Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I have my favorite candies, and I’ve been pretty faithful to them over the years. But there’s always this longing to experience new candies and how different cultures, countries and regions express their love of sweets. That’s part of the reason for Candy Blog, to help everyone overcome that fear of the new and different and embrace the new and different.
This is a story about my first “exotic” candy.
Sometime when I was a kid in grade school I was given Botan Rice Candy. I know I’d been exposed to foreign candy already (Torrones, Toblerone & other European chocolates), but this one was exotic because of the pictures on the box and that it had no associations with a holiday at all. It’s possible I had it at school as an observance of Lunar New Year, or just a show & tell from another child whose parents bought a box for them to bring into class. It came in a simple little box that’s pretty much unchanged today. At one end of the box was a little compartment that contained a little toy, like you would also get in Cracker Jacks back in the day. In the other 3/4 of the box were little cellophane wrapped jelly candies.
Things have changed a little since then. There is no longer a little toy in the box, but now a “Free Children’s Sticker” instead. But I guess this leaves more room for candy.
The candies are little cubes of jelly with a mild orange/lemon flavor wrapped twice. Though it seems like it’s not that different from those sugar encrusted jelly orange slices, these are less flashy. And this is what’s important about the Botan Rice Candy - the inner wrapper is edible. It looks like a slightly clouded cellophane, but it’s really made from rice and will dissolve in your mouth. (I was also fascinated with this ‘edible’ packaging in the classic Torrone as well, which have a starch wafer to keep them from sticking.)
What could be better for a kid looking to expand her horizons? A candy you could show to your friends and freak them out when you eat the plastic wrap plus a little toy!
Sometimes I like to pick the inner wrapper off as completely as I can. For no real reason of course. It’s not like it’s tasty. It’s kind of gooey, starts sticky and then becomes slippery on the tongue. Later when I had sake for the first time, it reminded me of yeasty rice candy wrappers. (Not really in a good way either, I don’t care for sake at all.)
As a candy, Botan Rice Candy is okay. It’s sweet and mild, though a little sticky sometimes. It has some of the barley sugar or millet jelly taste that I like, but the real appeal has to be the edible wrapper. There’s not much in the box either, at 3/4 of an ounce, there are only six pieces in there. With import costs, it’s usually about a dollar a box, even down in Chinatown where everything is cheap.
I went poking around the ‘net to see what else is out there and found another brand that also features the rice wrapper but looks like it could be of higher quality.
So, what was your first experience with Botan Rice Candy?
UPDATE: Several folks have mentioned White Rabbit in the comments since it also has an edible inner wrapper, here’s my review on that.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Happy Holidays to you, my sweet readers!
I raise my Christmas stocking to you and wish you a healthy, happy and safe Christmas, wherever you are.
Friday, December 22, 2006
In case you haven’t figured out already with the irregular posting this week, I’m traveling. But here’s something fun you might want to pack (or pick up as a stocking stuffer) when you’re on the road. They’re called ChocoPods and are made by Chuao, the SoCal based chocolatier. ChocoPods come in two flavors, Nutmeg and Spicy Maya.
Each is a little disk of chocolate shaped like a cocoa pod featuring dark chocolate (60% cacao) and a mix of spices. The idea is you take a little bite of chocolate and a sip of your coffee for an enhanced flavor experience for both. After all, chocolate and coffee both come from beans. (They really are a great match.)
The ChocoPods are intended to be sold at coffee houses where you’d see them right by the register instead of some mints or a croissant. It’s not a whole bar size, just 11 grams, which is the perfect complement to a cup of coffee or cappuccino. With only 60 calories in the little portion, it’s something you can work into your diet as a little treat every once in a while. The suggested retail of $1.00 to $1.25 makes them cheaper than the actual cup of coffee at most places!
Spicy Maya is pretty bold. Eating it solo, there’s a solid cayenne pepper kick to it in addition to some other notable spice notes like cinnamon and cardamom. But where the throat burning is an issue eating it alone a little swig of coffee settles the flavors out considerably. The bars themselves are sweet, but since I take no sugar in my coffee, I found it to be just the right amount to cut through the coffee’s strong notes. The bars aren’t terribly buttery either, but again, the warmth of the coffee makes a big difference.
Nutmeg is really nice. Very woodsy tasting with lots of earthy notes with not just nutmeg but a touch of eucalyptus, cardamom and sandalwood. This would be great in the evening by a roaring fire.
As chocolate bars to eat solo, they’re pretty good, but I think that Chuao has hit on something for the coffee house set. Most of the time I don’t feel like a whole hot chocolate, but I do want a little something chocolate. I often bring my own, so it makes sense that the coffee house would also want to sell me that too. The fact that they have the unusual flavors makes the whole thing feel a little more like an indulgence.
