Hard Candy & Lollipops
Monday, July 27, 2009
I popped into See’s yesterday to see what was new for the summer. The Root Beer Lollipops are back in stock (through mid-August), so if you were a fan of those (mini review here), then pop by for your fix.
I realized that I’ve never reviewed the See’s Lollipops in their classic array. The nice thing about them is that they’re summer-proof but also that they’re pretty cheap.
On top of that, they’re creamy and satisfying, last really long but only 70 calories each. They come in four regular flavors that are available singly (don’t forget your free sample!) or by the box: Vanilla, Chocolate, Butterscotch & Cafe Latte.
Vanilla looks like a block of nothing. The color is a creamy white, the texture & tint of glossy trim paint.
It smells sweet and vaguely like French vanilla ice cream. The flavor is like a toasted marshmallow - a sweet vanilla with a little hint of bourbon and butter.
It’s a smooth pop with a slightly oily dissolve, which only supports that feeling that I’m eating solid ice cream. It’s sweet, but doesn’t feel cloying or sticky. The pop lasts a long time, too.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The chocolate pop doesn’t look like much. It’s not quite shiny ... it’s not really matte either.
It smells like brownie batter.
The texture starts smooth but quickly degrades to an oddly rich but chalky experience. It’s like the mud at the bottom of the cup of hot chocolate. Not that I don’t love that mud, but in this case the texture is rather rough like a cat tongue.
It’s rich, and does deliver quite a bit of the chocolatey experience without melting. But the chalky/sand paper never quite thrills me.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The color is lovely, like a rich caramel.
The immediate flavor on my tongue was salt. It was very salty to me, but perhaps that was because I was eating the vanilla one right before that.
The texture is ultra smooth, and has the same creamy & buttery melt. The caramelized sugar notes were good but the strongest flavor by far was salty butter.
I liked how smooth the block is, though this is one that I noticed how awkward the pops are in the mouth. It takes a while to smooth away the corners. Over the years this has been my favorite pop mostly because of its simple & true flavor but also the super-slick texture.
Rating: 8 out of 10
This was the “softest” pop of the bunch. It was a little sticky from the humidity, which gave it a caramel consistency on the outermost layer.
The scent is like dark roast coffee or espresso, but the flavor is like coffee with lots of milk and some sugar in it. There’s a slight coffee bitterness to it, but for the most part it’s like a Coffee Nip with a stick in it.
I appreciated the silky texture and the stick prevented me from gluing my teeth shut as I often do with Nips or Coffee Rio.
Rating: 7 out of 10
A mixed box is a great addition to a vacation when you need a little pick me up, or something to keep you occupied at the office when wrangling endless spreadsheets of metadata.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Each variety is a little different and sports a different package design. And each package holds a little over an ounce. (Actually, the boxes were basically twice as big as they needed to be.)
The Fruit Flavors Jaw Slammers introduced me to the product line’s mascot, this blond kid with a big jawbreaker in his mouth.
But more disturbing than the lack of info was the look of the jawbreakers.
Each is about the size of a garbanzo bean, nicely spherical but mottled and uneven in color.
The melt on the tongue isn’t smooth until the first layer of color dissolves away.
I tried a few of the colors but the flavor was never more than “bland fruit” with a blend of citrus, banana and sweet berry. The texture is much like most jawbreakers, smooth and then a little burst of flavor (it you could call it that) and then a little bit rougher texture ... then smooth again.
About two layers down the candy stops and becomes a piece of compressed dextrose about the size of the old Tart n Tinys. But unflavored.
They’re wholly unoffensive, but not terribly stimulating or satisfying. I don’t feel ripped off, but I was hoping for a bit more flavor.
The Sour Jaw Slammers box is pretty bold in color.
At first the pieces looked to be similarly mottled as the fruit ones, but after touching them, they’re softly textured. I expected that to be a sour blast coating like Toxic Waste. Instead it was just the same as the fruit.
I waited through the layers until finally I got to that chalky candy layer and was rewarded with a very tart SweeTart like nugget.
