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.
Monday, June 1, 2009
The cream colored packet holds 1.5 ounces of green, white and brown milk chocolate morsels flavored with coconut.
As with most limited editions, the package is a bit slighter than the regular products. This one clocks in at 1.5 ounces instead of the normal 1.69 in a Milk Chocolate M&Ms pack.
The package is cute and playful, featuring Ms. Green reclining in the sand, leaning against a coconut filled with coconut M&Ms. In the background the Yellow Peanut M&M is falling out of a coconut palm laden with more coconuts.
The contents smell much like most M&Ms, sweet and slightly woodsy but only the slightest whiff of coconut.
The individual lentils are a bit puffier than regular M&Ms, though not as big as the Peanut Butter variety.
Inside they’re just milk chocolate but with an added touch of coconut flavoring (but no actual coconut to be found in the ingredients).
The chocolate is fudgy, the flavor is a little salty and tropical but with a strange yogurty tang (kind of like Hershey’s) ... the crunch of the shell is crisp.
On the whole, it’s a nice change-up, very appealing. It’s not something that I think deserves to be made part of the regular repertoire. But see the review on Hershey’s Almond Joy Pieces.
UPDATE 9/29/2009: Mars has announced that M&MS Coconut will become part of their permanent line of candies. You can expect them in stores starting in December 2009.
It’s sad in a way that I’m writing about these now, since they’re not due in stores until December, but I really couldn’t wait. (I know Candy Addict was also too excited for them to hit store shelves.)
The choice of Almond Joy as one of the first lentilized Hershey’s bars in this line is kind of odd, but a welcome one as far as I’m concerned - coconut candies are few and far between.
The samples I got were directly from Hershey’s and came in little “for sales samples only” packets of only .7 ounces each. I’m not certain what the final packaging sizes will be.
The nutrition information is missing but the ingredients are here:
The pieces are similar in size & proportion to M&Ms, perhaps a little thicker. The sizes and manufacturing are quite consistent. The colors are blue, dark brown and tan.
The candy shells are rather thick & crunchy, the candy center is a milk chocolate base studded with coconut bits and crushed almonds.
They’re quite sweet and taste mostly of coconut, but the texture combinations are fantastic - the light crunch of the candy shell combined with the chew of the coconut bits and the occasional appearance by an almond bit. The flavors are a bit mild but I enjoyed these quite a bit and if I had an opportunity to chose them for a snack at a movie or while at my desk, I certainly would, mostly because they are unique, there are no other candies like this.
There’s no Kosher status listed on the package (though that may be because this is not final packaging), and it also says that it’s not nut, peanut, wheat, egg or soy free. Further, the use of resinous glaze means that this is not a vegetarian product.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
At the same time I bought the Sunspire Peppermint Pattie, I also picked up both of their Coconut Bars.
Sunspire makes premium candy with all natural ingredients, nothing artificial. In my experience with their products they tend to use evaporated cane juice instead of refined sugar and often use unsulfured molasses as a sweetener. They also eschew genetically modified sources so most of the products I’ve seen use a rice syrup when needed instead of corn syrup. Besides the malty, earthy flavor that molasses usually adds, I have no problem with sweet & satisfying candy being made from these elements.
Add to that Hershey’s decision to move manufacturing of Mounds, Almond Joy and York Peppermint Patties to Mexico, I thought it’d be cool to find an excellent American-made substitute for folks who want to buy more local. (Though in my case Monterrey, Mexico is a bit closer than Hershey, PA.)
Instead of the two piece style of Almond Joy or Bounty this is a long, one-piece bar, a bit thinner. The rippled milk chocolate enrobing is glossy and appealing.
The almonds in this bar are not whole ones popped on top like Almond Joy, they’re crushed & mixed in with the moist coconut flakes.
I didn’t really see the almond bits in there, but the color was a bit more on the cream-colored side than the dark chocolate & no almond version (see below.)
The bar smells pleasantly like coconut and unpleasantly like Hershey’s Milk Chocolate often does - a bit gamey & sour ... rather like baby vomit.
But I pushed on, because I actually like the taste of Hershey’s milk chocolate, even though I can’t take the smell of it for very long.
The flavor of the milk chocolate is tangy, it’s like acid reflux but in the convenience of a pre-packaged bar. It’s terrible. I can’t eat it. I tried several times, it’s just too awful for me to stomach. (I even waited a couple of days, just in case I was the one who wasn’t feeling well.)
