Not much chocolate scent, but then again, a candy shell can do a good job of sealing in the chocolate goodness.
The ingredients didn’t really give me a lot of confidence though.
Mostly what I was disappointed about was how far down on the list of the chocolate ingredients the actual chocolate liquor was. But cocoa butter being ahead of milk (and whole milk at that) had me intrigued.
The shell is nice and crunchy, with a good snap to it. The chocolate inside is immediately sweet and has a slight nutty flavor to it, like peanuts or sunflower seeds. The melt of the chocolate is a bit grainy, as milk chocolate can often have that fudgy grain and this obviously has a lot of milk in it.
But it lacked a chocolate punch. I’m not saying that I didn’t find them edible and interesting, certainly better than the fake chocolate in the Whoppers Robin Eggs (made by Hershey’s) that I’ve been chowing down on for the past week.
My guess immediately was that I was expecting something else. And part of that is that my ideal egg-shaped candy shelled chocolate candy is the Hershey’s Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Eggs (original review).
As harsh as I am on Hershey’s as a brand, part of it is because I love some of the products so much.
So I picked up some of the Hershey’s Eggs, not just for this comparison but also to give them a check since Hershey’s has been mucking around with so many of their formulas & packaging.
The package is redesigned from the previous shoot that I did. I can’t say that it’s better, but at least they’ve finally given the candy a name. (Before they were just Hershey’s Eggs, but so were the foil wrapped eggs.)
The Hershey’s Eggs obviously come in an array of solid pastels and the Brach’s Robin Eggs are this blue with speckles.
In the package the Hershey’s Eggs smell like Kisses, a tangy, fudgy aroma. The Brach’s Robin Eggs don’t give away their chocolate insides.
Given a choice between the two, I’m going to have to go with the Hershey’s. The Brach’s just lack a distinct & pleasing flavor to them. I think they’re lovely, and the aesthetics of them certainly tips in their favor. The price is good, there are also certainly folks who would wish to purchase from someone other than Hershey’s at this time with the backlash over the Mexican move of some of the manufacturing. (The Eggs are still made in the US.) However the Brach’s Robin Eggs are made in the US and Canada.
I think it all goes to personal taste at this point. There are a few options for this type of candy (though Mars stopped making the Mega M&Ms which were rather close in size to the Hershey Eggs) so go with what you like.
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