Hard Candy & Lollipops
Friday, January 23, 2009
Usually for holidays they’ll have some other panned sugar candies. For Valentine’s Day this year the trend seems to be cinnamon flavor. So I picked up a bag of their See’s Hot Hearts and their Cinnamon Lollypops.
The Hot Hearts were a bit expensive, in my opinion, for a sugar candy. It was $4.50 for a 12 ounce bag of what are basically heart-shaped Hot Tamales.
But hey, the bag was pretty and included a real piece of ribbon on it and a thick plastic bag with pretty little red foil printed hearts.
While See’s makes their own chocolates and lollypops, I’m pretty sure they have their sugar candies specially made for them by an outside company. I was hoping my trip to the Fancy Food Show might shed some light on that, because, spoiler alert ... these were good and I think I might want some more after Valentine’s Day!
The candy shell is crisp and a little grainy. The jelly center is sweet and very cinnamony. The sizzle of these heart-shaped jelly beans is substantial.
The cinnamon flavor is both woodsy and fiery, capturing all of the great aspects of cinnamon.
Even though there’s a fair amount of food coloring in these (including Red 40), there’s no bitter aftertaste. Not that there ever is an aftertaste, since I don’t actually stop eating them.
Yes, I want to know how to get them all year long, or themed for other holidays, like Fiery Eggs for Easter or a Screaming Phoenix for Halloween.
See’s has been making their own Lollypops for years. The flavors change from time to time, but lately they’ve been adding in their seasonal flavors.
See’s Cinnamon Lollypops are the same rounded block shaped lolly made from a hard caramel base.
The scent is odd. It smells like caramel and cinnamon. But the scent and the flavors are never completely integrated. They just exist side by side.
Mmm, toasted sugar and butter flavors. Then, wow, a pop of hot cinnamon. Then the mellow and sweet caramel.
I liked them, but not quite as much and not in the same way as the Hot Hearts. They last a long time, but the combo of boiled sugar and butter with cinnamon never quite meshed for me. Plus there was a bit of a bitter artificial color aftertaste on these.
The pops are a great, reliable candy. They’re only 70 calories each, but be warned, they’re not fat free. Not that fat is a bad thing, it’s pretty much necessary for a caramel. Their Butterscotch lollypop is still the best (and the Root Beer is the best of their seasonal flavors). I’ve picked up the other flavors for review twice ... but ate them before I could photograph them.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Before Tootsie came out with their seasonal Candy Cane Tootsie Pops fans of peppermint and Tootsie Rolls were relegated to making their own. Though it was relatively simple to jam a Tootsie Roll on a chop stick and then smash a couple of starlight mints onto it, it just didn’t have the same classy, holiday flair as this store-bought version.
Candy Cane Tootsie Pops are a little different than other special flavor editions of Tootsie Pops. But not in remarkable ways. Yet I’ll list them for you anyway. First, the they’re in a clear cellophane wrapper. Second, the wrapper is done in a double twist at both the base of the pop and at the top of the pop. (Remember, the regular wrappers cover the pop and twist only where the stick meets the pop.) Third, the shape is not like the regular Tootsie Pop, which has a band that extends from the base up and around the top. Instead this band goes around the middle, just like a Charms Blow Pop. (Hmm, the wrappers are the same as Blow Pops too ... wouldn’t it be fun if they made mint Blow Pops?)
The wrappers are vexing. They’re sealed at the base, so hard to get off and not as easy to rewrap around the candy if you don’t finish it all at once.
The mint hard candy outside is peppermint. It has a pleasant swirl of red that goes through the white dominant base. It’s very smooth, in fact, smoother than a regular Tootsie Pop, fewer voids. Honestly, it made me wonder why Tootsie Pops aren’t all this smooth.
I’m a cruncher, so it didn’t take long before I was able to dissolve away enough of the hard candy outside to crunch into the Tootsie Roll center. Let me state that’s where this gets disappointing. A Tootsie Roll is just a chocolate flavored taffy. I like them well enough as a durable, all weather candy. But they’re really only good inside Tootsie Pops (orange). Because mint is rather one note (no tartness, just sweetness and cool mint) instead of complex like the fruit flavors (the flavor, the tart, the tangy all combined) the Tootsie Roll scent becomes very obvious. It smells like chocolate scented cardboard.
