Thursday, December 13, 2007
As disappointed as I was that the Peppermint Peep Stars had artificial sweeteners, I was just as excited to see that Trader Joe’s has Peppermint Marshmallows that are not only all natural, but also Kosher! (Which basically means that they’re using Kosher gelatin, which is non-porcine.)
However, Nicole at Baking Bites already had a review of them, which didn’t say they were bad, just that she wasn’t thrilled with the flavor. I still really wanted to try them, especially because it was Hanukkah.
The large marshmallow cubes come in a little tub and weigh a hefty 7 ounces. The packaging was a bit, well, feminine with all its pink and green-ness. But it was refreshingly un-holiday, which might mean that they’d be an all-year product. When they say that they’re all natural, they’re not kidding. The pink swirls are created with red radish juice.
They’re only vaguely pink with some little streaks of darker pink inside some of them. They were very hard to get out of the tub. The first one I mangled (but put back together for the photo) so I just dumped the whole tub out and lightly teased them apart. (Perhaps some waxed paper between them in the future?)
They felt very strange and fleshy in the hand. A little bouncy, a little latexy and not terribly light for a marshmallow. The outer texture was a little grainy, I’m guessing where the moisture of the marshmallow mixed with the sugar and dusting of corn starch. They smell like peppermint, but on the medicinal side somehow. Like toothpaste. And maybe mentholated rubbing alcohol.
The first time I bit into one I was puzzled and repulsed. I made my husband and a neighbor try it. They were both, well, not thrilled (and I had to give them something nice to eat after that). I waited a couple of days and dug around into the bottom of the tub to see if that was just a bad couple of squares.
It’s like eating toothpaste. They’re kind of fluffy, but not light. The texture is grainy, like a sugar paste. I can only imagine this is a bad batch because Nicole’s looked more like marshmallows and less like wads of chewed bread dough.
I went back and looked at Nicole’s photo and realized that this must be a bad batch. My best indication for this is that the tub weighed over 10 ounces (the marked weight is 7). So I went back to the store on Hyperion in Silverlake. All of the others on the shelf looked the same and were the same lot number, so I passed (and obviously picked up a bunch of other goodies you’ve been reading about this week). I also told the manager on duty that there was something wrong with them. I figured another store would have a different batch. So today I went off on my lunch break to the location on Third and La Brea. Sadly I didn’t memorize the lot number and ended up buying the same lot (1101071730 exp 01/26/2008) and finding the same grainy consistency (and this package weighed 9.8 ounces according to my postage scale).
I shouldn’t have to work this hard. (I haven’t decided if I’m going to take these back. At $4, I want something that’s at least the intended quality, even if I don’t like it.)
As far as buying artisan marshmallows, I’d say stick with either one of the actual artisan companies (Plush Puffs, Little Flower Candy Company & Boule are some good Los Angeles-based ones) or go for the French ones from Arnaud Soubeyran or the Williams Sonoma house brand (I tried them last year but never got around to reviewing them, they’re very dense and latexy but really satisfying). Or just get some Jet Puffed. It’s sad, because these are the first Kosher marshmallows I’ve found.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
I keep seeing this bar, but only in its jumbo form shown here. It clocks in at 4.5 ounces, no mere chocolate bar, this is a plank. Like the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Filled with Creamy Peanut Butter that’s also found in this size, I was hoping I’d run across a King Size or perhaps single serve size at some point. It’s like it barely exists. It’s never shown up on the Hershey’s official Hershey’s Milk Chocolate page.
But it’s clear it exists, not only because I have photos, but also independent corroboration from Nicole at Baking Bites with her review. For a while I saw the bar at the Dollar Tree so I though there must be something wrong with it, maybe it was old, maybe it was an import. But when I saw it at Ralph’s and flipped over the package to see that it expired in September 2008, it was made in the United States and it was on sale for a dollar, I figured it was time to give it a try.
