Known as chalk candy, this is candy that's made from powdered ingredients, mostly dextrose (also known as glucose). Pieces are created compacting the powder with a small amount of binder in molds in a compression machine.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Though they’re called Sweet Treats Cupid Hearts, they’re also marketed and sold for folks looking for themed candy for baby showers. They come in mixes like pink and white and blue and white. I found mine at Jack’s Wholesale Candy in downtown Los Angeles, but I also saw them at Michael’s and some other party planning shops. I don’t know much about this Sweet Treats brand, the candy itself is made in China but the bag says that it’s packaged and distributed by Metro Candy Sales of Vacaville, CA.
The Cupid Hearts have one of my favorite ingredients list of all time:
So, the first ingredient is the bulk of the candy, and when I say bulk, I’m guessing that it’s more than 90%. Maltodextrin is a polyscaccharide made up of many molecules of glucose (it varies depending on the formulation - it could be as few as 3 or as many as 20). So it’s basically sugar but it’s not quite as sweet as the sucrose we’re accustomed to but has all the calories. There’s very little else to this candy. They’re made by pressing the powder under high pressure, like making pharmaceutical pills and then they’re dumped into a big rotating drum (a panning machine) to get a shiny, colorful coating.
My understanding is that these are vegan (though magnesium stearate can come from animal sources, it’s far cheaper to buy the vegetable sourced version).
The pieces are thick and well formed to look like hearts. The colorful glaze, however, is inadequately applied. The crotch of the hearts on the blue ones were predominantly unfilled gaps. I don’t see this as a feature, just lack of quality control. (They were all like that in the store, the pink and white ones also looked the same.)
The bag smells slightly floral, like a generic fabric softener sheet. The candies have a light crunch, the centers are firm but not too sandy but easy to bite. They are all sweet except for that floral flavor, there’s no tartness, no tang, nothing fruity or spicy that indicates they’re food and not toilet bowl cleaner.
As far as I’m concerned, they’re decorative. You can let people eat them, but I don’t recommend it. It’s not that they’re bad, but at 120 calories per ounce, there are far better things to do with your discretionary calories. At $4.00 for 10 ounces ($6.40 for a pound), I also thought they were darned expensive considering the fact that the same store was selling the far prettier Oak Leaf Hearts for only $2.40 a pound. Even the Wonka Heartbreakers are a better deal.
Update: It’s been suggested that they may be more like sachet beads than candy; they should be placed in little gossamer bags, tied with a bow and then left in the car to keep it smelling fresh.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Necco has taken some heat in the past few years regarding their changes to the flavor and recipe for their iconic Sweethearts Conversation Hearts.
The idea of creating individually flavored packages if the Sweethearts seems like a great way to sort this out. Necco released to single-flavor packages this year: Necco Sweethearts Hot Hearts and Necco Sweethearts Cool Hearts. They’re cinnamon and peppermint (respectively). They come in attractive mini gable boxes and for less than a dollar, I thought it was much more attractive, mature and sophisticated than the little boxes of the multi-flavor version.
The boxes are adorable, though frustrating to re-close. There’s a tab on the back, but it’s glued down and has nothing to tuck back into after you open it. You can slide the whole flap into the folded top, but it’s a bit of a trick and not something that can be accomplished with one hand.
Though they are nothing more than paperboard boxes sealed with glue, the candies were fresh and crispy. (Not that I know exactly what a fresh Sweetheart actually is supposed to be like.)
The cinnamon flavored Hot Hearts are truly hot. I found them quite spicy and a little more nuanced than a straight burn.
The pink hearts have flirty mottoes like: Kiss Me, Wow Me, Ooh La LA and Wink Wink.
The flavor is cinnamony, it has an immediate warmth to it, but there’s a note of clove and some of the other more woodsy flavors of ground cinnamon. The texture is smoother than an Altoid, but they that that same crispy texture that you can let dissolve or crunch.
I enjoyed them quite a bit, though eating a lot of them does lead to a lingering heat in the mouth.
The peppermint Cool Hearst are white with light blue-green lettering, though some of mine were blank. It’s obvious why these are sold in single flavors, as they’re very strong and would contaminate the flavor of anything placed in contact.
