Thursday, February 27, 2014
The dill pickle is a favorite flavor in the United States. It goes beyond the brined cucumber and has made its way into potato chips, vodka, peanuts, and even toothpaste. It’s a small wonder we haven’t seen more pickled candies.
The folks at Barrels of Yum have created a unique array of hard candies shaped like barrels, but I thought I’d start with their Dilly Dally Candy since it’s their unique offering.
Their barrel shaped dill pickle pieces bring the flavors of dill, vinegar, salt, garlic and tarragon to hard candy.
They’re bright green, like that weird paste I get from the Indian restaurant that I can’t eat because it’s so green. I’m not a pickle adverse person, as a kid I was a huge fan both of the store bought versions and the kind my grandmother made with the gherkins she grew in her own yard.
The first flavor is sweetness, like a sweet pickle, which I actually don’t care for. But after there’s a strong and pleasant herbal dill note along with a weird sort of garlic flavor. The tartness that emulates vinegar comes in slowly. Overall, it’s a good likeness of a pickle in dissolvable form. I would have liked a little less sweet, which I understand is hard to do with candy, but perhaps a dash of salt. Mostly, it lacks the texture, that crunch, the coldness from the fridge that are elements I enjoy in my pickle. My mouth never quite watered during the experience like it does with some good, refrigerator-cold, fresh pickles.
As a novelty, especially if you’re theming a party, these are definitely unique, but not something I’d eat every day.
It really is time that hard candy got some upgrades, the new variety was created with David Klein, the fellow of brought us the idea of really great tasting jelly beans with the Jelly Belly.
The variety contains eight different flavors, though oddly enough, not the classic barrel candy root beer. They include: blueberry crumble, peach cobbler, apple pie, chai tea, sour watermelon, hot cinnamon, orange cream, and granny smith green apple.
They’re kosher and made in the USA, unlike a lot of hard candies these days. They’re for sale on Amazon, but at $5.99 they’re a little steep. They’re made with a combination of natural and artificial flavors. The colors are bright, though it’s a little hard to tell some of the apart at first glance, as the peach and orange are similar as are the two browns.
Apple Pie is the light brown color. It’s very apple, with a lot of tartness to it and a good flavor balance that has some cinnamon and something like graham or that emulates crust very well. The apple flavor is good enough that it almost taste like they didn’t peel the apples.
Granny Smith Green Apple is just a little darker in color than the Dilly Dally, not that they’re included in the same package. It starts out rather sedate but then develops. It’s not Jolly Rancher apple, this is a lot more full bodied with more of the apple juice flavors than that artificial note that many American apple candies have. If you gave this to me without saying where it came from, I would guess it was Japanese, as they have a much better approximation of true apple flavor in candy than we do.
Blueberry Crumble is over-blued ... it made my tongue blue and as an adult, it’s not really a feeling I care for. The flavor is good, a well rounded sweetness with a light tart bite of boiled berries with a sort of vanilla top note. It didn’t quite differentiate itself as actual blueberry, more of a generic berry flavor.
Orange Cream is the lightest orange didn’t really make any sense to me conceptually but it was well executed. Two of my favorite qualities of citrus are the acidic bite and the zesty balsamic note. Neither of those show up in this piece, as it’s all about the soft orange flavor without the zing of the peel or the juice. So what’s left? It’s like a creamsicle, sweet and mild with a very good creamy mouthfeel, though there’s absolutely no dairy in it.
Peach Cobbler is a medium orange color and rather weak. It was tangy but didn’t have that dough element like the crumble did. It was just odd, not peachy. I thought this was a miss.
Sour Watermelon was hot pink and definitely reminded me of Jolly Rancher. The flavor was very sweet at first, like a ripe but uninteresting watermelon, but then the sour pops up as you get further in. It’s not puckery, but has a believable quality to it.
Chai Tea is warm with immediate cinnamon notes. The other spices are quite mild and comforting, perhaps a little nutmeg and ginger. It’s not as strong as I could have liked, but the flavor is continuous instead of getting weak as the candy dissolves.
Hot Cinnamon was saved for last, in case it burned me out. It starts out with a good mix of the powdery woody flavor but then goes right into the searing heat of the cinnamon oil. It reminded me of Atomic Fireballs, except there’s no layering to grant relief after a few minutes. I had a little metallic hit from the artificial colors, I would have preferred colorings on these that didn’t interfere with the intense flavors.
