Monday, February 08, 2010
Most candy coated licorice is the same. They’re little snips of licorice laces covered in a hard candy shell. The exception might be Good & Plenty, which uses a thicker and softer licorice nib for coating. Now there’s a new version on the marketing called Wiley Wallaby Outback Beans with Chewy Black Licorice Centers.
Wiley Wallaby is the Australian Style licorice brand from American maker Kenny’s Candy. They’re known for making licorice twists in a rainbow of flavors, from Root Beer to Spearmint to Pina Colada.
I picked these up at the Fancy Food Show and was told they should be hitting the stores via wholesalers sometime later this month. This format is a generous 13 ounce tub, which makes it easy to serve right from the package then seal it back up.
The short little rods are about one half to three quarters of an inch long. They’re matte and bright - a mix of purple, hot pink and a slightly lavender white. The shell is not quite crispy and becomes grainy and cool when chewed. It has a light anise flavor to it, but the real licorice impact comes with the black licorice center. It’s a soft and chewy mix of molasses woodsy notes and clean and sweet licorice. (There’s real licorice extract in there plus anise oil.)
My only hesitation with these is that the pink ones use Red 40, and I just couldn’t stand the bitter aftertaste. (There was a hint of it in the purple ones, but not enough to dissuade me from eating them after I’d gone through the white ones.)
The consistently soft chew and well rounded flavor put these right up there with Good & Plenty. Even after keeping the tub around for several weeks with the seal broken, they were still fresh (try that with a theater box of Good & Plenty). The good news for vegans is that it’s all artificial colors and no glazes in there (and mostly natural every thing else).
Since Hershey’s created their new version of Good & Fruity, which is no more than a crazy neon jelly bean, I’ve mentioned to more than one candy maker that there are still plenty of candy fans who long for a candy coated red licorice.
The Wiley Wallaby Outback Beans with Chewy Red Licorice Centers may fit that hole in the confectionery pantheon quite well.
The short little pieces come in three colors, a festive mix of orange, green and yellow. At the center of each grainy and not quite crunchy candy coating is a piece or red licorice.
I don’t know what flavor this red center is. At times I think it’s strawberry, but other times it’s a mild cherry. Whatever it is, it has a nice soft chew, a pleasant smoothness and a light tangy note of berries. The candy shell is very much like that on Good & Plenty. It’s smooth on the outside but not quite a hard crunchy shell, instead it becomes grainy and sweet. They’re quite satisfying and addictive to keep popping.
I expect these to be well-priced, as the Wiley Wallaby brand is usually less expensive than the true Australian imports. I also expect these to show up in bulk bins and probably stores that already carry the Wiley Wallaby line.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
The one that I was most intrigued with of late is Spearmint Licorice found at Vermont Country Store. (However, I believe that they’re manufactured by Kenny’s Candies - I’ve just never seen them in stores anywhere, just online.)
The packaging isn’t terribly compelling (not even featured on their website). Just a clear plastic bag highlighting the translucent green twists.
They look like they could be green apple at first glance. And if you were expecting green apple and ate one of these you’d probably be pretty surprised.
They’re a wheat-based twist. There’s no molasses in it like most American & Australia-style licorices. They’re glossy, soft and flexible.
The open bag doesn’t smell like much. Not minty fresh, maybe just a little sweet.
The flavor is very subtle. It’s not a blasting mint like the sizzling flavor of the Cinnamon Fire Twizzlers. Instead it’s a not-very-sweet spearmint.
At first I didn’t like them. They were too soft and seemed a bit artificial. The spearmint has a light zing to it, but there’s no cool minty aftertaste.
Then I left them open for about a month and they got stiff and a bit dried out. Kind of hard to peel apart. But the flavor mellowed and though there’s some work on the chewing front, I’m really pleased to say that I’ve eaten over a pound of them now. They’re a comfort flavor, like Spearmint Leaves (those jelly candies sanded with sugar) - they’re not sexy or innovative ... just pleasant. (Even though I call them pleasant, I’m bumping their rating to worth it.)
Kenny’s Candy is Kosher, but this package doesn’t say Kosher on it (so may have been repacked at a non-Kosher facility).
Friday, November 02, 2007
In the Autumn a candy lover’s fancy turns to Licorice. (Well, if you like licorice.) The cooler air and shorter days seem to beg for the earthy flavors of a good molasses-based licorice. I get that not everyone likes licorice. It’s like mincemeat and cloves ... not everyone gets it.
There are lots of different versions of licorice, but one of my favorites are pastels, which are little nibbles covered in a candy shell. (Just like candy covered chocolate like M&Ms are a great way to eat chocolate!) I’ve had at least a dozen different varieties, from Good & Plenty to Koppers to Jelly Belly. They’re all good ... but after Good & Plenty, they get kind of expensive. (I’m not sure why.)
I was pretty happy to find Kenny’s Licorice Pastels at the All Candy Expo. They do great things with licorice, including using real licorice extract and making their products affordable (you’ve probably seen them repackage and sold under house brands or in bulk bins before).
They’re made from a very thin piece of licorice, think laces chopped into little segments. Nothing wrong with that. But the coatings are irregular. Some are chipped, which may have been me treating the package like a bean bag in my travels. Still, the coating wasn’t complete on some, with little bits of licorice sticking out or appearing just below the thin veneer of sugar shell.
The color choice is interesting. White, Green, Mustard Yellow, Black, Purple and Hot Pink.
They were soft and fresh. The sugar shell didn’t have a sharp and crisp crunch like the ones I get in the little bulk tubs at Cost Plus World Market. I like that kind of shell, but this was okay ... more like the Good & Plenty side of things. The licorice inside is nice and chewy and has a good note of roasted molasses and real licorice and anise extracts. (The anise is detectable in the shell.)
The thing that spoiled it for me (and this is just me) was that there was Red #40 in them. It was absolutely detectable in the pink and purple candies. (I even did several blind tests to see if I was just being dramatic.) It made them bitter. I had to separate them out from the rest of the bag ... and not eating a third of them doesn’t really make them cheaper. (4 out of 10)
I love root beer barrel hard candies and the root beer Bottle Caps, which are pretty much the only candies that incorporate root beer well into their pantheon of flavors.
Kenny’s also makes a huge line of flavored Juicy Twists (I’m loathe to use the term “red licorice” which is like saying “unsweetened sugar”.) They come in watermelon, green apple, chocolate and of course, Root Beer.
The twists aren’t really that twisted (only a half twist per length), but have pleasant ridges. They’re shiny and rather firm (but not stale). They don’t have the firmly pinched ends that other brands like Red Vines have. But they are hollow (if you’re a straw person).
The root beer flavor is sweet and has a nice balsam quality, not as intense as some other more spicy candies, but still a good match for the flour-based twist. I’d love it if they were more intense, but this is often my problem with root beer in general. I want lots of flavor. But, as I mentioned before, I take my root beer enjoyment where I can. These are a fun change from hard candies. (7 out of 10)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.