Tuesday, May 8, 2007
I’m a licorice fan, so it’s hard to do it wrong. I’ll eat it as a hard candy, a chewy rope or classic pastille. What I thought was great about this Black Ace Licorice is that it fits into that niche of licorice products that just about everyone can enjoy. Until I saw this package it didn’t occur to me that so many gluten/wheat sensitive folks were missing out on some great chewy licorice goodness.
This licorice has no wheat flour in it, as most laces, twists and ropes do. Most mass-produced licorice products in the United States don’t even contain real licorice any longer, they use anise flavoring instead. Black Ace is all natural and contains real licorice (which is a good thing and a bad thing, I’ll get to that in a moment.) Licorice has been used for centuries in teas and medicinals. The extract is extremely sweet and has been used an alternative sweetener. It’s a natural expectorant as well, so it’s often found in cough remedies. Some of the effects of too much licorice can be welcome (laxative effect), unpleasant (green stool), or downright dangerous (high blood pressure & edema). Again ... that’d be too much licorice. What’s too much? More than six servings a day.
Black Ace are little dots of licorice. They’re soft and chewy, pretty much melting away in the mouth smoothly as you chew or dissolve them. They have corn starch in them, which I guess might make them a jelly product. They’re very sweet, but have a mellow peppery, woodsy taste to them. They’re sweetened with corn syrup and sugar, not molasses, so I miss some of the more earthy flavors. There’s also a little hit of salt in here that tones down the high sweet flavors of the licorice itself.
Black Ace also does a Red version, which also has a similarly pleasant, smooth and soft chew. The flavor is a good fruity/floral mix, something like raspberry. I’m not a big fan of Red in general, mostly because it reminds me I could be having black licorice. But these were definitely nice.
I enjoyed them quite a bit but would probably prefer a molasses & wheat based candy. But if you’re a fan of licorice and can’t have wheat and don’t want boring old hard candies, this might be a solution. Since they’re all natural, you can expect to find them places like Whole Foods as well as Beverages & More, Oakville Grocery or Bristol Farms and possibly TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
Note: though this is all natural, fat free, wheat and gluten free, the package states that they were made in a facility that processes peanuts & other nuts.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Last year I read the book Sweets: a History of Candy by Tim Richardson. For a book about candy, there wasn’t much of the “modern” candy that we’re familiar with, instead a large portion of the book was spent on tracing the evolution of sugar and early candied fruits. Later it documents the rise of pastilles in the mid 1500s in Europe as sugar became available. The most basic definition is “a kernel of something coated with sugar.” It can be a nut (like Jordan Almonds) or a seed, like Anis de Flavigny.
The pastille was often the work of a pharmacist or herbalist, not a confectioner. They started with seeds or herbs that were prescribed for various reasons (fever, digestion, impotence), then coated with sugar syrup, tossed in a pan and repeated until layer upon layer is built up. The most talented pharmacists made beautiful pastilles that looked like shimmering opalescent spheres and were kept as if they were treasures as well, inside ornate boxes, often locked by the lady of the household.
Anis de l’Abbaye Flavigny may have one of the longest histories of a candy, as the town of Flavigny may have been making the little candies since Roman times. Whatever the timeline and beginnings may be, in modern times the pastilles have been made by confectioners in those largely unchanged traditions. Anis de Flavigny is one of those companies that has been carrying on for hundreds of years. Each pastille takes fifteen days to make ... they are labor intensive (though the materials themselves are rather cheap). They still start with a single fennel seed and (as you can see from the photo) a sugar syrup is poured over it, tumbled until dry then repeated dozens of times. (See the Anis de Flavigny site.)
Anis de Flavigny makes a large array of delicately distinctive flavors, all rather classic and old world.
Anise, Licorice, Rose, Violet, Orange Blossom and Mint. The tins tell a little story as two lonesome young people pine in solitude, then meet, share their candies and finally consummate their affection (on the violet tin - which modestly only shows us the flowers and not our young lovers).
I’m quite taken with them. I’ve been eating them since I was a kid. I know they’re not particularly snazzy. The tins are simple (though redesigned recently, they still look classic) and the candy unchanged by time and trends.
The only trend it appears they’ve responded to is that they now have an Organic line. The only difference I can tell is that the sugar is not pure white, so the little pastilles are a little beige. I kind of like the look. The flavors are the same, though I did have Ginger in the organics that I’ve not had in the regular ones.