Again, none of the flavors were particularly distinct, but the sweet outer layer and then the textural difference of the sour center was at least interesting.
Once I got the style of these candies down, I thought I knew what to expect with the Bubble Gum Center Jaw Slammers.
These were even more bumply than the others.
They were also more flavorful. Not a good flavor. It was a combination of Country Time Lemonade and ketchup.
Then there was the center.
I was expecting a piece of bubble gum at the center. Because that’s what the box said .. with bubble gum center.
So get to the middle and it feels just like a piece of compressed dextrose ... a bit tangy though. So I chew and find that it’s like a Razzle.
The net amount of gum (bubble gum, you know, for blowing bubbles) is about the size of a mustard seed.
Hot Red Shockers are, as I expected, to be like mini Atomic Fireballs.
The box design is a bit more of a downer than the others. Nowhere does it say that these are cinnamon.
In truth, they’re not just cinnamon. After first the little ball was a smooth and sweet cinnamon, then it ebbed into spearmint territory. The combination was like toothpaste or mouthwash. But then it came back around to cinnamon and there was definitely a red hot layer in there somewhere before the center became just a sugar ball.
I’m not sure why I would buy these when there are already two very good jawbreakers that fit the bill: Gobstoppers and Atomic Fireballs.
But I suppose if if I needed some water soluble ball bearings, this would fit the bill. Perhaps if I was looking for something to give away to people that I don’t care if they like me or not after receiving it. But not for me.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Das Foods which is already known for their cute little caramel morsels has expanded into the gourmet lollipop market. (Did you know there was a gourmet lollipop market?)
Their initial offerings are petite pops that look suspiciously like ordinary lollipops you’d get at the doctor’s office after bravely taking an injection without crying or biting the nurse.
These, however, are made in decidedly grown up flavors and with all natural ingredients.
This amber pop looks rather blah, like an all natural candy usually does.
It doesn’t mess around though. It didn’t smell like much, kind of like lemon, but maybe like tea. The first sensation I got when putting it on my tongue was a zap of ginger. Spicy. The tangy lemon entered and brought its companion bitterness with it (I guess that’s the naughty part, bitterness is like a lack of gratitude but sometimes a reminder of what we have).
It was a cross between a cough drop and a ginger hard candy. The spicy feeling on my lips, tongue & throat lasted quite a while.
The ingredients are pretty impressive: sugar, rice syrup, citric acid, crystallized ginger pieces, citric acid, lemon oil, natural ginger extract
Unlike many pomegranate candies, this is just a light and natural pink, like a garden rose. It smells rather woodsy - like tea in a sandalwood or cedar box.
The flavor is tangy and bit like a mellow cherry or raspberry. But then the orange kicks in. Instead of the juicy flavor it’s all about the zest here. There are little bits of orange zest as well, they give it a less than smooth melt on the tongue but also vibrant pops of flavor.
This dark brown pop was opaque. It smells a bit like a bowl of brown sugar - just lightly toasted.
The texture is just a smidge less smooth but the caramelized sugar flavors come out right away. It’s a little salty and not very sweet overall. The butter or cream components are missing ... so it’s more like a brulee topper for me than an actual hardened caramel. But that still kept me happy.
For an all natural hard candy, they are extremely expensive. Right now the variety pack is going for $3.99 for 4 ounces on the Das Foods website. (Each pop is about a half an ounce and there are 8 in the package. So they’re $16 a pound or 50 cents per pop.)
If you’re going through morning sickness or have motion sickness problems, the ginger pops are an excellent option. The caramel pops are a nice take on the hardened caramel, I appreciated that they weren’t too sweet. The orange & pomegranate didn’t thrill me, but I think I was detecting more bitter citrus oils than most folks probably would. I don’t mind it at first, but it does leave a weird taste in my mouth.
In addition to the flavors reviewed here there’s also one called Man Bait which is Bacon & Maple. (I gave it to Amy, who thought it was pretty tasty, much more on the maple & smoke side and not much else from the bacon ... for the record she’s one of those people who doesn’t like her syrup to get on her bacon.)
