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Fondant

Monday, April 27, 2009

Leaf Schoolchalk, Allsorts & Pipes

Leaf SchoolchalkI got an email from Leaf to try their new fruit Schoolchalk licorice.

I’ve had my fair share of skoolkrijt (schoolchalk) licorice on the past few years, after being given some by a coworker returning from a vacation. Since then I’ve bought pounds and pounds of the stuff to eat over and above the normal Candy Blog review queue. For those who have never had it, it’s a mild fondant/cream inside a black licorice tube, then covered in a crunchy, slightly minted candy shell. The little pieces look like blackboard chalk.

The idea of fruit flavored licorice was more than intriguing. I had no idea what it’d be like ... would it be flavored licorice, like Red Vines/Twizzlers or the traditional black stuff? Would it be white?

Leaf SchoolchalkThe answers came quickly as the box arrived and I opened it up.

The package explains it all pretty well - the candy coating outside is pastel colored and lightly flavored, then a black licorice rope filled with a creamy flavored center. There were three flavors: Lemon, Apple and Raspberry.

I am accustomed to the Venco brand of licorice chalk, but this was pretty much the same shape and size. One inch long and about one half an inch in diameter.

Leaf Schoolchalk

The pieces look an awful lot like chalk. They smell an awful lot like raspberry flavor ... doesn’t matter which piece I pick out of the assortment, they all smell like sticky, sweet, floral raspberry body wash. I separated out the pieces and dove in.

Raspberry is pink, of course. The crunchy shell is all sweetness, the cream center is more sweetness of a deeper more jam-flavor. The licorice is hard to discern, it contributes a slight woodsy and molasses note to the whole thing, but chewing quickly means missing it entirely.

Apple is light green. These were rather vague on the outside, perhaps because of the strong raspberry thing going on. On the inside though, the cream center is very strong and tastes of apple juice. The licorice is a nice texture variation, but there is no anise, no molasses, not beet-like root notes. I did not like apple.

Lemon in the lightest yellow is the redeemer here. The shell has a kiss of sweet lemon essence, like lemon balm. The cream center, though, is like a regular Skoolkrijt, a bit minty/menthol. The black licorice notes aren’t very strong, but dark and tasty.

I would buy just Yellow Chalk. I would not buy this fruit Schoolchalk. As it is, I’m just picking out the yellow stuff to eat. Eating the other flavors last week gave me a tummy ache and spoiled my appetite for dinner.

Made in Slovakia. I gave the Lemon a 7 out of 10, the rest a 5 out of 10.

Leaf Liquorice AllsortsThe nice thing about the Leaf folks was that they were happy send along some of their other classic products to give me a sense of their product line. So after the Schoolchalk, I visited with their Licorice Allsorts.

Allsorts vary from company to company but are generally mild, sandwiched squares of flavored fondant and licorice along with various pieces of coconut fondant and the occasional jelly button covered in nonpareils.

I loved the colors and font on this package.

Leaf Liquorice Allsorts

My favorite was the little cream filled licorice tube. The outside was a tough and only mildly spicy licorice with a lemon cream center. Easy to eat in one bite.

Next came the plain licorice bites. Tough to chew but a good woodsy flavor along with some beets & charcoal.

Chocolate sandwiches had a slight cocoa flavor to them. The licorice slabs were less flavorful than the plain bites, I figure they must leach flavor into the fondant. The yellow layers were lightly lemon and the pink ones might be a slight strawberry.

Leaf Liquorice AllsortsI was fond of the blue jelly dots, though the nonpareil crunchies kind of fell off large parts of them, and there were only four in the whole bag. They’re still so cute ... I wonder how necessary the blue food coloring is and if anyone makes a white version. The jelly center is lightly anise, soft and smooth.

The little pink and yellow circles were coconut. There may have been some flavor in there as well, but the coconut was the big player here. The licorice centers were softer than the other pieces.

On the whole the Allsorts were pleasant. I found myself picking through the assortment and finding enough to eat in there and nothing left over at the end that I found so unpalatable that I would throw it out (and I’m not shy about throwing out candy I don’t like). They’re pretty to look at and don’t necessarily get stale even when left sitting open on my desk overnight.

Made in Denmark. I give them a 7 out of 10

Leaf Liquorice PipesFinally, thrown in the box amongst the bags of Allsorts & Schoolchalk were these little individually wrapped Liquorice Pipes.

I know that licorice shapes are pretty popular, and in many European countries there are dozens. Here in the states I think that licorce comes in whips (twists or laces) and perhaps Scottie dogs, and that’s pretty much it.

