Hard Candy & Lollipops
Friday, April 18, 2014
A classic item for wedding favors are little parcels of confetti. Confetti is a generic Italian term for panned candies such as Jordan almonds, coated nuts, mints and of course chocolate. Tradition is a little sachet of five pieces, symbolizing health, wealth, fertility, happiness and longevity for the couple and their guests.
Another style of presenting the panned sweets is to wrap the little pieces up and form them into flowers and other shapes. I’ve seen these for years, I remember seeing a display of them in New York City’s Little Italy in a deli by the counter. They were so pretty, I’m not sure I even understood that the petals were edible. This photos shows them made with Jordan almonds and tucked into crepe paper. I’ve seen them made with cellophane which can be clear or tinted as well as tule mesh, which can also be uncolored or tinted (but probably isn’t sanitary).
I picked up this little bouquet in London at Harrod’s in their Easter display. It was expensive for so little actual candy, £3.50 for about 15 little pieces (about $5.85 USD). It’s made by Confetti Pelino of Sulmona, Italy. They were established in 1783, in a region of Italy that’s well known for this traditional and painstaking method of confectionery.
This isn’t as much a review of the candy as it is a deconstruction of the assembly of the five stems of flowers.
The bouquet is held together by green floral tape and decorated with green crepe paper leaves of the same color. It’s pretty top heavy, as the candy petals are thick and will tip over the little bouquet when placed in a water glass or wine glass (so be careful if you’re playing with these at a wedding reception). Each little flower is on a stem of wire, held together with tape and string. Floral tape isn’t exactly sticky, so there’s no issue of excessive adhesive with these. It unravels quite easily.
Each little piece of candy is a small, circular disk covered in cellophane. The cellophane is twisted together, the pointed, twisted ends are then tied together with a bit of string, and then taped onto the wire stem.
The candy at the center of these isn’t a Jordan almond, just a little sugar disk. It’s kind of bland, and as far as I can tell, unflavored. It dissolves and tastes like, well, sugar.
As candy, it’s expensive and darned difficult to eat because of all the string and wire and tape and wrappers. As a favor or decoration is classically charming. There are a lot of different ways to achieve these with different colors of candy, different sizes, different tape and leaves or flower shapes. Harrod’s is a fine place to buy one bunch if you’re curious, but if you’re interested in using them as favors or centerpieces, do some research on which will suit you best.
Though chocolate candies could be used, I would advise folks to stick to centers that are more weather-tolerant. It’d be fun to make them with M&Ms or Reese’s Pieces, but I can’t imagine anything with a lot of oil in it would do well with the heat of being handled a lot or possibly sitting in the sun or a hot car. I looked around to find a tutorial for making these but didn’t have much luck (if you know of one, please leave a link in the comments). I can imagine that the same techniques could also be used to make candy wreaths, garlands and other styles of centerpieces.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
While most hard candy is considered “old people candy”, Jolly Rancher really sets itself apart as an intense sweet for all ages.
Most of us encounter Jolly Rancher candies as little twist wrapped pieces in a bowl. So when I saw this little rectangular pack at Target, I thought it was an interesting way to format the iconic candy. Jolly Rancher Strawberry and Green Apple Hard Candy has 1.2 ounces and 9 pieces inside. Each is wrapped in a piece of clear cellophane, easy to carry, easy to share and with just two flavors.
The pieces are different from what I’m accustomed to with Jolly Rancher candies. They’re not little rods, they’re squares. The ingredients are also slightly different. The original Jolly Rancher hard candies are not aerated, there are no bubbles in them and they’re ever so slightly soft, like some sort of viscous solid. The ingredients list corn syrup first, then sugar. In these little squares, it’s sugar first, then corn syrup. Looking at the candies, they’re not glassy transparent either, so it appears they’ve been aerated slightly.
I started with Green Apple, because that’s the iconic flavor that Jolly Rancher is known for. It’s a tough flavor, because part of its profile is its artificiality. It was definitely tangy and caustic at first, like some sort of chemical peel for my tongue. That faded quickly into the familiar acidic green apple flavor. What was most surprising was the crunch ... I could crunch it. Because the pieces are small, you can crunch away immediately and there’s not tooth-cement issue. Still, the artificial flavor has a sort of of “sour but maybe bitter and salty at the same time” flavor going that was not as good as I recall the truly authentic version having.