Expensive but certainly unique. If you’re going for really vibrant flavors and all natural ingredients, these may be a great option. They’re certainly a fun impulse item at a cafe or gift shop but I don’t think I’m crazy enough about them to buy a whole box.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Melville Candy has always made fantastically attractive lollipops. They have an extensive line of Honey Spoons and an amazing array of Barley Sugar Pops (which I will review after I finish eating one of each).
They were highlighting their line of Harvest Candy at the Fancy Food Show back in January.
The array includes large lollipops shaped like vegetables and fruits.
As you can see above when you compare that list to my photo, I didn’t pick up all the flavors.
Apple - is a large and deep red pop. It’s shaped like an apple and about 2.5” in diameter and slightly domed. The shrink wrap has a little stem and green leaf, but after opening it up, it’s just a plain red lollipop. I was expecting the normal “candy company green apple flavor” that has no relationship with the real world. Instead it tastes like sweet, solid apple juice. I didn’t get any “citrus” per se, but the smooth texture of the candy and the light fruity flavor was appealing.
Orange - is about the same size as the apple but has two little leaves at the top and a bumpy texture on the molding. The flavor is mostly sweet with a touch of orange zest. It’s not at all tangy, which sets it apart from most orange lollies on the market (like Orange Tootsie Pops).
Corn - it’s a tall and narrow pop, about 5 inches long. The shrink wrap on it has the little husks and peeling the wrapper form the top is rather like shucking corn. The molding of the pop is textured just like rows of corn niblets.
I didn’t know what to expect for the flavor. They described it as buttered popcorn. I’ve always found “butter flavor” especially in things like popcorn snacks and Jelly Belly to be rather repulsive (and one of the chemicals used to create this, diacetyl, is actually causing dire health complications for workers exposed to it).
Happily the flavor here is more like the toffee-like coating on kettle corn. The butter flavor is very mild and the toasted sugar flavors are more prominent with just a hint of creamed corn to really sell the corn-ness of it.
Carrot - it’s about the same size as the corn, but obviously tapered at the top as a carrot is. I was hoping for a wonderful spice pop, with notes of ginger and maybe raisins. Instead it was kind of a sweet generic yellow cake taste. Not bad, but just not quite as cool and innovative as I’d hoped. However, the shape & texture was amazing - smooth & easy to eat.
The sticks are large and beefy and the pops are substantial (1.75 ounces each). They last a long time and the smooth texture makes them a pleasure - not a mouth-wrecker.
It’s also nice the the pops are shrink wrapped instead of in little baggies, for use as favors or on display, this makes the especially appealing. They retail for about $2 to $3 each (depending on whether you buy them in full boxes or individually). As a molded hard candy these do have a tendency to droop when exposed to high temperatures or simply when they get old, so if you get some, eat them soon.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I love lollipops in the sense that I love looking at them, I like buying them and I enjoying having them. But I’d have to guess that I only eat about half of the lollipops I ever have.
Part of it is that lollipops are simply hard candy. And I’m pretty sure that most people don’t actually like hard candy ... in the sense that they’d be willing to pay three times as much for it simply because it includes an inedible holder with it. But this is part of the amazing enigma of lollipops.
If I were a sculptor, I would probably wish to make things of spun, twisted & boiled sugar.
If I were to have my wedding all over again today, I’d probably just carry a bunch of lollipops instead of a bouquet of flowers. (Or maybe some of those wondrous flowers made from sugar.)
At the moment though I just take photos of lollipops when I get a hold of them.
Today, however, I’m also eating them.
I have a set of Hammond’s Candies All Natural Lollipops.
They’re made without artificial flavors or colors and are hand crafted. They come in a variety of flavors, I have six that I’m going to profile
These are the middle-sized pops - they’re one ounce each and about two to two and a half inches across. (Honestly, I think some of these were more than generously oversized.)
The pops feature thick wooden sticks and are wrapped simply in little cellophane bags with a sticker on the back that lists the flavor, ingredients & nutritional info. The front is all about the look of these hand-crafted medallions.
