Monday, April 20, 2015
But there are some terms which have become so generic, they’re losing their meaning. I want to correct that course, or at least clarify how the terms are used on Candy Blog.
There is a wonderful, and rather recent invention called the Gummi Candy. It was innovated in the 1920s in Germany and popularized by the Haribo Gold Bear. Once these unique candies became popular in the United States, they expanded into a very broad and diverse candy category.
A gummi has a base of gelatin. Gelatin is often bandied about has a horrifying ingredient in viral listicles to unsuspecting people who apparently have never read a list of what’s in their food before.
Gelatin is a protein. It’s most often made from pork sources, found in the connective tissues (knuckles, hooves, as well as skin), but it’s also made from bovine or fish sources to create a Kosher/Halal version. Gelatin simply cannot be vegetarian. The protein of gelatin is amazing, it creates a translucent, flavorless base with an inimitable texture. I call it bouncy. Many gummi candies are fat free, or have nominal amounts of fat, so they’re very low in calories per ounce.
Often jelly candies are often categorized as gummis, because they are also colorful, translucent and fruit flavored. However, a jelly candy is somewhat different. Jelly candies are solidified using carbohydrates, not proteins. So, a jelly bean center is usually made with corn starch. Other jelling ingredients are pectin, tapioca, potato or arrowroot starch. Gums are also used sometimes to jell candy, which is how the original gumdrops were made, with gum arabic, mastic or gum tragacanth.
Now, I have nothing against jelly candies, but you probably already innately know the different between a Swedish Fish and a Gummi Worm. There’s a substantial different to the texture.
The easiest way to tell the difference, without even putting a candy in your mouth, is to pull it apart. When you pull a Swedish Fish or Spearmint Leaf apart, it’s pretty easy. What you see when you look closely at the spot where it splits is that it creates little strings at the separation. The softer the candy, the more stringy it will be. It’s generally sticky, as in, it will stick to you, your fingers, the package, whatever.
When you pull a gummi apart, you’ll get a lot of stretch, but eventually it will break. So the edges of a gummi will usually be flat, a full clean break. Though the broken surface will be sticky, the strength of the gummi means that it is unlikely to transfer to your fingers or pockets.
I prefer to use the original German word for the candy, gummi, instead of gummy. Since gummy already means something in English which is not necessarily descriptive of actual gummis, it’s easier to just keep them as separate names. However, here on the blog I used the name of the candy if it happens to be Gummy or Gummies.
Gummis are unique enough they shouldn’t be lumped in with jelly candies, no more than compressed dextrose and chocolate should be, just because they’re basically solids at room temperature.
Though there have been attempts to make vegan or vegetarian gummis, there really isn’t anything quite like gelatin in the plant world. So, you may find marshmallows made with agar agar, but they’ll never be quite the same as gelatin marshmallows. For some candies that use gelatin, such as Mentos, they were able to swap out the gelatin in the chewy mints for gellan gum, which is made from bacteria.
Perhaps scientists will be able to synthesize a protein from plants someday, but in the interim, there’s nothing wrong with omnivores making some fun confections by utilizing all parts of the animals we raise for food.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Though the name of the new flavor is a little trendy, the idea is pretty solid. Maple is a great, distinctive but mild flavor. It’s an ideal addition to Jelly Belly’s line because it can be combined with other flavor beans. Though I didn’t have any on hand to try out, I would think that Banana and Strawberry would go well.
The packaging is fun, an aqua gingham motif on the bag gives it a homespun feel. The image on the front, though is not of Vermont maple trees with running sap and buckets, like I might have imagined, instead it’s more in line with what I see any neighborhood diner, a plate of pancakes with butter and a little pitcher of syrup. (Now, I love my little diner I go to, but I highly doubt they use actual maple syrup because their menu just says syrup.)
The beans are uniform looking, a medium caramel color, kind of like Sugar Babies. The bag does smell a lot like maple syrup, which is a sweet smell with notes of bourbon and vanilla with a little molasses or pipe tobacco.
The interesting things is that these are not just maple flavor but also pancake, so there are other flavor notes to the actual beans. Though the primary flavor is definitely, and perhaps over-the-top maple syrup, I also caught sort of buttery notes. It’s not the overwhelming buttered popcorn flavor, just a sort of salty and creamy flavor to it. (There are 25mg of salt per serving.)
So, there’s lots of maple-y flavor and buttery notes, but no actual pancake, which is fine, because just a jelly bean that tastes like pancake topping is good enough.
The fun part for many candy fans is that Jelly Belly are gluten free and peanut free. So if you can’t have actual pancakes because you’re gluten intolerant, you can have these.
