Hard Candy & Lollipops
Monday, May 29, 2006
In honor of the Memorial Day Holiday, I thought I’d do a candy that you usually find when you’re at a big summer event. Cotton Candy is one of those treats that I think most of us enjoy on the midway at the fair or other vacation spots. I’ve never bought cotton candy (or candy floss as the Brits and Canadians call it) for home consumption.
Pure Fun’s candy floss has a unique twist - it’s organic and all natural. That’s right, it’s made from pure, organically farmed cane sugar and a touch of natural flavoring/colors. They also make note that it’s vegan, which is kind of funny because I’ve never had cotton candy made with animal products before (I know some vegans take exception to commercially processed sugar because it might be filtered through charcoal that might contain animal bones).
The packaging also bills that there are no trans fats and no cholesterol. Well, I’m sorry, but DUH! I’m not sure who doesn’t know that cotton candy is spun sugar and how could it have any fats - good, bad, trans or otherwise? It’s also low in sodium, why isn’t that on the label? But the important thing is that this 1.5 liter tub contains only 2.12 ounces of sugar. I was watching Unwrapped over the weekend and one segment mentioned that good cotton candy is 80% air. You can eat the whole tub and it’s only 240 calories (all carbs though).
One serving is said to be a quarter of the tub. Which was actually a satisfying amount for me. I’m not sure if you could put a tub like this in front of a kid and expect them to eat only a portion. Of course, I’m not sure how you’d “serve” it otherwise ... take out the scissors and cut off a quarter of it and put it on a plate?
Okay, enough of the snarking. They were nice enough to send me five tubs containing four flavors ... so let’s get to it!
Canadian Maple - this was pure genius! How could there not be a maple cotton candy before now? It’s a natural flavor combo and the taste is insanely good. Woodsy and sweet and of course the texture of the fluffed sugar is sublime. This one had the best texture of the four, ultra smooth and superfine. Since they gave me two tubs of this, I took one next door and everyone thought it was “expletive-deleted-good.” By far this was everyone’s favorite who tried them all (including me).
Root Beer - I was expecting something subtle here, as cotton candy isn’t really known for “flavor” but the root beer here was intense. A good, slight, wintergreen burn after it dissolved kept me eating more and more of it. It’s like a spun root beer barrel!
Licorice - I’m not sure how this is going to go over with other people, but I thought this was an excellent flavor. It smelled a little medicinal, but on the tongue it was great. It was like a black jelly bean, except my tongue didn’t change color and there are no sticky bits stuck in my teeth. It’s a lovely
Bubble Gum - I’d heard about this before and so I saved it for last. It doesn’t smell quite right and looks an awful lot like insulation. A little musty odor combines with the sweet sugar. Holy Moly it’s bad. I don’t know why it’s bad and I’m not sure I want to know, but the taste is off. Bubble gum flavor (as in Bazooka) has always had a little wintergreen hint in my mind and then there are bubble gum flavors that are a little fruity like JuicyFruit ... this was neither. This was just a jumble of bad associations wrapped up in sweet. Pure Fun needs to dump this flavor or seriously reformulate. If I hadn’t read other reviews of this flavor, I would have thought I had a bad batch.
They make one other flavor, Cinnamon, that wasn’t in my assortment, but if it’s as good as the Root Beer, I’m on board. Their website even has recipes for using candy floss as a pie topper, for sundaes and even in martinis.
I don’t think that pure sugar can ever be considered a health food, but without the addition of preservatives, artificial flavors or colors as well as their organic, vegan and Kosher certifications, Pure Fun has removed any trepidation anyone might have for buying a cool and sweet indulgence. The smallish tub also controls portions. I honestly didn’t think I would like this as much as I did, but I’ve found myself sneaking little bits of fluff over the past few days of all three of the good flavors.
