Sunday, September 2, 2007
There used to be rules and people followed them. Oh, they were informal; things like no white shoes after Labor Day, your shoes should match your belt. Seasonal merchandise wouldn’t be put out until the previous holiday was over (no Christmas goodies before Thanksgiving). But those rules are long gone.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Halloween candy out already at the RiteAid before Labor Day. But at least this was something different. Instead of fruity flavors, this twist is from Brach’s Milk Maid line and is called Caramel Candy Corn.
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with Candy Corn. Well, some folks have a love-love or a hate-hate ... which averages out in the big scheme of things to a love-hate for the general population. I hate-love candy corn. I don’t really like eating it, but I love looking at it and the smell of it.
This stuff smells really promising, if a little overwhelming. Like caramelized sugar. It smelled so great in the store, I really wanted to take it home. Of course in the car (which I admit was as hot as one of those scented oil diffusers) the smell started getting to me in the way that candle stores do.
It all boils down to this, if you like Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly, you’ll probably like Caramel Candy Corn. I don’t and I didn’t.
The texture is good, a nice smooth fondant. The white tip is unflavored and the two lower layers, orange and brown, are butter flavored fondant. The caramel flavor that the smell implies is completely missing, instead it has that intense note of butter flavored popcorn just crackling away in the microwave.
I just didn’t like them as much as I wanted to. Not nearly as much as the Brach’s Autum Mix (candy corn, Indian corn and mellow cremes). I was really unhappy that it was $2.29 for the bag to boot ... yeah, it’s a 19 ounce bag, but what do I need 19 ounces of buttered popcorn flavored candy corn for?
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Yes, I’ve got the sweets for the Tricker or Treaters this evening. Even though I’m not home I left a deluxe bowl of goodies for my husband to give out.
You can’t see everything in there (and I can’t remember it all) but there are Junior Mints, Tootsie Pops, Blow Pops, Jolly Rancher Lollipops, Chewy SweeTarts, Kissables, SweeTart Gummi Bugs, Heath Bars, various full sized bars from some photos I took, Lik-m-Aid, Laffy Taffy, Chewy Runts ... I think that’s about it. I like to balance out the candy offerings with a variety of chocolate and sugar, lollipops were always a favorite of mine.Happy Halloween!
Monday, October 30, 2006
Honestly, I didn’t know it would be so hard to go green. Ten years ago, yeah, I think I would have expected it. But it’s 2006 and there are stores like Whole Foods and even Target and Wal-Mart are carrying organic foods. So why is it so hard?
Halloween represents over $2 BILLION in sales each year (and it grows and grows). The average household spends over $16 on Halloween candy, it seems that there’s room to give them more choices for wholesome and thoughtful candies.
The winners I found this year were:
How hard would it be for someone to make fun packs of organic chocolate covered peanuts or raisins? I’ve seen lots of natural gummis and fruit chews, but what about something that’s not bulk that you can give to the kids without them turning up their noses? Organic candy tastes as good (if not better) than regular mass-produced candy. Kids don’t even have to know it’s fair trade or organic ... they just want something tasty, something they probably don’t get every day.
The good thing is that you can make a nice assortment out of the above and still serve 40 or so kids with multiple treats and still stay within that $16 average. Maybe next year there will be more items on that wishlist available.
Friday, October 27, 2006
In my pumpkin roundup the other day I didn’t include an Pumpkin Peeps. I actually went to the store and couldn’t find them. But I did get the next best thing, which would be the Peeps Spooky Cats.
When they were in their little tray they didn’t look very scary, except for that fear I have for conformity. In fact, they didn’t even look like black cats to me, but that could have been the lighting at the Walgreen’s. But no, I got them home and they are most definitely purple.
I can’t really say much else about them. I think I covered my feelings for Peeps back at Easter.
The newish product I was looking forward to showing here were the Cocoa Cats, which are a cocoa dusted/infused Cat Peep. Unfortunately there were none to be had (what’s with Peeps this year?). Anyway, I still have the Cocoa Peeps left over from All Candy Expo.
They don’t taste like much either, maybe a slight hint of cocoa to them, like a watered down cup of hot cocoa. What I found most curious about them is that they’re much less likely to go stale.
