Monday, May 5, 2008
Hershey’s has a line of sugar free candies, while they’re not a low calorie snack, they do have a lower glycemic index because they’ve substitute sugar for sugar alcohols. I gave their version of the Hershey’s Chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and York Peppermint Pattie a try.
As is always the case, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. While sugar alcohols may lower the calorie count, they’re also not as sweet as sugar and sometimes have unwanted side effects. Here’s what the packages say:
Sugar alcohols have another benefit, they do not promote tooth decay, as they cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria.
Say what? Polyglycitol? That’s a new one on me, so I looked it up:
I’m well aware the many of these sugar alcohols can cause intestinal upset (and other euphemisms to erupt). For this reason I was exceptionally careful not to eat too much. I only ate two a day, even though a serving as determined by the package was 3-5 pieces.
Hershey’s Sugar Free Chocolates
Well, they look really good. Each one was a pristine little chocolatey block.
But there was something amiss. It has the same slightly fudgy, slightly grainy texture. But it’s cool on the tongue and the chocolate flavors are a little too much on the high range, lacking depth. The milkyness was missing completely.
It doesn’t taste like Hershey’s chocolate. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really taste like chocolate ... it’s too sweet.
Here’s what I know about sugar alcohols: they don’t have as many calories as sugar, but they also don’t taste as sweet. In the case of maltitol it’s 90% as sweet as sucrose, which basically means that when they add it to something and they want an equivalent delivery of sweetness, they put more in. Putting in more sweetener means something else has to be reduced by proportion. My guess in this case is that they reduced the cocoa solids ... which are already pretty low in Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. (Or they reduced the milk, which may also reduce the flavor profile.)
As a low calorie treat, these do definitely have a lower caloric density:
139 calories per ounce for regular Hershey’s Chocolate
If you like R.M. Palmer chocolate, you might find this acceptable.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Sugar Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Like the Hershey’s bars, these were lovely little cups of perfection at first glance. They’re wrapped in orange foil, not gold, so it’s easy for trained candy eaters to tell them apart. They seem a little smaller than regular Reese’s Minis (just shorter) but otherwise are glossy and pretty.
They smell of sweet peanut butter.
The chocolate shell is similar to the Hershey’s bar ... the same cooling effect on the tongue, decent melt but lack of chocolate kick. No matter, the peanut butter center seems to overwhelm that in a satisfactory manner. The peanut butter is crumbly and sweet and creamy all at the same time. A little salty kick seals the simulation as being pretty close to the original.
145 calories per ounce for regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
I didn’t realize until after eating two of these that there was Sucralose in there too (this is the only one of the three that uses an artificial sweetener - though I could hear arguments that polyglycitol is also not natural at this point). I didn’t notice any of the ill effects that I get from Aspartame (headache, shakes & nausea) but there was a light lingering sweet and ever so slight aluminum-like metallic aftertaste.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (if it didn’t have the aftertaste, it’d be a 7).
Sugar Free York Peppermint Patties
They look exactly like the full-sugar York Peppermint Patties, smell a little chocolatey and very minty. The mini size is my favorite, so this was an easy one for me to wrap my head around.
The chocolate shell is only slightly sweet, which is pretty much the way the regular York is. If anything, this one had a better, less chalky melt to it.
The fondant center is a little different. First, it’s rather cool on the tongue. It’s a little grainy, which is fine with me, but then there were some other lighter grainy bits in there . But they weren’t sweet little grains, I’m wondering if the sugar alcohols create a different crystalline matrix. Even so, they’re tasty. Fresh, a bit chocolatey and of course melty and smooth.
102 calories per ounce for regular York Peppermint Patties
As a lower calorie alternative, these are real winners. There are 30 calories in each piece.
Rating: 7 out of 10
In general Hershey’s has done a nice job of approximating the experience of their full-sugar candies. They look great, which is part of the appeal of candy. The packaging doesn’t even feel like a compromise (though the price does).
But these are only good if you can tolerate the sweeteners. If you’re one of the unlucky majority (it seems to be a majority) of the public who experiences the side effects, it’s pointless to eat this stuff. (I had a full box of each of these from a photo shoot and passed some along to a friend of a friend who is diabetic ... who did not react well to them.)