The only issue at the moment is where to buy this fluff. They’re not in stores yet (or at least not according to their website) and everyone who has tasted it has found it via a show of some sort (Candy Expo Toronto or Fancy Food Expo). They don’t even sell it directly through their website. I’ll try to post an update when I hear that it’s for sale. I don’t even know what the expected price is for one of the tubs. I’d be willing to pay as much as $4 for it.
UPDATE: I almost forgot, check out the Candy Critic - he’s also gotten a hold of some, and you can see how he does his reviews (which really isn’t that different from how I do mine).
POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:18 am
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Pop Rocks are a Spanish product, so it’s only natural they would angle some of their product towards the large Hispanic market in North America. I this at the Walgreen’s in Echo Park, which is (or was) a rather traditional Hispanic neighborhood in LA. Half of the package is in Spanish, just as half the packaging in Canada is in French.
The top half tells us that it’s Salt and Lemon Pop Rocks ... Popping Candy. The bottom half says Sal y Limon ... Dulce con Chasquido.
I didn’t know what the word chasquido meant (though by context it means popping) so I looked it up on babelfish. No luck there ... so I googled the word and found a page in Spanish that had a definition, which I then ran though the translator. So, the bad internet translator says:
But you want to know about this strange savory, sweet and tangy version of Pop Rocks, right?
First, you have to shake it well because the salt and rocks tend to separate. Then I poured it on my tongue and I admit it was a riot of tastes - they’re all there. The salt is, well, intensely salty. It’s the first ingredient on the list, so there’s a lot of it in there. Next, it was bitter, like some sort of mineral taste. Then the rocks started popping and releasing a bit sugar and there were other little snaps of sour released as well.
It was hard to keep it in my mouth. It’s really salty. I’m used to salt as a condiment, not as the main dish. There are 984
milligrams of salt in this little package - that’s about 50% of your daily allowance or about as much as you’d find in a serving of canned soup. Of course the recommended “portion” for these Pop Rocks Limon is 1/8 of the package.
I had one mouthful of the stuff and then tried dumping some out on a piece of paper and just eating the rocks but it’s just too salty for me. I’d also like it to taste more like lemon. How hard would it be to put a little zesty lemon flavor in there too? I’m thinking someone might be able to come up with something interesting to do with this savory version of Pop Rocks. Maybe use it as the final garnish for a salad or something. Could be the next trend in haute cuisine.
The one thing that I did really like about this version of Pop Rocks is the packaging. The long, narrow tube is much easier to handle than the flat packs that Pop Rocks usually come in. It’s easy to fold over and reseal and easy to dispense onto the tongue.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
What’s truly baffling in the whole confectionery world is that most sweets are made from the same ingredients. Yet the processes applied to them and the combinations can yield vastly different results. The Bunny Basket Eggs reviewed last week are an excellent example of sugar done wrong.
Konpeito (or Kompeito) is just sugar, and done so well. These little rocks, about the size of a pea and simply rock sugar with a little food coloring. And when you compare iit to those awful marshmallow Easter eggs, it makes no sense.
If you ever saw Spirited Away, you may have seen this candy. They’re little multi-faceted sugar crystal lumps that look like three dimensional stars.
There’s not much else to say about them except that they’re sweet and cute. If you’re looking for a special little something exotic for an Easter basket, these might fit the bill, the packaging is pink and pretty and of course the little pastel morsels of sugar are, well, rock candy. And rock candy rocks. You can even pick up a package and use it when you serve tea or coffee as a cuter version of the old sugar cubes.
See also: CandyAddict.com review, JunkFoodBlog has more on the cultural significance and limited edition versions and Wikipedia has a full entry including the references to Kompeito in media.
Friday, March 3, 2006
Ferrara Pan is a favorite of mine for one product they make: Lemonheads. No one else makes anything like it. It’s a hard, sweet lemon candy coated in a grainy, super sour coat and then a sweet “lemon peel”. Genius.
