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.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
First thing I have to say about Brach’s Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy Corn is that the name is too long. If the name takes up three lines, it’s too long. These are tiny little pieces of candy ... the name should not weigh more than the candy itself.
I knew this candy existed, but I was having trouble finding it. I was delighted not only to find it at Walgreen’s, but also in this 7 ounce bag (instead of the 9.5 ounce Caramel Apple Candy Corn a few weeks ago and the mondo 22 ounce bag I got of the the Caramel Candy Corn last year).
The package says that it’s made with real cocoa and real milk. I’d never really thought about candy corn being a dairy product. (Makes me think about creamed corn.)
My bag was exceptionally sloppy. There weren’t many well-formed pieces, some were missing a color but mostly they were just irregular. Part of the fun is the attractiveness of candy corn. This didn’t quite measure up.
The base flavor is the caramel. It’s a bit salty and has that fake butter flavor to it that I can handle in tiny doses. The middle section has a light cocoa flavor and the white top is, of course, unadulterated sweetness. They taste a bit richer than the typical orange & yellow candy corn, but I found the fake butter a little too artificial to keep me eating these.
It makes me wish they sold these in 1 ounce bags. That would have been enough to satisfy my curiosity.
The ingredients list salt above the actual milk in here. There’s also gelatin, so no good for vegetarians and it’s not Kosher.
This was the first Brach’s package I’ve seen so far that makes note of the new Farley’s & Sathers ownership.
The package joyfully tells me it’s America’s #1! (It’s also made in Mexico.)
Honestly it’s been so long since I had the Brach’s Mellowcremes, I didn’t remember whether they were flavored or not. (The Autumn Mix is not distinctly flavored.)
These little fondant nuggets come in four colors and eight shapes: crescent moon, black cat, pumpkin, jug, jack o’lantern, bat, corn cob and sheaf of wheat.
The flavors are determined by the color of the Mellowcreme.
Yellow = Banana - either you love fake banana or you don’t. As strong as my aversion is to fake butter flavor, my affection for artificial banana matches it. The flavor is mellow, with a touch of honey and salt. It’s soft and slightly grainy but melts easily.
Tan = Maple - this was the surprise of the package. I fully expected these to be the caramel flavor. Instead they have a nice woodsy/toasted taste to them, like a hunk of brown sugar.
Dark Brown = Cocoa - far more cocoa flavored than any Indian Corn I’ve ever had. But not really that good either, terribly empty and cardboard tasting, like a Tootsie Roll that’s been freeze dried, pulverized and smashed into a bat shape.
Orange = Candy Corn - the pumpkins are faithful to the Brach’s Candy Corn flavor. Sweet, bland and with a slight touch of honey. (Though there’s no honey in here.)
The package I picked has more yellow and tan ones, so I think I did well here as those are the ones I’m picking out to eat anyway.
The salt really helps these out. There’s 110 mg of Sodium in every serving, which is quite a lot for a candy (but an excellent stat if this was a canned soup). Consider it a boost to your electrolytes, maybe athletes will start carrying Mellowcremes as a recovery supplement.
I think the bragging rights are earned here. I now think that Mellowcremes are worth the search. (These also contain gelatin.) 7 out of 10
Monday, September 22, 2008
Brach’s is pretty much the gold standard for Candy Corn for me. There are other good quality makers out there too, like Jelly Belly and Zachary, but I prefer the Brach’s stuff because I can actually taste the honey and that’s what I prefer.
Brach’s has a pretty extensive line of candy corn products and they’ve returned to shelves for fall. I’ve seen the Autumn Mix, Indian Corn and regular Candy Corn on shelves. I picked up this newer version called Milk Maid Caramel Apple Candy Corn this year. I tried the other flavor introduced last year as well, Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn which I found tasted more like buttered popcorn than caramel.
Unlike my experience with the Caramel Candy Corn, this didn’t smell at all before opening the package. Once I did, I found it a pleasant mix of apple, sugar and vanilla - exactly what I would have expected from the name.
Most of the pieces seem pretty big and dominated by the red center.
Like most candy corn, this bag had its assortment of not-quite-ready-for-primetime players. These were shorter pieces that were missing one or more colors. I rather like the variation and ability to eat just one of the flavor layers if I want, so I don’t hold it against them.
The red center has a light apple flavor, rather like apple peels not the sour green apple candy flavor. The brown caramel layer at the bottom has a light salty hit to it and a butter flavor that bugged me when I just at the brown bits alone. But as I’ve noted before, confections that use Red 40 tend to leave a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. So I enjoy these for about five minutes and then I regret eating them. Then I toss them in a drawer in my desk, go away for the weekend and come back and it’s like I’ve completely forgotten about the aftertaste (maybe it has some sort of short-term memory wiping properties?).