I have no idea how licorice and pipes became so intertwined, but from the first moment I opened this package, I felt that Leaf had this one nailed.

Leaf Liquorice Pipes

Not only is this piece of black, wheat flour based & molasses sweetened licorice shaped like an old tobacco pipe ... it has glowing pink embers in the bowl!

The licorice is softer and maybe even denser than the others, perhaps because they’re individually wrapped. They smell like toffee, anise and a little touch of sulfur, figs and banana notes. The licorice isn’t that strong, not like other “Finnish” licorice like Panda. It has more of a dark & mild spice cookie-like texture and flavor.

Made in Italy. I give them a 7 out of 10.

Leaf is a Finnish brand but available widely in Canada at drug stores & large retailers (WalMart, Dollarmax, London Drugs, etc.). In the United States they may be harder to find, so stick to import shops.

Overall, one of the cool things about licorice and the family of licorice candies is that it’s rather low in calories (usually about 100 to 110 calories per ounce), colorful and fun and with some fun flavor combinations. They can be very satisfying because of the wheat flour ingredient, but of course that means they’re unsuitable for those with wheat & gluten issues. Schoolchalk contains gelatin, so is not suitable for vegetarians.

Related Candies

  1. Darrell Lea Licorice & Ginger
  2. Young & Smylie Traditional Licorice
  3. Black Licorice Twists & Snaps
  4. Licorice Assortment
  5. Bassett’s Licorice Allsorts
  6. Dutch Licorice
Name: Schoolchalk, Allsorts & Liquorice Pipes
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Leaf
Place Purchased: samples from Leaf
Price: unknown
Size: 7 ounces, 10.6 ounces & .6 ounces
Calories per ounce: 106, 99 & unknown
Categories: Licorice, Italy

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:58 pm     Comments (17)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Marich Easter Select Mix

Marich Easter Select MixAs an impulse by at Gelson’s (one of the upscale grocery stores in Los Angeles), I picked up this Marich Easter Select Mix.

I thought the packaging was really nice, better than the crunchy stand up bags that I usually see these sorts of mixes in (the current version of the Jelly Belly Easter mix was on the same shelf). The sleeve slips off to reveal the clear box, which opens easily and can be used for serving in casual settings.

It was expensive, though, for a mix of sugar candy (there were three foil covered chocolate eggs).

The package was $6.99 for 12 ounces ($9.32 a pound).

Marich Easter Select Mix

The package describes the contents as A cheery Easter assortment of creams, milk chocolate eggs, mints and jelly eggs..

The colors are bright and pleasant and there is a really nice mix of shiny little candies, I definitely bought these for the looks.

There were only three Foiled Chocolate Eggs in my mix, which was fine with me as I wasn’t buying it for the chocolate anyway. I thought the foil was a little dated, but that really didn’t matter after I ate one. The chocolate is quite distinctive - very sticky and smooth, strong dairy and malt notes with some caramelized sugar in there ... really tasty. It’s a big change from Hershey’s or Dove.

Marich Easter Select Mix

The Easter Creams are a fondant, like Candy Corn. They come in a variety of different molds (chickens, rabbits, chicks and decorated eggs) and flavors (lime, lemon, strawberry, vanilla and something called Wildberry).

The creams are very firm and have a bit of a shiny shell on them (a confectionery glaze perhaps?). They don’t smell like much. The flavors are mild and exceptionally sweet. The texture is a bit crumbly but ultimately very smooth. I don’t know what this wildberry thing is, but it tastes like a cross between violet, bitterness and raspberry. My favorite was actually the lime followed by the vanilla. Lemon was good but far too close to flavorless and strawberry had a bigger pop of flavor but also an artificial color aftertaste for me.

Pectin EggsThe little Nonpareil Pectin Eggs were quite bright. The little crunchies are a combination of magenta, purple, orange, white and yellow ... quite a riot of colors. Which is too bad, because I’m pretty sure that the colors are what made the crunchies so incredibly bitter. I don’t know if there’s something going on with my tongue lately or these really are this weird.

The fun part though is the wonderfully smooth & tangy orange jelly inside. It’s a very firm and flavorful jelly, almost like a gummi. They brought to mind these gummis I had from Jelly Belly a few years back (that they don’t seem to make any longer).

I tried peeling them, but that was simply too much trouble.

Next were the huge Jelly Beans. They’re a full one inch long and have a slightly translucent quality to them.

The shell is thin and crisp, beneath that is a consistent grainy layer, then a smooth and light jelly center. The biggest disappointment was the clear one, which was pineapple. For some reason it was horribly bitter on the outside to me. I couldn’t figure it out, especially since I kept thinking when I ate them without looking that they were spiky blue (that something about my synesthesia).

