Thursday, May 14, 2015
In this new episode of Candyology101, Maria and I talk about one of the oldest and most flexible candy processes: panning. Stick around until the end of the podcast and we have an expanded Treat or Trick section with plenty of Sweets & Snacks Expo teases.
Monday, May 11, 2015
Like most Brach’s products, the package is vague about the product once you get past the name. There’s a list of ingredients, but other than that, I was kind of left to guess what was in my mix.
So, what do we have? Pretty much what the name says. There’s an assortment of two different shapes of chocolate covered nuts ... peanuts and almonds. Then there are some gumdrop looking things that are caramels and some oblong bits that are chocolate covered brittle.
The whole mix smells sweet, a little like peanuts and cocoa. The sweetness has a fake vanilla note to it that isn’t very encouraging, though the appearance of the mix is pretty attractive. The panning is good, everything is shiny and smooth.
Milk Chocolate Peanuts are satisfying. There’s not a lot of chocolate, but far better than Nestle’s Goobers. There’s a little hint of salt to make these much more of a snack than a sweet.
Dark Chocolate Peanuts also have a hint of salt and a noticeable bitterness to the chocolate which again keeps the whole mix from getting to sticky sweet.
Milk Chocolate Caramels were lackluster. The texture was excellent, the caramel was chewy but not too stiff and it had a smooth consistency. However, it lacked actual caramel flavor and didn’t offset the milk chocolate coating much.
Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle are easy to spot. They’re large and have a thick coating of chocolate. The brittle center may be big, but it crunches easily. The nutty flavor is not front and center, this piece is more about the textures of the crushed nuts, the dark chocolate and the sugary brittle. The nut bits are quite small, so it’s almost like the sesame brittle found in Kosher delis.
Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds are one of the larger pieces, though some are small enough to be mistaken for peanuts. The almonds have a light blanching, they’re not overly roasted. They’re crunchy and hold up well to the rather sweet dark chocolate.
This mix takes a lot of guess work out of what can be candy roulette. I liked all the pieces and didn’t really long for anything else that wasn’t in here. I thought the peanuts were great, and it all looked good in a little bowl. I certainly preferred it to the actual Bridge Mix that Brach’s sells.
The product contains milk, peanuts, almonds and soy and is made on shared equipment with other tree nuts, eggs and wheat.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Years ago, at my first visit to the All Candy Expo (now known as the Sweets & Snacks Expo), I was excited to see a candy called Gazillions. They were little boxes, probably sold for a quarter, that had tiny chewy candies in them, like mini Skittles but single flavors. They came in pineapple. And then I never saw them in stores.
Here it is, 8 years later and I finally found a package at Economy Candy. Except they’re called Cajillions. They’re billed as The Tiny Tasty Candies.
Ingredients: sugar, glucose syrup, hydrogenated palm oil, apple juice, citric acid, artificial flavor, gum arabic, malic acid, carnauba wax, artificial color (cochineal extract)
They’re rather like teensy, rustic bits of deep fried Starburst chews. They’re about the size of lentils.
I hesitate to say that they have an actual shell, but they’re definitely coated and sealed, so they don’t get sticky.
The strawberry flavor is rather clean. The outside is sweet and a little like cotton candy at first, but upon chewing the bits, it’s tangy and pretty smooth. They’re a lot like Skittles, except there’s something that’s not quite right about them. It might be the fact that they use apple juice, so there’s a little note to it that’s just a bit like apple peels to me. But perhaps a little metallic as well.
The shape is pretty good, they’re appealing to look at, though there was a bit of a yellow cast to mine, which made me wonder about whether they were fresh. They don’t roll around, but because they’re so small, they’re not easy to pick up with my fumbly fingers. About five makes a small taste, a dozen is a decent mouthful for a flavorful chew. I could see them working well in candy buffets, especially if they’re available in a wide array of colors and flavors.
I don’t have much interest in the other flavors, which are Blue Raspberry, Green Apple and Watermelon in addition to the Strawberry. No mixes, no Pineapple. I’ll pass for now.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
If you were to make your own perfect mix of Skittles, what flavors would you include?
What new Skittles varieties would you like to see?
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Just Born, which makes the class Peeps marshmallows and Hot Tamales also make Mike and Ike. Since these are classic candies, recently they’ve been marketing them in nostalgic packaging, sold especially at places like Cracker Barrel and in decade themed gift baskets. Every once in a while they revive a classic flavor mix, as well.
This year Just Born announced the return of their Mike and Ike Cotton Candy, which was discontinued in 2002, and Mike and Ike Root Beer Float.
I’ve been looking for these since they were announced and finally found them at a Dollar Tree in Pennsylvania (but not at two I checked in California). I’m always curious how Mike and Ike does these limited mixes, especially since I know that cotton candy isn’t much of a flavor.
There are two colors in the mix, pink and blue, but it’s unclear if they’re intended to be different flavors of cotton candy.
The box smells like the box, no fruity or floral aromas, nothing that reminded me of the county fair. Cotton Candy isn’t much of a flavor to begin with. Originally cotton candy was just spun sugar, so the flavor is toasted but otherwise just sweet. But somewhere along the way cotton candy was colored (a great choice, in my opinion) and given different flavors. The flavoring of cotton candy is usually subtle, often strawberry or blueberry.
