Monday, October 18, 2010
Kraft Caramels are one of those products that transcends the definition of candy. Like chocolate chips, they’re also an ingredient in countless recipes. I’m more likely to see these bags in the baking aisle of the grocery store than the candy section.
Kraft Caramels were introduced in 1933, the same year Kraft brought Miracle Whip into people’s lives. In a strange twist, Kraft decided to sell their industry-standard caramels and spun them off with a few other brands to a new company called Favorite Brands. They made the caramels with the Kraft name for two years under the agreement, but after that they rolled them into their other candy brand, Farley’s and called them Farley’s Original Chewy Caramels. Well, I don’t know if you remember those years of not being able to find Kraft Caramels ... I’m not sure how brand aware I was at that time, but I think I considered myself confused and ended up buying Brach’s Caramels. Kraft got their caramels back in 2000 and I think they learned their lesson. (You can read more here.)
The caramels are packaged simply and perfectly. Each cube is wrapped in clear cellophane, like little gifts with the surprise spoiled with the transparent packaging.
The color is beautiful and mine were fresh, slightly soft and glossy. They smells sweet, like vanilla pudding. The bite is soft and easy, but not a stringy chew. It’s also not quite a fudge texture. This style of caramel is called a short caramel, the sugar and milk is completely emulsified so there are no sugar crystals. The sugar is caramelize, so it has a light toffee note to it along with the mellow dairy flavors of the milk.
The chew is interesting and flavorful, but lacks a bit of the stickiness that I desire in a caramel. I like a complex flavor and silkier texture. They’re sweet but at least have a salty note to balance that out. They stick in my teeth a bit, but don’t bind my molars together like some stale Sugar Babies can do.
The ingredients are decent enough for cheap candy: corn syrup, sugar, skim milk, palm oil, whey, salt, artificial flavor and soy lecithin.
I understand that one of the benefits to this style though is its versatility for recipes. They can be melted and added to other ingredients like swirled into brownies, drizzled on popcorn and of course their most popular use - caramel dipped apples.
There are 32 calories in each caramel cube and they’re still made in the U.S.A. Kosher.
Finally, an early TV commercial for Kraft Caramels:
While looking for Kraft Caramels these past few weeks, I stumbled on these smaller bags of Ferrara Pan Traditional Caramels. This little 6.75 ounce bag also included sticks for making the classic caramel covered apples.
Ferrara Pan is known for their panned candies (hence the company name) like Lemonheads, Boston Baked Bean and Atomic Fireballs. A boiled sweet like caramels is kind of out of place, but then again Ferrara recently branched out into chocolate, so why not caramel?
Turning over the bag to compare the ingredients I found something more substantially informative. Ferrara Pan doesn’t make these. They’re made by Embare in Brazil. Embare is a premiere candy maker in South America, known for their dairy-based confections like caramels and pudding mixes. Caramel has a fine tradition in South America, so why not go there for some great ones?
The cellophane seems a little heavier and is actually sealed at the ends. They’re soft enough to pinch. They don’t smell like much out of the wrapper.
The bite is much softer and chewier. They’re not quite a stringy caramel, but halfway between. They’re not as sweet as the Kraft variety, quite smooth and have a strong real vanilla flavor profile. The caramel notes are also great - a little toasty with just a hint or rum or molasses.
Each cube has 27 calories. I don’t actually mind that they’re made in Brazil and I appreciate Ferrara Pan saying exactly who is making the product.
On the left are the Ferrara Pan and on the right are the Kraft. They really do look the same.
The ingredient list on the Ferrara Pan version is longer: Sugar, corn syrup, skim milk, hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean, cottonseed and/or palm kernel), whey, milk, cream, salt, soy lecithin, mono- & di-glycerides, artificial vanilla flavor.
I can’t say which is better for recipes, but I preferred the texture and flavor profile of the Ferrara Pan. But I can’t say that I really loved either, if I really wanted a bite sized caramel, I’d probably go for Sugar Babies, pay a premium for See’s ... or make my own.
Thursday, April 1, 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, February 24, 2010
The new Lemonhead & Friends Jelly Beans stand out on the shelves among all the other Easter candies. The bright primary colors - mostly yellow and red are definitely spring-ish but not the usual pastels.