Marich Easter Select MixThe Easter Holland Mints were the only other “chocolate” item in the mix. These were quite bit, bigger than the ones I get from Jelly Belly or Koppers.

The shell is flawless and shiny. It has a nice crunch to it, like an M&M. The dark chocolate beneath that is slightly bitter but otherwise creamy and mellow. The mint center is a soft but dry fondant (that’s uselessly colored light green). It’s a mild mint and the whole combination is great. There were only four in my mix, so I sadly didn’t get to enjoy many of them.

I’ve been seeing more Marich products in stores lately. I reviewed their Triple Chocolate Toffee a while back. I got a hold of a few handfuls of some of their chocolate items when I was working on a photo shoot for Candy Warehouse. I thought I’d share a few thoughts on those (not a full review):

Marich Capuccino AlmondsCapuccino Almonds

The almonds in my assortment were huge. Some of these pieces were an inch and a third long.

The almonds at the center are well toasted. The milk chocolate coating is a coffee flavored chocolate. It’s a nice combination, the coffee flavor tastes especially authentic (although a bit chalky towards the end, as I think they’re using real ground coffee in there).

Marich Dark Chocolate Covered GingerDark Chocolate Covered Candied Ginger

These little cubes of ginger have a thick and glossy coating of dark chocolate.

I always enjoy chocolate covered ginger and was frustrated when I bought it at Trader Joe’s and the pieces were a bit sticky. These are perfectly sealed in the chocolate shells. The ginger is at once woodsy and warming. The extra sugar balances it all out with some texture and sweetness.

Marich Raspberry Cheesecake

The Raspberry Chocolate Cheesecake was definitely the unique one in the bunch.

It’s a real dried raspberry center. Then it’s covered in dark chocolate. Then a white chocolate coating with a final veneer of raspberry flavor on that.

The tangy raspberry dusting mixes with the sweet and milky white chocolate to give that cheesecake flavor (or maybe more of a yogurt flavor). The real raspberry center certainly has a pop to it ... and a lot of texture which includes the seeds. The dark chocolate seems to enhance the seedy flavors. This one simply doesn’t work for me.

Pastel Chocolate CranberriesAlso on the red side of things were the Pastel Chocolate Cranberries.

The outside is a red-colored white chocolate, then a little layer of chocolate. The center is a dried cranberry.

What I liked about these were how tart and intense the cranberries seemed to be. I eat dried cranberries quite often, but they’re usually sweetened. If there were sweetened, it certainly wasn’t too much. The tangy chew of the soft and moist berries went well with the otherwise flavorless red shell.

A few other items I tried were a Peanut Butter Caramel that had a caramel ball center, a layer of peanut butter and then a thin chocolate shell dusted in confectionery sugar. The caramel wasn’t quite chewy enough for me so all the textures melded together.

I also tried a hard crunchy shell chocolate covered caramel. They looked like quail eggs. I can’t quite describe it, it was like a chocolate creme brulee.

They make a Dark Chocolate Covered Toffee Almond, rather similar to the Sconza one I tried a few years ago. The dark chocolate was good quality, nice and buttery. The nuts were well toasted, sometimes it seemed a little too much so though. The toffee was crunchy and crisp.

On the whole, they’re an inventive company that makes a lot of really fun products. Most are great quality, I would love to see them decrease the amount of artificial colorings (they do make a line of all-naturals, too).

Related Candies

  1. Milk Maid Caramel Apple Candy Corn
  2. Big Bite Gummy Bear
  3. Smooth n Melty
  4. Gourmet Goodies Candy Corn
  5. Krunchy Bears
Name: Easter Select Mix
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Marich Confectionery
Place Purchased: Gelson's (Silverlake) - plus samples from Candy Warehouse
Price: $6.99
Size: 12 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Jelly, Fondant, Mint, United States Easter

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:38 am     Comments (6)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

House Brand Creme Eggs

While some folks find the Cadbury Creme Egg to be the ultimate achievement in Easter confectionery, be warned that there are some pretenders to that throne. At the stores this year I found two such “knock offs.”

Generic Eggs & Cadbury

I found Walgreen’s and CVS had their own eggs this year. The CVS brand is called Absolutely Divine and comes in gold foil with a purple and black logo ... which made me wonder if they were a dark chocolate product. The Walgreen’s version is in primary/secondary colors and comes in both the Creme Egg and Caramel Egg.

Easter Eggs: Creme & Caramel (Walgreens)What could a store brand have to offer? Well, the first thing I noticed about these CCE simulations is that they’re bigger. In fact the shelf box for the Walgreen’s said that they’re 14% larger. These eggs are like the once powerful Cadbury Creme Eggs in their original 1.38 ounce size (CCE are now 1.2 ounces).

