Tuesday, May 24, 2011
When it comes to classic American candies, the fruit slices are right up there at the top. They’re a simple mix of sugar, fruit flavors and a bit of thickener in the form of corn starch. You can even make them at home, but since the ingredients are so inexpensive they’re a great value as a store bought item.
Brach’s is currently updating their line of candies with new packaging and some new formulas. They’re also adding a twist to some old favorites, including the fruit slices with their new Brach’s Mandarin Orange Slices. In this case they’re calling them Mandarin Orange Jellies Made with Real Fruit Juice.
Personally, I’ve always loved Orange Slices, and their companion jelly candy, the Spearmint Leaves. I never really thought they needed much tinkering, though the best version I think I’ve had are the gourmet Gumdrops that Whole Foods sells that are made with all natural flavors and colors along with some more exotic flavors.
These fruit jellies are lovely to look at. They’re about the size of an actual mandarin section in this case, though a bit more stylized in their format with heavy little segments making them rounded and bulbous. The color is quite orange. I even noticed that the sugar sanding on the outside is colored. (Most jelly slices just have a plain, large grain sugar sanding to keep them from sticking together.)
These were obviously fresh, since they’re a new product. They’re soft but still firm enough to have a stiff bite to them. The smell was great, just opening the bag (or even re-opening the bag) was like peeling a fresh orange. As a jelly they’re smooth and dissolve easily in the mouth. (A gelatin based candy would be chewier and have a longer melting process.) The flavor has many different elements. There’s the typical orange juice note which has the distinct orange flavor and a mellow note of tartness. Then there’s a large hit of zest to the whole thing, a slight bitterness that pops in and then disappears. Incredibly there is something rather “mandarin” about the flavor that made it a bit different from the generic orange. The other item of note here is that the sugar sanding has flavor as well, just a hint of the zest.
They’re soothing. They’re not the most exciting candy in the world, but even with all of my choices (and believe me, at any given moment I have at least fifty different things to choose from), I still found myself eating these.
It’s hard to sell folks on a brand name item for a classic candy where there are so many different brands and generics available. I don’t know if I’d always reach for Brach’s when it came to Spearmint Leaves or Orange Slices, but if the price is the same or close enough, these are a step above.
Monday, April 25, 2011
P-Nuttles are a pure comfort candy. I associate them with vending machines and truck stops, and I can see why they’d be a favorite snack for both situations. They’re loaded with satisfying protein from the peanuts and a sweet crunch from the toffee coating. Throw in a little salt and it’s has a bit of a savory kick that makes it as much a snack food as a candy.
Peanuts that are individually covered in toffee are far easier to eat then barks or brittles, so I also congratulate Adams & Brooks on solving that dispensing issue.
I saw this new flavor announced last year at the Sweets and Snacks Expo and finally found it at my neighborhood Walgreen’s: P-Nuttles plus Coconut.
The concept is pretty simple, fresh roasted peanuts are coated in a coconut toffee. In addition to the toffee peanuts, a few coconut jelly beans are also thrown into the mix.
The peanuts are not large, but most are fresh and tasty. I ate about half of the bag and found only one bad nut. (It’s never fun, but this is the hazard with using natural ingredients.) The toffee coating varies, some had barely a sheen on them, but others a hefty shell. The flavor is sweet with a light touch of butter. The saltiness varies widely, as does the coconut flavor. Some were quite tropical tasting and others were very salty. I rather liked the variation. The jelly beans are small and pack a pretty good coconut zap. They’re sweet and chewy, though not terribly soft.
I didn’t get any coconut texture in any of this, which I quite enjoy. But the tropical coconut notes were a welcome addition to a rather comforting but bland peanut and toffee experience. I didn’t think I’d care of mixing jelly beans, a decidedly non-organic sort of texture product, with the more artisan peanuts covered in toffee. However, it worked very well. The smooth and consistent flavor of the jelly beans was a welcome sort of dependability when contrasting the varying peanuts and their cloaks of toffee.
Adams Brooks will be introducing more twists on the classic P-Nuttles later this year: P-Nuttles Peanuts Smokey Style and P-Nuttles Peanuts Chili*Lime.
The jelly beans contain confectioners glaze, so this combination is not vegetarian.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Starburst makes some excellent jelly beans and have expanded their line to include a couple of different flavor mixes similar to their fruit chew flavors. The new Starburst Crazy Beans are unlike the fruit chew ancestors. They feature a flavored and colored shell with a different colored and flavored center. There are six varieties in the package.
The package is fun, the bright purple and yellow certainly got my attention. The prospect of two flavors in one, instead of combining flavors is also appealing. The crazy part, I think, comes with the combinations that Wrigley’s has come up with.
