Friday, March 8, 2013
I’ve been visiting the stores to look at what’s returned on stores shelves and of course seeking out new items.
Here’s a rundown of what I’ve spotted or heard that other readers have seen again at stores this year. Let me know if there’s something I missed, or something you’re looking for.
Wonka (part of Nestle)
Wrigley’s (part of Mars)
Cadbury Adams (part of Kraft)
Ferrara Candy (now includes Brach’s, Trolli & Ferrara Pan)
Individually Wrapped in Bags: Caramel Eggs, Marshmallow Eggs, Coconut Cream Eggs
You can prowl back into the review archive of Easter candy by viewing all the candies tagged for Easter.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Elmer Chocolate has been making candy since 1855. They’re based in Louisiana, but I usually only see their candy in California around Valentine’s Day as they have some very popular boxed chocolate assortments that are sold at drug stores and discounters all over the counter. However, they do make some insanely popular Easter products that seem much harder to find: Heavenly Hash Eggs and Gold Brick Eggs.
I was surprised to see these Cotton Candy Marshmallow Eggs at Cost Plus World Market instead of those more well known eggs, but at $1.49 and for something that was a little different from the traditional Easter fare, I was willing to take the plunge.
The packaging is simple, a very light plastic try has four sections to hold the domed marshmallow eggs. It does its job, as they were all pretty much flawless right out of the wrapper.
Each piece is rather small, they’re .45 ounces each. They’re about 2 inches long. They smell sweet, a little like cherry and milky chocolate. They’re a “light” candy, in that they’re not caloricly dense, so you can eat the whole package and it’s only 190 calories (105 per ounce).
I can’t really put my finger on what went wrong with these. The chocolate is passable, thought sweet is does a nice job of sealing in the soft, moist marshmallow. The marshmallow itself, well, it’s filled with bad air. It’s probably one of those flavors that not everyone can detect (like the fact that Red 40 tastes bitter to me and very few other people). It tastes like molten plastic. Styrofoam. It tastes like new Crocs. It’s not the marshmallow itself, as far as I can tell, it’s not the packaging ... it’s the stuff that was whipped into it.
It’s a great idea, to have a softly strawberry flavored marshmallow center. But in this case, I can’t recommend it. Everything I saw at the Cost Plus looks like it’s from the same case so would probably have the same issue. I haven’t seen them at any other store. I did try their Toasted Marshmallow Eggs a few years ago and didn’t note this issue.
My big question to you, readers, is this: Do you taste this kind of stuff? I notice similar problems at times with whipped items, like meringues or marshmallows. But other candies that have delicate flavors can also take on this plastic note (especially ones without a strong flavor of their own).
Does anyone else notice this from time to time? Do you know what it is? (Is it dangerous?)
UPDATE: As some here have noted and an inside source in the confectionery industry as also pointed out, it is likely from the packaging. The tray is likely polystyrene and it outgasses ... delicate and airy confections like marshmallows can easily absorb that “flavor”. Styrene is not a healthy item to consume, though in a seasonal treat in this small quantity is likely to be trivial. But it still doesn’t taste good.
Friday, March 1, 2013
When Easter rolls around, I usually spend my discretionary calories on new holiday candies. One candy that I do purchase year after year, though, are the Hershey’s Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Eggs. The shell is thick and crunchy and the fudgy Hershey’s chocolate center soothes me in a way that high quality chocolate cannot.
I was interested to see Hershey’s newest item in their growing category of candy coated items. Hershey’s Candy Coated White Chocolate Flavored Eggs were on sale. Last year Mars introduced the White Chocolate M&Ms as an Easter item (still an exclusive at Target this year), so it’s natural that Hershey’s would want to be in the white game as well.
The big thing to note is that this is white chocolate flavored, not fully-accredited white chocolate. Instead of using only cocoa butter and dairy fats, Hershey’s has added all sorts of other vegetable oils.
Hershey’s is capable of some wonderful white chocolate, the Cookies ‘n Creme bar used to be spectacular. Here’s the ingredients list for the white eggs:
The sized and shape are the same as the Milk Chocolate Eggs, in fact, I bought some at the same time just to compare.
The shell is quite thick, very hard and crunchy. Though there is quite a list of artificial colors in the ingredients, they’re only splattered with color so it’s not much to get in the way of the pure flavors. And by pure, I mean the sugar and the artificial vanilla and the milk.