Walgreen’s had these generic looking Creme Eggs on sale this past weekend for 40 cents each, which is not much less than an actual Cadbury Creme Egg. What I found so surprising is that I’ve been to that Walgreen’s at least twice before during this Easter season and these weren’t out on the shelves.

It was tough to read the wrapper. What I did get was that these are made in Canada and the chocolate shell is made of real chocolate.

Walgreen's Creme EggThe shell has a little line design on it, not the same as the Cadbury Creme Egg, so at least they’re using different molds.

Biting into the egg was a bit tough. It’s a thick shell and I was greeted with a creme that resembled a cordial more than the fondant than I was used to.

The difference between the egg white and egg yolk wasn’t quite apparent, though the best I could tell was there were two different colors of fondant in there. The center was sticky and inconsistent. Sweet, flavorless with little patches of clotted graininess.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Walgreen's Caramel EggThe Walgreen’s Caramel Egg comes in a purple wrapper. It was pretty easy to unwrap, but it felt quite heavy.

Biting it was similarly difficult to the Creme version - the shell is thick and almost solid on either end with only a minor void for the caramel at the center.

The caramel isn’t chewy or flowing. Instead it’s more of a pudding-like goo. As far a flavor though, it’s like a good caramel pudding, it’s very smooth and has some toasted sugar flavors. The chocolate shell is a bit hard, a little grainy and very milky tasting.

As far as this brand goes, I rather liked this Caramel Egg ... not enough to buy it again, but as a simulation of the venerable original, it at least meets expectations.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Absolutely Divine (CVS)The CVS Absolutely Divine Creme Egg didn’t look like much in the store. There was no explanation on the display box, and actually finding the “creme egg” part on the wrapper was pretty tough sleuthing that involved carefully flattening the foil after unwrapping.

I fully expected these to be made in Canada like the Walgreen’s counterpart ... that they just came spilling off the line to be randomly divided into different groups for different foil wrappers. This was more shocking when I read that they have identical ingredients and molding. But origins aside, the important part is how much they cost and how they taste.

I paid 50 cents each for these.

CVS Absolutely Divine EggThe egg was similarly thick-shelled.

The creme center was also similarly inconsistent, though not quite as flowing as the Walgreen’s version.

The chocolate shell was disgusting. It tasted like roasted cardboard. Musty, grainy and overly sweetened, perhaps steamed cardboard.

The sweet filling was completely overpowered by this too-much-bad-shell. And the name, well, they’re absolutely not divine.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

I have one other piece of not-so-shocking info. These are all sticky. Not something to be eaten while using a keyboard.

What I came away with is this: if you love Cadbury Creme Eggs, buy Cadbury Creme Eggs. If you don’t like Cadbury Creme Eggs, these aren’t going to persuade you that they’re a great candy. Spend the extra eight cents or whatever the price difference is and get the real stuff.

Related Candies

  1. Cream Drops versus Creme Drops
  2. Junior Fruit Cremes
  3. Vanilla Creme Kisses
  4. Cadbury Canadian Creme Eggs
  5. Cadbury Orange Creme Eggs
  6. Cadbury Mini Eggs
Name: Creme Eggs & Caramel Egg
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Walgreen's & CVS
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park) & CVS (3rd & Fairfax)
Price: $.40 & $.50
Size: 1.38 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Fondant, United States, Canada, Designer Imposter, Easter

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:45 am     Comments (14)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Manhattan Chocolates Dipped Mint Cremes

Manhattan Chocolates Chocolate Dipped Mint Cremes - Kosher for PassoverTonight marks the start of Passover (the 15th of the month Nisan).

The dietary restrictions during Passover not only mean no grains, chometz, except for matzo meal but also no kitniot (legumes). This means a lot of the ingredients commonly used for candy preparation are forbidden during this festival. No peanuts is obvious, but also no corn syrup, no soy lecithin, no cornstarch, no soy or canola oil.

Most observant Jews I know simply go without candy during this time or stick to the tried-and-true holiday specialties like macaroons or chocolate dipped matzo. I know that it’s possible to make great candy that’s Kosher for Passover - something that goes beyond the mediocre Manischewitz molded chocolate items.

The Gelson’s Market near my house had a nice display of Passover items near the entrance and I was pleased to see a few more upscale and decadent items than the common jelly slices. I picked out these Chocolate Dipped Mint Cremes from Manhattan Chocolates.