I’ve had these since June. I opened the package, took some photos and then put them back into the package. I left them in my tasting drawer (yes, the Candy Blogger has a drawer full of things to taste and write about) and checked them about a month later and they were pretty much the same. I didn’t seal up the bag or anything. So I left them out. Really left them out. Still, after an overnight sitting with a paper towel covering them and they were still soft. Eventually I got bored (or moved offices or something) and packed them back up and they went back into the drawer in their loose packaging.
Today I took them out and they’re still not stale enough. I bite into them and they give. Okay, maybe they’re a little tacky ... certainly more texture than usual.
Still, not my thing. As bunnies they’re kind of cute ... especially since I had bunnies this color when I was a kid. As a scary cat for Halloween ... well, purple is kind of sassy, a brown cat for Halloween is just lame.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Even if you don’t like candy corn you have to at least appreciate it. It’s festive and as a candy it actually looks like corn kernels. (I know fewer and fewer people have actually seen whole silos filled with feed corn, but trust me - that’s pretty much what it looks like.)
Maybe you’ve even wondered how they make it. Candy corn is made by creating a mold in corn starch. A “positive” image of the finished candy corn is pressed into a tray of firmly packed corn starch to create the “negative” image of the corn shape with the tip a the very bottom. Then the tray has a layer of molten candy squirted into it. Then it goes to the next color layer until it has three layers built up. You can see that they kind of blend a little bit at the margins, which is good, because it helps the candy bond together as a whole. The recipes for each layer are slightly different (colors and sometimes flavors) but work as a whole.
After they’re layered properly they’re demolded, which usually means they’re dumped out of the tray and tumbled or shaken on a mesh screen to get the corn starch off. Then they’re tumbled again (usually) with a little glaze to give them their matte coats. Every once in a while you’ll get one that seems to be missing a layer, which I find kind of fun, because real corn is like that.
This process can be applied to any kind of shape but the layering thing is most often seen with the candy corn. Other “mallocremes” are made the same way but with different mold shapes (so the pumpkin ones would have the little green stem squirted in first and then the orange cream for the pumpkin gourd). What’s pretty cool about this process is that sometimes people think outside the box. This time they’ve created “Gourmet Goodie” which is flavored candy corn. I’ve seen them at Target, but didn’t quite want to pick up a whole jar because of my pre-existing candy corn consumption commitments.
The flavor that interested me most was Tangerine. The colors are funky, the bottom is orange, the middle yellow and the top is lavender. Not the most intuitive combo for something in the citrus family, but you know you can’t tell after it’s in your mouth.
The first thing I noticed about these was how beautiful they are. The color combos really are nice. In the mouth they’re ultrasmooth without a hint of graininess, yet there’s a pleasant soft crumbly texture to them. The next thing I noticed was a tartness. Being tangerine they’re not about the “essence” of the fruit, but more about the juice of the fruit.
The tangerine reminded me of a creamsicle. Sweet, mellow, a little creamy feeling and a sort of neutral tartness.
Next was the one that I dreaded, Cherry. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a stunning looking piece of candy. red on the bottom, pink in the middle and a yellow cap. It also had the same smoothness and not nearly the tangy-ness as the tangerine. But it also had the cherry flavor. It was strong cherry and had a bitter, medicinal note to it. (But of course I don’t like cherry, so you can completely disregard my dislike for this.)
Green on the bottom, yellow in the middle and orange on top, this one could easily be mistaken for the tangerine. Also tart and with a kind of artificial flavor, the apple grew on me. The mellow candy corn notes that we usually associate with the honey flavor kind of work here. I would be curious to taste one that was more in the apple pie family of flavors, with cinnamon notes and less of the green apple flavors.
They’re undoubtedly high quality, but I’m just not keen on the taste. The tangerine was passable, but the apple and cherry just repulsed me.
For another opinion check out CandyAddict’s review.
I am actually curious about Galerie au Chocolat, the manufacturer who sent me the samples. While I didn’t care for this product, I’d be willing to try some other stuff (especially if there’s some of that ‘chocolat’ involved). If you live in the Hebron, KY area (near Cincinnati, OH), you might be interested to hear that Galerie has an annual candy corn sale, the last day is Sunday, October 29th. (visit their site, click on “visit us”) ... they said 50 cents a pound!