When I was a kid there were a bunch of varieties of these candies and they each had a cool name. There was Alexander the Grape, Johnny Apple Treats and Mr. Melon. Somewhere between the late eighties and the present Ferrara Pan dumped those names and reintroduced the fruit flavored, layered candies under the Lemonheads style naming convention.
The original. The classic. The. Perfect. Lemon. Candy.
Fantastic idea - it’s a Lemonhead, only it’s orange! The color is vibrant and they have both the zesty orange taste and the tartness. They’re not as blisteringly tart as Lemonheads, but the flavor can’t be beat. I don’t think these existed under another name way back when, but better late than never! My second favorite fruit head!
Well, folks know my feelings about cherry flavor. This is the classic cherry with some good rounded fruity notes and a sour bite to it. Like a cherry Lifesaver, only spherical and tarter. The original name of this candy was Cherry Chan ... so it’s probably good that Ferrara Pan decided to rename the whole line into something less offensive. (Though they briefly renamed them to Cherry Clan and changed the art a little bit.)
I used to eat these all the time as a kid. I loved the name, Alexander the Grape and the package logo was a little grape wearing a Trojan helmet. The color is a little surprising, as it’s very dark purple, almost navy blue or black. The flavor is a more complex grape than many other grape flavored candies these days and the package boasts “real fruit juice.” Of course the real fruit juice listed is apple. There are Appleheads, but I didn’t find those at the store (and had to get a smaller box of the Grapeheads because they weren’t available in the larger size).
When I first started on my Lemonheads/Alexander the Grape kick I was in grade school. We lived in Munroe Falls, OH and in good weather me and my older sister and younger brother were allowed to walk about a half a mile down the rural highway, over the Cuyahoga River and the Falls and then train tracks to the Stop ‘n Go in “downtown” Munroe Falls. This was the store where I also discovered such non-confectionery wonders as Pringles, Doritos and of course Starbursts, the Marathon Bar, Jolly Rancher Fire Stix and Charms Sweet ‘n Sour Pops with my allowance. Lemonheads were desireable because they were cheap and the box could be used as a noisemaker later. Sadly, the boxes are now the tab-top variety and no longer make that noise. (Chicket’s boxes still do, though.)
I like to eat my Lemonheads by peeling them with my teeth. First I anchor a candy at my first molar and crack about a third of the shell off. This reveals the super sour layer. Then I move the candy to my front teeth and pry off the rest of the peel using my teeth and tongue (if you’re wondering, yes, I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue). Then after the sourness is exhausted, I chew up the rest of the sweet candy and repeat until the box is empty. Giant Lemonheads are dealt with in a similar manner but I think that classic Lemonheads are better since the ratio of sour coating to candy is a little better. I wish the candy centers had a bit more flavor, but I’ve loved them ‘as-is’ forever, so I shouldn’t be advocating any changes. I also wish the the unfortunate Narbles that they introduced a few years back had this same sour peel to them.
Lemonheads and their fruity brethren are the perfect traveling candy. I enjoy hard candy when I’m on long road trips because of the variety of flavors and the interactivity which requires no hands (some fireballs must be removed from the mouth when they get too hot). The little burst of sour keeps me awake and engaged and of course being a pure sugar candy there’s fewer calories per ounce than something with chocolate in it. On my wishlist would be a few other flavors - including Grapefruit and maybe Strawberry and it would be cool to be able to buy a mixed bag of all the flavors.
You can watch a virtual tour of how Lemonheads are made in the panning process.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:12 am
Friday, February 17, 2006
There are some candy aficionados who turn up their noses at hard candy. Sure, they might think a candy cane is nice as decoration, but certainly not meant to be eaten and savored. I actually like hard candy a lot. I like Lifesavers (or did until they mucked around with the flavors in the standard five flavor roll), I like starlite mints, lemon drops and I love barley sugar candy. When I saw these at the Japanese market, I was hoping they were barley sugar, though it didn’t say that was part of the ingredients. In fact, I’m not sure what they are except for solidified, cello-wrapped heaven.