Manhattan Chocolates Chocolate Dipped Mint Cremes - Kosher for Passover

The box was pretty, just green themed on white with chocolate drip along the top. Inside it was a little less upscale. The mint cremes are nestled in little cubbies in a plastic tray, which isn’t such a big deal, except that the candies were much smaller than their little nooks, so they rattled around quite a bit when I carried them home ... and is probably why they look a bit scuffed. (A piece of that fluffy, corrugated waxed paper would probably help.)

The ingredients look great: Chocolate (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, vanilla), sugar, tapioca syrup, natural and artificial flavors. (During the rest of the year there’s soy lecithin in the chocolate and corn syrup instead of the tapioca syrup.)

There are 15 pieces in the box, which holds 6 ounces (so each piece is .4 ounces).

They’re rather tall, more like a cream chocolate than a patty, a little larger in diameter than a quarter.

The chocolate shell is nicely done, no voids or little leaky spots. They smell sweet and a bit like toasty hot chocolate. There’s only a slight whiff of mint.

Once I bit into one, the cream revealed its mintness. It’s soft, the cream is quite silky with only a slight small grain to it. It’s not flowing soft like a Junior Mint and not hard and crumbly like a York Peppermint Pattie ... just a bit in between.

The dark chocolate shell is sweet and not quite bitter enough to offset the very sweet center. But overall it’s a very good post-Seder treat to refresh the palate after those bitter herbs.

I wouldn’t call these glorious or anything, but if I were in a week where I was limited in my choices, the Manhattan Chocolates seem very promising as a line. They’re also lactose free - all year round.

Carl at the National Confectioners Association also found that Oh Nuts! has a great selection (and there’s still time to order before Passover ends).

Related Candies

  1. Ritter Sport Peppermint
  2. Mint Cremes from the Makers of Jelly Belly
  3. Sweet Earth Chocolate Cups
  4. Joyva Joys
  5. Halvah and Turkish Delight
  6. Candy Source: Economy Candy, NYC
  7. Manischewitz Frolic Bears
Name: Chocolated Dipped Mint Cremes
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Manhattan Chocolates
Place Purchased: Gelson's (Silverlake)
Price: $2.99 (on sale!)
Size: 6 ounces
Calories per ounce: 121
Categories: Chocolate, Mint, Fondant, United States, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:53 am     Comments (5)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ritter Sport Peppermint

Ritter Sport PeppermintHere’s another item I knew was coming out but it took me months to find it. Ritter Sport Peppermint isn’t exactly new, but newly available in the United States.

It’s a simple bar, described on the wrapper as dark chocolate with peppermint filling. I fully expected it to be like a molded York Peppermint Pattie.

Ritter Sport PeppermintWhere this is different from the York Peppermint Pattie is fat. While a York is marketed as a lowfat food, it clocks in with a smidge from the dark chocolate coating, about 2.5 g per 39 g serving.

Ritter Sport Peppermint, on the other hand, has a liberal amount of fat in it, about 11 g per 38 g serving. At first I thought it was because there is more chocolate, ratio-wise, in the Ritter Sport. But looking at the ingredients, it lists palm kernel oil in there (which I’m guessing isn’t in the chocolate, since it does say it’s chocolate and not a chocolate flavored shell).

Some would find that disconcerting, or perhaps even a reason to eschew it. I, on the other hand, have often wondered what a fattier York Peppermint Pattie would be like.

image

The bar was lovely to look at. Glossy and dark, though not as dark as some dark chocolates. It smells mostly of peppermint, delicate and refreshing with a little acidic twang.

The snap of the chocolate was good. It broke along the segments easily and there was no sticky goo emerging from the margins. Biting into an invididual segment though, that was a very nice feeling. The chocolate shell keeps its shape well, not shattering into a bazillion flakes.

The mint filling is silky smooth, whatever fat is in there is doing a wonderful job of keeping it from becoming a fudgy blob or a crystallized chunk. Instead it’s almost like a white chocolate truffle - sweet and minty but not watery or milky. The chocolate is buttery smooth as well, and melts readily but without any sort of greasy tastelessness. It’s a little bitter, a little dry and the perfect balance for the sweet center.

I don’t know why Ritter Sport hasn’t sent this to the States before, it’s definitely not like other chocolate & mint fondant options here, so it’s allowed to occupy its own niche. I hope it’s not seasonal, because I think this is a perfect item for a crisp fall picnic. (I give these suggestions as if I live this sort of life, which I don’t, but go ahead and imagine it.)

Jim’s Chocolate Mission has been doing an awesome job documenting far more Ritter Sport than I’ve been able to. (Of interest to me are the Trauben Cashew, Neapolitan Waffle and the Voll Erdnuss.)