The mottoes for the Cool Hearts are also themed for the mint flavor: Chill Out, Frosty, Shivers, Icy Blast, So Fresh. There are other more puzzling ones, like an asterisk (which may be an homage to the romantic novels of Kurt Vonnegut or the Walmart logo) and the possibly insulting versions that say Got Onions? and Have a Mint.
The smooth texture and Altoid intensity was pleasant. They’re were definitely minty enough to be called mints instead of candy, but the price is certainly very good for this sort of product versus something like Altoids or Breathsavers (though they’re made with sugar, no artificial sweeteners like some breath mints).
I would buy either of these again, the packaging was pleasing but most of all the candy inside was surprisingly good for a Necco Sweetheart product. I feel like Necco has stumbled in their previous seasonal and pop culture tie ins (see Sweethearts Fire & Ice for Twilight) but these can definitely be called a hit.
Friday, February 7, 2014
The weblisting for the product says that they’re pastel, but they’re much brighter than that. It’s hot pink, magenta/purple, turquoise blue and light yellow. The heart shapes are small, rather pillowy in form and about the size of a nickel.
I wasn’t really interested in how they tasted, at this price, it was more about having a pretty candy jar filled with little hearts before Valentine’s Day to share with co-workers. That was about two weeks ago and the jar is empty. (I didn’t eat them. But they were popular.)
These are not tart candies. I don’t think there are any acid flavorings at all in here. They might be flavored, but it’s so mild it’s hard to say for sure.
Purple is a lightly floral grape. Red has some strawberry notes. Blue is a kind of bitter raspberry, really the only flavor in the bunch I didn’t care for. Yellow is lightly lemony, quite fresh.
They’re pretty. They make a nice decoration, but not really very good candy. There’s nothing to offend anyone, no weird flavors because there’s barely any flavor at all. But I’m not saying that they’re not compelling, they’re gorgeous to look at and easy to munch. I’ve had other much more flavorful Oak Leaf candies before, so this must be from a much more subtle line of candy than I like.
Ultimately the review around the office was that they were too pretty to pass up. But no one wants me to buy them again. Kind of a weird relationship to have with candy. Personally, I’d prefer the Wonka Heartbreakers, so that’s what I’ve been eating while others have emptied the jar.
The SweetWorks website lists these as gluten free and nut free, though take care if you get them from a bulk bin (if you have concerns about cross contamination, it’s always best to get it in a factory sealed package).
Monday, February 3, 2014
The pieces are small compressed dextrose centers with some layers of hard sugar on top with some extra flavors in there. Classic Gobstoppers had many layers and flavors, but Wonka doesn’t make those any longer because they can take weeks to create from a center the size of a sesame seed. So they use a large SweeTart type candy at the center and the coating changes flavors only a handful of times.
A lot of candies get revamped over time. As I’ve heard unofficial from a Wonka insider, the classic SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies changed size & shape because the original equipment broke and since it was used only for that product line, they decided to reformat the molds to be more consistent with the Valentine’s and Christmas shapes.
The Everlasting Gobstopper HeartBreakers shifted colors in the newly available version for 2014. It’s not a drastic change, but a small tweak.
Cherry is mellow, with a sweet cherry flavor. After the top layer dissolves away, the coating is yellow. It doesn’t take much then it’s crunchable and I can get to the SweeTart-style center. The interior flavor is pretty neutral.
Watermelon is sweet and fresh, a little unexpected for this type of candy. After the initial layer dissolves, the layer under that is also a medium pink. The center is lightly tangy, but not overly sour. The layer under the watermelon-pink is also watermelon-pink.
Pineapple is delicate and light. It’s only slightly floral and fruity, but not tart bite. After the flavor dissolves away, the next layer is yellow. It’s smooth and cool on the tongue.
The classic HeartBreakers (above) were more vividly colored, with yellow and magenta instead of white and pink. While I miss the original colors and really don’t care much for the watermelon, I still love these. The limited palette is still attractive. I’m hoping the Easter version will also be back.