As a novelty flavor, I like these better than most. I wouldn’t mind it being added to the Autumn Mix, but I still prefer Indian Corn. Brach’s also makes a Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy Corn which isn’t even mentioned on their website but I saw on ebay. I’m still looking for it.
This candy corn has gelatin in it, so it’s unsuitable for vegetarians and isn’t Kosher or Halal.
Friday, April 25, 2008
When I was afraid I was getting sick earlier this winter I turned to candy. After all, many candies started out as medicine. The cough drops of yesteryear are the root beer barrels and cherry LifeSavers of today. Sometimes I eat vitamin C enriched hard candies, figuring, what could it hurt and it might help.
The government keeps candy companies from making grandiose claims, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to nudge us to buy something because it might have nutritional value (I seriously doubt I’m at high risk for scurvy). I spied these Brach’s Gummi+Plus (is that supposed to be said aloud as Gummi Plus Plus?) at the 7-11 and though they might ease an aching throat. I was also intrigued because they had different flavors: Cranberry, Pomegranate, Orange, Apple, Strawberry & Blueberry. I was really curious to taste a pomegranate or cranberry gummi!
They look just like any other gummis, each in a little fruit shape. What gives these their +Plus is an infusion of three antioxidants: 25% of your RDA of vitamin A, Vitamin C & Vitamin E.
Though they’re throwing “immune boosting” powers at us, it’s obvious that they didn’t really commit to the whole line, as they didn’t even bother to make up molds for these new fruits.
Besides the freaky shape and unnatural color, the flavor is, well, kind of like a berry of some sort. You could tell me it’s a black raspberry and I’d probably believe you.
It’s soft and tangy and has a good strawberry jam flavor to it.
Not exciting in a plus plus way, but tasty.
The package had no purple on it, but did show a red “berry” that I’m going to guess is this one: Pomegranate. The shape is a pretty good patch to what pomegranate seeds look like if you peel away the membrane carefully.
It’s quite a good flavor, like a combination of raspberry and cherry ... not quite pomegranate, but certainly a lot less fuss.
It’s a good apple juice flavor instead of just the fake green apple (but there’s a little bit of that in there too).
In fact, the ingredients list apple juice as an ingredient (I’m guessing they use it instead of a splash of water so they can say “made with real fruit juice!”
No matter, this one is much like the pomegranate. Very deep, with a much more tart and acidic overtone. I welcome the cranberry to the gummi mix! I hope it sticks around, as far as super sours go, cranberries are overlooked.
I rather liked that, it made it feel more medicinal, more like candied orange peel or some sort of soothing tea.
As far as the antioxidant properties, I still got the flu, but then again I didn’t finish the bag until I decided to write these up while I’m traveling. (Gummis are great traveling candy.) I couldn’t detect any flavors that were particularly indicative of “vitamins” and vitamin E can be like that sometimes.
Brach’s also offers an assortment of Tropical Gummis. One of the fun parts of this was that the only flavor that intersected with the Gummi +Plus was Orange. I got to test whether the fortified gummis really tasted different from the regular ones. (Nope.)
You can tell here, too, that they’re similar molds.
Orange was just as zesty.
Purple was probably raspberry. It’s hard to tell because there is no retail label on the bulk bag. It tastes like a very sweet raspberry jam.
Strawberry Banana was kind of cute. At first I didn’t know what that shape was. But the pink color and mild, sweet strawberry flavor (less tart than the Gummi +Plus) kind of cinched it. It reminds me a little of yogurt. The banana component is a little artificial tasting, but that’s okay with me.
Lime was cute. It’s nice to see lime instead of apple. It was zesty, a little bit of that bitterness that I noticed in the orange, but definitely convincing.
Lemon was pretty dark in color and I often mistook it for the orange. The shape and size were perfect, but the flavor was sadly bland. Not bad, just not rising to the same level as the rest.
Pineapple was what drew me to this mix in the first place. Look at it, it’s a cute little pineapple shaped gummi! Soft and tangy, with the floral note and that little thing that only pineapple can do to the salivary glands. (But luckily it didn’t burn my tongue, like I do sometimes with fresh pineapple.)
The texture of the gummis is far softer than something like Haribo, but not quite as pliable as Trolli. They do well sitting out, I left some out on my desk, and though the outside was a little drier after a weekend, they were still soft. The flavors are distinct, the molding very good and of course the price is quite reasonable. So many of the Brach’s candies are made overseas, these were made in the USA.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.