Related Candies

  1. Christmas Mint Round Up
  2. Ritter Sport White Chocolate with Hazelnuts
  3. Junior Mints Deluxe
  4. Ritter Darks
  5. Ritter Sport Capuccino and Rum Trauben Nuss
  6. York Pinkermint Patties
Name: Small World Chocolates: Select Origin
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Ritter Sport
Place Purchased: Cost Plus (Third & Fairfax)
Price: $1.99
Size: 3.53 ounces
Calories per ounce: 142
Categories: Chocolate, Mint, Germany, Ritter Sport

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:49 am     Comments (16)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Mint Round Up

I’m buried in mints! So here’s a huge roundup of all the mint items in my queue that I wanted to get through before Christmas.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate MintsLike the Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows I picked up a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints come in a cute round tin and hold 2.45 ounces. Unlike the Espresso Pillows, these are not a very original product.

Inside the tin is a fluted liner that holds a large handful of soft, white candy-shelled mints. Each is about the size of a kidney bean. The tin says that there are no artificial flavors or preservatives. I think they shy from the “all natural” part because the white shell is created with titanium dioxide.

They reminded me of the classic Dutch Mints and luckily I had some of those around for comparison.

image

Jelly Belly makes a large variety of Dutch Mints. They come in different colors, these are all hot pink and individually wrapped, though you can also get them in the stark white, pastel mint colors or right now in the Christmas assortment of red, green and white. (And they’re Kosher.)

The Dutch Mint is the size of a garbanzo bean but my guess is the same mass as the TJ’s.

They’re both the same construction, a soft mint fondant with a thin layer or dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.

Both are lovely and addictive. The Trader Joe’s retails for $1.22 an ounce. The Jelly Belly can go for anywhere from $.70 an ounce for the small 2.9 ounce bag to $.56 for a one pound tub (check out Cost Plus World Market).

Jelly Belly Dutch Mints get a rating of: 8 out of 10
Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints get a rating of: 7 out of 10 because they’re so expensive.

These also closely resemble the York Mints that also come in a tin.

Divine After Dinner MintsThe previous are great for toting around and especially nice if a restaurant gives you a few with the check. But if you’re entertaining, you might want to provide some other more chocolatey mint morsels.

I’ve always loved After Eight Mints, which are a flowing mint fondant in an ultra thin square. I used to love how they came in individual glassine envelopes, like a little file box of deliciousness.

Of course After Eights are made by Nestle now and not nearly as good as I remember them on top of the controversies that they’re made from questionably sourced chocolate. The Fair Trade movement has been working to bring families and communities out of poverty through fair payment for goods & services.

Divine Chocolate has been doing this since 1998 in the United Kingdom and recently expanded into the United States. Not only do they have tasty bars they also have addition treats like these Divine After Dinner Mints.

image

The mints are nicely sized for two bites at about 1.5” square. The mild semi-sweet chocolate is crisp and cracks well. The mint fondant center is creamy and minted only slightly so as not to overpower the chocolate. The dark chocolate has some berry and fruity tones that combine well with the cool peppermint flavors.

I’ve seen these at Whole Foods (at an endcap display for hostess giving), so they should be pretty widely available this season.

Divine After Dinner Mints get a rating of 7 out of 10.

Creme de Menthe Altoids

Creme de Menthe Altoids have been out for a few months, though it took me a while to find the variety that isn’t covered in chocolate. I realized that I might have seen them before, the green of the package is only slightly lighter than the Spearmint boxes. These were on sale for $1.50 to boot!

Basically the flavor of these is like a Peppermint TicTac. It has a powdery vanilla scent, softer than a harsh peppermint and perhaps just a hint of licorice.

But these are Altoids. Though they might start out mild, they do pack a much stronger kick later on. I like the flavor a bit better than the straight Peppermint if only because of the mix of aromas.

Creme de Menthe Altoids get a rating of 8 out of 10.

King Leo Soft Peppermint BallsQuite a few folks have been lamenting that Trader Joe’s discontinued their English Soft Peppermints. I’m pretty keen on the generic & mild butter mints I find at the drug store, but those were some pretty good mints.

Around this time of year, however, I see a lot of these See’s Peppermint Twists in candy dishes around the office. It took me a while, but I think I found out who makes them. There were two contenders: King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy or Bob’s Sweet Stripes.

I saw this box of King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy at the 99 Cent Only Store and thought I’d give them a whirl. They were a dollar for 3.5 ounces.

