Tuesday, April 10, 2012
In 1976 David Klein began selling a new kind of jelly bean he commissioned at a small ice cream parlor, Fosselman’s, in Alhambra, California. It was different in a lot of ways than the jelly beans folks usually sold. They were sold as individual flavors and included new flavors like Root Beer and Cream Soda along with the traditional fruity flavors like Very Cherry and Green Apple plus the required Black Licorice. This was the start of Jelly Belly and a revolution in the way that Americans viewed their sugar candy. Notably, it got people interested in intense and more unusual flavors as well as moving the bar on how much someone would pay for a pound of jelly beans.
The collaboration of David Klein with the Herman Goelitz Candy Co. came to an end when Klein was bought out. His settlement meant that he was paid a royalty for every bean sold (with a yearly cap) but couldn’t compete in the jelly bean category until that contract came to an end. Since its recent expiration, Klein has been collaborating with Marich Confectionery with family members of those that developed the original Jelly Belly in the 70s. The new line of David’s Signature Beyond Gourmet Jelly Beans are now available.
The beans are made with real fruit, flavorings and all natural colors. It’s a little frustrating to find out definitive information about the product line, the Leaf website has a couple of press releases, but no standard product information. The Facebook page for the product has a picture of their flavor offerings, which include wasabi, habanero, Thai chili and chipotle, but those weren’t in my sampler.
I found this sampler box on Amazon (sold by Oregon Trail Foods) for $16.95 for a half pound assortment of 16 flavors (plus shipping). I ordered it on Thursday and it arrived the following Monday. The box is a bit problematic, the little sections of the tray allow the beans to hop from one bin to another when the box is tipped, so when I opened mine I had to re-sort my beans. This was difficult for several of the colors which were extremely similar.
While the beans inside look great, I was disappointed at the flimsy and generic package that really didn’t entice me or create any excitement about what was inside. For something over $32 a pound, I expect a little of it to go into packaging.
David’s Signature Beans are unbranded and look like little pieces of polished glass. Each one was nearly perfect and consistently shaped. They’re a little larger than the Jelly Belly, which is on the right above. (The flavor on the left is cranberry, the one on the right is the Jelly Belly Snapple Cranberry-Raspberry, which is also all natural.)
Black Cherry is the flavor I heard that was really startling in this mix. The color is quite dark, a milky maroon color. The shell is firm and crunchy with a light and consistent graininess right beneath that.
The flavor is a little bit tart and a little bit sweet. But it’s nothing like real fresh cherries or fake cherries to me. It reminds me of cherry juice, in that it’s a deep and has a sort of boiled berry jam note to it, but nothing distinct.
The construction of the beans is very consistent. The centers were mostly colored, though not with some sort of imposed artificiality, it’s just whatever the combination of real fruits made them.
In some cases the centers matched the shell like the Black Cherry. In other cases they were colorless.
The flavor is floral, at first it’s like a raspberry flavor, but then it gets that little kick that I associate with blueberry. It’s a tannin note, kind of like tea. It’s a rather confused tasting bean though, because it ends with a little creamy note, almost a vanilla. So think of it more like a blueberry smoothie.
The shell is crisp, but not thick. The flavor is a very strong coconut milk, sweet and with that aromatic nuttiness. There’s no actual shredded coconut in the center, but the flavor is really authentic. It didn’t have that oily note that brings to mind hot and humid days by the pool with suntan oil, it was a bit cleaner than that.
Bacon is something I consider a novelty.
Bacon is also not a food I eat. I’d say it’s because I don’t eat pork, which is true (though I do eat candies with gelatin) but to go further, even as an omnivorous kid I didn’t like bacon. I don’t want a jelly bean that tastes like bacon. I’m not eating it.
Cranberry is very tart and bracing. There’s a light vanilla note to it as well and maybe a little hint of concord grape. I really like a good puckery cranberry, and I think if I were designing them, I’d make it even more sour.
That said, it’s still pretty well rounded and tastes more like dried cranberries than some sort of cranberry fruit juice cocktail.
Ginger is fascinating. It’s a bit of a tougher bean, the shell seems a little crisper. The flavor is immediately rooty, with lots of woodsy notes and less of that lemony tang that fresh ginger juice can have and more of the deep honey notes of ginger ale.
