Monday, March 25, 2013
This year was, I felt, the best we’ve had so far this decade for Easter candy diversity. It was a nice mix of classic products, new flavor twists on existing items and then some exciting new diversions. The stores seemed well stocked, better than I saw them two years ago, for example. It’s an encouraging sign for the economy and for our tummies.
Just Born is celebrating 60 years of their iconic Peeps marshmallow candies. They’ve come a long way from the early years when they came in plain yellow. Now they’re available in all the colors of the rainbow and special flavors.
To mark the anniversary, they’ve created a 60th Anniversary version in Vanilla Creme flavor. They’re the individual Peeps (not a conjoined row) and feature little sparkly flecks of multi colored candies, like edible confetti.
I prefer an uncolored Peep, as I think the artificial colorings get in the way of the pure sugary flavor. (Ghost Peeps, for that reason, are the best.)
The Vanilla Creme is a soft flavor, artificial and lacking in the complexity of a nice Tahitian vanilla pod, but still it has a soft and comforting flavor that cuts a bit of the sugary sweetness. They’re bouncy and fluffy and grainy. The little confetti add a little bit of a crunch, but mostly they dissolve quickly on the tongue.
These would be a fun version available all year round. I also heard that they’re releasing Birthday Cake Peeps which are a turquoise blue and yellow cake flavored. (Which is also a great idea for a year-round Peep.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
They’re just egg shaped gumballs.
Smarties Bubble Gum Eggs are made by Ford Gum in the USA with real sugar, there are no artificial sweeteners in there. I bought them for $1.49 at Cost Plus World Market, but then I saw them at the 99 Cent Only Store for a dollar.
They’re passably good. They come in different colors, but I really didn’t get a sense that they were different flavors, all vaguely and pleasantly fruity. They were soft enough to bite but have a satisfyingly crunchy shell. Each piece is a good size for chewing, two make for a little too much. The sugar takes a while to be dissolved, so there’s no bubble blowing right away. Even after the sugar is gone, they’re a little too stiff and snappy to blow a good bubble with.
At other times of the year, they’re also available as plain old gumballs. I bought them before and feel the same way about them. They’re okay. Mostly I like them because they’re pretty. I just chew the sugar out, spit out the gum and start up with a new piece.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The concept is that the bunny is flat instead of dimensional, and pre-sectioned to break apart easily. The version I purchased, for a buck, is 2 ounces, or about the size of a King Size bar. It comes apart into five pieces. Each is a good size for dipping into peanut butter, which was always my favorite way to eat my Easter Rabbit.
This is one of those products that solves a problem you didn’t know you had. I’m sure if this were sold on infomercials, the first part would demonstrate all the frustrating things about a sumptuous solid chocolate bunny and how hard it is to eat, how children fight over it and what it should be named.
I don’t have much to say except that it’s a rabbit shaped Hershey’s bar. It’s made from Hershey’s marginally satisfying chocolate, the same stuff in Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s Miniatures and those addictive little Hershey’s Candy Coated Eggs. While I don’t think Hershey’s Milk Chocolate is good chocolate, it’s mighty fine candy. It’s fudgy, grainy and tangy and comforting.
It’s also made in Mexico. (The Candy Professor had a bit of a rant about Snapsy.)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Monday, December 3, 2012
The Peeps Gingerbread are a little harder to find than the Snowmen and Christmas Trees. In my case I bought them at the overpriced FAO Schweetz because I was concerned I wouldn’t find them anywhere else. ($3.49 for a package of 6.)
The name pretty much says it all, they’re spiced cookie flavored marshmallows in the shape of a trio or conjoined gingerbread men. The package has two rows of cookies, all in a fancifully designed package that looks like a gingerbread house. I looked over the packages carefully, as they have the expected icing eyes and mouths, but some were not smiling. I chose the happiest looking set I could find.
A serving is a whole row of Gingerbread Men, which is about 1.1875 ounces and only has 120 calories. (They’re gluten free but may contain traces of milk. There’s no statement about peanuts or tree nuts.) Each Gingerbread Man is about 2.75 inches high.
