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 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.
Monday, October 29, 2012
The Katharine Beecher Party Mints come in a theater style box. Of course that’s probably not the most likely place to find someone eating this type of candy.
The Katherine Beecher brand dates back to the 1940s. It was founded by a real woman named Katharine Beecher who made classic candies. The brand was acquired by Pennsylvania Dutch Candies in 1974 (now known as the Warrell Corp but it retains the brands of the individual units to this day).
The mints come in three colors: pink, yellow and green and one uncolored white version. They’re sealed inside a cellophane sleeve within the box to keep them fresh.
The soft and crumbly mints are about 1/2 of an inch in diameter. They’re a crimped mint, which is what gives them their pillow shape. They’re a pretty generous size, bigger than many that I see on the counters at hostess stations at restaurants.
This particular bag was very minty. The ingredients are very simple and boast real peppermint oil in addition to sugar, corn syrup, salt, oil of peppermint, artificial colors.
The texture is smooth and there’s a slight hint of salt on the outside, which is surprising and pleasant. They crumble easily when crunched or dissolve pretty well. I happen to like pillow mints, though I’m more fond of the butter mint style (which I’ll have to seek out now). The quality was very good, they’re consistent and a nice size. But in the end, they’re, well, just mints. A nice thing to have around, especially when you have guests over for a holiday meal or party.
(I was trying to find out who Katharine Beecher was, if she was anyone, and found out that perhaps she was a robot. Or at least a robot was named after her candy tin.)
Monday, October 1, 2012
A little over a week ago I was winding up a quick trip to Pennsylvania and killing time in the Philadelphia airport. Just about all the news stands and gift shops had a display of Pennsylvania Dutch Candies which sounds quaint, but really isn’t anything special. The candy brand is for the most part merely a repacker of things like Mary Janes, Tootsie Rolls and generic Gummi Bears. But I did see this little gem that I considered unique, Root Beer Puffs. I was actually willing to pay airport price for the candy, since I’d never seen them before.
Even without opening the bag, they smelled quite delightful. The earthy and spicy smell of the root beer had my tongue tingling as I stuffed them into my carry on until I could get them home to photograph.
The puffs are like after dinner mints or those pillowy Butter Mints. They vary in size, but are what I’d call large king sized pillows - some as long as 1.25 inches and .75 inches in diameter. They have soft brown and tan stripes on them.
The ingredients are simple: sugar, natural and artificial flavors and artificial colors. When I first opened them they were a bit too strong and artificial, a bit plasticky, like fake banana can be. So I didn’t care for the first few I ate. But then I dumped them into a very large ziploc bag and let them sit for a few days to air out without getting stale.
The puff was airy and has a good melt or crunch, depending on your eating style. The root beer flavor is on the wintergreen side of things, in fact, if you colored these pink or green and handed them to me, I’d probably say that’s what they are. I simply loved that they weren’t peppermint.
I don’t know that I’d buy them again. I’m a die hard root beer fan, but these were lacking the complexity of the flavor, which usually includes a little bite of tartness or citrus. I do plan to finish the bag though.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
So I was pretty excited when I heard that Target was going to make some curated shops within Target enlisting the help of Diane and Brian of the Russian Hill store. What I love about the store is that they have such an interesting collection of little tidbits from around the world. Sure, there’s some that’s completely common, but there were things I’d pick up there, especially licorice, that I have a hard time finding elsewhere.
Unlike Target’s house branded line of Choxie items, this is not a permanent addition to Target, when it’s gone, it’s gone.
The store at Target amounts to an endcap near the candy aisle in the food section at Target. The theme colors are black and white with a field of some sort of weird light green that I associate with government buildings, black and white. There aren’t really that many products and only three or four formats. There are lollipops and different candy in jars and then some tins of chocolate confections. The price points vary from $2.49 for the lollipops to $9.99 for the large tins.
The cornerstone, I would say, is the display of lollipops. The packaging is simple but the actual pops are clever and appealing. There are swirl pops and clear pops with little Necco wafers embedded in them.
The largest array of products, though, are the ones in the jars. This is where my disappointment originated. They’re $4.99 for 11 to 14 ounces of bulk candy. The candies themselves are underwhelming and expensive. I appreciated the harder to find items, like the sour sanded jelly stars, the gummi fried eggs and licorice scotty dogs. But $5 for less than a pound of Bit O’ Honey or Necco Wafers? That’s insane, the packaging is nice, but not like the tins for the chocolates. They’re just plastic.
The lollipop is double wrapped, which is a good idea. The outer wrap is loose and is closed with just a little twist tie that holds the bow on. Inside that, the pop itself is shrink wrapped. It was tough to get off, the shrink wrap had a big glob of melted plastic at the stick that took quite a bit of work with some scissors to remove.
The pop is 3.5 inches square and came in a variety of colors/flavors. I chose orange because I thought it would be a good representation of how flavors are handled.