If you want to know if you can eat them, please, start slow unless you have no plans for the next day or so. I seemed to tolerate it pretty well, but again, only two pieces a day, not really the way you want to eat candy you can otherwise eat because of dietary restrictions.
(Package images at top compiled from Hershey’s website.)
Friday, April 18, 2008
I reckon one of the best things about traveling is finding new candies that reflect the local flavor. I’ve collected quite a few of them over the years from friends & relatives who travel and have presented quite a few of them.
Some of them are kind of hokey, but some truly reflect the local ingredients that the region is known for. (Just look at all the wonderful things the South does with pecans, molasses and peaches.)
My neighbor & friend, Robin, just brought these goodies back from Key Largo, Florida last week. They’re two different kinds of chocolate dipped coconut patties made by Anastasia Confections. (Robin & Amy are the same friends that sparked the idea for Candy Blog via their seating arrangement at their wedding reception seating plan ... and have also graced Candy Blog with other confections like the big old mess of Peruvian goodies, Charleston Pralines, Cowgirl Chocolates Hot Caramels & Rocky Mountain Huckleberry Gummi Bears.)
The first one I tried was the Key Lime Coconut Patties.
It has a lovely scent of lime, that unmistakable smell of key limes. Key Limes are softer on the tongue, I think. But they’re also more bitter but slightly less acidic. There’s something a bit chalky about key lime juice and the resulting key lime pies. This doesn’t quite capture all of that (as it’s not a custard), but it gets many of the notes.
It’s all sweet with an overtone of the lime essences and of course a lot of sickly sweet coconut. The coconut is moist and flaky and the chocolate coating is a nice counterpoint.
It’s not a treat I’d buy often or eat a lot of in one sitting, but it’s a fun item to have one of, maybe with some tea or a glass of milk.
Anastasia Confections are Kosher.
While Key Limes may sport a tart flavor as part of their profile, you can get by with just the essence of it and people will buy it. But in this case the pineapple here is only a faint waft. There are a light and creamy yellow color, still the same sweetness and crumbly flaky coconut. I liked it better than an actual pina colada (but no one’s quite figured out how to dip those in chocolate, have they?).
Another interesting thing I noted here is the resemblance of these to the Disney Mickey Coconut Patties I got last summer at Disneyland. I’m certain they’re made by Anastasia Confections (which is based in Orlando, Florida ... as is DisneyWorld). So if you enjoyed those at the park, you can get squared off versions via their website.
Amy went to Spokane, Washington on a separate trip over a month ago and brought this unique item back. It’s made by Spokandy a chocolatier that’s been around since 1913. At first I thought that’s what the actual product was called. Turns out it’s just the name of the company.
The box is simple and elegant and says that it holds some Huckleberry Almond Bark.
The picture shows something that’s an indescribable shade of lavender. It’s not pale, it’s shockingly bright, yet still a pastel.
The picture is actually accurate. It really looks like that. It looks just like that.
They call it a creamy bright, flavorful huckleberry chocolate coating with slivered almonds blended for the perfect balance of flavor and texture. THis mouth-watering treat is not complete until we top it with real dried huckleberries..
It smells like blueberries and has a nice glossy appearance. The berries were not actually distributed evenly. Some pieces had no bits and others had huge clumps. However, the bark itself had a nice integration of slivered almonds.
It has a nice smooth and milky melt. It’s very sweet. It tastes a bit like BooBerry Cereal smelled. I enjoyed the almonds and the berries when I got them. But it’s not a real white chocolate confection there, there’s no actual cocoa butter, just an array of tropical oils and partially hydrogenated palm oils.
The color I couldn’t quite peg? That’s FD&C colors Red #3, #40 & Blue #1.
