Monday, April 20, 2015
But there are some terms which have become so generic, they’re losing their meaning. I want to correct that course, or at least clarify how the terms are used on Candy Blog.
There is a wonderful, and rather recent invention called the Gummi Candy. It was innovated in the 1920s in Germany and popularized by the Haribo Gold Bear. Once these unique candies became popular in the United States, they expanded into a very broad and diverse candy category.
A gummi has a base of gelatin. Gelatin is often bandied about has a horrifying ingredient in viral listicles to unsuspecting people who apparently have never read a list of what’s in their food before.
Gelatin is a protein. It’s most often made from pork sources, found in the connective tissues (knuckles, hooves, as well as skin), but it’s also made from bovine or fish sources to create a Kosher/Halal version. Gelatin simply cannot be vegetarian. The protein of gelatin is amazing, it creates a translucent, flavorless base with an inimitable texture. I call it bouncy. Many gummi candies are fat free, or have nominal amounts of fat, so they’re very low in calories per ounce.
Often jelly candies are categorized as gummis, because they are also colorful, translucent and fruit flavored. However, a jelly candy is somewhat different. Jelly candies are solidified using carbohydrates, not proteins. So, a jelly bean center is usually made with corn starch. Other jelling ingredients are pectin, tapioca, potato or arrowroot starch. Gums are also used sometimes to jell candy, which is how the original gumdrops were made, with gum arabic, mastic or gum tragacanth.
Now, I have nothing against jelly candies, but you probably already innately know the different between a Swedish Fish and a Gummi Worm. There’s a substantial different to the texture.
The easiest way to tell the difference, without even putting a candy in your mouth, is to pull it apart. When you pull a Swedish Fish or Spearmint Leaf apart, it’s pretty easy. What you see when you look closely at the spot where it splits is that it creates little strings at the separation. The softer the candy, the more stringy it will be. It’s generally sticky, as in, it will stick to you, your fingers, the package, whatever.
When you pull a gummi apart, you’ll get a lot of stretch, but eventually it will break. So the edges of a gummi will usually be flat, a full clean break. Though the broken surface will be sticky, the strength of the gummi means that it is unlikely to transfer to your fingers or pockets.
I prefer to use the original German word for the candy, gummi, instead of gummy. Since gummy already means something in English which is not necessarily descriptive of actual gummis, it’s easier to just keep them as separate names. However, here on the blog I used the name of the candy if it happens to be Gummy or Gummies.
Gummis are unique enough they shouldn’t be lumped in with jelly candies, no more than compressed dextrose and chocolate should be, just because they’re basically solids at room temperature.
Though there have been attempts to make vegan or vegetarian gummis, there really isn’t anything quite like gelatin in the plant world. So, you may find marshmallows made with agar agar, but they’ll never be quite the same as gelatin marshmallows. For some candies that use gelatin, such as Mentos, they were able to swap out the gelatin in the chewy mints for gellan gum, which is made from bacteria.
Perhaps scientists will be able to synthesize a protein from plants someday, but in the interim, there’s nothing wrong with omnivores making some fun confections by utilizing all parts of the animals we raise for food.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
In the latest episode of Candyology 101, Maria and get back to study of candy with Compressed Dextrose, or whatever SweeTarts and Smarties are supposed to be.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
I’m a big fan of Malted Milk Balls and consider the candy coated Pastel Malted Milk Egg to be one of the best holiday candy creations ever. Brach’s has been making a pastel egg for at least 55 years, and malted milk balls for even longer.
Though the Brach’s brand has been around for over 110 years, they’ve changed ownership, leadership and product focus dozens of times. This means that the products themselves also change. The changes can be for consumer-driven reasons, supply issues and costs. I’ve noticed, since Candy Blog is coming up on 10 years, that the Brach’s Fiesta Eggs have changed quite a bit over the years, and have some photos and notes to document it.
Name: Pastel Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
Though this was my first year reviewing them, it wasn’t the first time I had them and thought they used to be better.