Strawberry is quite tart at the beginning and reminded me immediately of sorbet (which often has an extra little pop of lemon juice in it). The flavor is bold and pretty well rounded and only has a slight note of metallic artificiality to it. It’s fresh tasting, overall. I like the crunchy, it’s not too much candy.
My roll had three Green Apple pieces and the rest were Strawberry, so the flavors are not evenly distributed. (Lifesavers always had an order to them, though you might not get a roll that started with the same flavor, they always went in the same progression once you started.) The way the package is made, you have to tear the outer wrapper to get to the inner pieces ... they seem to be glued in there.
I felt these were missing one of the key attributes of Jolly Rancher hard candies, the smooth, syrupy dissolve. Without that, the flavor was just passable, nothing terribly exciting. I might feel differently if they had the Fire Stix in this format, as there really is no other cinnamon hard candy roll out there (since Reed’s disappeared), even if they don’t have the same texture as regular Jolly Rancher. But they’re not a great value and difficult to unwrap.
These are made in Mexico. There’s no nutritional information on the wrapper and nothing, at this time, on the Hershey’s webpage for Jolly Rancher that lists it for this particular version of the product. There is also no statement about allergens, but does contain soy.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
The dill pickle is a favorite flavor in the United States. It goes beyond the brined cucumber and has made its way into potato chips, vodka, peanuts, and even toothpaste. It’s a small wonder we haven’t seen more pickled candies.
The folks at Barrels of Yum have created a unique array of hard candies shaped like barrels, but I thought I’d start with their Dilly Dally Candy since it’s their unique offering.
Their barrel shaped dill pickle pieces bring the flavors of dill, vinegar, salt, garlic and tarragon to hard candy.
They’re bright green, like that weird paste I get from the Indian restaurant that I can’t eat because it’s so green. I’m not a pickle adverse person, as a kid I was a huge fan both of the store bought versions and the kind my grandmother made with the gherkins she grew in her own yard.
The first flavor is sweetness, like a sweet pickle, which I actually don’t care for. But after there’s a strong and pleasant herbal dill note along with a weird sort of garlic flavor. The tartness that emulates vinegar comes in slowly. Overall, it’s a good likeness of a pickle in dissolvable form. I would have liked a little less sweet, which I understand is hard to do with candy, but perhaps a dash of salt. Mostly, it lacks the texture, that crunch, the coldness from the fridge that are elements I enjoy in my pickle. My mouth never quite watered during the experience like it does with some good, refrigerator-cold, fresh pickles.
As a novelty, especially if you’re theming a party, these are definitely unique, but not something I’d eat every day.
It really is time that hard candy got some upgrades, the new variety was created with David Klein, the fellow of brought us the idea of really great tasting jelly beans with the Jelly Belly.
The variety contains eight different flavors, though oddly enough, not the classic barrel candy root beer. They include: blueberry crumble, peach cobbler, apple pie, chai tea, sour watermelon, hot cinnamon, orange cream, and granny smith green apple.
They’re kosher and made in the USA, unlike a lot of hard candies these days. They’re for sale on Amazon, but at $5.99 they’re a little steep. They’re made with a combination of natural and artificial flavors. The colors are bright, though it’s a little hard to tell some of the apart at first glance, as the peach and orange are similar as are the two browns.
Apple Pie is the light brown color. It’s very apple, with a lot of tartness to it and a good flavor balance that has some cinnamon and something like graham or that emulates crust very well. The apple flavor is good enough that it almost taste like they didn’t peel the apples.
Granny Smith Green Apple is just a little darker in color than the Dilly Dally, not that they’re included in the same package. It starts out rather sedate but then develops. It’s not Jolly Rancher apple, this is a lot more full bodied with more of the apple juice flavors than that artificial note that many American apple candies have. If you gave this to me without saying where it came from, I would guess it was Japanese, as they have a much better approximation of true apple flavor in candy than we do.
Blueberry Crumble is over-blued ... it made my tongue blue and as an adult, it’s not really a feeling I care for. The flavor is good, a well rounded sweetness with a light tart bite of boiled berries with a sort of vanilla top note. It didn’t quite differentiate itself as actual blueberry, more of a generic berry flavor.
