Monday, November 2, 2009
It’s hard to believe that I’ve never reviewed Necco Wafers. In the early years of Candy Blog I tried to concentrate on candies I’d never had before, but it became apparent that in order to discuss things that were new (or new to me) I had to cover the classics as well. So I’m slowly adding those.
Necco Wafers were introduced in 1863 by the Chase and Company candy makers. They were known for their hard candies (boiled sweets), lozenges and “Oriental style” sweets including Turkish Delight. They also innovated machinery and techniques to create confections like the wafers. Chase later merged with Ball and Forbes and Bird, Wright and Company to become the New England Confectionery Company in 1901. By the time they’d been around for almost fifty years they finally settled into their present day name, assortment and packaging style in 1912. Necco Wafers were available in different sizes and were a popular penny candy of the time.
The wafers are lightly flavored and colored disks of sugar. The product is rather unusual for the modern era of confections and is more similar to breath mints than regular candy. They’re not fussy but perhaps a little homely and dated.
To make them, a dough of sugar and corn syrup is mixed up and stabilizers and binders such as gelatin, tragacanth, xanthan and gum Arabic are added. Then after the base is created it’s customized with the flavors and colors. The whole mass is loaded into a roller like it’s some sort of infinitely long pie crust then the disks are cut and stamped with the Necco name. They’re not baked, just air dried.
What’s created is a beguilingly crunchy lozenge. Crisp, thin and sweet.
The classic roll of Necco Wafers contained eight flavors and has always been a random assorted stack sealed in a glassine wrapper. I know most folks who like them also searched the store shelves for one that had just the right mix of colors they preferred.
This year marks a new generation of Necco Wafers now with all natural flavorings and colors. Because of the new restrictions Necco placed on itself, they dropped one flavor from the original that could not be replicated adequately: Lime.
The current flavors are chocolate, cinnamon, clove, lemon, licorice, orange and wintergreen. Since no artificial colors are used I was hoping that the flavors would be truer. (I’ve always had a problem with the pink ones having a bad bitter aftertaste.)
I haven’t been able to find the large two ounce rolls in the stores near me, but I did finally find this package of the mini rolls at CVS in the Halloween section. (I visited about a dozen stores in two states in a month looking for them.)
The colors are quite a bit more subdued, as if Necco Wafers weren’t already a bit washed out. They’re so muted that I have trouble telling the pale yellow, lavender and white apart. And for folks that like to preview a roll before they open it, it’s quite hard to tell the light colors apart. The new wrapper also sports an updated logo ... though I find the logo to look more like something from 1998 (when the titled oval was all the rage in logos) than a modern candy, but not quite a reflection of its classic past.
Clove - I always avoided the clove for two reasons. I don’t like clove flavor and I didn’t like the food coloring aftertaste. In this case the clove (faint lavender) is much more mild and less caustic than before. Of course there’s no weird aftertaste either. I still didn’t like it much and was a little irritated that it was so hard to pull them out of the mix in anything other than bright sunlight.
Chocolate - the easiest to spot and one that needs no coloring. I found the cocoa flavors to be overly sweet, but at least true. It was like an old piece of dried chocolate frosting. A little pointless if you really want chocolate, but it has a freshness to it that doesn’t leave me thinking of cardboard.
Wintergreen - I was so happy about these. The color is still a teaberry pink, so they’re easy to spot. It’s exactly like a piece of teaberry gum if it was a crunchy piece of sugar (and a stale piece of gum can be like that). The flavor starts out rather soft and quaint, but builds up to a bit of a Ben Gay burn later. There’s a lingering buzz in the mouth. The best part of the finish is that it’s all flavor and no food coloring mess. My tongue looks like when I started (normal pink) and no metallic aftertaste.
Cinnamon - this white piece lots its mojo in the conversion to all natural. It’s sad how lacking in cinnamon punch it is now, it’s not that it’s bad, but I just don’t feel like picking them out and eating them first any longer.
Licorice - the color is so much lighter on these, it took me a while to realize that they weren’t the clove ones. They’re a light putty color that sometimes has a lavender cast to it. The flavor is quite a strong anise note. It’s sweet and has an aromatic and slightly menthol quality to it. It reminds me a little bit of the Fisherman’s Friend lozenges.
