Monday, October 13, 2008
With the discontinuation of Reed’s Candies by Wrigley’s, I’ve been searching for similar candies. Hammond’s Candies is based in Colorado and makes hard candies and caramels using traditional methods and equipment. They’re known for their stunning hand twisted lollipops, ribbon and pillow candies. But they also make all sorts of traditional boiled sugar sweets including a line called Pantry Candies.
Each comes in a cute tin with a little clear window on top. Inside they’re tucked into a plastic bag to protect them from moisture.
Cinnamon Drops - these are sizable pieces, bigger than my pinkie toe. They’re sanded with a bit of sugar and have a soft and grainy appearance. The hard candy is smooth and flavorful. Instead of being just straight hot cinnamon, this hard candy has a bit of a touch of the woodsy, powdered spice as well as the burning cinnamon oil.
They have a satisfying crunch or simply dissolve without many voids or holes. It’s not quite the smooth & transcendent experience of Reed’s Cinnamon though.
Sour Balls - these are teensy little drops, smaller than a regular marble but larger than a pea. They come in lemon, lime, orange and cherry flavors. They have the same sanded exterior and a smooth dissolve. The citrus ones are nicely tangy but with a good rounded zest flavor (orange is a bit more muted though). They’re an old-fashioned sour though, don’t expect anything approaching battery acid.
Butterscotch Waffles - these were gorgeous little candies. They’re flattened squares (though some were little rectangles) with a smooth surface and little dimpled waffle pattern on them. They were a creamy, buttery flavor but lacking that little dash of salt though they are the closest I’ve found to the old Reed’s Butterscotch.
Licorice Drops - these definitely look the part. The same format as the Cinnamon Drops, they’re big and black and sanded. They’re made with real licorice root, so it’s a more complex flavor than just “flavored”. The big gripe I have with these, and it’s a huge one, is the large amount of artificial colors in the candy. It made my mouth greenish-black with only one. Not appealing or subtle at all. As much as I liked the taste (and finding licorice hard candies isn’t easy), the bitterness of the Red 40 (to my tongue) added with the unappealing mouth just turned me off and I didn’t finish the tin.
Lemon Drops - for those who don’t want to pick the lemon drops out of the Sour Ball assortment, here they are all alone. These large drops are perhaps a little muted in flavor, but the flavor goes all the way through and has a nice barley sugar tone to it.
Root Beer Drops - as with the cinnamon, I was hoping for a Reed’s experience here. Instead it’s rather more like a Root Beer Float than a plain old Root Beer Soda. These two-toned drops have the mellow woodsy flavor of root beer along with a creamy vanilla component. They’re smooth and flavorful but not quite spicy enough for my desires. Well, I take that back. This was the second tin I finished. (Butterscotch was the first.)
Ginger Drops (not pictured) - these little opaque candies were kind of peach/flesh colored. They didn’t smell like much and really didn’t taste like much at first either. Then the longer it dissolved the warmer it got, a light woodsy and rooty flavor, it was definitely ginger.
The offering in this line also includes Horehound, which I refuse to believe is a candy flavor but also suffers from over-coloring like the licorice.
They’re expensive, but nicely crafted and packaged and make a nice hostess gift or something to keep on your desk for those moments where you just have to have something. I like them much better than their lollipops which are exquisite to look at but don’t have the density of flavor and smooth texture of these.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Meiji, one of Japan’s major candy & snack companies uses white and flavored white chocolates in many of their confections. The flavors range from berry and flower flavors (sakura) to green tea and caramel.
I found this Meiji Rich Strawberry Chocolate bar in Little Tokyo at Murukai Market, but every store seemed to carry them.
The bar is much deeper in color than the KitKats or even the limited edition Hershey’s flavored white chocolate bars that I’ve had. And the intensity of the color matches the flavor. It’s much more in the berry range than the “light touch of berries”. It’s both tangy and sweet, with that woodsy flavor of seeds in there as well.