The little candies have a slightly soft and rough feeling to the surface. The sugar itself is dense and even the package warns you against crunching them. (I do, but they have to get down to about a third of their size.) I liked to eat mine two at a time, rolling them around on my tongue like Chinese health balls. The friction of the pastilles against each other releases the sugar a bit faster. Call me impatient. But I do have a dexterous tongue and can also tie a cherry stem in a knot with it. Not that I eat cherries that often.
The floral candies (orange blossom, violet and rose) have a lovely soft flavor to them without feeling soapy. They’re great for getting rid of bad breath, especially since they take so long to dissolve. The spicier flavors like anise and licorice are rooty and natural tasting without feeling artficial (pretty much because they’re not). The mint is softer than many of the modern super-mints like Altoids with a smooth melt on the tongue and an even amount of mint. The flavor is strong as you dissolve the first few layers away and then mellows out. Towards the center the gentle hint of anise from the fennel seed emerges.
I was quite excited to have a full set of their most popular flavors, which I picked up at the Fancy Food Show in January. It’s taken me months to get through all of them. Not because I didn’t want to eat them, but they just last so dang long. I love each and every flavor. Yes, they’re really expensive at $2 to $3 a tin. (I don’t know why I can’t find the assorted package online.) I prefer them to just about every other breath mint on the market. It was a little unclear if the organic line will be available in the States because of the differing certification processes.
Italy also has their long-standing tradition of panned sweets with the Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano company. They not only do the small pastille dragee but also a wider variety of panned spices, fruits and nuts. I’ll have a profile of those at some point as well.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
I had to go for a classic this year. I haven’t had traditional spice jelly beans for quite a long time. These were pretty looking jelly beans. The Blueberry Hill Foods Spiced Jelly Eggs are the traditional jelly bean size, not the itty ones that Jelly Belly seems to have popularized.
I chose a bag at the store that didn’t look like it had too many purple ones in it, as I assumed that the purples were clove and I’m just not that keen on clove.
Upon opening the bag I found that they ALL smelled like clove. I have to say that these were odd.
I’m still not quite sure what flavor these are, so I’m going to guess on some:
Black - Licorice. Definitely licorice. Sweet and spicy with even a little hint of sizzle.
Now I just need to sort out the bag of jelly beans and get rid of those orange and pink ones and I think it’s a nice mix.
The texture of the beans is a little grainy, but not overly sweet, but has a good chew to it and well rounded flavors that last.
A couple of other notes. This company has one of the worst websites I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if it’s been updated since 2004 (it’s really not a website for consumers anyway). This product is manufactured in Mexico.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
As National Novel Writing Month approaches my mind turns to writing-friendly candy. This is a tough category. Not only does the candy need to be neat (no sticky bits to get in the keyboard) but it also has to support the work at hand. In years past I’ve nibbled on licorice vines, Reese’s miniatures (not really recommended as they are a two-handed candy), M&Ms and orange Tootsie Pops.
This year I think I’ve found my new writing candy. It’s a little expensive at $6.50 for 150 grams (about 5.25 ounces), but writing a novel in a month is an indulgence anyway and if a few hard candies can keep me on task and perhaps ingest a little less caffeine, I’m all for it.
The Apothecary’s Garden is a line of hard candies made by Sweet Botanicals of England. Infused with different herbs and spices, they’re all drop-dead gorgeous little morsels. Not only that, they’re all natural. No freaky sweeteners, they’re just sugar, corn syrup and some spices with a little juice for color. The come in a clear plastic container, which of course gives you full view of their mouthwatertingness. (The only bad thing about this packaging is that I found them to be positively DIFFICULT to recap.) Today I’ll tackle the spices:
Cinnamon & Clove - gorgeous red spheres with white stripes. They’re the size of marbles and smell of Christmas. I’m not usually keen on clove, as it reminds me of dental procedures, but this was more on the mild side. The cinnamon was spicy and has a pleasant and mellow burn with the slight floral note of the clove that was more on the violet end than the medicine side.
The candy itself is dense and sweet with few, if any, voids that can make for sharp edges to cut your tongue.
This candy would be appropriate for novels taking place on damp moors, alien infested swamp planets and anything set during the Civil War.
Chili (a useful digestive aid) - delicate little candies, no larger than a dried garbanzo (the smallest of all I tried). They’re lightly pink and have the disarming smell of cotton candy. On the tongue they start with a slight floral note of rose and are clean tasting. But after a moment the chili spice kicks in. It has a little burn, but something I feel on the tongue, nothing in the back of the throat.
This candy would be appropriate for writing time travel scenes, large spans of exposition in any style novel and of course anything set in the Southwestern US, Mexico or Central America.