The small bag is jam packed with candy. It’s 14 ounces of little jelly beans made with real fruit juice. Most other bags on the same shelf were about 9 ounces.
This new version of the popular Lemonhead candy is rather similar to the new Chewy Lemonheads. They’re a jelly center covered with the tart and grainy shell that Lemonhead fans have come to know and love. (My mouth just waters at the thought of it.)
The beans are small, not quite as small as Jelly Belly, but pretty close. If you can’t tell already, they’re also vivid - strikingly, saturatedly vivid. They’re probably the most deeply colored jelly beans I’ve seen. I’m not that fond of too much food coloring for two reasons. The first is that it often leaves an aftertaste. The second is that it often colors my tongue and I don’t like people to know how much candy I’ve been eating. Other folks are not fond of artificial colors as they’ve been linked to hyperactivity in children.
The ingredients list an array of acids that I’m accustomed to seeing in candies: fumaric acid (fermented apples & grains), malic acid (found in grapes and green apples) and citric acid (found in citrus) but another that I hadn’t noticed before called adipic which Wikipedia tells me is used mainly as a precursor for the production of nylon. (That sounds alarming but doesn’t mean that it also isn’t food.)
The five flavors are: Lemon, Orange, Grape, Green Apple and Cherry.
The bag definitely smells fruity, mostly citrusy.
Lemon is intense and sour. There are both tangy juice notes and a good dose of almost-bitter zest. It’s convincing. Kind of mind blowing.
The levels of acid in these is quite high, so I wouldn’t recommend eating more than a small handful at a time. I found after more than a dozen of them it gave me a literal sour stomach. But for a little pick me up while driving or mixed with some other candies they’re definitely not your grandmother’s jelly beans.
I found them a little pricey for sugar candy compared to the cheap jelly beans usually around this time of year, but then again, they’re quite concentrated so it only takes a little. I liked that the bag was actually full. So many candies these days come in half empty bags, these feel sumptuous and indulgent.
There are no statements about the gluten free status on the package, they’re not vegan (confectioners glaze). Made in a facility where peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and soy is used. There was also a choking hazard warning (on all the Ferrara Pan products as far as I can tell). This was an extremely fresh package - the expiration date is 12/22/2011.
Monday, January 25, 2010
I was a little dubious when Ferrara Chocolate entered the segmented spherical fruit made from chocolate market late last year. But I was impressed with the quality, availability and price. Ferrara Pan is best known for its other spheres such as Lemonheads and Atomic Fireballs. They used to be the importers and distributors of Toblerone, Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Cote d’Or chocolate, but when Kraft decided to handle that themselves, Sal Ferrara saw an opportunity to get that niche of sales for his company and moved into chocolate molding.
What’s most exciting about the new brand is the inventiveness of their “Chocolate Oranges”. The initial items were pretty much carbon copies of the existing Terry’s Chocolate Orange (Milk, Dark and Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunch). But now that the initial move into stores is over and hopefully folks sampled over the holidays they’re settling in and pushing the envelope a little more.
The Valentine’s Day version of the chocolate orange is part of the strategy to keep the oranges around for all holidays. This one is Strawberry Milk Chocolate and features a Valentine’s message on every segment.
There are 20 segments in the sphere. The red foil wrapper has a sticker that says Burst then Enjoy, but I do poorly at tasks that require just the right amount of force (watch me bowl sometime). So I just cleave it apart by wedging a knife between the segments.
There are ten messages on the slices, some are icons and others are little sayings. Be Mine, True Love, Only You and Hug Me. There’s no Marry Me but there are little pictures of a cupid, a set of kissing lips, a rose and the iconic Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture. (Well, it’s not quite the same icon, the O in LOVE is upright, not tilted.)
The scent is lightly floral, a mix of milk and strawberry. It reminded me of strawberry Nesquik. The chocolate is smooth but very sweet, has a good roasted chocolate note to it as well as the flavor of strawberry. There’s no tangy component, no freeze dried strawberry bits.
Each of the molded segments is nicely done. Mine were shiny and pretty much perfect - the only hitch was sometimes I broke off part of the design when separating it from the center.
The mix of strawberry flavor and milk chocolate isn’t exactly my favorite, but for what it is, it’s very well done. The chocolate is smoother than what I’ve been used to with Terry’s though absolutely still as sweet.
