Monday, September 22, 2008
Brach’s is pretty much the gold standard for Candy Corn for me. There are other good quality makers out there too, like Jelly Belly and Zachary, but I prefer the Brach’s stuff because I can actually taste the honey and that’s what I prefer.
Brach’s has a pretty extensive line of candy corn products and they’ve returned to shelves for fall. I’ve seen the Autumn Mix, Indian Corn and regular Candy Corn on shelves. I picked up this newer version called Milk Maid Caramel Apple Candy Corn this year. I tried the other flavor introduced last year as well, Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn which I found tasted more like buttered popcorn than caramel.
Unlike my experience with the Caramel Candy Corn, this didn’t smell at all before opening the package. Once I did, I found it a pleasant mix of apple, sugar and vanilla - exactly what I would have expected from the name.
Most of the pieces seem pretty big and dominated by the red center.
Like most candy corn, this bag had its assortment of not-quite-ready-for-primetime players. These were shorter pieces that were missing one or more colors. I rather like the variation and ability to eat just one of the flavor layers if I want, so I don’t hold it against them.
The red center has a light apple flavor, rather like apple peels not the sour green apple candy flavor. The brown caramel layer at the bottom has a light salty hit to it and a butter flavor that bugged me when I just at the brown bits alone. But as I’ve noted before, confections that use Red 40 tend to leave a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. So I enjoy these for about five minutes and then I regret eating them. Then I toss them in a drawer in my desk, go away for the weekend and come back and it’s like I’ve completely forgotten about the aftertaste (maybe it has some sort of short-term memory wiping properties?).
As a novelty flavor, I like these better than most. I wouldn’t mind it being added to the Autumn Mix, but I still prefer Indian Corn. Brach’s also makes a Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy Corn which isn’t even mentioned on their website but I saw on ebay. I’m still looking for it.
This candy corn has gelatin in it, so it’s unsuitable for vegetarians and isn’t Kosher or Halal.
Friday, September 5, 2008
This fall marks the return of the Candy Corn Kiss as well as two new harvest-themed versions: Pumpkin Spice Kisses and Caramel Apple Kisses.
I tracked down the Pumpkin Spice ones at Target. (They weren’t in with the regular candy, just at the check out aisle candy display.)
The package is Halloween-themed, with brown and orange webby pattern (which kind of reminds me of cantaloupes) and a taunting Jack-O-Lantern.
The package offers no description of the product and neither does the Hershey’s website. All I could figure out from looking at the wrapper was that these were some sort of orange-colored white-chocolate-like-confection (there might be cocoa butter in there, there might not, the ingredients are rather coy about it) filled with a cream that’s probably flavored like pumpkin pie.
The little foil wrappings are bronzy orange with wavy little brown stripes. The flags are brown and say pumpkin spice though many are greasy and look a bit more translucent.
The bag smells appealing, like ginger snaps or snickerdoodles. Sugary and spicy and everything nice-y.
It was warm for a few days so I tucked these away in one of my coolers. When I took the photos they were very soft, but even at temps in the high sixties or low seventies, they’re still mushy.
The orange confection outside has a bit of a greasy sheen to it, but otherwise is a nice pumpkin custard color. I bit a few in half (ended up cutting them for the photo) just to see what was inside, it’s a soft cream not unlike the New York Cheesecake flavored ones back around Valentine’s Day.
The taste, though sweet, has a great harvest spice flavor - it’s mostly nutmeg with a little cinnamon and perhaps ginger or allspice and maybe a hint of clove.
I really thought these were going to be terrible, especially since I didn’t like the fake butter flavor of the Candy Corn Kisses, but they’re pleasant. Not too sweet, a little bit of a custardy tang and though kind of grainy they remind me of a decadent flavored fudge. Or a very sweet cheesecake.
I don’t think they’re something I’d buy again, even if they were seasonal, but I certainly enjoy a little spice in my life now and then. Sera at The Candy Enthusiast found them at the same time as I did and has a review today as well. She’s a bit more fond of them than I am, but I’ll chalk that up to her obsession with all things pumpkin. Other early reviews are also positive: Franklin Avenue, Megan’s Munchies and keep an eye on the Kiss Candy Spotting thread in the Candy Forums.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Oh, man. It’s that time of year. Now that Halloween is in the bag and kids have brought home all this candy I’m getting a lot of queries about how many calories are in that Fun Sized 3 Musketeers or packet of Skittles. About 50% of the search traffic to candy blog includes the phrase “calories in.” (I’m not kidding!)