Overall, the barrels fill a niche for interesting flavors in hard candy. I found the pieces just slightly large for my preference. Though the barrel shape is fun, I do prefer a disk as I think that fits better in the mouth. This particular flavor assortment didn’t fit my tastes perfectly, only about half are flavors I’d pick out of the mix. I am looking forward to what they do with Root Beer, as I would love to find a really intense, spicy root beer hard candy.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Last week I showed off the new Milk Chocolate Mega M&Ms, this week I have the Mega Peanut M&Ms. I picked both bags up at CVS on sale at two bags for $5.00. Since the bag is 11.4 ounces, that’s a pretty good deal.
The bag makes use of the familiar yellow of the Peanut M&Ms franchise and a blue Mega logo similar to the one on the Milk Chocolate M&Ms bag (which has a brown background).
The Milk Chocolate Mega M&Ms boasted 3 times more chocolate, but the Peanut Mega M&Ms only say that there’s more chocolate and bigger peanuts.
While the Mega Milk Chocolate M&Ms were obviously bigger, I didn’t see much of a difference when I dumped a handful of these out. So, that meant that I had to go back out and pick up some regular Peanut M&Ms for comparison. The Mega are on the left and the regular are on the right. Some are identically sized, but many of the Mega are obviously bigger than the standard.
Oddly enough I didn’t find the Megas were different for me, they tasted and behaved like the Peanut M&Ms I might want to eat. That said, I feel like Peanut M&Ms have gotten smaller over the years and these may just be what I used to find ordinary. The chocolate ratio is good, there’s plenty of chocolate there’s a good crunch from the shell and a good crunch from the peanuts. I just don’t see that big of a difference to warrant another slot on the store shelves for this when they could make room for Coffee M&Ms or Crispy M&Ms.
Monday, February 24, 2014
One of the favorite Easter candies is the Cadbury Milk Chocolate Mini Eggs. They’re unlike any other candy on the market, they’re not quite M&Ms, as the candy coating is soft and has a flavor of its own. A Dark Chocolate version came out a few years ago and though hard to find, returned again this year.
The big news is the new Target Exclusive version of Cadbury White Mini Eggs. Notice that they’re just called white, not white chocolate, just white. Though there is cocoa butter in the ingredients list (which is in real white chocolate), there are also other vegetable fats. I picked up a 9 ounce bag, which was helpfully on sale.
The eggs were not the shape I expected. The standard Cadbury Mini Egg is egg shaped, truly egg shaped, with a wider bottom and almost pointy top. The White Eggs are not, they’re symmetrical ovals. What occurred to me when I saw them was that they were actually a resurrection of last year’s Hershey’s White Chocolate Flavored Eggs.
So, I looked up the ingredients:
The difference, as far as I can tell is in the very last ingredients, that make up the shell. The white confection center is made of the same stuff. I didn’t care that much for the Hershey’s version, as I found them to be a bit too sweet and not creamy enough. Especially when compared to the pre-existing real white chocolate M&Ms.
I picked up a back of the M&Ms since I was already at Target for comparison. (And here’s the ingredients, as long as I’m transcribing.)
Ultimately, the coating on these really gives them a different dimension. The soft and matte shell that the Cadbury Milk Chocolate Mini Eggs and the Cadbury White Mini Eggs share is unique and holds a special place in the textural world of Easter. I like the soft scent and interesting slick dissolve on the tongue. The vanilla pudding flavor is also pleasant and goes well with the lightly salty white center.
The one thing that was missing was that sticky, fudgy melt that the Cadbury Milk Chocolate Mini Eggs have.
I liked them better than the Hershey’s version, which is weird, because I do actually like the shell a lot on the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Eggs. However, they’re extremely sweet and I found that after five or six I had a raging headache ... so enjoy in moderation.
Friday, February 21, 2014
They’re sold in familiar packaging, the large laydown bags and the individual serving size. I lucked into a sale at CVS and got two bags for $5, which I think is a fair price for fair quality chocolate.
I scrounged up all the M&Ms I had, and you can see them here from small to large, from left to right: Milk Chocolate Mini, Milk Chocolate Classic, Birthday Cake, and Milk Chocolate Mega. The individual Megas are about .75 inches across. (About the same diameter as an American nickel.) What I also noticed is that they’re extremely similar to the Mars Galaxy Minstrels. I’ve been trying to find a package of those but have had no luck. However, I’ll be in London next month and will try to pick up a package for later comparison.
The original Mega M&Ms were fat, more rounded. They’re basically the same as the current special flavor M&Ms, such as the Birthday Cake or Coconut. I’m a little unclear why they even used the same name, when it’s been only about 8 years since they were last on the shelves.