Lemon - the lemon flavored Necco Wafers were never spectacular and they haven’t changed one way or the other. Sweet and with only the slightest hint of lemon flavor, there’s no tartness (thank goodness - if you’ve had the SweetHearts Sour Conversation Hearts you’ll know what I mean), no zest.
Orange - this faint orange colored one has a little orange peel note to it. It didn’t seem as sweet as the lemon one, but that’s not saying much about it. It was mostly inoffensive.
I don’t miss Lime, but I did enjoy the flavor. As an assortment, I’ve found myself munching through the bag of minis without any problems. I’ve picked out most of the clove, but find all the other flavors enjoyable. So I consider the new mix a definite winner. The only issue was the strength of the flavors varies - the clove, licorice and wintergreen were very strong and left a distinct burn in the mouth while the rest were pretty mellow. So after a licorice, I could barely tell that I was eating a lemon.
Each roll of 9 pieces has only 50 calories. They take a while to eat and of course there’s the variety, so it’s a nice snack that’s easy to take anywhere. I do have a problem with the little white powder that seems to get everywhere though. (I tend to wear a lot of dark colors.)
I think this is a great development and I’m actually looking forward to see if the classic SweetHearts Conversation Hearts will also go all natural. They do still have gelatin in them, so sadly no good for vegetarians and they’re not Kosher/Halal. I really like my candies to taste like candy, not artificial colors.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Each variety is a little different and sports a different package design. And each package holds a little over an ounce. (Actually, the boxes were basically twice as big as they needed to be.)
The Fruit Flavors Jaw Slammers introduced me to the product line’s mascot, this blond kid with a big jawbreaker in his mouth.
But more disturbing than the lack of info was the look of the jawbreakers.
Each is about the size of a garbanzo bean, nicely spherical but mottled and uneven in color.
The melt on the tongue isn’t smooth until the first layer of color dissolves away.
I tried a few of the colors but the flavor was never more than “bland fruit” with a blend of citrus, banana and sweet berry. The texture is much like most jawbreakers, smooth and then a little burst of flavor (it you could call it that) and then a little bit rougher texture ... then smooth again.
About two layers down the candy stops and becomes a piece of compressed dextrose about the size of the old Tart n Tinys. But unflavored.
They’re wholly unoffensive, but not terribly stimulating or satisfying. I don’t feel ripped off, but I was hoping for a bit more flavor.
The Sour Jaw Slammers box is pretty bold in color.
At first the pieces looked to be similarly mottled as the fruit ones, but after touching them, they’re softly textured. I expected that to be a sour blast coating like Toxic Waste. Instead it was just the same as the fruit.
I waited through the layers until finally I got to that chalky candy layer and was rewarded with a very tart SweeTart like nugget.
Again, none of the flavors were particularly distinct, but the sweet outer layer and then the textural difference of the sour center was at least interesting.
Once I got the style of these candies down, I thought I knew what to expect with the Bubble Gum Center Jaw Slammers.
These were even more bumply than the others.
They were also more flavorful. Not a good flavor. It was a combination of Country Time Lemonade and ketchup.
Then there was the center.
I was expecting a piece of bubble gum at the center. Because that’s what the box said .. with bubble gum center.
So get to the middle and it feels just like a piece of compressed dextrose ... a bit tangy though. So I chew and find that it’s like a Razzle.
The net amount of gum (bubble gum, you know, for blowing bubbles) is about the size of a mustard seed.
Hot Red Shockers are, as I expected, to be like mini Atomic Fireballs.
The box design is a bit more of a downer than the others. Nowhere does it say that these are cinnamon.
In truth, they’re not just cinnamon. After first the little ball was a smooth and sweet cinnamon, then it ebbed into spearmint territory. The combination was like toothpaste or mouthwash. But then it came back around to cinnamon and there was definitely a red hot layer in there somewhere before the center became just a sugar ball.
I’m not sure why I would buy these when there are already two very good jawbreakers that fit the bill: Gobstoppers and Atomic Fireballs.