It smells like the box hot cocoa mixes come in after you take the packets out.
It’s just disappointing.
I think these are a fun idea, but there’s really no way to improve them without fixing the Tootsie Roll. The combo just doesn’t bring out the best that a Tootsie Roll has to offer and hide its shortcomings.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Long ago there were LifeSavers Sweet Story Books. They were just a folded box that looked like a book that had a bunch of LifeSavers rolls inside. They still make them, every few years the graphics and the rolls included inside change with fashion.
Trader Joe’s has their own house-branded version of this, called Trader Joe’s Sweet Story. There are six no-artificial-anything, vegan, kosher and gluten-free hard candy rolls inside.
The package design is pretty straight forward, it’s a box with a front flap that reveals a “story” on the inside, which is a little poem about the candies. (Probably not so fun for kids.)
The box is well constructed (and is even printed on the inside). The rolls aren’t revealed inside the box flap though, you have to open it at the top to reveal them, all sealed together inside a cellophane bag.
Each roll is about the size of a LifeSavers product, 1.1 ounces. The rolls themselves are a bit more demure, a color-coded monochrome array.
Opening them was a disappointment and exercise in frustration.
Though it was not humid on Sunday when I bought these and photographed them, the paper-lined foil was stuck to the candies.
I resorted to picking the bits of foil off the candies before consuming (though still got a fair bit of paper in my mouth). Some rolls were better than others, but all had some degree of issues.
Cherry - Sucrets. Without the throat numbing properties.
Orange - really zesty, to the point of being slightly bitter at times. Sweet and tangy.
Pineapple - mild, more like those “low acid” pineapples these days that have a nice floral and strawberry cotton candy flavor but not that tart.
Raspberry - pretty much tasted like raspberry flavoring. A lot of sweet floral “flavor” and some tangy berry notes.
Pomegranate - a combination of raspberry and those winterberry scented candles. It’s trying too hard.
The package was $1.99, which breaks down to 33 cents a roll. Not really a bad price. And the flavor assortment was better than the current LifeSavers array. For those who need something that’s gluten free or all-natural, yeah, it’s a nice way to go. But I sure hope yours aren’t stuck to the wrapping like mine were, because that completely ruined it for me. And bumped my fiber intake.
Other remembrances of the LifeSavers Storybook: The Joy Of ..., Jason Liebig has an actual photo of an old one with the rolls still in it, Candy Critic, and of course The Imaginary World has some (I like this one).
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Hillside Candy has been making sweets for nearly thirty years and are best known for their line of sugar-free candies called GoLightly. GoNaturally is their new line of hard candies made with all organic ingredients. It’s also Kosher, dairy-free, gluten-free and corn-free.
Their initial offerings come in six different flavors:
Quite mellow, there’s no strong pop of either the honey or the lemon flavors.
It’s not really that sweet either, which makes it a rather nice change of pace and more soothing to the throat.
The pieces are rather small, about as big around as a penny. I loved the small size of the pieces and found with this flavor especially, the mild and true honey flavor kept me coming back over and over again until I finished the bag one afternoon. (Though each bag only holds 3.5 ounces, there are a lot of pieces because they’re so small - so I had a large pile of wrappers.)
The funny thing, if you haven’t noticed already, is that none of these candies use any colorings. So while they vary slightly, they’re all a basic light amber color. Since the wrappers are opaque, there’s really no need for them to contain added colors to tell them apart.
Tangy and not terribly strong, it’s the typical cherry flavor. Not too much on the side of cough syrup, it reminded me of cherry popsicles instead.
This was my least favorite flavor, but mostly because I think that the malty dark flavors that the rice syrup gives the candy doesn’t go as well with the bright cherry flavors.
I wasn’t sure which way this flavor was going to go. Was it going to be Jolly Rancher Green Apple or the Japanese Mentos Fuji Apple? Well, it was a little of both. It had a definite acidic pop of the fake variety but also a good sprinkling of the apple peel flavors of real cider. I’ve always found the best thing about apples to be the wonderful crisp texture and crunch, so any candy that misses that aspect really misses with me.
I think kids may appreciate it this though, but it may not convert them from Jolly Ranchers.
