Tuesday, March 6, 2012
The drug stores and big box discounters are in full Easter mode right now. But I found a little display of St. Patrick’s Day items at Target on an endcap near the party supplies. It included the Hershey’s Kisses filled with Creme de Menthe in a very green bag accented with green shamrocks.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d had these before, I had to pull out my droid phone and look it up. Even then, I still suspected that these were another limited edition Hershey’s Kisses item, the Mint Truffle Kisses (reviewed in 2007).
The Kiss packaging is to the point. They’re green folk. Whoop de doo. The little flags say Creme de Menthe, which is a bit generic in a way, I was hoping they’d have little shamrocks on them instead of dots to separate the text.
The molded Kisses are sharp, consistent and shiny. They smell quite minty and a little chocolatey. The semi sweet shell is mild and imbued with quite a bit of mint, whether it started that way or not. The melt is good, for a Hershey’s chocolate item, not terribly smooth, but not chalky or fudgy either. The center is a little more like a smooth fudge, not grainy but not like a flowing fondant like a cordial. It’s a bit salty, which balances the sweet well and gives the peppermint a little bit more dimension.
I liked them well enough. It’s easy to eat just a few of them as a little refreshment. I didn’t find myself reaching for them over and over again after three or so. The mint flavor is clean and not too sickly sticky.
The ingredients list is long and features a lot of vegetable oil for the center (the second ingredient for the filling) which includes palm oil. The allergen statement only lists peanuts (and of course it’s made with dairy products and soy) but says nothing about tree nuts or gluten. Hershey’s is far behind the rest of the chocolate world with its ethical sourcing of cocoa, so if you’re looking for a nice minty treat without enslaving children, try Seth Ellis Mint Sun Cups or the Divine After Dinner Mints.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
It’s exciting to see a new Cadbury product for Easter. The Cadbury brand is so inextricably tied to Easter is many American’s minds because of their iconic products like the Cadbury Creme Egg and the Cadbury Mini Chocolate Eggs.
This year Hershey’s in the United States is rolling out the Cadbury Chocolate Creme Egg. (I didn’t see that these are for sale in the UK.) They’re made by Cadbury Canada, not imported all the way from the UK by Kraft.
They’re only 1.2 ounces these days, but I think that’s actually a good size for such a thing.
If there’s one thing that Cadbury Creme Eggs mess with, it’s the definition of creme. I consider a creme to be creamy, something with a bit of fat in it, something that’s smooth. The traditional Creme Egg has a fondant which is actually smooth, but doesn’t rise to the level of something that’s actually creamy. It doesn’t melt in your mouth, it dissolves.
These eggs are not a ganache center, instead it’s a smooth fondant. I expect little from a Cadbury chocolate ingredient-wise; I know it’s a lot of sugar. But I was dismayed to see that the ingredients included things like palm oil and high fructose corn sweetener. (And it’s not easy to see those things, it’s printed on the foil but not on the website, so I had to carefully flatten the foil, then photograph it and zoom in to read it.)
The Cadbury Chocolate Creme Egg gets closer to that creamy ganache that I would hope it would be, but misses a bit. Basically, if you love chocolate frosting, you’ll love the Chocolate Creme Egg.
It was pretty good. Much better, in my opinion, than the traditional plain fondant version. The fudgy center has plenty of cocoa in it, and it is quite smooth, like a rich tub of frosting. There may even be a little salt in there, which offsets the sticky, sickly sweet milky chocolate The cocoa notes of the filling are more like a Tootsie Roll than a chocolate truffle, but that’s just fine for Easter.
I like this addition to the Cadbury Egg offerings.