I wasn’t as fond of it as a I’d hoped. Something about the tangy mixed with the sweetness and a bit of grain from the real berry in there made me miss the cocoa butter and milk base. But for $1.29, it was a great buy for a little more exotic taste than the ordinary.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I wasn’t sure what these would be, I thought something like the Skoolkrijt that I’ve come to love. I assumed it was a licorice center with a candy coating. I found a description online that said, “Salty Salmiak & Mint Flavor with a crunchy outer shell” which didn’t really capture it all (except that it included that it was salted licorice, not the straight sweet kind).
There are three shapes, a dark and a light jelly bean style and a larger, um, rock. I didn’t even know there was a third shape at first, as there were only two in the bag so I didn’t photograph it.
The beans are two different flavors. The light one is a peppermint, menthol and licorice mix of flavors. There’s a lot of crunch outside, it’s a bit grainy. The inside isn’t a molasses/wheat chewy licorice. Instead it’s a gelatin gummi flavored with licorice (and salt). The combo isn’t bad, a little metallic but the mint helps kind of smooth it all together.
The gray ones were similar but more on the straight licorice side. (They might not have been minted, but the proximity made them so.)
The lumps were a piece of the wheat based chew, again a little salted and covered with the minty crunch. That was my favorite.
They’re a little confusing for me. Not enough of one thing or another and the lack of the molasses punch to go with the licorice (my favorite combo) just didn’t make me want more and I never finished the bag.
Rating: 4 out of 10.
I was saddened several years ago to see that Wrigley’s altered their time-tested favorites: Wrigley’s Spearmint, Doublemint, Juicyfruit and Big Red gums to include those sorts of things. But then at Munchies in Los Angeles I stumbled across this little treasure - Juicy Fruit Gum, not only is it Kosher (which I don’t really need) but it’s also made with sugar and on top of that, they’re candy coated chicklets!
The box was cute and held 20 pellets. I usually chew three pieces at a time, so at 50 cents it’s no different in price than the regular pack.
I liked the crunch of the sugar shell and the indeterminate mellow fruity flavor of the chew. The flavor doesn’t last very long, but I don’t usually chew gum for a long time, just long enough to get most of the sugar out then I rinse and repeat.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Friday, August 29, 2008
Back in May I got a fabulous box of goodies from All Candy Expo that included this package of Darrell Lea Soft Eating Liquorice. I dutifully took photos of it.
And then ate it all. And promptly forgot what it was like so I couldn’t review it.
So today I went out and bought a new bag, just so I could finish up this review. (My office is dangerously close to a Cost Plus World Market now.)
When I opened it up I remember why I didn’t review it.
I cut the bag open and stuck my nose in there to get a good lung-full of the scent and there it was ... it smells like curry. Not in a bad way, by any means, but that’s why I didn’t review the first bag ... I wasn’t sure if that’s the way it was supposed to be.
So here I am with a second bag and I’m gonna have to say, “hey folks, this stuff really smells like and Indian spice shop!” It makes my mouth water, it’s a mix of curry, coriander, anise and black tea.
The pieces are kind of awkward - they’re long fingers. Thick and soft, they’re about three inches long and a matte black.
The flavor is dark and smoky. The molasses is pronounced but has a great mellow licorice mixed with a little hint of those spices I mentioned earlier. The chew is soft without being too sticky like Dots can be. Not too sweet and really munchable but satisfying.
Pretty good overall and certainly distinctive enough that I think I could tell this apart from most of the other Aussie style licorices I’ve had over the years. And I plan on finishing this package pretty soon as well.
Rating: 8 out of 10
There are a lot of different licorice twist flavors out there, but most of them are fruity. So I was pretty excited to find this Soft Eating Ginger Liquorice at Cost Plus World Market (I bought these a couple of days ago and then realized I should review the black stuff, too, and went back.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Australia through candy, it’s that Australians make good licorice and ginger products.