The Mega M&Ms boast three times the chocolate of a regular M&M. The Mega M&Ms weigh about 2.73 grams each while a regular M&M is about .85 grams. The color assortment is identical to the 21st century Milk Chocolate M&Ms: red, green, yellow, brown, orange and blue.
The flatness makes them easy to pick up and bite. The shell has a very satisfying crunch and there’s a large density of chocolate at the center that’s easy to distinguish. The chocolate itself isn’t extraordinary. It’s sweet and milky, though not entirely smooth in its melt. I found it a bit chalky overall, a bit on the sweet side. That said, they were wonderfully munchable and I did find myself reaching for them while they sat on my desk. I’d like to say that M&Ms would be better with better chocolate, but they tried that with Premium M&Ms and it didn’t spark with the public. Candy companies make the candy we buy. I can wish all I want, but I’m probably not M&Ms ultimate target market.
Since they’re also made by Mars, it was a natural item to compare to the new Milk Chocolate Mega M&Ms.
Unlike M&Ms, Minstrels come in only one color, dark brown.
It’s pretty easy to see why I was interested in comparing them, they’re extremely similar in size and shape.
What I did notice, though, is that the brown is much darker and more consistent. The M&Ms version is a little less deep.
In essence, the Brown Mega M&Ms and Galaxy Minstrels look the same, but the similarities end with the shell. The chocolate inside of the Minstrels is smooth, creamy, slightly malty and quite good. There’s a definite European flavor to it, a sort of dairy note that American chocolate rarely has. The M&Ms have a grainy, fudgy quality that is still absolutely tasty, but has more of a candy quality than a chocolate one.
Of the two, I was much more interested in eating the Galaxy Minstrels, and ended up eating my small bag before finishing the handful of Mega M&Ms I saved for this purpose.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Mars has been morselizing its candy bar line over the past couple of years. The new Milky Way Simply Caramel Unwrapped Bites are in the latest in the introduction cycle. They’re just little unwrapped cube versions of the Milky Way Simply Caramel bar, served up in a bag for easy dispensing.
I picked mine up at 7-11, which had a sale on their Mars Bites, the Sharing Size were 2 packages for $3.00. (I bought a Powerball for the Wednesday $400M drawing as well, bringing my tally to an exact $5. Yes, I’m aware that my odds are 1 in 175,223,510 of winning.)
The bag holds 15 little cubes. That’s two servings, as this is a Sharing Size. So each serving is 7 or 8 cubes which comes to 190 calories. If you’re trying to moderate yourself, four would be 100 calories but trip up and eat the whole bag by accident, you’re looking at 380.
Mars has always made beautiful candy bars. (See this photo for evidence.) The new bites line, though, suffers from the packaging style. The little candies are not sealed like panned candies so they get scuffed and dented in the bag together.
The pieces are well formed, they’re cubes but most have little “feet” where the chocolate pooled. They’re rather milky smelling, it’s a sort of cereal and milk note. The chew is soft, the caramel is very smooth though it doesn’t have the taffy-like toughness that I enjoy in my caramel, it does have good toffee and toasted sugar notes. The chocolate is passable, it’s sweet and has a lot of dairy flavors, but it’s not exceptionally chocolatey. (A dark version of these someday might be nice, but if I want that, I’ll probably just have some Marich.)
Overall, I was very pleased with these. They’re easily poppable, satisfying in the sense that the textures and flavors were better than I expected. I didn’t want to eat the whole bag in one sitting, but I did finish it in three days. I can imagine that the packaging won’t do well in the summer months, and forget it if these get smashed a bit, because you’d be in for a huge mess inside the bag. They’d be easy to mix in with other things (like a Chex Mix for a really sweet & salty combo) or as an ice cream topper.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
One of my favorite candy combinations is milk chocolate and cereal. You’d think it would be great to live in the United States, then, which has two nationally branded crisped rice bars: Nestle Crunch and Hershey’s Krackel. But they are both pale versions of what a crisped rice and chocolate bar could be.
So, I’ve been hunting for a great crisped rice bar and at the moment my go-to is oddly the Ritter Sport Cornflakes Bar because the chocolate is actually good and the cereal flakes provide that salty, malty crunch component that keeps it all from getting too sweet.
Trader Joe’s has finally come to the rescue with their Trader Joe’s Crispy Rice Milk Chocolate part of their line of stacks of small Belgian made bars sold near the check out counter (review of the dark chocolate here).
The bars are well priced, you get three 1.4 ounce bars for $1.79. The whole stack is wrapped in cellophane and each bar is also individually wrapped and sealed for freshness. The bars are made in Belgium with high quality chocolate (for candy bars) which means 31% cacao content and 18% milk content. (And oodles of sugar, too.) Unlike the US counterparts, this is real milk chocolate (Krackel contains vegetable oil fillers while both also use artificial vanilla and lactose, a sugar filler).