Orange Cream is the lightest orange didn’t really make any sense to me conceptually but it was well executed. Two of my favorite qualities of citrus are the acidic bite and the zesty balsamic note. Neither of those show up in this piece, as it’s all about the soft orange flavor without the zing of the peel or the juice. So what’s left? It’s like a creamsicle, sweet and mild with a very good creamy mouthfeel, though there’s absolutely no dairy in it.
Peach Cobbler is a medium orange color and rather weak. It was tangy but didn’t have that dough element like the crumble did. It was just odd, not peachy. I thought this was a miss.
Sour Watermelon was hot pink and definitely reminded me of Jolly Rancher. The flavor was very sweet at first, like a ripe but uninteresting watermelon, but then the sour pops up as you get further in. It’s not puckery, but has a believable quality to it.
Chai Tea is warm with immediate cinnamon notes. The other spices are quite mild and comforting, perhaps a little nutmeg and ginger. It’s not as strong as I could have liked, but the flavor is continuous instead of getting weak as the candy dissolves.
Hot Cinnamon was saved for last, in case it burned me out. It starts out with a good mix of the powdery woody flavor but then goes right into the searing heat of the cinnamon oil. It reminded me of Atomic Fireballs, except there’s no layering to grant relief after a few minutes. I had a little metallic hit from the artificial colors, I would have preferred colorings on these that didn’t interfere with the intense flavors.
Overall, the barrels fill a niche for interesting flavors in hard candy. I found the pieces just slightly large for my preference. Though the barrel shape is fun, I do prefer a disk as I think that fits better in the mouth. This particular flavor assortment didn’t fit my tastes perfectly, only about half are flavors I’d pick out of the mix. I am looking forward to what they do with Root Beer, as I would love to find a really intense, spicy root beer hard candy.
Monday, February 3, 2014
The pieces are small compressed dextrose centers with some layers of hard sugar on top with some extra flavors in there. Classic Gobstoppers had many layers and flavors, but Wonka doesn’t make those any longer because they can take weeks to create from a center the size of a sesame seed. So they use a large SweeTart type candy at the center and the coating changes flavors only a handful of times.
A lot of candies get revamped over time. As I’ve heard unofficial from a Wonka insider, the classic SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies changed size & shape because the original equipment broke and since it was used only for that product line, they decided to reformat the molds to be more consistent with the Valentine’s and Christmas shapes.
The Everlasting Gobstopper HeartBreakers shifted colors in the newly available version for 2014. It’s not a drastic change, but a small tweak.
Cherry is mellow, with a sweet cherry flavor. After the top layer dissolves away, the coating is yellow. It doesn’t take much then it’s crunchable and I can get to the SweeTart-style center. The interior flavor is pretty neutral.
Watermelon is sweet and fresh, a little unexpected for this type of candy. After the initial layer dissolves, the layer under that is also a medium pink. The center is lightly tangy, but not overly sour. The layer under the watermelon-pink is also watermelon-pink.
Pineapple is delicate and light. It’s only slightly floral and fruity, but not tart bite. After the flavor dissolves away, the next layer is yellow. It’s smooth and cool on the tongue.
The classic HeartBreakers (above) were more vividly colored, with yellow and magenta instead of white and pink. While I miss the original colors and really don’t care much for the watermelon, I still love these. The limited palette is still attractive. I’m hoping the Easter version will also be back.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Sometime about a year ago I picked up some Root Beer Puffs, which were like buttermints but flavored like the soda. A few weeks later I got a note from a company called Red Bird Brand that makes candy puffs in a huge variety of flavors. It took me quite a while to find them, but I did pick up Soft Assorted Puffs at the 99 Cent Only Store that includes 15 different flavors. (Though perhaps not always in the same bag.)
The flavor variety is, well, extraordinary: Peppermint, Cherry, Lemon, Green Apple, Wintergreen, Strawberry, Orange, Grape, Peach, Blueberry, Butterscotch, Watermelon, Cream Penny, Cotton Candy, Passion Fruit. There’s a menu guide on the back that shows the key for the combination of colors and stripes. There are about 25 candies in the bag, but the flavors were not distributed evenly.