I would buy a bag of these, they also went well with the lemon, which is good, because they look nearly the same.
Grape was a good flavor, it was like grape juice, but missing that concord note that the Japanese seem to have pegged really well in many of their candies.
Green Apple was also very authentic, it was like unsweetened apple sauce, a cooked apple flavor without as much sour zing as a fresh apple.
I don’t know quite why I’d want to eat salted sugar, but there it is. I can understand a salted caramel jelly bean, but just a salted jelly bean is mystifying. It was a cross between eating cake batter and licking my own sweat off my arms. It was kind of like a sports drink, but without the actual flavor of fruit juice.
I didn’t catch much in the way of zest, which is too bad, because I think that would have sent this one over the top.
Though I wasn’t as keen on this one as I’d hoped, it paired very well with other beans such as strawberry and ginger.
Again the zest notes were missing, so it was more like a really good glass of Tang with an extra spoonful of the concentrate added to it.
Of course if this was called Fanta Orange, I’d want to add it to my soda pop mix and call it fabulous.
It’s a combination of apricot and peach, with a lot of tartness, quite a bit of “fuzz” flavor and a clean finish. It reminded me of baby food, really good peach puree.
I think what distinguishes pomegranate from cranberry is the floral notes for pomegranate. It was quite reminiscent of raspberry with a sort of dry finish like Key limes have when compared to Persian limes.
Root Beer is fantastic. All root beer candies should take a hint from this one. It certainly puts the other root beer jelly beans to shame, it’s far more intense and vibrant. There’s a lot of flavor without that artificial red aftertaste that I can get from Root Beer Barrel hard candies.
Of course this makes me wish for a whole set of soda flavored beans in exotics like tonic water, birch beer and guarana.
It’s sweet and tangy, but missing a bit of the floral note that I get with many other strawberry flavors. Instead this was more like jam than fresh strawberry. But these also varied, some were larger than others and some were tarter than others.
It’s best in combination and actually went well with coconut.
Vanilla Bean was also great. The vanilla flavor was creamy and rich with a lot of dimension. There’s the sweet and soft note of the vanilla extract and then the deeper bourbon notes of the vanilla beans.
There were real little bits of vanilla seeds from the pod which stuck with me for a while. That’s fine because vanilla went well with most of the other flavors, including ginger, root beer and strawberry.
Overall, they’re wonderfully vibrant even if I’m not fond of the direction of each of the beans. However, the price is prohibitive and not quite justified by the product. While I like the use of real, whole ingredients, the packaging was not worthy of a product that’s so expensive. My guess is that if they do catch on they economies of scale might bring things more into line with my expectations ($10 a pound is still steep in my world). The thing that would set them apart though would be the quirkier flavors such as ginger and perhaps other spices. I am curious to try the other more exotic flavors, but I’ll wait to find them in stores when I’m not paying shipping on top.
Other bean flavors I am interested in, if someone wants to make them: cola, lemon cola, rum, gin, molasses, peppermint, cucumber, celery, spearmint, cardamom, lavender honey and an intense all natural black licorice.
You can read more about the history of David Klein and Jelly Belly on MSNBC.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Though the company is celebrating their 100th year, the Ritter Sport square bar, as we’ve come to know it, is not quite as old as that. The Sport bars were introduced in 1932 ... so in 20 years you can look forward to another centennial.
The bar is a simple one, just milk chocolate with a blend of crushed nuts: almonds, cashews & macadamia nuts.
I picked up my bar in Germany at Kaufhof in December, but they may be available at import shops in North America and airports during the year.
The bar is lovely and really quite tasty. It’s odd, the milk chocolate is sweet and smooth, as usual. The nuts are crunch and plentiful. But the flavor is quite interesting. For a while after munching on the bar I was convinced there was honey in it, it has that same sort of toasted almond and honey flavor that Toblerone has. But there was none in the ingredients, so I can only credit the toasting of the nuts that give it that soft, sweet and nutty flavor.
I would buy this bar regularly. It doesn’t quite dethrone my favorite, the Knusperflakes (Corn Flakes) bar, but it’s terrific in its own right.