There’s no statement about the ethical sourcing of the chocolate, though Cadbury is going Fair Trade with many of their UK chocolates. It’s made on shared equipment with peanuts and tree nuts. I couldn’t find a gluten statement.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Jolly Ranchers probably single-highhandedly made hard candies cool for kids. The flavors are bold and fresh and more intense than most others available back in the seventies when they went national and really still to this day. The brand has obviously branched out with chews, gummies and jelly beans. But their core product remains their individually wrapped hard candies in flavors like green apple, cherry, blue raspberry and watermelon. (One of my favorites has always been the Fire Sticks, though they’re not made any longer.)
The candies come packaged in a variety of formats. They should be available as little packages in vending and convenience stores as well as this peg bag that holds 6.5 ounces. Each piece is individually wrapped. Instead of the twist clear wrappers, these have sealed ends. The new logo design is bold and appealing, but the color difference between the watermelon pink and the cherry pink is quite faint. (Though the names are also printed on there.)
They’re about 7/8ths of an inch. The construction is interesting, it reminds me of the Jolly Rancher chewy center lollipops. There’s a chewy center, kind of like a Starburst and a hard candy shell. The shell is different from the texture of a regular Jolly Rancher. It’s not transparent, it’s milky and doesn’t have that same smooth melt and light pliability.
Cherry (Dark Pink) is the flavor I wanted to get out of the way, as it’s usually my least favorite but a good time to concentrate on the qualities of the candy. The candy rod is pretty thick, though it’s called crunch and chew, I don’t recommend biting into it right away, I suggest dissolving it a bit. The cherry flavor is strong with both tartness and a sweet woodsy but artificial flavor. Crunching brings an interesting set of textures. The chew in the middle was quite sour but worked well with the crunchy bits of hard candy. I suppose you could be patient and let the hard candy dissolve completely ... but the product is called Crunch ‘n Chew.
Green Apple (Green) is the flavor that I most associate with Jolly Rancher. It’s good, it’s nicely rounded with both that artificial green apple plus a helping of apple juice and a little bit of dried apple. The center is chewy and much more mild, almost milky.
Watermelon (Pink) is quite artificial and reminds me of scented lip gloss. It’s tangy with a good dose of that fake watermelon. The chew inside is also tart and has a weird sort of plastic flavor to it, kind of like Play Doh smells.
Blue Raspberry (Blue) is rather berry flavor. It’s not quite as intense as the standard Jolly Rancher clear hard candy, but has a well rounded flavor that pulls in flavors of seeds and boiled jam all with a tangy backdrop.
They’re just not my style. The part I like most about Jolly Ranchers is their incredibly smooth dissolve, no voids and with a sort of syrupy thickness to the flavor. This was just another hard candy with a weird plasticy chew at the center. If I were 11 and someone gave this to me, I might like it. But as a grown up, I think I’ll probably just stick with the Cinnamon Fire or Wild Berry flavors.
Contains gelatin, so not suitable for vegetarians. Made in Brazil, no statement about gluten or peanuts/tree nuts but does contain corn starch, sulfur dioxide and soy.
Friday, January 13, 2012
The new Hershey’s Pieces - Milk Chocolate with Almonds isn’t as innovative as some of the other candies, such as the Almond Joy Pieces or the initial Reese’s Pieces. But they fill a void in Hershey’s offerings and I was looking forward to them.
The first big stumbling block I had, though, was the price. 8 ounces for about four dollars. Other stores sell them for $4.50. I have a hard time paying 8 or 9 dollars a pound for Hershey’s candy in bulk quantities.
They also don’t reinvent the niche with some new quality. They’re not low in allergens, the list on the back says that they may contain soy, wheat, other tree nuts and peanuts. A great selling point would have been a nutty candy that is actually peanut and/or gluten free.
The Pieces look like the package illustrates. They come in three colors: dark brown, brown and cream. They vary widely in size, based on the core of almond. Some are as small as a Peanut M&M, others are huge, sometimes over an inch long.
They’re a standard construction of a well-roasted almond, a milk chocolate coating and then a colored candy shell. The colors are pleasing. I actually enjoyed their muted tones more than the loud and artificial M&Ms Almond. Of course these are also artificial, with Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 & 2 ... just less bang for the coloring.