What it really needs is some salt, so maybe their Huckleberry Pretzels have a better balance. If this is one of your wedding or baby shower colors, though, this might be the candy for you.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
It’s often puzzled me why there aren’t more organic candy bars out there. For the most part candy bars are made (or can be made) with all natural/organic ingredients pretty easily. Why no one does this is beyond me, so for the most part candy fiends with an eco bent have to eat just chocolate (sometimes flavored) or hard candies or pay for bars to be flown from far away places and pay ridiculous prices for kinky combinations ... in reality all I want is the tried and true candy bar, only made with pure ingredients.
Crispy Cat has a nice line of candy bars that seem to defy that notion that candy bars have to be made with sub-par ingredients. Their bars are also dairy free, gluten free, non GMO and use a large proportion of organic ingredients (70-90% organic, depending on the bar). In fact, their ingredients list only looks long because they put things like “organic” or “made with gmo” all over it.
They come in three varieties: Toasted Almond, Roasted Peanut and Mint Coconut ... all with dark chocolate.
Here’s what Joel, the founder of Crispy Cat has to say:
The Toasted Almond features dark chocolate, crispy rice & toasted almonds.
It has a wonderful dark, woodsy and chocolatey aroma. The bite is a bit stiff, it’s not quite crunchy and certainly not chewy. It’s just lumpy.
Once I got used to the complex center, I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures. It’s part crisped rice, a little bit of a caramel-like chew to hold it together, a toasted sugar flavor and some pieces of almonds for an added crunch. I would have preferred a lighter crunch to it, something easier to chew (either crispier or softer).
This bar also has a crisped rice center. In this case it’s a bit fluffier and softer than the others, with a light peppermint scent.
Instead of the firm and chewy center, this one was a bit crumblier and has big pieces of naturally sweet coconut in it. It’s an interesting flavor combo, very tropical and fresh, a bit of a grassy note to the whole thing.
I can’t say that I loved this one, in fact it was my least favorite of the three. But I can’t help but be pleased that someone is paying attention to coconut these days. I love the stuff.
The center felt fattier though had the same number of calories as the Toasted Almond at 220 it has 10 grams of fat (TA has only 9).
The dark chocolate is rather bitter but has a decent melty texture. The crunchy rice, peanut butter and peanut chunk center is tasty. It’s dark and nutty, a bit salty and only lightly sweet. This one hits it out of the park as far as a peanut candy bar can go.
It definitely tasted like a candy bar, not one of those nutrition bars.
I was kind of surprised to see that they weighed only 1.75 ounces, it’s actually bigger than a Snickers bar, which gives the perception of a much larger mass of satisfaction.
Overall, these are fun and have very few compromises. And what’s the biggest one? Price. These retail for $2.50 ... that’s three times the price you’d pay for a non-organic bar. Pretty startling. But compared to other premium meal replacement bars, they can hold their own. The two nut varieties have 4 grams of protein (not from soy, though they do use soy lecithin so they’re not soy free) and 2 grams of fiber. They also clock in at 220 calories, which is a decent snack. I’d probably prefer these in a smaller variety though ... they’d make an awesome Halloween Treat if they came in snack size.
The Roasted Peanut bar is the one most likely to appeal to kids but none are too mature to miss with a true candy bar fiend.
I’d also recommend a bit of a change in the design of the package. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to appeal to, but it’s not grabbing me. They call themselves “tree huggin’ treats” and have the image of a couple of arms around a tree on the left size of each wrapper. (I’m not sure where the cat comes in.) The website looks completely different and inconsistent from this (but I’m not keen on the web’s cartoon designs either).
I’m not quite sure about them, they’re definitely on the right track and I’d be most inclined to eat the Roasted Peanut again, but if I were faced with eating one of these or a Lara Bar, I’d probably go for the Lara Bar.
Want to win some? Check out Crispy Cat Chronicles, if you can guess Ann’s new baby’s height, weight & birthdate you can win three cases of the bars of your very own.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Ghirardelli has really expanded their line of chocolate bars over the past five years. Not only that, I see their products everywhere now thanks to the expansion of higher end chocolate into grocery stores and drug chains. They even have a charming chain of ice cream stores.
But I’ve ignored them on the blog for a long time. Probably because my initial impression of them has been that the chocolate bars is waxy and bland. But they’re wildly popular and have been making chocolate since 1852 in the Bay Area, one of my favorite candy destinations, so I needed to put those impressions to the test.