I think the trendiness of these makes them appealing in the short term for buzz, but maple should stand the test of time. Of course the Honey jelly beans introduced a five years ago didn’t do so well and I think those did better in combination with other flavors than Maple.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
In the latest episode of Candyology 101, Maria and get back to study of candy with Compressed Dextrose, or whatever SweeTarts and Smarties are supposed to be.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Chocolate covered dried fruit is one of the simplest confections. Raisins, candied orange peels and ginger and cranberries are the most common chocolate coated items. Every once in a while a company comes along to put a little twist on the idea.
Nature Addicts (which goes by [N.A!]) makes Fruit Sticks, which are basically pureed fruit formed into easy to eat pieces. Then they went one step further and coated them in chocolate. They just call them Fruit & Chocolate, which is a descriptive name but not particularly distinctive. The only flavor is Apple Orange.
[N.A!] nuggets made 100% from fruits coated with a fine layer of premium 70% cocoa dark chocolate for a unique experience.
The fruit filling is made from concentrated apple puree, concentrated apple juice, concentrated orange juice, pectin, citrus fiber and natural orange flavor. The chocolate coating is 70% made with reduced fat cocoa powder, in addition to cocoa liquor. It’s sweetened with cane sugar. There’s also a little honey in there, so it’s not marked as a vegan product.
The nuggets are made in The Netherlands, and it’s all non-GMO ingredients. They’re not terribly attractive. There’s no glaze on the panned chocolate coating, so they’re a little lumpy, a little scuffed. They’re mostly flat rectangles, about 1/2 an inch long and 1/3 of an inch wide.
Even though the fruit bits are really more apple than orange, they taste like orange. It’s an immediately zesty flavor, but also very tangy. The texture of the filling is less of a jelly and more like a fruit paste, think a very soft fruit roll up.
It’s a good combination, though the sweet and sour of the chocolate and the filling is a little jarring because both are intense.
Even though it’s a dark chocolate product, they seem pretty kid-friendly. Smaller children probably won’t like the intense bitterness of the chocolate along with the intense sour of the filling, but older kids may find this a nice compromise candy for families that want something with a little cleaner ingredients for snacking. The bag is just over one ounce and only 110 calories, though there are 2.5 grams of fat, there are also 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein. I wouldn’t call them nutritious, but they’re tasty enough as a between meal snack or an addition to a trail mix.
Monday, April 13, 2015
It’s rare that I get to chronicle the demise of a candy on this blog, it’s even rarer to then be able to report of its return.
Tart n Tinys was a fringe candy to begin with back in the early 1970s. They were one of the early confections introduced by Breaker Confections, which also made other compressed dextrose candies like Wacky Wafers (more history on Collecting Candy). The innovation for the candy came around 1977 when they added a re-closable top that acted as a dispenser for the maddeningly small pieces. Later they were added into the Wonka brand in the 1980s, which Breaker licensed around the time of the movie premiere. But still, they were never headliner candies, they were never the centerpiece of the Wonka brand, and rarely included in other formats for the candies sold for Trick or Treat or in large lay-down bags.
Tart n Tinys were then discontinued around 2007, and even then, they were different from the original candy. They sported candy shells, like mini Spree candies, though they came in a larger box now and with the addition of a blue raspberry flavor. There was a chewy version, which again, might have been confusing for the existing Wonka brand which also included SweeTarts, Spree and Mini Chewy SweeTarts at that time.
Devoted fans bought up the last few cases of Tart n Tinys, I even held onto a few boxes (I have two or three, still). Then Leaf Brands started to buy up the old trademarks and research the recipes in order to revive the candies. (Leaf brought back Astro Pops in 2012 and is also promising a return of Wacky Wafers this year.)
The new Tart n Tinys are similar to the original packaging for the candy; a simple cellophane bag. They were expensive when I picked them up, at Dylan’s Candy Bar, for $3.49 for a 1.5 ounce package. Though they don’t have the candy coating of the version that was discontinued, there are blue candies in there. They’re made in America and a Kosher.
The wee little cylinders are 1/4 of an inch high. They’re about 3/16 of an inch in diameter. The candies were only slightly powdery within the package, which you can kind of see in the picture of the wrapper up there.
There are six colors and flavors: blue raspberry, grape, orange, lime, lemon and cherry. There’s no listing of the flavors on the package.
Blue Raspberry is sweet and tart with a pretty good floral berry flavor to it.
Grape is smooth and acidic but without much grape punch to it, though it’s hard to rival the SweeTarts grape.
Lemon is mild, a little tangy but not too much lemon in there either.
Orange is probably the best, a good mix of the juice flavor and tartness.
Lime is surprising, I was certain it was going to be green apple, so that was nice. It’s a good lime, not too artificial and not too much like a floor cleaner.
Cherry is pretty bold, sometimes it seemed like it was the most intense of the flavors in the mix. The black cherry flavors were well rounded, good deep notes and a puckery finish.
