Friday, September 2, 2016
Since Labor Day is here, it’s the last opportunity to review a few summer candies. Mars introduced a new version of their revived Crispy M&Ms with their Crispy M&Ms S’mores.
This version comes, as far as I can tell, only in the larger bags, no single servings. The bag itself is green, just like the regular Crispy M&Ms, though a large part of the front is shaded in a toasty marshmallow brown.
The object of the flavor, as far as I can tell from the illustration, is to add the flavors and maybe textures of S’mores to the M&Ms. The chocolate is already there in a regular M&M,and of course Crispy M&Ms already have a cookie center, so this is all a good start conceptually.
The pieces come in three colors, a nice choice to evoke the marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers that go into a S’more. Upon opening the bag though, I found that they smelled ... a lot. The scent definitely has elements of graham crackers - a sort of maple and fake butter note. Then there’s a more buttery toffee note that I think is supposed to be the toasted marshmallow. But it all comes off overwhelmingly like a seasonal Yankee Candle.
The pieces are lumpy and inconsistently formed ... not like the smooth and regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms I’ve come to rely upon. Even though some are moderately spherical, they are still too lumpy to roll around on a flat surface ... so that’s a plus.
The flavor seems much sweeter than the regular Crispy M&Ms, though it could just be that there’s far more vanilla flavoring in there, which always makes me think things are sweet. It’s a soft sweetness, not too throat searing. The graham flavor is pleasant ... they’re not terrible, but I was really turned off my the smell. Once I let the package sit open over a weekend, it wasn’t too bad.
The odd thing was that I expected the crispy center to actually have something “graham” to it, but it looks the same and when I pulled some pieces apart, the center really tasted no different from the airy, ricey and slightly malty version in the regular Crispy M&Ms.
S’more are really about a whole immersion into the process of making them and then eating them hot. Reducing them to the neat and tidy candy coated morsels takes most of the risk away (no one gets burned, no one messes up any clothes) and also all the challenge. I have the ability to make S’mores in my home at any time, but I don’t, because they’re really about the environment that you create them in.
I’ll stick to the standard Peanut M&Ms for now ... or Almond M&Ms if I’m lucky enough to find them in stores.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
They’re basically Swedish Fish.
The ingredients feature naturally derived flavorings and colorings. They come in four flavors and shapes.
The red flavor of the classic Swedish Fish is rather unique, though now duplicated by other candies and confections. It’s most like lingonberry, which is similar to a raspberry and pomegranate mix with a sprinkling of fruit punch.
In the case of the Red Lobster here, the berry flavors are very similar to the Swedish Fish, but has none of the bitter aftertaste of the artificial colors that the North American version have. (The actual Malaco Swedish Fish, if you can find them, use natural colorings.) The flavor here is good, well rounded, floral and lingering with a sort of fresh green note.
The Blue Dolphin is described as huckleberry flavored. I have to say that I’m at a loss to place huckleberry in my memory. In this case, the dolphin is rasbperry, with a light tangy note but much lighter than the lobster, more citrusy.
The Orange Rockfish is orange. It’s very plain. The zest notes are pretty pronounced after the chew is over, but it was not terribly interesting. There were very few of them in my bag.
The Yellow Seahorse is mango-peach. This was a really weak flavor. The peach and mango were less than nuanced and were more like a candle scent than a flavoring. The tart bite was the only thing that kept it from being something I’d stick in a drawer to make my towel smell sweet.
The texture of the pieces varied a bit as well. The lobster and rockfish were very soft and smooth. The dolphin and seahorse had a little bit drier and stiffer chew on the outside, which was more like the classic Swedish Fish.
These are not gummi candies, which usually contain gelatin, these are just jelly candies. (Nothin’ wrong with that, it just seems like so many jelly candies can’t be happy with who they are.)
I’m not sure if anyone needed a Swedish Fish knock-off of a full flavor variety. In this case, I’d say that Trader Joe’s could just stick with the Lobsters, or even make a bunch of different red shapes and throw them in a bag.
May contain traces of peanut, almond, cashew & pecan. Also made with sunflower and corn but are gluten free. Though they don’t have the vegan symbol on them, there are no animal derived ingredients and they are Kosher. It was interesting to see that these were made in the United States, as so many Trader Joe’s candies, especially the naturally flavored sugar candies, are not.
What’s Good at Trader Joe’s also has a review.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Late last year I got these preview versions of the new Vote For Your Favorite Peanut varieties. The idea is that during the US Presidential Primary season, Mars would introduce a trio of flavors to choose from, and the public would vote. The three versions are Chili Nut, Honey Nut, Coffee Nut.
The Honey Nut M&Ms are a milk chocolate coating with a whole peanut in the center and a crisp shell. Somewhere in there is also a honey flavor ... in the shell, is it a honey roasted nut? I have no idea.
I pulled a few apart and didn’t find any evidence of honey roasting, but they do smell a little bit like maple syrup and vanilla. The shell on this variety also seems crisper. The whole effect is a rather clean, sweet flavor but basically a regular old Peanut M&M.
