Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I checked through plenty of stores and found Walgreen’s had the best selection by the time the 75% off discount came around. This is when I jump on items I only eye at full price and then hem and haw over at half off. One was this Ghirardelli Squares Limited Edition Holiday Chocolate Assortment. Full price was $8.99, so $2.24 for over nine ounces of chocolate sounded like a great deal even if it was seasonally themed.
The assortment includes Peppermint Bark, Egg Nog and Chocolate Pecan Pie.
Ghirardelli, I think, is known for their Peppermint Bark. It’s one of the few brands that dependably makes the stuff and actually uses cocoa butter for their white chocolate.
The construction of the square is pretty simple. A milk chocolate base layer is covered with a minted white chocolate studded with little crunchies.
The scent isn’t overpoweringly minty, which probably saves the other chocolates in the bag from tasting like mint, too.
The texture of the chocolates is smooth and silky, very sweet but not achingly so. The little crunchies in the white chocolate aren’t crushed candy canes though, they’re corn flake bits (colored red). The crunch is a bit more cereal than hard candy but still puffy.
It’s kind of odd that this sort of confection isn’t available year round, but since Ghirardelli has been bringing it back faithfully each winter, I shouldn’t complain.
Of the three flavors in the bag, this was the one that sold me on it: Egg Nog.
It’s just extra vanilla-y white chocolate (with real cocoa butter) and a visible dash of nutmeg.
I love the flavors of egg nog, but never really cared for sweet or thick drinks so the idea of a solid, melt-in-your-mouth version of it is ideal for me.
The square is a creamy yellow color and smells like nutmeg.
The white confection is sweet but pretty smooth and has the woodsy blast of nutmeg and tastes, like, well, Egg Nog. It could use a little more vanilla and maybe a slight hit of rum.
A real winner, if only because no one else makes a plain old white chocolate with nutmeg bar. Truffles, yeah, but not just a block of white chocolate. Great idea, well done, bring it back next year and I’ll probably buy it before it goes on clearance.
One of the reasons I thought that this review, even at this late date, would still be of value is that the Chocolate Pecan Pie is not a limited edition item. It’s available now as an individual bar or in single-flavor bags of the Squares. (Also, I don’t think Pecan Pie has a season.)
This little milk chocolate square smells wonderful, like maple, hot chocolate and caramel.
The milk chocolate is smooth, though plenty sweet. Mixed in is a light crunch of toffee coated pecan bits. They have a little salty hit and of course the caramelized & buttery crunch of pecans.
(The photos make it look like the chocolate is bloomed, I don’t think it was, I think it was the fatty pecans messing with the sheen of the chocolate. Mmm, fatty pecans.)
Overall, the array is fun and something I feel comfortable eating out of season at the moment. Especially because I love individually wrapped squares. A bonus is that a sandwich of the Egg Nog & Chocolate Pecan Pie actually go pretty well together. (But the Peppermint Bark doesn’t work with either.)
The only thing that really bugged me was that the ingredients weren’t listed separately for each of the squares. I was able to get the ingredients for the Peppermint Bark because it’s sold separately, but I really like to know what’s in items that I’m able to choose from a dish.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
For years Sugar Babies were just plain old Sugar Babies.
Tiny little caramels panned with a sugar shell like a jelly bean.
Perfect just the way they are.
But Tootsie, like so many other companies, needed to expand the brand. So they covered them in chocolate and then some bitter green ogre skin (oh, wait, that was green apple flavor). Those were interesting extensions, because they actually built on the unique caramel of Sugar Babies and then added something else.
Now Tootsie has given us Sugar Babies Holiday Edition.
What’s different about these?
They’re white, red and green. That’s it.
I went out and bought a box of regular Sugar Babies just to be sure.
Even the original have artificial colors in them (why?) but the only addition to the list of ingredients for the Holiday Edition is titanium dioxide. (Mmm, like licking a lifeguard’s nose.)
Frankly, these Holiday Edition ones are downright ugly. They look like leftover nubs of erasers. The colors are dull but not muted enough to look like it’s on purpose. (And of course I can tell which ones are red by the bitter aftertaste that I get from Red 40.)