Name: Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
I’d say that this was a lackluster version, though I liked the center, the chocolate brought the whole thing down.
Name: Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
These were simply too difficult to eat because of the size and shell. The center was good, especially because the ratio was so high.
Name: Malted Milk Pastel Fiesta Eggs
The center this year is different. It’s darker in color, which does indicate that the recipe or manufacturing process has changed. The colors are great, I like the shell, though many commenters do not like the new version. I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong here, except that I don’t plan on buying them again, but I’ll finish the bags I have.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
In our latest episode of Candyology 101, Maria and I compare our list of our least favorite Easter candies and then cover Jelly Beans.
Don’t forget we have show notes to accompany the episode if you want to check them out.
You can download the episode directly via the MP3 link.
Friday, March 27, 2015
When I was at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January, I picked up a lot of little chocolate pieces, but not full sized bars for review. So here are a few thoughts on some items that are now in stores:
Perugina Baci are perfect little bites of dark chocolate and hazelnut. Of course they had to twist it up a bit and introduce a white chocolate version ... and now there’s Peugina Milk Chocolate Baci.
The wrappers are light blue instead of silver. They’re pretty and look the same in shape and structure as the standard dark. The milk chocolate does change the confection quite a bit. The hazelnut because more of the star, as well as the dairy notes from the milk chocolate coating and creamy filling. I still liked them, but I ate some classic dark at the same time. I still prefer the bittersweet coating because it brings out the roasted flavors. But these are still nice and probably something kids may enjoy more or supertasters who don’t like bitter things.
I enjoy BT McElrath’s Salty Dog bars (which it turns out I haven’t fully reviewed), which are a great sweet/savory mix of creamy chocolate, salt and crunchy toffee bits. So I was very excited to try the new BT McElrath Buttered Toast. It’s described as Toasted artisan breadcrumbs in our proprietary blend of 40% cacao milk chocolate.
It’s sweet and definitely buttery. There’s a soft bite to this and little bits that crunch like panko. There’s a light salt note along with a little toffee and malt to it as well. Even though it’s a very rich milk chocolate, it might be a little too thick and sticky for me ... maybe I’ll wait for the dark chocolate version to come along.
The BT McElrath Super Red is a 70% bar with little flecks of freeze dried fruit.
The tart notes of the berry bits with the rather dark chocolate combine for a lot more flavor intensity than something like a nut chocolate combo would give. The seeds also give a little bitterness, as does the chocolate and dark berry notes.
Vosges calls these Super Dark bars, though they’re only 72% dark chocolate. That’s because the super part isn’t modifying the chocolate, it’s modifying the inclusions, which are all deemed superfoods. It’s like they went out of their way to put bitter things in there. I picked up two samples (they look pretty much the same). Vosges Super Dark Matcha Green Tea features spirulina, matcha (pulverized green tea) and cocoa nibs. The grassy notes of the matcha are immediately forward. I enjoy a lot of green tea, though I don’t have matcha very often because it’s pulverized leaves, not just steeped tea. Though I understand that there’s more flavanol bang per gram in matcha than the brewed leaves, it’s just too intense for me. This bar brings out a lot of that experience, so if you’re a matcha fan, this is a fun bar, especially because there are some cocoa nibs in there for crunch. The bitterness was just too drying for me. I had to follow it with some Hojicha.
The Vosges Super Dark Coconut Ash & Banana features Sri Lankan coconut charcoal coconut ash and Hawaiian Banana. The bar does look much darker, blacker than a usual chocolate bar. It smells like coconut cream. The flavor is bizarre as well. There are the immediate chocolate notes, which are like crispy brownie edges, then the coconut flavors and something, well, umami that I can’t put my finger on. Then there’s the weird banana flavor, which is a little like fingernail polish remover, it’s not an integrated flavor, it’s like it escapes from the chocolate and evaporates immediately into the back of my sinuses - eventually within the chocolate I did come across a few tangy bits of dried banana, which were completely different on the banana taste spectrum. I wouldn’t call this a pleasant bar experience, though I do appreciate the attempt at the unique. The ash notes come out at the end, more as a sort of dry charcoal notes.