The almonds are roasted to a very dark color, roasted in cocoa butter and/or sunflower oil). This is a good choice. I found them all crunchy and fresh tasting, not a single fibery or bitter one in the bag.
The shell is thin enough to crunch easily and provide only a modicum of sweetness. The milk chocolate is only marginally acceptable. It has the Hershey’s sour note to it, which I actually like sometimes, especially when mixed with more savory elements. Here it was such a back seat to the large almonds, it worked.
I prefer this, by far, to the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar. But I don’t like it better than M&Ms Almond, because of the difference in the chocolate flavor. What I’d really like to see is a Heath Pieces at this point, that’d really set the Pieces line apart from their current iteration as an M&Ms clone.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Here’s a small selection of what I’d call Christmas chocolate bars. I’ve got to eat them up before the holidays - it may be too late for you to get them by Christmas, but there are some special ones that are worth picking up at the after-Christmas sales.
Hershey’s introduced their Golden Almond Bar in 1977. It’s a thick bar and clocks in at 2.8 ounces. The bar design and packaging has changed little over the past thirty five years. It’s still wrapped in gold foil with a gold sleeve. Bars are sold either singly or in gold gift boxes of five bars (see a 1984 ad here). They’re not that easy to find, I usually see them at the official Hershey’s stores at Chocolate World or the Times Square shop.
The bar is simple, it’s just milk chocolate with lots of whole roasted almonds in it. It differs from the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar as it’s supposed to be better quality chocolate. The ingredients do not differ from the Hershey’s standard milk chocolate which includes PGPR but is at least made in the United States and not Mexico as the other supposedly upscale Pot of Gold line is.
The bar is wonderful looking, it’s thick and has a great snap. It’s about 1.7 inches wide, 4.75 inches long and a beefy half inch high. There are some almonds in there though not as many as I feel are promised but they look like they’re fresh and of good quality. The chocolate looks a little darker than the standard Hershey’s but smells like I’d expect. It’s sweet with a slight yogurty tang to it.
The texture is smooth and fudgy, with a sticky melt and a light caramel and woodsy chocolate flavor. It’s not complex and it’s not extraordinary. But if you like Hershey’s chocolate and enjoy the decadence of a thicker piece, this is a good bar to choose. I liked the nostalgia of an actual foil wrapped bar, which is so rare these days. If there’s someone on your list that loves Hershey’s, this is a little bit more elegant way to give them what they desire.
Size: 2.8 ounces
I found this seasonal bar called Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade at the Niederegger cafe at Marktplatz in Lubeck. The front of the package says Saftiges gewurz marzipan mit vollmilch-schokolade. So it’s a spiced marzipan in milk chocolate. The image shows almonds, cinnamon sticks and star anise. The ingredients don’t specifically list anise, just “spices” though cinnamon is a separate item.
Inside the paper wrapper there’s a stiff card (advertising the company and their website) and the foil wrapped bar.
The packaging did a great job of protecting the bar. It was glossy and unscuffed.
The milk chocolate is very light in color (33% cocoa solids and 14% milk solids). The bar smells like milky chai, a little spicy and very sweet. The marzipan is moist and a bit like eating Snickerdoodle cookie dough. The chocolate is smooth, but doesn’t contribute much in the way of cocoa to this, it just nicely encases the marzipan. The texture of the marzipan is a little more rustic than the French style fondant type that’s used for creating figures and shapes. Niederegger is meant for eating and enjoying.
The ratios on the 100 gram bars from Niederegger favor the chocolate more than the enrobed little classic loaves. (I’ll get into that more in my master post.) If you’re looking for a starter marzipan that’s more about the texture and celebrates almonds as the source ingredient, Niederegger really can’t be beat. It’s not too sweet and doesn’t have any fake amaretto flavors to it.