It tastes artificial, like fake vanilla or instant pudding. It’s a wonderful shorthand for the smell of Easter, it’s like an Easter Basket in a candy shell. It’s certainly not for those who don’t like their candy sweet.
Compared to the new White Chocolate M&Ms, they’re vastly different. The M&Ms are smaller, have a more delicate shell and a more well-rounded butter flavor. The M&Ms are smoother and have a higher fat content and slick, almost greasy, texture (especially if they get warm). The Hershey’s White Eggs are a great mix of textures but don’t have flavor nor the cleanest ingredients to go with it.
Still ... there’s something about them that reminds me too much of those Easters of childhood when there really was an Easter Bunny and the candy was special. Cheap white chocolate is so inextricably tied in my head to the holiday, it’s hard to objective about it. I’m eating these, but I’m not sure I actually like them. And I’m considering buying them again.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Easter is the season for foil wrapped chocolate eggs. They can be solid, they can be filled with things. They can be the size of a peanut or a football. The fun part is when they’re actually made with good chocolate.
I was excited to see Ghirardelli Milk & Crisp Chocolate Eggs at Target. Ghirardelli makes very good chocolate for the price, right here in California. I’ve been searching for the ideal crisped rice and milk chocolate combination, so this was the perfect item for me to pick up.
The yellow bag contains about 15 gold foil wrapped eggs. They’re a rich milk chocolate with crisped rice. They also come in a blue foil version that’s solid milk chocolate.
The bag is on the expensive side. The 3.5 ounces is about the same price as a chocolate bar from Ghirardelli, $3.49 ... one dollar an ounce. It’s a bit steep for chocolate that’s not marked as ethically sourced or organic but it is all natural. (The facility also processes tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and eggs. Contains milk and soy.)
The eggs smell dark and smoky, less sweet than many milk chocolates but still with a dairy note to it. The melt is soft and has that same sort of smoky note to it with a strong malt flavor from the crisped rice. There’s a hint of bitterness to it, but not much. Overall, it’s far less sweet than something like a Nestle Crunch chocolate and thought thick, not quite as sticky as Cadbury.
Overall, it was a bit more grown up than a Nestle Crunch NestEgg, but should probably be reserved for adults since the price is so much steeper. I would buy these again, and of course I’d prefer a half pound bag so I could put them out in a dish.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Mars announced some seasonal candies last year, including Sugar Cookie Twix for Christmas 2012. While they never appeared on shelves, what I did see last week that was a surprise and not included in their Easter announcement was the new Twix Egg.
They’re cute, little Twix bars just for Easter. They had different pastel colors on the the front, though they’re all the classic Twix flavor. (I didn’t see any Coconut or PB Twix versions.)
It’s a Twix! Instead of sticks, it’s one globby egg. It’s just a smidge over one ounce.
I’m not a huge Twix fan, which has always confused me because on paper it has everything I like. There’s a crispy, almost-shortbread cookie base, a dose of chewy soft caramel and it’s enrobed in milk chocolate. Of all the Twix that have been created, I preferred the limited edition Java Twix, which was coffee flavored. The Triple Chocolate Twix, that have also appeared a few times, which feature a chocolate cookie, chocolate caramel and dark chocolate enrobing were also good.
The standard Twix, however, usually leaves me disinterested. I do try them occasionally, as I often end up with a sample now and then and they do show up in Halloween miniature assortments. They’re sweet ... the cookie isn’t big enough and the caramel doesn’t have enough caramelized sugar notes.
None of my comments are intended to get Twix to change for me, there are millions of people who like it the way it is, so I’d say don’t mess with it. But like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, which can support many different sizes and shapes that rebalance the ratios of elements, the Twix can stand a few seasonal varieties.
This particular Twix doesn’t look enrobed, instead it looks like it’s molded, as it says, Twix right on the top and has a more glossy, smooth sheen to the consistent ripples.
The ratios are definitely different here. It feels like the cookie is more prominent. There’s more crunch, I taste the cookie now, instead of just knowing of its crispness. The caramel is also a distinctive part, instead of being mushed into the chocolate. Though the caramel isn’t as flavorful as I would have liked, it was salty and smooth and had a nice chew when combined with the sandy crunch of the cookie. The sweet milk chocolate is, well, far too sweet overall. The chocolate is much more dense on the ends, and it was on the last bite that I was overcome with the throat-searing sweetness. I’m sure if I balanced it with a strong drink like coffee or black tea, I’d be a little more in love with it.