Like the rest of their line, it comes in a kraft paper looking package, mellow and muted and boldly stating that it’s flavored naturally. The ingredients bear that out: Raw sugar, wheat glucose syrup, wheat flour, cane sugar, ginger puree (4%), water, modified food starch, palm oil, natural flavor, mono & di-glycerides, salt, citric acid, malic acid, spinach extract (color), liquorice extract, sodium bicarbonate, beta carotene (color) and sulphur dioxide (preservative).
This one didn’t smell quite as appealing. Like the Buderim Ginger Gummi Bears, I found that this bag smelled a bit like Elmer’s Glue.
But I got over it.
The little fingers in this version are a little shorter at about 2 1/2 inches each but a little bigger around. The texture is different as well, though still soft they’re not as pliable and just a bit drier on the outside. But singly they smell less like wood glue and more like ginger tea.
The bite is a smidge less smooth, but boy howdy is it spicy. Right away there’s the woodsy peppery taste of ginger and then a throat warming burn. It’s not very sweet at all, much less than the other ginger chews that I like so much from Chimes and the Ginger People.
The wheat base of the chew makes it a little starchy in a way, but it also makes them rather filling and I think cuts through what might be a very spicy affair. It would be cool if they actually used molasses in these, they’d be like gingerbread (without the extra spices). But for ginger fans, this is a great new way to enjoy it. It’s a good munching food for movies, especially mixed with something salty like popcorn (I tried it with pretzels and it went well).
Rating: 7 out of 10
Darrell Lea has a pretty big range, I saw the Green Apple and Strawberry versions at Cost Plus as well. There is another version that are chocolate covered smaller nibs but their Australian website shows a much larger range of products (most of which sound fabulous). They’re Kosher and have no artificial colors or flavors.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Hershey’s has reinvigorated one of their old lines: Young & Smylie Licorice. Known more for Twizzlers, Young & Smylie is one of the oldest candy companies in the country.
This new line, called simply Old Fashioned Soft Eating Licorice and includes three flavors in their initial offerings. Flavor no. 1, oddly enough, is Strawberry. Nope, it’s not licorice, it’s strawberry. I’ll admit, right away I’m offended by this. While I fully accept that “red licorice” is a grand and glorious genre of confection, the original flavor of licorice is actually licorice.
However, I’m at least a bit appeased by reading the package which says that even this strawberry flavor has licorice extract in it.
These soft little nuggets are pretty. They’re opaque and shiny logs. It smells tangy, kind of like strawberry yogurt.
The bite is quite soft, a cross between Dots and HiCHEW. It’s sweet and mild, the strawberry flavors are all in the range of toasted sugar and floral. It’s not the slightest bit tangy, though exceptionally smooth.
The resealable packages are a hefty 8 ounces. It feels like more. The plastic is matte and rather elegant. Easy to open and reclose, the design is quite nice - modern yet classic. I like the geometric background pattern that’s used on all three.
I’ve seen them in a few stores, usually selling for $2.99 a package, so it’s on the high end of Hershey’s sugar products at the moment. Small wonder, it must be hard to make an inexpensive product when the list of ingredients is so long. No less than 15 ingredients. It starts with corn syrup and ends with soybean oil. But hey, I can’t be too disappointed, there is licorice root extract but I don’t have high hopes as there’s no molasses in there. (Not that licorice must have molasses, but I do love the combo so.)
Opening the bag, it’s an odd scent. It’s a combination of anise and curry. It smells hearty and warm.
It’s very soft stuff, kind of salty (190 mg of sodium per serving). Mild and sweet, it has a nice anise or fennel bump to it, but not terribly intense. It is a little sticky, but not like Crows.
It’s appealing and certainly different than the other soft eating licorice brands on the market, so I at least have to tip my hat to their originality. But it just doesn’t satisfy my licorice desire. I’ve had these since the beginning of the month, yet I found myself buying Good & Plenty last weekend instead of eating these.