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I thought they were “butter mints” and read through this to see how I came to that conclusion:

For over one hundred years, King Leo has made delicious peppermint stick candy using only the purest ingredients and old-fashioned care. Now we’ve taken that same quality and care and created new King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy. The same great King Leo taste folks have come to expect, now in a truly soft new candy [emphasis mine] Thanks to a special process we’ve perfected, these bite-sized treats are soft from the moment you open the box. [emphasis mine] No wonder everyone loves King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy so much.

So I was expecting a soft mint. Either crumbly soft or mushy soft.

These were neither. They’re soft as in rounded and smooth, but after that they were not butter mints until I sucked on them for a while. Which is kind of the opposite of “soft from the moment you open the box”. Annoyance aside, they’re peppermint candies. They are airy and dissolve nicely and of course none of those hard candy sharp edges. They’re sweet and a bit less intense than a starlight mint and really pretty to look at. Like those English Soft Peppermints that were really made in the Netherlands, King Leo are made in Mexico. Kosher.

King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy gets a 6 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cream Drops versus Creme Drops

Vermont Country Store Cream DropsA few months ago I saw Creme Drops at the 99 Cent Store, but since it was hot out, I didn’t pick them. Then I saw Robby’s review on Candy Addict of the Necco variety and I thought maybe I’d made the right decision.

But then I saw these on the website for the Vermont Country Store and made a mental note. Well, that mental note didn’t sit there too long because a couple of weeks later VCS wanted me to try some of their candy and I specifically requested their Assorted Cream Drops.

Since it’s finally gotten cool in Los Angeles, chocolate shipping produces less anxiety than the other 8 months of the year. (They’re packaging for shipping was great, too, by the way. Everything arrived in great shape.)

Vermont Country Store Cream DropsThe best part of the description on their website: real chocolate.

The rest of the description is rather vague. The name they use is Chocolate-Covered Cream Drop Assortment with 6 Luscious Flavors but the box never actually list the flavors by name (but digging around on the description page does yield the list).

And the drops all look exactly the same.

So I set about picking them out of the box and cutting them in half, like it was some sort of logic puzzle like mine sweeper.

After eight of them (three were Lemon and not in a row), I determined that they are randomly loaded into the box. The dividers in the box do a great job of protecting the candies without any fussy papers. (Eventually I found that sniffing them carefully did allow me to pick out orange or maple, but then again, who wants one that I’ve held up to my nose? I think I’m better off poking holes in the bottom.)

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Yellow = Lemon: sweet and creamy but a little like a scented candle. The bittersweet chocolate shell set the mellow center off quite nicely. It’s not very zesty, just a light aromatic lemon. All of the pieces had sugar grains in it though, unlike the other flavors. I’m guessing this was just a manufacturing glitch.

Beige = Maple: I could often sniff this one out, the maple flavor was quite pungent. It combined well with the sweet and slightly stringy fondant center.

Orange = Orange: reminded me of a creamsicle. Sweet and with a good mouthfeel and a nice chocolate note that cut that almost-too-sweetness of it.

Pink = Raspberry: this interior was very bright pink, which alerted me that this was probably the one with the Red Dye #40. It was all about the floral and perfumey flavors, not much of the rich tangy berry in there.

Brown = Chocolate: this is the mellowest of the bunch. It’s not so much chocolatey as just less sweet and slightly creamier. The filling is not quite silky, but the gooeyness is more than pleasant.

White = Vanilla: tastes exactly like a Junior Mint without the mint. The fondant center is wonderfully smooth, the chocolate becomes the star. It melts easily though admittedly the whole thing is very sweet. I would recommend eating these with strong black coffee or black tea.

These are a quality product. The consistency of the fondant center was fresh and glossy, the chocolate was good. They’re not really something that I would eat on a regular basis, when I have a box of mixed chocolates, I usually leave the creams for last so actually buying a box of creams isn’t something I’m likely to do. I prefer the slightly fattier creams that Fannie Mae (we had a box of those at the office recently) or See’s make. But if you’ve always wished that Junior Mints came in other flavors or perhaps want a less chocolatey or dark chocolate version of a Cadbury Creme Egg, then this might be for you.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Zachary Creme DropsI saw the Zachary version of Old Fashioned Creme Drops at the 99 Cent Only Store, this time with a festive wreath on them, so I figured they were fresh so I bought them.

The description on the package says: Creme Filled Center with Smooth Chocolate Flavored Coating!. So yeah, it’s mockolate. (But at least their snowflakes have six points.)

I had hopes though, since it’s also a full 12 ounces ... for only a dollar? That’s quite a value there. A one pound box of sugar is about $1.19 at my local grocery store.

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Because they’re bagged and not in a box with little partitions, they are a little more scuffed than the Vermont Country Store variety. (But again, the price difference is absurd - VCS are $1.25 an ounce and Zachary’s are 8.3 cents an ounce.)