I would prefer a version of this with dark chocolate, but I can’t argue with the traditional recipe they have. It’s a great balance of subtle spice, sweetness, milk and almonds.
Size: 3.5 ounces
I’m no stranger to the Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark. They’ve been making it for years and it comes in a clever little square that’s perfect for some afternoon tea or coffee.
I found this set of bars at Target last month on sale for $2 each. They’re heralded as limited edition and come in milk chocolate and dark chocolate.
I’m not actually a fan of barks. I like my inclusions fully immersed in the chocolate. So the bar version of Peppermint Bark is perfect for my strange fondness for things being hidden in the chocolate.
Unlike most Peppermint Barks, which combine white chocolate with crushed peppermint candies (like candy canes or starlight mints), the Ghiradelli version uses minty, artificially colored corn flakes. I haven’t the foggiest why they did it that way, but honestly, they created something unique enough to be a new genre.
The milk and dark vary a little bit in their coloring. The milk version is sweet and has a lot of dairy notes to it from both the milk chocolate base and the white chocolate top (made with real cocoa butter). The mint is clean and bright, the little cereal bits are crunchy and a little salty and keep it all from being too cloying.
The dark version has two kinds of bits, the red bits and some little dark brown bits, which I think are little chocolate cookie pieces. The dark chocolate has a little smoky note to it which overshadowed the minty layer a bit, which I enjoyed. There’s a definite difference between the Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark and the Dove Peppermint Bark, which can also be found for comparable prices at similar stores. Personally, I prefer the Dove version, because it’s a bit butterier. This one is about the crunch, a grown up sort of crunch.
Size: 3 ounces
The last item I have is not quite a full review. The Hachez Weihnachts Knusper Bar (Christmas Crunchy Bar) is a darling looking bar. The soft white paper wrapper has a classically illustrated scene of a child ice skating on a pond.
Feine Vollmilch-Chocolade mit Zimt, Mandeln und Nussen
My German was getting pretty good, even though I’d only been listening to German podcasts for a week and was only there for a day. The front of the package said Fine milk chocolate with cinnamon, almonds and nuts. The little image also showed all of the above -cinnamon sticks, milk chocolate blocks, almonds and a hazelnut in its shell.
So I was very excited when I got it home and put at the top of my list to photograph and review before Christmas. I took it out of the wrapper, snapped it in half ... it looked and smelled so good:
The bar was glossy and showed no ill effects from the long journey (about 750 more miles on a bus at that point then the 5,700 mile plane ride).
I broke off a little piece of it to try after the photo, I was greeted by wonderfully smooth and milky chocolate and amazingly fresh, crunchy and crushed nuts and a hint of cinnamon. I could taste the hazelnuts and something else ... it wasn’t pecans, it was walnuts. What I didn’t realize was that while Nussen might be a generic word for nuts, it usually meant walnuts. (Walnusse is the more specific word.) So technically, I didn’t eat any of the bar. I had to spit it out and rinse out my mouth (I still ended up itchy and with a sore throat all evening - my allergy has not developed beyond this irritation stage). But I’m going to go out on a limb after eating many of the other Hachez products in the past week (which I’ll have reviews for) and say that this really is a good bar.
Size: 3.5 ounces
Do you have a favorite winter flavor combination? Anything regional or something from long ago that they don’t make any longer?
Monday, August 15, 2011
Jolly Rancher (part of Hershey’s) introduced their Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews ten years ago. The chews are individually wrapped and have a texture similar to Starburst or an intense taffy. When I first tried them they were sold in a long stack of pieces, much like Starburst.
When I was at the convenience store a couple of weeks ago I saw the newer packaging which is a little, brightly colored paperboard box. It holds the same amount of candy, 2.06 ounces 14 pieces). The Jolly Rancher Tropical Fruit Chews come in four flavors: Pineapple, Strawberry-Kiwi, Lemon-Lime and Tropical Punch.
