Friday, September 27, 2013
Candy Corn broke out of its traditional flavor set at least 10 years ago. It’s only natural, since the fondant candies known as mellocremes were capable of so much more than just being different colors for different holidays: reindeer corn and bunny corn.
But Halloween has always paid host to the more interesting varieties. Lately we’ve seen caramel apple flavors, fruits like tangerine and green apple or toffee. Some candy companies have even taken to covering them in chocolate. Brach’s has a large variety these days, my favorite from their assortment is still the Brach’s Halloween Mix, which is not candy corn but little Halloween shapes like bats, pumpkins and maple syrup jugs. They’re lightly flavored and come in cocoa, maple, banana and whatever that honey flavor candy corn is.
The Brach’s S’mores Candy Corn straddles the summer and fall line, as S’mores are often a summer camp favorite but can easily be made in the fall around a crackling fall bonfire.
If I understand the point of these correctly, it should be a chocolate base, marshmallow middle and graham cracker flavored top. I have to say that they’re pretty ugly. The base is a dusty purple and bleeds into the white center.
They smell like a cross between the reliably over-sweet Candy Corn and graham crackers. The base is vaguely cocoa, but in the most watered down and flavored fashion. The middle layer is wonderfully vacant of flavors, kind of like a marshmallow. The orange tip has a distinct cereal and cracker note to it, like a graham.
The effect is something that’s very candy corn-like in flavor, but not very convincing as a S’more. I don’t see the point, really, especially since they’re not very attractive.
S’mores Candy Corn contains gelatin, no surprise as most candy corn does and certainly marshmallows do. It’s also made in a facility that processes everything else:peanuts, tree nuts, milk and eggs plus it contains soy and sesame.
As a side note, Brach’s has changed hands quite a few times in the last decade, and this has made some of their products a bit inconsistent. The company was owned by Farley’s & Sathers most recently and they have merged with Ferrara Pan and the whole company is now called Ferrara Candy. The Candy Corn manufacturing for Brach’s was moved off to Mexico at least two years ago and I’ve heard many reports from die hard fans that it’s not the same any longer (even though the ingredients list appears the same). I agree, it doesn’t seem as smooth and consistent as it used to be and I have switched to recommending the Jelly Belly Candy Corn if you’re actually going to eat it. Brach’s is still fine for decorative purposes.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Brach’s Ice Cream Conversation Hearts provide a conceptually different choice in the area of conversation candies. They’re flavored like ice cream, which is to say that they’re more mainstream than the original spice inspired flavors that Necco used to produce.
When I go to the store and browse ice cream flavors, the tops on my list of consideration go something like this (not necessarily in order): chocolate, coffee, mint chocolate chip, butter pecan, peanut butter cup and then maybe vanilla. I can’t remember the last time I bought strawberry ice cream (though I buy strawberry sorbet rather often) and orange sherbet is so far off my list of viable flavors, I can’t even recall seeing it in stores.
Strawberry (pink) was bitter and only a vague floral hint of berry. Mostly bitter from the food coloring.
Cherry (same shade of pink) was bitter and sweet with only a faint cherry flavoring note. Not tartness, just sweet. I’m still not convinced that there was any difference, except strawberry seemed even more bitter.
I had to take a break at this point because of the bitterness. A bit of water. Some crackers. I don’t know why I started with pink.
Vanilla (white) was expected to be flavorless, but actually does have a pleasant vanilla note to it. It’s like a marshmallow flavor. Really the only one I picked through assortment to eat. But it was really that I was actively avoiding nearly every other piece.
Chocolate was just horrible. Worse than the pink candies, because it was so lacking in chocolate and ended up tasting like a musty basement. You can tell just by looking at it that it can’t taste like chocolate, it’s not brown.
Orange was mild and did remind me of orange sherbet, except for the fact that it was missing that juice tartness. So it was more like an orange chapstick.
Now that I’ve tried their take on the classic ice cream flavors, I have no interest in their take on something more complex like butter pecan or mint chocolate chip. It’s best they failed at the easy stuff so I don’t get my hopes up.
Brach’s also has Heartlines Classic Conversation Hearts (I reviewed them when they were called small conversation hearts) on the shelves again this year. They’re better than the classic Necco (which are achingly hard to find) but still, not quite right.