The curiously bright pink here belies the subtle flavor of the candy. It’s tangy and fruity like berries. It does a decent job of capturing pomegranate, which isn’t easy because most of the pom candies I’ve tried could have been named black raspberry or cranberry and I wouldn’t argue.
There’s a deep woodsy flavor to this, kind of like some red grapes have or, well, eating pomegranates. The dark molasses hint from the pomegranate or rice syrup does make this different from other pomegranate candies.
This is one of the candies that looked exactly like I’d expect a hard honey candy to look like. A little golden droplet.
The ingredients list has only three items on it: evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup & honey. It tastes mellow, a little more mellow than a spoonful of honey but still a sweet little treat. Along with the Honey Lemon, this was my favorite.
I’m always looking for good ginger candies because of my tummy upset issues and love of all things ginger.
These have an immediate woodsy taste, a little bit of a burn but mostly a taste of grassy sticks and spice.
I don’t know how well they’ll work with my sea-sickness and I doubt I’ll have them until whale watching season starts in January, I can see myself finishing this bag by next week.
My strangest issue with these was that they got soft and sticky. Los Angeles isn’t that humid, so I don’t think it was some sort of atypically moist condition that caused this. They’re not bad when they get softer around the edges, but they certainly don’t look as good and don’t have that crunch.
With that in mind, I don’t think they’d do well in an open bowl of candy, like a dish on your desk. Maybe a sealed jar or a zip lock bag.
I’m wild about the honey ones but didn’t have much of a feeling about the other flavors one way or the other.
This is an especially good product for those seeking a hard candy made without corn syrup or just something without artificial colors. It’s also made in the USA. The price is a bit steep for hard candy at about $2.50 per 3.5 ounce bag (though it’s certainly cheaper in bulk) but they do have some unique attributes, so there are definitely folks out there who will be thrilled to find the product and pay for it.
Monday, October 13, 2008
With the discontinuation of Reed’s Candies by Wrigley’s, I’ve been searching for similar candies. Hammond’s Candies is based in Colorado and makes hard candies and caramels using traditional methods and equipment. They’re known for their stunning hand twisted lollipops, ribbon and pillow candies. But they also make all sorts of traditional boiled sugar sweets including a line called Pantry Candies.
Each comes in a cute tin with a little clear window on top. Inside they’re tucked into a plastic bag to protect them from moisture.
Cinnamon Drops - these are sizable pieces, bigger than my pinkie toe. They’re sanded with a bit of sugar and have a soft and grainy appearance. The hard candy is smooth and flavorful. Instead of being just straight hot cinnamon, this hard candy has a bit of a touch of the woodsy, powdered spice as well as the burning cinnamon oil.
They have a satisfying crunch or simply dissolve without many voids or holes. It’s not quite the smooth & transcendent experience of Reed’s Cinnamon though.
Sour Balls - these are teensy little drops, smaller than a regular marble but larger than a pea. They come in lemon, lime, orange and cherry flavors. They have the same sanded exterior and a smooth dissolve. The citrus ones are nicely tangy but with a good rounded zest flavor (orange is a bit more muted though). They’re an old-fashioned sour though, don’t expect anything approaching battery acid.
Butterscotch Waffles - these were gorgeous little candies. They’re flattened squares (though some were little rectangles) with a smooth surface and little dimpled waffle pattern on them. They were a creamy, buttery flavor but lacking that little dash of salt though they are the closest I’ve found to the old Reed’s Butterscotch.
Licorice Drops - these definitely look the part. The same format as the Cinnamon Drops, they’re big and black and sanded. They’re made with real licorice root, so it’s a more complex flavor than just “flavored”. The big gripe I have with these, and it’s a huge one, is the large amount of artificial colors in the candy. It made my mouth greenish-black with only one. Not appealing or subtle at all. As much as I liked the taste (and finding licorice hard candies isn’t easy), the bitterness of the Red 40 (to my tongue) added with the unappealing mouth just turned me off and I didn’t finish the tin.
Lemon Drops - for those who don’t want to pick the lemon drops out of the Sour Ball assortment, here they are all alone. These large drops are perhaps a little muted in flavor, but the flavor goes all the way through and has a nice barley sugar tone to it.