What exactly makes these Jolly Ranchers? When they were first introduced Jolly Ranchers became widely known because of their smooth dissolving texture with no air bubbles and intense flavors. Their slogan is Famous for Flavor and when I think of the brand I do identify it with my first experience with Green Apple. The company was founded in 1949 in Colorado, but the national obsession with the candies didn’t begin until after Beatrice Foods took over the candy in 1966 and distributed them nationally.
Hershey’s now owns Jolly Ranchers and has expanded the brand to include Gummis, Lollipops, Jelly Beans and Chews. All feature intense flavors but very generic flavors on the whole with bright colors.
The chews are rectangular, one inch long and 3/4 of an inch wide. They’re soft and pliable and a cross in texture between Starburst and Now and Later.
I was happy to see that I picked a box where Pineapple was the densest flavor. The chew doesn’t smell like anything but has an immediate tart and floral flavor of pineapple. The texture isn’t entirely smooth like Starburst, but retains its flavor and texture, kind of like gum all the way to the end when it dissolves.
Lemon-Lime was quite zesty and has a little sizzle to it, it’s so intense. The flavor is more on the lime side of lemon-lime, but not so tart that it’s unbearable. It reminds me of a Gin and Tonic without the Gin.
Tropical Punch was in the intense red wrapper and was nearly maroon when unwrapped. The flavor is peppery and very much like Hawaiian Punch, strong guava and papaya notes along with some hints of raspberry and pineapple. There was a slight artificial color aftertaste, but it couldn’t really rival the riot of artificial flavors.
Strawberry-Kiwi was pink and looked like bubble gum. The flavor combination was really intense and I could actual perceive the different fruits - the Kiwi was grassy and had notes of the seeds and the strawberry was tangy and with the toasted sugar flavors of cotton candy.
Overall, it’s a good flavor variety to add to Jolly Ranchers line. I question the packaging in a box. It’s nice to pick through the assortment for the flavor I want, but the box was only about half full, so it took up far more volume than necessary. I like the compactness of the Starburst style package, which also protects the pieces very well with double sealed wrapping.
They’re made in Mexico and are not Kosher and have no notice of nuts or gluten or any other common allergen (it does contain soy). It does contain gelatin so it’s not suitable for vegetarians.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I consider myself an expert on candy, not just an expert on eating it, but actually what’s going on with candy and the people who make it. I’m on oodles of mailing lists and I read news feeds and trade magazines voraciously. So I’m always a little surprised and slightly disappointed to see a new candy on the shelves that I didn’t know was coming. Really, why would you sneak a candy onto store shelves without at least including it on your own website or a list that you publish in a trade magazine?
I was at Walgreen’s over the weekend (at regular circuit where I also stop at RiteAid and sometimes 7-11) checking to see if there were any new candies to review. Imagine my surprise when I found Limited Edition Twizzlers Pull ‘n’ Peel Grape actually hiding underneath the Watermelon Pull ‘n’ Peel. Not only was it on sale, but there was also a little coupon dispenser, so the regular price of $2.79 was ultimately $1.65.
The package is about 12 inches long, but the Twizzlers themselves are less than 9.5 inches long ... so there’s a lot of useless and deceptive space in the package.
The color is strange and matte, like the other Pull ‘n’ Peel varieties of Twizzlers. (The classic Twizzlers twists look like they’re made of some sort of pliable acrylic.)
Each cable of Pull ‘n’ Peel has nine strands and weighs about an ounce. It’s also only 100 calories, so it’s a lot of candy to indulge in for a very low calorie cost. They’re soft and easy to pull apart (though every once in a while I’d break a string while peeling it from the others). The surface is soft and not at all greasy or sticky unless you get it wet, then it sticks very nicely to itself.