Then, as some sort of deja vu, I lured Amy into my office to try it. (Remember, not only does Amy have no problem spitting things out, she also has a hate-hate relationship with Sunspire’s Sundrops.)
I understand personal preferences for certain flavors, it’s rare for any candy product to induce a verified gag reflex.
Rating: 1 out of 10
It’s a simpler bar, just a firm coconut center, lightly sweetened and some dark chocolate enrobing.
The enrobing on this one looked similar, though there were a few bloomed spots. As the expiration date was March 2010, I felt pretty safe eating it.
The chocolate is slightly bitter, not extremely creamy but has its own decent flavor. The center is firm and chewy, more like an uncoated coconut bar than something soft & moist like a Mounds.
This tastes like no compromise candy. All natural ingredients, not organic but at least not genetically modified or overprocessed. The ingredients are vegan however they were made in a plant that processes wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs and soy. Kosher.
The price is a bit steep and to be honest, if I’m going for a candy bar when at Whole Foods or similar stores, there’s very little that could pry me away from the Q.Bel wafer bars. But if I was in the mood for coconut, the dark bar is notable.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Friday, April 17, 2009
I don’t know much about fudge. What I do know is that when I accepted an offer of fudge samples from Rosa’s Fudge last month I became the proud recipient of more fudge than I have ever possessed before.
The box pictured is over 6 inches long, 4 and a half inches wide and almost three inches deep. Inside were 24 1.25 ounce squares. Yes, the box weighed about two pounds (counting the weight of the box itself).
This was an ideal time for me to get over my fudge ambivalence. It’s not that I don’t like fudge, it’s that I don’t know fudge.
For the most part I find fudge tasty, but difficult. After all, it usually requires implements to eat ... cutting it with a knife, storing it awkwardly, it dries out easily. Candy should be low fuss.
Their fudge is sold in these little cubes, one serving, each stays fresh and they’re easy to eat, store & share.
They’re made with mostly wholesome ingredients: milk, butter, sugar but also a dash of hydrogenated palm kernel oil (can’t be much based on how far down on the list it comes) plus chocolate or nuts as dictated by the flavor then some potassium sorbate to keep it all fresh.
Chocolate - the bite is soft and the chocolate flavor is immediate (chocolate is the second ingredient in this flavor). It’s rich and has both the cocoa flavors and some nice fatty “melt” going on with the slight sugary grain. It was appealing and went especially well with salty/crunchy snacks like pretzels or plain almonds. *
Peanut Butter - this is a classic flavor and I find that fudge made from peanut butter to be one of the ideal ways to use peanuts in confection (along with peanut butter cups & peanut brittle). It smells dark and a little bitter. The stuff is fatty, but not greasy ... though it did make the little waxed paperboard bottom label a clear translucent. It has a softer and crumblier bite than the chocolate. The nut flavors were wonderful with a mellow not-too-sweet powdery quality that kept it together without giving me that “sticky” feeling on the tongue. *
Chocolate & Peanut Butter - this block is a combination of the first two flavors, about 25% is chocolate on the top and the 75% on the bottom is peanut butter. The variation between the two textures is awesome, and of course chocolate and peanut butter are a natural fit. *
Chocolate Mint - this piece could have gone a few ways. It could have been a vanilla piece flavored with mint and then a layer of chocolate fudge. Instead this is a chocolate fudge with a creme de menthe flavor to it. It was quite cool, not too strong and refreshing with a good authentic peppermint note (it does have peppermint oil in it). The mint made it seem a bit less sweet but the mint wasn’t so overpowering that it infected the neighboring pieces. *
Vanilla - I was a bit lost on what this should be. It’s just butter and sugar, right? Well, this isn’t quite grandma’s recipe. Sugar, milk, butter, partially hydrogenated palm kernel and cottonseed oils, cream, corn syrup, maltodextrins, natural and artificial flavors, invert sugar, soy lecithin, potassium sorbate and salt. Maybe it needs some real vanilla bean in there.
Penuche - I love the idea of penuche and sometimes get a version of it I love at the local shop by my office. Penuche is basically a brown sugar fudge. It’s grainy and maybe even a bit greasy, but I love it. This one was smooth and had the brown sugar notes, but mostly it just tasted like a good cooked buttercream frosting would.
