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!
What’s so different about them is that they’re individually wrapped. Oooh .... you know what that means? They’re not conjoined. There’s no little sticky spot where they’re separated from their row of quadruplicate siblings.
It also opens up the possibility for some diversity in a single package. This bag of 54 individually wrapped Peeps has three different shapes: Googly-Eyed Green Mummy, Purple-Eyed Jack ‘o Lantern & Shrugging Ghost. (There are other mixes that have skeletons, bats and spiders.)
While I love the idea of being able to give out fun little sugar puffs to kids for Halloween, I feel like they may think it’s a practical joke when they try to get the little packets open. Let’s hope their parents let them have scissors, because that’s what I resorted to.
I thought these would be the same as regular Peeps, and I happened to have some regular Easter Peeps around for comparison. Here’s what I found:
The main thing that detracted from any recommendation for Spooky Friends is that they’re not as puffy and therefore do not work with Peeps Mash Ups as well. I rather liked the light vanilla flavor, but I missed the springly-lofty texture. They also didn’t seem to get stale as easily, but I’ve only had them for a week ... poking holes in each package in order to let them get dried out isn’t really that practical either. They have their selling points but they’re still not going to get a better rating than the original.
At about 9 cents a marshmallow, they’re cheaper per item than the Frankford Marshmallow Pals, but they’re more expensive per ounce. Since they’re both made in China, I can’t see why you wouldn’t go for the more detailed Frankford Marshmallow Pals ... unless you don’t like coconut flavor.
The package notes that Peeps are Gluten Free.
UPDATE 10/31/2008: It does not appear that Just Born continued this product. I have not seen it for 2008.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I puzzled over the Orange Marshmallow Pumpkin at the store for quite a while. Was the marshmallow orange? Was the coating orange? Or was it orange flavored? The small print gave me a clue, “Naturally flavored,” it said. “Covered in milk chocolate,” it said.
“Okay,” I said. “Into the basket you go!”
Opening it up at home I still didn’t smell the orange. After biting through the chocolate shell, the orange flavor became more apparent, as did the color.
The marshmallow is super soft, moist and a little sticky. The light kiss of orange essence really changes this from a ho-hum marshmallow product to something I ate all of without complaining that my candy blog makes me eat these things (okay, that really doesn’t happen). The milk chocolate, though sweet, was rich enough to set off the sweet marshmallow and add some nice creaminess to the whole. I enjoy these sorts of seasonal products from Russell Stover because I know they’re fresh.
I don’t know if I’ll buy them again, unless perhaps they’re 10 cents in a sale bin in November, but I’ll keep an eye out for an Easter version of them next year.
The allergy notice on the package mentions that they’re made in a factory with tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and eggs. It also contains gelatin, so is unsuitable for vegetarians. The orange filling also has artificial colors in it (Yellow 6), so folks looking to stay away from those should opt for the regular unflavored Marshmallow Pumpkin.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Here’s a jolly little set of marshmallows just for Halloween: Frankford Marshmallow Pals. They were pretty affordable, just $1.99 for a package of 18 individually wrapped marshmallows - that’s about 11 cents each. That’s always the tough thing about marshmallows ... you can’t just open a bag of Jet Puffs and toss them in trick-or-treaters’ bags, even though they’re pretty cheap. So the little wrappers help quite a bit on that front.
Shaped marshmallows are certainly nothing new and Just Born with their Peeps line may be the epitome of seasonal marshmallows. But Frankford has definitely come up with something that sets it apart.
There are four different shapes in this mix: Jack O Lantern, Green Dracula, Even Greener Frankenstein Monster and Orange Witch.
Each is decorated with frosting, and may I say they did a really good job. Though some of them were a little smashed inside the package, they puffed back up again pretty well. The sugary coating also kept them from sticking to the wrapper. Each face has little frosting eyes, often hair and an expression on its mouth. They all look slightly different, when I pulled out all the Draculas, some looked slightly Asian, others downright fierce and one a bit cross-eyed with something of a dorky smile.
The color of the face is the same color of the marshmallow through and through. (Unlike Peeps, who are only colored on the outside.)
The marshmallows themselves as firm but moist. They have a latexy quality that gives them a very long chew. The flavor is lightly coconut, which I found pleasant and summery. Honestly, I prefer my marshmallows to taste like something. The frosting added a little crunch and it was a relief to find out that it wasn’t waxy like the eyeballs on Peeps.
Though I’m not really keen on eating marshmallows alone, the flavor helped. The really cute attention to details and vibrant colors swayed me. As an indulgence, they’re quite low in calories (being mostly air and having no fat): 38 calories per Pal. They contain gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians. The package does not mention gluten or nuts though there appears to be no wheat/nut products in the ingredients.
These were made in China.