But I suppose if if I needed some water soluble ball bearings, this would fit the bill. Perhaps if I was looking for something to give away to people that I don’t care if they like me or not after receiving it. But not for me.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I have been waiting nearly a year to find these! I first read about them last year on Candy Addict’s list of new products coming out from Hershey’s. The release date of December 2008 came and went and I kept my eyes open but still didn’t see them in the stores ... not even on the internet. I thought maybe Hershey’s decided not to put them out.
Then last week I wandered down to the 99 Cent Only Store about a mile from my office to see what was new. I found a box. One box. Just sitting there, mixed in with the Sugar Babies and Care Bears Gummi Bears. I would have bought more, but this was all they had (and this one was a little dinged).
The front of the package was no help. It describes these only as Sweet and Spicy chewy candy. The side of the package pushed me in the direction of Good & Fruity when I looked at the ingredients. The first three are dextrose, sugar & corn syrup. Good & Plenty has wheat flour as part of the licorice.
So now I knew that I was expecting: Lemon, Orange, Apple & Cinnamon jelly rods.
All that confusion aside ... the box design is fabulous. I love the bold colors & graphic style (which is why there are so many photos in this review).
Lemon (Yellow) - bright and translucent, I was more than curious what the combination of lemon and cinnamon would hold. The candy shells on these is rather thin & crunchy. Now, the flavor ... at first it’s a little bitter. The shell is sweet, but the little sweet veneer wears off and I got a slight bitter hit, an organic type of woodsy bitter. I got lemon zest too ... and then cinnamon. At the very end there was a little twang of tartness.
It’s downright bizarre. It’s like eating a candle. Not in a bad way.
Orange (orange) - also starts with a slight bitterness but that moved into a very strong sweetness quickly. The cinnamon here is like an actual cinnamon stick - woodsy with notes of cedar and pine and then a strong snap of tartness then some more bitter at the end. There’s a warm feeling from the cinnamon but not a strong lingering one.
Apple (red) - I had trouble telling the reds apart when I didn’t have another to compare it to (though usually the cinnamon ones were a bit fatter). This apple is sweet and tangy and has that nice combination of apple juice flavor mixed with that made-in-the-lab note of “green apple flavoring”. The cinnamon is a bit of a background here but makes it taste a bit like a McDonald’s Hot Apple Pie. (Without the “caution filling is hot” label.)
Cinnamon (dark red) - I was expecting the plain cinnamon to be like a Hot Tamale or Sizzling Cinnamon Jelly Belly. Instead this one went in a wholly different direction. The shell on these seemed crispier. The cinnamon flavor on the outside was soft. Then at the edge of the shell and the jelly center there was a burst of flavor - like an all cinnamon chai - it had a burning warmth and some really authentic notes of real cinnamon, not just the cinnamon oils.
This has to be one of the strangest ventures I’ve seen Hersheys’ take in quite a while. It’s like they subcontracted the folks who developed the Dots: Elements (Earth, Wind, Fire & Water) to come up with a brand extension for Good & Fruity. I’m completely puzzled by these though, because I think Hershey’s created a great new product with their Cinnamon Twizzlers Fire. Why couldn’t they have taken those and made a version of that like the true Good & Plenty?
Those who are disappointed by the soulless rebirth of Good & Fruity aren’t going to find any comfort here. Those who enjoy cinnamon with all the variations of the flavor might find some solace.
Joann from Sugar Hi reviewed them a few months ago, at least helping to disambiguate their candy category but didn’t dissuade me from trying them.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Usually for holidays they’ll have some other panned sugar candies. For Valentine’s Day this year the trend seems to be cinnamon flavor. So I picked up a bag of their See’s Hot Hearts and their Cinnamon Lollypops.
The Hot Hearts were a bit expensive, in my opinion, for a sugar candy. It was $4.50 for a 12 ounce bag of what are basically heart-shaped Hot Tamales.
But hey, the bag was pretty and included a real piece of ribbon on it and a thick plastic bag with pretty little red foil printed hearts.