Maple - was much softer than the other pieces. Not so soft that it lost its shape once out of the wrapper, but definitely a little droopy. The flavor also seemed smoother, very strong in the woodsy pecan end of things. Sweet, aromatic and definitely one of my favorites. *
Butterscotch - I wasn’t sure what butterscotch would be like, I assumed it’d be like butterscotch pudding. Instead, when I opened the package I was greeted with an aroma like putting my head into a bucket of butterscotch disks (the hard candy). The fake “flavorishness” aside, I enjoyed it. It was artificial and throat-searingly sugary, but the texture was nice and I really knew that this was supposed to be butterscotch.
Coffee - looked a lot like the Maple or Penuche. Instead the texture was quite different once I bit into it. It has the same grainy consistency that melts in the mouth that I like about fudge. The coffee flavors were mild but sweet and milky. It reminded me of coffee ice cream. This was my top pick of the whole assortment. *
Coffee & Chocolate - this one is rather simple, just a coffee fudge with a layer of chocolate fudge. But I didn’t like the addition of the chocolate much. It didn’t give it a chocolate punch, but did lessen the coffee flavors. The two fudges had a slight consistency difference as well, the chocolate was firmer with a tighter grain (is that a way to describe fudge or hardwood?).
Amaretto - my appreciation of amaretto is pretty shallow. I like almonds but I don’t care for marzipan because of the strong amaretto notes, which I associate with the same fake flavor that butterscotch is to true toffee. This smelled, to me, like a fine bath product. Sweet, a little floral and a lot like amaretto. It was actually pretty good ... nothing I’d eat, but I think amaretto fans would like it.
Irish Creme - is a combination of three flavors: Irish Whiskey, coffee and cream. Instead this tastes like coconut, butterscotch and maple. I’m missing the deep woodsy tones that whiskey can bring ... and I’m definitely not getting any coffee in there, but there’s a creamy flavor. I’d definitely keep eating it, if I didn’t have a bunch of other fruit & nut flavors to get to.
Chocolate & Coconut - looking at the side of this, it was evident that this was more than a coconut flavored chocolate fudge, there’s coconut flakes all through it. It smells woodsy, herby and a little bit like granola. Biting into it, it has a lot of chew from the coconut but the biggest flavor hit here is chocolate. The chocolate tastes deeper, richer and less sweet than the other versions I tried singularly and in combination earlier. This stuff is awesome. It reminds me of a less-sweet Mounds bar. *
This was where I reached a stumbling block. While I usually like bright colors & fun incorporated into my candy, something about these fruit ones just seemed wrong. So I picked around them in the box.
Pina Colada - this was bright yellow. While I was hesitant because of the color and the idea of pineapple and coconut in fudge didn’t sound like a good idea, the chocolate coconut was a pleasant surprise. This one doesn’t have as much coconut in it as the chocolate version, but there’s still a fair bit. It smells sweet and like a floral/peppery pineapple. The bite is soft, dry but with a very small grain (besides the bits of coconut). There’s a lot of pineapple flavor, but no tang to it. The coconut gives a lot of texture and a fair bit of authentic coconut butter flavor. It’s better than I expected, but still far too sweet.
Chocolate Raspberry - the bright pink and malleable texture makes this look something I made with Playdoh. The raspberry flavor is all fragrance and food coloring. I ate that one bite shown and didn’t want to go back for more even if it meant a scathing paragraph here.
Chocolate Strawberry - this smelled like strawberry ice cream and kind of tasted like it too. It was very sugary and the chocolate kind of brought it down a notch, but then the bitter taste of the food coloring kicked in. I know some folks probably like this, but it’s not my thing.
Even though it ended on a down note, the tasting experience with Rosa’s Fudge was fun. I found out that there are some specific flavors that I think go well with fudge. (I also think nuts go great with fudge, so if you’re a walnut person, I wholeheartedly recommend it even though I’ve never tried theirs.)
Rosa’s offers custom packed boxes based on your flavor preferences, so you’ll never end up with a block you don’t want. My choices (marked with a *) now ranked in order: Chocolate & Coconut, Coffee, Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Chocolate & Mint and Maple.
The whole thing gets a 7 out of 10 rating. Good price, spare packaging & excellent shipping. The flavors were distinct, classic and well executed.
Rosa’s Fudge is sold on their website ($12 for 12 pieces - 15 ounces) as well as at some candy counters in the northeastern United States.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Almond Joy candy bar was introduced in 1946, just after the World War II, when sugar, tropical coconuts and chocolate became more available. The Peter Paul Manufacturing Co was based in New Haven, Connecticut and was already known for its popular Mounds bar.