The beans are opaque and note quite as jewel toned as the standard beans. There’s a slight mottling to the color which I liked, it was as if they were dyed little granite pebbles. The sizes are pretty standard and the quality of them is good - they were consistent and glossy. The package boasts that they use real fruit juice, but the ingredients say that it’s less than 2%. Unlike the regular Starburst chews, these have no additional vitamin C. They also contain a confectioners glaze so shouldn’t be considered vegetarian/vegan.
(These don’t go in the order of the photos above, just because.)
Grape-Ade (Purple) - the grape on the outside was easy to distinguish right away, just like a Pixy Stix. The lemon center was a little more muddled, but still had a little citrus note. Good start.
Peach-A-Palooza (Orange) - is definitely peachy on the outside. I don’t know what the center is supposed to be, but it tasted like cherry to me. Not a winner in my book, but I’m sure this is an ideal combination for someone.
Tropical Cherry Splash (Blue) - it’s unfortunate to find another cherry one, this one has a bit of a papaya note to it that makes me as equally unhappy as the peach. Pass.
Razzin Watermelon (Pink) - this pink one was a little confusing. It’s pink on the outside and blue on the inside. But the outside tastes like bubble gum instead of watermelon. And the inside is all sweet and fragrant like raspberry and strawberries. The shells on all of these were downright thick and crunchy as well.
Banana Berry Blast (Yellow) - it starts with a light whiff of banana but quickly becomes a standard tangy berry. I liked it though I would have preferred a little more banana in the mix.
Strappleberry (Green) - it’s true to its name, it’s a sweet golden delicious apple flavor mixed with a mellow berry note. These varied widely, some were puckeringly tangy, others were all sweetness and little flavor.
They’re much more expensive than other jelly beans, though I admit that they’re quite flavorful. However, this particular flavor mix didn’t really hit within my zone of interest. I’d prefer something a bit more on the traditional side or with more intense fruit flavors. (Or maybe they want to try doing candy coated gummis, since they’re already making Life Savers Gummis and Starburst GummiBursts.)
I feel like we’re running out of flavors and though there’s a large number of combinations possible - the results are merely proof of concept, not great candy.
I don’t know if these are a permanent item or just a seasonal one.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
It’s funny that I first found out about the new Dots Pink Grapefruit Sour Slices in Germany instead of right here in the United States. I was cruising by the American Pavillion at the ISM Cologne candy fair and spotted them right away on display as a new item. And of course the fact that they were grapefruit really made them stand out.
Tootsie has really expanded their Dots over the past five years with more than just new flavor assortments like Tropical and Yogurt. They also make seasonal varieties for Christmas, Valentines and even an Independence Day version. What’s interesting about these Dots, aside from the fact that they’re sour and sanded instead of smooth is that they’re also a single flavor.
The Dots are made of two colors, to mimic the layering of colors on a wedge of pink grapefruit. The base is supposed to be yellow and the top is pink. Though the package calls them Sour Slices, they’re the same gumdrop shape we’re all used to. They smell soft and sweet and were fresh and bouncy.
The outside coating is sweet and sour though lacking much in the way of other flavors. But the gumdrop center is all about grapefruit flavor. There’s a good, well rounded grapefruit zest base, a hint of bitterness and a long, sweet finish to it. The citrus oils linger with a satisfying ring.
I was hoping for a little bit more pop, but then again I found it easy to eat a few handfuls (the Sour Dots were just a little too zingy for me to do that and I only liked three of the five flavors). I’m really looking forward to seeing these on shelves at stores around here. I loved the Grapefruit Dots in the Tropical Mix, now I can buy the single flavor. I know they’re already available online, so some shops may already have them. They also come as Watermelon Sour Slices and Peach Sour Slices.
Dots are made in a peanut free facility and are also free of traces of tree nuts, eggs and gluten. Kosher and I’m guessing they’d qualify as vegan, too (all artificial colors & no beeswax).
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The Judson-Atkinson Candies Tropical Sours are called the original soft center sour. They’re kind of like giant sour jelly beans, each is about the size of a hazelnut in the shell.
This theater box holds 4.5 ounces. Like many of Judson-Atkinson’s other candies, the packaging isn’t exactly compelling, but it’s at least easy to spot.
White is Pina Colada. It starts out with a light sweet coconut flavor, once I cracked the grainy candy shell I got a little burst of floral and lightly tangy pineapple. It’s not a sour candy at all, but it’s still like a great, mellow gourmet jelly bean.
Pink is watermelon. I don’t consider it to be a tropical flavor and it certainly wasn’t a sour flavor either. It was sweet and about as powerfully flavored as real watermelon is. I wasn’t disappointed that there were only five of these in the box.