The size is great, I find a one ounce bar to be just the right amount for a little break. It’s more than an individual stick (which are about .89 ounces) so it’s more substantial. The broad, flat shape also makes it feel like it’s more massive than it actually is. I bought three of them and fully intend to eat the final one that’s still in its package. But not today.
Mars did a great thing making a seasonal version. It’s not just a pastel wrapper on the every day item, it’s a special version just for Easter. (I expect there may be Halloween pumpkin ones, like the Snickers and Milky Way Simply Caramel get.)
Friday, April 6, 2012
A Happy Haribo gummi rabbit for Easter.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Gimbal’s Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans were introduced on the heels of Gimbal’s other gourmet panned offerings, their Lovers line of heart shaped jelly candies like Cherry Lovers, Honey Lovers and Sour Lovers.
The jelly bean mix has a gourmet price point, at $4.49 for me at the CVS, but the bag is big and it’s made in the USA.
The mix includes 12 flavors in bold colors.
The beans are absolutely lovely to look at. They’re small and well made, each was quite perfect. The Gimbal’s factory advertises that it’s free of most major allergens, including peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, gluten, gelatin and soy. As a jelly bean product they’re also fat free and contain no high fructose corn syrup (but I’ve never actually seen a jelly bean made with HFCS). The front of the package says they’re made with real fruit juice, and that’d be apple juice. It also says that it’s a good source of Vitamin C, but that’s only 10% of your RDA in a serving of 37 beans (about 1.4 ounces).
But as much as they tout the freedom from allergens, there are still plenty of other ingredients some folks may avoid, such as artificial flavors and colors.
Most of the beans were opaque, but in the case of beans of similar colors, one was translucent, the other opaque. The structure of the bean is the same as other jelly beans. A jelly center (modified food starch give it its smooth texture) covered in a grainy and flavored shell. In the case of these beans, they jelly center is the sour part, so the sourness goes through and through.
They’re tiny, sized like most other gourmet beans like Jelly Belly.
Sour Lemon was fully formed, a mix of juice and peel but with a more boiled marmalade note than a raw flavor.
Sour Grapefruit was fantastic. There was a lot of zest and that pine-type bitterness along with a biting tang of juice.
Sour Tangerine was sour and juicy but unlike the other two citruses, the zest notes didn’t come out until the very end.
Sour Mango was also orange, but opaque. The flavor was similar to peach, and if I wasn’t told it was mango, I probably would have guessed that. It was soft and tart but had that fuzzy fruit flavor that mangoes and peaches share.
Sour Watermelon was the darker green bean. It was pretty good, it reminded me a lot of Jolly Ranchers in the best way possible.
Sour Apple was kind of difficult for me to like. At first I though it was watermelon, it was just too vague. There was an authentic note of apple to it, but not much else.
Sour Lime was almost a key lime. There was soft vanilla note to it but it really finished sour.
Sour Blueberry was refreshing, it had a good berry note to it, almost a raspberry. I wouldn’t say it was really blueberry, but still quite fun.
Sour Grape is an unusual flavor for jelly beans. I see it a lot in hard candies but not so much in jelly beans or gummis. This grape is much like a Pixy Stix, tart and with that malic acid tangy bite and vague artificial grape flavor of soda.
Sour Strawberry had a great mix of flavors, it really had a nice floral start, like a fluffy wad of cotton candy. Then the flavor developed with strong tartness and finished with strawberry jam.
Sour Pomegranate had a lot of very dark floral berry notes to it. It never quite rang true as pomegranate, but it was still a very good bean, not as sour as the others.
Sour Cherry was well done. The flavor was bold and less medicinal than some I’ve had, with green notes and of course that sour finish that most of the beans had.
Overall, it was a good bunch of beans. Even those that I didn’t really like that much such as cherry or mango were still quite good enough that I just ate them instead of trying to pick them out. It’s hard to tell some beans apart unless you’re someplace well lit, so sort before going to movies if you really don’t want to get a flavor you dislike. I did like this flavor set better than the Jelly Belly sour variety which only has five flavors, but that’s purely personal preference.
The intensity satisfied me quite quickly, without giving me acidic burns on my tongue. The price is a bit high compared to generic beans but less than half of what you’d pay for Jelly Belly. They do pack quite a punch and I’m unlikely to finish this 13 ounce bag before Easter even with daily grazing.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Haribo Gold Bears stand as the epitome of the gummi bear for good reason. They were the first and they are known around the world. Haribo is so big that they have 18 factories, but only five of them in Germany.
