Monday, June 4, 2012
One of my favorite candies, especially lately, has been Hot Tamales. They’re incredibly simple, basically just spicy cinnamon jelly rods. They’re cheap and easy to find. I have been buying the five pound bags at places like Smart & Final and at Jack’s Wholesale Candy in downtown Los Angeles. They look great in a candy jar and are an excellent pick-me up in the middle of the day or during long car trips.
Just Born, makers of Hot Tamales, recently introduced a new twist to their standard box. It’s called Hot Tamales 3 Alarm and as you might imagine, has three different spice levels inside:
The Hot level is orange. It’s mild but still a good mix of spicy and sweet.
The Hotter level is red. It’s warming but it’s just in the shell and dissipates pretty quickly. The flavor is well rounded, the woodsy bark flavors of cassia (sometimes sold as cinnamon but with a slightly more floral note to it), the sweetness of the bark and then the burn. There’s some throat tingling, but pretty much the normal Hot Tamale experience.
The Hottest level is maroon. It’s hard to tell these apart from the Hotter level sometimes, unless they’re side by side. But make no mistake, there’s a difference in flavor. The hotness is obvious. It’s more than just cinnamon hot, I could swear there’s some sort of capsaicin (hot peppers) in there. It burned my throat quite a bit. If I ate it with another level of hotness, I could take it, but otherwise I found it unpleasant.
I like the Hot Tamales Fire and I like the Hot Tamales classic. But I’m not so keen on this Hottest level in Hot Tamales 3 Alarm and find the Hot level a little too tame. Seems like Just Born got it right the first time, so that’s what I’ll stick with. This is fun, but nothing that will become a go-to candy for me.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
The new Valentine’s version of Peeps has a little decadence going for it. The Peeps Strawberry Creme dipped in Dark Chocolate come individually cradled in a tray, each just lightly dipped in dark chocolate, like a fresh strawberry.
The package is a bit small, each weighs only a half an ounce, so the whole package is 1.5 ounces and are priced around $2.00 if you can find them. However, if you’re watching your calories but still want a treat, it’s an appealing choice since the whole package has only 170 calories (or 57 calories each). Far less calorie-laden than a box of truffles.
I had my doubts about these. They are a rather unnatural shade of red. Well, I’ve seen camellias this color, but I’ve never felt the desire to eat them.
However, they smell quite appetizing; like strawberry shortcake, a sweet scent with a light creamy note to it. The dark chocolate dipped foot sets off the color well, but doesn’t smell of chocolate on its own.
The semi-sweet chocolate, when bitten so that its on the tongue, is quite strong and rich. It’s woodsy enough to stand up to the rather artificial notes of the strawberry. The big problem comes with the marshmallow’s grainy sugar coat. It’s sweet, I expected that, but the artificial colors have a very noticeable aftertaste for me that’s far too bitter to be outshone by the interior.
The center is also lightly and unnecessarily colored. (Regular colored Peeps are always uncolored in the center.) The marshmallow center is sweet and rather like a very mild strawberry ice cream.
If the artificial colors don’t bother you, these are actually a very good combination of chocolate and flavored marshmallow. I prefer this style to the completely coated version that Peeps are also coming in lately (those marshmallows are too moist and lack the visual appeal that the true Peep shape provides).
Friday, June 3, 2011
Mike and Ike are jelly bean rods sold in different fruity flavor combinations. The classic version, introduced in 1940, contains cherry, orange, lime, lemon and strawberry. They’re sold in boxes or little single serve bags. They’re, well, ordinary candies but comforting and dependable. Over the years there have been different flavor varieties introduced.
The twist today, is an actual twist. They’re called Mike and Ike Fruit Twists and instead of being a jelly candy, these are a wheat-based chew. That’s right, this is red licorice. The twist on the classic strawberry licorice twist is that these are filled.
Just Born has been making candy in Pennsylvania since 1923 but sometimes they outsource licensed products like this. So this one is made by a company called CandyRific in Spain. So its relationship with Mike and Ikes is pretty distant.