Orange is some sort of tropical fruit like Mango. It’s hard to tell without a guide, but there was a peachy note to it and a light tangy flavor as well with some woodsy elements that remind me of mangoes.
Yellow is a mystery. It’s tart but not overly so, it’s not citrus flavor as far as I can tell and not pineapple. It was pleasant but not vibrant enough to go in a package called Sours.
Red is Fruit Punch and is quite a refreshing sort of berry flavor. I liked it, it was tart without the tangy notes completely blasting away the red raspberry flavors.
All of the flavors were nice enough but none qualified for a the category of Sour. They were barely on the range of “hint of tangy”. As giant jelly beans in tropical flavors, they’re decent enough. I paid far too much for these. I see the regular boxes of Sours at the drug store for a buck which I think is quite fair for pure sugar candy made in the States.
The candies aren’t marked Kosher and is tree nut free (though is processed in a facility that utilizes milk, soy and peanuts). There’s no gluten statement and they’re not vegetarian/vegan because of the presence of carmine.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Jelly Belly is always innovating new flavors for their intensely flavored and tiny gourmet jelly beans. Recent introductions have been based on soda pop flavors, Cold Stone Creamery ice cream and cocktails. Other innovations have been in flavors with additional fortifications like the Sport Beans and antioxidant mix.
My favorites have always been pretty simple, the Citrus Mix and root beer.
The new Jelly Belly Jelly Bean Chocolate Dips are something a little different from the usual flavor variations. These are genuine Jelly Belly beans dipped in dark chocolate. They come in five flavors: Very Cherry, Orange, Raspberry, Coconut and Strawberry.
The flavors are either sold separately in bags or in a 4.15 ounce box like this that has a divided tray that labels the flavors.
As you can imagine, once the beans are covered in chocolate, it’s nearly impossible to tell which flavor is which. (I spilled mine after a few days and was then playing bean roulette.)
The first thing I have to say is that I was surprised at how small these were. They looked (and are) the exact same size as the regular Jelly Belly. How is that possible? Covering a regular Jelly Belly in even the thinnest sheath of chocolate would still make it bigger than a regular Jelly Belly. It turns out that the secret here is that the chocolate coating replaces the jelly bean’s shell. A jelly bean is made up of a jelly center and then a smoothly polished but grainy sugar shell. This is usually where most of the flavor is in traditional jelly beans, but Jelly Belly have flavored centers and shells. So how would this affect the Dips?
They smell sweet and a little like cocoa. The beans are tiny and a little slippery. The chocolate coating isn’t very strong or even very thick, but it’s glossy and has a decent cocoa flavor and smooth melt.
Very Cherry is just that. If there was one bean here that I might be able to pick out without a label, it’d be the very cherry. It’s very. The center is fragrant and intense and not too sweet. The texture of the jelly center is smooth and chewy, but with no hint of the grain that a regular jelly bean has.
Coconut is one flavor I’m glad that was included (banana would be another suggestion). It has a clean, tropical flavor and I can almost imagine the chewy coconut. But the fact that it’s only flavored coconut leaves it a bit thin in the end. The coconut bean goes well with most of the other flavors (not really the cherry).
Strawberry is sweet and floral, light and the least intense of the set.
Raspberry has a good, well rounded flavor, no tartness but a lot of jam and boiled berry notes. It’s very realistic but also very sweet.
Orange was oddly disappointing because it was so intense. There was a lot of zest and orange oil in the center, so much that it burned after a while and left a weird film in my mouth. I ended up avoiding them.
At first I didn’t like these much. The lack of the shell meant that they were lacking an essential element that makes them jelly beans. They were soft and jelly like but chewing them was more sticky than a plain jelly bean. Eventually they grew on me though, the texture combinations are unique enough to make these more than a passing fancy. They’re far more successful than Jelly Belly’s previous chocolate attempt with the JBz (think flavored M&Ms).
I can think of a lot of other flavors that would go well, such as banana, toasted marshmallow, licorice, cinnamon and peppermint. This particular box is expensive, at $6 for 4.15 ounces, but the single flavor pound packages on the website are only $9.99 a pound (my guess is that even though chocolate is more expensive than sugar, coating the jelly center in plain chocolate is much less labor intensive than making the high quality sugar shells & then printing them with the Jelly Belly logo).
The beans are not vegan (confectioners glaze plus milk in the chocolate) and there’s no statement on the package about their nut, gluten, egg and peanut status. (Contains soy, milk.) Though there are some artificial flavors in there, they do not have any artificial colors.
Jelly Belly has gone through a lot of brand extensions over the years beyond the flavor combinations of the actual jelly beans.
Jelly Belly Bubble Gum (not made by Jelly Belly)
Friday, October 29, 2010
The Lemonheads line is quite varied now, Ferrara Pan has gone beyond the single flavor boxes (lemon, orange, cherry, grape and green apple) and includes more of these flavored mixes including the Chewy Lemonheads & Friends and last year’s introduction, Tropical Chewy Lemonheads.
