Thursday, April 9, 2009
While some folks find the Cadbury Creme Egg to be the ultimate achievement in Easter confectionery, be warned that there are some pretenders to that throne. At the stores this year I found two such “knock offs.”
I found Walgreen’s and CVS had their own eggs this year. The CVS brand is called Absolutely Divine and comes in gold foil with a purple and black logo ... which made me wonder if they were a dark chocolate product. The Walgreen’s version is in primary/secondary colors and comes in both the Creme Egg and Caramel Egg.
What could a store brand have to offer? Well, the first thing I noticed about these CCE simulations is that they’re bigger. In fact the shelf box for the Walgreen’s said that they’re 14% larger. These eggs are like the once powerful Cadbury Creme Eggs in their original 1.38 ounce size (CCE are now 1.2 ounces).
Walgreen’s had these generic looking Creme Eggs on sale this past weekend for 40 cents each, which is not much less than an actual Cadbury Creme Egg. What I found so surprising is that I’ve been to that Walgreen’s at least twice before during this Easter season and these weren’t out on the shelves.
It was tough to read the wrapper. What I did get was that these are made in Canada and the chocolate shell is made of real chocolate.
Biting into the egg was a bit tough. It’s a thick shell and I was greeted with a creme that resembled a cordial more than the fondant than I was used to.
The difference between the egg white and egg yolk wasn’t quite apparent, though the best I could tell was there were two different colors of fondant in there. The center was sticky and inconsistent. Sweet, flavorless with little patches of clotted graininess.
Rating: 3 out of 10.
Biting it was similarly difficult to the Creme version - the shell is thick and almost solid on either end with only a minor void for the caramel at the center.
The caramel isn’t chewy or flowing. Instead it’s more of a pudding-like goo. As far a flavor though, it’s like a good caramel pudding, it’s very smooth and has some toasted sugar flavors. The chocolate shell is a bit hard, a little grainy and very milky tasting.
As far as this brand goes, I rather liked this Caramel Egg ... not enough to buy it again, but as a simulation of the venerable original, it at least meets expectations.
Rating: 4 out of 10.
The CVS Absolutely Divine Creme Egg didn’t look like much in the store. There was no explanation on the display box, and actually finding the “creme egg” part on the wrapper was pretty tough sleuthing that involved carefully flattening the foil after unwrapping.
I fully expected these to be made in Canada like the Walgreen’s counterpart ... that they just came spilling off the line to be randomly divided into different groups for different foil wrappers. This was more shocking when I read that they have identical ingredients and molding. But origins aside, the important part is how much they cost and how they taste.
I paid 50 cents each for these.
The creme center was also similarly inconsistent, though not quite as flowing as the Walgreen’s version.
The chocolate shell was disgusting. It tasted like roasted cardboard. Musty, grainy and overly sweetened, perhaps steamed cardboard.
The sweet filling was completely overpowered by this too-much-bad-shell. And the name, well, they’re absolutely not divine.
Rating: 2 out of 10.
I have one other piece of not-so-shocking info. These are all sticky. Not something to be eaten while using a keyboard.
What I came away with is this: if you love Cadbury Creme Eggs, buy Cadbury Creme Eggs. If you don’t like Cadbury Creme Eggs, these aren’t going to persuade you that they’re a great candy. Spend the extra eight cents or whatever the price difference is and get the real stuff.
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.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I got it from my Canadian candy source, Amber, along with a bunch of other bars that we simply can’t get here in the States (Oh Henry!). While the Caramilk bar has an American counterpart, the Caramello bar it just doesn’t have the same profile.
It turns out the Caramilk bar is the #3 bar in Canada. Different versions seem like a no-brainer for capturing a bigger market share. (I tried the Caramilk Maple, too.) But they might want to include it on their website (I think it was launched in mid 2007, so you’d think someone might have updated the site since then).
You can tell this is a modern candy launch because Caramilk Deluxe has its own Facebook page.