The Mike and Ike Strawberry Fruit Twists come in a green package with a bold Mike and Ike logo across the top. The branding is nicely done to fit with the existing Mike and Ike product line.
The king size package contains six twists. They’re formatted into two bars - each with three conjoined sets of twists that pull apart easily.
The twists are soft and pliable and rather shiny. The scent is a good imitation of strawberry, it reminds me of that strawberry glaze stuff you can get to make pie. The bite is good, not too chewy but still firm. The center of the red tubes is not quite creamy, but soft, like a paste made of Pixy Stix. It’s a little tart and has a mild strawberry punch flavor.
The combination of the two is a satisfying candy. I didn’t care for the artificial coloring aftertaste, which is kind of metallic and bitter.
Mike and Ike jelly candies come in at least eight different varieties and each is color coded. The orange package is my favorite version, Tangy Twister, so I was hoping that the Fruit Twists orange package would be similar.
The orange package is Mike and Ike Green Apple and Watermelon Fruit Twists. Like the Strawberry variety, the package heralds that they’re made with real fruit juice, are low in fat, contain 0 grams of trans fats and are a good source of vitamin C (that’d be 5% of your RDA per twist).
This package contains no conjoined triplets, instead it has six rectangulated twists neatly lined up inside. The red ones are Watermelon, and aside from not having any seams on the side from where they were joined to their brethren, they look exactly like the Strawberry. They smell like, well, ice cream. Not like any flavor of ice cream, just more like the muddled sweet smell of an ice cream shop. The flavor is mild and does actually taste like watermelon flavor. The tangy paste center is a little chalky but passable. The whole thing tasted a bit like modeling clay, there was something rather doughy about it, which could be the wheat flour.
The green ones were Green Apple which had the light scent of apple juice. The flavor was much more like actual apple juice than the Jolly Rancher fake apple flavor most candies go for. The tartness of the center helped out with juicing up the flavor profile. But again, the chew was a bit doughy and pasta like at times.
Overall, I found these lackluster. If you want a less-sour filled red licorice twist, well, this is probably what you’ve been looking for. They do fit well with the Mike and Ike brand, which is basically a mild jelly bean anyway. This product is coming to market kind of late. Twizzlers/Jolly Ranchers already has a version (and has had several iterations over the years) and Wonka has their Kazoozles.
I feel like they’re missing some real Mike and Ike-ness - maybe if they were little bullet shapes and sold in a box and actually came in an array of five flavors.
They’re not listed on the Mike and Ike website under the licensed products. I found these late last year at a wholesale store and then finally found them at retail at Walgreen’s. But I still can’t find much mention of them online, and Mark of Sugar Pressure noticed the same lack of marketing.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Last week I reviewed the new Peeps Milk Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow. It’s a single Peep dipped partially in milk chocolate. Little did I realize that there were more in the family lurking at other nearby markets. (I went to RiteAid, Walgreen’s & CVS.)
Upon visiting Target over the weekend I found the other iterations of Chocolate Dipped Peeps. The first I’ll start with is the Peeps Dark Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow.
The package from Target holds only two Peeps and clocks in at an even one ounce and 110 calories. So it’s a very spare treat when it comes to calories but it looks quite decadent. The package is also $1.59, which I thought was more than steep for a mostly sugar candy. I’m sure they’re available on sale at some point, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try them.
The dark chocolate is sweet but has a potent bitter note as well with some basic cocoa flavors. The melt is smooth but with a dryness as well. Most of the time I ate around the edges, which meant that I was getting far more chocolate in the early bites in proportion to the marshmallow.
One of my pet peeves with Peeps is the eyes. Are they edible? Many times I find them in my mouth and think that there’s an errant piece of plastic in my candy. Lately I’ve taken to picking they eyes off before consuming. This also prevents Peeps peeking. It also leads to a pile of eyes.
At the end of my review of the plain Peeps I wished that they made a flavored version. (Really, the press release about these new products doesn’t actually mention this version.)