That’s not to say that I don’t use their chocolate chips, I prefer them to Nestle’s Toll House Morsels or Hershey’s Baking Chips and they’re often on sale for a decent price.
So I picked up this assortment of tasting squares after Christmas when they were on sale. They feature the new line of Intense Dark in three different flavors.
The Espresso Escape wrapper says: dark chocolate with finely ground espresso beans in 60% cacao. As usual I was worried about the bits of coffee beans, but in thsi case they really were so finely ground as they matched the particle size of the cocoa solids.
Roasted brewed coffee flavors mixed with the woodsy taste of real beans. Very little chocolate flavor here, it’s all coffee but with a smooth chocolate texture. Good cocoa butter melt, very silky. Light vanilla overtones. But the cedar and smoke is quite tangy.
While I enjoyed the texture quite a bit, the flavor was just a little too, well, Intense (tm).
The Mint Bliss package says: dark chocolate with natural mint in 60% cacao. What the front of the package doesn’t mention is that there’s also some unidentified “artificial flavor” in this as well.
Nice buttery texture, but an incongruous tangy and musty taste along with the peppermint. It’s more of a fresh peppermint leaf taste, not a pure peppermint oil, which is a nice change of pace from their Peppermint Bark that I had over the holidays. But the combination of flavors still doesn’t quite jive for me.
It has a nice buttery melt with a light cool feeling but the flavor is a little thin. It’s a little fruity, on the raisin side of things.
It’s sweet, only the lightest trace of bitterness. Light dry finish.
Ghirardelli has some other versions in their Intense Dark line, including the Midnight Reverie that has 86% cacao, Evening Dream with only 60% cacao and two other flavored 60% called Citrus Sunset & Toffee Interlude. They also have some filled bars that I haven’t tried yet.
Overall, it’s nice stuff, certainly worth the price and a fun little pickup for coffee or after dinner, maybe a mid-day munch. I like the 10.6 gram squares, it’s a good size for a little taste of chocolate.
Note: the Mint Bliss & Espresso Escape have milk fat in them, so are unsuitable for vegans, but the Twilight Delight is milk-free (though made on equipment that processes dairy).
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I was looking forward to this bar when I heard about it at All Candy Expo last September. It was teased, “Satisfy your taste for adventure! Rich chocolate. Crunchy nuts. And a cliffhanger kick of exotic spice and a hint of sweet coconut flavor.” That description doesn’t sound that gripping, but still a tasty combo.
The bars began showing up on store shelves in the past few weeks, along with the other tie-in items like the new color & icons in the Milk Chocolate M&Ms and Peanut M&Ms as well as the Mint Crisp M&Ms.
Here’s the obligatory and gratuitous cross-section:
It looks like a regular Snickers, it has the same milk chocolate coating and two layers inside. The top layer is caramel studded with peanuts and the bottom is a fluffed nougat.
There is a faint whiff of coconut, but I’m not getting any chai spices in there.
Still, all I’m getting is a bit saltier nougat and the coconut flavor mixed into the caramel.
It’s not bad, but certainly doesn’t live up to its name. If you’ve always wanted a coconut Snickers (and I know a few people mentioned a love of coconut in the Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Ideal Candy Bar question) this might be the bar for you. Of course it may also be a big disappointment for true coconut fans, as there is no actual coconut in there. You might just want to pick up an Almond Joy and smash it on top of a regular Snickers for a better effect (and a true mash up!).
While this may have disappointed me (and the Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Bar didn’t), I’ve got to give them props for trying some new things instead of just using the same ingredients in different ways (like the Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch) or taking away an element (like the Snickers Xtreme).
The package design is a bit better on this one, I think, than the Mint Crisp M&Ms. Don’t forget to check out the new colors of M&Ms, too.
The Milk Chocolate M&Ms are in a muted color palatte: Red, Brown, Amber and Cream.