The hard candy part of the lollipop is nicely poured. It’s a little uneven in spots but has only small bubbles in it. The tight shrink wrapping ended up creating creases and lines across the corners and edges of the pop. The Necco dots are lined up in the sort of pattern that might make some think of Lego blocks or perhaps a six sided die.
The flavor of the candy is very simple. It’s orange, just sweet orange. There’s a lot of zest notes in it, but it’s mostly a soft and sugary orange. The Necco wafers are crunchable with the candy, if you’re the type who chews their hard candy. I found the flavors (lemon and lime) of the Necco actually went well (except for pink). But still, it was just a big piece of hard candy on a wooden stick. It’s fun to look at, but really not for eating. The Necco Wafers contain gelatin, so this is not a candy for vegetarians, also contains soy.
I like the idea of a curated set of candy that’s hard to find and well priced. This has some of those elements, but I’m not their actual intended audience. This is for people who don’t realize that there are neighborhood candy shops in so many places where you can find this sort of thing, along with an enthusiastic person behind the register like Diane or Brian. If you’re stuck in big-box store land, this at least has more personality and is a better gift than a peg bag of Scotty Dogs.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
One of the earlier reviews I did on Candy Blog of a favorite Easter candy was for Wonka SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies. They were large SweeTarts in the shape of spring animals. At that time they came in Cherry, Lemon, Green Apple and Grape. Later, around 2008, the flavors were shifted to include the Blue Punch, Grape and Cherry only.
What I loved about the Easter edition was the flavor set, which really only had one flavor I didn’t like (Cherry) and the extremely dense and large pieces (over one inch across). See this photo from the 2006 package. They sounded like plastic poker chips and were so much harder that they required an entirely different eating method from the less dense tablets.
This year, not only has the flavor set been changed but the size as well. It’s a different product for those of us who loved the former. It’s more like the Valentine’s edition. They now have a more traditional set of flavors: Orange, Grape, Cherry, Blue Punch and Green Apple. (No Lemon.) They still come in the shape of chicks, bunnies and ducks, but they’re quite small now, less than half an inch across.
Orange and Grape are exactly like the tablets from the roll. They’re tart, almost to the point that they’re salty. The grape is completely artificial, like a grape soda. The orange is bland, like a more sour version of Kool-Aid. The Cherry is quite strong, more on the woodsy side than the medicinal version. It’s sour, like a sour cherry flavor, not a black cherry or wild cherry. The Green Apple is tasty, and quite sour with less flavor than some other green apple candies. The Blue Punch flavor came along after my obsession with SweeTarts waned, which is good, because I really don’t care for it, even though it is one of the more intensely flavored pieces in the mix and doesn’t get messed up with a red flavor after taste.
The little guys do actually stand up and they’re molded on both sides, I appreciate that attention to detail. The flavor set is now 3/5 in my wheel house, which are not great odds. I really only love the orange and grape and will eat the green apple. The cherry and blue punch are equally artificial in their flavoring, but just not to my liking. I could probably go back to giving these at 10 out of 10 if lemon was still in there. How could you have something called a SweeTart without the one fruit that actually is exactly that?
I’m disappointed that the special-ness of the SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies is now gone. They were different from all the other SweeTarts candies, they were large but also more substantial and really wonderfully pressed. There’s really nothing wrong with these, except that they’re missing the lemon ... which is a very nice pastel color that fits right in with the season plus the fact that little ducks and chicks are actually yellow. But there’s no need for me to stock up on these.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Smarties come in three sizes. The Classic roll is 7 grams (.25 ounces). The Giant roll is 28 grams (.99 ounces). The Mega roll is 63 grams (2.25 ounces). So one Mega Smartie is about 3.3 grams ... basically, two Megas are equal to a whole roll of Classic. Smarties used to come in one set of flavors, but now there are a few varieties, including Tropical and X-Treme Sour. The rolls for today’s review are the Mega variety, which are the largest that Smarties makes.
The twist for the new Mystery Smarties is that they’re completely mixed up rolls of all three flavor versions.
Not only are they a combination but the colors are completely mixed up and randomized, red is not always cherry, white is not always pineapple. The mystery here is that it’s not a one for one swap. One time I had a cherry green one and another time I think it was a blue one (but that may have been a sour).
The roll contains 19 tablets and two tablets are about 25 calories. They’re considered vegan. (The ingredients were hard to find, they’re on the twisted ends of the wrapper, not with the nutritional panel, so you can’t actually read the ingredients before you buy.)
Ingredients: Dextrose (Contains Maltodextrin and/or Corn Syrup Solids), Citric Acid, Calcium Stearate, Artificial Flavors, Colors (Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 2 Lake).
The classic and original size Smarties have always been my favorite. I’ve tried the X-Treme Sour and Tropical (and Bubble Gum) but they’ve messed with the unique quality of the standard, teensy, powdery and barely flavored tablets.