For only a buck, I would certainly give these a go every once in a while. I haven’t seen them at any coffee houses yet, but maybe soon. You can order them at the Chuao website.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
We had a Secret Santa exchange at the office, and of course my Secret Santa knew my fondness for candy (who doesn’t?) and bestowed upon me a box of retro items. Inside was a string of Zotz in Apple.
I don’t know much about Zotz. They’re made in Italy and are composed of a fizzy sour powder center inside a hard candy shell. They currently come in three flavors: Cherry, Watermelon & Apple. They come in a string of four packages (though as a child I’m quite sure the strings were longer, like you could get a yard of lollipops). I also recall they came in Lemon, but I can’t find much chatter online about them.
They’re awful cute little candies. They’re pretty big as well. I have two methods for eating them. The first is to suck on them really hard. There’s a little hole or seam in one end and if you suck hard enough you can get the fizzy powder to come out. The other method is to skip that patience thing and just crunch into it, which is usually what I do.
There is a serious amount of fizzy powder inside, a lot more than I remember. The fizz is pleasant and froths up into a rather creamy fluff inside the mouth. They’re not quite as fun as I remember, the fizz was certainly plentiful, but the flavor (perhaps because it was apple) wasn’t really that compelling.
The grown up version of these are the Napoleon Lemon Sours (from Belgium), which I’ve been eating for years and have always cleaved open the candy hoping to find a huge reservoir of the fizziness (and have always been disappointed and then put another one in my mouth). There are also Japanese versions of Zotz that I’ve seen at the stores but haven’t tried yet, maybe that’s something to put on my New Year’s list.
What flavors do you remember Zotz coming in?
Monday, December 18, 2006
My sister sent me a wonderful Christmas gift, which I opened early. It was an assortment of Clear Candy from Regennas in Pennsylvania. They were adorable little red, green and yellow hard candies in different toy shapes.
My assortment did not disappoint. I was a little sad that four of them were broken beyond practical use. The group of twenty included a few duplicates and unfortunately one of the uniques, a red steamboat, was among the broken. Other shapes included a nursing cow, chicken, duck, elephant, rhinoceros, cow, tin soldier, dog, cat (with a broken ear, just like my mother’s real cat!), pig, locomotive, a wolf and finally the most enigmatic of them, an angel on a lion. All the toys are three dimensional (some, like the locomotive are kind of flat, but shaped on both sides) unlike other more common lollipops which are shaped only on one side. They all have a little base and can stand up, it might be fun to have a chess set made out of these (well, not if you live in a humid climate).
My favorite has to be the least toy-like of all of them, the wonderful green alligator (or maybe it’s a croc, it’s hard to tell).
If there’s anything bad about these, it’s that they’re so dense that it’s hard to break the more solid and prickly ones in order to eat them. The toy shapes don’t really lend themselves to sucking whole unless you’re keen on making lots of noises (I guess that’s why the lollipop versions are so popular).
The taste is like cotton candy or sunshine or love ... one of those, or maybe they’re all the same. They’re smooth, with few if any voids, delicate and soft on the tongue as they melt ever-so-slowly. All the colors are the same mellow sugar flavor. They are absolutely the best barley sugar candies I’ve had in my adult life. Some places flavor them, I like the plain sugar flavor best.
The only real detraction for me with these was the slight metallic flavor when you first start eating them. My guess is it’s either the mold or the light oil coating they have to keep them from sticking. I didn’t notice it on all of them, but when Amy also mentioned it, at least I knew I wasn’t imagining it. The other bad thing, of course, is that they’re so freakishly hard to find.
It’s sad that barley sugar candies aren’t made much any longer. I know they’re not as flashy as some of the new themed candies, and I understand the labor involved in these and the craftsmanship involved with the original molds is substantial. Regennas, in its fourth generation, only makes sweets for Christmas and Valentine’s Day and they’re all done for this year.
There’s another barley sugar candy company that I know of by Melville’s (you can order them here) which has an annoying site that plays music you can’t turn off. They have a huge variety of pops (including the excellent honey spoons).
Friday, December 15, 2006
While at the All Candy Expo over the summer, there was some excitement over the new chocolate Pop Rocks to come out later in the year. I got a sample of them there, in a little cup, not a packet with the final design. In fact, when I saw the packet at the 7-11 last night, I didn’t even recognize it. The colors on the package look more orange than chocolatey brown (and I was actually interested in orange pop rocks).
The Pop Rocks Bubble Gum was a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting it to be like the bubble gum cotton candy I had earlier this year. Instead it was a little bits of white bubble gum mixed with even smaller bits of rather unflavored Pop Rocks in light orange and pink. The fun is gone in a matter of seconds. Either you chew up the gum part and all the pop rocks go off at once or you leave it in your mouth and have the gummy unreactive lumps at the end.
The gum itself is nice, soft but it takes about half the packet to create enough gum to make a bubble.
The Chocolate Pop Rocks are very light in color and look kind of like little crisped rice, but about the size of sesame seeds. In fact they remind me of Cocoa Krispies. The popping is light and refreshing, but not as pronounced as the Green Apple I’ve had recently.