When I was at the Ritter Sport factory store I was excited to pick up some of their “not quite ready” test bars. Some of these are out on the market now, or will be later this year. But when I was in the store, they were offering the 100 gram bars in their generic white wrappers for half a Euro.
Ritter Sport Dunkle Pfefferminz is a dark chocolate bar with a peppermint flavored dark chocolate cream center. It also features a dash of alcohol, giving it a creme de menthe sort of blast.
The bar looked great.
The cream center was smooth and had a strong peppermint flavor, but not so strong as to overpower the dark chocolate notes, which were slightly acidic and woodsy. It’s pretty decadent and silky, I didn’t feel the need to eat more than two or three sections at a sitting.
I hope this comes to the United States at some point, it’s a keeper and unlike anything else we have on the market.
One other item I picked up in the back room was a bag of these little bon bons. They were simply called Pfefferminz and in a clear plastic bag. Each individual piece was wrapped in an unmarked aqua wrapper. I have no idea what their purpose was, but the center was not quite the same as the Dunkle bar. They were good, but milk chocolate and a little more fudgy and firm.
The test version of Ritter Sport Kakaosplitter must have gone well, because I saw this one on World in Chocolate as a spring limited edition.
I believe kakaosplitter (kakaokernstuckchen) is the German word for cacao nib. The bar is milk chocolate and features a firm chocolate cream filling studded with crispy cacao nibs.
The bar is quite milky and has a good nutty flavor overall. The nibs are toasted in a way that seems to have caramelized them. So instead of being chewy or dense, they’re quite light and crispy, but with a sort of uneven chocolate flavor, depending on the bite.
I liked the treatment of the nibs, but I didn’t care for the overall sweetness of the bar. It makes me wish I’d found this hazelnut and nib solid bar.
The last bar I picked up looked just like the others on the outside, a generic white with the simple name of Ritter Sport Kokosmakrone. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was picking up because I didn’t know what Kokosmakrone was, I thought it was another cocoa nib confection.
Instead it’s a coconut cream. How fun! Aside from the Mounds and Almond Joy bars, there’s not much in the real coconut realm in candy bars in the United States.
The bar is milk chocolate again with a white cream filling with both toasted coconut and rice flakes for crunch.
It smells an awful lot like coconut, the chocolate is infused with it to the point that the chocolate flavors are lost. I had to sequester the bar in its own ziploc bag before I finished it because I was afraid it was going to make my 100 Jahre bar taste weird. The filling is sweet and milky with a little salty hint. The coconut is more of a flavor than a texture, the crispies add a new dimension of texture that you don’t really get in American coconut candies.
Mostly I like this because it’s not like anything else you can get for less than $2. But, if I want coconut, I’m probably going to go for a Mounds bar.
In all, I love Ritter Sport’s sense of adventure.
The bars are made in a factory that processes a lot of different nuts, soy, dairy and products that may contain gluten. The Ritter Sport company sources much of their cacao from South and Central American and says it’s committed to ethical sourcing.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Easter is the time of cream eggs. There are so many different versions and Russell Stover makes about half of them. From caramel and peanut butter to raspberry whip and strawberry cream, they go for variety. This year their newest introduction is not another egg, but a reshaping of one of their classic eggs into a different format. Behold the Russell Stover Big Bunny Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cream.
The package design is nice, I liked it quite a bit, with its bold illustration style. Though the wrapper is a bit flimsy, it seems to do a good job of protecting the contents. It says that it’s made with 100% real chocolate, which is great news and that it’s made proudly in America. They were on sale for $1.00, which is a pretty good deal for a 2.25 ounce candy bar these days.
The bunny is large, just as the package promised. It’s a little over 5 inches tall (though one of my ears was a bit broken off because I fumbled with it when I took it out of the wrapper).
The shape is only vaguely rabbit. I’m not even sure if it’s just a giant rabbit head or supposed to be a whole rabbit body. It’s enrobed though, which is my favorite kind of chocolate coating. If you’ve ever seen a chocolate enrober, you’ll understand part of my fascination with the technique. A center is pushed through a curtain of melted chocolate, which coats it and hardens as it moves along a conveyer that cools it. (Watch it here, it’s kind of mesmerizing.)