It’s great to be calorie conscious, especially when you’re being adventurous and trying some new candy from the Trick-or-Treat bag. You don’t want to over do it, and lets face it, some items are surprisingly “affordable” when it comes to calories (like gummis, marshmallows or SweeTarts).
But then there are the articles and pieces on the morning talk shows. “Healthy Choices” in Halloween candy. And they’ve all got it wrong. They keep talking about caloric density as if it’s low calories that makes a piece of candy healthier? I’m sorry, if there’s one thing worse than a chunk of sweetened partially hydrogenated oils it’s a hunk of pure sugar! (One show said that a 3 Musketeers is a healthier choice than a Snickers Bar ... I suppose if the goal is to have as many empty wrappers for the same caloric cost. The Snickers will be more satisfying as it has a blend of sugars, fat and protein. The 3 Musketeers is mostly sugar and as many folks know, that just leads to a later crash.)
So, yes, you can have a pile of SweeTarts, which have zero nutritional value (no vitamins, no minerals, no essential fatty acids) but hey, no fat! The caloric density (which I’ve added to all reviews here whenever possible) of SweeTarts is 98 calories per ounce. But what have you eaten? Absolutely nothing of value.
Then you sit aghast that the little packet of Peanut M&Ms has 80 calories ... that adds up to 142 calories per ounce. Whoa! That’s almost 50% more! But there’s stuff you actually want in Peanut M&Ms ... things like protein, calcium, traces of iron, even some fiber! And fat, yeah, there’s fat in there from the peanuts and the chocolate. Peanuts have omega 3 fatty acids in them. Stearic acid in chocolate has been shown to be cholesterol neutral and may be beneficial to other inflammatory markers. Is it health food? No ... but it’s not the demon that these morning talk show people make it out to be in moderation. And those little packets, they’re great for portion control!
If you’re going to eat something, if you’re going to set aside your calories, please, for the love of all that’s good and tasty, eat something you like.
Let’s drop the pretension that low calorie makes something healthy. Nutrition makes things healthy and your diet should be balanced. There’s nothing wrong with a pile of peanuts, raisins or some crisped rice with some chocolate thrown in. (Honestly, I think a box of Goobers is more nutritious than a cupcake, but I’m not a registered dietitian.) If I had to be stranded on an island with one candy as my only sustenance for the rest of my life it would not be any of the “healthier” choices devoid of nutrition. I’d probably pick chocolate covered almonds.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Kids get a handful of the following mix: 3 Musketeers Fun Size, Skittles, Peanut M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Laffy Taffy, Nerds, SweeTarts, Peeps Spooky Friends, Frankford Marshmallow Pals & Twizzlers. (And anything else I might have lying around.)
If you’re not coming to my door tonight, your best bet is to enter my current giveaway for a Limited Edition Package. I just added some M&Ms Pirate Pearls (freshness not guaranteed) and Retro Flavor Starbursts to the box!
There are a lot of great articles out there today with folks listing the great hierarchy of candy. People extolling the virtues of this candy, that other candies are made by the devil himself and are being dispensed by his minions at otherwise nice looking houses around the country. My candy preference list may be vastly different from yours. It’s candy! There is no single candy that everyone loves. (But yeah, it’s fun to rant about the stuff that you don’t like.) Some people like full-sized bars, I actually prefer the smaller ones because of the assortment.
The truth is that most people give out what they like at Halloween. So if you’re getting Mary Janes or Popcorn Balls, it’s probably because the giver likes them. This is pretty much true with ALL gifting, but especially with blind gifting. Consider that anyone who gives you something you don’t like is following the Golden Rule. They’re doing unto others as they’d like done to them. They’re giving you Smarties or Starlight Mints because they would want to get them. Smile and say thank you.
If they candy is being made it means that someone likes it ... it has value somewhere in the great candy barter world. It may not have as much value as other candies, but that’s the risk you take when you beg from door to door.Stay safe and for heaven's sake, eat some healthy food and then brush your teeth when you're done with your candy binge. It's only once a year you get to carry around a sack full of candy.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Here’s one of those candies that I only saw in my Trick-or-Treat haul: Sixlets. Oh sure, they were probably in stores that I frequented. They come in a variety of packets, including the “changemaker” size that holds eight little candy spheres and used to sell for a two cents.
The big reason I shunned Sixlets was I was never quite sure what they were. Are they like M&Ms? Are they candy coated peanuts? Are they a jawbreaker?
