Monday, April 20, 2015
But there are some terms which have become so generic, they’re losing their meaning. I want to correct that course, or at least clarify how the terms are used on Candy Blog.
There is a wonderful, and rather recent invention called the Gummi Candy. It was innovated in the 1920s in Germany and popularized by the Haribo Gold Bear. Once these unique candies became popular in the United States, they expanded into a very broad and diverse candy category.
A gummi has a base of gelatin. Gelatin is often bandied about has a horrifying ingredient in viral listicles to unsuspecting people who apparently have never read a list of what’s in their food before.
Gelatin is a protein. It’s most often made from pork sources, found in the connective tissues (knuckles, hooves, as well as skin), but it’s also made from bovine or fish sources to create a Kosher/Halal version. Gelatin simply cannot be vegetarian. The protein of gelatin is amazing, it creates a translucent, flavorless base with an inimitable texture. I call it bouncy. Many gummi candies are fat free, or have nominal amounts of fat, so they’re very low in calories per ounce.
Often jelly candies are often categorized as gummis, because they are also colorful, translucent and fruit flavored. However, a jelly candy is somewhat different. Jelly candies are solidified using carbohydrates, not proteins. So, a jelly bean center is usually made with corn starch. Other jelling ingredients are pectin, tapioca, potato or arrowroot starch. Gums are also used sometimes to jell candy, which is how the original gumdrops were made, with gum arabic, mastic or gum tragacanth.
Now, I have nothing against jelly candies, but you probably already innately know the different between a Swedish Fish and a Gummi Worm. There’s a substantial different to the texture.
The easiest way to tell the difference, without even putting a candy in your mouth, is to pull it apart. When you pull a Swedish Fish or Spearmint Leaf apart, it’s pretty easy. What you see when you look closely at the spot where it splits is that it creates little strings at the separation. The softer the candy, the more stringy it will be. It’s generally sticky, as in, it will stick to you, your fingers, the package, whatever.
When you pull a gummi apart, you’ll get a lot of stretch, but eventually it will break. So the edges of a gummi will usually be flat, a full clean break. Though the broken surface will be sticky, the strength of the gummi means that it is unlikely to transfer to your fingers or pockets.
I prefer to use the original German word for the candy, gummi, instead of gummy. Since gummy already means something in English which is not necessarily descriptive of actual gummis, it’s easier to just keep them as separate names. However, here on the blog I used the name of the candy if it happens to be Gummy or Gummies.
Gummis are unique enough they shouldn’t be lumped in with jelly candies, no more than compressed dextrose and chocolate should be, just because they’re basically solids at room temperature.
Though there have been attempts to make vegan or vegetarian gummis, there really isn’t anything quite like gelatin in the plant world. So, you may find marshmallows made with agar agar, but they’ll never be quite the same as gelatin marshmallows. For some candies that use gelatin, such as Mentos, they were able to swap out the gelatin in the chewy mints for gellan gum, which is made from bacteria.
Perhaps scientists will be able to synthesize a protein from plants someday, but in the interim, there’s nothing wrong with omnivores making some fun confections by utilizing all parts of the animals we raise for food.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
I’m a big fan of Malted Milk Balls and consider the candy coated Pastel Malted Milk Egg to be one of the best holiday candy creations ever. Brach’s has been making a pastel egg for at least 55 years, and malted milk balls for even longer.
Though the Brach’s brand has been around for over 110 years, they’ve changed ownership, leadership and product focus dozens of times. This means that the products themselves also change. The changes can be for consumer-driven reasons, supply issues and costs. I’ve noticed, since Candy Blog is coming up on 10 years, that the Brach’s Fiesta Eggs have changed quite a bit over the years, and have some photos and notes to document it.
Name: Pastel Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
Though this was my first year reviewing them, it wasn’t the first time I had them and thought they used to be better.
Name: Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
I’d say that this was a lackluster version, though I liked the center, the chocolate brought the whole thing down.
Name: Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
These were simply too difficult to eat because of the size and shell. The center was good, especially because the ratio was so high.
Name: Malted Milk Pastel Fiesta Eggs
The center this year is different. It’s darker in color, which does indicate that the recipe or manufacturing process has changed. The colors are great, I like the shell, though many commenters do not like the new version. I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong here, except that I don’t plan on buying them again, but I’ll finish the bags I have.
Friday, March 27, 2015
When I was at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January, I picked up a lot of little chocolate pieces, but not full sized bars for review. So here are a few thoughts on some items that are now in stores:
Perugina Baci are perfect little bites of dark chocolate and hazelnut. Of course they had to twist it up a bit and introduce a white chocolate version ... and now there’s Peugina Milk Chocolate Baci.
