Wednesday, December 11, 2013
One of the surprising finds in the Christmas candy aisle this year was Pearson’s Mint Patties Creamy Candy Cane. They were expensive at $3.99 for only 6.4 ounces at KMart, but I was really curious to try them. But what are they?
The package says: A stick of creamy peppermint with a layer of candy cane flavored mint covered in delicious dark chocolate. I really don’t understand that, but I’m along for the ride.
The dark chocolate is 66% cacao and aside from the artificial colors, the ingredients are pretty good. Unlike York Peppermint Patties (which are now made in Mexico) which contain egg whites, Pearson’s are vegetarian, using soy protein instead of egg albumen in the fondant center. They do, however, contain milk fat in the chocolate so they’re not vegan. They’re listed as gluten free but may contain traces of peanuts or tree nuts.
The construction is simple enough, they’re a rod of two different layers of fondant covered in dark chocolate. The bottom layer is the same peppermint cream found inside the regular old Pearson’s Mint Patty. As far as that goes, Pearson’s makes a great peppermint patty. Some may say it’s better than York, they’re a little different in their ratios and textures but I’d definitely say they’re both excellent quality.
The bottom layer is smooth and lightly minted, the dark chocolate plays well with a bitter but woodsy cocoa note. The top, pink layer is definitely more minty and possibly a little moister or at least a little creamier on the tongue. It’s not that big of a difference. The stick is a big portion for something I’d consider an after dinner mint. They’re only 90 calories but about .8 ounces. A snack size (those foil wrapped ones) are about a quarter of an ounce - so it’s about the same as three patties. There seems to be more chocolate compared to the filling in the sticks, so that may be a selling point for some.
The price is prohibitive, even for a holiday item. I think I prefer the patties, which I bought recently for about 25 cents an ounce for a big 48 ounce bag (for the jar in my office) while this would be about 62 cents an ounce and look kind of sad in late January if no one ate them yet, even though they’re good until September of 2014.
Crunchies or a chocolate layer or something else to distinguish them more from the regular patties would push these over into a stronger recommendation. As it is, if you prefer a mint stick with a more crumbly fondant instead of the flowing style of After Eight, then go for these for the holidays. Otherwise, just grab the regular patties and call them ornaments instead.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Last year Mars announced a new season flavor for their Twix candy: Twix Sugar Cookie. Sadly, they never showed up in stores in this dimension. Then this year they made their announcements for the holidays with nothing noted for the Twix line, so I was blindsided to find out that there is in fact a holiday version of Twix this year: Twix Gingerbread. (There’s also seasonal Gingerbread M&Ms out, but they are a Walmart exclusive.)
The description is a short listing of the elements: cookie bars - gingerbread caramel - milk chocolate. So it’s not a gingerbread cookie; it’s the caramel that’s flavored like gingerbread.
What I’ve always loved about gingerbread, whether in cake form or crunchy cookie, is the wonderful base of molasses that gives a touch of sweetness but mostly an earthy base for the spices. Recipes obviously call for ginger but also include clove, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, allspice and/or coriander. The ingredients for Twix Gingerbread doesn’t specify the spice array and does not list molasses at all.
The Twix minis are a little over a half an ounce each. They’re not quite as big as the regular bar you buy in pairs. The calorie count, though, is pretty low at 80 per piece and they’re about 2.3 inches long ... it’s a nice little snack.
They smell quite sweet and cinnamony, with a hint of woodsy but undefined spices.
The overwhelming flavor profile of the caramel is cinnamon and nutmeg with hints of black pepper and ginger. There is no molasses, it’s completely missing that earthy sort of beet flavor. The chew is great, the milk chocolate was creamy and fresh and the cookie has an excellent crunch and texture to offset the caramel. It’s a good iteration of the classic candy. It doesn’t really ring as a gingerbread item. I wish the cookie was different, was an actual gingerbread cookie, but I’ll forgive them for their manufacturing limitations.