The size of the portion is ideal, at 1.4 ounces it’s 220 calories - more than enough for a snack but no risk of eating more (unless you really can’t control yourself and open one of the other bars). It smells milky and malty with a little toffee note. The melt of the chocolate is silky, it’s buttery slick and though sweet, the crunchy rice moderates it well. The crisped rice is the manufactured kind - you know, the perfect little spheres, not the rustic kernels from a breakfast bowl. This means that they’re very evenly distributed and very even overall, but I miss that variation in the crunch.
This really meets nearly all of my requirements for the perfect crisped rice bar ... there just aren’t enough Trader Joe’s.
The bar contains milk, wheat and soy and is made in a facility that also processed tree nuts and eggs. (No notation about peanuts.)
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Birthday Cake Milk Chocolate M&Ms are out on shelves even though Mars announced that they would be released in May 2014. The new cake flavor comes right on the heels of the Walmart-exclusive Red Velvet M&Ms that also came out this year.
The description is rather vague: Delicious milk chocolate infused with birthday cake flavor creates an exciting new treat worth celebrating. Part of my confusion comes from an actual non-standardization of birthday cake as a singular flavor. Is it yellow cake with vanilla icing? Is it devil’s food with chocolate frosting? Is it an ice cream cake with candle wax? I’m going to go with chocolate cake and white (vanilla) icing, since that’s what the red M is holding on the package.
It’s unclear if this is a new permanent addition to the M&Ms varieties, which currently include: Milk Chocolate, Peanut, Dark Chocolate, Dark Peanut, Peanut Butter, Almond, Dark Mint, Raspberry, and Pretzel plus other seasonal varieties. They currently come in two package sizes, the stand up bag holding 8 ounces shown here and the single serve version.
The candy coated chocolates are quite big and very bright in primary red, yellow and blue. I noticed that they had the same cracking and dusting problem I experienced with my Red Velvet M&Ms earlier this year. I don’t know if it’s because they’re bigger or that the specialty versions just get treated more roughly than regular versions. I polished them individually for their photo shoot. (Really.)
They do smell sweeter, with a little more of a vanilla note than regular M&Ms. They’re not that different from regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms, except that they’re bigger. They’re not that good though, the novelty of the flavor wears off after about five of them. They just seemed sweeter ... the chocolate certainly isn’t great. I’ve noticed that the quality of the chocolate is one item that Mars has not been focusing on over the years, instead it’s been the added flavors, colors or special printing you can get on the shell.
I did try them compared to the Red Velvet M&Ms, since they’re both based on cakes. What I noticed is that the Red Velvet tasted more like buttered popcorn but also had a bit more of a tangy note. The Birthday Cake, on the other hand, has an Angel Food Cake note of baked sugar and vanilla.
I’ll stick to the Almond M&Ms, just in case anyone was wondering which M&Ms to have at my birthday party.
Friday, February 7, 2014
The weblisting for the product says that they’re pastel, but they’re much brighter than that. It’s hot pink, magenta/purple, turquoise blue and light yellow. The heart shapes are small, rather pillowy in form and about the size of a nickel.
I wasn’t really interested in how they tasted, at this price, it was more about having a pretty candy jar filled with little hearts before Valentine’s Day to share with co-workers. That was about two weeks ago and the jar is empty. (I didn’t eat them. But they were popular.)
These are not tart candies. I don’t think there are any acid flavorings at all in here. They might be flavored, but it’s so mild it’s hard to say for sure.
Purple is a lightly floral grape. Red has some strawberry notes. Blue is a kind of bitter raspberry, really the only flavor in the bunch I didn’t care for. Yellow is lightly lemony, quite fresh.
They’re pretty. They make a nice decoration, but not really very good candy. There’s nothing to offend anyone, no weird flavors because there’s barely any flavor at all. But I’m not saying that they’re not compelling, they’re gorgeous to look at and easy to munch. I’ve had other much more flavorful Oak Leaf candies before, so this must be from a much more subtle line of candy than I like.
Ultimately the review around the office was that they were too pretty to pass up. But no one wants me to buy them again. Kind of a weird relationship to have with candy. Personally, I’d prefer the Wonka Heartbreakers, so that’s what I’ve been eating while others have emptied the jar.
The SweetWorks website lists these as gluten free and nut free, though take care if you get them from a bulk bin (if you have concerns about cross contamination, it’s always best to get it in a factory sealed package).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.