The other funky thing about these is the package design. I actually liked the blue and plain clip art style snowman. But I was extremely irritated by the little “snowflake” type decorative elements. Why? Because they have eight points.
Instead Holiday Edition Sugar Babies boxes are decorated with asterisks. And you know what asterisks make me think of?
If you have a Sugar Babies lover in your life and want to give them a little treat, make it a fresh box of the classic ones. The only reason to buy these is because you love Kurt Vonnegut.
Monday, October 27, 2008
The Kisses join the large array of Limited Edition Kisses. The Fall themed ones this year are the return of the Candy Corn Kisses and the new Pumpkin Spice Kisses. These are the only milk chocolate Kisses in the bunch.
Caramel apples are kind of fun, and a rather simple idea. An apple, on a stick, dipped into caramel. This candy is like dipping an apple into caramel and then dipping that into chocolate. (Well, it’s actually more like flavoring some caramel with apple and injecting that into a Kiss shaped chocolate mold. The wholesomeness of the actual apple is completely missing here.)
As usual, Hershey’s has created an appealing package. The foils are swirls of orange and red with flags that say Caramel Apple on them.
Since I picked these up right at the factory, they were fresh and stored well. Each Kiss was glossy and firm, nicely molded.
They smell mostly of chocolate. The caramel innards are soft and flowing, more like a sauce than a chewy caramel. It’s smooth and has an apple peel flavor to it along with the caramel flavor. The authentic caramel notes of burnt sugar are absolutely missing as is the butter flavor.
It’s pleasant though, but throat-searingly sweet after two or three. I can say that I appreciate them, and it’s a nice flavor combo without tasting overly artificial but lacks any of the experience of a true Caramel Apple.
Not the nicest looking list of ingredients, the chocolate wasn’t stellar and the combination of flavors was still way too sweet. I give them a 5 out of 10. (Kosher)
Bullseyes are a bit harder to find on the West Coast, but I ran across lots in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
As is often the case with Goetze’s, this is a repack of the individually wrapped product under the Giant Eagle “Candy Place” label. But they were also only a dollar, so I can’t complain about the house branding.
They’re rather odd looking, but only because I’m used to the mellow caramel color and the shocking white center.
Here it’s the same caramel donut shape with a filling of intense red. For some reason these are a little greasier on the surface than other Bullseyes that I get, but they were also soft, so maybe that’s a side effect of freshness.
They smell more like Green Apple Jolly Ranchers than caramel and sugar.
I didn’t know what to expect, so I what I got was a shock. The cream center is tart. It’s like a cream paste of apple SweeTarts. It’s soft and tangy and does have a nice artificial apple flavor. In a way this is more “authentic” to the experience of combining an actual apple with caramel. Apples are tangy. But here it’s a very tangy apple, soft and cool on the tongue.
I’ve eaten quite a few of them now and I’m still debating whether I enjoy them or not. The stick-to-your-ribs, cookie-dough-like caramel is satisfying and filling, but the chemical aftertaste of the apple cream center is very odd and it just makes me want a regular Bullseye (and the bitter aftertaste from the Red 40 coloring is never pleasant for me, but your mileage may vary).
I give them a 5 out of 10 as well. This may be my overall feeling about real caramel apples as well.
Friday, October 10, 2008
While I’m probably painted as something of an anti-mockolate crusader, I don’t hate all quasi-chocolate products. Things like Andes Mints and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chew are pretty good even though they’re not quite real chocolate candies.
So I thought I’d give the Andes Fall Harvet limited edition mix a try.
It includes three flavors: toffee, orange and cocoa. Each little plank of candy is individually wrapped and comes in a nicely designed bag with orange leaf outlines all over it. Instead of the usual Andes logo on each piece of candy, these have three random embossed harvest themed designs.
The ingredients aren’t promising: Sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (palm kernel & palm), nonfat milk, cocoa, lactose, milk protein concentrate, cocoa processed wtih alkalai, corn syrup solids, soy lecithin, salt, baking soda, molasses, orange oil, natural and artificial flavors, artificial colors (yellow 5 & 6).