The idea of doing multiple designs on the segments is pure genius - it actually made me want to take apart the sphere to look at them all. Sharing it would certainly be in order, especially for Valentine’s Day. The price is certainly right at about $2.50 at most stores.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Ferrara’s expansion into the midscale chocolate market has been quick. The first items I spotted are their Belgian chocolate bars, conceived to compete with Kraft’s Toblerone products. For the holidays this year they have three initial offerings of chocolate oranges in the style of Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
They come in the standard Milk Chocolate Orange and Dark Chocolate Orange as well as the Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunch Orange. They’re well priced at $2.50 each, and I’m guessing that deeper discounts will be found with holiday sales. I found my set at Walgreen’s, but I’ve also seen them at CVS.
The package is pretty, though not ornate or really much of a standout. The gold foil is a nice touch and the color-coding of the base of the boxes makes it easy to spot the flavor you might be looking for. They’re quite hefty, clocking in at 6.17 ounces (a Terry’s orange is 6.0).
On the front of the box it says that it’s a natural orange flavor so I was hoping the product was all natural, but I found reading the ingredients that it also contains vanillin (an artificial vanilla flavor).
I’ve always found Terry’s Chocolate Orange to be very sweet and I’m grateful that the sections are small because I’m rarely able to eat more than one or two at a sitting. I was hoping the Ferrara would be a little richer.
I started with the Ferrara Dark Chocolate Orange because I’d already had the plain Milk Chocolate from Ferrara and was very eager to try their dark. The bronzy orange foil has a sticker that exalts me to Burst then Enjoy (compared to Terry’s which is Whack and Unwrap). Inside the foil is a sectioned sphere.
The first difference I noticed is that it’s shiny and smooth. Terry’s have an orange rind texture. The second thing I noticed was different from a Terry’s was how solidly crafted this American orange is. When they say Burst, they don’t give me much indication of how much pressure to apply. So it took three fairly substantial smacks on a flat and firm surface to adequately dismantle the thing. (There’s a very good reason there are no photos of the Milk Chocolate Orange sections in this review as my ability to duplicate my success on the dark one was, well, unsuccessful.)
Each section is nicely molded and has a pretty orange peel and pulp design along with a version of the F crest in the center. The other side is blank.
It smells mostly sweet and with a light touch of orange. I didn’t get a lot of cocoa-vibe even from the broken orange. The snap is good, in fact the whole thing is very nicely tempered. It’s immediately sweet and has a strong orange essence to it. The chocolate is a little chalky and dry at the same time it has a cool and immediate melt. The dark chocolate actually has whole milk powder and milk fat in it, so it’s hardly dark chocolate though not milky enough to call it dairy milk chocolate.
For me it was simply too sweet and without some sort of milk flavors or intense cocoa notes, it just bored me. It’s attractive to look at and fun to share, but I would probably be disappointed if I got this in my stocking year after year.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The Milk Chocolate Orange is probably the classic of the bunch. It’s handsome and just as expertly made as the dark version (though I was not able to expertly disassemble it - see the milk toffee version below for a reasonable facsimile of what yours would probably look like).
The orange scent from this version was sweet and had a slight milky and caramel note to it. I was looking forward to this one because I rather liked the milk chocolate in the Belgian chocolate bar. However, after eating a few slices, it didn’t seem quite the same. It’s not quite as creamy or milky, though sometimes tempering and flavors can create changes. But I also noted on the box that it didn’t say anywhere that it was made from Belgian chocolate, so maybe it’s not the same at all. (I’d consult the wrapper for the Belgian chocolate bar but I ended up using the box as an impromptu knife sheath on Thanksgiving). My guess is that the Belgian stuff was more expensive and those bars were 3.5 ounces ... this is over 6 ounces for only 50 cents more.
There’s a slight grain to it as it melts and I’m really missing the chocolate flavors. Still, I found it much more munchable than the dark version.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The final variety is orange shaped but not orange flavored. The Milk Chocolate Toffee Crunch is a milk chocolate studded with toffee bits. Reading through the ingredients it’s clear that they’re really toffee (made with butter and not cheap butterscotch hard candies. It looks pretty much like the milk chocolate one.