I actually love the little sizes of all the bars, and BT McElrath sells theirs in an array of sizes, some with mixed flavors so you can try more of choose to suit your mood. Vosges also sells some of their Super Dark pieces in boxes, but they’re about $80.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
In episode 10 of Candyology 101, Maria and I review our lists of the top Easter candies and talk about the iconic chocolate rabbit.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
You can download the file directly: MP3.
Here’s a quick review to go with the podcast.
In preparation for the episode, I picked up the 99 Cent Only Store version of the popular Mars candy bar array. The cross sections are shown in the image above. They’re all packaged by Momentum Brands in Turkey. Though the wrappers said that they were milk chocolate covered candy bars, the milk chocolate actually contained dairy whey, which is considered a filler in the United States and cannot be labeled chocolate here. In general whey is used in place of extra sugar in cheaper milk chocolate. Think about it, if you want to make an inexpensive chocolate, you’re going to use as little of the most expensive ingredient as you can. So the cacao content (not even listed) is probably not more than 20%. Then there’s milk, which is usually milk fat and milk powder (which includes both the milk proteins and milk fats) ...and sugar. Too much sugar and the chocolate is unappealing and too much milk fat and the chocolate won’t set. So, milk protein does nicely as a filler that has a slightly malty flavor but is generally benign.
Choco Coco (Bounty) are like Almond Joy without the almonds. The coconut was very firm, but thankfully not that sweet. The milk chocolate has an odd malty flavor to it and a sort of “vitamin” note. Overall, satisfying for a cheap candy ... there were three little bars in the package for 60 cents.
Choco Duo (Twix) - This was a smaller package instead of the king size versions of the others. The sticks smelled malty and sweet. The biscuit base was very hard with a sort of graham cracker or digestive note to it, instead of the exceptionally bland version in the US Twix. The caramel was quite stiff but ultimately chewy ... much chewier than a Twix. The texture of the whole was more within my preferences than actual Twix. But it still isn’t in my arena of candy bars.
Coco Nut (Snickers) were also a king sized package that had two not-quite-full-sized bars. Mine were bloomed (all others were shiny) and I noticed right away that they’re much flatter than Snickers. The ratios are completely off and the peanuts taste foreign, as if they’re a different variety from the US bars. It’s not very peanutty, the caramel and nougat had the same chew ... it was fine for eating, but did not scratch the same itch that a fresh Snickers does.
Coco Nougat (Milky Way) is not at all like a Milky Way. This is actually more like the Milk Munch (also make in Turkey) that I had years ago. Very malty, a little too stiff and not fluffy enough.
I’ll stick to paying full boat for my Mars family of bars, especially when for a similar price, the 99 Cent Only Store sells those snack package with 6 or 8 little bars for a dollar anyway.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
I got a sample bag of Jelly Belly Malted Milk Pastel Eggs last month and promptly ate them after taking their picture.
I’ve reviewed the Jelly Belly Easter mix before, so this isn’t a re-review. I do have to note, though, that the crunchy coating was lightly flavored. So it seemed like the green ones were lightly lime and the pink ones were lightly berry. Odd ... I don’t really need an extra flavor, though it didn’t stop me from eating them.
I’m posting this mostly because Brach’s Fiesta Eggs are back on shelves and changed once again. Brach’s has gone through many owners in the past 10 years, and the recipes for many of their iconic candies have changed multiple times. I haven’t found the 2015 variety, but I can attest that the 2014 variety was far too big for the mouth and the shell far too hard for cracking easily to bite.
Jelly Belly are far more expensive than the Brach’s version, but at the very least they use a good quality chocolate and I do enjoy the malted center very much.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.