(Note that the packages I got were not final and the M&Ms were all the same color in each bag, in the final versions released to the public there are actually three colors for each variety.)
The Chili Nut M&Ms are probably the most daring of the bunch. Sure, spicy things are trendy, but the major candy companies have stayed far away from the chili heat, sticking to the pumpkin, ginger and cinnamon spices.
The combination of the peanuts, milky chocolate and mild cayenne pepper is very nice. The heat varies from time to time, but generally has a throat warming appeal that builds the more you eat. But it never gets too hot, which makes for a different experience without alienating folks who can’t tolerate a lot of pepper. (I’m afraid I’m one of those, I’m not great with capsaicin, the heat in red peppers, but I love all other spices like mustards, curries, black pepper and ginger).
Coffee Nut M&Ms is such a promising flavor. The roasted flavors of peanuts, coffee and chocolate should be an ideal combination. Added to that, I absolutely loved the winter 2015 Cafe Mocha M&Ms.
The shell is great, the peanuts are large and crunchy ... but the overwhelming flavor isn’t necessarily coffee, but it’s more of a buttery, woodsy flavor. I wanted to give the candy the benefit of doubt, so I bought a full 10.2 ounce bag at CVS just to be sure. Still, I’m getting this weird buttery coconut note.
I think it’s fantastic that Mars is paying a little more attention to the Peanut M&Ms, since most of the flavors we see are for the Milk Chocolate or white varieties. None of these varieties is something I plan to buy again before they disappear.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Mars has a few seasonal varieties of M&Ms available this year, including the White Strawberry Shortcake and Easter Sundae M&Ms (which are Target and Walmart exclusives, respectively). For the masses who can’t shop at those stores or don’t want a which chocolate product, there’s one other Easter version that’s new this year: Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs.
I was very excited about these by the name, since Mars already has a great line of malt products available in Europe under the Malteser name. This is not that, in any way.
The new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs are Crispy M&Ms in their format and ingredients. The only difference is not the addition of malt in the center, but butter flavor.
I picked up both the regular M&Ms Crispy in their Easter colors and the Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs for comparison, when a reader alerted me that they were no different.
There are some small format differences. As noted in the name, the Malts are mini, and they are slightly smaller than the regular Crispy M&Ms, but not something that you’d notice right away. But then again, the Malts aren’t really egg shaped at all, they’re just inconsistent so that some of them are kind of egg shaped and others are spherical.
The candies on the left are the Easter colors for the regular Crispy M&Ms and the handful on the right are the new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs. Slightly different colors, but similar irregular shapes.
The difference isn’t inside, either. The ingredients and the structure are the same. The crispy rice center is light and airy, but basically flavorless, it’s a little like cereal, a little malty. Outside there’s a little hint of chocolate, not much but with a bit of a milky note. The candy shell is crisp. But as I mentioned earlier, this Malt version is not malty, the outside has a butter flavor to it, and I have to emphasize that it’s just a flavor.
I’ve had these two bags for almost a month, I’ve finished the regular Easter crispy M&Ms but I can’t bear to even have the Malt bag open near me. The smell is disgustingly artificial. It’s not malt at all. I don’t know what Mars was thinking with this product version, but they should definitely consult with other parts of the company that actually make malted items in the future.
Monday, February 22, 2016
Easter is a special time in the candy cycle, because it’s really the only time of year that white chocolate is embraced. Fortunately there are some products that are actually good, not just a white confection but actually made with real cocoa butter and lots of milk. (Many white confections are just sugar and tropical oils.)
The new White Strawberry Shortcake M&Ms are a Target exclusive this year, and if you’re a fan of the other white chocolate holiday versions like the Candy Corn M&Ms and the White Peppermint M&Ms, these may be just for you.
The pieces are larger than standard M&Ms, they’re puffier and a little less regular. They’re delicate pastel colors in pleasing creamy pink, eggshell and white, kind of like a strawberry shortcake with a whipped cream dollop. That’s about as far as the shortcake theme goes, which is fine with me. (The Dove Strawberry Shortcake Crisp things were weird.)
The package this year holds 8 ounces. Years ago the limited edition flavors came in a 9.9 ounce bag, they’re reliably shrinking over time.
The pieces are uncolored in the center and not layered like some. The white chocolate is creamy and sweet and has the floral flavor of fresh strawberries. There are no dried strawberry bits in there, like some previous products have included.
The shell is crunchy and the center is sweet but balanced with the more milky flavors. There’s a lot of fat in there, from the cocoa butter, but they didn’t have a greasy texture. (But that could be that it’s kind of chilly, the Candy Corn version they make in the fall comes along when things are still warm in my area, and the cocoa butter can migrate through the shell in the heat. The flavor in this case reminds me quite a bit of the old Nestle Qwik strawberry milk.