Eating them never really answered those questions. They definitely don’t have nuts in them, but taste a little nutty. They’re not like M&Ms, though there is a chocolate-like center. They’re not jawbreakers, in fact the shell is pretty thin.
Sixlets are currently made by Oak Leaf, who makes bubble gum and other confections in Canada that are usually sold in bulk and dispensed in gumball machines that are sold by the handful. Before that they were made by Hershey’s, which purchased the Ovation brand that made Sixlets under management of Leaf (they also made Whoppers, which Hershey’s kept).
Sixlets are certainly cute. They come in vivid colors: Yellow, Green, Red, Orange and Brown. They’re spherical and consistent looking, with a shiny candy shell. The center is a malty-flavored mockolate. Made from partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, sugar and milk protein, they’re not really that appealing as a confectionery item to eat on their own. Cocoa powder is way down at the fifth position on the list of ingredients. The candy shells are pretty ordinary, except for the orange one, which has a light orange flavor to it (just as Smarties from the UK do). The mockolate barely has a chocolate taste, and the whole thing is a little grainy and a bit greasy.
What they lack in taste they more than make up for with economy and portion control. What other candy comes in little tubes of 8 pieces? Not to mention the fact that each little tube has only 35 calories!
Why Oak Leaf came out with the Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Flavored Sixlets is beyond me. The regular ones barely taste like chocolate and any health benefits of “dark chocolate” will be ruined by the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
The package is attractive, the Sixlets mascot is some sort of an insect ... well, maybe he’s an insect, he only has four legs. And he wears glasses ... and wants us to eat one of his segments.
These little packets were unmarked. Just generic clear cellophane tubes with little unbranded spheres inside.
The taste of the “dark chocolate” isn’t really noticeably different from the regular Sixlets. They’re just as disappointing as the regular Sixlets ... except that I paid for this whole bag (I picked the other little guys up at the All Candy Expo).
There are differing stories about why they’re called Sixlets. The current packaging has them in tubes with 8 pieces or 20. Some folks say that they used to come in tubes that had six for a penny. Others say that they came in boxes that had six individual boxes in each package and that’s how they were written up in the wholesale catalogs. It could be that someone just thought it sounded like a good name ... maybe they were into numerology. The number six represents “Reaction/flux. Responsibility” according to Wikipedia. If anyone else has any theories, I’m happy to entertain them.
Like them if you will ... just don’t call them chocolate. They might be good for decorating ... the rest of these are going in the Trick-or-Treat bowl (don’t worry, I’ll give the kids something good and just slip these in while they’re not looking).
Friday, October 19, 2007
They’re the candies that made E.T. famous: Reese’s Pieces. Little sweet nuggets of peanut flavored candy covered in a colorful shell. Loved across the universe, they were introduced in 1978, but didn’t break out as a widely-known candy until being featured as alien-bait in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982.
The story is quite familiar to most movie and confectionery fans. Steven Spielberg approached M&Ms about doing a product placement (not a very common thing in those days) in his new movie about a child who adopts an abandoned alien. M&Ms turned down the project, so Spielberg went to his next choice, Hershey’s and the Hershey’s Kiss. Hershey’s wasn’t keen on that, but did offer up one of their new candies that they’d been trying to launch national since 1980, Reese’s Pieces ... which look an awful lot like M&Ms! Sales improved drastically and the idea of product placement was cemented as a way to increase revenue in feature films and television series.
While Reese’s Pieces may sport the Reese’s name, but they’re really not much like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, except that they contain peanuts.
It’s a sweet, melty peanutty center covered in a crisp candy shell. They come in three colors: orange, yellow and brown. They also come in an Easter version that has a pastel shell and is larger.
The center is made from a peanut powder of sorts, instead of a peanut butter. Much of the peanut oil has been removed, mostly because of a manufacturing problem with peanut oil ... it’s a liquid a room temperature, so it tends to migrate out of peanut butter via osmosis when coated with lower-fat things like a sugar shell. (Some folks may notice that their Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups get a little shiny spot in the center of the shell when this happens.)
I find that Reese’s Pieces lack a big nutty punch. They taste like peanuts, but don’t have that real peanut taste that a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup has. They’re also really sweet and don’t have that little salty hit that most other peanut things like Payday Bars, RPBC and Pearson’s Nut Roll have. I’ve always noticed a bit of a floral note to them as well, that just doesn’t do anything for me.