The Mystery Smarties come in yellow, purple, blue, green, pink and orange. The colors hardly matter, as they’re just to mess with you. The large tablets are smooth and soft and fit nicely in the mouth. The flavors vary widely, from intense and burning lemon to a mild and sweet pineapple. The X-Treme sour flavors were a bit too much for me in this size, I think if I were to eat them, I’d prefer the little tablets. The texture is a little crumbly and dissolves easily. They’re not quite cool on the tongue, like some dextrose candies can be, but definitely not as sweet as a pure sucrose tablet would be.
I didn’t enjoy the surprise of a very sour or a very cherry piece. After a while, I wouldn’t even finish the flavors I didn’t want. It made me long for the classics. But kids really dig this sort of thing, so give them what they want - a bit of variety and a few shocks. There are probably good lessons in there for children as well about not judging things by appearance, and maybe a more sobering one about never counting on anything.
It’s a fun experiment that ultimately taught me to treasure consistency and how nice it is when expectations are met. Still, I recognize that I still have a problem with Smarties, I really can’t stop eating them when they’re in front of me.
Smarties are free from most allergens: no milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat or soy. They are vegan (calcium stearate is plant based) but do feature many unnatural ingredients including the artificial colorings.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
This new version is amped up in size and has another twist, actual flavors to the candy buttons (the classics may be flavored, but it’s not perceptible). They’re called Candy Sweet Spots and they’re made in China by Greenbrier International, Inc.
The package is big. The strips are 11 inches long and 4.25 inches wide. There are three strips inside, which provides a full 2.4 ounces of candy - I paid a buck for it.
I’ve never seen a package include, perhaps even advertise, the word artificial so much. The name of the candy might actually be Candy Sweet Spots Artificially Flavored. Then at the bottom there’s a little arrow that points up to the candies themselves that also exalts, “Assorted Artificial Fruit Flavors!”
The package goes on to list all of the flavors, right there on top of the actual candies in the see through package. I appreciate the information.
Yes, they are bigger than the traditional paper buttons. For the most part they’re 1/3 to 1/2 of an inch in diameter. The old style buttons are a little less than 1/4 of an inch.
They come in four flavors: Artificial Cherry, Artificial Orange, Artificial Lemon and Artificial Raspberry. There are fifteen Sweet Spots of each flavor on each sheet.
The Sweet Spots are pretty much regularly sized and shaped. The bonus over their traditionally sized cousins is that these come off the paper rather easily. I had no trouble getting them off, no bits of paper stuck to the bottom. But they do leave a little residue of color/candy on the paper (so you can’t reuse the paper for notes or anything).
Cherry (red) is sweet and mild, it has an actual authentic artificial taste to it and even a little note of Red #40.
They’re really not that good as candy, but as something to amuse a small child for a while, they’re okay. They’re also made in China and contain gelatin and artificial flavors and colors.
I would say that they’re a good accent item, but the original Candy Buttons are too. You can peel them off the paper and put them on a decorated cake or cupcake, which is especially useful if you just want to do a plain uncolored frosting and not have to mix anything else. (And easy for kids to do.) Unless you’re looking for something in a larger scale, I’d say move along to some candy that’s actually good. But if you can’t resist the look of these, well, the price is good and the quality of the colors makes them at least a good deal as decorations. Other party ideas include hanging a strip on the wall to make “lickable wallpaper” or as an accent behind a candy buffet.
There’s another version of these called Mega Candy Buttons which are actually even bigger and are Kosher (so probably don’t have gelatin in them).
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Their tins are always quite smart looking and I rather liked the simplicity of this one, just a smaller version of the standard set by Altiods. The embossed top flips open to reveal the candies inside.
The tin says that the “mints” are made with real Canadian maple sugar. The full ingredients are: pure cane sugar, maple sugar, natural flavor, calcium stearate and malic acid. There are thirty in a tin, which holds less than an ounce, .85 ounces.
The candies have a polished yet rustic look. They’re shiny and sharply stamped with a little maple leaf in the center. But the texture and color of the candies is a little mottled, it’s not a bright white and has little caramel colored flecks in it.
The scent is definitely smoky and like toasty maple syrup. The flavor of the candies though was a bit different from what I was expecting. It is a combination of all the flavors that are listed in the description, they are mint, they have maple sugar in them and blueberry flavor. It’s a riot of flavors. Not a “burn my tongue down” riot, but the kind that pulls off my backpack and steals my books kind. The blueberry is tart and floral, the maple is rustic and woodsy ... so far so good. But the mint is cool and minty with a little note of eucalyptus. It’s like a blueberry cough drop made in some sort of colonial re-enactment apothecary shop.
I liked the straight ahead Maple Ice Mints, so I’ll have to stick with those, because these are just not for me. But I’m also not very happy with the combination of mint, lime and white rum that are used to make a Mojito. So if you’re down with mojitos, maybe you’ll be down with Wild Blueberry Maple Ice Mints.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.