They smell quite nice, like toasted marshmallows. The marshmen are coated with a brown sugar crust that has a light, spicy flavor that might described as “cinnamon.” The marshmallow center is a similar creamy brown color but has less flavor. It might just be a brown sugar flavor, which is fine with me, I like the slight toffee note to the usually overly sweet marshmallows. I wish they were a little more spiced, I’m not getting any hints of ginger or cardamom or even clove. But it’s a Peep, which is the mildest of all candies, so I shouldn’t expect too much from them.
Overall, it’s a great combination of flavor and form and makes far more sense as a holiday novelty than so many other Peeps. The only thing missing are the gum drop buttons and raisin eyes. My next step might be to try them in hot chocolate. (I often put a bit of spice in my hot chocolate, usually nutmeg and cardamom, so this may go very nicely.)
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Marshmallow Peeps moved on from just being fanciful shapes and colors for different holidays years ago. Now there are flavored and dipped Peeps. For Christmas this year Just Born created two new varieties: Sugar Cookie Dipped Peeps Chicks and Candy Cane Flavored Peeps Chicks Dipped in Chocolate.
I found the Sugar Cookie Peeps at Target at a modest price, but picked up the Candy Cane Peeps at FAO Schweetz because I was afraid I wouldn’t find them anywhere else (and actually haven’t seen them at any other stores, that still doesn’t make them worth the $3.99 I paid for the 1.5 ounce package).
The Peeps are beautifully crafted. They’re puffy and soft and creamy tan colored. The chocolate puddle around its bottom is nicely formed and in perfect condition. The Peeps smell like fake butter and amaretto. This is not an appealing combination to me, but I suppose I can give it points for originality. Each Peep is about a half an ounce in weight.
The bite is soft and plush, the sugar coating is not too grainy but does a good job of creating just a little texture to sell the sugar cookie experience. The flavor is sweet without a trace of that buttery thing, but still a touch of the amaretto. There’s also a note of toasted sugar, like a fresh cookie (or a vanilla marshmallow). The chocolate is sweet and creamy, not really terribly complex, and honestly doesn’t belong on a sugar cookie, but still didn’t hurt the experience.
Overall, they weren’t my favorite kind of Peeps. I wonder how different they are from the Caramel Peeps, I’m guessing the color and the amaretto note are the only differences.
The entire package has 160 calories, which is a pretty good sized treat with a very small caloric price tag. So if you’re looking for an indulgence that feels like the holiday but doesn’t go overboard, these are passable.
Back in 2007, Just Born introduced Peeps Peppermint Stars. I liked the flavor and the shape, but I wasn’t keen that they used artificial sweeteners in the little candy bits. Happily this newer version of Candy Cane Flavored Peeps Chicks Dipped in Chocolate has delicious sugar in it.
The simple construction is a peppermint flavored Peep chick with a light sprinkling of red candy bits. Then it’s dipped partially into semi-sweet chocolate. They’re packaged three to a tray and like the Sugar Cookie version, they’re each about a half an ounce each.
The Peeps hold their shape well and smell light and fresh, like peppermint toothpaste. They’re mercifully spared from much of the artificial colorings that I think muck with the flavor of a good, fresh marshmallow. (Ghost Peeps are probably the best Peeps for this reason.) The coolness of the peppermint flavor was a bit like mouthwash, but not in a bad way. It matched well with the lightly sweet and slightly smoky chocolate base to keep the whole thing from being too sickly sweet.
I did think that when they started dipping them in chocolate, they might stop making the eyes out of wax. Sadly, they’re still inedible and I have to spit those out. (I guess that’s how you know you have a real Peep.) Overall, a good effort. I don’t see why these can’t be a flavor that comes back with a green sparkle to them for St. Patrick’s Day. I much prefer this partially dipped version to the strangely wet fully dipped marshmallows (that are also over-colored).
Fans of the Peepsters, the little foil wrapped chocolates, will be happy to hear that those have returned in green and red foil for the winter as well.
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!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.