One of the differences between this style of Puffs and the traditional Buttermint of After Dinner Mint is the size. These are quite large, at about 1 inch across and all of them are individually wrapped. (No more candy dish with the stuck together.)
Cherry was bold and easy to spot. It’s a flavor that’s both heavily scented and with a light tartness to it. It was smooth and had a good melt, but overall, it’s not usually my favorite though at least this didn’t have a lot of red coloring in it.
The flavors not in my bag: Peppermint, Cotton Candy, Passion Fruit and Orange.
For the most part I didn’t like the fruity flavors. The others like butterscotch and wintergreen were more to my liking, even the unflavored Cream Penny were pleasant.
The puffs themselves are quite nice, I liked them more than the variety package. There’s a floral, sort of honey note to them. But they’re also quite cinnamony. I wouldn’t call them hot though, it was a nice heat but they never approached anything like the fire of an Atomic Fireball.
The cinnamon smell is strong, even when they’re in the package, so I had to keep them separated from other candies.
The package for the Assorted Puffs said it was Gluten Free, they’re also Kosher Pareve and appear to be vegan ingredients.
It was strange that I didn’t get the classic Peppermint in the Assorted mix, which is what Red Bird Brand is known for. Overall, the texture was good, they softened up nicely. The package mentions that they’re rather hard when they’re first made, but if you prefer a softer puff, to open the package and wait ... it was true. After a couple of months, mine reached the melt in your mouth texture that I was expecting.
Monday, October 21, 2013
After experiencing the lackluster Super Caramel Apple Blow Pop last week, it’s a wonder that I was still looking for the Candy Corn Super Blow Pop. An astute reader said that Walgreen’s was carrying them (which is where I found the Caramel Apple version) so I tried what I call the Super Walgreen’s in Hollywood. It’s near the Arclight Cinema/Cinerama Dome and Amoeba Music, so it was easy to find a reason to be over there this weekend. The store is like a movie set of what a Walgreen’s should be (and maybe it is used as a set for their commercials). The cosmetics have LED lights on each shelf, the aisles are wide and they have a snack bar and prepared sushi in a refrigerated section. And of course there’s a huge candy aisle that’s both clean and has a wide selection. It bears virtually no resemblance to the Walgreen’s where I usually shop in Echo Park, which isn’t even 5 miles down the same road. (Though the staff at both is quite good, no complaints.)
Their seasonal aisle had a good selection of the specialty Halloween items (though not as much bagged candy as other places like Target or KMart). I found the Super Blow Pops there on sale at 50 cents each, so I bought two. Instead of an opaque printed wrapper, this version of the Blow Pop uses a clear wrapper to show off the candy inside, something I’ve not seen them use on the Blow Pop line before. There are only two colors on this, orange and yellow ... there’s no white top on the layers.
The candy part of the Blow Pop is just like the flavor of the Charms Candy Corn Lollipops. It’s a mellow, salty sort of butterscotch without the creamy texture. I found these far brighter and more fun to eat, as the colors were sparkly, unlike the Caramel Apple version which was downright depressing with its brown and dark green. However, the sparkle in this case was created by adding some air to the hard candy, this can create sharp areas as it dissolves. Because the pop is so large, this meant I had a couple of sore spots on my tongue by the time I finished.
The gum at the center smelled terrible, just like the Caramel Apple version. There’s some sort of caustic chemical scent to it and the chew is stiff at first. Biting it sounds like tearing a phone book, a multitude of ripping layers all at once. It softens up and in this case, the flavor is pretty bland. It does become a bubble gum eventually, for a few minutes there’s a right balance between flavor and sugar before it all gives up and becomes like a wad of chewed paper. I’m not sure what flavor the gum is supposed to be, it’s not green apple, it’s not colorful ... it might have been butterscotch.
The initial experience was probably better than any other I’ve had with a Blow Pop this year, but that’s not saying much. But I’ll go ahead and give this a positive review, if you want a jumbo butterscotch Blow Pop, this would be the lollipop for you. It’s pretty, it’s pretty cheap.
Charms pops are made in a nut free and gluten free facility, but always check the labels or call the manufacturer if you’re in doubt.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Tootsie is always a go-to brand for Halloween candy, as they make the popular Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Pops and Charms Blow Pops. Though some adults like to rank them on the Worst Halloween Candy lists every year, they wouldn’t keep making them if someone wasn’t buying them and eating them enthusiastically.