So, here we go, Just Born does make Peeps Milk Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow. Wow, that’s a big name. But it’s also a pretty big morsel of candy. I like the fact that the Peeps are un-conjoined. Up until this introduction, I don’t think they ever sold separated Peeps before. We can now admire them in 360 degrees.
The Chocolate Mousse Peeps are usually found in the shape of Bunnies or during other seasons, Reindeer. I was hoping the fact that they were chocolate would mean no artificial colors, but for some reason the ingredients say there’s Yellow #5 in there.
In case you couldn’t tell from the first photos, the Peeps are just dipped at the very bottom. Though it doesn’t look like much from the side, the bottom is quite a large surface area of chocolate.
The Peep itself tastes like weak hot chocolate, sweet and though the sugar crust is grainy, the marshmallow is smooth and creamy. The milk chocolate base is sweet as well and without much of a chocolate punch but still has a good melt.
Two of these was a good treat. They took a little while to eat and enjoy, so for an indulgence that’s a little lighter in calories, it’s a good choice.
At this point I’m pinning all of my hopes on the Peeps Dark Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow. It has several of the things I was looking for, a less sweet marshmallow and the dark chocolate.
I haven’t been fond of Peeps other chocolate covered versions, mostly because the marshmallow ends up becoming a gooey, syrup mess. Also, they were using artificial colors for the marshmallow centers, which didn’t make much sense to me at all - the sugar crusted Peeps are uncolored.
But based on the other versions of the dipped Peeps, we were off to a good start.
The dark chocolate is only slightly more intense than the milk chocolate variety, but is blessedly less sweet. This means that the sweetness level of the whole thing is brought down to a level where I could concentrate on the combination of textures instead of the throat-searing sugar. The chocolate melted quickly and with a light coolness. The dark flavors were even slightly bitter for a moment. The sugar crust gave a grainy crunch to the marshmallow, which was light and airy.
For the first time I feel like someone made Peeps that were actually meant to be eaten and not used for decoration or as a biodegradable toy. I can only applaud this effort by Just Born who seems to have had a few mis-steps in extending the Peeps brand over the past five years. (You can only do so much with novel colors and then there were the made in China Halloween version.) Here’s the thing though: A See’s Scotchmallow Egg is about the same price, ounce for ounce. Sure, it has caramel in it, and that’s hard to compete with. But there are lots of other excellent chocolate and marshmallow products out there, especially around Easter. I’m not going to kid myself that $1.59 is a great deal for cuteness ... though these definitely are the first and only Peeps I have actually eaten willingly. (All others were consumed with a sense of duty for the blog.)
I still might not buy these for myself, but I can recommend them and I like the direction this trend is going in.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Last year Just Born launched Chocolate Covered Peeps. It was a natural evolution, as Peeps were already made in a variety of shapes and colors and even flavors. But the one thing lacking in that new product was an essential part of the Peeps experience: the sugar crust.
This year we have another new version, Peeps Milk Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A single Peep partially dipped in milk chocolate. They’re packaged in a tray of three, similar to the way the Sugar Free Peeps are sold. They come at a premium price, I paid $1.99 for my 1.5 ounces of new newness.
Each Peep is about a half an ounce. They’re fully formed, not formerly conjoined like the row of Peeps that usually come in a tray. They have a squat and wide base and just the very bottom of the base has a light coating of sweet milk chocolate.
They’re well protected by the overpackaging of the deep plastic tray. They’re also very fresh, though I prefer mine a little tacky and chewy. (I didn’t wait for some to get stale to post this review.)
The chocolate sticks well to the marshmallow, so even though it crunches when bitten, it doesn’t flake off easily. The flavor is quite milky and sweet and it’s passably smooth. The grain of the sugar crust would probably ruin any appreciation of a silky smooth chocolate anyway. The marshmallow is soft and chewy and relatively flavorless aside from the sweetness. They were probably some of the best Peeps I’ve ever had though I don’t care much for them ordinarily.
The proportion of chocolate to marshmallow was pretty good. Most of all I wanted something to cut the sweetness of the sugar crust and though the milk chocolate did a bit, it really wasn’t enough to warrant me buying these again.