Instead of the traditional bar format, the Caramilk Deluxe opted for pieces. There are four little milk chocolate molded pieces tucked into a folded paperboard tray. At only 45 grams (1.59 ounces) it’s a bit smaller portion size than a regular candy bar. But don’t worry, it still clocks in with 230 calories.
They’re a little bigger than the regular sized Rolos (which is kind of what I was expecting at that point), more like a hefty Hershey’s Kiss.
The nicely molded pieces have a little swirl on the top. Again, nice touch for something called Deluxe.
As I don’t live in Canada and didn’t think to look for this on Facebook, I just had to muddle through my first tasting. There is no description on the package of what it is, just the picture. And the picture is vague. Sure, I get that there’s a shell and caramel ... but what is that red-brown stuff at the top?
Well, even after the first bite I wasn’t sure.
The caramel is flowing, sweet and extremely smooth. The chocolate is milky and tastes kind of like pudding. The other filling is rather like dark chocolate fudge. But it tastes like Oreo cookies. A very dark, burnt cocoa flavor. While thought the slight chew of the fudge was a little offputting, the flavor it added was pretty good.
Since they seem to be marketing these to women as a little indulgence the packaging and little pieces feel upscale. But the flavor of the product is pretty ordinary. If you’re a Caramilk fan, you might like these, but I’m not going to go placing a special import order or anything.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The Oh Henry! bar is one of oldest extant candy bars in North America. There are two stories of the origin of the bar. The first is that the bar was invented by Tom Henry in 1919, who ran the Peerless Candy Company (known for their hard candies) where the bar was known as the Tom Henry Bar. He sold the recipe for the bar to Williamson Candy Store in Chicago.
The other story is that it was actually invented by the Williamson Candy Store and named for a helpful customer whom the female clerks would often ask favors of, by saying “Oh, Henry, could you move that heavy box.”
It was often billed as “the ten cent piece of dollar candy” and became popular in Chicago eventually expanding as a national candy bar through the tenacious efforts of John Glossinger (whom Glosettes are named after). Williamson Candy, at some point, sold out to Ward-Johnson which was swallowed up by Nabisco in 1981 (which was also holding the Curtiss bars - Baby Ruth & Butterfinger included- at that time). Finally in 1990 Nestle bought the Curtiss bars, SnoCaps, Goobers & Raisinets from Nabisco. (Some of this is a bit murky and I traced it mostly through trademark registrations, and probably matters very little in the end.)
The bar is simple enough, a vanilla fudge center with caramel & peanuts then covered in chocolate. It’s gone through some changes over the years besides ownership. This is where things get interesting from an evolutionary standpoint. In 1987 Hershey Canada got the rights to produce the bar (through Nabisco which owned Canadian confectioner Lowney). The Hershey’s Oh Henry! is more than a little different from the American bar, as we’ll see.
Though the American bar used to be a single, it has now morphed into a double bar (a la Mounds) while the Canadian version remains pretty much the same as it was 30 years ago.
The package on the Nestle version says: 2 peanutty * caramel * fudge bars in milk chocolate. It weighs 1.8 ounces (51 grams). It comes sealed in a simple yellow plasticized wrapper.
The package on the Hershey version says: crunchy peanuts, chewy fudge, creamy caramel, covered in a chocolaty coating. It weighs 2.2 ounces (62.5 grams). It comes in a mylar wrapper with a small folded paperboard tray.
The innards of the two Oh Henrys! tell more about them. The American Oh Henry! is rather organized and stratified.
The Nestle one has a caramel base then a fudge mixed with peanuts. It’s all covered in what they call real milk chocolate. It has a nice roasted peanut flavor, but the difference between the caramel and the fudge is minimal. The fudge is a bit saltier, but caramel is short and grainy instead of being chewy and creamy. At first I thought it was just a not-so-fresh bar, so I bought another. And another. This is the third I’ve bought and second I’ve photographed for this review.
The two pieces are nicely sized and the flavor balance overall is good. I would prefer some really good creamy chocolate to pull it together, but that’s just not Nestle’s style.