Tootsie has two new Super Blow Pops out for Halloween this year: Charms Super Blow Pop Caramel Apple and Charms Super Blow Pop Candy Corn. I couldn’t find the candy corn version (though I did find the flat Charms Candy Corn Pops), so I wanted to go ahead with this review of the Caramel Apple version.
The Super Blow Pop line is a beefy version of the standard Blow Pop. The regular Blow Pop is .65 ounces, the Super Blow Pop is 1.125 ounces. As a point of reference, a single Starlight Mint is about 5 grams, so this pop is like eating 6 or 7 mints in one sitting.
The pop is structured in layers, the center is bubble gum, the middle layer is green apple hard candy and the outer layer is caramel flavored hard candy. It’s an odd combination and I’d say my initial impression was not good. The caramel flavoring was just that, flavoring with a heavy dose of artificial butter. There was a little hint of salt, so that was interesting. After getting to the apple layer (which was very dark green) I did start noticing a good combination of the two, the falseness of the butter combined with the reassuringly fake green apple flavors.
The texture was a little more ... sandy than I like in my hard candy. It wasn’t completely smooth, though the bubbles were minimal. The size of the pop means that there’s a lot of lollipop before you can crunch to the center.
The most surprising part is the center. It’s not pink bubble gum. It’s green. The texture was horrible, biting into it, it was like packaging material. When I bit off a piece, it sounded like I was pulling apart the paper stick. The smell was bizarre and I can only say that it reminded me of the Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnels. (Maybe it’s a mix of the smell of asphalt, gasoline, diesel and apple juice.)
I wanted to like this, mostly because I found the Tootsie Caramel Apple Pops to be quite fun. It just kept getting worse as I got closer to the center. I can only hope that the Candy Corn version was better.
Charms Pops are made in a facility that’s gluten free and peanut free.
Monday, October 14, 2013
If you like Charms Blow Pops and thought to yourself that you’d be happier with just the candy and not the gum, they make that. They come in rectangular foil packs called Assorted Charms.
There are five flavors: Cherry, Strawberry, Lemon, Lime, Green Apple, Orange, and Raspberry and 10 pieces in the package. They’re not necessarily distributed evenly among the flavors. I got three cherry and three lime while I only got one lemon, one green apple and one orange.
The fun things about Charms are that they’re square but have a little dimple in the center, and that they’re individually wrapped. So they’re less likely to end up as a sticky single piece like Life Savers. (Of course there’s no pineapple or tangerine in their flavor assortment.)
I’ve seen old candy ads that show that they used to come in single flavor packages, but the only way they sell them now is in the mixed flavors.
The pieces are just shy of 3/4 of an inch square.
I like the individual wrappers, as I’m the kind of person who likes to eat the flavor I want, not the one dispensed to me. It’s actually pretty easy to dump them out of the packet without tearing it, and then put them back.
Orange is nice, well rounded, a little tart but not very complex. Raspberry was good, it’s very floral with an overall soft flavor and a hint of tartness. The Cherry is like time traveling to the 70s for me. It’s not quite as “black cherry” as Life Savers, but of course has the same taste as the Cherry Blow Pop. Strawberry is interesting, as it’s pretty uncommon flavor for hard candy. I didn’t care much for it, it was more like a watery popsicle than jam. Lime is quite citrusy, though not very sour. There’s a lot of zest to it, and even a note of bitterness. Green Apple was nice, it was extremely mild at first, but then warmed up with a lot of juice notes. Lemon was a little too tepid for me, I was hoping for something like a sour ball but it had more sweetness than tart/zest notes.
There’s a lot to like here about the simplicity of the candy. The flavor assortment is different from Life Savers, though I can’t say that they’re better or worse. The packaging is truly charming and simple. The package holds only 1 ounce, so you can’t really feel too bad for chomping through all 10 pieces. There’s no nutrition label but hard candy is usually 95 to 100 calories per ounce ...so these are unlikely to be more than 100 calories per package.
There’s no info on the package about allergens, though other Charms products are gluten and peanut free (but please check before consuming).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.