The blue and pink jelly rods tasted the same to me. They’re sweet, with that burnt sugar note and a the lightest hint of strawberries. There’s no tartness, no zest, not much else ... these could be sold without any color at all as minimalist Mike and Ike.
I found the flavor pleasant and clean. The texture as good, they felt fresh, kind of like that feeling I have about 10 minutes after a nice cup of jasmine tea.
I don’t know if I would buy these specifically for the flavor, but because of the extra mild flavor and the pastel colors, they’d be great for a party favor or decorating baked goods.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
There’s a strange new genre of candy, which I can only call the” nuggets of dark berry flavored jelly candy covered in dark chocolate.” It started with Brookside Chocolate, which made several versions with combinations like Blueberry & Acai or Goji & Raspberry and the trendy Pomegranate. The candy went over so well that Hershey’s bought the company, even though they never bothered to name the candy. Trader Joe’s at least called its version Powerberries, which is probably the best name they’ve had so far. Since then other companies have come along with their versions, like Brach’s and Target’s house brand Simply Balanced.
I found this new Aldi version in the earlier this month. They at least have a real name: Choceur Dark Chocolate Covered Superberries Pomegranate. There was also a blueberry acai version on the shelves, in a blue package. At $2.99 for a 7 ounce package, they were certainly better priced that most other candies of this kind.
The style of the candy is an intensely flavored jelly center is covered with chocolate. The early marketing for these candies capitalized on the idea that berries and chocolate were have lots of antioxidants in them. Though certainly not healthy, the idea was that there was at least some value to eating this indulgence.
These particular candies diverge quite a bit from that original mission. The chocolate isn’t particularly dark (though there’s no mention of the percentages) and the “pomegranate juice drop” centers are actually made from corn syrup, sugar, corn starch and then a concentrated blend of pear and pomegranate juice, malic acid and some natural flavors.
The pieces are big and quite attractive. They’re about 3/4 of an inch across and the rounded dome pieces are about 1/2 inch high.
The curious thing about them is that they’re definitely gumdrop style, except that the center is intensely flavored. They’re floral and tangy and do actually have a little note of honey and pear to them. The texture is very smooth, though a little tough. The dissolve of the centers, though, was wonderfully smooth with the bright flavor consistent throughout as the chocolate disappeared faster than the jelly.
The chocolate was okay, it was a little sweet for this type of candy, but smooth and had a well rounded flavor that was mostly overshadowed by the tartness of the fruit.
The centers are uncolored, and actually quite translucent if you take all the chocolate off. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there’s not much in the way of antioxidants here. It’s just good tasting candy.
As long as we admit we’ve left the world of health food, there’s no reason the flavors can’t be expanded to include citrus or raspberry.
Superberries are made in the USA. They contain soy and milk and may have traces of peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and eggs.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
On an episode of Candyology 101 last year we talked about this new product called PEZ Hedz. The come in two varieties currently, Bearz and Hello Kitty. I picked up the PEZ Hedz Hello Kitty variety because they were strawberry and raspberry flavored ... two winning flavors from the start.
The whole PEZ branding on them was kind of odd, I wouldn’t expect good candy out of them, because PEZ is really a toy company, not a candy company. Their toys just happen to have candy in them. However, PEZ Heds are made by Katjes in Germany. If it didn’t say that on the package, I would have guessed from its origin and the fact that they’re just the cutest little deposit molded faces. Katjes also makes other face-shaped candies like Tappsy and Percy Pig. So, that was a good sign, because Katjes does a great job with their candies.
I wanted to post this review after detailing what is and isn’t a gummi candy, just to clear up any confusion. Pez rightfully calls these soft candy chews, as they’re not quite gummis. The ingredients are interesting as they use a base of glucose (wheat syrup that’s gluten free) and sugar that’s thickened with pectin and potato protein. Though the colorings are from all natural sources, the flavors are a mix of natural and artificial.
When I first looked at them through the clear window in the package, they looked a lot like the Katjes Tappsy, which is a foamy gummi. (They’re not quite marshmallows, but a little fluffier than gummis.) There are two colors, the striking white face with the pink bow is the traditional Hello Kitty and is strawberry. The light pink color with the purple bow is raspberry.
The faces are big, about 1.5 inches wide and 1 inch high. They’re smooth to the touch, kind of like a cross between the soft texture of a river pebble and the flexibility of an eraser. Until I ate one, I wasn’t quite sure what the texture was going to be.
The texture is very smooth with a really vibrant flavor.The strawberry has a mostly tangy note at first with good floral and cotton candy scents that waft around when eating it. The pieces are big, kind of two bite portions. The raspberry was much more floral, a little on the soapy side but with a creamy vanilla note towards the end. The bows were actually more dense and sweet versions of the face.
The texture was a little tooth-sticky, like Swedish fish, but ultimately a little cleaner feeling in the end. There were no weird aftertastes (probably because there’s no Red 40 in there), so I found them to be exceptionally pleasant. I found they went really well with some strong black tea in afternoon.
They’re in no way like a vegetarian gummi, they don’t pretend to be. They’re more like Swedish Fish, with a bit of personality.
The package says they’re 99% fat free, gluten free, vegetarian and gelatin free. There’s a bit of beeswax in there, for vegans who were wondering and the package says they may contain traces of milk.
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 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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.