Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I picked up this package of Bassett’s Mint Favourites because it looked like a fun bunch of candies that were different from what we have here in the United States. It features: Mint Toffees, Murray Mints, Murray Butter Mints and Everton Mints.
I don’t know much about Murray Mints, so I tried to do a little research. They’ve been around since at least the fifties and were also sold in rolls. They were also one word, Murraymints. I think they were an independent company that made them, I can’t find any reference in their advertisements to Bassett’s or any other company that Bassett’s swallowed up like Trebor or other Cadbury properties.
Murray Mints were known as the too good to hurry mints. Here’s a set of old animated television advertisements.
So what are these classic hard candy mints like?
Bassett’s Murray Mints
The lightest tasting mint of the group, it was also a bit larger. The mint was mild and sweet, the texture of the candy is smooth. There’s a lot of milk in it, so the candy was a cross between a standard boiled hard candy and an American style crunchy toffee. I detected a note of clove in it, which wasn’t that appealing to me, but I appreciated the complex flavor combination of milk, mint and spices.
Bassett’s Murray Butter Mint
An actual buttery hard candy mint, rather like putting milk in a peppermint tea. It’s a little salty and a little like butterscotch. The center of the hard candy has a softer, chewy center. The peppermint is strong but not overpowering. Fresh but a little bit more earthy with the addition of salt and the creamy butter and even a hint of honey. I liked this one better than the classic Murray Mint.
Bassett’s Mint Toffee
At the store I had a choice of this Mint Favorites mix and just a bag of the Mint Toffee. I figured I’d like the toffee, but I wanted to variety to at least see the whole line of mint favorites. British Toffee is what we refer to as caramel in the United States. It’s usually firm but chewy, but sometimes is the style that’s soft and crumbly. Mostly toffee is in reference to any sugar that’s been boiled to the point of turning the flavor.
The piece is beefy, about an inch and a quarter long. It’s soft on the outside but a bit stiffer at the center (so it needed to warm up to chew). It’s quite buttery and has a strong dairy flavor more like milk or cream and of course an overriding peppermint flavor on top of that. The caramel flavors are a little lost, they can’t stand up to the mint, but the whole effect is still pleasant. The chew is smooth and lasts quite a while. It leaves a fresh feeling at the end.
I’m definitely keen on trying more of the Bassett’s toffee line after this.
Bassett’s Everton Mints
I thought this was going to be a licorice mint. Instead it’s more like a menthol mint, a cough drop flavor. It’s a combination of the peppermint and eucalyptus. It’s strong enough to give me a combination of burning and cooling in the back of my sinuses passages. The candy itself is smooth, with few voids, much nicer than the standard Halls cough drop. The chewy center is a bit more mellow but has a light anise and soft vanilla note.
Overall, a great mix that gives a clear sense of the similarities and differences between North American and British boiled sweets. Good quality and distinctive and ultimately satisfying. They’re all natural, though rather expensive here in the States at $4 for only 7 ounces.
Monday, October 11, 2010
The Cadbury Flake has been made for 90 years by Cadbury and has a clever little story to go with it. The story goes that a line worker in the Cadbury factory noticed that the over-run of the one their molds made little folded sheets of chocolate that was a tasty way to eat the chocolate. They’re billed as The crumbliest, flakiest milk chocolate..
I’ve had a few of the Flake bars over the years and never quite understood them (and preferred the versions that were dipped in chocolate). They seemed chalky and sweet but not chocolatey. So I thought I’d give it another try. I got a hold of a very fresh bar (expires February 2011).
The ingredients are similar to all of the Cadbury’s UK milk chocolate offerings. This bar was made in Ireland and contains: Milk, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, vegetable fat, emulsifier, flavoring. Milk solids are listed at 14% and the cocoa solids are 25%. So it’s a lot of chocolate and milk ... but there’s also a little bit of vegetable fat in there, which by United States FDA standards means that this doesn’t qualify as real chocolate.