But Pop Rocks are not the only game any longer. There is a Turkish company called HLeks that’s making carbonated candy as well under the name Shoogy Boom. They have a nice range of flavors, including lemon and cola. I picked up the comparable flavors: Chocolate Covered and Bubble Gum. They also have a freaky chinless clown as a mascot. Seriously, this cannot be endearing to children.
Shoogy Boom is a slightly smaller serving, at only 7 grams per packet instead of the 9.5-10.5 grams you get with Pop Rocks.
The Shoogy Boom Popping Bubble Gum had a similar format to the Pop Rocks, just a mess of little gum bits and some light orange popping candy pieces mixed in. I have to give it to Shoogy Boom, they deserve their boom name, the popping is definitely active, more than the Pop Rocks. However, the gum absolutely sucks. It was like when you decide to eat a piece of paper and eventually get that stiff unchewable piece of fiber. Only this had a light bubble gum flavor.
The Chocolate Shoogy Boom were darker than the Pop Rocks and a bit rounder. The chocolate tasted much more like chocolate instead of cocoa. The popping though was far and away better than the Pop Rocks. A slight tartness to the candy inside but overall a good noisy affair. They’re both a tasty and interesting change from the original.
I think what’s best about them is that they don’t have the same tendency to lose their pop over time because of humidity that the regular popping candies can.
An internet search revealed nothing about any retailers in the US carrying Shoogy Boom, so please leave a note here if you’ve seen them sold anywhere.
Other Reviews: Candy Addict (Chocolate)
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Nope, not a Limited Edition find, Hershey’s has just jumped in and added the KitKat Caramel to their repertoire. Instead of being the four finger bar, this one is modeled on the super KitKat single finger (thumb?).
I didn’t like this format bar when it was the “Extra Crispy” one, so I was dreading this one a bit.
It smelled buttery, which I found rather pleasant. My bar had a caramel leak (much like the Valomilk) which meant that the caramel reservoir at the top of the bar was a little scant when I bit into it. Later in the bar the caramel density picked up to their intended levels, which was a nice proportion. It’s a sweet bar, but the caramel has a buttery and salty snap that mellows out the sugary, grainy chocolate, bland wafers and grainier cream filling.
If anything, there was too much chocolate on the sides of the bar. Perhaps it’s structurally necessary, but I found it interfered with my caramel enjoyment. The other annoyance with this bar is that you can’t put it down. I mean, you can, but the caramel flows out and you’ve got yourself a sticky cara-mess.
I still prefer the original KitKat, but the salty bite of the flowing caramel is compelling so I’ll give this one another try at some point.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
This stuff, Shaymee’s Aussie Toffee, isn’t actually from Australia, but made right here in California.
They boast about their real, all natural ingredients including organic cane juice and fresh butter as well as their genetic predisposition to great toffee on their website. They also list a long variety of flavor combinations for their bulk toffees: Dark Chocolate Macadamia (shown), Dark Chocolate Espresso, Dark Chocolate Almond, Milk Chocolate Almond and Milk Chocolate Pecan. They also have single serving packages that have three pieces (2 ounces) of the Almond in both Milk & Dark Chocolate.
The wide array of nut combos have one thing in common, a hefty plank of sweet, salty and crisp toffee at their center. A good buttery (and chocolatey) scent combined with a good cleave of the toffee. The pieces were about four bites each for me. The were very buttery tasting with a mellow salty hit that kept everything in balance.
The nuts weren’t overly abundant in any of the varieties, but definitely gave a flavor definition to all of them. My favorite, even though it was milk chocolate, was the Pecan. The Almond was quite good, with a good nutty taste and a slightly crumblier texture than the others. Macadamia reminded me of coconut, it felt a little butterier. Espresso was dark and mysterious and quite tasty to have the bitter bits of coffee in the chocolate to balance out the sweet caramelized sugars. The quality of the chocolate was particularly good - mellow and creamy without even a hint of chalky grain.
I supplied a large assortment of these to the family over Thanksgiving alongside the Charles Chocolates and everyone was duly impressed with both.
I love that the pieces are regular and dipped in chocolate. I much prefer that to the rustic broken planks that always seem to have the chocolate fall off of the last pieces in the box.
The best part about all these toffees is the price. You can pick up a half pound on Amazon for $7.19 ... less than $15 a pound for premium toffee? Sure the packaging isn’t as elegant as some others, but stuff it in a gift basket with some nice coffee or hot chocolate and someone will definitely love you. If I have a criticism it’s that all the toffees look the same when dumped out of the package. Once I mixed them together on a plate for serving to friends I completely lost track of which was which. (Of course as a good hostess I offered to bite everyone’s toffee pieces to discern the nut.)
You can also buy it in plenty of Whole Foods-styled stores all over the West. If you’re in the store and want some toffee, definitely give the single serve package a go.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.