It has a slight cereal scent to it in addition to the milky sweet smell. It’s sweet and slightly grainy with a strong milky component. There are little chips of toffee with a good salty and buttery note. The chips, however, are very small, so there’s no additional texture of crunching them, just the little salty texture change. As with the other varieties, it was so very sweet that I found that two slices were more than enough to give me a sore throat and craving for pretzels or plain almonds.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nope, I was wrong. Turns out the Trader Joe’s are made by SweetWorks who makes the Florida Tropic brand line. See more here.
Overall, I think the Ferrara products are nice quality and are certainly easy to find. I appreciate seeing a product like this that’s American-made (so often fresher and cheaper because they don’t have to import). They’re also Kosher. They’re not quite to my taste, but if I can’t get folks at the office to eat these I’m going to try making them into a decadent orange & chocolate pudding.
Coming up soon, the other chocolate oranges from Florida Tropic (photos of the varieties here).
Monday, November 23, 2009
Last month I reviewed the new Ferrara Milk Chocolate with Almond Nougat, today I have the companion bar without the nuts and nougat bits. The new Ferrera chocolate line is to take the place of the chocolate products from Kraft that the company used to distribute from their Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Toblerone brands. They can be found at drug stores and discount retailers.
The Ferrara Belgian Milk Chocolate Bar is the same format as the faux-Toblerone, a long and domed trapezoidal shape with deep sections. The snap is good, though sometimes I had trouble cracking off just one segment and if I had a double I found it impossible to break that into two pieces. (So I had to eat two sections.)
The texture is quite smooth and creamy. It reminded me a little bit of Dove Milk Chocolate, but slightly sweeter. The silky melt and light caramel notes are pleasant. It’s a little sticky feeling in the mouth, but not overly thick. I prefer a less sugary bar but the fat in this one was a delightful mix of cocoa butter and whole milk.
The ingredients are all natural and the bar is Kosher. The package says the chocolate was made in Belgium but molded & packaged in the United States.
I was hoping for something a little deeper and richer, but for two dollars and the nice packaging I think it’s a good deal. I like the thick pieces compared to the flat tablet chocolate bars that are usually 100 grams, it makes the melt a little more interesting to have a chunky nugget. Since Toblerone doesn’t even make a nougat-less bar, it’s hard to even compare it. It’s not quite as satisfying as a Ritter-Sport which is in the same price category, but might make a prettier stocking stuffer in some instances.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Classic Lemonheads are one of my favorite candies. Even though I have to eat a huge variety of new to me candy for the blog on a regular basis, I still find a bit of room to indulge in Lemonheads from time to time.
There’s nothing else like the line of candies - a hard and mildly flavored candy core covered with a grainy and intensely flavored coating then a shiny coat.
A couple of years ago Ferrara Pan expanded the line with their Chewy Lemonheads. They’re kind of an amped up jelly bean. A chewy jelly center with the same grainy and blisteringly sour layer covered in a light shell. They came in the same flavors we were accustomed to with the Lemonheads and Friends.
Now Ferrara Pan is mixing it up again with new flavors, this time only in the Chewy line with their Tropical Chewy Lemonhead & Friends.
It’s an odd name, and kind of misleading. There are no Lemonheads (there are pink-lemonade-heads though) in here, now the name has become a brand and shorthand for a whole line of candies.
The unique proposition here is that there are two flavors in each piece. The shell is one flavor and the core is another. (Sounds kind of like Skittles Crazy Cores, doesn’t it?)
The flavors are Kiwi-Strawberry, Peach-Mango, Berry-Banana, Cherry-Watermelon and Pink Lemonade-Lemonade. The colors are muted and tropical, definitely different at a glance from the regular Lemonheads which are far brighter.
This blue shell is almost aqua and the inside is supposed to be yellow according to the key on the box, but it’s more green to me.
The shell is that blue raspberry flavor that was invented by confectioners and has little relation to any real fruit flavor. There’s no tangy layer between the shell and the jelly center. So it’s a sweet berry outside with a mild banana inside. It’s pleasant enough and did start off the tasting with a tropical bent.
The shell is medium green and the center is a light red.
The outside doesn’t taste like much, but there is a pleasant tangy pop between the layers on most of them (some were just all sweet). The strawberry center is floral and tasted a little like cotton candy. It’s mostly an inoffensive piece of candy. Not intense but just a little more interesting than a standard fruity jelly bean.