This piece is the only one of the set that’s not layered like Andes Mints. Instead it’s a milk chocolatey confection with toffee bits mixed in.
The toffee bits are very crisp and crunchy and remind me more of a brittle (which is often a bit foamy but not quite a honeycomb or sponge candy). The crunches are a little salty as well. The mockolate confection is very sweet but doesn’t have much cocoa flavor to it. A little on the waxy side at room temperature, it does okay texture-wise in the mouth.
It smells like orange confection, kind of like a cheap version of Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
It’s quite sweet and a little grainy on the tongue (kind of like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange). The orange essence is quite pronounced with a strong zest and slight bitterness to it. To balance that there’s plenty of sugar. But don’t expect any dash of chocolate flavor in there. It might be a cocoa colored confection on the top and bottom, but the orange flavor goes straight through.
It’s the same light colored mockolate confection as the other two, this time with a darker mockolate sandwiched in the middle.
It’s a little saltier than the orange one, which helps. It does taste a bit like hot cocoa, but also a little like cardboard and Tootsie Rolls.
Four pieces provided 50% of my daily intake of saturated fat ... and not even a good one like cocoa butter.
I think I’ll stick with the original from now on.
Friday, October 3, 2008
One of the classic and more distinctive products that See’s makes is their line of Lollypops. They’re made with cream and are more like a hard caramel than a normal boiled sugar hard candy pop.
The regular flavors shift around but right now they sell: Butterscotch, Chocolate, Vanilla and Caf? Latt?. I like all of them except for the chocolate. It tends to be grainier and if I have the option of actual chocolate right there at See’s, well that’s what I’m going to go for. But the one thing the pops have going for them is that they’re so darn durable. Summer-safe, creamy candy is pretty hard to find.
Every once in a while they bring out new flavors. This fall they have a limited edition Pumpkin Spice Lollypops that should be available until Thanksgiving.
The ingredients are pretty simple: corn syrup, cream, sugar, natural and artificial flavors, butter and yellow #5. I don’t know why they have to put artificial colors in there, but I guess I’m guessing that they’d look fine without it, maybe they don’t.
The packages are a little box that holds a bag of eight pops. Not a bad price either at only $4.80 for the set (60 cents each). Each paper stick pop is wrapped in orange mylar
See’s pops are big blocks. Kind of chunky and perhaps a little big for easy-to-eat suckers. (Sometimes I pull them off the stick and eat them as hard candies.)
These are rather light in color and don’t smell like much other than maybe caramel.
They’re very smooth and melt slowly. Extremely creamy and not overly sweet they’re also a bit bland.
I had the first one and thought maybe it was that my allergies were acting up and I couldn’t taste any of these pumpkin spices, so I waited a few days and checked my sinuses and had another. They sweet and creamy and taste a bit like creme brulee ... but I’m not getting any actual spices I associate with pumpkin custard like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or ginger.
I wouldn’t call them bad, just nothing like the name would imply.
As a side note, earlier this summer they had a limited edition Root Beer. I got a hold of this while shopping with Sera of The Candy Enthusiast in July. She bought a whole package (the limited edition flavors are not sold individually like the classic ones are) and graciously shared two with me.
I loved them and went back in August to pick up a whole package for myself and was told they were all gone.
These pops were a wonderful mix of creamy smoothness, light sweetness and the spicy bite of root beer. It was kind of like a root beer float, but warmer. Root beer floats often suffer from tasting watered down when the ice cream mixes with the root beer, instead this had all the creaminess of ice cream and the intense flavor of root beer mixed together.
They’ll have Cinnamon Lollypops for Christmas. Each pop is 70 calories and they’re Kosher.
Friday, September 5, 2008
This fall marks the return of the Candy Corn Kiss as well as two new harvest-themed versions: Pumpkin Spice Kisses and Caramel Apple Kisses.