As a candy sold as tart, they’re not as sour as some of the modern Warheads or Toxic Waste type products.
The texture is generally smoother than SweeTarts, which tend to be a little crumbly and lumpy. However, the flavor is not as intense, so there’s plenty of tart but less actual defining flavor between them. This makes it easy to eat them together as a mix, but harder to chose over SweeTarts for flavor alone. However, I liked all of the flavors and didn’t have to pick any of them out, the fact that there’s orange, lime and raspberry in there makes this a unique mix among the sour dextrose candies.
The upshot of all of this is that, yes, they are very much like the original candy. However, the packaging is lacking the original flair with its recyclable dispenser box ... and the price (I admit that it’s probably not the normal price) is ridiculous. I’ll stick to SweeTarts until these come down to normal pricing. But, they really are fun to stack and arrange.
Monday, April 6, 2015
I’ve been putting off this review of SweetWorks Celebration Candies for months. I’ve seen them at stores quite a bit lately, not just the bears, but SweetWorks makes a wide variety of shapes and color variations for different party needs. My hesitation was that they look great, but didn’t taste like much at all.
This particular variation is little candy coated bears in pearlescent yellow, green and white. The sparkly coating is created with food-safe mica based pigments.
I got a sample of their peg bag of this variety that’s 12 ounces, but I’ve seen smaller 6 ounce bags and of course some wholesalers will sell by the case. They’re a very popular item for candy buffets, or for decorating and party favors for baby showers and birthday parties. They’re made by OakLeaf in Canada. The package says that it’s peanut free, tree nut free and gluten free, however, the package says that their facility does use milk and soy.
The bears don’t smell like much, a little perfumey but otherwise a clean smell. I don’t know if they have particular flavors, as the package only mentions what you can do with them: candy buffet, baked goods, party favors, themed events, candy dish, bridal shower, baby showers. Nowhere does it mention just eating or how they’ll taste.
They’re a pressed dextrose candy, a compacted powder made from glucose (dextrose) is flavored and stamped out under high pressure to make the candies. Then they’re tumbled with some colors and glazes to make them even prettier.
What is also nice about them is that they’re designed on both sides, so the front is the bear’s face and belly, the back has a tiny little buttocks tushy thing going on.
When I was at the Lolli & Pops candy store, I noticed that they had some uncoated multicolored bears as well, so I picked those up to see if there was a flavor difference.
These are actually quite different from the coated version, which is kind of sad, because these are nicer. The texture is a little on the powdery side, compared to the SweeTarts tablets but not as chalky as Smarties.
Green is Lime - which is rare. It’s a more floral flavor than most lime candies, and much less sour than a traditional SweeTart.
Red is Cherry and passable, though more sour than cherry flavored. Heck, it might even be strawberry.
Orange is Orange and has a good orange soda flavor that balances the tart and juicy flavors.
Yellow is Lemon or maybe Pineapple. It was terrible, sweet and soapy.
Purple is Grape and probably my favorite - tart, floral and completely artificial.
Blue is Raspberry and so flowery, it was more like a soap.
These are nice edible decorations, but not great candy. I think the pearlescent bears may work well in decorating recipes since they don’t have a flavor, they won’t compete with anything. OakLeaf also makes Cry Baby Tears, which are the candies you’d want to get if you want something extremely sour with very little flavor variation.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
I’m a big fan of Malted Milk Balls and consider the candy coated Pastel Malted Milk Egg to be one of the best holiday candy creations ever. Brach’s has been making a pastel egg for at least 55 years, and malted milk balls for even longer.
Though the Brach’s brand has been around for over 110 years, they’ve changed ownership, leadership and product focus dozens of times. This means that the products themselves also change. The changes can be for consumer-driven reasons, supply issues and costs. I’ve noticed, since Candy Blog is coming up on 10 years, that the Brach’s Fiesta Eggs have changed quite a bit over the years, and have some photos and notes to document it.
Name: Pastel Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
Though this was my first year reviewing them, it wasn’t the first time I had them and thought they used to be better.
Name: Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
I’d say that this was a lackluster version, though I liked the center, the chocolate brought the whole thing down.
Name: Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
These were simply too difficult to eat because of the size and shell. The center was good, especially because the ratio was so high.
Name: Malted Milk Pastel Fiesta Eggs
The center this year is different. It’s darker in color, which does indicate that the recipe or manufacturing process has changed. The colors are great, I like the shell, though many commenters do not like the new version. I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong here, except that I don’t plan on buying them again, but I’ll finish the bags I have.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
In our latest episode of Candyology 101, Maria and I compare our list of our least favorite Easter candies and then cover Jelly Beans.
Don’t forget we have show notes to accompany the episode if you want to check them out.
You can download the episode directly via the MP3 link.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.