The wrappers are light blue instead of silver. They’re pretty and look the same in shape and structure as the standard dark. The milk chocolate does change the confection quite a bit. The hazelnut because more of the star, as well as the dairy notes from the milk chocolate coating and creamy filling. I still liked them, but I ate some classic dark at the same time. I still prefer the bittersweet coating because it brings out the roasted flavors. But these are still nice and probably something kids may enjoy more or supertasters who don’t like bitter things.
I enjoy BT McElrath’s Salty Dog bars (which it turns out I haven’t fully reviewed), which are a great sweet/savory mix of creamy chocolate, salt and crunchy toffee bits. So I was very excited to try the new BT McElrath Buttered Toast. It’s described as Toasted artisan breadcrumbs in our proprietary blend of 40% cacao milk chocolate.
It’s sweet and definitely buttery. There’s a soft bite to this and little bits that crunch like panko. There’s a light salt note along with a little toffee and malt to it as well. Even though it’s a very rich milk chocolate, it might be a little too thick and sticky for me ... maybe I’ll wait for the dark chocolate version to come along.
The BT McElrath Super Red is a 70% bar with little flecks of freeze dried fruit.
The tart notes of the berry bits with the rather dark chocolate combine for a lot more flavor intensity than something like a nut chocolate combo would give. The seeds also give a little bitterness, as does the chocolate and dark berry notes.
Vosges calls these Super Dark bars, though they’re only 72% dark chocolate. That’s because the super part isn’t modifying the chocolate, it’s modifying the inclusions, which are all deemed superfoods. It’s like they went out of their way to put bitter things in there. I picked up two samples (they look pretty much the same). Vosges Super Dark Matcha Green Tea features spirulina, matcha (pulverized green tea) and cocoa nibs. The grassy notes of the matcha are immediately forward. I enjoy a lot of green tea, though I don’t have matcha very often because it’s pulverized leaves, not just steeped tea. Though I understand that there’s more flavanol bang per gram in matcha than the brewed leaves, it’s just too intense for me. This bar brings out a lot of that experience, so if you’re a matcha fan, this is a fun bar, especially because there are some cocoa nibs in there for crunch. The bitterness was just too drying for me. I had to follow it with some Hojicha.
The Vosges Super Dark Coconut Ash & Banana features Sri Lankan coconut charcoal coconut ash and Hawaiian Banana. The bar does look much darker, blacker than a usual chocolate bar. It smells like coconut cream. The flavor is bizarre as well. There are the immediate chocolate notes, which are like crispy brownie edges, then the coconut flavors and something, well, umami that I can’t put my finger on. Then there’s the weird banana flavor, which is a little like fingernail polish remover, it’s not an integrated flavor, it’s like it escapes from the chocolate and evaporates immediately into the back of my sinuses - eventually within the chocolate I did come across a few tangy bits of dried banana, which were completely different on the banana taste spectrum. I wouldn’t call this a pleasant bar experience, though I do appreciate the attempt at the unique. The ash notes come out at the end, more as a sort of dry charcoal notes.
I actually love the little sizes of all the bars, and BT McElrath sells theirs in an array of sizes, some with mixed flavors so you can try more of choose to suit your mood. Vosges also sells some of their Super Dark pieces in boxes, but they’re about $80.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Last week I went to the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Most times I present tasting notes from each day of the show, but this year I’ve got a podcast that does it all!
Join me with Maria as we explore the new flavor trends and product introductions:
Here’s the full set of photos I’ve posted. You can also read my previous Fancy Food Show notes going back to 2007 here, kind of interesting to see how packaging has changed for some companies and how other heralded flavor trends did not catch on.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Next week is the annual Candy and Snack Expo in Chicago. It’s the even of the year for candy companies, as they introduce their new products. Here are a few new items that caught my eye with some already hitting shelves. There’s lots more in store, so I’ll be posting a few over the next two weeks.
Name: PEEPS Minis
Name: Ferrero Golden Gallery
Name: Queen Anne Cherry Cola - Cordial Black Cherries
Name: Brach’s Apple Pie Candy Corn
Name: Wonka Randoms
All images courtesy of the respective manufacturer
Thursday, January 16, 2014
If you’re on Tumblr, you might want to pop Candy Blog on your follow list. It’s just candy photos, posted a couple times a day. Think of it like a visual reminder of new reviews and a few revisits to the archive.