The box features anthropomorphic versions of the flavors, Cherry Lemon, Wild Berry, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry and Red Raspberry on stage as if they’re a rock band. Strawberry is a torch singer and Raspberry has drum sticks but no drums.
The pieces are attractive, they’re little spheres, slightly larger than garden peas. They’re slightly irregular but boldly colored and uniformly shiny.
Red Raspberry (dark red) has a nice tartness and even a slight dry finish, a mix of floral berry notes with less of the artificial coloring bitterness.
Strawberry (lighter red) is sweet with a light tangy note under the grainy shell. It’s not a very well rounded flavor and has a bit of a bitter note for me because of the artificial colorings.
Blue Raspberry (blue) is very woodsy and strangely chemical at the same time. There’s a floral raspberry flavor but also something kind of like artificial watermelon in there.
Wild Berry (dark purple) has a lot of flavors going on but is mostly a punch flavor, some cherry and raspberry is evident and maybe a little blueberry note in there. Not at all sour.
Cherry Lemon (medium red) was actually really good but strange. The lemon had a strong zest component but not much tang. The cherry was sweet and almost floral. It was definitely not the ordinary sour cherry flavored candy (and nothing like the Cherry Chewy Lemonhead).
The good thing about the mix is that it’s easy to just eat them without looking at the colors because the flavors aren’t that distinctive and never clash. The bad thing is that the flavors aren’t that distinctive and are so mild to the point that all of the best things about Lemonheads (the intense flavor difference between the shell and center) are lost.
I’ll stick to the classic, hard centered Lemonheads, but the Chewy Lemonhead & Friends are pretty good too, so good that I’m giving them out for Halloween as the non-chocolate option.
They’re not vegetarian/vegan because of the presence of confectioners glaze. They’re also manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk and soy. No mention of wheat. Not Kosher.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
After my review of Goody Good Stuff Sweet & Sour Mix & Match the company offered to send me updated samples. The Mix & Match I had was from an early batch of samples and didn’t have the final packaging. The hook with Good Good Stuff’s candy is that it’s free of many allergens and made with all natural colors and flavors. But the most interesting part of all this is that their “gummies” are completely vegetarian because they don’t use gelatin.
Instead Goody Good Stuff uses a combination of gelling agents (polysaccharides) such as carrageenan (from seaweed) and gellan (from bacteria). Traditional (true) gummis use gelatin, which is a protein. Though they all look the same in the finished product, the texture and behavior can be quite different.
So, the Goody Good Stuff Koala Gummy Bears are jelly candies. That’s cool. But wait a second, do they look like Koalas to you? Not to me. The ears are too small, the nose is all wrong. Most importantly these “koalas” have belly buttons. Koalas are marsupials (non-placental) and do not have belly buttons while bears are mammals and do have navels. They look like standard generic ursids.
But that doesn’t mean that this can’t be good candy. (Lots of candies are named incongruously, starting with Circus Peanuts.)
The Goody Good Stuff Bears come in five flavors/colors. The main difference between these and a traditional gummi is the texture. The Goody Good Stuff Bears are soft and chewy, but they’re more on the jelly side than the gelatinous side. When you take a regular gummi bear and pull it apart, eventually it will break - pull it long enough and it will simply snap, usually leaving clean edges and right angles. Pull a Goody Good Stuff Bear apart and it will stretch and stretch until it’s tiny little, sticky jelly strands. In the mouth the chew is similar until the dissolve comes, the Goody Good Stuff Bears dissolve into a bit of a sticky puddle. They remind me a little like okra mucilage ... in a good way.
The flavors are perfectly gummi-like:
Orange - good mix of zest and juicy tartness.
Strawberry - sweet and fragrant with a mild jammy flavor and light tangy note.
Lemon - strong lemon peel and oil flavors without as much of a tart bite as others.
Green Apple - very mild with notes of both apple juice and that unnatural “green apple” flavor. Bland but pleasant.
Pineapple - bold and floral with a little an authentic pineapple sizzle behind it all.
Though the flavors are not as intense as some other gummis, such as the ones from Japan, these are nicely flavored. The candies are well made, even though they’re all naturally flavored and colored, they’re vibrant looking and each tastes distinctive. They’re mainstream looking and tasting, I don’t think kids would know the difference.
The candies are made without any animal products (no gelatin, no insect-derived colors), however they do use a touch of beeswax so they can’t be considered vegan. They’re nut free, dairy free, gluten free, soy free and peanut free. They’re not easy to find in the US yet, but I expect that to change because of this important vegetarian distinction.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.