Friday, November 1, 2013
It’s the day after Halloween and a lot of kids are sitting around ranking the candy they took home from Trick-or-Treating. Many come down to three piles - the good chocolate stuff, the tasty sugar candy and then the bad sugar candy. The grown up candy like Necco Wafers often ended up there. You might eat it, but only after everything else is gone.
Stark Assorted Candy Wafers are another one of those crunchy disk candies (now made by Necco since the merger back in 1988) that just don’t come to mind as a favorite candy. But they’re still a valid candy format. What sets the candy wafers apart from other candies are the texture and flavor variety. The wafers are made from a dough of sugar held together with gelatin and vegetable gums which is colored and flavored then stamped out into coins.
There are 19 candy disks in the package. It’s a bit more packaging than Necco Wafers. There’s a little brown paperboard tray that the candies are stacked in, and the whole thing is wrapped in clear cellophane, instead of the glassine wrapped roll of Necco Wafers.
There are six colors: White, Yellow, Pink, Orange, Green, Purple.
The texture is slightly airier and crunchier than Necco Wafers. They’re also not as dense as Sweehearts. The flavors are subtle but the colorings are a little more vibrant than Necco Wafers.
Green is Lime. It’s light and a little ordinary but pleasant.
Overall, the flavor offering is hit and miss for me. I liked wintergreen, banana and orange, but that left me with only half of the flavors as keepers. They’re exceptionally durable, I’m sure they store well and travel well. But they weren’t minty enough to keep them as an Altoids alternative and not flavorful enough for me to call them a treat. I wouldn’t be surprised if these go uneaten at Halloween. But hang onto them for decorating Gingerbread Houses.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
While on vacation last month I picked up some candies from the bulk bin at a candy shop. They were individually wrapped compressed dextrose Candy Rings. There was no label on the bin and nothing on the wrapper, so I can’t be sure of the brand.
I found three flavors: Cherry, Lemon and Lime.
They’re 1.33 inches wide and 1.6 inches tall. They’re flat, about a quarter of an inch thick. There’s a little gem design on the crest of the ring, two circles with a diamond shape in the center. It’s a clever bit of design, they’re stamped out like giant pills instead of being molded like most hard candies.
As adornment they’re not very comfortable. The rings are sized for small fingers, so they fit on my pinky and barely on my ring finger. The bands are chunky. With a file I suppose I could have made the ring hole bigger for my middle finger, as I think that would work best given the size of the ring. The design is cute, and the pieces are sizable.
I know that there have been a few makers of a few different kinds of compressed dextrose candy rings over the years. The version I got as a kid, I recall, was much chalkier and easier to bite than this version. They’re quite dense, like eating a piece of fired porcelain instead of some school chalk.
The flavors are mild, more sweet than tart, more perfume in most cases than flavor. The compressed dextrose they’re made from is less sweet than sucrose, but also lacks the full buoyant mouthfeel of sugar. Cherry is lightly tangy with an awful lot of jammy florals and a hint of cough syrup. Lemon was quite bland with even less tang than the cherry.
I prefer my SweeTart type candies a bit more chalky. I like less density, a little more air in them so that they can be crunched. I also prefer more flavor ... and maybe some other flavors. But for a cheap little wearable treat, these were passable. I’m glad they’re still around.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Here are a few Easter candies I bought but I’m not going to get around to doing a full review.
I was actually out at CVS looking for the Cadbury Hollow Bunny that I noted in my roundup of products for 2013. (I was hoping it was on sale, because the first time I saw them, they were $4.79 for a 3.5 ounce bunny and I didn’t really want to fork that over for Cadbury chocolate.) While looking though I spotted this bag, which reader Kate mentioned was available last year.
They’re pretty and feature good quality milk chocolate. These were a little softer in texture and had a silky melt. The coconut mixed into the chocolate is crispy, though it does become chewy after a while. It’s a nice combination of textures and flavors. I found the coconut a little too, I don’t know, difficult to get out of my teeth. Still, I manged to finish the bag within 24 hours, so I must have liked them. I’ll still go for the Milk Crisp version over this.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I found Ferrero Tic Tac Bunny Burst at Target with all the other little Easter Basket stuffers. I didn’t see a press release on this, so I didn’t know it was coming out. Further, there’s no listing on the package or anywhere I can find on the internet that says what flavors are actually in the Bunny Burst.