The ropes of candy are built in layers, at the center is a slightly aerated hard candy center. The outer layers are smooth and for the most part “clear” boiled sugar candy. The slight aeration of the core means that it’s very easy to crunch & chew it up and has no noticeable voids. It also means the the candy has a slightly lighter feel to it than I think I would have guessed just looking at it.
The flavor is light and bright - a touch of tartness but mostly a floral berry flavor like cotton candy.
Pomegranate - satiny cream background with pink/red stripes.
This had a very light floral flavor at first, all sweetness on the outside. The core, though, has a bit of a yogurty tang to it and a mellow cherry flavor with a stronger pop of sourness towards the end. It’s not a very intense flavor - just a light and rather nondescript berry note. It’s more like a fruit punch and is an overall positive.
This was a big test for me, because for the most part I don’t like cherry flavored candies because I don’t like the aftertaste of the most commonly used red food coloring, Red 40.
The outside was sweet and has a little toasted sugar flavor to it. The interior has a nice, zesty sour pop to it along with the cherry flavor. It’s not the dark, black cherry flavor - more like a cherry pie note. I’d call it positive and definitely has no weird poisonous aftertaste. Call it a win for cherry haters.
Peppermint - deep red with a series of amber stripes inside cream bands.
The coloring on this one wasn’t what I would have picked out of the bunch as the mint flavored one.
The mint flavor is clean and crisp - fresh and cooling with a long-lasting aftertaste. The texture of the candy is a little odd at first. The outside is smooth and with few voids, but can be kind of sharp if you break or crunch it.
Most of the pops at this point I was eating by breaking them first, eating the pieces and then whatever was left on the stick. For the Pear, which was just slightly smaller than the others, I ate it whole.
The outer layer was mild & sweet and had a light orchard fruit scent. In this case the center is the same ... kind of like an apple kissed toasted marshmallow. For the most part I love fresh pears but have never cared for pear flavored candies ... but this isn’t very “pear-flavored” so I give it a thumbs up.
Lemon - yellow bands with cream mini stripes
The outside is zesty but just a kiss of sweetness to it. The center is only slightly tangy. The whole thing reminds me of the flavor combination of a lemon bar. It’s not going to burn holes in my tongue, so I’ll definitely eat the whole thing.
The size of these pops was just a smidge too large for placing in the mouth whole. The texture and smoothness of the outside & inside meant that they were both interesting and pleasant from start to finish. In most cases the outside & inside also offered different flavor variations, which was a good feature to offer when selling at a premium price. They also come in a huge variety of sizes, from this one ounce version to a 4 ounce (saucer) to a full pound (dinner plate).
When not in “review mode” I found that these were definitely an all day sucker for me. The price is a bit steep - at about $2.50 to $3.00 per pop (depending on where you buy them). I’ve seen these at department stores around Christmas (in cinnamon!), at Cost Plus World Market (they also have Root Beer, but I don’t think it’s all natural) plus upscale candy shops and of course on the internet at CandyWarehouse.com, NaturalCandyStore.com and direct from Hammond’s.
Hard candy has its place, it’s durable and can be packed with flavor or just sweet comfort. Mostly it’s an amazing concoction because it can be beautiful.
To finish this off, have a look at how they make some of their hand-crafted creations:
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Hard candy has a bad reputation as being cheap and a candy of last resort. Oh sure, a little starlight mint after a garlicky meal is usually gratefully accepted when offered. But really good hard candy is out there.
As a kid I often got them around holidays, just a small handful included in my stocking candy. As I grew up I learned to find them on my own ... and was pretty shocked at the sticker price, especially compared to the more affordable Zotz.
I don’t know when or where I got this tin. I think it was sometime in the late eighties, I’m pretty sure I bought it in Philadelphia or New York and I was probably mortified to pay something like three dollars for a little tin of lemon drops.
