Friday, April 02, 2010
Lovely little candy coated milk chocolate eggs with natural colorings. On top of that, they’re fair trade.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
Ferrara Pan has been expanding their candy line significantly in the past five years. Their new chocolate line is supposed to give Toblerone a run for its money and their new Easter candies may challenge Farley’s & Sathers.
I picked up this rather classic mix called Chicks & Bunnies Jelly Candy. They’re sugar sanded jelly candies in the shape of baby chickens or rabbits in fruit flavors. They’re made in the United States and unlike gummi candies, these jellies are made with sugar and starch so they’re probably okay for vegans. They’re also dirt cheap. I got this 9.5 ounce bag for 88 cents at Rite Aid.
The pieces are big and nicely shaped. The mass is similar to to an Orange Slice jelly candy. The chunky bunnies and chicks were rather ordinary but easy to handle. I ate them in two bites, but I suppose one would make a large portion.
Red = Cherry: The First thing to know about these jelly candies is that they’re similar to Orange Slices. They’re sweet and firm but very smooth. They’re also not tangy, it’s all about the sweet and aromatics of the flavor. Cherry is more like a cherry bubble gum than a wild cherry. It reminded me of Cherry Chapstick.
Orange = Orange: Yup, this is an Orange Slice, only in the shape of a little chick. I like the ones that have really strong zest flavors and this one isn’t the best I’ve ever had but would certainly sooth an aching craving.
Yellow = Lemon: Was I complaining about the lack of zest in the Orange? Lemon has oodles of it, so much I think it burned a hole in my tongue. They’re zippy, I tell you.
Purple = Grape: This was weird. It didn’t taste like grapes smell, like the rest of these flavors. Instead it was like some scented stationery I bought a garage sale when I was a teenager. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but after being in an enclosed space with it for too long, I couldn’t even stomach being in the same room.
Uncolored = Pineapple: These smelled so nice, so pretty. A combination of lilies, strawberries and cotton candy. It didn’t taste like much, more like a weak pina colada, but still it was a fresh change of pace.
Green = Lime: This was a surprise. It wasn’t the typical lime, that flavor ruined by floor cleaners and cheap men’s aftershave. This was more like a soft whisper of key lime zest.
These are not exciting, they’re not revolutionary. They’re just some nicely made and inoffensive jelly candies. The kind of candy that just about everyone will eat, few will love and fewer will hate. Perfect if you need to decorate on a budget. (Seriously, instead of getting some little ocean fowling Chinese-made plastic doo dads, just grab a bag of these and put them on cupcakes or put on long bamboo skewers and add to a bouquet of daffodils.)
They also had another new product called Gummy Bunnies on the shelves that I didn’t buy. Maybe one of the other candy bloggers will pick them up. (Photo here.)
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I bought the Christmas edition of Sugar Babies a little over a year ago and was pretty disappointed with them.
I was suckered into them by two things: I was on vacation and they package design was prettier than before. This box shows the shape of the Sugar Babies logo as an egg nestled in stylized blades of grass, complete with a lady bug behind it.
There is something far more fitting about Sugar Babies for Easter. It’s like they’re actual caramel jelly beans. Well, I guess they’re caramel beans. They come in five colors: pink, blue, green, purple and yellow.
The candy coated panning is better this time. The colors are more opaque and consistent and maybe shinier than before.
But beyond the look of them and the packaging, I still wasn’t happy. The extra candy coating made them sweeter, which muted the wonderful milky and toasted flavors of the caramel. It was grainier and had a weird metallic note to it, like baking soda. The centers were a little firmer than I like as well, and these were definitely fresh. Nope, I’m done with the holiday editions. I’m sticking to the plain old caramel colored ones that come in a sealed bag.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Lately The Man and I have been searching for a new dog. As we’ve visited quite a few pounds and rescue organizations it’s startling to see how many rabbits there are. Rabbits are great pets, but too many of them are taken home by families that don’t know what’s involved with their care. Easter is a prime impulse season for pet rabbits (and chicks & ducks) so there’s an organization called Make Mine Chocolate that urges people to reconsider live animal gifts and instead keep the pet decisions out of the Easter basket. So make your Easter basket pet a chocolate one.
I am always drawn to RM Palmer’s package and product design. Their products go downhill after that, but how could I resist this cute little chocolate bunny in a little hutch? It plays on a kid’s desire to nurture without resorting to anthropomorphism.
The My Little Bunny is actually a fun little teaching toy. It’s a bit more realistic that the regular seated bunny or cartoon style one carrying a basket. This one is about the size of a little baby bunny or a dwarf. It comes in a small box shaped and designed like a carrying hutch with simulated chicken wire on the plastic window. I picked the blue wood-grained box version, but there’s a pink one as well. Also, I think the rabbits come in different colors, I only saw tan ones at the store.
The foil design makes the bunny look a little bit stylized with its vague smile, but for the most part it’s very bunny-like in the crouched position on all fours. The box is far larger than the candy, which is a good thing for a pet, though kind of wasteful as far as packaging. (The bunny is 5 inches long and 3 inches high, the box is 6.5 inches long and four inches high.)