My overall feeling about these seasonal flavors like Snickerdoodle, Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread is they’re pretty much the same thing (we may as well throw Spiced Chai in there). It’s just a mix of those cinnamon spice flavors ... all pretty generic when the end up in a mass produced candy. The Pumpkin Spice M&Ms didn’t end up that different from the Cinnamon M&Ms and probably aren’t that different from the Gingerbread M&Ms. I like the infusion of new flavors into classic candies, but when they start thinking outside the box, I’d like them to be a little more faithful to the inspiration and allow for more differentiation.
Monday, July 1, 2013
One of my favorite candy bars as a teen was the Heath Bar. At that time it came as a pair of bars, not yet made by Hershey’s. Each little plank of crisp toffee was coated in milk chocolate. With careful work I could cleave off the chocolate with my teeth leaving a pristine and nearly translucent piece of toffee for slow consumption.
Now that the bars all one piece, I’m not as fascinated by them. Ratios matter as do dimensions.
Flash forward the new century as Hershey’s is making a candy coated piece version of all their favorite candy bars. It’s all part of the Morselization trend. The Hershey’s Heath Pieces feature a milk chocolate morsel studded with toffee and almond bits in a candy shell in muted earthy colors.
The back of the package exhorts buyers to Enjoy Delicious Milk Chocolate Toffee in Pieces ... in the car! ... on the go! ... at home! ...with family & friends!
The package also lists a website, www.piecescandies.com which is nice enough but makes no mention of this product.
They’re lovely and well made little lentils. They’re nearly identical in dimensions to M&Ms, except they’re a little puffier in the center and don’t have the sharp angle around the edges. Quite a few of mine had chipped edges, but that seemed to be the harsh way I treated them on the way home. They come in three colors: cream, medium brown and dark brown.
Inside is an inconsistent mixture of very sweet milk chocolate, toffee and almond. They’re exceptionally sweet and have a less chocolatey experience than the regular Almond Pieces. The crunchy shell and the toffee work well together. They’re both crunchy, but the toffee has a little pop of salt and buttery texture to it. Every once in a while I would catch a chip of almond as well.
The whole effect was sweetness, though not always in a bad way. I think I’d prefer them mixed in with some straight chocolate baubles (though it appears they’re not making the Special Dark Pieces any longer). But what I really found I liked better than these are from Marich and also sold at Trader Joe’s. These would be great for baking and on ice cream.
Like many Hershey’s products, they’re not ethically sourced or certified at this time, though Hershey’s has a published plan. There are a lot of ingredients in there though nothing terribly surprising or disturbing. There was no note on the package about the peanut or gluten status though it does contain soy, milk and almonds. My guess is that it’s made in the same facility as Reese’s Pieces so may contain traces of peanuts.
Friday, April 13, 2012
A few years ago I reviewed Twizzlers Chocolate Twists. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Hershey’s had changed the recipe and even the shape. There were many comments from fans of the classic version of the Chocolate Twizzlers who petitioned Hershey’s to return to that version.
So here it is, nearly four years later, and Hershey’s has heard the requests and responded with the new improved Now in the Classic Twist version.
We’re at a crossover period at the moment, where both versions are on store shelves, so I poked around and picked up both at different stores at different times. I also dug out the wrapper from my 2008 review so I could do a full comparison between the versions. The packages differ in very small ways. But if you’re looking for the return to the classic twist, look for the little blue dot that says Now in the Classic Twist.
First, the packages are virtually identical. The top is the Twizzler red with the blue outlined white Twizzlers logo. The clear center bit of the package shows the candy, which is the best way to tell them apart, as is the image at the top. The “Classic” Twizzlers have crimped ends. The revised formula, which is on its way out, has an open end.
The little diagram at the top of the package shows this and points to them with the text “totally twisted” with an arrow next to it. The thing of special note is that the 2012 version has a (r) mark next to it.
So I’ll start just with a straight review of the Classic Twist Chocolate Twizzlers. The expiration date is November 2012. Actually, nowhere on the package does this say that they’re Chocolate Twizzlers. It just says on the lower right of the front that it’s made with real Hershey’s chocolate. Otherwise, they’re just Twizzlers Twists. It’s as if Hershey’s thinks that saying “made with chocolate” is a flavor.