You can also browse the archives for some tasty views:
Thursday, October 31, 2013
What are you giving out this year?
As of now, I have some Charms Candy Corn Lollipops, Jolly Rancher Caramel Apple Pops, Airheads (the kids in this neighborhood really love them) and Payday Bars. I wanted another chocolate item and may still pick that up, probably the Unreal Peanut Butter Cups again, like last year. I try to balance the offerings so that there’s something gluten free, something nut free and something with chocolate and hopefully nothing that has slave chocolate in it.
The best news? After Halloween candy sales start tomorrow ...
UPDATE: I did go shopping at lunch today at Whole Foods and found individually wrapped Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups (on sale, 2 packages for $5.00) and Endangered Species Milk Chocolate Bug Bites (same sale price). CVS has stopped carrying the UNREAL brand. So it’s a chocolatey and hopefully ethically sourced Halloween.
Friday, October 25, 2013
There are often movie tie ins with candy, but they are most often just a packaging change. For the second of The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, Vosges Chocolate has released an interesting set of products themed with the movies characters and settings.
The Capitol Truffle Collection - $225.00
A ritual of degustation, this truffle collection is curated to guide your palate through opulence and ritual. The 18 different truffles in sets of two are an exploration of shape, texture, color and flavor. Rosemary with a touch of pink peppercorn is encased in pure, white chocolate. Coconut and banana are combined with dark chocolate and rolled in coconut charcoal ash. Candied walnuts and milk chocolate are thick and chunky, rolled in cocoa powder– to name a few…
Underneath the colorful truffles, 16 compartments await, each cradling a treasure to forward the degustation. Small vials of crushed violet petals, pearl dust, gold leaf and matcha tea are accompanied by detailed mixology instructions to create decadent libations. Trinkets and objects of desire dictate social rules and traditions.
The Capitol Truffle Collection includes: 36 truffles, accoutrements, and a menu of etiquette and recipes to serve an extravagant 18 course chocolate tasting
As a point of reference, a 32 piece truffle collection is $75.00. I don’t know what these other menus and recipes and accoutrements add to this, but it appears that it nearly triples the price. There is no smaller version of this either ... you just have to be willing to plop down the full $225 to get Catching Fire truffles.
The Hunger Games Katniss Chocolate Bar
Quiet your mind and engage each of your senses in preparation for this unique, cinematic chocolate experience. Breathe in the deep, smoky aroma of the bar before taking a bite. Let the rich milk chocolate melt on your palate, and savor the subtle, salty crunch of hickory smoked bacon accented by sweet, crisp apples.
Katniss chocolate bar parfum includes: apples pierced uncured hickory smoked bacon + alderwood smoked sea salt + 44% cacao milk chocolate.(Retail $7.50)
Contains: milk, soy, gluten free (not all the bars are). Manufactured in a facility that handles tree nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, milk, wheat and soy.
I have to say, these are not flavors I would have quite picked out to represent Katniss ... but she’s definitely an unconventional girl. So an unconventional bunch of flavors would suit her. I have to say that it seems a bit fussy for her though.
The Hunger Games President Snow Chocolate Bar
Breathe in the aromatic tartness of the orange and chocolate before taking your first bite. Allow the chocolate to melt in your mouth, while the release of the bittersweet citrus caramel punctuated by nips of blistering pepper permeates your palate.
President Snow chocolate bar parfum contains: Blood orange & tellicherry peppercorns caramel + 72% cacao dark chocolate
Again, I’m not an expert on The Hunger Games at all, but if I understand this bar, it’s supposed to emulate the damaged feeling of the President’s mouth since he poisoned his political opponents?
The Hunger Games Effie Chocolate Bar
Breathe in the fragrant aroma of sweet strawberries before taking your first bite. Allow the bittersweet chocolate to melt on your palate, and savor the bar’s fruity bouquet and the pleasing crunch of candied French violet flowers.
Effie chocolate bar parfum includes: dried strawberries + candied violet flowers + 62% cacao dark chocolate
This bar actually seemed quite suitable for the character. Some light touches of excess but an undercurrent of seriousness with the dark chocolate.
This is the most interesting of the bunch of the bars, I actually saw these at Walgreen’s priced at $3.99, though they’re $4.99 on the Vosges website. You can get the full “book” of bars shown above or buy the bars individually. Each is themed for a different district. The inclusions and flavor profiles are ... well, quite a stretch.
Wild Ophelia Bars - retail $3.99
You may now commence your rants or analyses of how this licensing seems more like District 1 partnering/exploiting the kids than anything faithful to Katniss and her friends.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.