They’re made in Belgium and the packaging features the image of Napoleon Bonaparte. I have no idea when the candies originated or their history. The tin simply says: Le Bon Bonbon Napoleon Sour Lemon. The more recent bag that I acquired through a photo shoot for Candy Warehouse says Made by Napoleon-Breskens-Holland.
So even though I can’t tell you much about their background, I can review what I’ve got:
Though I most often see the Lemon, they also come in Cherry, Tangerine, Lime and Pineapple.
The candies are devilishly simple. Hard candy outside, and then a strip of super sour powder in the center. The powder center is often mistaken for a liquid, it’s rather cool on the tongue and so fine that it melts away instantly. It’s only before putting then in the mouth that I could really tell. (Yes, as a kid I sometimes broke them apart to create a big pile of super sour powder.)
These are insanely expensive. The ones in the top photo I bought at Miette in San Francisco last year for 25 cents each. They’re spherical and a little less yellow, but still the same flavor profile as the disk shaped lemon. The bags that Candy Warehouse sells are $7.10 a pound, and come in 7 pound bags. (Yes, at one time I had 14 pounds of Napoleon Bonbons - one of just lemon and one of the mix. I’ve eaten about three pounds so far.)
I’ve really vacillated between giving these a nine or a ten. The price is a formidable obstacle to perfection, but then again, I know I bought that tin when I was in college and had staggeringly little money so they must be worth it. So there you are, another 10 out of 10.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
One of my favorite booths to visit at any food show is Melville Candy Company. Not only is their candy pretty, the guys that run the company are always really enthusiastic and seem to really love the products they make. (Which is what we all expect from folks who work in candy, but you’d be surprised at some attitudes I’ve run across.)
There’s always someone at the aisle handing out Honey Spoons (so I always have a stash at home). The spoon line at Melville’s is expanding. They have their honey varieties, and the flavored spoons and now they’re making actual tea spoons.
This spoon is a mix of tea and sugar and, I think, honey.
It can be eaten as is or mulled in some hot water to create a beverage! Instead of being an “instant tea” though, there are actual tea leaves in there.
Even though it looks a little weird, I found this to be a really tasty combination. Like a cup of sweet tea. The dark brewed flavors & tannins were there along with the light malty taste of honey.
The second variety I picked up was the Jasmine Green Tea Spoon. This opaque spoon is dark green with a strong freshly mowed lawn scent.
Though I prefer eating my candy, I decided to see what it would be like to make this into a beverage, as it’s actually designed to do. So I made up a cup of hot water and popped in the Jasmine Green Tea Spoon.
(Well, actually, I tasted the spoon first. It was sweet, terribly bitter and very grassy tasting, just like matcha powder.)
I let it melt for a while and then pulled out the spoon. It’d gotten stuck to the bottom of the cup and made a long, soft string of hard candy. It was fun to bend around and then stir into the hot water. It turned the water green pretty quickly, too.
I left it alone for five minutes and then stirred well again to get the pictured version here.
It smells quite grassy, a lot like henna or wet hay.
I found the beverage was far too sweet for me, but I’m also not a fan of sweetening my tea or chai lattes.
As a lollipop though it was a quite a refreshing change from the normal lemon & cherry variety.
They’re not featured on the Melville website just yet. But there are some other fun items that I saw at the show but haven’t tried yet that I thought I’d mention:
Melville’s has really been thinking outside the box lately. Though their honey spoons collections are expensive, they are unique and come in a huge variety of honey types & with added flavorings.
Their other new products include tea spoons made with real cinnamon sticks, for extra flavor.
The most innovative (and perhaps silliest) is their line of Cereal Flavoring Spoons. They come in Apple Cinnamon and Cinnamon & Sugar. I’m guessing if you’re not eating already-sweetened cereal, this is no worse than spoonfuls of sugar or honey. (I do like a heaping pile of lumps of brown sugar in my hot cereal.) Eating from a spoon made of sugar would mean sweetness & flavor in every bite, especially with a real cinnamon stick for a handle.
They’re still a bit expensive, but small batch candy often is. They’re not the kind of treat I’d buy often, but definitely a fun thing for guests or when you travel.
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.