The twists are nicely made, glossy and consistent. There were exactly 20 twists in my package. They’re slightly flattened on one end, but otherwise a soft of oval tube with set of six twisted ribs.
The scent is mildly cocoa, a little on the woodsy side. They’re stiff but flexible. The bite is soft enough to cleave off easily without much pull. The base of the recipe is wheat flour (the second ingredient after corn syrup), so it’s a sort of doughy chew. The flavor is very clean, again it’s quite woodsy and not terribly deep. It’s like weak cocoa or slightly warm chocolate milk.
I found it pleasant enough though not satisfying as a chocolate candy, and not really compelling enough for a snack either texture-wise or with enough flavor intensity to hold my interest.
Now, I was on the fence about re-reviewing the rejected formula for Chocolate Twizzlers. But as I mentioned, I found the wrapper from the review from 2008. (Please don’t get the impression that I hoard my wrappers, I was cleaning out my studio because my roof was leaking and just happened to find it stuck in with some nice tins and boxes that I have been keeping.)
Inside this package there were only 15 twists, even though the packages weighed the same. They’re actually shorter, so I can only assume that they’re simply beefier than the other version.
They look just the same as the 2008 version. No crimped ends, slightly milkier color than the crimped end Classic.They’re soft, much softer than the other version.
They smell sweet but not much like chocolate or really much else. The chew is doughy and soft, the texture is kind of sticky but smooth overall. The chocolate flavor is bland and lacks the slightly bitter edge of the Classic.
Mostly it’s the texture that’s different here, globs of it would stick to the edge of my molars and gums. Probably a dental nightmare.
There are 20 twists in the new bag, 15 in the old bag. So the new twists are 25% lighter. But the portion size on the package is still the same. It says on all three that 4 twists weigh 38 grams and provide 130 calories. But how could that be? If Hershey’s is providing information that’s off by 25%, isn’t that causing problems with portion control? And which one is correct?
The ingredients from the version I reviewed in 2008, which were uncrimped, look more like the current crimped version than they do with the uncrimped 2012 version. How can that be explained?
Basically, it’s not like you have a choice. The people spoke, consumers said they preferred the old crimped twists ... whatever the ingredients happen to be ...with or without palm oil, with or without soy lecithin.
Given the choice between both versions ... I choose neither. I stick by my 4 out of 10 rating from four years ago. It’s a middling candy. If you want a cocoa-rich flour based product, have an Oreo. If you want a chewy strip of candy, have a real Twizzler. The chocolate versions are just lacking zing. The new ones are prettier, that’s about all I can say.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
But I should have known better, considering how disappointed I am that Nestle has replaced the beautiful large Easter SweeTarts with little ones this year.
This isn’t so much a review as a reveal, for those who were curious about the product. (I reviewed them back in 2006.)
Mini Chewy SweeTarts have been around for at least 10 years, I think. They’ve been packages in different ways, they came in little single serving packs and these plastic flip top tubes. I like these theater boxes, they were certainly inexpensive at $1.00 per 4.5 ounce package.
The box calls them Springy, which sets them apart from the regular item. But there’s nothing different about them except for the box design ...which isn’t really better, just different.
The little banded spheres are made of a chewy, tangy compressed dextrose candy. They’re coated in a little glaze to keep them from sticking together. They’re firm but chewy. They’re grainy, but have a satisfying cool and quick dissolve on the tongue with a nice blend of tartness, artificial flavor and weird texture.
I like them, I had no problem eating both boxes (except for the cherry and green apple, which I set aside). I was glad they didn’t have that blue punch in there as well. I was just irritated that they weren’t cute little seasonal shapes.
They’re made with egg whites, so not appropriate for those with egg sensitivities or vegans. Also made in a facility that processes wheat. There are no other allergen ingredients (except all those artificial colors) nor any statements about nuts.
Monday, March 26, 2012
I picked up one of the odder Easter offerings over the weekend at KMart: Mallow Pals Strawberry Squeezable Marshmallow from a company called Hilco. I’ve seen these before, I think they showed up a year or two ago, squeezed confections have been around for a few years now. (Though I also remember a bubble gum that came in a tube back in the early 1980s as well.)