I was also kind of annoyed that these made my tongue greenish black thanks to my old friends Red 40 & Blue 1. (Many black licorices are colored by the presence of molasses.)
I have to just wonder how it was that this became one of the top three contenders for a soft eating licorice line.
Like the Strawberry & Licorice, Peach Mango is naturally and artificially flavored. In this instance it smells artificial from the get-go. Both the Strawberry & Peach Mango list that each serving contains 35 mg of licorice root extract (the licorice variety makes no mention of how much it contains, only that it’s above that “less than 2% of the following” line).
This package smelled even before I opened it. The peach and mango blend becomes something like apricot, which I admit is a fresh and enticing smell. But generally I stay away from stone fruit flavors, they never seem quite authentic to me.
These are the softest of the three varieties. It’s all sweet and no tartness. The chew is smooth but has a pasty quality, kind of like too-soft macaroni. After eating a few pieces I realized that it was just peach flavored and I wasn’t getting anything mango out of it (which is usually a rather pine tasting note). It also left a lingering and mellow bitter taste in my mouth ... it wasn’t bad, just kind of strange.
I’ll be curious to see if this flavor makes it. It’s certainly different, but inconsistent with the other two and of course so out of the range of traditional licorice it may not attract those folks who might like a mild apricot-scented overcooked pasta.
On the whole, I appreciated that these were actually different from other soft-eating licorice products out there. This tastes nothing like Panda, Kookaburra or Finnska. Licorice products are being marketed as a low-calorie treat. As a wheat-based product they are less calorically dense but this particular variety does have a smidge of fat (1.5 grams per serving). Not a deal breaker but regular Twizzlers are a bit better in that respect. (Twizzlers are 92 & 94 calories per ounce for black & red, respectively, Y&S Soft Eating is 94 & 101 for the same.)
These contains wheat, soy products and artificial stuff but no dairy. But they’re certified Kosher.
Friday, June 27, 2008
You know what I love about Twizzlers? They call their licorice Twizzlers Licorice Twists. They don’t categorize it as a black licorice, which distinguishes it from the sad fruity red imitator. No, they just recognize that the word licorice is enough (and well, seeing the black twists in the package) to accurately describe this.
Twizzlers may not be innovative as a licorice twist product, but they’ve certainly been around for a while. Introduced in 1929, the Young & Smylie company was already around since 1849 making licorice flavored confections. Even as early as the 50s, licorice was considered a low-calorie alternative to other sugary treats. (Only about 30 calories per twist.)
Even if Twizzlers understands the classic appeal of licorice, it’s not that easy to find. I can find the Twizzlers Strawberry Twists in vending machines and convenience stores in a variety of sizes, including the bar of pull-apart twists. But the black stuff is hard to come by.
The twists are exceptionally shiny. They’re pliable, kind of like the plastic coating on copper wires, except of course that these bounce back.
The bite is pretty easy, and though they’re soft, they’re really not that easy to chew. They seem to get firmer as I tried to chew them up.
The flavor is only moderately licorice-y. It’s mellow and a bit woodsy, but lacks either a molasses & mineral complexity or even a pop of licorice or anise that lingers after swallowing. It also leaves a filmy bit of stuff stuck to my molars.
As drug store licorice goes, this is probably one of the least appealing I’ve had. I thought maybe I didn’t like it fresh, so I left the open bag out for a couple of days by a fan. It didn’t even get stale and it didn’t get better. It’s not horrible and I know it has its fans, but I’ve had this package for months and have actually had cravings for licorice but haven’t eaten it.
Friday, April 11, 2008
I’m hearing a lot of hatin’ on black licorice in the entries for the Red Vines Giveaway. Which makes me sad. I think a lot of folks are very attached to their favorite candies and I’m probably one of those people and maybe I take it a little personally when someone calls something that I appreciate disgusting. (But I’m not a converter or anything, I don’t like to force candy on people who say that they don’t like something.)