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
There were people who wanted me to do this. There were readers commenting that I should be covering Halloween goodies. So here goes. I went to the drug stores over the weekend and found all the pumpkins, most of them marshmallowy.
I did a roundup earlier this year of Easter eggs from Russell Stover and I was pleasantly suprised by the taste and quality of them, so it wasn’t hard to purchase these (though they were only on sale for 50 cents each).
This one really appealed to me because it reminded me of one of my favorite candies ever, the See’s Scotchmallow (always best in the dark chocolate single pieces, not the milk chocolate “bar” thing). The pumpkin shape out of the package is actually pretty good. It has some shape and definition, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
It smelled sweet and not a bit like chocolate. The caramel is soft and flowing and the marshmallow firm and bouncy but very moist. The combination of all the textures is nice, but the caramel doesn’t quite have that toasted sugar taste and it’s not quite salty enough to balance out all the other sweetness.
I have to say, after staring at the packaging for Russell Stover for the past couple of days, I’ve decided I don’t really like it. It has a sort of faux Peanuts feel to it that I find a little sad. Maybe it’s that the colors are too much like Easter and I feel like Charlie Brown and this might be the equivalent of getting a rock in my Trick or Treat bag.
This was certainly the best looking pumpkin of the whole bunch. It was thick and had a well-defined and easily recognizable shape. The bite was nice, with the soft and fluffy marshmallow center, but it lacked a vanilla punch. It just lacked flavor. The chocolate couldn’t carry it, because it didn’t have much flavor of its own, though it’s not like it was bad, just sweet and without any sort of dairy component to even give it a little kick.
I love the purple package. I really do, but it kind of confused me. Hershey’s is positioning purple as their color for dark chocolate (they use it on the Dark Kisses and those dark jewel tones on the Special Dark packaging). But no, this is milk chocolate.
I figured if I was disappointed with the lack of flavor in the Russell Stover marshmallows, Hershey’s would pick up the slack. After all, Hershey’s is known for their distinctive milk chocolate. This one was packaged nicely, a much bigger package than the Russell Stover even though it was slightly lighter. The marshmallow is nice and lofty and has a more firm latexy quality to it. Dryer and with a distinctive fake vanilla flavor, the marshmallow certainly had some personality. The chocolate on here was not really up to the challenge though. Too grainy, too sweet and just not creamy enough for me. I kinda scraped it off with my teeth so I could have more uninterrupted marshmallow. (This pumpkin was made in Canada.)
Everyone’s well aware of my love of Reese’s but this has to be the ugly duckling of the pumpkin bunch. It barely even looks like a pumpkin, it was difficult to extract from the wrapper and has a plain old greasy appearance and feel.
Now, all that aside, it’s a Reese’s Egg ... and I love Reese’s Eggs. They’re different from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the ratios are different and though they tried to recapture this difference with the Reese’s Limited Edition Bars earlier this year, I think these unattractive lumps offer something compelling enough to warrant making them seasonally. The center is firm and a little crumbly, a mix of salty, grainy and sweet with a thin and sticky milk chocolate coating that adds a little more sweetness to the mix.
I’ve saved the best for last. Last spring I tried my first Snickers novelty item, it was a Snickers Easter Egg. I actually liked it quite a bit and found it different enough from a regular Snickers bar to put it in the same class as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (ratios and all that). For some reason the Snickers Pumpkin might have a slight edge on the Egg. It might have been because I couldn’t easily re-wrap the pumpkin in its foil wrapper, I had to eat it right away. Well, it might not technically have been eaten ... it might have been gobbled.
There aren’t as many whole peanuts in the pumpkin, but there’s a definite nuttiness to it. The nougat seems moister and flavorful and the soft caramel is smooth and has a little toasted salty hit to it that helps out the whole thing. The chocolate is merely adequate, but smooth enough to support the whole (and of course give it the lovely pumpkin shell).
If you’d like more opinions on the other pumpkin shaped goodies, coincidence has it again that Rebecca has posted on the Hershey’s orange pumpkins and Joanna has both orange flavored ones that I couldn’t bring myself to purchase.