Friday, October 12, 2007
A couple of months ago I got an invitation from Valerie Confections to preview their Mori Ex Cacao gift set. It’s a set of three skull-shaped chocolates. Rather than a little flat piece of candy, these are large and three dimensional with crisp and freaky details on the skulls, which are then filled with a premium truffle ganache or caramel.
The fissures in the skull can be made out easily, as can the individual teeth and with the three-dimensions of the skull, even the back of the head continues these details down to the base and roof of the mouth.
The Skulls were designed by Modern Alchemist Douglas Little and are about the size of a hefty plum. The design is based on DL&Co’s Memento Mori Collection, which features a similar looking skull candle and other small statuary pieces. A little bit more upscale than the traditional pumpkins and witches, this rather macabre take also features some incredible attention to detail.
First, the confections are hand “cast” with premium Felchlin Chocolate. Then each is filled with one of three centers. The chocolates are created in a three dimensional silicone mold, based on an original design by Douglas Little. After unmolding the chocolates are then airbrushed by hand with a cocoa-butter based “paint” which results in three different confections - one charcoal-black, one cocoa-brown and one bleached-bone white.
I didn’t get to eat the “real thing”, instead they created some tasting portions, which looked an awful lot like regular old chocolates (probably better for me that way). This means that my tasting notes are not based on the actual proportions of chocolate-to-filling you may get with the ultimate product, but all the other elements were the same.
I had my doubts, mostly because the caramel was so dark, I was afraid it’d be bitter and though it did have some burnt tones to it, it was complex and not too sweet. It went wonderfully with the chocolate.
Bitter Brandied Cherry
I say I don’t like cherry flavor, but these were real sour cherries, not some crazy artificial extract. The deep fruit flavors went really well in the ganache, a slight bitter note which I think tied into the macabre tone of the confections quite well.
Oh, this really lived up to its hype. The chocolate flavors were not overpowered by the spice. There was definitely a bit of throat burning going on, but again, it fit very well with the design and presentation as a whole.
Would I buy these? Certainly not for $100 a set ($40 for an individual skull of any flavor). I understand that the ingredients are premium and they’re really labor intensive. So it’s not that I don’t think they’re worth it, but the whole skull thing just isn’t really that big of a draw to me. I like my candy pretty and I never quite got how skulls and bones celebrate life. But if you are a fan of this type of design, and if you’re looking for something purely decadent to arouse all of the senses (this would be great to share as a couple) then this would be an excellent gift.
They can be purchased directly from Valerie Confections or from Dean & Deluca (they only carry the full set but also have some companion products that might complete the effect). They come in a lovely black silk box.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I browse eBay a lot, just to see what sort of candy is being sold. It’s a good place to “make a friend” in a particular area who can send you a special candy on a regular basis. Of course a good deal of the candy on eBay is also Limited Edition items, which can be devilish to find as inventories wear thin in parts of the country.
It’s also a great way for me to find out about newer Limited Editions. Like the Candy Corn Kisses that showed up there last week. I immediately searched all my best spots (RiteAid, WalMart, Target & CVS) with no results. So I emailed Hershey’s ... they confirmed that they exist at least.
Then yesterday I gave Target another try and there they were!
I must admit, they’re lovely. The wrappers are silver, yellow and orange with little flags that say Candy Corn.
Unwrapping the foil, they are super-cute layers just like candy corn. Wider on the bottom than normal candy corn, the proportions may be a little squat, the colors are also rearranged, with yellow on the bottom and orange in the middle, instead of the reverse. I can see why they did it though, it is a pleasant combo.
While I enjoy candy corn that has a slight honey or caramelized sugar taste to it, these go for the buttered corn flavor. I know that the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly is one of the most popular, but it’s never floated by boat. Same with this one ... a little caramely white chocolate would have made me very happy. This doesn’t. The fake butter just turns my stomach when I smell it. If I don’t smell it, then they’re not bad, not too sweet with a light little hit of salt.
Unlike many of the other white confection offerings from Hershey’s, these are not white chocolate (which has a cocoa butter base). The ingredients go like this:
I think the idea is cute and I could actually see these being a great cookie decoration (as suggested on the package with a peanut butter cookie recipe). Other than that, I’m going to just admire the photos and the idea and keep the package way from me. I couldn’t decide what rating to give this, mostly because my personal revulsion to fake butter flavor (it actually gives me a headache when someone makes microwave popcorn) is, well, a personal thing. The product is well executed ... I just wish they called them Butter Kisses and made them like real candy corn, not that Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn. My nose said give them a two out of ten. But looking at the photos, I can’t help but bump it up to a four out of ten ... what can I say, I’m a sucker for design!
UPDATE 9/25/2007: I found out from Hershey’s that this is an item that they created exclusively for Target. So don’t bother looking anywhere else but Target & eBay for these.
UPDATE 9/5/2008: The Candy Corn Kisses have returned for 2008. I found them both at Target and Rite Aid, so they are enjoying a wider release this year.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.