Peter Paul, then producing out of their facility in Nagatuck, Connecticut was bought up by Cadbury back in 1978, and in a deal ten years later, Hershey’s purchased Cadbury’s American operations. Even though the company has gone through a few hands, the bars are still known by their original brand of Peter Paul. The Nagatuck plant that produced Almond Joy’s from 1948 forward closed last year and production was consolidated to a Virginia factory.
Mounds and Almond Joy enjoy a bit of a corner on the chocolate covered coconut market here in the United States. For a while Mars tried to push into the arena with their already popular Bounty bars from Europe, but they never quite made it.
The standard single serving package includes two small bars. The moist coconut and fondant center is covered in milk chocolate and studded with two almonds each. They’re tucked into a tray to protect them.
The bars smell sweet and a whole lot like coconut. The bite is soft and moist, the mockolate is a bit grainy and fudgy and doesn’t really add much flavorwise but does keep things a little creamier (overall I’d say it’s not back mockolate and the ingredients to indicate there’s real chocolate in there). The almonds, though usually small, are good quality and nicely toasted.
I prefer the Mounds (though I’ve always wished they’d do a Mounds with Almonds) just for the counterpoint of the bittersweet chocolate and the sweet coconut. But the coconut is always a good texture and chew with a nice tropical flavor and satisfying tropical fat content. But it is sweet, a bit too much for me.
Almond Joy holds a place in many American’s hearts because of a very popular advertising campaign in the 80s and their jingle that says, “sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t” to distinguish between their two coconut bars. Even though that campaign is long gone, the phrase “sometimes you feel like a nut” still knocks around as a cultural reference.
Almond Joy are also available in a few other formats. They have snack pack size, which is slightly smaller than a single from the regular sized. (A two almond one weights approximately .8 ounces while the snack pack size weights about .6 ounces and sports only one almond.)
There is a third size called fun size, which I only see around Halloween, which looks like it’s from a box of candy. (See Wikipeda for an example.) That also has only one almond, though probably the highest almond to center & chocolate ratio of the three varieties. Easter also brings a large egg shaped version which also sports a solo almond (reviewed here at Candy Addict).
Out of curiosity (mostly because there was a Consumerist posting yesterday), I picked up the Snack Pack and a regular Almond Joy just to see if there was some sort of shenanigan going on here. Consumerist alleged that there was false advertising because there are two little almonds on the package and the description lists “almonds” instead of almond. I can’t really say what the legal situation would be, but I would probably expect that the Snack Pack would simply be the same as a single from regular size.
I can say that this is not a new development. I found this shot from 2005 (back when it was real chocolate too) that shows the single nut on the Snack Pack Almond Joy, so if it were a big deal, I would have expected it to be addressed long before now. While the use of the plural almonds does create a sense of expectation, I’m not sure we also expect a half a coconut’s worth of shreds in there too, even though that’s also depicted in the artwork.
The Snack Pack, which I picked up at the 99 Cent Only Store, as far as I was concerned, was a very good value. Eight of these smaller bars for only 99 cents. They have 80 calories each. The regular sized ones have 110 calories each. It’s pretty obvious that the Snack Pack, even with its decreased almond density is a far better deal than a single bar purchase.
Almond Joy has enjoyed a few alternative varieties through Hershey’s limited editions including Key Lime, Passion Fruit, Chocolate Chocolate and Toasted Coconut (my personal favorite over the classic Almond Joy).
UPDATE 9/30/2008: Almond Joy was briefly made with mockolate but after consumer feedback, Hershey’s switched back to the original chocolate formula.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
On my way to San Francisco back in April I took a little detour off of 101 North in San Luis Obispo to gather some little organic and fair trade goodies from Sweet Earth Chocolates. They’re sold on the web and at Splash Cafe, which shares space with Sweet Earth’s confectionery kitchen. The two display cases at the cafe were well organized and kept the chocolate at a consistent temperature. (A little cold for immediate indulgence but perfect for storage.)
What attracted me to them is that they make candy not just fine chocolates. My curiosity was mostly about these candy cups that they feature on their website.
The little cups are about 1.25” at the base and 1.5” at the top. They weigh about .8 ounces with the wrapper on. (Bigger than the standard Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Minis.)
Turtle Cluster (the bronze wrapper - pictured unwrapped in the center)
This is the only milk chocolate cup in the bunch (they have other cups, but they have walnuts in them).
The one has a flowing caramel center with crisped rice in the milk chocolate.
The caramel is sweet but a little salty and rather buttery tasting. It’s a good consistency, not too much like syrup, though not chewy.