I keep thinking I’ll like them, then I buy them and I’m disappointed. The Easter versions, with its thicker shell and more concentrated “peanut butter as cookie dough” flavor pleases me a lot more. I’m wondering as well if I’m imagining that the shells used to be more consistent. These seemed a little bumpier, a little less opaquely colored.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Since All Candy Expo this year was so close to Halloween, there were a lot of Halloween treats on display. One booth, Zachary Confections, had a huge table with bins holding these little packets of goodies: Indian Corn and Jelly Pumpkins. What sets them apart from other individual packets of ordinary sugar candies for the Trick-or-Treaters is that these have cute little black & white Halloween-themed designs on them: black cats, witches, ghosts, bats and skeletons.
Zachary is one of those candy companies that kind of flies under the radar of most people. They make a lot of “house brand” candies, as Joanna at Sugar Savvy found out, they’re the ones behind Target’s candy corn. But I’ve never been terribly aware of their products as a whole, mostly because so many different companies make candy corn, jellies and chocolate covered nuts in bulk.
After Joanna named Zachary the best candy corn in her taste test, I thought maybe I should give it a try. Unfortunately I didn’t grab any of the traditional candy corn, instead I got some Indian Corn. Indian Corn is usually chocolate flavored on the bottom.
This candy corn wasn’t quite as dark looking as most others I’ve tried. In fact, it looks a little wrong, the orange is kind of peachy and the brown a little watery instead of dark and dense.
But taste? The Zachary candy corn is very smooth. It doesn’t have any graininess at all to it, just a stiffness that melts pretty well after a couple of chews. The flavor is lightly honey ... no different than a regular candy corn, it lacks those toasted notes that the Indian Corn usually has. I liked it well enough to eat two small packets over a couple of weeks. I still prefer Brach’s because I enjoy the slight grain and the stronger honey notes, but this is definitely high quality stuff.
I wonder how many kids like little sugared jelly candies. I have to admit that these are super cute. The little Pumpkin Jelly shapes have a green stem and little fluting on the side like real pumpkins.
They’re lightly orange flavored. Not a vibrant flavor, just sweet and slightly zesty. It doesn’t have any of the tangy elements you’d find in a Sunkist Fruit Gem. I’ve always been a huge fan of Orange Slices (and Spearmint Leaves), so these are a great harvest-themed version. Even better, they fit in my mouth in one bite, instead of Orange Slices that are usually two bites. It’s not easy to find individual packets of Orange Slices, so they get major points on that front.
Zachary is based in Frankfort, Indiana and they have a factory store ... anyone ever been there?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I’ve been planning another Peeps Mash Up for a while and thought that Halloween was the perfect opportunity for a Monster Mash Up.
I even went out and bought the new Peeps Spooky Friends, thinking it’d be so fun to have the variety of the different shapes. Alas, Peeps Spooky Friends are not terribly mashable. However, the Candy Blog Candy Archives is always prepared, and I was able to pull out my trusty Peeps Yellow Bunnies as a stand in. (They also photograph better than the conjoined Peeps Ghosts.)
If you’ve never done a Peeps Mash Up, the recipe is simple. Pull a Peep apart to reveal the sticky innards. Then press that sticky puff into a dish or package of something ... consume.
First up is Oreos & Peeps which was a combo I wanted to try for a while. Cookies and Cream is a nice combo that seems to go so well with ice cream, how could it be bad with Peeps? I tried it two different ways, the first was crumbling Oreos, as shown and mashing them into the crumbs. What I found is that I didn’t care for the cream part in there ... the closeness of the texture and graininess to the Peep itself wasn’t distinctive enough. Instead, the way to do a Peep & Oreo Mash is to open your Oreo, scrape the cream off with your teeth, then place the whole Peep on one side, replace the cookie topper, mash down and consume.
The darkness of the cookie, the little hit of salt and of course the sandy crunch of the Peep makes an excellent combination. (And completely redeems my opinion of Oreos after last month’s tasting of the new Cakesters.)
I give them an 8 out of 10.
I picked up a mini-mix pack from Kellogg’s (as they seem to be the only company that still makes them). First up, Cocoa Krispies & Peeps.
Cocoa Krispies are ideal for this snack, as they’re small and adhere easily to the exposed sticky marshmallow. They’re lightly crunchy, though a little sweet without enough cocoa contribution. I give them a 6 out of 10.
I was never a big fan of Apple Jacks as a cereal as a kid. I so rarely got to eat sweetened cereals, this was pretty far down on my list. (Cap’n Crunch was my favorite, followed by Froot Loops.) Would Apple Jacks & Peeps change my mind?