Again, I’m coming to this bar with an outsider’s perspective. I didn’t grow up with it and I’ve never seen any advertisements for the bar. So taken at face value, the idea of a bar made of chocolate shavings is interesting, I like it when I find a pile of chocolate shavings on my dessert. The reality of the bar isn’t quite as attractive. It reminds me of elephant skin. It’s about six inches long and holds together well.
It smells a bit like cheesecake instead of milk chocolate. The dairy tang is like yogurt or cream cheese. It’s a bit crumbly upon biting, but not as bad as I’d feared. The texture is soft and chalky, but not quite fudgy. It dissolves more than it melts. It’s not sticky sweet, I think the milk notes cut that, but the cocoa isn’t quite as apparent for such a high cacao milk chocolate (as far as American chocolate goes for comparison).
The crumbly texture doesn’t feel decadent or indulgent to me, it just feels old or stale. The sour note to the milk wasn’t pleasant (though I can imagine becoming acclimated to it).
The bars are marketed as a low calorie, highly pleasurable experience. But they’re hardly low in fat, they’re about normal at 150 calories per ounce for chocolate, it’s just the portion that’s small at only 1.13 ounces per bar.
This bar is just a little shorter than the plain version, about 5 inches. It’s also made in Ireland.
The scent is a little nuttier, but still have the dairy note. This one also had a little more cocoa to it.
The bite was softer and the hazelnut was immediately apparent. There were little hazelnut bits and a nice roasted flavor overall. It seemed a bit moister and a bit fudgier ... but it also felt sweeter. So much so that my throat was seared by it after consuming half the bar.
I understand that these bars are remarkably different than others, but it’s just not something that appeals to me. The dryness just takes away all the fatty mouthfeel for me. I’m not keen on the fact that they’re not real chocolate, considering how expensive they are in the States, for that money I’ll get something that really pleases me.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Last year I picked up a few Krema Batna in San Francisco at the charming Miette Confiserie. I never thought I’d see them again in the states. There I was a few weeks ago, walking through the Glendale Galleria on my way to See’s and there was a tiny kiosk that had a variety of French gourmet foods. There were Jordan almonds, capers and various spreads and oils… plus a few bags of Krema Batna.
I recognized it immediately by the package, a large leopard with the French words Le bonbon tendre au gout sauvage which means the tender (chewy) candy with the wild taste. Even though it was $6.00 for 150 grams (5.29 ounces), I scooped it up without a second thought. I really wanted to have these creamy licorice caramels again.
The scent is only lightly sweet and herbal - a note of molasses and anise. The chew is soft and easy, kind of like a smooth Starburst. The caramel is silky and has a strong licorice note - that light and lingering sweetness with a darker smoky note to it as well. It’s creamy as well, a little like coffee with Ouzo. It had a lot more true licorice to it than many other licorice candies and not so much of the anise/fennel notes. Of course that makes it very sweet, a sort of strange throat coating sweetness that doesn’t burn in the same way that sugar does.
I would buy another bag of these in a heartbeat. They’re an excellent pocket candy as well, since they’re durable in the summer but the creamy component makes them feel much richer than they actually are.
I did a little bit of web searching and saw on a French website that Krema is a whole line of chews that come in other flavors like Tender Cherry, Lemon, Raspberry, Caramel, Cola, Green, Orange Apple. Definitely something I’m going to try to find, though I’m pretty sure the Batna is the one for me.
They have gelatin in them, so are unsuitable for vegetarians. The package says that they’re made by Cadbury France.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Back when I was putting together my list of of Essential Candies I realized that I’ve been remiss with many of the Aussie favorites as well as cherry-based candies. So when I saw a Cadbury Cherry Ripe at Mel and Rose on one of my big candy buying trips I picked it up.
All I know about the bar is that it’s coconut and cherry. I’m not keen on cherry flavored things, but real cherries are delicious. The word ripe is pretty enticing and gave me hope that it was real cherries here.