Root Beer Drops - as with the cinnamon, I was hoping for a Reed’s experience here. Instead it’s rather more like a Root Beer Float than a plain old Root Beer Soda. These two-toned drops have the mellow woodsy flavor of root beer along with a creamy vanilla component. They’re smooth and flavorful but not quite spicy enough for my desires. Well, I take that back. This was the second tin I finished. (Butterscotch was the first.)
Ginger Drops (not pictured) - these little opaque candies were kind of peach/flesh colored. They didn’t smell like much and really didn’t taste like much at first either. Then the longer it dissolved the warmer it got, a light woodsy and rooty flavor, it was definitely ginger.
The offering in this line also includes Horehound, which I refuse to believe is a candy flavor but also suffers from over-coloring like the licorice.
They’re expensive, but nicely crafted and packaged and make a nice hostess gift or something to keep on your desk for those moments where you just have to have something. I like them much better than their lollipops which are exquisite to look at but don’t have the density of flavor and smooth texture of these.
Friday, October 3, 2008
One of the classic and more distinctive products that See’s makes is their line of Lollypops. They’re made with cream and are more like a hard caramel than a normal boiled sugar hard candy pop.
The regular flavors shift around but right now they sell: Butterscotch, Chocolate, Vanilla and Caf? Latt?. I like all of them except for the chocolate. It tends to be grainier and if I have the option of actual chocolate right there at See’s, well that’s what I’m going to go for. But the one thing the pops have going for them is that they’re so darn durable. Summer-safe, creamy candy is pretty hard to find.
Every once in a while they bring out new flavors. This fall they have a limited edition Pumpkin Spice Lollypops that should be available until Thanksgiving.
The ingredients are pretty simple: corn syrup, cream, sugar, natural and artificial flavors, butter and yellow #5. I don’t know why they have to put artificial colors in there, but I guess I’m guessing that they’d look fine without it, maybe they don’t.
The packages are a little box that holds a bag of eight pops. Not a bad price either at only $4.80 for the set (60 cents each). Each paper stick pop is wrapped in orange mylar
See’s pops are big blocks. Kind of chunky and perhaps a little big for easy-to-eat suckers. (Sometimes I pull them off the stick and eat them as hard candies.)
These are rather light in color and don’t smell like much other than maybe caramel.
They’re very smooth and melt slowly. Extremely creamy and not overly sweet they’re also a bit bland.
I had the first one and thought maybe it was that my allergies were acting up and I couldn’t taste any of these pumpkin spices, so I waited a few days and checked my sinuses and had another. They sweet and creamy and taste a bit like creme brulee ... but I’m not getting any actual spices I associate with pumpkin custard like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or ginger.
I wouldn’t call them bad, just nothing like the name would imply.
As a side note, earlier this summer they had a limited edition Root Beer. I got a hold of this while shopping with Sera of The Candy Enthusiast in July. She bought a whole package (the limited edition flavors are not sold individually like the classic ones are) and graciously shared two with me.
I loved them and went back in August to pick up a whole package for myself and was told they were all gone.
These pops were a wonderful mix of creamy smoothness, light sweetness and the spicy bite of root beer. It was kind of like a root beer float, but warmer. Root beer floats often suffer from tasting watered down when the ice cream mixes with the root beer, instead this had all the creaminess of ice cream and the intense flavor of root beer mixed together.
They’ll have Cinnamon Lollypops for Christmas. Each pop is 70 calories and they’re Kosher.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Kai’s Candies has a line of candidate sets. The one for Barack Obama is currently available and includes lollipops with Obama’s likeness on them plus little single candies that either say VOTE or have an image of a donkey.
Later in August they’ll have a set for John McCain that features a lollipop with his face plus red elephant candies.
The images are made by hand. Basically sugar and syrup are boiled, a little flavor or color is added and then the different hunks of colored candy are assembled into a large blob that is rolled thinner and thinner - little slices are cut that reveal the design created by stacking the different colors. This is the same traditional technique used to make swirled & twisted lollipops, starlight mints and candy canes.
In Japan this technique is called Kumi Ame (rolled candy), where these are made to Kai’s Candies specifications.
Kai’s Candy has a nice post on their blog that shows photos of the process.
In the case of Kai’s Candies, the background is a translucent candy instead of an opaque color, which adds to the appeal of these, like they’re enamel.