I tracked down the Pumpkin Spice ones at Target. (They weren’t in with the regular candy, just at the check out aisle candy display.)
The package is Halloween-themed, with brown and orange webby pattern (which kind of reminds me of cantaloupes) and a taunting Jack-O-Lantern.
The package offers no description of the product and neither does the Hershey’s website. All I could figure out from looking at the wrapper was that these were some sort of orange-colored white-chocolate-like-confection (there might be cocoa butter in there, there might not, the ingredients are rather coy about it) filled with a cream that’s probably flavored like pumpkin pie.
The little foil wrappings are bronzy orange with wavy little brown stripes. The flags are brown and say pumpkin spice though many are greasy and look a bit more translucent.
The bag smells appealing, like ginger snaps or snickerdoodles. Sugary and spicy and everything nice-y.
It was warm for a few days so I tucked these away in one of my coolers. When I took the photos they were very soft, but even at temps in the high sixties or low seventies, they’re still mushy.
The orange confection outside has a bit of a greasy sheen to it, but otherwise is a nice pumpkin custard color. I bit a few in half (ended up cutting them for the photo) just to see what was inside, it’s a soft cream not unlike the New York Cheesecake flavored ones back around Valentine’s Day.
The taste, though sweet, has a great harvest spice flavor - it’s mostly nutmeg with a little cinnamon and perhaps ginger or allspice and maybe a hint of clove.
I really thought these were going to be terrible, especially since I didn’t like the fake butter flavor of the Candy Corn Kisses, but they’re pleasant. Not too sweet, a little bit of a custardy tang and though kind of grainy they remind me of a decadent flavored fudge. Or a very sweet cheesecake.
I don’t think they’re something I’d buy again, even if they were seasonal, but I certainly enjoy a little spice in my life now and then. Sera at The Candy Enthusiast found them at the same time as I did and has a review today as well. She’s a bit more fond of them than I am, but I’ll chalk that up to her obsession with all things pumpkin. Other early reviews are also positive: Franklin Avenue, Megan’s Munchies and keep an eye on the Kiss Candy Spotting thread in the Candy Forums.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Since we now have officially nominated presidential candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties, I thought it was time for another election-themed candy review.
These are from Moonstruck Chocolate Co. in Portland, Oregon. They’re called the Election Collection composed of two truffle shapes, in the shape of an Elephant, the mascot of the Republicans and in the shape of a Donkey, the mascot of the Democrats.
I picked these up at Chocolate Maya in Santa Barbara over the weekend. They weren’t cheap, I paid $3.50 each. On the Moonstruck website they’re going for $15 for a set of four. This is how they describe them:
(Honestly, I didn’t know they were different until after I bit into them ... cuz I didn’t get any literature with them and just assumed that political truffles, like Americans, were all the same on the inside.)
The shell is a white confection, perhaps white chocolate, colored a pale gray. The detail is quite nice (though mine was missing an eye ... or maybe it was closed and winking at me).
I was curious what was inside his ears (LA Burdick does little mice that have almond slices for ears), so I snapped one off. Inside is a piece of chocolate.
The inside of the Republican is pure darkness. The truffle ganache is a frothy but melt-in-your-mouth-good bittersweetness. What surprised me most after that first bite shown was what was inside the elephant’s head. I expected truffle all the way through, instead he has a white chocolate ganache brain. While I think it’s a cute idea and perhaps a wry political comment (I won’t go into all possible interpretations) I found it watered down the chocolate punch of the body.
This filling is sweeter, it’s a milk chocolate cream with crushed almonds and a little spice of cinnamon. It’s not quite a gianduia type nut and chocolate confections, more like an almond butter mixed with milk chocolate. Smooth, but slightly textured. At first it was a little coconutty to me, but that could have been the gray confection shell or just the way the milky chocolate reacted wtih the almonds. As a sweeter confection overall, I wasn’t as thrilled with it as the elephant’s dark ganache, but the donkey had nothing in his head but the milk ganache, so at least he was consistent.