The Hershey one reminds me a bit of a narrow Payday Chocolatey Avalanche. The fudge is at the center here and much lighter in color (reminding me quite a bit of a nougat except there are no eggs in it). On top of the fudge is a thin layer of caramel which holds the peanuts. The whole thing is covered in a chocolatey coating (which actually contains real chocolate with cocoa butter, but it also has modified palm oil in it, which takes it out of the real chocolate column).
The nuts play a much bigger role here, probably because they mingle with both the (mock)chocolate and the caramel. For fake chocolate, it does a much better job of being creamy and tasty than Nestle’s real stuff. The caramel has a kind of fake butter flavor to it, but this is only noticeable if you take the bar apart and try to eat the elements separately (now why would you wanna do that?).
While Nestle just lets the Oh Henry! bar do its thing here in the States, up in the Great White North it’s another story entirely. Hershey goes to down with the bar. First, it’s one of the largest single-serve bars in Canada, so it’s known as a good value. Hershey also does limited editions and other versions of the bar. I got a hold of a few.
It’s not quite as sweet as the regular Oh Henry! and really quite a nice bar. The dark chocolate gives it a bigger chocolate pop instead of all that dairy-tasting milk chocolate. I could use a dash of salt, but, that’s just me, eh.
All of the variation bars are slightly smaller, at only 60 grams (2.12 ounces).
It’s a bit flatter than the other bars. It’s also a bit greasy. This one also has a mockolate coating which isn’t as creamy and just a bit bloomed.
It’s really peanutty. It’s also pleasantly salty ... or unpleasantly so if you think that 115 mg is a little much for a candy bar (the standard Hershey Oh Henry! has 50 mg).
The peanut center also made the caramel more noticeable, probably because it isn’t as dense and chewy as the fudge. (This one is not a limited edition but appears to be a permanent variation.)
The final limited edition item is the Oh Henry! Oh Canada. It first appeared last year for Canada Day (July 1st) so mine is a bit past its prime (the expiration says January 2008).
The bar is described on the wrapper: Crunchy peanuts, red chewy fudge, white creamy caramel, covered in a chocolatey coating. This combo results in red and white in every bite!.
Yes, that fudge center there is actually red. And maple flavored.
Even if it is expired, it was still pretty tasty. I liked the intense maple flavor that permeated the bar. It was like toasted, caramelized pecans.
Overally, I much prefer the Canadian Oh Henry! from Hershey, even if it does have mockolate on it. The Dark Oh Henry! is superior to all the others, but since it was a Limited Edition, the original (which by the way, better reflects the American original anyway) will do in a pinch. But given a choice, I’d probably opt for the whole thing sans (mock)chocolate and get a Payday.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
It’s often puzzled me why there aren’t more organic candy bars out there. For the most part candy bars are made (or can be made) with all natural/organic ingredients pretty easily. Why no one does this is beyond me, so for the most part candy fiends with an eco bent have to eat just chocolate (sometimes flavored) or hard candies or pay for bars to be flown from far away places and pay ridiculous prices for kinky combinations ... in reality all I want is the tried and true candy bar, only made with pure ingredients.
Crispy Cat has a nice line of candy bars that seem to defy that notion that candy bars have to be made with sub-par ingredients. Their bars are also dairy free, gluten free, non GMO and use a large proportion of organic ingredients (70-90% organic, depending on the bar). In fact, their ingredients list only looks long because they put things like “organic” or “made with gmo” all over it.
They come in three varieties: Toasted Almond, Roasted Peanut and Mint Coconut ... all with dark chocolate.
Here’s what Joel, the founder of Crispy Cat has to say:
The Toasted Almond features dark chocolate, crispy rice & toasted almonds.
It has a wonderful dark, woodsy and chocolatey aroma. The bite is a bit stiff, it’s not quite crunchy and certainly not chewy. It’s just lumpy.
Once I got used to the complex center, I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures. It’s part crisped rice, a little bit of a caramel-like chew to hold it together, a toasted sugar flavor and some pieces of almonds for an added crunch. I would have preferred a lighter crunch to it, something easier to chew (either crispier or softer).