It’s a lovely looking bar. It looks like a Hershey bar, a light caramely brown with 16 segments each with the Hershey’s name on them. It smells like, well, a Hershey bar. A little sweet, a little tangy. That Hershey’s tang isn’t quite as noticeable when you eat it though. What’s noticeable is a mellow malty note from the actual corn flake bits in there. They’re pretty dense and solidly crunchy. The malty corn flake flavors develop more as the chocolate dissolves away. I could use more corn flakes.
It’s in no way as good as the Ritter Sport Knusperflakes bar, but I ate the whole thing ... all 4.5 ounces of it (I got it on Sunday) so it has to be pretty good.
It’s a nice combo. It’s a terrible name for a candy bar though. I think they should have just called it an extension of the Krackel line and called it Corn Krackel. Or maybe Mr. Cornbar.
Thanks to Patti for being the first to alert me to this possible domestic contender for Ritter Sport Knusperflake’s place in my heart.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Sometimes I really want some malted milk balls. I’ve never liked Whoppers much though, the mockolate coating simply ruins it for me. On the other hand, their Robin’s Eggs at Easter are pretty good. The mockolate layer is minimized by being far thinner, covered in a hard candy shell and of course a larger center for more malt.
Those sorts of candy coated malted milk balls used to be limited to Easter availability, but like many other items that are becoming more common for the Christmas holiday season (Cadbury Mini Eggs & Creme Eggs), Whoppers has their Sno-Balls.
But I will.
First, on the package there’s a penguin in front of an igloo. There’s also a polar bear and walrus ... which is fine, they’re arctic animals. The penguin, however, is a southern hemisphere animal. Why not just put a lion on there or a kangaroo?
Second, mockolate. Why, oh why, can’t Hershey’s put some real chocolate on here? It’s not even that much of a chocolatey coating here. The good thing, though, is that the Sno-Balls have less fat in them than regular Whoppers. A 41 gram serving of Whoppers has 7 grams of fat ... all of them saturated. The Sno-Balls have 5 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of them are saturated. Okay, still not great, especially when it’s coming from Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil. (Honestly, I can’t figure out how they both have the same 180 calories per serving though with 30% less fat in the Sno-Balls. Fat is twice as caloric as carbs or protein ... maybe there’s more fiber in regular Whoppers?)
But all that ranting aside, these are quite cute. The white spheres are speckled to various degrees with red and green. The crackly candy shell has a thin layer of mockolate below it. Both have a soft, cool effect on the tongue. The malt center is dense and crispy. It doesn’t have a huge malt or salt punch like some others, but a nice texture that melts in the mouth well.
I’d love it if they were a little bigger so I’d get more of the malt proportion I crave. What’s particularly nice about these over the Robin’s Eggs is that there’s less artificial coloring. I never cared for the pink Robin’s Eggs because they taste bitter to me. In this assortment there is no bad egg.
I’ve been eating them for a couple of days, and as long as I don’t think about how much I’d like them to be Chocolate Covered Malted Milk Balls, well, we’re getting along fine.
Friday, November 2, 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)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Even though they stopped airing those commercials a long time ago, they’re still a cultural reference point for people around the world.
What are Mentos? They’re simply a small mint chew covered in a candy shell. I favor them in instances where I used to chew gum, especially on planes. A little fresh breath and ear poppin’ all in one. And based on their commercials they aid in creative problem solving. Peppermint is good ... fruit is merely okay in the United States. Of course in outher countries they have far more choices.
Enter the Asian Mentos once again! I’ve had these stashed away for months from Santos.
Mentos Xtrm: Peppermint are Mentos on Altoids (if Altoids were a form of steroids). They’re called “Strong Chewy Dragee” on the wrapper.
They come in a navy blue bag and are individually wrapped (a great feature, I think, why can’t we get them this way in the States?). Each little dragee is light blue and smells like absolutely nothing.
However, after biting into it, it’s minty. Whoo boy is it minty! In the same, “Goodness it’s so minty it’s almost bitter” way that Altoids are, there’s still a pleasant sweetness to it, and of course the chew.
Mentos Xtrm: Spearmint have a lot going for them. First, we don’t even get Spearmint Mentos here. I’ve heard you can get them in Europe (I’ve had my minions look for them in the past) and definitely in Australia.