Cherry Ripe is a classic bar, introduced over 85 years ago by MacRobertson’s. It’s the oldest candy bar in Australia. Other variations have come and gone, the Apricot Ripe sounds particularly good to me. (Can you imagine an apricot candy bar being popular?) MacRobertson’s was, for decades, the largest confectioner in Australia. They made products like Freddo Frogs, Old Gold Chocolate and Snack. The company was sold by the founder, Sir Macpherson Robertson, heirs in 1967 to Cadbury. Up until 2002 the Cherry Ripe and many of the old favorites still sported the MacRobertson’s logo but have now migrated over to the Cadbury brand.
It’s an impressive looking bar. A huge plank at 7 inches long, an inch and a quarter wide and a third of an inch thick. The rippled chocolate enrobing is just gorgeous. I wanted to take a close up photo and make format it as my computer desktop.
I was expecting a lot of coconut or cherry scent, but really it smells like candy - a little like chocolate, a little like raspberries.
The center is soft and chewy, not quite as moist as a Mounds bar, but not dry and crumbly. The coconut is sweet and well textured, not too fibery. The cherries are sweet and with a light hint of maraschino but not much else. I was hoping for bits of sour dried cherries but never quite got that. The dark chocolate coating is the lightest sheath of chocolate possible, it merely holds it all together. It has only a whiff of cocoa and woodsy coffee to it. It’s creamy and a little dry.
Overall I understand the appeal of this bar, it’s like a Cherry Mounds (or Cherry Bounty) and that’s a great notion. It’s big, bigger than I think I needed in a bar (but I’m used to my coconut bars in smaller pieces), but since I paid $2.99 for this (really, what was I thinking?) at least it improves the value. Now if only they’d bring back the Apricot Ripe as a limited edition.
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
POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:17 pm All Natural • Candy • Review • Easter • Brach's • Cadbury • Divine Chocolate • Farley's & Sathers • Russell Stover • Tootsie • Chocolate • Ethically Sourced • Jelly Candy • Licorice Candy • Peanuts • Sour • 4-Benign • 5-Pleasant • 6-Tempting • 7-Worth It • Canada • United Kingdom • United States • Rite Aid • Target • Walgreen's • Comments (8)
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The cornerstone of an Easter Basket is the chocolate bunny. There are many to choose from and most often it’s about how it looks. I picked up three foil wrapped milk chocolate rabbits of similar size for a little comparison.
All were about the same price, between $3.99 and $4.49 (though prices vary from store to store, I picked all mine up at Target before the good sales started). All are American made, all are milk chocolate and all are Kosher. In the running are: Cadbury Dairy Milk Solid Milk Chocolate Bunny, Hershey’s Bliss Hollow Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate Bunny and Dove Fairy Bunny Silky Smooth Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny.
Each is similar in size, thought the Cadbury bunny is solid so weighs a little more. Though they come in boxes, I’m not sure they’d go into the Easter basket that way. So here they are out of their boxes. I found all of them to be overpackaged, especially considering how many chocolate rabbits (Lindt is most notable) that are sold simply wrapped in foil without a box or plastic form shield.
Side by side it’s easy to see how the different milk chocolates are vastly different colors. Cadbury is the lightest and has an orange hue. Hershey’s Bliss is the darkest and from my reading of the ingredients and nutrition label it has the least fat (more milk solids and sugar).
They’re all three dimensional bunnies with nice molds. They were all pretty much flawless out of their wrappers as well.
The Cadbury Dairy Milk Solid Milk Chocolate Bunny is made in the United States by Hershey’s from imported “chocolate crumb” from Cadbury’s facilities in the UK (at least that’s what I learned via the NYTimes in 2007).