Imagine a product that takes the most memorable qualities from PlayDoh and Grape Pixy Stix. You’re thinking, “What fun! It’s candy you can play with!” But it’s not quite an even contribution from its parents, apparently candy genetics has some ideas about which traits are dominant. It has the mild and soft texture of a pliable molding clay but also some of the scent of it. (PlayDoh is also made of a wheat flour base.) But still, it smells like grape drink or Pixy Stix, but the flavor is less grape and more purple. There is some fake grape in there, but mostly the flavor notes come from the strong bitterness and strange inky qualities of the artificial colors. There’s no hint of tartness or anything else, just a mild sweetness.
The chew is good, though the lack of tang gives it a doughy flavor overall. Eventually it dissolves into a pasty puddle in my mouth along with some larger bits that stick to the sides of my molars. There’s a long-lingering aftertaste: a metallic, aluminum flavor.
American Licorice, the West Coast rival of Twizzlers recently re-issued their Grape Vines. I happened to have some sitting around to compare. The flavor of the Grape Vines is actually authentic, it tastes like raisins and concord grape juice, if only slightly. Even eating a few of those couldn’t push that aftertaste of the Twizzlers out of my mouth though.
Twizzlers did a great thing when they made the cinnamon-flavored Twizzlers Fire Pull ‘n’ Peel. Those need to come back and these need to be retired forever. (Except in cases where parents are trying to wean their children off of eating PlayDoh and need these as a positive substitution, but perhaps by prescription from a pediatrician only.)
Thursday, July 14, 2011
It’s their new Air Delight Aerated Milk Chocolate. I’ve already covered the Air Delight Kisses, which were sent to me by the National Confectioners Association back during The Sweets & Snacks Expo. The bar was supposed to go on sale shortly after that in June nationwide. Believe me, I tried to find it. Southern California may be the first for movie premieres, but we’re often the last for candy rollouts. I tried Walgreen’s, RiteAid, Target, Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Von’s and CVS. Eventually, by mid June the Kisses showed up at the drug stores, but I still couldn’t find the bar. Even more frustrating, the CVS store I was in was advertising the bar on their PA system ... but didn’t actually have it in stock.
I finally found it the other night at a different CVS, and on sale (buy 2 and get 1 free).
The package describes the bar as:
Finally, an end to the effort! I bet you didn’t think about how much effort it actually was to melt things in your mouth. You know, the opening and closing and then application of heat. All of that is solved with this new chocolate bar ... it’s so light, it practically inserts itself into your mouth. Wait, no. No, it doesn’t. You apply the exact same effort, except for the possible fact that this bar weighs 1.44 ounces instead of the 1.55 so it is actually a lighter bar.
The bar is thick but also a bit more narrow than the standard Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar. Both bars I picked up were unbroken and unblemished. They have six narrow segments that cleave off easily to reveal the little air bubbles within.
Since the bar is aerated, the snap and bite is softer. It’s not that it’s melted or anything, it’s just quieter or something. It does seem to melt quicker and has a stronger scent (perhaps because of the increased surface area on the exposed surfaces). The flavor is undeniably Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. If you don’t like the sweet, caramelly and tangy flavor of Hershey’s, you’re really not going to like this. The fudgy cheesecake flavors are more noticeable now that the texture matches that more closely. It’s really filling, I was surprised. I took each section as two bites and took quite a while to eat it. It felt like a lot more chocolate than 1.44 ounces.
As far as the success of Hershey’s aerated bar, I’d say they’ve done a great job. It’s exactly what you’d want if you wanted a bubbly Hershey’s milk chocolate experience. I found it far too sweet and gave the back of my throat that “acidic burp” feeling. So if you’re looking for a satisfying actual chocolate experience, you might want to step up to something a little higher quality. But if you’ve always wanted a Nestle Aero bar that you can buy at your local store without the import premium, this may be your thing.
This bar was made in Mexico. There’s no allergen statement anywhere on it (though it does actually contain dairy and soy, so you know those for sure).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.