So I can’t say how they compare to the regular ones, I can only say that I love them. Yes, they’re very strong, but the spearmint flavor is so distinctive and a little more woodsy than the Peppermint. The only problem I have with spearmint in general is it later leaves me with an odd low metallic taste in my mouth hours later. This, of course, is cured by eating another one. (Sneaky devils!)
These were made in India and have no gelatin in them, so they’re suitable for vegetarians (and vegans so long as you don’t have problems with glycerol mono stearate). Also certified Halal.
They’re good. I’ve enjoyed them and I’d definitely buy them again. I carry them around in my bag and think they’ll make wonderful noveling candy (and good for road trips when you need to keep alert). However, I’m going to throw the last dozen or so into the Limited Edition Giveaway box!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I’d buy them by the tray, which was usually about 99 cents at the IGA that I rode my bike past on my way home from my art class on weekends. They seemed a suitable treat for a budding artist. Wrapped in pretty foil ... named for a mountain range in Peru, but called by the French liquor flavor creme de menthe. At that time in my life I despised alcohol, except for a drizzle of Creme de Menthe on vanilla ice cream.
Over the years those tray package became more expensive and they started putting fewer candies in there. I recently bought a box for $1.00 and it had a scant 2 ounces in it ... but hey, it was back to the original price point! The candy is mockolate with a mint confection in the middle. They make a pretty cross section of dark looking chocolate flavored coating and the light green stuff in the middle. They have a cool feeling on the tongue and of course a pleasant mintiness that doesn’t overwhelm.
Restaurants that serve them with the bill may even be perceived as classy. (Well, it’s classier than getting nothing at all!) The Tootsie site even claims that Andes Mints are the number one selling after dinner mint. I wonder what the number one before dinner mint is? I give them a solid 6 out of 10 as an adult, but back when I was a kid they were probably an 8 out of 10.
Andes has come out with a few other versions over the years ... none that I’ve tried. But I saw a display of the new Andes Dessert Indulgence at the All Candy Expo and was fixed up with ample samples. The Limited Edition Dessert Indulgence array comes in an 8.5 ounce bag with an assortment of three flavors: Raspberry Cream, Lemon Meringue and Key Lime.
Each piece is individually sealed in a plastic wrapper instead of wrapped in foil. They’re substantially bigger than a standard Andes Mint as well. Why? I have no idea. But the base ingredients are still the same: sugar and partially hydrogenated oils.
Key Lime has only two layers, a base of light green and then a top level of a lighter green with little flavor crystals which is kind of like faux zest. The scent is fresh, like limes. However, as most folks who have had both key limes and more commonly used Persian lime there is a difference. Key Limes have a deeper flavor and a strange thick consistency to their juice. Persian limes have a high intensity and clear flavored tartness and a wonderfully bitter zesty flavor. This tastes like Persian lime ... or Lime Blossom candles.
Lemon Meringue flavor should be characterized by a nice tart custard with a balancing toasted meringue that is less that a sweet complement and more of a fluffy cooling bath for the mouth. The Lemon smelled, like the lime, a bit floral and pleasant enough for me to want to stick a wick in it. The texture evoked similar feelings, as it wasn’t nearly as creamy as I’d hoped. It did have a pleasant tartness to it, but not that toasted, almost marshmallow flavor to complement it.
Raspberry Cream was such a disappointment. It smelled really strong ... too strong. The ingredient list does boast “freeze dried raspberry puree” and I have no doubt about that. The waxy texture and overly sweet start is then met by a strong taste of chopsticks ... or dried grass clippings. I know what the taste is, it’s raspberry seeds. It’s that taste you get when you puree unstrained raspberries and the seeds get in there, but in this case they became a really noticeable flavor. Hey, maybe it added some fiber!
Sometimes I like “white confections” but in this case, I felt pretty sick after eating five of them while typing them up (I’ve had about 10 total since I took the photos over the weekend). They just didn’t sit well with me. I really wanted them to be something else, which is always a bad idea. I should just accept them unconditionally for what they are. But they don’t have cocoa butter in them and the flavors are just ... well, not satisfying to me, not enough to get me to eat any more of them. So into the Limited Edition Giveaway they go! They only get a 4 out of 10.