Taken as a non-toxic and cheap decoration, there’s little better than conversation hearts. I paid only $2.50 for a full pound. Even if no one eats them from this cute jar on my desk, it was an inexpensive way to look like I’m observing the holiday. If you’re not eating them, it doesn’t matter which version you pick up. Choose based on the color combos, the sayings on them, or where they’re made. (These are made in Argentina.) There’s little point in choosing based on flavor.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Ferrara Pan is introducing quite a few new products lately, especially for the holidays. I noticed this last year when I saw a more generic item on the shelves called Ferrara Pan Chicks & Bunnies Jelly Candy. This year I didn’t see that product on shelves again, instead I found what seemed more exciting and actually got my mouth watering: Lemonhead & Friends Jellies in Fun Springtime Shapes.
It’s a super simple classic candy, a moist, jelled sugar in fruit flavors coated in crunchy sugar.
The name Lemonhead brings to mind a sweet and tart candy, that’s layered with bursts of flavor that includes zest, tartness and sweetness. Let me just start off saying, there is nothing Lemhonheady about these. The assumption I made was that these sugary coatings were also tart. There’s not one iota of tartness in these. But let me move on and tell you what you do get.
The pieces are huge. Larger than I expect something like a jelly to be, though they’re probably about the same weight as a jelly orange slice, they just seemed more than two bites big. They come in two shapes, chicks and rabbits.
Green = Green Apple: this was strange. It was like the artificial banana equivalent of green apple. A strange vaporous version with a slight acetone burn to it. It was all sweet and no tartness, so the flavor was missing a lot of the key flavor oomph.
Red = Cherry: was sweet and almost floral. It was a like a rose flavored version of fake cherry. The bitter aftertaste of the artificial colors was quite noticeable in this rather dark red jelly candy.
Purple = Grape: this has so much going on for it from the smell. It was like a grape soda in the shape of a chick ... until I bit into it and it was all promise and no delivery. The inky grapeness was there as a scent, but there was no malic acid tartness to go along with it. The artificial coloring also gave it a weird aluminum note.
Yellow = Lemon: citrus flavors always go so well with jellies because there are a few flavor notes that go beyond the tangy juice. In this case the zest is dead on, though a little bitter and the sweet floral notes are present. It’s a smidge on the grapefruit side, but I still enjoyed it.
Orange = Orange: like the lemon, this had two components, a note of the orange peel and a bit of floral soapiness. It wasn’t as strong as the lemon, but the balance is good and placed this one among my favorite three flavors.
Pink = Watermelon: was completely unexpected. I thought this was going to be strawberry. The flavor is strange, it reminded me of fresh laundry from the dryer ... there was a sort of static cling smell (I can’t really explain it) and a sweet floral note rather like strawberry and limes.It was really dreadful and bizarre.
The Ferrara Pan more generic jellies were far less expensive and didn’t promise me anything, so I couldn’t be disappointed. The Lemonhead & Friends Jellies captured me with the idea that they were like Lemonheads, that they were going to be tart. That’s an interesting proposition. On the other hand, these fruit jellies do come in some more unusual flavors - I’ve never seen Watermelon or Green Apple jellies before. So if you’ve always hated the tartness of Lemonheads, here’s an opportunity to partake of the brand.
If you’re looking for the best sour jelly, try the Gimbal’s Sour Lovers.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Ferrara Pan which is known for Lemonheads and Atomic Fireballs got into the chocolate business a few years back making very good domestic versions of segmented chocolate oranges (with Belgian chocolate) and panned nut treats. This new Ferrara Chocolate group is also creating some new holiday items, I was excited to see these fun speckled eggs called Candy Coated Chocolate Covered Almond Eggs at Walgreen’s.
The bag is priced pretty well, at $2.49 for a half a pound, it’s about what I will pay for Almond M&Ms on sale.
The eggs are a nice size, indicating that they either have a lot of chocolate in there or start with very large almonds. They’re a milk chocolate product with a lot of milk in them. The first ingredient in the chocolate coating is sugar, the second is whole milk. So, that’s some milky chocolate. The coatings are attractive. They start with a pastel base and have little speckles on them. Some are quite speckled, others have barely a burnishing of color.
The ratios are great, the chocolate is thick and the almonds are nicely sized and well roasted to a crunch. The milky chocolate is sweet, but not that Easter-cloying sweetness. The level of milk in it gives it a cool melt on the tongue and a light toffee and dairy finish. The other notes are a bit of smoke, either from the chocolate itself or the almonds and maybe a hint of cinnamon (they are the makers of Red Hots). The shell is a little thinner than M&Ms so it has a lighter crunch.