These little morsels look like drops of honey. There are two flavors, the golden ones and the darker ones. I have no idea what flavor they are, but the dark ones taste like sweet black iced tea. The lighter ones taste like sweet sugar with a hint of jasmine. The little bottom of them forms a pentagon and has a little hole in it. There are virtually no air bubbles or voids anywhere in the candy, which makes them exceptionally smooth.
The little cones (about one inch tall) fit nicely in the mouth and have no sharpness to them that can cut the roof of your mouth, which has always been the danger with cheap sour balls. These dissolve slowly and release a delicately sweet flavor across your mouth that will linger for hours after you eat them. They’re crunchable too, as I am prone to chewing up my hard candies. The black tea ones (which I’ve already eaten all of) have a strong tea flavor to them with not a hint of bitterness. The sweet aromatic jasmine in the light ones (or whatever flavor it might be) is clean and fresh.
For some reason these were strangely expensive. At $2.29 for a scant three and a half ounces, I’ve gone and gotten myself addicted to some pricey boiled sugar. The brand, Shirakiku, is known as a tea and snack brand in Japan and to many Americans who buy Japanese teas (like my favorite Genmaicha) and those seaweed rice crackers. I have not been able to find anything about this candy anywhere online, though it’s possible that the English word “juntsuyu” isn’t quite accurate (as is often the case with the American labels slapped on the back of these import packages). So if any of my sweet Japanese readers can help me figure out what these are, I’d be ever so grateful.
UPDATE 4/18/07: JBox is now carrying Juntsuyu (at my request, thankee-thankee). For the record, since I did this review I’ve eaten three more bags of these and also put them in the Christmas Stockings last year.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:40 am
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
NOTE: I’m not going to make a habit of revisiting previous reviews, but I was contacted by Jason Barba, the inventor of CraniYUMS! He pointed out the product that I tasted was probably not at its best:
I have to admit that I got my sample last summer and hung onto it for many months (and perhaps didn’t store it properly, as I opened the package, took the photo and didn’t eat it for several days). The new samples seemed “plumper” which leads me to believe that mine dried out a bit. Combine that with the candy center which was opaque instead of transparent and it seems like I had an over-ripe sample.
So, here’s an updated review.
What is it? It’s a hard candy lolly in the shape of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull then covered in a gummi “flesh”. The fleshy part is transparent, so you can see the skull shape at the center. It’s actually a pretty fun idea.
The skin is soft and pliable, like a very soft gummi (not the more firm ones like Haribo). The mellow, uncolored cherry flesh tears easily from the skeleton and reveals a transparent green skull in the shape of a T-Rex. The skin is pretty mild, not tart but not terribly sweet either. The center candy is dense and smooth in a very pretty shade of emerald green. The other flavor is lemon flesh with a cherry hard lolly center. The gummi on this one is actually really good - it’s very zesty with an intense burst of lemon essence. Again, not very tart, but really fragrant.
I’m obviously not the target market for this candy, but I can see it being a fun thing to pick up at a museum gift shop for my nephew should we go look at a dinosaur exhibit. It’s a good combination of taste, interactivity and design. I’m upgrading my review from a 5 out of 10 to an 8 out of 10. Still a little pricey, but a nice treat. If they made a giant ape one, they could sell them as a set for fans of King Kong! Maybe something to think about if you’re planning a DVD viewing party.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:16 pm
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
My site designers/programmers Susie & Travis (from Hop Studios) sent me a bag o’ treats a few months ago from their trip to Singapore. I don’t really have any specs on the candies since it was a mix, so here’s a sample of what they looked like:
It took me a while too steel myself for trying so many mysterious things, but I’ve finally plowed through most of the treats. Some were just variations on the candies we have available here, different kinds of mints (chewy, hard, soft), coffee hard toffees, ginger chews (made in Indonesia) and of course fruit hard candies. Some were rather normal, based on the ubiquitous citrus fruits but a good number were curious.