The chocolate is thick enough to create a bit of crunchy break when I bit into it. Because of the irregular shape of the rabbit, it also meant that the ratio of chocolate to coconut would change. The center was thick and had a large density of coconut cream. The cream is light and airy with a smooth sugary grain to it and not too much coconut. The coconut is in very small pieces, less like a Mounds or Almond Joy. There’s even a light hint of salt in there.
It’s a nice product, easier to eat, oddly enough, than the egg version that’s a classic. However, it’s quite large. The package says that it’s one portion, which is 280 calories. I’d prefer to consume it in two or three sittings, as I did. The package was pretty easy to open and fold over and tape closed between those portions.
It’s a good addition to the Russell Stover line of Easter goodies. It’s not overwhelming as a huge chocolate rabbit, but a little more precious than the chocolate covered coconut cream egg.
Though it’s made with dark chocolate, there’s plenty of dairy in there and may contain traces of nuts.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
I was shopping for candy downtown at Jack’s Wholesale Candy and found these brittle disks. They’re made by a local company named Las Trojes which is based in Anaheim. I’m not quite sure what the name means, as troje is a granary or barn but could also be a storehouse.
The packages are quite simple, and do a fantastic job of showing off the product. They’re all extremely simple: a mix of sugar and seeds and/or nuts. They were also very inexpensive, at only $1 each for a two ounce package.Seed brittles are a beguilingly good snack but they’re also a great way to bind together vexing little seeds into something easier to transport and consume.
I picked up all three varieties they had at the store.
The packaging features a thick piece of cellophane folded over the round disk and held in place by the label sticker on the back (or is it the front?).
Las Trojes Pepitoria Mixed Seeds Brittle is quite a gorgeous little find. There are peanuts, sesame seeds, almonds, coconut and pumpkin seeds (pepitas) with only the addition of sugar to hold it all together. There are no added oils or partially hydrogenated fats or gelatins. It’s a vegan snack.
The disk is easy to snap apart for eating. It’s firm and crisp, but if you live in a humid area, they can become a sticky mess quite quickly. I don’t expect these would do well in parts of Texas or Florida for that reason.
The distribution of nuts and seeds is pretty even, I didn’t find parts that seemed to be all one nut, though peanuts were by far the largest bulk. The plank smells quite toasty, with a little note of toasted sesame and perhaps even a bit of burnt nuts. The sugar has a honey note to it but doesn’t add a whole lot of sweetness to the brittle, as there really isn’t much more than is needed to bind everything together. The pepitas, peanuts and sesame seeds have the strongest flavor, I didn’t catch much of a contribution from the almonds or coconut.
Las Trojes Pepitoria Coconut Brittle is a great looking disk. It’s thick and crisp and doesn’t look like anything you’d make at home with store bought coconut flakes. These look fresh and rustic.
The brittle has a little bit more bend to it, probably because the coconut is more fibrous and makes breaking it a little harder. The toasted coconut scent is incredible, the caramel and creamy tropical notes all swirl together. Though there’s a lot of crunch at first, it turns very chewy after that. The toffee flavor of the burnt sugar is great and again, it’s far from being too sweet, though it is the sweetest of the three products.
Las Trojes Pepitoria Pepita Brittle is a great mix of greens and browns, the pumpkin seeds are glossy and toasty. I love pepitas in trail mixes, but I never eat them on their own. It smells like toasted pumpkin seeds, just like you’d expect. The seeds are crunchy and a little grassy tasting. This is the least sweet of the entire set and for the most part it’s about the pumpkin seeds. Though some of the seeds looked a bit burnt, I didn’t get the same sort of bitter toasted note from this that I did with the mixed brittle.
They’re all beautiful and wholesome snacks that barely qualify as candy. That’s not to say that they’re not laden with calories. The Pepita one is the leanest at 260 calories for the 2 ounce portion, but it also has 7 grams of protein and only 16 grams of sugars. The Mixed Brittle is 300 calories but packs 8 grams of protein and only 15 grams of sugar. The fat in there is from the nuts and seeds, which are generally regarded to be better for you than dairy or animal fats ... though still watch the calorie count. The Coconut one comes in as full on candy, even with only two ingredients with 310 calories, 200 of them from fat and only 3 grams of protein.