The tube is themed for Easter, in a bright pink and completely shaped like a perched bunny rabbit.
The package is some sort of mylar, it’s flexible and has a foil-like quality to it. It doesn’t hold much, there’s 1.2 ounces and I paid a dollar for it on sale. But marshmallows are mostly air anyway.
The package has a little flat plastic bottom that allows it to stand up (it stands best if it leans against something though). There’s a plastic flip top.
The ingredients are interesting and reveal that this isn’t what I consider a true marshmallow.
Modern marshmallows are made with gelatin. The protein in gelatin will stabilize whipped sugar syrup to hold the airy foam. Egg whites also perform the same in fresh goods, but don’t usually do as well when exposed to air. But still, they’re found quite often in treats, such as the Schokokuss or Mohrenkopf that’s found in the German speaking parts of Europe. The upshot of all of this is that this product is good for vegetarians who have to avoid traditional marshmallow products. (It’s not Kosher though. There are no statements about allergens on the package. It’s made in China.)
The goo has that soft and sweet smell of cotton candy. It squeezes out pretty easily. It’s soft and gooey and slumps over instead of forming bouncy peaks like marshmallow does. It’s pretty sticky as well. The texture is smooth, though there are a few sugary grains in there from time to time.
The strawberry flavor is mild and floral with no tartness and a weird bitter aftertaste that I can only assume is contributed by the artificial coloring. It dissolves quickly.
It’s weird stuff. It’s hard to imagine eating it right out of the pouch, but if I were a kid, I probably would. It’s sticky and can easily get messy. The pouch is easy to grasp, so it’s easy to dispense, though not necessarily easy to control like a pastry bag. It’s very low in calories though and one tube, though it’s supposed to be a serving, could probably be stretched to two if you were looking to limit calories.
It seems like it would be more fun to use as a frothy frosting item to ice cream, cookies, crackers, fruit or maybe even on top of hot chocolate. Sucking it right out of the tube seems a little wrong.
It comes in a couple of other flavors, I saw Green Apple on the shelves and I’ve also seen it listed online in Blue Raspberry.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Last week I reviewed the Werther’s Original CaraMelts which were a buttery flavored white confection. I found them confusing and disappointing. But I had hopes that Storck who makes the Merci Chocolates and Chocolate Riesen caramels could do chocolate well.
So I picked up these Werther’s Original Caramel Chocolates Dark Cream. They’re billed as Rich European Cream Chocolate Marbled with Smooth Creamy Caramel. That marbling of smooth creamy caramel had me worried, as I don’t think that you can mix caramel and chocolate together to make a chocolate-like product, it yields something more like a caramel product.
The ingredients sounded pretty good - there’s a lot of milk in there in various forms, but none of the weird tropical oils that I experienced in the CaraMelts.
The pieces are just like the CaraMelts and pretty much the same as the traditional Werther’s Original hard caramel pieces. They’re ovals about 1.25 inches long and a little under an inch wide. They have an attractive swirl of two kinds of chocolate, a dark milk chocolate and a white chocolate along with a hefty extra dose of cocoa. They’re wrapped in little twisted plastic with maroon color coded ends.
I loved the look of the swirly pattern, each piece was different and the swirls go all the way through the chocolate piece (not like some Hershey’s Kisses that just have stripes on the surface).
But let me back up a little bit here for a moment. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with candy. As I got older I found ways of getting money to buy it, but there was a certain lattitude in the house when I was growing up that sweets that you made were more permissible. So to ease a craving I would actually make candy or cookies. And sometimes I would make frosting. Just frosting and eat it. At first making frosting involved a recipe (and sometimes the smearing of the result on Ritz crackers, Saltines or bread). Later frosting was simply: butter, powdered sugar and cocoa. Cream until smooth and consume from the same dish. If there was no cocoa in the house, vanilla frosting would result. (Other variations of desperation would be brown sugar & butter, sometimes with peanut butter.)