The ingredients are different than the UK Cadbury Dairy Milk. There is no additional vegetable fat in there, but it does contain PGPR, an additional emulsifier often used in less expensive chocolate. (If you’re curious about the differences between the UK and US Dairy Milk, check out this head to head comparison.)
Sugar, milk chocolate, cocoa butter, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR, natural and artificial flavor
They all came with a crazy amount of packaging, the Cadbury bunny’s box was more than two inches taller than the rabbit inside. But it’s a generous size, a full six ounces which at the selling price of $4.49 it was the best value of the bunch.
The rabbit is a rather realistic representation, no anthropomorphism by the designers. It’s a classic sitting rabbit with high ears. The foil is great, the only one of the bunch that has a design on both sides. (The wrapping style is kind of like a chocolate coin, the two sides are a heavy printed foil and have a seam all the way around.) The fact that he could be seated facing either way was a great feature, especially if you’re designing an Easter basket for a particular tableau.
My Cadbury bunny was soft, even though my house was a cool 68 degrees. Biting off the ears was pretty easy, but after that I had to take a knife to him and give him a few quick jabs to break him up.
The chocolate has strong caramelized sugar and yogurty dairy notes. The texture is sticky as it melts though not as sweet as I expected at first. The cocoa is mild and woodsy ... it’s the classic dairy milk chocolate I think most people are familiar with. It’s a little grainy and gritty.
I was a little irritated at how hard it was to eat, requiring a knife or the unsanitary gnawing. But he was lovely. Here are some more shots I took if you want to see some other views:
The Hershey’s Bliss Hollow Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate Bunny was a little confusing. There were two products on the shelves at Target from Hershey’s (here’s where I picked all of these up). There was this Bliss bunny, which I thought was a good comparison to the Dove one, and then an identically molded one that was just “Hershey’s” but with a blue bow instead of a lavender one (I photographed the back of the package for later comparison).
The Hershey’s Bliss one has no PGPR like the Cadbury or classic Hershey’s recipe, but of course a price tag to match (in this case a dollar more).
The Bliss bunny wins for the least amount of packaging, if you can call this winning. Inside the box was a formed plastic piece that went over the front-facing side of the bunny but like the others, there was a lot of empty space in that box.
Bliss is a relatively new chocolate line from Hershey’s, it was introduced barely two years ago with a parallel line of products and pricing structure to the Dove line. The packaging and foil wrapping doesn’t quite rise to the level of elegance or chic sophistication that Lindt, Godiva and Dove have been perfecting for so long. But it’s what’s inside that matters ... well, in the case of hollow chocolate bunnies, it’s what’s inside the foil that matters, the really inside is nothingness.
Bliss was the lightest bunny in the bunch at only 4 ounces.
The shape is of a bunny on its hind legs, front legs kind of up in a begging position. She’s not carrying a basket or anything. The molding is nice, the details are pretty good, especially on the ears. I don’t care much for the design of it but the shape is good. It feels substantial, which is important to kids. It’s not easy to put a thumb through the side or anything.
The Bliss bunny had an excellent sheen. It broke nicely and wasn’t too soft. The bunny itself had thick sides, but not too thick that breaking it was difficult. (I actually like hollow bunnies more as I get older - I like the illusion or size but the ease of portioning.)
The chocolate was smooth and creamy, with a rich milky flavor with a little Hershey’s twang, but not too much. It’s sweet but not throat-searing and not at all gritty or grainy. I liked it much better than the Hershey’s rabbit I had last year and better than the Bliss foil wrapped pieces.
Here are more photos to give you a sense of the scale, wrapping and molding:
The final rabbit is the Dove Fairy Bunny Silky Smooth Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny. This one diverges from the classic rabbit shape and goes a little into the weird territory. This bunny has fat, fat butterfly wings (I don’t know how some conservative folks feel about mixing fairies with Easter).
The box has the most packaging, a clamshell formed clear plastic piece that protects the bunny and holds it in place. It did its job well, as my bunny looked great in and out of the foil. The back of the box has a poem about the Fairy Bunny, a poem that tells the story of this magical Easter bunny who has a product placement deal with Dove.