This bar also has a crisped rice center. In this case it’s a bit fluffier and softer than the others, with a light peppermint scent.
Instead of the firm and chewy center, this one was a bit crumblier and has big pieces of naturally sweet coconut in it. It’s an interesting flavor combo, very tropical and fresh, a bit of a grassy note to the whole thing.
I can’t say that I loved this one, in fact it was my least favorite of the three. But I can’t help but be pleased that someone is paying attention to coconut these days. I love the stuff.
The center felt fattier though had the same number of calories as the Toasted Almond at 220 it has 10 grams of fat (TA has only 9).
The dark chocolate is rather bitter but has a decent melty texture. The crunchy rice, peanut butter and peanut chunk center is tasty. It’s dark and nutty, a bit salty and only lightly sweet. This one hits it out of the park as far as a peanut candy bar can go.
It definitely tasted like a candy bar, not one of those nutrition bars.
I was kind of surprised to see that they weighed only 1.75 ounces, it’s actually bigger than a Snickers bar, which gives the perception of a much larger mass of satisfaction.
Overall, these are fun and have very few compromises. And what’s the biggest one? Price. These retail for $2.50 ... that’s three times the price you’d pay for a non-organic bar. Pretty startling. But compared to other premium meal replacement bars, they can hold their own. The two nut varieties have 4 grams of protein (not from soy, though they do use soy lecithin so they’re not soy free) and 2 grams of fiber. They also clock in at 220 calories, which is a decent snack. I’d probably prefer these in a smaller variety though ... they’d make an awesome Halloween Treat if they came in snack size.
The Roasted Peanut bar is the one most likely to appeal to kids but none are too mature to miss with a true candy bar fiend.
I’d also recommend a bit of a change in the design of the package. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to appeal to, but it’s not grabbing me. They call themselves “tree huggin’ treats” and have the image of a couple of arms around a tree on the left size of each wrapper. (I’m not sure where the cat comes in.) The website looks completely different and inconsistent from this (but I’m not keen on the web’s cartoon designs either).
I’m not quite sure about them, they’re definitely on the right track and I’d be most inclined to eat the Roasted Peanut again, but if I were faced with eating one of these or a Lara Bar, I’d probably go for the Lara Bar.
Want to win some? Check out Crispy Cat Chronicles, if you can guess Ann’s new baby’s height, weight & birthdate you can win three cases of the bars of your very own.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Amber, a dear reader from Toronto, came to Los Angeles over Easter weekend and was kind enough to run around to three stores before leaving Canada in search of a list o’ candies from the Great White North. Her timing couldn’t have been better for this one, the Cadbury Popping Mini Eggs which are pretty much what the name implies.
They’re Cadbury Mini Eggs (a creamy milk chocolate egg with a crunchy shell) with a little bit of carbonated candy thrown in.
They look just like their non-bubbly counterparts, except they don’t have the little speckles on them. They come in all the standard eraser colors: white, yellow, pink and turquoise.
I have to say that the bag is teensy and contains a rather small amount: 32 grams (1.13 ounces). The standard Canadian single serve bags are 39 grams. I guess instead of charging more for that special ingredient they just give you less.
Where the Pop Rocks Chocolate Bar had an odd texture because of the addition of Pop Rocks, these don’t have that jarring granularity, because we’re already accustomed to the crunchy bits of the shell.
After chewing a few times the chocolate melts away, it’s sweet, creamy and a little malty ... then the popping starts. It’s not a lot of popping, not as much as the Pop Rocks bar, but still a nice experience.
The regular packaging is purple, this is yellow, so it’s hard to mistake one for the other on the shelves. And once you pop it in your mouth, well, it’s the same sort of shocking difference.
I thought these were a bit of a novelty item, but I like it. I wouldn’t want to have a huge 11 ounce bag of them, but a little handful brought a smile to my face.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Just to make things clear, the package says, “Tangy Fruit Flavors” ... just in case people thought they were some other assortment of flavors associated with Smarties. They never actually say which fruits they are, though.