The point of that story is that I’ve eaten a lot of butter mixed with cocoa. Pounds of it. I’m very familiar with the mouth feel, smell and the taste of it. The Dark Cream Caramel Chocolates are like chocolate butter. If that’s what you want, well, here it is. The melt is quick and smooth. There’s a buttery taste to it, but more of a clean dairy note than a powdered milk or yogurty tang. It’s certainly not at all fake tasting either. There’s a light salty note, like cocoa often has. They’re slick when melting, but not in a thin or greasy way.
In short, they’re very fatty. The cocoa flavors are well rounded, mostly woodsy, brownie-like with a little coffee note. But they’re cocoa flavors, I don’t quite get actual chocolate from it.
I liked them quite a bit, much more than I thought I would for a product that has, by my calculations, 170 calories per ounce. (Most chocolate is about 145 or so.) There’s also a lot of cholesterol in there for something called Dark Cream (I guess that’s the cream part) - 10 mg. But all that milk also gives the serving of 7 pieces (240 calories) 3 grams of protein, 10% of your RDA of Iron and 6% of your Calcium.
I like their packaging, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s spare and light but still protects the candy. It’s made in facility with all the major allergens: wheat, soy, milk, tree nuts, peanuts. (No eggs mentioned.)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
In 1973 Toffifee was introduced in [then West] Germany. The candy was unlike anything else on the mass-produced market and capitalized on Germany’s fondness for hazelnut and chocolate. The candy was such a huge success in Europe, it was introduced in North America as Toffifay in the late 1970s with a large marketing campaign that still sticks in my head.
The tagline “Toffifay, it’s too good for kids” is gone but the rest of their description of the candy and marketing line of All Your Favorites in One are still used.
Though I doubt this is actually how they make them, this is what they say: We spin chewy caramel into a little cup, drop in a whole hazelnut, cover it in chocolate hazelnut filling and top it with a drop of delicious chocolate.
The international Toffifee website lists the components with precision:
I loved Toffifay when it was first introduced, though in my penny pinching days of college/grad school I could scarcely afford oatmeal & eggs and wasn’t about to pay candy bar prices for something half the weight.
Then when I did start working regularly I found the partially hydrogenated oil content to be a little disturbing. So I was happy to see that the ingredients have now shifted to naturally bad for you tropical oils like palm. The individual serving four-pack is pretty hard to find, but I picked up the 15 piece tray at the local KMart. Even though the expiry was nigh (August 31, 2009) they looked pristine & glossy.
There are a few ways to eat the candy: I usually bite it in half, as I have a well-documented fascination with what bisected confections look like and of course my own tooth prints.
But sometimes I like to scrape the chocolate disk off and then attempt to peel the caramel cup apart to have a really intense hazelnut & buttery choco experience.
They smell quite divine - a little buttery and a lot hazelnutty. The little chocolate disc is mediocre chocolate. It’s very sweet and a little grainy, but holds its own against the even sweeter hazelnut paste inside the cup. Of course what gives the candy its true punch is the whole hazelnut at the core. The caramel cup is a cross between the flavor of a good caramel (nice salty mix of toasted sugar and butter) and the soft & yielding chew of a Kraft caramel.
The combination of textures, sugar & fat work extremely well for me. I think the packaging is excessive (a plastic tray inside a paperboard tray sealed in cellophane inside a paperboard sleeve) but then again it was fresh and unmarred. Sometimes the little cups satisfy me in a way that few other candies can. But I’m always hesitant to pick them up simply because they’re over $25 a pound and when I think about what sort of candy I can get for that price, I usually hold out for the higher quality stuff.
I’ve always found it a bit odd that no other versions of Toffifay ever emerged. No Marzipan, no Peanut Butter, No Caramel Macchiato, no Rum Raisin.
Lance at Candy Addict declared them Awesomely Addictive and Esquire magazine actually gives them an endorsement (though the text indicates it’s against their better judgment), Candy Monster pronounces them Freakin’ Adorable and Rosa of ZOMG Candy eats hers by placing the chocolate side on her tongue.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.