I would love to try them with a really good dark chocolate dip. And I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing them in different flavors either. (Peppermint and dark chocolate? Especially if it wasn’t colored.)
UPDATE 3/28/2011: Oh, yes, they do make Dark Chocolate ones and Milk & Dark Dipped Mousse!
Monday, February 28, 2011
Just Born has been steadily expanding the Peeps line of products for the the past five years or so. Beyond just new colors and shapes for the iconic sugar crusted marshmallows, they’ve also delved into flavors and more recently, the addition of chocolate.
The newest member of the Peeps repertoire is Peeps Peepsters Chocolate with Marshmallow Flavored Creme. They come in two varieties, milk and dark chocolate and sound like an interesting new version, more about the chocolate and less about the marshmallow.
I found them at the drug store before Valentine’s Day, so I paid full price for my bags - $3.99, which I found startling for 11 ounces of candy whose first ingredient was sugar and contained palm kernel oil.
I’ll start with the Peepsters Milk Chocolate with Marshmallow Flavored Creme which are enclosed in an easy to spot yellow bag with brown and green trim. The pieces inside are visible through a little window and foil wrapped in a matte pastel assortment of yellow, orange and pink.
The pieces are a little bit bigger than a Rolo. They feel solid and firm. Even without unwrapping them a vague soft vanilla flavor wafted from the bag. The little domes on the pieces have a little Peep on them, but that’s the only chicky thing about them. There’s really nothing that otherwise makes these feel Peepy except that the packaging tells me so.
The chocolate is smooth and has an excellent snap (however, it is rather cold in Los Angeles right now, they’ve been sitting in the unheated Candy Blog studio, which is about 58 degrees right now). It’s quite sweet but what’s most notable about the creme center is how firm it is. It seems to have the same density as the chocolate. So biting into it is like biting into a thick chunk of chocolate. As you can see from the cross section, there’s a lot of chocolate and not much filling.
The chocolate is sweet and milky, which adds to the marshmallow notes. The cream center does melt a bit on the tongue, kind of like a white chocolate but without the extra milk notes and malty flavor. Instead it’s all vanilla and sweetness. I didn’t get marshmallow at all. If this was served to me without a name, I don’t think think I would have come up with marshmallow as a descriptor. The essential elements of marshmallow are missing. (Lightness, fluffiness and smooth melt.)
The Peepsters Dark Chocolate filled with Marshmallow Flavored Creme are similar to the milk counterpart. They come in a blue bag with white polka dots and the same brown trim. The foil wrapping on the pieces is blue, green and lilac. (So you could mix these in a bowl and knowing the key, pick out your preference.)
The dark chocolate contains milk fat, so it’s not suitable for vegans ... but the creme center has milk products in it anyway. There is no gelatin in it though, so lacto-ovo vegetarians can indulge if they want to. The thickener used for the center is gum arabic.
The caloric density on the dark version is slightly higher, there are two more grams of fat per serving in this version.
Again there’s nothing Peepish about these. They have a much more pronounced vanilla smells to them, and less of the milky notes.
The chocolate is deep and rich, though not entirely well rounded. There are bitter, woodsy notes of charcoal and a lack of fruity notes to balance it all out. So it’s a very rough sort of flavors in combination - the one note sweet vanilla flavored center and then the cocoa powder outside. The balance of sweetness in this was much better though, so I definitely felt much less throat-searing on this version.
It’s an interesting brand extension from a company that I’ve never really though of much more than a sugar candy manufacturer. The foil is cute, but the ratio of center to chocolate was a bit off for something that I thought was going to have the lightness of marshmallow. The attention to detail on the production though is much better than my recent experiences with the Chocolate Covered Peeps. The pieces were well made and protected appropriately by their wrappings. I like that there’s no unnecessary food coloring used in the centers to make them violently yellow - so parents can feel better about giving these to kids. And for once vegetarians can enjoy a Peeps product.
But if I were to pick up an Easter themed cream, I think I’d stick with the Russell Stover eggs line, even though the ratio of chocolate to cream is pretty much the opposite.