I’m keen on these, but they push all my buttons. They’re pretty and not overly colored, they have a good flavor that’s not too artificial and the ingredients (though there are artificial colors and flavors) are petty decent. I hope they return next year with a wider release.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
There’s not much of a description on the package, just that the squares are filled with strawberry filling. The filling appears to be made from sugar, high fructose corn syrup, palm oil and freeze dried strawberries and colored with fruit and vegetable juice (very vague). It also has some added TBHQ as a preservative. There’s no indication of the cacao content of the chocolate itself, but I’d guess it’s somewhere in the low 60% range. Each square is 70 calories.
The squares are elegant and simple. They’re 1.75 inches square and sport the Ghirardelli logo in a beveled field. In my experience the packaging protects the pieces well and they usually look stunningly gorgeous.
If there’s an issue with the filled squares from Ghirardelli is that they temper their chocolate to be very crisp and snappy ... so the filled pieces can be messy to eat when the chocolate breaks apart upon biting and the filling dribbles out. So, make an effort to bite on the diagonal, or pop the whole thing in your mouth at once.
The chocolate is sweet but with a nice dry woodsy note to it, which goes well with the strawberry flavors. The strawberry filling is quite like a finely pureed strawberry sauce. It’s not overly sweet, has a strong tangy note and just a touch of seed flavor to it (and some actual seeds).
Because the edges are so thick and the chocolate in the center is so thin, there’s a large variation in the proportion of filling to chocolate in any given bite.
I liked them quite a bit, it was the best imitation of a chocolate covered strawberry that doesn’t spoil that I think I’ve had. Ghirardelli Strawberry Squares contain soy and milk and may also contain traces of tree nuts. There’s no statement about gluten.
Monday, January 25, 2016
The new Dove Milk Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Crisp Promises are for Valentine’s Day. I picked mine up at Target (and they may be a Target-Exclusive item).
The shortcake part is a little odd, conceptually. For a real strawberry shortcake, berries (often in a sweetened syrup) are ladled over a biscuit type baked good. Some folks prefer a spongecake or poundcake but the key here is that they’re all soft and cakey. The cookie pieces in this case are made from tapioca starch, rice flour, sugar, palm oil, baking soda and some salt.
The other odd part of this is that there’s milk chocolate ... so if anything, this is an imitation of a chocolate covered strawberry with a few gluten free cookie bits (this is not, however, a gluten free product as it’s made in a facility that also uses wheat and peanuts and tree nuts).
The pieces are not a swirl of milk & white chocolate, like some other recent versions. Instead this is a solid milk chocolate piece, flavored with some strawberry and dotted with little cookie inclusions.
The strawberry flavor is very strong, but the milk chocolate holds its own with a creamy dairy note and a little toasty cocoa flavor. The strawberry is floral sweetness, no dried berry bits in this version. The cookie bits are odd, since they’re made with starch and not actual wheat flour, they are actually rather starchy, though they don’t get sticky-pasty like some gluten free cookies I’ve had. The overall effect of the crunchy cookie bit is really nice, it aerates the experience because you kind of have to chew it instead of just letting the chocolate melt away, which I think boosts the strawberry notes.
They’re pleasant. The strawberry isn’t too artificial or plastic (it does say natural flavor on the package, though it’s kind of vague). I don’t know if I would buy these again, but I appreciated the effort and novelty.
Friday, January 22, 2016
Moon Pies are a Tennessee treat, a little marshmallow sandwich featuring round graham crackers and then a thin mockolate coating. They’ve been around since 1917, though they’re a bit of a regional treat and sometimes hard to find. They’re something between a candy and a snack, because of the graham cracker element. They’re also pretty big, so I can see why it’s an appealing idea to morselize them.
Taste of Nature makes Cookie Dough Bites and a variety of other little morsel items sold in theater boxes. The Moon Pie Bites sound pretty good, “Delicious marshmallow & graham in a chocolatey coating.” Well, until you get to the coating part.
The pieces actually smell pretty good. They vary in size, but most are between the size of a pea and a garbanzo.
The the description says it’s marshmallow, it’s actually just marshmallow flavored and there’s no gelatin in the list of ingredients. So these are fine for vegetarians and they’re Kosher. However, it is a mockolate coating, which is made from sugar and palm oil and whey and some cocoa, among other ingredients. It looks decent, but doesn’t really add a chocolate component to this combination candy.
The overwhelming scent of the pieces is graham. It’s a pleasant cereal sort of smell, kind of like vanilla and digestive biscuits and maple syrup.
The pieces are a bit crumbly and dry inside. They’re grainy and have little crumbly graham cracker bits in them. The mockolate coating is neither waxy or greasy, so that’s kind of a blessing. It’s a little cool on the tongue but doesn’t really ruin the otherwise disappointing candy. All elements are equally bad. The center has little sugary bits, the vanilla flavor is overly fake, the graham bits have little of the crunch of real crackers and the chocolatey coating isn’t chocolatey.
Moon Pie Bites contain wheat, milk and soy. They area also made in a facility with peanuts, tree nuts and eggs.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.