All the nutrition aside, I find these sorts of snacks more satisfying than many candies. There’s a great mix of textures and flavors, plus they’re really beautiful to look at. I’d definitely pick these up again, but I’d probably try to share them. They work far better when consumed right after opening and of course I find it hard to keep from eating the whole package anyway.
Monday, January 23, 2012
It’s as if Mars has a multi-year bulk deal with some coconut flavor supplier. They’ve added coconut varieties to their major brands over the years: Dove, M&Ms and Twix. The newest is 3 Musketeers Coconut.
3 Musketeers has been advertising that it has 45% less fat than average of leading candy bars. (This is true because the leading candy bars have more chocolate and/or nuts, which makes them more fatty.) This bar, which is described as Whipped Up, Fluffy Chocolate Coconut Taste says it has 40% Less Fat. This bar is also Canadian. There’s something strange about using our neighbors to the north to tropical-ize an American candy bar.
There are two bars inside, each about 2.25 inches long and 1 inch wide. They’re about .75 ounces each (for those keeping track at home, that’s the same weight as a single Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup).
The set of bars is 30% smaller than the classic (chocolate flavored) 3 Musketeers. The regular one is 2.13 ounces and this set of small bars is 1.49 ounces. Now, if you need help with portion control, not only does the separate bar format help, but the lighter weight means that this package is only 180 calories (90 per little bar) while the classic is 100 more at 280 calories. So while the value of the bar is in question, the moderation aspect is certainly a selling point.
I like the smaller bars, they used this style for the 3 Musketeers Mint. The coating is attractive and has little ripples and swirls on the top. The chocolate doesn’t look particularly dark, not very glossy but still in good condition. It sticks well to the foamed nougat center. The filling is fluffy and sweet but also a little salty. The coconut flavor is there ... but I’m never quite sure where. Is it in the chocolate coating? Is it in the nougat fluff? It’s more of a scent, like a candle is nearby or I’m wearing suntan oil or maybe someone’s baking macaroons. Whatever it is, it’s not in the actual candy bar. No toasted coconut flakes, no creamy coconut milk caramel stripe. Just this vague coconut scent adjacent to my candy bar experience.
That’s okay, I like the combination well enough. It’s extremely sweet, but mercifully small. I wish it was a dark chocolate coating instead, or maybe just better milk chocolate. But I actually enjoyed it more than the classic 3 Musketeers. My favorite would still be the Mini version they made about 5 years ago that were Cappuccino flavored. They should bring that back ... after they run out of coconut flavoring.
Mars still isn’t ethically sourcing their chocolate for the North American market. There’s hydrogenated palm kernel and/or palm oil in there. Of course vegans can’t eat it because of the milk and the egg whites. There’s no statement about gluten but it does say it may contain peanuts.
Monday, June 20, 2011
The bar is described on the package as Tropical Coconut and Crunchy Rice Puffs in Smooth Milk Chocolate. Well, that’s an uncommon combination so I was intrigued. Add to that the bold wrapper, and I was sold. I also liked the name, as I work in television during the day, so it’s fun to try a bar based on the medium.
Beacon also makes other candies, like Fizzers (a chewy candy rather like Airheads but fizzy), large chocolate tablets called Beacon Slabs, Slim Slabs, Superfine (an upscale chocolate line) but perhaps they’re best known for their Beacon Allsorts, which are one of the best selling candies in all of South Africa. They have other candy bars with classic names like Wonder Bar, Nosh Bar, Inside Story and Now Bar.
The bar looks simple and appealing. It’s about 4.5 inches long and blocky. It’s 1.65 ounces, which is less than a Snickers bar (though about the same volume) but more than a pair of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It feels light so I wasn’t surprised when I bit into it and it was quite airy. The crisped rice is dense without being sticky like a marshmallow treat is. It’s held together by the lightest chocolate cream along with a bit of coconut. Though I didn’t catch much coconut texture, there was a lot of coconut flavor. It even overshadowed the chocolate. The chocolate coating may or may not be actual chocolate. There’s cocoa mass and cocoa butter in the ingredients list, but lots of other vegetable fats that could be in the coating as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the coating did have a bit of vegetable oil to it, it’s a bit mild and waxy.