All of the pumpkins I listed were 50 cents each on sale. If you’re looking for stuff to throw into the Trick or Treat bags, stick with the tried and true candies, they’re less expensive (when on sale most fun sized bars can be 10 cents each). If you’re looking for a little treat for yourself, it’s not a bad gamble. Overall I’m giving them all a 4 out of 10. They’re benign ... they’re not the epitome of their genre, but they’re not embarrassments either.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Like Candy Corn, Peeps and Peanut Butter Kisses are one of those seasonal candies that people either love or hate. I’m gonna go ahead and say right now, I’m on the side of love here.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had “name brand” peanut butter kisses before, these are the first I’ve ever seen that have anything on the black & orange wax wrappers. Made by Necco, Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses are a molasses taffy with a little blurp of peanut butter in the center.
The molasses taffy is soft and flavorful, with a rustic taste of mellow molasses with a little smoke and woodsy maple in there. In the center (or somewhere near there) is a pocket of peanut butter, a little crumbly and of course nutty and roasty tasting. The salty hit of the fatty peanut butter is a great combo with the sweet taffy. I much prefer them to the traditional Mary Janes, which I find not only a little too hard but also not enough of a “concentrated peanut butter” dollop.
Since these are not a spectacularly popular candy, with their rather mousy wrappings and bland colors they’re easily found dirt-cheap in the remainder bins after Halloween, which is when I prefer to buy them. If they’re a little old and stale, a little warm-up in the palm of your hand will revive them.
Some other notes: Mary Janes were originally made by the Miller Company starting in 1914, which was later bought by another taffy company called Stark Candy Company that continued the Mary Jane tradition. In 1990 Stark sold out to Necco, who continues to make the traditional Mary Janes pretty much unchanged from its original format.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Yeah, candy corn. What can I say about candy corn? Some people love it, some people hate it. Joanna at SugarSavvy.net already covered one of my favorite passages about candy corn by Lewis Black.
Based on her review I went off in search of candy corn last week. My results were dismal. I came home with one bag. Some stores did not have ANY candy corn at all (well, some also had CHRISTMAS candy out already so they had the lame reindeer corn). I picked up the Brach’s Autumn Mix. It’s a mix of pumpkin mallowcreams, candy corn and Indian corn.
Brach’s always makes nice looking, high quality candy. Their candy corn is no different and uses top-notch ingredients. Though candy corn is basically sugar and corn syrup boiled into a stiff fondant, Brach’s throws a little honey in there for taste besides the colorings.
The candy corn is big and narrow. Good definition between the colors, bright and with an attractively sweet smell. It’s soft and a bit grainy, but I kind of like that. Plain candy corn is eaten by putting the entire thing in the mouth and chewing.
Another variety of candy corn that is seen from time to time is often called “Indian Corn” but is really chocolate candy corn. Well, kind of chocolate. Someone walked by a vat of candy corn batter with a chocolate bar.
In order to rationalize the purchase of Indian corn, one must eat it by biting off the chocolate bottom first. It tastes like candy corn, but perhaps with a tint of a Tootsie Roll chocolatey-ness added.
The big plus in this bag of the Autumn mix is that it has the pumpkins in it. They’re a dense, semi-soft piece of sugar. There’s a throat burning sweetness that makes you want to go back to eating the candy corn for a moment until the lure of the large, compact sugar-singularity calls to you again. By the time you learn your lesson, the bag is empty, your teeth hurt and your stomach aches.
When I was in grad school I saw a production of a play called Seventy Scenes of Halloween by Jeffrey M. Jones. Candy corn is featured heavily in it. I don’t know why I mention that, but you know, in case someone was looking for advice on what plays to include in a candy themed theatre festival, I’d love to help!
I like candy corn as a concept. I like it as decoration. I don’t think it’s great as a candy, but I have to give it a passing grade because I keep eating it. I really like to buy it when it’s 10 cents for a pound of it sometime in late November. Then it scores a 7 out of 10.
For another view on Brach’s Autumn Mix, Rebecca coincidentally posted on the same product today.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.