I liked the little box and thought a clever or motivated child might enjoy making use of it to keep a small stuffed animal or other light toys. Unfortunately it’s poorly designed. The little tab in the top that tucks in comes undone when the little carrying handle is used, even when the box is empty. A little tape will fix that (that’s the way it comes in the store), but a bit more thought would have made this far more useful with probably no extra work or weight in the packaging.
There’s a web page just for the My Little Bunny where kids can download an adoption certificate or play games.
The candy itself is subpar. I’ve had the chocolate flavored rabbit before which looked completely fake, like some sort of vinyl dog toy. This one looks like chocolate and is called chocolatey n’ smooth crisp n’ crunchy candy which I figure is a Nestle Crunch simulation.
Since there are no easily accessible ears, I just smashed the hollow bunny instead.
It smells like caramel and chocolate cake, not actual chocolate. The ingredients are sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (Palm Kernel and/or Palm Oil), whey, lactose, crisp rice, cocoa, skim milk, soy lecithin and vanillin. My goodness, cocoa is really far down on that list. On top of that look at the second ingredient, palm oil. Nestle has being going through a huge issue recently for not moving to sustainable palm oil - that campaign has targeted the KitKat bar, which uses a little dash of the stuff, for most RM Palmer products it’s a major component. It’s short sighted to encourage kids to “adopt” a chocolate bunny instead of a real one but then not use sustainable ingredients in the product itself. (Save a bunny, trash a rainforest?)
The flavor is sweet, the texture is grainy and there aren’t nearly enough crisped rice bits to make each bite crunchy. The cocoa notes are like cardboard and there’s a greasy film on the roof of my mouth by the time I finished three bites.
Blech. At least I can wrap what’s left back up in the foil and put it back in the little box and look at it instead.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
I ordered a box of Chocolate Crispy Eggs.
It contained a little milky plastic box with four eggs, two in dark chocolate and one in white and one in milk.
The chocolate eggs are about the size of a small chicken egg and are filled with a rich, creamy and not-too-sweet gianduia (chocolate/hazelnut cream) and some little crispies (kind of like corn flakes).
Friday, March 26, 2010
In my attempt to try everything this Easter I bought some pretty stupid candies. The Jumbo Gum Ball Eggs are pretty high up there. It wasn’t so much that it’s a stupid purchase (it was only 99 cents) but that it’s a stupid product.
But let me go backwards a bit. I have a definition for candy. It’s kind of long and includes a list of criteria. One of them is that the product needs to be ready-to-eat. This means it doesn’t need assembly (though might benefit from it) and doesn’t require implements or tools, especially ones not provided.
They are 2.25 inches tall and weigh about 1.75 ounces each. Yes, they’re hollow but they’re about a third of an inch thick.
A gumball the size of a small chicken egg requires tools. I used a saw.
I was able to stand on one of them without smashing it. After chewing the slice I’d cut off the top I did manage to smash and pull apart the larger piece by stomping on it and then prying it apart. It’s tough stuff. The package says that a single serving is half an egg, but of course gives no clue about how to sever it yourself.
The candy shell is thick and crunchy and the gum inside is rough and leathery, kind of like playing with thick rawhide. It smells slightly like Juicyfruit gum. The overall flavor is sweet with a light fruity and tangy note that disappears quickly as the sugar dissolves with chewing. The flavor is inconsistent and has cinnamon and bubble gum notes from time to time. It’s an all sugar gum, which tend to lose their flavor quicker than the artificially sweetened ones. That’s fine with me, I like to chew mine up, make a few bubbles then toss it out and put in a new piece.
It does work as a bubble gum, but certainly not very well.
They’re fun to look at and would make nice decorations. For a child they’d be a frustrating mess. If you lick it the blue colored shell will run (and could stain clothing or upholstery). A parent or older child would need to help with creating manageable bites - so really I don’t recommend this for anyone under the age of 14 and of course must caution folks when using tools like saws or a serrated knife to cut this open.
Again I come back to saying that these are probably better than plastic stuff for decorating, though obviously they’re not waterproof.
They’re made in China under the house brand of CVS. They also came in pink (photo of them on store shelf here). I admit that I’m concerned about the safety of the food colorings because of the origin of the product but I have no facts to support that.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
After a long and very white winter I’m guessing some folks are looking for a colorful spring rebirth with their Easter candy. Godiva sent me a few of their extensive Easter candy offerings and I do say that they have a great aesthetic.
I like to play with my candy, so the item I was most interested in getting a hold of is their Spring Pearls bag. The new Milk Chocolate Pearls come in two versions. The all orange candy coated milk chocolate spheres inside a cone shaped bag to look like a carrot. It’s not original but their version is drop-dead cute even if I find the ideas of carrots appearing as a spring or Easter motif hilarious. Carrots are a root vegetable and are planted in the spring but not harvested until the fall.
Even if the carrot is vexing I was still far more interested in the Spring Pearls because of the soft colors (less food coloring). There are three colors in this assortment: pale yellow, light green and soft pink.