While See’s makes their own chocolates and lollypops, I’m pretty sure they have their sugar candies specially made for them by an outside company. I was hoping my trip to the Fancy Food Show might shed some light on that, because, spoiler alert ... these were good and I think I might want some more after Valentine’s Day!
The candy shell is crisp and a little grainy. The jelly center is sweet and very cinnamony. The sizzle of these heart-shaped jelly beans is substantial.
The cinnamon flavor is both woodsy and fiery, capturing all of the great aspects of cinnamon.
Even though there’s a fair amount of food coloring in these (including Red 40), there’s no bitter aftertaste. Not that there ever is an aftertaste, since I don’t actually stop eating them.
Yes, I want to know how to get them all year long, or themed for other holidays, like Fiery Eggs for Easter or a Screaming Phoenix for Halloween.
See’s has been making their own Lollypops for years. The flavors change from time to time, but lately they’ve been adding in their seasonal flavors.
See’s Cinnamon Lollypops are the same rounded block shaped lolly made from a hard caramel base.
The scent is odd. It smells like caramel and cinnamon. But the scent and the flavors are never completely integrated. They just exist side by side.
Mmm, toasted sugar and butter flavors. Then, wow, a pop of hot cinnamon. Then the mellow and sweet caramel.
I liked them, but not quite as much and not in the same way as the Hot Hearts. They last a long time, but the combo of boiled sugar and butter with cinnamon never quite meshed for me. Plus there was a bit of a bitter artificial color aftertaste on these.
The pops are a great, reliable candy. They’re only 70 calories each, but be warned, they’re not fat free. Not that fat is a bad thing, it’s pretty much necessary for a caramel. Their Butterscotch lollypop is still the best (and the Root Beer is the best of their seasonal flavors). I’ve picked up the other flavors for review twice ... but ate them before I could photograph them.
Monday, October 13, 2008
With the discontinuation of Reed’s Candies by Wrigley’s, I’ve been searching for similar candies. Hammond’s Candies is based in Colorado and makes hard candies and caramels using traditional methods and equipment. They’re known for their stunning hand twisted lollipops, ribbon and pillow candies. But they also make all sorts of traditional boiled sugar sweets including a line called Pantry Candies.
Each comes in a cute tin with a little clear window on top. Inside they’re tucked into a plastic bag to protect them from moisture.
Cinnamon Drops - these are sizable pieces, bigger than my pinkie toe. They’re sanded with a bit of sugar and have a soft and grainy appearance. The hard candy is smooth and flavorful. Instead of being just straight hot cinnamon, this hard candy has a bit of a touch of the woodsy, powdered spice as well as the burning cinnamon oil.
They have a satisfying crunch or simply dissolve without many voids or holes. It’s not quite the smooth & transcendent experience of Reed’s Cinnamon though.
Sour Balls - these are teensy little drops, smaller than a regular marble but larger than a pea. They come in lemon, lime, orange and cherry flavors. They have the same sanded exterior and a smooth dissolve. The citrus ones are nicely tangy but with a good rounded zest flavor (orange is a bit more muted though). They’re an old-fashioned sour though, don’t expect anything approaching battery acid.
Butterscotch Waffles - these were gorgeous little candies. They’re flattened squares (though some were little rectangles) with a smooth surface and little dimpled waffle pattern on them. They were a creamy, buttery flavor but lacking that little dash of salt though they are the closest I’ve found to the old Reed’s Butterscotch.
Licorice Drops - these definitely look the part. The same format as the Cinnamon Drops, they’re big and black and sanded. They’re made with real licorice root, so it’s a more complex flavor than just “flavored”. The big gripe I have with these, and it’s a huge one, is the large amount of artificial colors in the candy. It made my mouth greenish-black with only one. Not appealing or subtle at all. As much as I liked the taste (and finding licorice hard candies isn’t easy), the bitterness of the Red 40 (to my tongue) added with the unappealing mouth just turned me off and I didn’t finish the tin.
Lemon Drops - for those who don’t want to pick the lemon drops out of the Sour Ball assortment, here they are all alone. These large drops are perhaps a little muted in flavor, but the flavor goes all the way through and has a nice barley sugar tone to it.
