Tuesday, August 3, 2010
When I was in college I worked in a bakery called Chocoholics (known for their “Truffles in a Jar”) in Eureka, California. As the kitchen assistant I mostly did dishes, some prep work for bakery items (peeling apples & carrots) and dipping truffles. But one of my other tasks was to package up the frosting after the bakers did their work of making it. The German Chocolate Cake frosting was made once a week in huge pots on the stove and finished in industrial mixers that held five gallons. When it was done and cooled, I would put it in half gallon tubs to be used for the cakes. It was an amazing mix of custard-like caramel and coconut. When the tubs were filled, I was often able to get just a few spoonfuls out and set it aside in a little bowl as a treat. Gooey, sweet, nutty and with a great burnt sugar flavor. (Technically I think it was a custard, since there were eggs in it.)
While browsing a Dollar General near my mother’s house while helping her pack to move I found this package of Crown Homestyle Candy Caramel Coconut Tips. After reading the ingredients which are a mix of sugar, coconut, oil, milk and egg whites I thought maybe these were little dollops like German Chocolate Cake Frosting.
I don’t know much about Crown Candy, they’re based in Macon, Georgia and say that they’re the largest supplier of coconut candies in the United States. They have an array of products including toasted macaroon, Neapolitan colored Coconut Bon Bons and several different versions of these Coconut Tips, including chocolate.
The little dollops do look homestyle, as the name implies. Most are about 1.5” in diameter. They smell like toasted coconut and waffle cones. They have a soft, fudgy texture that smooth with only a slight grain to it. There’s a lot of coconut, so they’re quite chewy. The chew yields several layers of flavor, at first it’s the caramel/butterscotch sugar, then that sweetness of coconut, then a little lingering salty chew of the fibery bits of coconut. There’s a hint of milk in there too, which moderates what could be insanely sweet and cloying.
I really liked them, I find them so different from many other coconut candy. I appreciated that there weren’t any weird fake butter flavors in there - it’s allowed to just be what it is. They’d probably be good covered in bittersweet chocolate, too.
Friday, June 25, 2010
The Peter Paul Mounds bar is a classic. It’s a simple moist coconut center covered in dark chocolate. The bar was introduced in 1920 by Peter Paul in New Haven, Connecticut and quickly became one of their best sellers. Though Peter Paul made other bars over the years, the only two that remain are Mounds and the sister milk chocolate and nut bar, Almond Joy. In 1978 Peter Paul merged with Cadbury and then in 1988 Cadbury sold it off to Hershey’s, who continues the production today keeping the Peter Paul name on the product.
The candy is rather like a long version of a chocolate you’d find in a mixed box instead of a candy bar. The format of two pieces in a single package goes back to the 40s and remains today even though the wrappers have changed over the years. It’s one of the few bars that still has the little paperboard tray, and I must say that I appreciate it when it comes to getting the candy out and the fact that mine nearly always look pristine.
The dark chocolate coating is simple, with some slight ripples on the top. The pieces are rounded and have a great feel to them - easy to get out of the package, easy to bite and with two pieces it’s easy to share.
The dark chocolate can’t contain the coconut aroma. It’s a fresh and clean smell. The bite of the chocolate is good, it’s thick enough to hold the coconut and there are never any little leaky spots. But it doesn’t flake off or make a mess. The coconut is soft and chewy, moist and rather sweet at first. The dark chocolate keeps that sweetness from feeling too sticky and adds a woodsy and dark cherry note to the whole thing. The coconut has a long chew and usually tastes very fresh, though often not much more than that (no grassy fresh notes).
It’s a great combination and it endures because of its simplicity as far as I’m concerned. It’s one of the few candy bars that I still pick up on top of all the other candy eating that I do. I wish the ingredients were a little “purer” as there are things like hydrolyzed milk protein and PGPR in there that I can’t recall eating as a child.
And of course no discussion of the Mounds bar would be complete without a mention (and inclusion) of the classic jingle “Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut, Sometimes You Don’t.”
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
There are a few summer-safe candies beyond the standard hard candy lollipop. Coconut bars are a great option because they provide a good bit of texture and flavor and a light tropical flavor that’s a change of pace from nuts.