Each piece contains 50 calories (regular Andes Mints have only 25 each).
Monday, October 29, 2007
Well, Palmer didn’t even capitalize on attractiveness in their new candy bar line called Big Mo’. I mean, why bother when you have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the package. The packages seem to have some sort of woodgrain on the lettering, which lends itself to an association with NASCAR especially well. I wasn’t going into this with high hopes, but really, this statement from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in this article is really too much.
The bars come in two varieties at the moment: Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate with Creamy Caramel. If you pay special attention to the wrapper you’ll notice that the words milk chocolate are in teensy lowercase letters and the Creamy Caramel part is huge all caps about five times the size. See, they’re being responsible and telling you that it’s not about the chocolate.
The Big Mo’ Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter is a large, king sized bar clocking in at 2.5 ounces. It’s divided into 10 sections, each filled with a smidge of roasted peanut butter filling.
I have to admit that the chocolate was far better than I expected. Smooth and very sweet and lacking a bit of chocolate bunch, it wasn’t waxy and complemented the darker flavors of the peanut butter very well. There’s not quite enough peanut butter in there for my tastes, but this isn’t about replicating the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, I think it’s about creating a new bar.
The portion is far too huge for me (as are most king sized), and they do call the whole 2.5 ounces a single portion which clocks in at 380 calories.
The Big Mo’ Milk Chocolate with Creamy Caramel also sports two different designs on its ten sections. The top row has the Dale Jr signature and the bottom says Big Mo’.
The Creamy Caramel bar breaks well at the section lines without any oozing, as is often the hazard with Caramellos. There were a lot of voids in this bar, little holes from air bubbles. There’s not a lot of caramel in each little section, which means that the proportions are heavy on the mediocre chocolate. In this case there’s no salty peanut butter to balance it out. Instead it’s a strange goo they call creamy caramel. It’s not glossy, instead it looks more like a thick gravy.
It has a strong woodsy taste to it, not in the slightest bit buttery as the description “creamy” would have indicated. A little on the nutty side of flavor and not a bad texture really, but not enough to balance out the super-sweet chocolate.
While I had some trepidation at the brand and a little irritation with Dale Jr for teaming up with them, I don’t think they’re bad bars. They’re far too sweet for me and I think the portion is ridiculous (especially given the caloric density of the peanut butter bar). Cut these in half. I don’t think they will survive the test of time, as history bears out that vanity candy bars never do. I haven’t seen these in stores yet, but I expect you’ll see them at the usual places that sell Palmer products, such as 99 Cent Stores and other dollar chains, but they could pop up at convenience stores. (Here’s the page on the official website that lists stores.)
Friday, October 26, 2007
Sconza introduced Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds featuring “70% cacao international blend chocolate” at the All Candy Expo last month. I was really looking forward to them, as I think Sconza makes great panned candies, especially nuts.
Sconza is based in Oakland, California, one of the best confectionary areas in the country. Sconza has an interesting product line that includes such wonderful items like Jordanettes (Jordan Almonds), incredible toffee coated nuts and even a line of impossibly-large-to-eat jawbreakers.
This new chocolate covered almond capitalizes on one of those things they do so well, toffeed nuts.
Each generously sized almond is covered in a crunchy and thin coating of butter toffee. It’s salty and crispy and provides a satisfying crunch when biting through the thick coating of very dark chocolate.
The chocolate is strong, with dark fruity overtones and some coffee notes. The almonds are fresh and crunchy and provide a mellow counterbalance to the salty toffee and rich chocolate.
I love these. They’re only vaguely sweet, so I don’t feel sick after eating a handful. At the same time only one or two are extremely satisfying. They’re beautiful to look at smell positively divine.
I haven’t seen these in stores yet, but I’ve found other Sconza toffee and nut items at places like Bristol Farms (a high end grocer). I don’t know what the retail price is, but I think $4.00 for a bag would be such a deal.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.