They all have assorted new icons on them, integrated with the letter M in some way. I like the one that’s wearing the Indiana Jones hat and the map ordinal. There are also various pyramids and native masks. Some of them feel a bit like a retread of the Pirates of the Caribbean, including the skull. But I guess that’s the genre of movie. The Peanut ones rarely have a legible icon on them as well, but hey, that’s the hazard with using a real peanut center.
All of the Indiana Jones tie in Mars products are available in stores now. I found mine at CVS and Walgreen’s.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Last year Mike and Ike let us vote for a new flavor blend and when the winner was clear, they announced the new Mike and Ike Lemonade Blends. But it wasn’t just a new flavor set, this one has a tie in with the foundation called Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which supports research into pediatric cancers.
There was also a stunning candy buffet, as you can see, that featured all the Mike and Ike flavors and little bags where you could design your own mix. (Mine was mostly pineapple from the Tangy Twister mix and some strawberry-banana from Tropical Twister and a strong dose of the new Lemonade Blends.)
I went to a press reveal at All Candy Expo last September where Alexandra Scott’s father told the story of his little girl who started a lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research, all while she was battling the cancer that would ultimately take her life at the age of eight. (There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, it’s an amazing story of a selfless kid.)
Just Born will be making a minimum donation of $100,000 a year for three years. (And this mix will return each spring/summer as well.)
Finally the candies are hitting stores and I can post my review!
I was pleased with the quality of the Mike and Ike Tangy Twister, but didn’t care much for the set of flavors. Since citrus is one of my favorite flavor sets, I had a much better feeling about the new Lemonade Mix.
The new assortment has the following flavors: Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, Lime Lemonade, and Tangerine Lemonade flavors. The odd part is that these flavors aren’t mentioned on the package, or even on the website, unless you dig deep into the Just Born press release archive. But there are little images of five different fruits on the package, so I guess folks need to make the jump themselves.
Yellow - Lemonade - a good zesty and really sour lemon. After chewing, as with most Mike and Ike, the flavor fades and it’s just pleasant and bland jelly candy.
Green - Lime Lemonade - not as tart as the lemonade, but has a good rounded lime flavor.
Orange - Tangerine Lemonade - I was hoping this one would be really tart but it didn’t quite rise to that. It’s definitely tangerine and not orange though.
Light Pink - Strawberry Lemonade - I enjoy real strawberry lemonade and this has a nice mix of the fragrant berry and the tangy lemon-ness.
Purplish Pink - Raspberry Lemonade - not as tart as the strawberry, this has a more floral berry essence to it.
They’re all tasty and all have that lemony zazz to them. It’s easy to eat them together or separate your colors. I liked all the flavors ... I wish they were just a little more flavorful, but that would be wishing away one of the essential parts of Mike and Ike, which is the mellow jelly center. (Which is made with pear juice.)
Mariko at Candy Addict also had a preview of these and found them so good she’ll be happy to hear that they’re on shelves so she can get more now. For more fun Mike and Ike adoration, check out Jason Liebig’s photo set of his collection of boxes.
The package says that these are Gluten Free. The colors are all artificial, so I guess these are also Vegan.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Mars has a series of candies coming out with a marketing tie-in to the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull movie. (Which is set to premiere in the US on May 22nd.) This is rather similar to the stunt last year with Shrek the Third and the Pirates of the Caribbean movie the year before.
The standard Milk Chocolate & Peanut M&Ms got a new skin: a fun shift in their colors and little Indiana Jones inspired icons on some of them. Then, of course, to really excite candy fans they’ve done something completely new, the Limited Edition Mint Crisp M&Ms.
It’s not like they’re completely new though, there were once Crispy M&Ms in the United States (go to Australia if you miss them) and the seasonal Mint M&Ms.
The package is one of the busiest known, rivaled perhaps only Pirate Pearls. There are lots of leaves all over the front, which at first I thought were mint, but turned out to be various palm and jungle-y things (I haven’t the foggiest what’s going on with Indy’s arm and that big palm leaf though). We’re encouraged to “Dig New Mint Crisp M&Ms” in the top left of the package and down in the lower right we’re told to “Get M before they’re Lost”.