The Blue Ribbon Neapolitan Coconut Bar is pretty simple. It’s a soft and moist coconut plank that comes in three flavors: strawberry, vanilla and chocolate. (Just like the ice cream.)
The bar is pretty big at 2.5 ounces and packs 320 calories, and being coconut that means that it has 75% of your daily allotment of saturated fat. That’s a lot of fat for a bar that doesn’t even have any dairy in it ... 150 calories from fat - and possibly vegan depending on how you feel about invert sugar.
The bar is pretty and easy to eat. The strips are neatly divided and the whole bar smells simply like sweet coconut.
The strawberry layer is lightly floral and strangely sweeter than the others. The pink coloring gives it a little weird metallic note, but I could ignore that as I rarely ate a bite of it without some of the adjacent vanilla.
The vanilla layer is just plain old coconut. It’s a little saltier than the center of a Mounds bar, not quite as moist, but not dry either.
The chocolate layer is kind of toasty with only a hint of cocoa flavor, kind of like chocolate graham crackers aren’t really very chocolatey. The salt here was really noticeable as well. It kept it from being too sweet, but I did have to note that there are 210 mg of sodium in the bar, more than I care for in a serving of my dessert or snack.
They travel very well, and even though it’s uncoated, it’s remarkably un-sticky and easy to eat. The instant boost of calories makes it a good meal replacement (though certainly not balanced). There are not fillers in there either (some bars have corn flakes in there). Not recommended for folks who don’t like coconut, of course.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Back when I was putting together my list of of Essential Candies I realized that I’ve been remiss with many of the Aussie favorites as well as cherry-based candies. So when I saw a Cadbury Cherry Ripe at Mel and Rose on one of my big candy buying trips I picked it up.
All I know about the bar is that it’s coconut and cherry. I’m not keen on cherry flavored things, but real cherries are delicious. The word ripe is pretty enticing and gave me hope that it was real cherries here.
Cherry Ripe is a classic bar, introduced over 85 years ago by MacRobertson’s. It’s the oldest candy bar in Australia. Other variations have come and gone, the Apricot Ripe sounds particularly good to me. (Can you imagine an apricot candy bar being popular?) MacRobertson’s was, for decades, the largest confectioner in Australia. They made products like Freddo Frogs, Old Gold Chocolate and Snack. The company was sold by the founder, Sir Macpherson Robertson, heirs in 1967 to Cadbury. Up until 2002 the Cherry Ripe and many of the old favorites still sported the MacRobertson’s logo but have now migrated over to the Cadbury brand.
It’s an impressive looking bar. A huge plank at 7 inches long, an inch and a quarter wide and a third of an inch thick. The rippled chocolate enrobing is just gorgeous. I wanted to take a close up photo and make format it as my computer desktop.
I was expecting a lot of coconut or cherry scent, but really it smells like candy - a little like chocolate, a little like raspberries.
The center is soft and chewy, not quite as moist as a Mounds bar, but not dry and crumbly. The coconut is sweet and well textured, not too fibery. The cherries are sweet and with a light hint of maraschino but not much else. I was hoping for bits of sour dried cherries but never quite got that. The dark chocolate coating is the lightest sheath of chocolate possible, it merely holds it all together. It has only a whiff of cocoa and woodsy coffee to it. It’s creamy and a little dry.
Overall I understand the appeal of this bar, it’s like a Cherry Mounds (or Cherry Bounty) and that’s a great notion. It’s big, bigger than I think I needed in a bar (but I’m used to my coconut bars in smaller pieces), but since I paid $2.99 for this (really, what was I thinking?) at least it improves the value. Now if only they’d bring back the Apricot Ripe as a limited edition.
Monday, February 15, 2010
The packaging belies its special place: it’s not that crazy dreadlocked, barefoot and patchouli drenched candy bar. Nope, it looks like a little plastic wrapped, sugar sweetened tropical paradise. It bears all the signs of Hawaiian hospitality, including the name Mahalo, which means thanks and praise, while the hibiscus flowers which are abundant on the islands. The description on their website for the bar is:
Oh, chocolatey coating. Hmm, that doesn’t sound quite as paradise-like. I actually knew that going in with these bars. I’ve looked at them before at the store and online and just wondered what they were thinking. Dark chocolate is vegan, in fact, it’s pretty easy to find. So why go with this rice milk mixed with cocoa and palm oil. How on earth is palm oil better or more vegan than cocoa butter. (Well managed cacao plantations are more diverse than palm plantations because cacao needs shade, so there are other canopy trees - less monoculture.)