The red shell on this one has a lighter pink center. (A green shell with a red center would have been rather more like a watermelon though.)
The red is intense and bright and the cherry flavor is strong and medicinal without the robust sour cherry note that I was hoping for. (There was also that bitter aftertaste from the food coloring.)
Pink on the outside and yellow on the inside.
I don’t really know what pink lemonade is, most of the time it’s just lemonade with a dash of red food coloring, though I think classically it’s lemonade with strawberries. In this instance I think it’s the former. The outside is just a little bit lemony and the tangy layer is, well, only slightly tangy. The center does have a little lemon zest to it. All this really does is make me want a Lemonhead. As far as I’m concerned the Pink Lemonade-Lemonade Chewy Lemonhead is for wusses who can’t handle the real thing.
The outside is a great peachy orange color. The center is green.
Experience has taught me that I’m rarely pleased with peach or mango flavored candies. It’s not that I don’t love peaches or mangoes, but they’re very hard flavors to duplicate. Probably because so much of their flavor also depends on the texture. In this case the flavors are quite mild but passable. The peach outside is sweet and like canned peaches (lacking that balsam note that some candies try to include). The inside is a little more woodsy and green tasting, a little grassy and a little like pine. I can’t say I loved the, but I didn’t pick around them as much as the cherry.
I read a lot of other reviews on these when they first came out (I finally found them in stores here in California earlier this month) and I have to wonder if they punched them up recently. Or maybe they’re just plain inoffensive and I’m not angling for a fight. Because Mr. Lemonhead is my bestest lifelong friend.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
There’s a lot that goes on before our beloved candy hits the store shelves. The same is true with Candy Blog, though it probably looks like all I do is play with candy, take photos of candy and of course eat candy. I also read about what’s going on in the candy business and of course visit trade shows and talk to candy companies, distributors & retailers.
One of the things I always found curious about the American candy business is how some foreign candies are represented in the United States. One such oddity was that the American distributor for Toblerone and Cote d’Or (owned by Kraft) chocolate for two years was Ferrara Pan. Yes, the Lemonhead & Atomic Fireball makers. Well, that deal ended in December 2008. So that left Ferrara free to move into the chocolate bar field without competing with his own interests ... and he’s come up with something that looks familiar yet has its own distinctiveness.
The chocolate is made in Belgium but the rest of the manufacturing is done at the new Ferrara facility in Forest Park, IL. If you like the behind the scenes stuff, you might love this article (which is one of the most blunt I’ve seen about how the candy business is a business and made up of people).
The new Ferrara Imported Belgian Milk Chocolate with Almond Nougat bar has a distinctive shape and a similar construction. It’s an atypical shape (a trapezoidal bar with deep sections) enclosed in a box shaped just like the bar. Yes, it’s a Faux-blerone.
The ingredients are in fact quite nice: milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, chocolate, soy lecithin and natural vanilla flavor), almond nougat (sugar, corn syrup, almonds, honey, egg white, natural vanilla flavor) plus wheat starch as a processing aid.
Inside the box the bar is sealed in a heavy mylar wrap with the Ferrara “F” crest reminding consumers that Ferrara has been making candy since 1908 on it.
It does smell quite good, sweet and milky with just a hint of the promised honey in the nougat.
Biting into it the first thing I noticed was how packed with nuts & nougat bits it was. My issue with Toblerone has long been the lack of enough bits to satisfy me.
The chocolate is quite milky but surprisingly smooth. The milky flavors are lightly caramelized, so there’s a malty & honey undertone to it. The chocolate comes across as rich, but also a little sweet.
I liked the little almond slivers and crunches and the Italian-style nougat which had a hint of honey and toasted marshmallow flavors. The bits are a little tough and sometimes sticky ... I’d kind of like to try the milk chocolate without the nougat & nuts. (Ferrara is planning on making sectioned chocolate balls a la Terry’s Chocolate Orange later this year as well.)
I’d say this is a great addition to a rather open segment of the candy shelf - better than a standard Hershey’s with Almonds and rivaling Toblerone without the price tag. I paid $1.99 for this bar ... on the shelf next to it was Toblerone, for $2.79 each. The fact that it’s all natural (no artificial vanilla flavor in there) is a bonus.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.