The Green M&M wearing a pith helmet is looking admiringly at Indy saying, “Treasure is a girl’s best friend.” At first I thought it was a little creepy that Green has the hots for Indy, then I realized that the Green M&M is actually a year older than Harrison Ford. (M&Ms were introduced in 1941, Harrison Ford in 1942.)
There’s only 1.4 ounces in the bag, but that little bit of air inside each center does wonders to bulk them up.
I was really looking forward to these, though it’s interesting to note that George Lucas has cautioned fans of the Indiana Jones movies not to build up their hopes to unreasonable levels. (And I think I know a bit about how much Lucas can let fans of a franchise down.)
They don’t look so great, some are horribly bumpy and the size variations are pretty extreme, from rather sphere-like ones smaller than a regular M&M all the way up to large ones that could be mistaken for Almond M&Ms.
The little icons are themed shapes that include the letter M. There are pyramids, masks, a compass ordinal and even a hat like Indiana Jones wears. They’re rather irregular as well, but more obvious on the themed Milk Chocolate M&Ms:
But shape and color aside, it’s what’s inside that counts, right?
They’re really easy to keep crunching away at ... a little chocolate, a little mint, a little crisped rice. Kind of like a Girl Scout Thin Mint.
I’d be happy to see these as a seasonal item, though I doubt I’d eat them as often as the Almond M&Ms. I suspect they’ll be a huge hit.
UPDATE: Sera at Candy Addict also has a review now & I have the Snickers Adventure Bar. These are also available as a limited edition in Japan, here’s a photo I found by CindyC81 (you too can share photos in the Candy Blog Flickr Photo Pool).
Friday, April 4, 2008
The American Licorice Company was founded in 1914 in Chicago, IL and began making something known as Raspberry Vines in 1920. In 1952 they tweaked the flavoring and renamed them simply Red Vines.
I’ve opened the can of worms in the Red Vines Giveaway about the category of confection called red licorice. In their defense, the American Licorice Company has always skirted this by simply coming up with a new and trademarked name of Red Vines for their Original Red Twists.
Red Vines are so popular (apparently they’re Crazy Delicious when combined with Mr. Pibb) that they’re the number one non-chocolate candy in the western region of the United States. I don’t know what the number one non-chocolate candy is in the eastern region. As is the case with things like tissues being called Kleenex, all colas are called Coke or adhesive bandages being identified as Band Aids, Red Vines are simply the default for red licorice. (Though in other regions that’d be the same for Twizzlers.)
What are ya gonna call it otherwise? A twisted, wheat-based confection? A long, red chew?
The candies are sold in a variety of formats, some single vines and others in a pull apart bar or textured bites. They’re exceptionally durable and can withstand temperature variations within reason inside the sealed package without much deterioration or flavor or texture. The standard in the tray is about 8.5” long and is formed via an extrusion method with a twist (four complete twists per vine). They are hollow and have crimped ends. Each vine has about 35 calories. All carbs, no fat, a trace of protein.
They smell faintly like coconut, new flip flops and strawberry shortcake lip balm. (Mmm, the smells of summer.)
They’re soft and pliable, unless you left the package open or bought expired ones, then they’re stiff and hard. Either way, they’re only lightly flavored. They’re not terribly sweet, the first ingredient is corn syrup, but the second is wheat flour ... then citric acid, artificial flavor and Red 40. That’s it. Pretty simple really.
Though it may have been raspberry flavored at one time, I think the flavor is now simply red licorice. It tastes like red. It has only the lightest tangy bite to it (the citric acid) and doesn’t leave a funky aftertaste and is one of the few red candies that I don’t actually taste the red food coloring in.
The cool thing is that it’s cheap, easy to share and has that lowest common denominator factor that you’d be hard pressed to find someone who won’t join you when you offer it (and it’s usually because of allergens, not true dislike).
I don’t eat the stuff very often. It’s fine for movies or when I want to share with my husband (they actually make a pack of Bites which has a mix of the black and red which I’ve bought just for that purpose). I’m not saying it’s bad candy, but I’m happier to give it away than eat it. Red Vines just makes me want real licorice.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.