The bar looks pretty good. The mockolate coating has a few bloomed spots, but I don’t hold that against them, the texture seemed just fine. (I know that coconut can be very difficult because it’s also fatty.)
The bar smells like coconut and hot chocolate. The bite is soft and chewy. The coconut center is moist and the coconut bits are big and sticky. The almonds are nice, but I could have used one or two more at this price. They added a nice crunch though. The mockolate coating was barely noticeable but had a strange “not quite milk” flavor to it that I can only say is like cereal.
Go Max Go Foods makes a series of candy bars, a vegan version of several classics. This one is by far the best, mostly because it’s all about the chewy and sweet coconut and the chocolate is not the focus. With real chocolate this would probably be a much healthier and tastier bar but since there are few vegan coconut bar options, this is an excellent choice except for the price.
If you want vegan, try the Sunspire Coconut Premium Dark Chocolate - it’s cheaper, real and actually tastes better. (Review here, scroll past the foul milk version.)
Go Max Go is not organic, not fair trade, not Kosher and is made in a facility with dairy, eggs, wheat, peanuts and other tree nuts.
(For anyone interested in the candy maker’s reaction to this post, check this out.)
Monday, November 30, 2009
Russell Stover has a large assortment of holiday treats in Santa-themed packaging. What’s nice about them is that they’re always fresh and moderately priced (often on dramatic sale for three for a dollar but usually about 50 cents a piece). I picked up every variety I could find this year:
What I noticed first was that the packaging is inconsistent in its design. Sure they’re all a mylar wrapper, but beyond that the Santas are different drawing styles with the Maple Cream, Strawberry Cream & Coconut Cream sporting the same Santa holding a gift aloft as he sits in a chimney. But The Peanut Butter Santa is more streamlined, the Marshmallow Santa has some freaky bright red cheeks and insanely short arms and finally the Marshmallow & Caramel Santa is in the style of the European Saint Nicolas complete with staff.
What I also found out is that the definition of “Santa Shaped” is pretty loose in Russell Stover’s world. It’s not quite as egg shaped, and maybe the tapering ends can be a feet/boots and a head. But really, it’d be best to just call these Christmas Lumps or Snow Clods.
The Peanut Butter Santa is pure simplicity: a peanut butter bar covered in milk chocolate. The shape of it is kind of figure-like. It’s the smallest of the pack as well, clocking in at only .75 ounces. It smells nutty and sugary and a little bit like peanut butter cookies. The milk chocolate is quite slick and melts easily, it has a light cocoa flavor to it. Most of all the salty peanut butter center is grassy-tasting. It’s a strange green flavor more like edamame than roasted peanuts.
It was tasty enough for me to finish it easily, but being small didn’t hurt either. The center is moister and a bit oilier than the center of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Tree (or Egg or Cup). This wasn’t a bad feature, just different.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I thought perhaps I’d tried these before and looked up to find that I reviewed the Maple Cream Egg way back in 2006. But the Russell Stover Maple Cream Santa is actually different. While the Easter version is coated in dark chocolate, the Christmas version is Milk Chocolate.
The amorphous lump didn’t remind me of Santa’s silhouette in the slightest but the maple cream flavor is a bit more Christmassy than Easterish so kudos for that, Russell Stover.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the dark chocolate version so I’ll spare us all comparisons. What I can say is that this is ludicrously sweet. The milk chocolate is sugary and not terribly creamy and the center while moist and fluffy is also throat searingly cloying and sticky. The maple flavor was simply a flavor, not something that felt natural or integrated into the candy itself.