Root Beer Drops - as with the cinnamon, I was hoping for a Reed’s experience here. Instead it’s rather more like a Root Beer Float than a plain old Root Beer Soda. These two-toned drops have the mellow woodsy flavor of root beer along with a creamy vanilla component. They’re smooth and flavorful but not quite spicy enough for my desires. Well, I take that back. This was the second tin I finished. (Butterscotch was the first.)
Ginger Drops (not pictured) - these little opaque candies were kind of peach/flesh colored. They didn’t smell like much and really didn’t taste like much at first either. Then the longer it dissolved the warmer it got, a light woodsy and rooty flavor, it was definitely ginger.
The offering in this line also includes Horehound, which I refuse to believe is a candy flavor but also suffers from over-coloring like the licorice.
They’re expensive, but nicely crafted and packaged and make a nice hostess gift or something to keep on your desk for those moments where you just have to have something. I like them much better than their lollipops which are exquisite to look at but don’t have the density of flavor and smooth texture of these.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Earlier this year I teased a new line of Dots from Tootsie. The single flavor boxes of the [Aristotelian] Elements line are based on the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Each of these elements is assigned a flavor and a not-found-in-nature color. (There’s actually a fifth element in Aristotle’s list, Ether, which makes up the stars and celestial bodies.)
The idea behind these elements was that they were combinations of heat and moisture, or lack thereof. So Water is wet and cold, Fire is hot and dry, etc. We now have an exceptionally complex table of the elements which takes a completely different approach to what makes up the physical world.
The packages for Dots Elements are quite striking. Black and neon, they’re hard to miss at the store as they stand out from other theater-sized boxed candies. (This is the only size I know that these come in so far.)
I didn’t buy these, instead Sera who was visiting Los Angeles last week shared her bounty of huge boxes with me (so look for her perspective soon).
The color is hard to describe, it’s translucent and reminds me of the color that results when you mix water with absinthe. Milky green.
The scent is, well, like walking into a Bed, Bath & Beyond. A strange floral smell that I can’t quite put my finger on.
The nice thing was that these were exceptionally fresh. The smooth bite gives way to a rather delicate sweet flavor.
I tastes very little like green tea to me, which usually has a rather grassy flavor to it. They’re fresh but a little cloying. They remind me a lot of Turkish Delight.
This was the most predictable flavor of the new line. What’s more, there used to be Hot Dots (made from 2004-06, I stumbled across some very old boxes at the 99 Cent Store in Hollywood late last year).
The color is a bit light, but that’s okay with me, as I don’t need the bitter food coloring especially when there’s only one flavor in the box.
These don’t smell like much at all, but have a pleasant cinnamon bite to the. Not too sweet either, there are little pockets of sizzle now and then, they remind me of Spearmint Leaves.
I’d be pretty happy if these stuck around.
This color was freaky ocean blue ... unless you put them under florescent lights and then they were more green.
Like the cinnamon they don’t smell like much.
These seemed a bit firmer than the rest but still had a smooth chew to them.
The wintergreen flavor is pretty strong and brings to mind things like root beer (pleasant), teaberry gum (yum) and ben gay (ewww).
They feel fresh. But I’m always hesitant to eat wintergreen things because so many people have a visceral reaction to them. The good thing is that until you chew them up, no one knows what they are.
This is the only fruit flavor among the group and it makes sense that it represents the earth. The pomegranate was actually cultivated in Aristotle’s time and had great cultural significance.
As daring as I thought the green tea flavor was, I think pomegranate is pretty high up there. I love pomegranates though I don’t eat them as much as I used to. Real pomegranates are intense with a combination of tart berry flavors, a dark drying quality in the mouth and of course a deep syrupy sweetness. Oh, and they’re very pretty both on the tree (they look like huge rose hips) and taken apart in a bowl.
Instead of being a garnet-colored drop these are purple, which I guess is what color pomegranate juice is. This is the only Dot in this group that has a touch of tanginess to it. The flavor doesn’t really feel like pomegranate. If someone gave these to me I’d just say that they’re cherry-berry.