Actually, I think Smarties are an ideal Easter candy, with their pastel colors and light flavors. I like Smarties. I like their lack of flavor, the way they dissolve so quickly and smoothly. I like their tiny tablet size, their light colors and complete indistinguishableness from one another.
These jelly beans were about the same price as others are these days, retail of $1.99.
The shell is a dry and a little crumbly and cool on the tongue (as dextrose usually is). The shells have a tangy and flavorful layer. The flavors aren’t very strong or complex. Grape is the most vivid, in that grape soda way. Green apple is pretty mild. Blue tastes like ball point pen ink smells (I think it’s raspberry). Cherry is very tart and then very sweet but less bitter than most pink/red cherry candies. Lemon was probably the sweetest of the bunch.
What was missing was the white Smarties, you know, that one that we all think is pineapple and is by far the best. (What? You don’t think so, too?)
The colors are bright and opaque, rather like highlighter pens. The funny part is that Smarties actually makes their lack of color in their compressed dextrose tablets a selling point. From their website:
In the case of these little jelly beans, I think they’re using just as much dye as everyone else. Most of all I noticed the similarities between the Smarties Jelly Bean and the SweeTarts Jelly Beans.
So I gathered up an assortment of both and put them side by side. The SweeTarts Jelly Beans are on the left and the Smarties Jelly Beans are on the right. They are extremely close in colors, although the Smarties are missing the orange one completely.
The beans were essentially identical with the Smarties being slightly more flavorful, mostly in the tangy layer. The colors very little but the purple and the green are the easiest to tell apart by looking at them and the blue in the SweeTarts version is punch flavor, not raspberry.
I really don’t have a preference of one over the other. If you have a choice, I say go with whichever is cheaper or whichever brand you feel you prefer to support.
They’re both made in Canada and come in 14 ounce bags, though their ingredients label differs slightly ... so it’s entirely possible that this factory churns both out under contract with Nestle or CeDe Candy.
While all of the Smarties compressed dextrose products are gluten, nut and milk free, the Smarties Jelly Beans are made in Canada and are made in a facility that processes all the hit-list allergens: peanuts, nuts, milk products, soy products, wheat, eggs and sesame seeds.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
It’s the Wonka Chocolate Golden Egg. It’s Wonka because it’s made by Nestle. It’s chocolate because that’s what it’s made from. It’s golden because that’s what color the foil wrapper is and finally, it’s egg shaped.
It’s sold in a rather large box, which I suppose protects it well, but seems a bit of overkill for the amount of actual candy you get.
The whole confection clocks in at 4.5 ounces (the largest of my candy reviews in Hollow Chocolate Rabbit Week). What’s also different about this one is that it has something inside, a handful of SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies. The egg itself is 4.5” tall. The box that holds it is 7” tall.
The chocolate shell is woodgrained. Or maybe it’s supposed to look like a nut. I have no idea why it would be either. Eggs are smooth.
The chocolate itself is, well at least real. It’s very sweet, sticky and milky. It’s definitely not the wonderful Swiss milk chocolate that Nestle makes, but as novelty fare goes, it does pretty well.
Some pieces taste a little “fruitier” because of the SweeTarts.
My egg had eight SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies. Three red and five purple. I was spared the recent atrocity of the blue/tropical punch. I kind of hoped for more candy inside, but the amount matched the image on the box. Also, the candies rattle around inside and ding up the chocolate with little nicks and leave a SweeTart dust.
It’s fun, it’s well made (in Canada), but it’s a bit pricey at $7 to $8 retail (I haven’t found a store with them in stock, I got mine as a sample from CandyWarehouse.com). That ends up about $1.67 per ounce.
The Wonka Golden Egg is one of the few Wonka products that relates back to the 1971 movie adaptation. (And the best candy-themed musical rant ever.)
So if you have your own Veruca Salt at home, this might be the perfect featured item for an Easter basket.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.