Licorice & Anise (Helps Coughs and Catarrh) - beautiful large medallion-like pieces, they’re the largest of all the Apothecary’s Garden candies I tried. They’re also not a solid hard candy but a filled candy. The hard shell is a mellow licorice flavor with a liberal note of both anise and molasses (the ingredients lists brown sugar treacle). Inside is a soft, moist and grainy center of a rich brown sugar that soothes the throat (and tastes good!).
This candy would be appropriate for steampunk novels with characters involved heavily in action scenes, anything set in the middle ages, circuses or in cold climates and of course action-adventures that involve going places without proper vaccinations.
Ginger & Orange (Useful for Travel Sickness) - these are long hexagons that are squashed into rods. The smell slightly of orange and on the tongue they immediately get me tingly with a little tangy bite and the spice of the ginger. There’s a definite rooty flavor to these that overpowers any orange essence other than the color and tangy quality.
I can’t attest to their ability to stave off motion sickness, but I will in a few months when whale watch season opens and I hit the nearshore seas. I have, however, found that ginger is good for keeping the queasies at bay, so I’m looking forward to giving these a real test.
This candy would be appropriate for novels with sea voyages or taking place on spaceships with questionable inertial dampeners/artificial gravity. It is also good for consuming during scenes involving early pregnancy and dizzying passages describing architecture.
I have lots more flavors and I’ll be posting about those soon. At $6.50 a package, they’re a wee on the expensive side. But they’re also not a candy you gobble down, so they last a while. The flavors are unique and it’s obvious the attention that’s paid to their creation, so I’d be willing to pay a little more. Right now the only place I know to get them in the States is ArtisanSweets.com (they sent me the samples) ... but they also sell the Montelimar Nougat that I love so much, so you know, you could get some of that at the same time.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
There’s this rumor going around that you can find European flavors of Mentos in the States if you look hard enough (instigated by the comments section here at Candy Blog, I might add) ... at places like the 99 Cent Only store!
While my last visit did not result in a cache of the coveted Pink Grapefruit Mentos, I did find Licorice ones.
They weren’t quite the transcendent experience I’d hoped for. Don’t get me wrong, they’re nice and all. But they’re no Pampelmousse!
They’re white with a slight grey cast to them. They don’t really smell like anything and at first bite they’re slightly minty but then when you get past the crunchy shell there’s a slightly salty, slightly warm and creamy taste of licorice. It’s not a molassesy bite, just an herbal quality. It’s a bit like the licorice Altoids (but of course chewy and not quite as strong).
I don’t see myself picking these up too often, but they make a nice change from the Mint ones. I’m enjoying the second roll much more than the first, so perhaps they grow on you.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Continuing with National Licorice Day, I have to admit that I’ve always been afraid of Licorice Allsorts. Let’s face it, they’re pretty, but there’s no real way of knowing what they are. Are those pink things the same flavor as Pepto Bismol? Are they cherry? Which would be better? Is blue ever a good idea? It’s one of those candies that’s been around so long, once I became an adult I was embarrassed to ask what they were.
The time had come to try them. All of them. This assortment came from CandyFavorites but is made by Bassett’s ... you know, the folks in England who are known for these. Aren’t they cute?
I started with the pieces that seemed the most familiar. The plain black licorice pieces were nice. Extra soft, with a good doughy consistency and strong molasses taste. They’re sweet, but not in a sugary way, more in that herbal way that licorice is.
Next I took on those sandwich looking things. They’re the ones that have scared me most over the years. The brown ones are chocolate flavored, but only in the lightest possible way. Mostly the molasses taste comes through but then as the chewing continues I realize that there’s COCONUT in here! How did that happen? The brown layer is more grainy and sugary than the licorice one and there are these flakes of coconut that give it a nice chewy texture and a good nutty pop. The white layered pieces are lemon and though I really liked the Lemon Lakritsi I had last year, these don’t quite rise to this level. Yes, the coconut gives it some extra dimension, but there are a lot of flavors going on here. Orange is orange and seems to be a little better on the balance than the white ones. I ate all of the orange and brown ones first. The pink ones were the scariest of all. I don’t know what flavor they are, we’ll just stick with “pink” because the color seems to give them a fruity flavor of some kind, perhaps cherry but also a bitter overtone. Blech. I needed to clear the taste of that! Luckily it was only a three decker instead of the five layer of the white one.
The little blue and pink buttons are so cute and I didn’t want to eat them at first. Inside is a firm jelly with a strong licorice/anise taste to it. Instead of being sickly sweet and grainy like a jelly bean, these were more like a gummi covered in nonpareils. I wish I could just buy these in bulk.