Durian and Tamarind top the list of scary candies. I’ve heard horror stories of Durian, which is rather common throughout Southeast Asia. It’s a sizeable and formidable looking fruit and I’m told an acquired taste for outsiders (and some who’ve grown up there have never been fond of it). It’s a divisive fruit, actually, as so many people can’t stand it because of its rather pungent odor, it’s not allowed on public transportation in many large cities.
The durian hard candy is probably just as much an acquired taste and not one I’m likely to accomplish. This hard candy tastes okay at first, a little sweet, a little tart and then rather like boiled shallots. Yes, onions or garlic or perhaps a little like Slim Jims.
The Tamarind, which I’ve never had and is surprising as I live in Los Angeles and it’s all over the place, was actually nice. It’s a little toasty, rather ordinary after all being so worked up about trying that.
The most curious one was the Creamy Corn. It tasted just like it sounds. Like creamed corn. Only in a hard toffee instead of running on my plate into my fried chicken. I have to say that it was very faithful to the name, and I ate the whole thing and was fascinated by it, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s rather like eating the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Bellies. It’s a novelty, not a pleasure. At least not for me.
Mango was actually really nice, better than any other mango candy I’ve had, probably because they did more than make it taste like peaches. There were a few mango flavored ones, but the best overall were the ones branded Lot100 (the Blackcurrant was good, too). It had a nice pine essence to it, which is one of the things that I find so interesting about real mangoes, they have a woodsy flavor to them.
The best one was called Great Monster and I think was simply an orange hard candy. Simple, tart and zesty.
I had high hopes for those labeled barley sugar candies, but they didn’t really taste like the barley sugar I know of here in the states. They were nice, especially the lime torrone one (which was not at all like an Italian Torrone).
There are still a few I haven’t tried, but give me a few more days to get my courage back.
Rating - 6 out of 10 overall (some higher some lower ... it’s an average)
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I’ve noticed that I get a lot of Google search hits on this blog for CraniYUMS. Well, that and Choxie. So it’s about time I gave folks what they’re looking for. This has got to be one of the more innovative candy formats I’ve seen. I got this as a sample at my Candy Warehouse visit over the summer. They hadn’t decided to carry the pops, so I didn’t want to blog about it until it was available then I forgot about it until I saw Candy Addict‘s post a few weeks ago.
What is it? It’s a hard candy lolly in the shape of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull then covered in a gummi “flesh”. The fleshy part is transparent, so you can see the skull shape at the center. It’s actually a pretty fun idea.
I wasn’t quite sure how to approach consuming it. A gelatinous skin does not lend itself to sucking, and of course it’s a bit big for putting in the mouth whole. So when I tried nibbling on the end of his snout, I kind of get the sense that there should be some growling involved. The gummi part is definitely gummi, but I guess that’s a good thing. You kind of have to rip it off the candy skull with your teeth. As a gummi it’s rather mild, not zesty orintensely flavored. The skin is cherry flavored and the skeleton is green apple. Once a corner has been started it’s pretty easy to nibble off pieces then to get to the center. The skeletal center is hard candy, but not quite hard, because I’m guessing the gummi softens it a little bit. The flavor overall was just bland, I wanted some zip to it all. Maybe mine was a little old, but I also think I’d prefer the lemon/cherry combo.
I’m obviously not the target market for this candy, but I can see it being a fun thing to pick up at a museum gift shop for my nephew should we go look at a dinosaur exhibit. But I can also see a kid getting kind of bored with it after a few minutes. It depends on the kid. I found myself eating all the gummi skin but I didn’t eat the center. They get big points from me on originality, but I see it as more of a special occasion candy than a regular one.
The package says it’s made in China, but it’s distributed by an Denver, CO company.
Rating - 5 out of 10
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