The whole thing was rather sweet and not creamy enough for me, but I have to say that the texture combo was great and really filled any craving I had for a fair trade & organic candy.
Dark Chocolate. It’s a solid cup with a little decorative flourish of a piece of candied ginger and a dried cranberry on top.
The chocolate is sweet and just a bit grainy from the inclusion of the crystallized ginger. It has a light spicy bite to it. I felt there was more ginger to it than cranberry. In the bites where it was just one of the other, it was fine too.
It was a tasty little piece, and interesting change from barks because it’s so chunky and the inclusions stay moist & chewy.
Both of the cups that I ate were absolutely gorgeous. The chocolate was shiny and the little flakes of coconut on top told me what was inside.
It smelled only slightly of woodsy, tropical coconut (not like suntan lotion).
The fondant center was both sugary and coconutty. It wasn’t as soft and chewy as a Mounds bar. It was a bit firmer, but not at all gritty. A bit cool on the tongue, it was like a cake of confectioners sugar and coconut bits.
There was a lot of chocolate to it, which kept it from being too sweet, but also drowned out the coconutiness a bit. So consider this a more subtle coconut candy than Bounty or Mounds.
Dark chocolate. This cup has a natural fondant (not bright white) with a light touch of peppermint. The overall effect is fresh and balances well with the semi-sweet chocolate.
There’s a lot of chocolate on top, maybe more than I’m used to as proportions go with these sorts of things, so don’t think of it as a peppermint pattie.
I liked this one a lot, I know it’s not a hard thing to do well, but they did it.
This was probably the most irregular looking of all the cups. The lumpy top hinted at large almond pieces below.
Not only is it loaded with them, they’re not just roasted ... they’re caramelized. Each almond bit has a bit or a crunchy sugar shell and then the chocolate around it.
Crunchy, much less sweet than the others and entirely satisfying.
I also tried a vegan turtle while I was there, made with coconut oil instead of butter. It wasn’t quite a “caramel” in my book as the coconut flavor was detectable ... but it was still very tasty and felt like a no-compromise treat for anyone avoiding dairy. Unfortunately they were out of their peanut butter cups (and they do have a vegan dark chocolate version).
I’m hoping that these candy cups will show up at more cafes and as impulse items at natural stores (heck, any kind of store). With a retail price of about a dollar (they’re much less when you buy a whole box though.), it’s more than most of us spend on a candy bar, but as a fair trade and organic product, this doesn’t have the feel of a charity compromise. All of the dark chocolate offerings are also Vegan. You can buy online (they even do wedding favors) and their website has an up-to-date list of where they’re sold in stores.
UPDATE: Sweet Earth Chocolate changed their name to Mama Ganache.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Long Boys Coconut were once just a regional favorite, enjoyed by kids and adults around the south. Made in New Orleans, they were a simple coconut caramel sold as a long thin 3 inch roll. The packages have always been a yellow waxed paper with a very tall boy and yellow accents.
Today they’re made by Atkinson’s Candy in Texas (which seems to have taken over many regional and specialty favorites from all over the south and southwest).
They’re a rather light looking caramel, with a sweet scent and a soft texture.
Biting into them, it’s like the flavor of Sugar Babies and Coconut Neapolitans (or Coconut Slabs) all in one but with a distinctly salty hit at the front. The chew is not sticky, but soft and creamy with tiny bits of coconut. As the sugar dissolves away it’s more coconutty.
It’s nice, I prefer it to the more rustic Neapolitans (which are also a bear to bite in half most of the time). They’re a great summertime candy because they don’t melt but still have a creamy texture, which can satisfy some cravings without melted messes.
They also come in a short version, about the length of a Tootsie Roll, but narrower. They’re called Long Boys Coconut Juniors. (Nope, not Short Boys!)
The other version is Long Boys Chocolate which, as you can guess, is a chocolate caramel. There’s no coconut here. At first I thought it was going to be like a Tootsie Roll, but it’s oh, so much better. It’s not quite the dreamy chewy chocolate caramel of the Storck Chocolate Reisen either, but it’s still wonderful in its own right.
It’s more of a short caramel, not a sticky chew. It has a bit of salt and mellow cocoa flavor with some coffee overtones. They don’t stick to the teeth at all, either.
It’s satisfying. I have no idea where to find them in stores, though there are a few places to order in quantity on the internet.
The format of these means they’re probably found either in bulk or in “changemaker” tubs (at I’m guessing 5 or 10 cents a piece). A nice little after lunch pick-me-up.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.