Rating: 5 out of 10
While the Strawberry Cream Santa is also milk chocolate like the Cream Egg, this one lacks the pretty little swirls and curls on the top. It does smell a little like berries, but mostly it smells like milky chocolate. It’s quite sweet and has only a faint hint of strawberry and is rather similar to a Nestle Strawberry Qwik shake. I know it was really sweet, but I like the texture of the cream center that Russell Stover uses for both this one and the Maple Cream. It’s rather like a marshmallow cream, quite smooth and fluffy and moist without being runny.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The Coconut Cream Santa is also unlike the Cream Egg in that it’s milk chocolate, not dark chocolate. In this case as well, I think the sugar-laden milk chocolate is simply over the top. I like the coconut flake texture of the cream filling and the nice size of the piece, but the sugary quality of the chocolate with its grainy and fudgy melt is just too much. It’s amazing what a difference dark chocolate can make, but it does.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Things were looking up when I found the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa. I didn’t really expect this to be terribly different from the Easter Rabbit version, except that one was huge at two ounces and only in milk chocolate where I shopped.
This one was by far the most attractive of my Santa set, a nicely detailed figure of Santa Claus scratching his head. Unfortunately I smashed him somewhere along the way and his face was a little worse for it (or maybe he wasn’t scratching his head, maybe he was holding his hand over his nose and cursing me).
The marshmallow is latexy and has a chewy pull. Not too sweet and with a faint whiff of vanilla flavoring.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Of course this one looks like it could be a Mummy or Generic Figure for Unisex Bathroom Door.
It’s smaller in dimensions from the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa, yet it’s actually heavier, it’s the same 1.25 ounces as the Cream Santas. I’ve had the Caramel and Marshmallow Pumpkin before and found it interesting.
This one seems to be more evenly balanced between the caramel and the marshmallow. It’s dense for a marshmallow product, the marshmallow is fluffy and has a light hint of vanilla to it with a smooth and velvety melt. The caramel isn’t runny nor quite chewy but has a good stringy pull to it.
It’s lacking a punch like the See’s Scotchmallow, but for 50 cents and in the shape of a clothes pin, well, I don’t want to sound too ungrateful for a decent piece of candy especially since this one seems to have the proportions just right. I wish the caramel was a little more chewy, a little more salty, but still a fun piece.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I was surprised and pleased when I ran into the bars at the nearby Cost Plus World Market.
There are three varieties with a bold package design that keeps in tune with the Swiss Army style of the red shield with a white cross. The bars are larger than most American single-serve chocolate bars, about half the size of the typical 3.5 ounce (100 gram) tablet.
The wrapper calls them Survival Portions though the rest of the package is rather vague about how these help you survive, or what exactly the challenge is that needs a portion for survival.
I think the design on the wrapper is great. The bold design of the logo caught my eye immediately and the nice placement of the description & statement that it contains caffeine from guarana is easy to see.
It’s billed as Swiss Army Energy Bar Chocolate - Skimmed Milk Chocolate with Cornflakes and Guarana.
Guarana is an Amazonian vine related to the maple tree that produces a little fruit with seeds high in caffeine. In its purest form I understand the roasted fruits/seeds are a bit like cocoa powder, a bit astringent and bitter but also with some pleasant cocoa & coffee flavors. In this instance it’s just a guarana extract and it only makes up 1/2% of the total bar.
It’s quite a nice looking bar - shiny and nicely molded with scored pieces for easy portioning.
Once I broke the bar it was easy to see the little cornflake bits. It smells rather sweet but also slightly malty, which I attributed to the cornflakes.
The texture is quite smooth, though not quite silky because of the cereal bits. It’s sweet but the slightly salty, mildly malty cornflakes plus the dairy notes of the milk made it all work. I only got the slightest hint of caffeine bitterness that lingered high and light at the finish.
After the creamy experience with the milk chocolate version, I was thinking perhaps this one would be nice but probably sweet. I was happy to see that the first ingredient is cacao mass and the second sugar then cocoa butter ... so this was going to be pretty chocolatey.
It has the same 1/2% guarana extract content, which amounts to about 42 mgs of caffeine per bar.
The scent isn’t very complex, just sweet with a woodsy roasted note. The texture is smooth and has a good immediate melt. It’s a bit bitter with an overall fruity and berry note to the chocolate flavors and a little hint of smoke towards the end. I got a similar bitterness at the end as well that was different from the initial bitterness.