Licorice has a long and wonderful history as a confection and even a medicine. It’s also very flexible, used as a flavoring in hundreds of different sweet and savory items. It has some companion flavors as well, such as anise and fennel. One of the more commonly found licorices is the Red Vines Black Licorice Twists.
The most common kind of licorice here in the United States is the twist. It has a wheat base and is usually flavored and sweetened with molasses (and in this case, corn syrup too). Molasses is a great companion to licorice. While pure licorice is very sweet and soft on the tongue, molasses is deep and only mildly sweet with some interesting mineral notes.
The earthy combination and less sticky complexity to it all makes Red Vines Black Licorice Twists a nice treat. They’re not very licoricey, but that’s okay, they do have a nice texture and feel more like a snack than a candy sometimes. (Wheat-based candies can do that.) I think they’re best when they’re fresh, but stale is okay. I’ve revived stale licorice before by placing it in the microwave on top of a very lightly damp paper towel, covered with another paper towel and zap it for 10 seconds.
Licorice and licorice-like candies are increasing in popularity, probably because of their low caloric density and satisfying chew. As a grocery store purchase of licorice, I prefer Good and Plenty, but if you put Red Vines Black Licorice in front of me, I’ll definitely eat it.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I’d never had them until I started the blog. I picked them up two years ago to try and found the bag was so horribly stale that it wouldn’t have been fair. So again with full warning this time that National Licorice Day was approaching, I picked up another bag.
It’s mind boggling. I don’t even know where to begin with how confused, anxious and actually angry these make me.
First, I opened the bag and it smelled like sweet musk. Yes. Like the Australian Musk Lollies. And I know this smell because I recently bought a bag.
At first I thought I was crazy. I’ve had smell hallucinations and I’ve heard that simply coloring a food one way will make someone expect that flavor, so maybe I was just having some sort of synapse malfunction.
But it’s been a full week and I’ve checked with others. The reaction to the smell ranges from “It smells like my grandmother’s purse” to “that’s like a bad candle shop.”
None of it gets better. The colors are odd, like slightly bleached by the sun or perhaps rinsed in the colander with some fresh veggies and they’ve run.
The texture is like eating surgical tubing ... that’s been sitting next to leaking perfume samples for several months. They candy is made of little tubes of a similar wheat-based licorice vine (no twist to it) that is then coated on the outside with a candy shell (I can’t call it crunchy, only colorful). After chewing a bit the flavor does kind of warm up, after the musk has gone away it’s a little bit like licorice, but lacking the anise punch and the deep earthy molasses flavors.
The American Licorice Company explains them this way:
Maybe it’s just because I don’t like musk. But someone must like these candies or they wouldn’t be making them for those rabid fans. Or maybe people just use them for craft projects. They might make some decent kid-safe chunky beads for stringing on some embroidery thread.
I just ... don’t know what else ... to write about them. I can only assume that those people who hate licorice have tasted this and I can’t blame them for their hostility towards the stuff. (Go ahead and call me hypocritical for hatin’ on this stuff, I can take it.)
Rating: 2 out of 10
The Red Vines Giveaway closes on Saturday, April 12th, so enter if you want some! (Don’t worry, there will be no Snaps in the winner packages.)
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Those industry analysts say that licorice is the next big thing. It’s a trend. It’s fashionable. It’s hip. There will soon be licorice bars, licorice tastings ... licorice afficianado magazines. (Actually, I heard when I was a Miette Confiserie buying a Dutch assortment that they wanted to do a Sake tasting paired with licorice.)
I don’t know about all that, I’m not adverse to seeing more licorice available on the market, but I fully understand that some people simply don’t like it. Much like some folks don’t like coffee, root beer or cinnamon. (Otherwise referred to as irrational people, which does not apply, of course, to folks who don’t like cherry, butter popcorn Jelly Belly or Dr Pepper, who are perfectly rational.)
I got this ample sample of Australia’s own Kookaburra Licorice at the All Candy Expo.