They also only come in one flavor, plain. (Or perhaps I should call it vanilla, but there is no vanilla or vanilla flavor listed on the ingredients.)

The shell is mockolate but has a dark, toasted scent.

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The bite of the Zachary candy (left) is vastly different from the soft and glossy VCS variety (right). This is a solid fondant, similar to the center of a York Peppermint Pattie.

The texture is smooth, but crumbly, kind of like an albino fudge.

I rather liked the center but the mockolate coating ruined it for me. It was sweet and had that stale Easter essence. It’s rather sad, I’d gladly take 1/3 of the quantity at twice the price if they were real chocolate because the centers are pretty good.

I can recommend these for people who already love them (and I shouldn’t quibble with folks who like what they like). I can recommend these for placing as a decoration on a tray of cookies or perhaps adding to a dessert plate when you’re really in a crunch and don’t like your guests (or know that they all have colds and would simply appreciate the fondant texture).

Rating: 3 out of 10

I kind of wish both varieties came in mint.

Related Candies

  1. Mint Cremes from the Makers of Jelly Belly
  2. Junior Fruit Cremes
  3. Cadbury Ornament Creme Egg
  4. Zachary Candy Corn & Jelly Pumpkins
  5. Cadbury Orange Creme Eggs
  6. York Chocolate Mint Truffle Pattie
Name: Assorted Cream Drops & Old Fashioned Creme Drops
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Vermont Country Store & Zachary
Place Purchased: samples from VCS & 99 Cent Only Store (Silverlake)
Price: $19.95 & $1.00
Size: 16 ounces & 12 ounces
Calories per ounce: 105 & 112
Categories: Chocolate, Fondant, Mockolate, United States, Zachary

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:10 pm     Comments (12)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Candy Place Harvest Mix

Candy Place Harvest MixWhen I was a kid and we’d go to the Halloween Parade in town (Mechanicsburg, PA, if you’re curious), both folks from the floats and those watching from the sidewalks would throw corn. (Not on the cob, silly! Just dried feed corn.) I don’t know why we did it, but I kind of likened it to the harvest version of throwing rice at weddings.

This fun little remembrance has nothing to do with anything. Except that I was recently in Mechanicsburg and that it’s National Candy Corn Day and it made me think of throwing corn.

I picked up this Giant Eagle Candy Place Harvest Mix in Ohio. I believe they’re made by Mayfair. Though the colors looked rather faded in the package and the already known-quantity of the Brach’s Halloween Mix was on the shelves, too, I really wanted to try it. At 99 cents, the risk was minimal.

Candy Place Harvest Mix

The assortment was much more broad than Brach’s. First, none of the shapes were assigned a particular color/flavor. Second, there were a lot of different shapes and this mix included both candy corn and Indian corn.

The shapes I found were: owl, skull & bones, pumpkin, jack-o-lantern, cat, witch, ear of corn, bat and mellowcreme pumpkin. The colors were orange, tan, yellow and brown.

The whole bag smelled kind of like band-aids and maple syrup.

Orange mellowcremes tasted like marshmallows and honey. Soft, smooth, very little grain and an even and sweet taste.

The tan shapes had a slight maple flavor to them and were my favorite in the bunch even though they lacked the touch of honey that the orange had.

The brown had a caramel and cocoa note, but it wasn’t very pronounced and seemed much sweeter than the other flavors.

Yellow tasted just like orange, which wasn’t a bad thing overall.

The candy corn were exceptionally smooth and had that light kiss of honey ... really good stuff.

While I didn’t like them as much as the Brach’s, this particular variety had no gelatin in it (but did have egg whites) and was made in the USA so there are many reasons why folks might prefer it.

Even though the colors aren’t as vibrant and the flavors not quite as remarkable it is a quality product and certainly worth the 99 cents I paid.

Related Candies

  1. Brach’s Chocolate Candy Corn & Halloween Mix
  2. Zachary Candy Corn & Jelly Pumpkins
  3. Candy Corn Kisses
  4. Brach’s Autumn Mix
Name: Harvest Mix
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Candy Place (Mayfair)
Place Purchased: Giant Eagle (Liberty, OH)
Price: $.99
Size: 9 ounces
Calories per ounce: 106
Categories: Fondant, United States, Halloween

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:22 am     Comments (4)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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COUNTDOWN

Halloween Candy Season Ends

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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Candy Cliches

• 15 Caramel Apple Candies

• Pumpkin Spice Candy Roundup

• Seattle Chocolates Devil’s Delight Bar

• SweetWorks Celebration Candies - Bears

 

 

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