UPDATE 11/29/2012: Just Born updated the packaging look for Peepsters this year, though the product remains the same. They also introduced a Christmas-themed version with red and green foil wrappings.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Just Born introduced Chocolate Covered Peeps for Easter 2010. They also made an appearance in the pumpkin shape for Halloween. But the most interesting of their new chocolate covered version of the marshmallow shapes is the Christmas introduction of the Peeps Dark Chocolate Covered Mint Flavored Marshmallow.
The candies come individually wrapped and weigh 1 ounce exactly. (There’s also a milk chocolate version, but both that I bought were crushed & sticky so I’ll have to find more.) Like the other chocolate covered versions before, they’re not just a chocolate covered classic Peep, they lack the sugar crust so the chocolate is the cloak it gets instead of the grainy coating.
The tree shaped minty Christmas Peep is just shy of three inches long and pretty tall at about an inch thick. The dark chocolate shell contains a bit of milkfat but is otherwise has a pleasing dark sheen and makes a convincing tree shape. The package says that they’re gluten free, but of course aren’t vegan (gelatin & milk) and may contain peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and coconut.
They actually smell more like sweet dark chocolate out of the package than mint, which I thought was a good sign after the overly sweet and underwhelming Easter and Halloween versions.
Biting into it, I found what I expected, which was a bright green, soft and moist marshmallow flavored with peppermint. The marshmallow is interesting, it’s fluffy without being foamy or latexy. The mint flavor is appropriately strong - strong enough to have a distinctive taste but not so strong to overwhelm the chocolate chip qualities of the dark coating. The smooth dissolve of the marshmallow is better than the slightly grainy and chalky chocolate.
I don’t generally get an aftertaste from green food colorings (blue & yellow), so my repulsion at the color was aesthetic, not technical. It did go far to convince me that this was something flavored like Creme de Menthe.
The product idea is sound, a flavored marshmallow in a festive, seasonal shape covered in chocolate. There aren’t any other mass-marketed candies like that. I still question the necessity of the strong food colorings (and maybe some sprinkles on there would serve a similar purpose of the tree “decoration.” I’m still not much of a marshmallow fan, so these don’t suit me, but I’m sure there are some fans who will enjoy these. They could benefit from higher quality chocolate and eschew the strong colors.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Just Born is more than just PEEPS, they also make Mike and Ike and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. At Sweets & Snacks Expo they announced their new products for 2010-11.
Just Born for Halloween
• NEW PEEPS Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pumpkins available in single-serve packages.
My take: I’d love to see these “treat-giving snack size bags” of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. I only see the in the single serve package in my area but I would actually give them out as a Halloween treat if I had the option (the dark one is vegan). The rest of the product line is pretty much the same as this year’s Easter. The addition of the chocolate covered pumpkins is new - though I have to say that I’m disappointed that they’re making the marshmallow center orange instead of leaving them natural like the Peeps are (on the inside at least).
Just Born for Christmas
• NEW PEEPS Chocolate Covered Mint Flavored Marshmallow Trees in single serve packages. The PEEPS Brand is offering fans its most extravagant PEEPS yet, PEEPS Chocolate Covered Mint Flavored Marshmallow Trees, heralding the Brand’s first chocolate-covered item with a flavored marshmallow center.
My take: I’m really excited about the Chocolate Covered Peppermint Peeps. I hope they don’t have artificial sweeteners in them like the uncoated marshmallows do right now. They seem like they’d be a refreshing chocolate treat but still spare on the calories.
Just Born for Valentines
• New PEEPS Chocolate Covered Raspberry Flavored Marshmallow Hearts in single-serve packages. This year, PEEPS Brand Marshmallow Candies are melting hearts with their new PEEPS Chocolate Covered Raspberry Flavored Marshmallow Hearts. Delicious milk or dark chocolate cover raspberry flavored PEEPS to create a scrumptious chocolate and marshmallow experience.
My take: Raspberry chocolate covered Peeps for Valentines ... what more do I need to say?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.