Monday, October 25, 2010
So around Christmas sometimes I’ll pick up the Butterfinger Jingles, which are bells made of milk chocolate with Butterfinger crunch pieces. It’s been a while though, so when I saw these Nestle Butterfinger Pumpkins I thought it was great that I could pick up a modestly sized version instead of a big bag. They were on sale, two for a dollar but they also come in a tray of 6 which seemed to be priced higher per piece at Target.
The chocolate disk is nicely designed and molded. I liked the dimensionality of it and the fanciful face that incorporated not only the carving but the strong ribs of the pumpkin shape. It smelled pretty appealing too, like chocolate and roasted peanuts with a touch of toffee. So far so good.
After that first bite pictured there, I was tempted to spit this out. It was waxy and sweet with no chocolate flavor at all. But I thought maybe I was spoiled because I was also photographing some Ritter Sport at the same time (which naturally required a few bites as well). So I tucked away the rest and give it a few days.
With the second bite I still thought it was a mixture of greasy and waxy chocolate, but the cocoa flavors came through a little stronger. There’s a mix of toasted peanut flavors and a hint of bitterness along with the barely passable chocolate. The chips of the Butterfinger center save this candy from being completely inedible. They’re a little salty and have a mixture of molasses and peanut butter flavors.
While I’ve been finding that Wonka candies have been improving in quality, this Butterfinger Pumpkin doesn’t taste as good as the Jingles I remember. In fact, it’s pretty terrible and makes me wish I could find the Clark Wicked Mix in my area.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I’ve honestly been curious why I don’t see all natural or organic Candy Corn this time of year. But here’s something pretty close. I found this little container at Whole Foods. They call them Marich Cream Jellybeans but they’re really mellocremes or fondant.
They’re all natural and come in a delightful variety of colors and shapes. There are bats, crescent moons, witches on brooms, owls and cats. I picked out a mix that was as evenly randomized as I could detect. They came in little box like a take out container, only made of a clear polyester-plastic that’s easy to open and close.
The candy was on the expensive side for something that’s all sugar, $5.99 a pound (far less expensive than the other mixes that I’ve picked up). But they were cute and I haven’t bought much for Halloween this year because there have been so few new products.
The pieces are about an inch to an inch and a quarter at their longest. Some were particularly flat, like the Witch and Cat, which means that they were a little dryer and firmer than the thick ones like the Crescent Moon. They all stand up on their sides except for the moon, which naturally wants to be curve side down. (I held that one up with a little piece of sticky clay for the photo.)
Cocoa Brown - I hesitate to actually call this chocolate flavored because it doesn’t taste at all like chocolate, but cocoa is listed on the ingredients so that appears to be the intention. It’s a little woodsy and less sweet than the others. There are notes of honey, toffee, rum and coconut. This flavor also seemed moister than the others, no matter what shape it was, not sticky just not as dry.
Orange - a creamsicle sort of orange flavor, mostly zest but not intense at all. The color and the flavor wasn’t that different from the yellow.
Yellow - lemon in the softest and sweetest way possible. Just a hint of lemon peel and maybe a little note of honey.
White - was unflavored, I’d call them a light vanilla. They taste a bit like marshmallows, pretty clean overall but of course sweet.
The texture was a little firmer than Candy Corn, but very smooth with a fast dissolve. They have a strong sheen on them, some more than others. There’s a glaze on them (confectioners glaze plus beeswax and carnauba wax) which means that they don’t stick together but also don’t dissolve immediately.
The owl reminds me of those macrame owls from the seventies.
It’s expensive for sugar candy, as I mentioned, but for a small bowl of candy matched to a Halloween or even harvest theme, they’re a great choice.
They remind me of carved alabaster or soapstone figures. I can see that these are more sophisticated than brightly colored, strongly flavored kids fare ... but I can also imagine that there are kids out there would would love to play with these like edible chess pieces.
I’ve complained before that Marich’s excessive food colorings in their Easter Mix get in the way of my enjoyment of their holiday novelty candies, so it’s great to see that these are not only less expensive than those but also truer in their flavor profile. I’m in love with Marich’s all natural and organic lines. I’d still like these to have more intense flavors and maybe more variation (like maple, honey and better cocoa) but I could still pick up the Brach’s Halloween Mix for that.