This ingredients looked okay, there’s PGPR in there but it comes after the flavorings. (I’ve been told that PGPR is great for manufacturers because it makes molding easier.)
The Dove bunny is by far the best looking one in and out of the foil, but definitely on the feminine side with its lavender wing accents and luscious eyelashes. (Even the whiskers look feline-sexy.)
It’s a squat bunny, so it doesn’t feel quite as decadent as the Bliss one, even though it weighs a half an ounce more at 4.5 ounces.
The walls of the chocolate were inconsistent. Some spots were thick and beefy, others, like the sides and bottom away from the edges were quite thin.
The bunny has a soft milky and woodsy scent, not too sweet. The texture of the chocolate is creamy and smooth. As I had my bunny open for tasting for a couple of weeks, I noticed that the flavor profile changed. I’ve noticed this with molded items that have a lot of surface area, and especially with chocolate that has PGPR. The flavor gets a little rancid ... not full on “my goodness, this is spoiled” but a subtle “this was better last week”. So I found myself gravitating, much to my surprise, to the Bliss bunny.
This bunny still wins for its looks, here are some more glamor shots:
On the whole, all three are good quality. They’re expensive by the ounce when you compare it to other chocolate like little foil wrapped pieces or big bars. But they’re also a special item for an Easter basket, gifting or just using as a decorative item. I suggest going for the chocolate you like ... but sometimes aesthetics trumps taste. Don’t forget to check out your local chocolate shop though - there’s something special about buying local from a company that molds their bunnies on site.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Seems like everyone’s getting into Easter versions of their popular candies. Cadbury-Adams has quite a few new varieties including Sour Patch Eggs and Sour Patch Bunnies (which I bought & will review soon) but the more innovative one appeared to be Assorted Swedish Fish Eggs.
The package is more than quirky. The little red Swedish fish is sporting white and pink bunny ears and a little talking bubble says, “What, you’ve never heard of Candiar?”
The package notes that it also includes Swedish Fish but it didn’t elaborate beyond that.
Inside it’s not a large amount of candy for a theater box. It’s 3.1 ounces, which means that the inner cellophane bag takes up less than a third of the volume of the box.
The assortment is a mix of the small Swedish fish and the little “eggs” which are half inch hemispheres. They come in three or four flavors/colors. Orange, lemon, lime and “Swedish Fish” flavor.
When I took the picture I didn’t know there was a difference between the light green eggs and the aqua eggs.
The Swedish Fish and the aqua eggs are the same berry flavor. Sweet, tangy and jammy.
The lemon eggs are mild, as are the orange ones. Not much zest or juice to it, but still an ultra smooth chewy gel. The lime ones were surprising and more sweet as far as I could tell and more zesty.
On the whole they were fun, the teensy eggs were different but took away from the interactive part of eating a regular size Swedish Fish (biting & pulling it apart).
These are made in Canada but there’s no allergen statement on the box. They contain no animal products, nut products or apparent gluten ingredients but you may want to check with Cadbury directly. They also may be vegan, depending on how you feel about eating mineral oil. (There’s no glaze or dairy in it.)
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
After oodles of wrangling and rumors that Nestle, Ferrero or Hershey’s would step in and partner or outbid, Kraft made it official (though it’s still tentative): $19 billion in cash and stock.
Kraft owns other confectionery divisions such as Terry’s Chocolate, Toblerone and C?te d’Or but Cadbury brings some pretty huge brands to the table besides Cadbury chocolate (available in dozens of countries) with their gum (Trident) and sugar candy (Swedish Fish & Sour Patch Kids) groups. A big concern for many is how this may stall Cadbury’s venture into Fair Trade, beyond their Green & Black’s brand and into their regular line of Dairy Milk bars.
Consider this your open thread to vent about it one way or another.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.