On the whole, I actually think they’re a good effort. They’re different, the hook of the elements had me more than interested and of course they’re dirt cheap. It’s a bit different for Dots to have just one flavor in a box, so you’d really better like it. I finished the cinnamon first, then the green tea, then the wintergreen and I still have some pomegranate left.
Dots are a starch-thickened candy, so there’s no gelatin in there. These are suitable for vegetarians and even vegans.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
I got a few samples at ExpoWest of their different flavors, but ended up opting for a full package of the Cinnamon XyliChew for this review.
The package is a nice paperboard box with a blisterpack that holds 12 pieces inside. Two pieces are normal serving size (though sometimes I go for three pieces).
XyliChew boasts 70% of its content is xylitol, which is supposed to have many health benefits. Studies link lower incidences of dental caries (cavities) to consistent use of xylitol (either in gum or mouthwash) and others have said that it keeps teeth & bones strong as we age. But the amount needed for those more substantial positive effects are probably greater than would be consumed normally. A pair of pieces gives the chewer only 1.6 grams per serving. (Studies were using dosages of 20-40 grams per day.) You can read more of the features at their website.
But that aside, this is gum and most often we’re chewing it for other reasons, such as to freshen the breath, a boost of flavor, keep us from munching and just plain old enjoyment of chewing.
These are cool on the tongue immediately, which is one of the big appeals of xylitol as a confectionery sweetener. The cinnamon flavor is much more like the powdered spice or chewing on an actual stick of the bark than those “cinnamon flavors”, so it’s a bit deeper. It’s not at all spicy though, there’s no burning feeling to it. The chew lacks much grain to it like sugared gums have (well, there’s a little from the shell, but that dissipates quickly). The flavor remains for quite a while, I tracked it as still having a satisfactory amount of cinnamon flavor after 30 minutes, though the sweetness had abated.
It didn’t stick to my teeth, which is also a nice feature (yes, I have fillings - those old fashioned amalgam & those new fangled white composite ones).
As a sugar free product, I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing. Some folks may not like that cooling sensation and of course you have to get used to xylitol. I still prefer my good old Peppermint Chiclets, but I could get used to this, too.
XyliChew is all natural, even the gum base is from the sapodilla tree. It uses beeswax though, so may not be appropriate for all vegans.
Many stores like Whole Foods, Nature Mart and health food shops carry XyliChew, you can also order online through Nature Mart or Amazon. They retail for about $2 a package. It also comes in other flavors like: spearmint, peppermint, tropical fruit, licorice and chocolate.
UPDATE: Also, be aware that xylitol is dangerous to dogs, so be very careful to keep xylitol sweetened products away from pets.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
They turned up at Walgreens, and on sale to boot (well, it was strange sale where they’d charge $2.99 a bag to mortals off the street, but someone with a coupon could get 3 for the price of 2 or something like that, but I was charged $1.59 after I gave them my best, “I don’t understand, the tag on the shelf says they’re a dollar each, but I don’t want to buy three.” and then they tried to explain it and I just kind of kept sweetly repeating that I should be able to just buy one and still get a sale price, even if it’s not the super-low price. Finally they just put a key in the register and that’s what I paid).
Each of these ropes is just shy of an ounce (.988 ounces), so it’s a satisfying portion and about 100 calories to boot.
They’re very soft, sometimes so soft that it’s hard to pull apart the ropes without breaking off pieces.
They’re fun to twist and roll, even tie in knots or probably do macrame. (I should have photographed the little scarf I made for a Peeps Bunny.)
And the taste? Well, it’s definitely a spicy cinnamon. It smells like Red Hots and has both a sweet flavor, a bit of a tangy bite and then after chewing for a bit, a low and pleasant cinnamon burn.
I don’t know what’s taken Twizzlers so long to make a really good cinnamon twist like this, but I’m glad they did. For those minding their calories, you may enjoy the interactivity and the low caloric density and overall satisfaction of the candy. I’m not sure when they’ll come out with these in single serving packages, but they should.
For some bizarro reason, these aren’t listed on the Hershey’s website even though they’ve been on shelves for at least three months.
These are made with a corn syrup and wheat base, so they’re not suitable for those who cannot have gluten.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.