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.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Since this is the sixth Halloween I’ve covered on Candy Blog, it’s hard to find Halloween candies to feature that I haven’t reviewed before. So I thought I’d do a run down of what I’ve been seeing in stores again this year for the Halloween Season. These are just candies that are special to Halloween, not regular candy in large bags or with special wrappers.
FARLEY’S & SATHERS (BRACH’S)
NESTLE & WONKA
RUSSELL STOVER & WHITMANS
What have you seen in stores ... or what have you had trouble finding this year?
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
About 15 years ago Tootsie introduced a new lollipop. Like many of Tootsie popular lollipops it was a combination of two already famous candies. In this case the Tootsie Caramel Apple Pops combined a hard candy with caramel. It was a base of green apple flavored hard candy covered with a hard caramel (think Sugar Daddy).
Since they candy is meant to mimic a caramel covered apple, it only makes sense that other varieties of apples get their day in the sun. Last year Tootsie introduced their Assorted Apple Orchard Caramel Apple Pops. The bag has a variety: Green Apple, Golden Delicious and Red Macintosh.
I admit that I’ve had these before, well, I’ve had Green Apple pops in my possession before. I used to do product photography, so I’d get large quantities of candy to take pictures of and then I’d get to keep it. I had huge box of these and never actually ate one myself. They’re messy, the packaging doesn’t really highlight them well either. Worse, I saw them being made on TV (I think it was Unwrapped, but can’t find a mention of it on the Food Network website) and they look radically different when purchased than when they roll off the production line.
They’re puckered and irregular and often little bits of caramel poke out of the bottom of the wrapper. But I actually like Sugar Daddy and regular Tootsie Pops, so I should give these a fair shake.
The pops start with a hard candy disk, in this case flavored like green apple. Then the pop gets a coating of hard caramel and then a wrapper. During shipping and storage there’s some sort of glaciation that takes place and the pop flattens and takes on the shape of the wrapper. The hard candy gets marbled with the caramel.
The hard caramel is smooth and sweet with a light toasted sugar flavor with a hint of milk. The green apple candy is slick, without the painfully sharp edged voids of Tootsie Pops and Blow Pops. They’re not as intensely flavored as Jolly Ranchers, just a tart apple flavor. They’re comforting and mellow.
My main complaint is the width of the pop, it’s a little too wide for my mouth. The edges tend to be irregular, kind of rippled from the wrapper, this is uncomfortable when sucking on the pops after a while. The whole pop will eventually be soft and pliable and of course stick to the roof of my mouth if I’m not careful (I’m sure those impressions are like fingerprints).
The Golden Delicious variety comes in a mustard yellow wrapper. In the real fruit world, golden delicious are not on my list of favorite apples - I find them too sweet and often mealy. In the case of the candy version of the golden delicious, neither of those qualities was an issue. The scent of this pop was actually very apple like, it reminded me of peeling apples.
The apple flavor is muted and sweet and doesn’t quite stand up to the caramel as well. It’s almost like applesauce or apple pie a la mode (with caramel sauce).
I was glad that Tootsie didn’t go with red delicious on this one, instead it’s Red Macintosh which is a much more flavorful apple. The pop in this case is kind of in the middle of the flavor profile gamut - it’s not as intense or fake tasting as the Green Apple, but a little bolder than the Golden Delicious. The flavor of the red candy part was like an apple cider - notes of the apple peel and juice but still on the sweet side.
Getting over the messy look of these is a bit difficult, but the candy inside definitely has merits. I don’t see buying them for myself again but I love the idea and think that Tootsie did a great job of making the flavors distinctive enough. The pops are only 60 calories. The combination of textures and flavors makes these a good treat for those watching their calories.
Monday, October 4, 2010
I can’t think of another candy that embodies the description humble American treat better than Mary Jane. First there’s the fact that they originated in Paul Revere’s house in Boston by the Chas. N. Miller Company. Second, they’re made from molasses and peanut butter, two hearty American flavors. The wax paper packaging has remained largely unchanged (undated old wrapper & advertisement from 1927).
The Chas. N. Miller Company was bought by Stark Candy in 1985, and Stark was bought up by Necco in 1990.
Necco has kept the traditional candy largely intact. When I was a kid Mary Jane were still a penny candy, sold out of tubs positioned near the cash register at convenience stores. These days they still go for pocket change, I’ve seen them for 10 cents each at retro candy shops.