The portion is ideal for me, about 250 calories for the whole bar. There’s also a TV Bar White chocolate one which I could only imagine is extremely sweet, but perhaps the milkiness of a good white chocolate would go well with the coconut. There is similar bar here in the States called Crispy Cat Mint Coconut, which is dark chocolate covering crisped rice, mint and coconut. I like the milky notes to this one and think it’d be a good fit for American tastes. (Or perhaps Hershey’s will make a Whatchamacallit Coconut version.)
The bar is marked Halal and is also distributed in Australia.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The Snow Angell Organic Candy Bar is white chocolate sweet and creamy coconut center. Like the previous bar I reviewed, the Dark Angell, it’s a smallish bar at 1.41 ounces which means that it’s less than 200 calories (190). It’s not vegan like the dark counterpart, but it is free from GMO products, corn syrup and artificial colors & flavors.
The white chocolate coating is real, made only five ingredients: cane sugar, whole milk, cocoa butter soy lecithin and vanilla. The center is made from tapioca syrup, oats, dried coconut, honey and coconut extract along with some other natural flavors and sea salt. (The salt isn’t organic because, well, salt is inorganic.)
The white chocolate coating is soft and creamy, more like a pudding than a chocolate. I really liked the texture and the fact that it wasn’t so sweet. The overriding flavor though is the coconut from the center. The middle isn’t quite white, it’s a little more creamy and well, oat colored. In fact, the texture is more oaty at times than coconutty. While I found the oat flavor in the Dark Angell a bit off-putting, I think the combination of oats and coconut is fantastic. The coconut absorbs any of the pasty or gummy texture that oats can bring and brings all the light nutty flavors together.
If you’ve ever wanted a white chocolate Mounds bar, this might be a good option. The center isn’t quite the same coconut experience as the usual candy store fare though, it’s far more flavorful and less sweet. It’s nice to see a line of organic bars doing their own thing instead of imitating others.
Monday, April 25, 2011
P-Nuttles are a pure comfort candy. I associate them with vending machines and truck stops, and I can see why they’d be a favorite snack for both situations. They’re loaded with satisfying protein from the peanuts and a sweet crunch from the toffee coating. Throw in a little salt and it’s has a bit of a savory kick that makes it as much a snack food as a candy.
Peanuts that are individually covered in toffee are far easier to eat then barks or brittles, so I also congratulate Adams & Brooks on solving that dispensing issue.
I saw this new flavor announced last year at the Sweets and Snacks Expo and finally found it at my neighborhood Walgreen’s: P-Nuttles plus Coconut.
The concept is pretty simple, fresh roasted peanuts are coated in a coconut toffee. In addition to the toffee peanuts, a few coconut jelly beans are also thrown into the mix.
The peanuts are not large, but most are fresh and tasty. I ate about half of the bag and found only one bad nut. (It’s never fun, but this is the hazard with using natural ingredients.) The toffee coating varies, some had barely a sheen on them, but others a hefty shell. The flavor is sweet with a light touch of butter. The saltiness varies widely, as does the coconut flavor. Some were quite tropical tasting and others were very salty. I rather liked the variation. The jelly beans are small and pack a pretty good coconut zap. They’re sweet and chewy, though not terribly soft.
I didn’t get any coconut texture in any of this, which I quite enjoy. But the tropical coconut notes were a welcome addition to a rather comforting but bland peanut and toffee experience. I didn’t think I’d care of mixing jelly beans, a decidedly non-organic sort of texture product, with the more artisan peanuts covered in toffee. However, it worked very well. The smooth and consistent flavor of the jelly beans was a welcome sort of dependability when contrasting the varying peanuts and their cloaks of toffee.
Adams Brooks will be introducing more twists on the classic P-Nuttles later this year: P-Nuttles Peanuts Smokey Style and P-Nuttles Peanuts Chili*Lime.
The jelly beans contain confectioners glaze, so this combination is not vegetarian.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.