The simplicity of the flavors Apple Jacks, a little apple, a little cinnamon, actually sets off the flavorless Peep really well. They larger loops though, don’t hang onto the Peep quite as well, so smashing them a little to break the Os is a big help.
It helps that Apple Jacks had a pretty good jingle. (A is for apple, J is for Jacks, Cinnamon-toasty Apple Jacks! You need a complete breakfast, that’s a fact. Start it off with Apple Jacks. Apple Jacks! Apple Jacks! Ten vitamins and minerals-that’s what it packs. Apple-tasty, crunchy, too! Kellogg’s Apple Jacks! Apple Jacks, Apple Jacks ...)
I give them a 5 out of 10.
Even though the large flakes don’t stick well, the little bits do cling and still provide a good crunch. The thing I like best about this combo is that Corn Flakes have a wonderful dark, malty taste to them, and that sets off the lightly toasted sugar flavors of the marshmallow.
There’s also a little hit of salt in there, which mellows the more overt sugar. I think I might prefer an unfrosted Corn Flake in this case. But plain Rice Krispies are probably a good bet as well.
I give them a 7 out of 10.
It’s not illustrated here with a photo, but I also tried Corn Pops & Peeps. Once Corn Pops are removed from their packaging, even in a desert they immediately become sticky and tacky, so they’re an ideal item to Mash. Though they’re very sweet, their flavor profile matches Peeps really well. They have that lightly toasted flavor, but none of the malty, salty tones of the Corn Flakes. I give them a 7 out of 10.
They make a nice combo, though they don’t really have much of a visual appeal (but then again, neither to the Corn Flakes).
The one thing that disappointed me though, was that Froot Loops have changed so much since I was a kid. Back then we only had three flavors ... Orange, Lemon and Cherry. They went together really well and looked like food. The modern Froot Loops, well, I just can’t get behind blue food. And I don’t like all my flavors mixed up, I just wanted some light citrus fruit flavors, not a whole jumble of a world-traveled fruit stand.
The fruity flavors, though, stood up very well to the sugary sweetness of the Peep.
In the future I’ll probably go with the generic brand of fruity loops that have more limited flavors ... because I’m a fuddy duddy.
I give them a 5 out of 10.
The idea of wiping peanut butter on my Peeps wasn’t quite in the cards, but Reese’s Pieces & Peeps sounded like the perfect Mash Up. I heard that Reese’s has put out minis, but I can’t seem to find them. The larger Reese’s Pieces didn’t stick well to the Peeps, but the flavor combo of the lightly sweet peanut butter, the crunch of the shell and grainy sugar was a solid combo.
The colors also went really well. You’ve gotta give props when it comes to the appearance.
I give them a 8 out of 10.
The photo there at the top of this page is Sixlets, which are mockolate spheres covered in chocolate. Sixlets and Peeps also had a great deal of visual appeal with the muted fall colors and shiny shells. Sixlets have a natural coolness on the tongue, but not a very strong chocolate flavor. They stuck well to the marshmallow, but the overall effect was too sweet and not flavorful enough. I think I’ll stick to the original idea of M&Ms Minis.
I give them a 4 out of 10.
It’s been years since I’ve had BBB, and if you aren’t familiar with them, they’re candy coated peanuts. The candy coating is pretty thick, so some of them at first seem like jawbreakers. So the mixing of two vastly different densities has an odd and scary feeling to it. I’m afraid of chomping down too hard, lest the hardness of the BBB be too unyielding, but I also felt like I was practically gumming away the marshmallow and losing the texture and flavor combo.
I give them a 4 out of 10.
Candy Cane Pop Rocks & Peeps seemed like the perfect Mash Up. Peeps is coming out with Peppermint Star Peeps later this year, but I so loved my Pop Rocks and Peeps earlier this year, I thought, what could be better than peppermint Pop Rocks and a nice mellow Peep.
Well, the main problem with this idea is that the Candy Cane Flavor Pop Rocks aren’t actually peppermint!
Say what? Seriously, what would you think if someone handed you this package? If you opened it and dumped out the contents and saw the above pile of pink and white Pop Rocks ... what flavor would you expect?
Would you expect Strawberry?
Yeah ... they’re strawberry. I have nothing against strawberry Pop Rocks and thought they rocked my Peep ... but I wanted Peppermint Pop Rocks and I’m completely annoyed that someone out there not only thinks that any pink flavor can be considered candy cane flavored, but that they wouldn’t actually SAY that on the package if it was so.
I give them a 3 out of 10 ... not because it was bad, but because I’m irritated.
The next Mash Up Round Up will focus on Savory & Spicy!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.