The candy is simple, a rich and stiff molasses taffy rectangle with a small reservoir of peanut butter in the center.
I stopped eating Mary Janes about 15 years ago when it seemed that every time I bought them they were hard and crackly. But I’ve had better luck around Halloween when they’re fresh and packaged directly by Necco (beware of other repackagers like the generic drug store brands).
The chew is a little tough at first but softens with a bit of work and warmth. The taffy isn’t too sweet and has a toasted, earthy flavor from the molasses (the fourth ingredient). The peanut butter strip in the middle is undependable at best. Some pieces have a generous filling that gives the candy a beautifully balance of roasted nuts and burnt sugar. The chew is smooth and has a consistent flavor from start to finish.
I find them irresistible. So much so that I’m on my third bag since September.
The mix contains a four flavor variations: Peanut Butter & Jelly, Peanut Butter & Banana, Smores and Peanut Butter & Vanilla. What you might notice is missing from that list is the classic Molasses & Peanut Butter Mary Jane. Unlike the Clark Wicked Mix, which contains the classic milk chocolate Clark plus the Dark Clark and Coconut Clark, this mix doesn’t have the original. (Which is how I got into this messy Mary Jane addiction in the first place, I had to buy a bag to do this post ... and then I ate them so I had to buy another bag, and another.)
The little wrappers are similar to the original. They’re a thick waxed paper that protects the candy well and releases except when they get too warm. My bag was a little bit oily, which I blame on the peanut butter. The candies were all soft and easy to chew, but the wrappers were sometimes just a little bit greasy to the touch.
The wrappers have the same bold black bookface font for the Mary Jane logo and have the little cartoon of the Mary Jane character. They’re color coded for the flavors (they don’t have the flavors named on them) but don’t have the red stripe.
The version that immediately made the most sense to me is the Banana & Peanut Butter Mary Jane.
The yellow waxed paper looks brighter than the original because the taffy beneath is a pale yellow instead of a medium beige. It smells like fake banana and a little like peanut butter. The chew is soft and immediately reminiscent of Circus Peanut. The peanut butter, on the pieces that have a generous quantity, cuts the sweetness and artificiality to create a pretty good candy. It was definitely the one that I was reaching for in this mix.
The raspberry red wrapper gave me a little bit of hope on the Peanut Butter & Jelly Mary Jane, which is good because the idea of a grape taffy filled with peanut butter was not appetizing.
The taffy was lightly tangy and tasted a little like grape Pixy Stix. The chew was softer, so much softer than the rest that it was a completely different texture of chew. The peanut butter did a good job of covering the disappointing grape jelly effect, but not good enough to make me want to keep eating these after the review was over. Thankfully there were only a half a dozen of these in my big bag of 85 pieces.
I wasn’t quite sure what a Smore Mary Jane was supposed to be. I liked the look of the dark brown wrapper and I thought maybe it’d be a cocoa flavored taffy.
Sadly the flavor note they were going for here was toasted marshmallow with peanut butter. That’s a great idea, but I needed more darkness to the whole thing and less fake vanilla sweetness. A little cocoa would have been nice, too.
The Vanilla & Peanut Butter Mary Jane got me to thinking about another vanilla taffy filled with peanut butter, the Annabelle’s Abba-Zaba.
RiteAid always has Abba-Zabas, so I went by and picked up a bar to compare. (While I was there I bought bag #2 of the classic Mary Janes.)
The Abba-Zaba taffy is sweet but silky smooth in the chew, it’s almost warm and buttery. But it’s also sweet, a little sweeter than I’m keen on. The peanut butter is thick and has a strong flavor to it, the proportion or perhaps that there was so much of it in one place gave it a lot more prominence than in any of the Mary Janes.
The Vanilla Mary Jane is like a bleached out sea shell, missing all the beauty and character of the original. The fake vanilla taffy is okay and I admit that it does give the peanut butter more dominance. But the whole thing is just too sweet and bland. The Abba-Zaba wins based on its superior texture and better balance of peanut butter.
Overall, this experience has proved that the Mary Jane deserves to endure untouched for all these years (96 years!). I can see this variety being fun for kids who might be turned off by the smoky notes of the molasses original.
More on Mary Jane at the Bewildered Brit.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Most of what I love about Halloween is the tradition. But sometimes I do like to see a bit of novelty thrown into the mix. Earlier this year I saw that Whitman’s, makers of the famous Whitman’s Sampler boxed candies, started making holiday novelty candies. Their first entry for Easter was a series of pastel confection coated marshmallows. Their entry for Halloween is similar, a candy corn shaped Marshmallow covered in Halloween Pastelle.