The pieces are quite nice to look at and good quality and distinctive flavors. I would have preferred that they were both just bittersweet through and through (and perhaps a real dark chocolate shell under the gray coating). It’s nice that they’re more than a novelty item; they have as much substance as style ... how often does that happen in partisan politics?
Monday, August 4, 2008
Sometimes I let me curiosity get the better of me. And in the case of Limited Edition Junior Fruit Cremes, it wasn’t that exhilarating sense of discovery that made me do it. It was because I’d already seen a bunch of reviews and was pretty convinced that they were bad.
But sometimes I have to find out how bad they are for myself (call it the curiosity of Schrodinger’s cat). Here are a few highlights of what I knew I was in for:
Joann at Sugar Hi: All I could taste was sweet. The raspberry was also sickeningly sweet and reminded me of those candy coated marshmallow Easter eggs that are always leftover on the store shelves weeks after Easter.
AV Club: A.V. Club testers back at the office were pretty dubious about Junior Fruit Cremes, praising their initial tart burst of juicy fruit taste, but not so much the way the flavor quickly passed, leaving us all with waxy mouthfuls of the outer coating.
Sera at The Candy Enthusiast: I couldn’t finish the recommended serving of these since I they were burning out my esophagus with the sugar hit. I am not kidding, my throat just *burns* for all the sugar in this.
Patti at Candy Yum Yum: On the package, the drawings of the cremes look all bright and shiny and oozy in the center. In reality, they’re grayish, and the centers are dry, like a thin mint patty. I can’t even describe the taste. Gross, like a bad grammar school fruit dessert.
At first glance they look a lot like the Pastel Junior Mints that were out around Easter. It’s some sort of white confection (well, pastel colored in this case) that looks like melted crayons but is probably supposed to remind us of real white chocolate. They’re nicely domed and have little belly buttons on the underside like regular Junor Mints.
The smell, well, even if I wasn’t getting over a bout of food poisoning (and I wasn’t when I took the pictures and had a similar reaction), I found the too sweet and fake fruity scent repulsive. It smells more like cheap air freshener than something to eat. And let’s face it, that’s odd for me because orange blossom is one of my favorite ice cream flavors.
The box has three flavors: Black Cherry (the darkest pink), Orange and Raspberry (light pink). They don’t smell any different from each other.
The candy shell is soft and waxy. It melts slowly and reveals a fondant center with a bit more of a flavor pop and some sort of super sweet center. When I say super sweet, I mean that it exhibits extraordinary characteristics not known in nature. It’s as if Tootsie has taken over a particle accelerator and has somehow found a way to use supercolliders to violate the laws of two objects existing in the same space. There’s twice as much sugar in here as was formerly possible in confectionery to this point.
But of course in order to contain this physical impossibility they’ve contained the super dense fondant in some sort of subspace warp field with an oscillating polarity and improbability drive to power it (that’s housed in the little belly button area). I think the base material was a pile of used crayons found behind on of those restaurants that has the paper on the tables & little cups of generic crayons.
The density of it shocks my teeth, and perhaps creates some sort of electrical field or radiation or something because it makes me woozy and gives the bones in my lower jaw a deep ache.
I fear for the scientists creating these, the texture of the candies was inconsistent. The orange ones had a rather soft center, the cherry ones a sort of crumbly one (apparently the firmness effects the glucose delivery via the wormhole or whatever and it wasn’t as painful). Raspberry was the mildest of the three, which isn’t really a recommendation.
I’m all for investigating the cosmos and believe that many problems can be solved through innovation, but these incredible scientific feats are being used for evil. Pure evil.
They must be destroyed.
And the way to destroy a limited edition candy is to look away. Yes, that’s right, don’t buy it, don’t even pick it up and handle it at the store. Just walk away ... keep going. The fate of the universe depends on you. Don’t try to save me, I’m already infected. Save yourself!
I couldn’t give it a rating of 1 for inedible, as I have to applaud the scientific breakthrough of super-density sweetness.
(Special note, these have no candy category. I have 30 or so “candy type” categories like chocolate or mint or chew and these don’t fit into any of them! They simply cannot exist.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.