The bag holds four ounces but the tag says that a single portion is 1.4 ounces (about 23 pearls) - which means that there are 2.86 servings in the package. Each pearl is approximately 1.74 grams and provides 8.26 calories.
But yeah, they’re $8.00 for a four ounce bag, which makes them $32 a pound or $2.00 for a single ounce.
This would be a serving size.
Just look at them! They’re so pretty. How can you argue with $2.00 an ounce when you’d get such enjoyment out of simply looking at them?
I found a Sixlet to photograph with one of the Orange Pearls as a comparison. The Pearl is on the left and the Sixlet is on the right. The colors are practically identical. Of course the difference is inside, Sixlets are a chocolate flavored candy and Pearls are actual milk chocolate.
The color of the M&M is a smidge darker if you’re trying to imagine the shade of orange the Pearls are.
The most vexing thing about these Pearls is the fact that they’re shiny spheres. They roll. So lining them up on the desk according to color isn’t easy. I’d need a special tray but I improvised by putting them between my F keys and number keys on my keyboard. (This doesn’t work so well on my laptop, which gets warmer. When sugar shelled panned chocolates get warm the shells tend to crack.)
The flavor is great. The shell is crunchy and the chocolate inside is smooth and creamy with a good dairy milk chocolate flavor. So much better than M&Ms which I sampled at the same time. But they actually weren’t better than the new Russell Stover Color Me Candies which are only 37 cents per ounce. (Yes, that’s 80% less.) The pretty bag simply isn’t worth that much.
I honestly had no trouble eating all of them. They are really well made and the fact that they’re spherical, I think, keeps them from chipping like the lentil shaped candy coated chocolate kin. I just can’t rationalize the price unless you simply must have a sphere - then I would definitely pay the difference instead of Sixlets. But hey, it’s Godiva, and giving a gift that has such an esteemed logo attached to it also means something. If you’re in the shop picking up something else that they do better than anyone else (and that’s always worth it), then it might be a nice addition. (I really vacillated between a 6 and a 7 out of 10 but let the price sway me towards the lower number.)
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
A good malted milk ball is hard to find. Even worse, the good ones are hard to get. I don’t know why I expect to get some tasty malted milk at my nearest drug store or grocery, perhaps it’s because so many other quality candies are available these days.
But the mass-produced malted milk balls have been getting worse and worse while the gourmet styles seem to have branched out into novelty flavor combinations to the point that the classic is hardly available. There is a season for malted milk balls and it’s Easter.
Trader Joe’s has a milk carton package of Milk Chocolate Malted Milk Eggs that gave me hope. I also loved the price: $2.49 for 10 ounces of real chocolate malt balls.
The carton is cute, it’s the same base dimensions as a half gallon, but obviously shorter (I’m guessing it’d hold a quart). It’s 10 ounces of beefy malted milk eggs made with real milk chocolate. They lack the outer candy coating that most Easter varieties have, but that’s not the end of the world. It’s the center and the chocolate that count.
These eggs are large, about the size of a shelled pecan. They’re glossy and consistent. When I stick my nose into the spout of the carton they certainly smell like a sweet chocolate malt.
I think they have the perfect ratio of malt center to chocolate coating, so that’s a good start. The chocolate is soft but not gummy and though there’s a glaze on the outside (to keep them from sticking together) it doesn’t make the chocolate waxy.
But then there’s the center. The center is a good density - not too dense so that it feels like I’m eating styrofoam insulation and not too flaky so it feels like I’m eating yeast sprinkles. It’s crisp and has a mild malty and milky flavor ... but it also tastes like smoke to me. It’s as if all the air bubbles have some sort of burning plastic smoke trapped in them. Maybe I got a bad batch, but I just can’t get over it. I’ve tried, and I figure the fact that I’ve had these for about 10 days and haven’t finished them is a sign.
I might pick them up again (or have you tried them?) but since they’re seasonal I might just let it go. No sense falling in love with something that’s not going to be around.
I’ve often lamented the fact that I can’t just eat the center of the malted milk balls. After all, I don’t need the chocolate, that’s not what attracts me to them. So after years of looking I found a place online (via some helpful readers) that sells the uncoated malted milk ball centers.
I ordered two one pound bags from Nuts Online. (The shipping got a little screwed up and I had to wait ten days to get them, apparently there was some sort of snow storm back on the Eastern Seaboard in February, they really should have said something in the papers about it.)
These are quite lovely. They’re crispy and dissolve quickly on the tongue. The malt flavors are intense and well rounded with a bit of a yeasty note and a little salt. I went through a one pound bag in the matter of a week. I still have a second bag that I’m hanging onto for those severe cravings that come after Easter.
They’re probably great for baking or desserts. They’re definitely good for munching. I can see them as a great movie treat because they’re not too sweet. Like most crispy candies you have to be very careful not to leave them out in humid conditions, they deflate and get tacky (I think we’ve all gotten the malted milk ball that’s just a gooey puddle inside.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.