They’re good. Good enough that I ate the whole bag in three days. They’re different from M&Ms, the melt of the chocolate is less sweet and less fudgy and a little smoother, but the flavor isn’t quite as intense. I prefer the look of the Ferrera to M&Ms and the consistent shape of the candies.
The candies are Kosher and made in the United States with Belgian chocolate. No gluten statement. There’s also no statement about the sourcing of the cacao and ethical concerns on the package or their website.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Valentine’s Day is all about red. Red is the color of love and passion; candies for Valentine’s Day play upon the flavors that follow with red: cherry, strawberry, raspberry and cinnamon. The fruity flavors are usually easy to find, but cinnamon is a little less common.
I was excited to see this small bag of Ferrara Pan White Hot Red Hots Jelly Beans for sale at Walgreen’s in their Valentine’s candy display. What does White Hot Red Hots actually mean? The package doesn’t say, but the little window shows that the small jelly beans come in two colors: red and a red speckled pink. Any additional questions could be answered for a mere buck.
The beans are pretty and well made. They’re glossy, consistently shaped and I appreciated that the bag was sized appropriately for the amount of candy actually in it. (Sometimes bags are absurdly large but have very little candy in them.)
The white hot part, I think, means that these are very spicy cinnamon. Red Hots is just a brand of cinnamon imperials made by Ferrara Pan.
They’re a little larger than a Jelly Belly but smaller than the classic pectin bean. (Shown above with a Tic Tac.)
They are actually very spicy. I just ate a bag of Hot Tamales last week and I can confirm that these are just slightly hotter than those. The shape is good, it’s small and packs a powerful cinnamon punch. There’s a slight clove note to them and every once in a while I also got a little whiff of artificial watermelon, which may just be a manufacturing thing.
I liked them. It was easy to just pop a few as both a pick-me-up and a little breath freshener. They go well with coffee or tea. I’d definitely pick these up again especially because I like the smaller sized bag. Ferrara Pan already makes Lemonheads & Friends Jelly Beans but I would be curious to try a standard spice flavor array or maybe a mint blend. (Ferrara Pan is known for their Lemonhead and Atomic Fireballs, but they also do a lot of contract manufacturing for house brands and other major candy companies, so chance are you’ve had their jelly beans before.)
They’re made with confectioners glaze, so they’re not considered vegetarian (though there’s no carmine in there). They’re made in equipment that also processes dairy, soy, tree nuts and peanuts. No mention of wheat/gluten but “modified food starch” is listed as an ingredient without any indication of the source.
Friday, October 29, 2010
The Lemonheads line is quite varied now, Ferrara Pan has gone beyond the single flavor boxes (lemon, orange, cherry, grape and green apple) and includes more of these flavored mixes including the Chewy Lemonheads & Friends and last year’s introduction, Tropical Chewy Lemonheads.
The box features anthropomorphic versions of the flavors, Cherry Lemon, Wild Berry, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry and Red Raspberry on stage as if they’re a rock band. Strawberry is a torch singer and Raspberry has drum sticks but no drums.
The pieces are attractive, they’re little spheres, slightly larger than garden peas. They’re slightly irregular but boldly colored and uniformly shiny.
Red Raspberry (dark red) has a nice tartness and even a slight dry finish, a mix of floral berry notes with less of the artificial coloring bitterness.
Strawberry (lighter red) is sweet with a light tangy note under the grainy shell. It’s not a very well rounded flavor and has a bit of a bitter note for me because of the artificial colorings.
Blue Raspberry (blue) is very woodsy and strangely chemical at the same time. There’s a floral raspberry flavor but also something kind of like artificial watermelon in there.
Wild Berry (dark purple) has a lot of flavors going on but is mostly a punch flavor, some cherry and raspberry is evident and maybe a little blueberry note in there. Not at all sour.
Cherry Lemon (medium red) was actually really good but strange. The lemon had a strong zest component but not much tang. The cherry was sweet and almost floral. It was definitely not the ordinary sour cherry flavored candy (and nothing like the Cherry Chewy Lemonhead).
The good thing about the mix is that it’s easy to just eat them without looking at the colors because the flavors aren’t that distinctive and never clash. The bad thing is that the flavors aren’t that distinctive and are so mild to the point that all of the best things about Lemonheads (the intense flavor difference between the shell and center) are lost.
I’ll stick to the classic, hard centered Lemonheads, but the Chewy Lemonhead & Friends are pretty good too, so good that I’m giving them out for Halloween as the non-chocolate option.
They’re not vegetarian/vegan because of the presence of confectioners glaze. They’re also manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk and soy. No mention of wheat. Not Kosher.
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.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.