The candies are sold individually wrapped, I found mine at RiteAid but I also saw them at Walgreen’s. Each piece is an ounce and comes in a simple cellophane sleeve with a decorative Halloween black & orange border. At fifty cents each it wasn’t hard to take a gamble on them.
The construction is simple. It’s a rounded triangle of soft, almost gooey marshmallow covered in a white confection. The coating is orange and yellow and frosted in the form of a piece of candy corn. Of course it’s missing a whole stripe, which was a bit disappointing. But the shades and ratios of the colors that they do have are dead on good mimics.
This is pure sugar with scant other ingredients to break up the sweetness. The “pastelle” coating has a good snap like a white chocolate but no other flavor - no milky notes, no vanilla. It’s smooth enough though that it creates a bit of a creamy container for the marshmallow. Since this was exceptionally fresh the marshmallow was moist and fluffy, though also a bit sticky. It melts into a fluffed cream instead of a latexy marshmallow. It’s less sweet than the coating, but on it’s own it’s still throat searing.
It’s cute to look at and of course quite economical as far as Halloween-themed edible decorations go. While I found the Easter ones a little off-putting because part of me wanted them to be flavored, this one actually reminded me a little of candy corn. Not enough to make me buy it again.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Earlier this year I reviewed the resurrection of the Clark Bar from its zombie status as a neglected and poor quality peanut butter crunch bar. The extension of that is that Necco is also making the bars in snack size and are bringing back their Clark Bar Wicked Mix for Halloween in their new and improved recipes.
Necco sent this bag to me a few months back as I’ve had particular trouble finding Necco products for the Halloween. It’s pretty big and perfect for houses that get a lot of kids; it holds 24 ounces (about 68 pieces). The mix is Real Milk Chocolate Clark Bar, Dark Chocolate Clark and the very hard to find Coconut Clark.
The little bars are easy to distinguish and seemed to be properly randomized in my bag so that I had nearly equal amounts of each. Each piece is about .35 ounces, barely two bites (45 calories).
The classic Milk Chocolate Clark Bar fun size is in an easy to spot red wrapper. I loved them, I ate them. They were flaky and crispy with a good balance of peanut flavor, molasses and creamy sweet milk chocolate. The only weird thing I noticed was a smoke flavor in all the milk chocolate ones; I didn’t like it. I also noticed this with some of my full size bars earlier this summer and I can’t explain it.
For a while the Clark Dark was the one I was picking out of the mix. The bittersweet note of the chocolate coating played well with the toffee notes of the molasses. They seemed crispier for the most part (I know that all depends on how the folds are thick or thin).
The new part of the mix for me was the Clark Coconut. This is the weird part. Clark, when it was based in Pittsburgh, PA also used to make a coconut coated version of their bar called Zagnut. That’s been made by Hershey’s since 1996. They’re pretty hard to find here on the West Coast, so I usually go with a Chick-O-Stick, which is similar but doesn’t have that white chocolatey sweet coating that holds the coconut on.
The Clark Coconut is, to the best of my recollection, the Zagnut. The center is the classic Clark bar but the coating on the outside is a thin cream like a white chocolate but a little more caramel flavored. The little bits of coated and crispy coconut stick to that. You’d think that it’d be messy, but the coconut stays put. The coconut and peanut butter mixture is good. The coconut brings a tropical creamy nutty note and the peanut butter has that earthy, roasted legume note that really fills me up.
I don’t know if the Clark name has the recognition needed to impress Trick-or-Treaters but I’m pretty sure parents would be happy to relieve their kids of this fringe looking candy bar. It’s a classic and this mix of variations hits the spot. The packaging is spare and does a good job of keeping the little bars fresh and design is sharp and clear.
The candy contains all sorts of allergens: soy, milk, peanuts, wheat and barley. Also processed on equipment with eggs and tree nuts. No Kosher status mentioned. Though the large Clark Bar and Clark Dark are considered all natural, this is not (I’m guessing there’s some artificial flavors in the Coconut, and BHA is added as a preservative). That’s to bad, because an all natural option for Halloween from a major candy maker would be quite a find. (I guess you can always give out the full size ones!)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.