The little blue man was the only one of his kind in the mix, and I’m not sure what that kind of candy is called. He was like a licorice version of candy corn. Very sweet, a little grainy to start and then quite smooth.
The pink circles with the black dots scared me. After the bad experience with the pink layered thing, I was hesitant to try these. Luckily they weren’t flavored. They’re just colored pink but taste simply like coconut and licorice. After all that trepidation, the things I thought I’d hate, I actually liked and of the whole assortment, there’s really only one piece that I detested. Those are much better odds than most of the assorted candies I pick up.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:39 am
Happy Licorice Day! Did you know it’s National Licorice Day?
So, it’ll be all licorice all day here on Candy Blog ... if you don’t like the black stuff, just move along and come back tomorrow and it’ll be something chocolate or maybe something nutty or perhaps something sour. If you do like licorice, well, browse around through my archives by clicking on the Licorice category for all the licorice reviews.
I picked up an assortment of Dutch licorices when I was in Pittsburgh. Because this is real licorice which can have side effects when consumed in large quantities, I’ve been tasting it responsibly for the past six weeks or so.
Beehive Honey Licorice - these little black beehives boast 8% honey! They’re smooth and soft and instead of the strong charcoal flavor of molasses as a base, these boast a fine honey flavor with the nice woodsy and sweet qualities of licorice. They really don’t taste anything like a licorice vine that I’m accustomed to, reminding me more of an herbal tea.
Katjes (kittens) - these are dark looking and a little firmer with glossy black coats. The licorice flavor is strong and melts away to be rather watery on the tongue because it doesn’t have molasses or wheat flour in it like many of the vines do. Good flavor and good balance. Of all of them these went best with coffee because of the clarity of the flavor. I actually enjoy the mix of coffee and anise or licorice together, which I think is a pretty common Italian combination.
Zout (salt) - yes, this is the single salt version of the Dubbel Zout I tried after Christmas. These are lozenge shaped (diamond) and bear the Zout label on them, lest you get confused in a mixed bag! Wow, I’m so glad I gave these another try. They certainly have a zing to them, though it’s not the same electric thing that I had with the DZ. The salt really brings out the licorice flavor without tasting too sweet (which licorice often suffers from). This version also doesn’t have the strong ammonia quality that the others I’ve tried, though towards the end where I was finding little bits in my teeth I did get the strange sensation of basement or catbox. I’m still not sold on it, but I didn’t spit out ANY of the pieces I ate. (I know, faint praise.)
Klene Muntdrop - a little coin, mine came in denominations of 1, 5 & 10. Very mild, not too sweet. I let mine get stale (not on purpose, but it seems that a paper bag isn’t the proper way to store them), but they’re kind of pleasant that way too. They melt away into a kind of woodsy, sticky goo. Still, there’s an odd note to the flavor that’s slightly acidic and slightly musty. I’ve had a bit of a cold lately and these are kind of nice in a “keep your throat happy” way.
Wax Seals - I have no idea what these are called or who makes them, but they’re fantastic! They look like little stamps made in wax, like you’d seal a letter, but maybe they’re coins. They’re mellow and smooth and ultra soft (where the other ones go stiff and hard in the paper bag, these stayed soft and yielding). They have a good molasses bite without the wheat flour doughy quality that some other American and German vines can get.
If you’re feeling adventurous, just get a mix of things. The cool part is that each little licorice is quite unique in how it looks and it shouldn’t be hard to find them again and get just the ones you liked. I only gave these a 6 out of 10 as an average, but a mix of the beehives and wax seals would get an 8 out of 10 on their own.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Sometimes I wish that candies were made in different flavors. Like, I used to wish that Starbursts came in cinnamon, mint and licorice flavors.
It turns out that product already exists. BlackJack is a licorice (actually anise) flavored chew that’s made in the shape of little square pieces that are sold in a roll.
What was dissapointing about them is that they’re slightly tart. I’d expected a smooth, sweet and spicy chew filled with licorice goodness. Instead it’s slightly lemony (citric acid is in the ingredients), with a tart bite and not much of a licorice flavor to it. It smells a lot like anise, but doesn’t really deliver. I like the combination of licorice and lemon, which is done really well in the Lemon Lakritsi from Finland.
Bassett’s, now owned by UK candy giant Cadbury, is well known for their Allsorts, and I was hoping this was a pocket version of them. They may just take some getting used to, but I’ve had this pack for quite a while and after eating about three of them, I have no desire to continue trying to like them. I’m sure they have their fans, but I don’t think I’ll ever be among them.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:42 am
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.