These nuggets are pretty big, at least two bites in my-sized world. It’s a nice soft chew, sometimes I think it’s a little too soft, like they’re some sort of fleshy thumbs or something, so I left the bag open for a while. They didn’t get rock-hard stale, just a little drier.
I liked the flavor, definitely on the dark and smoky side even if it’s a little mild and more about the molasses than licorice. The first ingredient is treacle as well as some molasses, wheat syrup and raw sugar. These all go so well with the woodsy and very sweet qualities of real licorice. It’s very filling even though the caloric density is exceptionally low for candy: 92 calories per ounce. Kind of a “stick to your ribs” kind of candy treat.
Unlike many American licorices, this boasts real licorice extract ... as well as “natural flavors”, palm oil, soybean monglyceride, artificial colors (Red 40 & Blue #1 & Yellow #5) among other things.
I think as super-soft licorice goes I might prefer Panda (especially for the ingredients list), but this is pretty good stuff. As for the naming, a Kookaburra is a bird, a species of Kingfisher. (While it probably doesn’t have much to do with licorice, it’s far more related to Australia than the Panda is to Finnish licorice. And while we’re not on the subject, there’s also a Cocteau Twins song called Kookaburra, which has even less to do with the bird, as all CT songs are wont to do, than Pandas do with Finnish licorice ... have I digressed enough?)
Monday, January 28, 2008
Years ago when I was in college I went to see Twelfth Night at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s a cool outdoor venue and in true Elizabethan style they had concessions (candies) available to eat right there at your seat. I bought a roll of licorice toffee, I believe by Callard & Bowser. I thought I was getting a roll of licorice medallions or a hard candy flavored with licorice or something.
Instead it was a roll of soft caramels ... licorice caramels. I quite liked them. I ate the whole roll.
I bought them whenever I could find them, which wasn’t very often. And then I never saw them again. Turns out that Callard & Bowser, also known for their Altoids, is now owned by Wrigley’s and many of the traditional candies they used to make are gone.
There are other licorice taffies out there, and those are nice, but don’t have that mix of true cream and dark licorice that I love.
Then at the All Candy Expo I noticed that there were a few places that actually had licorice caramels. I was on a quest for the best. I found J. Morgan, already known in Utah for its excellent caramels. (Utah it seems is a hotbed of confection, owing I believe to the LDS prohibition on alcohol & caffeine.)
The glossy caramels wrapped in clear cellophane were quite appealing to behold. (The above tub actually has a mix of all of their products in it, not just the caramels.)
The Licorice Caramel is wonderfully creamy with a light anise touch that leaves a kind of cool effect on the tongue. The texture is exceptionally smooth, the chew is a bit stiff, but gives it up after warming in the mouth. (The short-caramel of the Callard & Bowser was grainy and not nearly as satisfying as these.)
The plain Butter Caramel is smooth, not a bit of grain to it and a nice well-toasted sugar flavor.
The other one I tried was a Pecan Caramel. The pecans weren’t big or plentiful but still added a nice buttery crunch and nutty maple flavor to them soft chew.
They make two lines of caramels, the ones profiled here are their Signature Caramels line called Old Fashioned Caramels and come in sealed cello. Their other line which is more affordable in the Heavenly Caramels line called Butter Caramels and are nice but have a slight grain to them, a less chewy chew and come in twisted cello pieces.
The ingredients for the Butter Caramels are: Sweetened Condensed Milk, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Cream, High Fructose Corn Sweetener, Palm Kernel Oil, Butter, Vanillin, Salt & Lecithin. So the majority of the sugar is from the sweetened condensed milk & corn syrup, but it looks like there’s a dash of HFCS. But all that condensed milk gives these 4% of your daily RDA of calcium in just 3 caramels!
They’re all tasty, but the Licorice Caramels are a standout of smooth creamy chew with that lovely woodsy hit of anise/licorice in it. (I do wish they’d sell a mixed tub though, so folks can sample.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.