The white bar is a bit different, first because it has coconut instead of cornflakes. It’s made with real cocoa butter, and quite a lot of it (the second item on the list of ingredients, right after sugar and followed by skimmed milk powder).
Of course all that fat amps up the calorie count here, this bar is 290 calories versus the 260 for the previous two bars. The other confusing aspect of the nutrition label is that it lists salt as an ingredient but says that there is no sodium in it.
The bar is a light yellow, buttery looking block. The little white flecks of coconut are quite small. The overwhelming scent of the bar is coconut.
The bar melts readily and has a smooth texture, except for the soft & chewy coconut flakes. It’s sweet and milky but also has a fair bit of a salty note which keeps it from seeming too sticky like some white chocolates can. I might have preferred it with the cornflakes, but it’s still a fun bar. I didn’t sense any bitter aftertaste here, which may have just been the chocolate and not the guarana in the previous bars.
What sets these bars apart, besides the Swiss Army branding is the caffeine content. It’s not that much at only 46 mg per bar, the same caffeine content as 1 ounce of espresso or a 4 ounce cup of coffee. And as I mentioned, the portions are quite generous for what is basically an “all chocolate” bar with only a few small inclusions.
They’re well priced for what they are, a quasi-novelty item but also a decent chocolate bar with a unique set of attributes. They’ll probably be very popular stocking stuffers this holiday season.
They have an odd website, it looks great, but feels a little off because of what appears to be a machine translation of the text. The wrappers say Imported into the USA by Cost Plus, Inc. so I’m guessing they’re the exclusive retailer for these here.
Monday, June 22, 2009
the new Indulge gable-box line includes some boxed chocolate items (like Cherry Creme Clusters) as well as the standard bridge mixes and chocolate covered nuts.
I picked out these two from the samples that Farley’s & Sathers sent me: Coconut Almond Escape and Caramel Almond escape because they both have almonds at the center but were definitely outside of the normal panned nuts offerings.
Besides the color coding of the boxes, it’s hard to tell the candies apart from the pictures on the package ... they’ve obviously taken some artistic license or are able to produce identical candies in both dark and milk chocolate. (Click to see it a bit bigger on Flickr.)
Coconut Almond Escape is called Rich, creamy, coconut covered almonds coated in luscious dark chocolate.
They make it sound simple but it’s really not. There is an almond at the core and there is a “sweet chocolate” coating (which has lactose as the second ingredient after sugar and before chocolate & cocoa butter). But that white stuff in between goes like this:
So that “coconut covering” has very little actual coconut in it ... as far as I can tell the smallest dash of coconut oil and maybe that natural flavoring.
They certainly smell coconutty - like suntan lotion. The pieces are glossy and large. The almonds are crunchy and nicely toasted. The white cream is soft and has a good melt on the tongue ... not quite fondant and rather salty. Sometimes I get a fake butter flavor from it, which turns me off. The whole effect is rather good otherwise and rather different.
I was hoping for the elusive Dark Chocolate Almond Joy experience, but without actual coconut flakes, all the chewy texture is provided by the almonds. It tastes rather fake, but the hit of salt gives them a good munchability. But on the other hand I’m hesitant to recommend a candy that has more coloring (titanium dioxide in this case) than salt. But I don’t know what my daily recommend intake of titanium is. Maybe it makes my cell phone reception better. Or makes me impervious to UV radiation.
Caramel Almond Escape is Rich creamy, caramel covered almonds in luscious milk chocolate.
I should have photographed these two candies together to show the difference in size. Most of these are about the size of a Peanut M&M.
These milk chocolate pieces look great otherwise, very nicely panned they’re shiny and smooth. I was rather surprised when I opened the package that they smell like maple.
I was hoping for a nice chewy caramel, but probably expecting a Brach’s Milk Maid Caramel.
Instead it’s more like a maple fudge instead of anything resembling a caramel. And it’s an awful like like fake maple.
The nuts are crunchy, but their tiny size leaves the proportions here a bit off as well. I’ve been eating the, but I have a hard time believing that I’d buy them.
Rating: 4 out of 10
It’s nice to see Brach’s bringing production back to the United States, but I’d like to see some less convoluted recipes ... or I’ll just stick to the Bridge Mix, Candy Corn and Spearmint Leaves that they do so well.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.