I’ve been told over the years that the German Haribo products are the best. The Haribo products we most often see here in the United States, especially the Gold Bears, are made in either Turkey or Spain. So while I was in Germany I made sure to pick up a bag of the original version made in Bonn, Germany. Flipping over the bag, it was immediately clear that they’re different. There’s an extra flavor.
The German Gold Bears have six flavors:
The Turkish or Spanish Gold Bears have only five flavors:
Further, the German Bears are made with all natural colorings. Here’s an array of Bears and Bunnies for color comparison:
On top are the German Gold Bunnies, packaged for the American market, in the middle are the German Gold Bears purchased in Germany and on the bottom are the Turkish Gold Bears purchased in the United States.
So let’s start where things are weird. First, the Green Gummi Bear. As you may have noticed in the listing above, in the United States, the green gummi bear is Strawberry.
I compared the colors of the Green Gummi Gold Bears because they show the most difference between the countries. The German bear is a light olive color, not a true green. Other than that though, the bears are the same shape and mass.
I thought maybe one was taller than the other, or thicker, but the variations are just that, variations across all the bears. Some are slightly thicker or taller, some have different facial expressions. But there’s no real difference in the moulding.
Turkish Strawberry (Green) compared to German Strawberry (Pink): The Turkish bear is just slightly firmer. The flavor (once you close your eyes and forget that it’s not lime or green apple) is light and only slightly floral. It’s tangy, but not puckeringly tart. Mostly it’s a bland gummi bear. The German bear is softer and just slightly more pliable. It’s jammy and has a good blend of florals and tartness, and though it’s slightly more flavorful, I wouldn’t say that there’s a huge difference in the intensity, just the nuances. Germany Wins.
Turkish Raspberry (Red) compared to German Raspberry (Red): The artificial nature of the Turkish bear is much more apparent when placed next to the deeper, wine red German bear. The Turkish bear is sweet and tangy, the berry flavors are fresh and have only the lightest note of seeds to them. The German bear is softer and has richer, more dense flavor with more boiled fruit flavors to it. Germany Wins.
Turkish Orange compared to German Orange: this is tough. Both looked virtually the same, and the textures were also so similar. The zesty and tart notes on both were dead on. The German bear tasted every so slightly more like freshly squeezed juice, but that could have been my imagination. Tie.
Turkish Pineapple (clear) compared to German Pineapple (clear): The Turkish version had an ever—so-slight yellow cast to it, which really only showed when I placed the bears next to each other on white paper. Pineapple happens to be my favorite flavor for the bears and this was no exception. The Turkish bear actually had enough tartness to make my jaw tingle. It’s sweet and floral and just wonderful. The German version was just as good, but had an extra little flavor towards the end, a more intense thing that I can’t quite peg as pineapple zest, but that sort of buzz that comes with fresh pineapple. Even though there was a slight difference, I will indiscriminately gobble both. Tie.
Turkish Lemon (yellow) compared to German Lemon (yellow): Lemon is a great flavor and Haribo really can’t fail. There’s a wonderful blend of zest and juice in the Turkish version, with so much lemon peel that it verges on air freshener. The German version is more like a candied lemon peel or marmalade, slight more bitterness but still plenty of juice. Turkish Win.
The last one is the German Apple. It tastes, well, like tart apple juice. Honestly, I’m glad it’s not in the bags that are sold in the United States, it would be one I’d pick around ... and there currently aren’t any Haribo Gold Bears that I don’t like.
So if there’s an additional flavor in Germany, I thought maybe this Easter Haribo Gold Bunnies version which features little rabbits instead bears and says it’s made in Germany would have that apple in it.
It does not.
The Green Bunny is actually strawberry.
But what’s more disappointing about these Haribo Gold Bunnies is that they’re terrible compared to both the Turkish Bears and the German Bears. Sure, the shape is cute and the colors are all natural, but the flavors are pale and watered down.
So if you’re a Green Apple fan, it’s worth it to seek out the true German Haribo Gold Bears. If you don’t care, then the Turkish version that we’ve been served all these years is great ... it’s not quite as intense, but it’s still a good quality product. The other think I noticed is that I paid one Euro (about $1.30) for my 200 gram (7 ounce) bag of German bears ... and I paid $1.50 for my Turkish bears, which only has 5 ounces in it. The German Bunnies were on sale for $1.00 at Cost Plus.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.