The green is pretty easy to figure out. It was green apple. They’re sweet and tangy, with a very sweet, odd aftertaste. I didn’t care much for it and was hoping for better in the lilac colored ones.
The soft purple is a bit of a mystery flavor. The ingredients list dried apple, dried grape, dried acerola (West Indian Cherry) and dried lychee. So I’m going to call this one tropical. It has a light green grape note, I also tasted violets along with a floral melon and vague medicinal cherry note. At one point did think about lychees, as well. It’s interesting and unique. Not really what I’d call good or refreshing, but I didn’t notice the weird sweet and metallic aftertaste with this one.
They’re made in Canada and contain carmine, so they’re not suitable for vegetarians.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I bought this pair of Cemoi Classic Creamy Egg (Milk Chocolate) at Cost Plus World Market. I was actually hoping to find a dark chocolate version, perhaps more upscale, of the classic Cadbury Creme Egg.
This is not that. I can’t give it a full review because I didn’t actually eat it. Both were sticky and oozy under the foil wrap, though I made my choices from the box at the store very carefully. I opened both and found overly sweet, grainy fondant. The chocolate was marginal, it was all just very sweet and unappealing. So into the trash they went.
Rating: 3 out of 10
I reviewed the Snickers Peanut Butter Squared before when they came out. The Snickers Peanut Butter Egg is the same construction, only in hemispherical ovoid shape. It’s a little different because it’s molded instead of being enrobed. Of course the domed shape also means different bites have different ratios. But overall I noticed more caramel in it. The chocolate and caramel and peanut with peanut butter is a nice combination. The salty peanut butter keeps it from being too sweet. I enjoyed it more than the Square thing. I also reviewed the Santa version of this which also has different proportions because of the shape of the mold.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Brach’s Ice Cream Conversation Hearts provide a conceptually different choice in the area of conversation candies. They’re flavored like ice cream, which is to say that they’re more mainstream than the original spice inspired flavors that Necco used to produce.
When I go to the store and browse ice cream flavors, the tops on my list of consideration go something like this (not necessarily in order): chocolate, coffee, mint chocolate chip, butter pecan, peanut butter cup and then maybe vanilla. I can’t remember the last time I bought strawberry ice cream (though I buy strawberry sorbet rather often) and orange sherbet is so far off my list of viable flavors, I can’t even recall seeing it in stores.
Strawberry (pink) was bitter and only a vague floral hint of berry. Mostly bitter from the food coloring.
Cherry (same shade of pink) was bitter and sweet with only a faint cherry flavoring note. Not tartness, just sweet. I’m still not convinced that there was any difference, except strawberry seemed even more bitter.
I had to take a break at this point because of the bitterness. A bit of water. Some crackers. I don’t know why I started with pink.
Vanilla (white) was expected to be flavorless, but actually does have a pleasant vanilla note to it. It’s like a marshmallow flavor. Really the only one I picked through assortment to eat. But it was really that I was actively avoiding nearly every other piece.
Chocolate was just horrible. Worse than the pink candies, because it was so lacking in chocolate and ended up tasting like a musty basement. You can tell just by looking at it that it can’t taste like chocolate, it’s not brown.
Orange was mild and did remind me of orange sherbet, except for the fact that it was missing that juice tartness. So it was more like an orange chapstick.
Now that I’ve tried their take on the classic ice cream flavors, I have no interest in their take on something more complex like butter pecan or mint chocolate chip. It’s best they failed at the easy stuff so I don’t get my hopes up.
Brach’s also has Heartlines Classic Conversation Hearts (I reviewed them when they were called small conversation hearts) on the shelves again this year. They’re better than the classic Necco (which are achingly hard to find) but still, not quite right.
Taken as a non-toxic and cheap decoration, there’s little better than conversation hearts. I paid only $2.50 for a full pound. Even if no one eats them from this cute jar on my desk, it was an inexpensive way to look like I’m observing the holiday. If you’re not eating them, it doesn’t matter which version you pick up. Choose based on the color combos, the sayings on them, or where they’re made. (These are made in Argentina.) There’s little point in choosing based on flavor.
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