The Obama pop is attractive, I recognize it as Obama, though the flesh tone is a bit light and his lips should be darker as well. It’s about 1 1/2 inches across and about 1/4 inch deep. The stick is a stiff plastic, white with a twirl of color. They’re a bit longer than usual lollipop sticks at almost eight inches, so you could put them in a vase or something as a centerpiece.
The design goes through and through, it’s not an imprint or a raised design.
However, as the candy dissolves the different kinds that make it up dissolve at different rates. The clear candy background seems to be the hardest, so Obama’s face disappeared more quickly (as did the donkey in the little piece).
As a piece of edible propaganda, it’s one of the best I’ve seen. It’s good quality stuff and the company takes great pride in their work. The packaging is spare but appropriate. (I liked that the donkey, elephant & vote were not only in clear wrappers but had color coded ends.)
They are expensive ($14.95 for a set that includes 4 pops and 14 little candies) but they’re also hand made. There are also mini-sets for only $3.95 but of course it makes the per item charge higher ... and don’t forget shipping. There’s nothing on the site about just ordering the vote and party affiliate animals (though I bet you could contact them directly for that).
UPDATE 8/18/2008: Kai’s Candy has lowered the prices, the regular set is now $13.95. They also include lettered pops that say “Obama” or “McCain” and mixes that have both Obama and McCain face and name pops mixed.
UPDATE 2/20/2009: Kai’s Candy has a message on their website: Kai’s Candy Company Is No Longer In Business. We’d like to thank our customers who helped launch our business, but like many others, we haven’t been able to sustain our business through the recent economic downturn.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Lately there’s a lot of talk about the economy in the news and how people are downsizing their summer trips to staycations, eating out less and even driving less. What hasn’t change is sweets sales. In fact, history shows us that candy is recession-proof (even thrives in bad times as people can always spare something for a bit of sugar).
But what is happening is people are choosing their treats more carefully, with price being a key factor. I’m not one to shy away from house brands and generics, so I thought maybe I should give some design impostor candies a try. First up on my list is Foxes Five Flavor roll. I saw these in the vending machine at work. They were economical, at only 60 cents when all the other candy items were 85 cents to a dollar. Of course the roll was also smaller.
They’re meant to compete with LifeSavers 5 Flavors, so I put them to the test, head to head.
LifeSavers have a few competitors in the “small roll of hard candy” field. Mostly Charms, which are pretty hard to come by and Jolly Ranchers. I’m not terribly picky when it comes to hard candies, flavor is usually the first reason for me to buy something, brand is second or third. (Ingredients are also important.)
Here’s the specs on each:
LifeSavers 5 Flavors
I’ve been very unhappy with the flavor change in the LifeSavers 5 Flavor roll for many years now, and the hiatus from the product hasn’t changed my mind. There are only two flavors worth beans in here Pineapple & Orange. Raspberry is actually good but not what I want in my Favorite Five. Watermelon and Cherry can take a flying leap. (I actually don’t want cherry to leave the mix, I know it’s a legacy flavor and it’s a good way for me to make friends, by offering it to others.)
Foxes Five Flavor
The disks are attractive, translucent and sparkly. They remind me of the old Brach’s Sparklers. They are exceptionally smooth with very few voids so there’s nothing to tear up the mouth. The little divot in the middle makes it easy to run the tongue over it to deliver more flavor, or tuck it in the roof of the mouth comfortably.
Orange was rather bland. A mellow mix of zest and light tanginess, it didn’t have much zip. Lemon was all about sweetness, it was more like cotton candy flavor than a lemon drop, the lemon oil flavors developed more as it dissolved but never moved past pleasant for me. Lime was more intense with both sour and zest ... pretty good. Strawberry was surprisingly peppy - tart, fragrant and a bit like jam. The raspberry was similarly tasty, a little tart, a little flowery.
Overall the flavors were good, not stellar but quality hard candies. The flavors were distinctive and consistent. I would have preferred they be more intense, especially the citrus ones but the two berries were surprise hits.
Though you get more in the LifeSavers roll, you also pay more and with the price of LifeSavers at 85 cents at 7-11, the Foxes Five Flavors win out gram for gram. So, the verdict - if the flavor variety sounds good, the Foxes is a good option when you’re stuck with vending machine fare or are looking to pinch your pennies (and yes, it’s only pennies that are at stake).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.