Tuesday, February 7, 2012
The new Valentine’s version of Peeps has a little decadence going for it. The Peeps Strawberry Creme dipped in Dark Chocolate come individually cradled in a tray, each just lightly dipped in dark chocolate, like a fresh strawberry.
The package is a bit small, each weighs only a half an ounce, so the whole package is 1.5 ounces and are priced around $2.00 if you can find them. However, if you’re watching your calories but still want a treat, it’s an appealing choice since the whole package has only 170 calories (or 57 calories each). Far less calorie-laden than a box of truffles.
I had my doubts about these. They are a rather unnatural shade of red. Well, I’ve seen camellias this color, but I’ve never felt the desire to eat them.
However, they smell quite appetizing; like strawberry shortcake, a sweet scent with a light creamy note to it. The dark chocolate dipped foot sets off the color well, but doesn’t smell of chocolate on its own.
The semi-sweet chocolate, when bitten so that its on the tongue, is quite strong and rich. It’s woodsy enough to stand up to the rather artificial notes of the strawberry. The big problem comes with the marshmallow’s grainy sugar coat. It’s sweet, I expected that, but the artificial colors have a very noticeable aftertaste for me that’s far too bitter to be outshone by the interior.
The center is also lightly and unnecessarily colored. (Regular colored Peeps are always uncolored in the center.) The marshmallow center is sweet and rather like a very mild strawberry ice cream.
If the artificial colors don’t bother you, these are actually a very good combination of chocolate and flavored marshmallow. I prefer this style to the completely coated version that Peeps are also coming in lately (those marshmallows are too moist and lack the visual appeal that the true Peep shape provides).
Friday, December 9, 2011
The best known American marshmallows are Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows which are big, airy cylinders of fluffed sugar and gelatin. Lately there’s been a movement in the United States for more artisan marshmallows, flavored and in different shapes and often with less chalky corn starch on the outside. In other countries marshmallows are usually flavored (France and Japan have wonderful marshmallow offerings that are rather grown up, while the United Kingdom and Netherlands still have a large selection geared towards kids).
Kraft’s Jet-Puffed brand has a large selection lately that go beyond the unflavored white version. I picked up all that I could find over the past month for comparison and review.
I’m often conflicted about whether Marshmallows are candy. Part of the confusion might be the fact that the most popular marshmallow brands in the United States are not sold in the candy and snack aisle but in the baking section. They’re used to make Rice Krispie Treats and S’mores, but I rarely see people just eating them.
The marshmallows are simple and cheap. I picked up most of the bags in this review for only a dollar - this bag was 10 ounces and nearly the size of an airplane pillow ... a lot of candy for a buck.
Jet-Puffed are large, they’re about an inch and a third tall and about an inch in diameter. Each is about 7.5 grams (about a quarter of an ounce). Marshmallows are pretty low in calories, as there’s no fat in them - they’re just sugar with a little protein (gelatin) to keep them fluffy. Only 100 calories per serving of 4 (one ounce).
They’re chalky on the outside, coated with a light powdering of corn starch to keep them from sticking. They’re puffed, pliable but still firm. They’re a little latexy, like memory foam - squish it and it bounces back eventually.
The flavor isn’t quite vanilla and not a strong as pure sugar. They’re, well, marshmallows. Not much to write home about and not a candy I’d eat on its own. They toast up very well, with more of the burnt sugar flavors. The large size means that the center of mine usually cool while the outside is crunchy and the mantle is molten.
They’re very soft and moist when fresh, but I don’t mind a slightly stale marshmallow either. They get a little stiff and chewy on the outside, providing a little more textural interest.
What started this whole marshmallow episode was this bag of Jet-Puffed SnowmanMallows I spotted at Target. They’re French Vanilla flavored, which sounded good, like a custardy version of the traditional American marshmallow.
They’re called mini-marshmallows on the bag, but they’re actually about the size of two of the standard mini-marshmallows.
I prefer the format of the little one inch tall and half inch wide Man. He toasted up well, the smaller size meant that the center became molten as the outside crisped. Of course it was ridiculously easy to catch him on fire.
They’re pink and remind me of the French guimauve, which often come in long ropes. The color is soft and pleasant. The scent is like Frankenberry Cereal. The flavor is a mild, floral and artificial strawberry. It was like a very watered down Strawberry Quik.
I toasted it hoping it would taste like cotton candy, but it just tasted like hot Strawberry Quik. Like many of the candies that I eat with Red #40 food coloring, I taste a weird, metallic bitterness towards the end and for a few minutes after.
This was the first variety that struck me as seasonal, obviously, but also the first one that I felt like achieved its goals of being an actual good candy. I recognize that not everyone likes gingerbread, so a gingerbread flavored marshmallow will not be as popular as strawberry or vanilla.
They’re shaped like little men. The get squeeze and deformed in the bag, so their little arms point in different directions. They’re about an inch and a quarter tall and about a half an inch thick and an inch from fingertip to fingertip.
They smell rich and spicy. And they taste that way too. If you’re fond of the gingerbread spices: ginger, cinnamon, clove and pepper, you will probably dig these. The overriding flavor is actually ginger but there’s a little cinnamon and pepper warmth to them. It doesn’t taste artificial at all - just like a spicy marshmallow. It’s absolutely like eating a foamy cookie.
I tried toasting them and liked the result, but prefer the soft and foamy texture of them at room temperature.
This bag was slightly smaller, for some reason, with only 8 ounces in it. The mallows were also smaller, which was fine with me as I like to pop a whole one in my mouth. (The back of the package actually has a warning that says to eat only one at a time and supervise children plus cut them up for smaller children.)
They’re cute as foamy sugar buttons. They smell good, not that different from the Gingerbread, but definitely on the sugar and cinnamon side of things.
The flavor is like cinnamon the spice, not the hard candy. The corn starch coating kind of pushes that along with the slight chalky texture before it dissolves away. It doesn’t taste overtly artificial, but it’s also not as fun and nuanced as the Gingerbread. I expect they’d go great in hot chocolate. Toasted they were quite nice, but tasted much more sweet when hot.
The Kraft Jet-Puffed Chocolate Royale was a problematic flavor. First, it’s a chocolate flavored marshmallow. There is no actual cocoa, let alone chocolate in there. The scent is ghastly. It was like wet cardboard. It was so bad that after I took a picture of the package and opened them, I had to sequester them.
The problem is that I don’t remember where I put them (I admit the Candy Blog Studios are pretty messy right now) but I can still smell them even though I stuffed them inside another bag first.
Overall, I’m inclined towards the generic American marshmallow and enjoyed the different flavors. I prefer the corn starch coating to the sugar sanding of Peeps. They’re a great candy to share and versatile to keep on hand as an ingredient. If you’re watching your calories, they’re very low stress - I can’t eat that many because their airy texture makes me feel full very quickly. But they’re also all sugar and the texture can be bland (but that’s why folks invented Rice Krispie Treats, Rocky Road and S’mores).
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The Meiji Creamy Marshmallow Chocolate has been around for a while in Japan, though it’s not easy to find in stores in the United States. I happened upon a display of them in Little Tokyo and got the last one on the shelf.
The first thing I have to ask about this bar is why we don’t have anything like this in the United States?
The bar is very simple, a single serving of milk chocolate in bar format with mini marshmallows dotted throughout. In North America we have plenty of options for chocolate covered single marshmallows (Rocky Road, various seasonal novelties) but nothing with this specific ratio.
The bar is nicely boxes, like many of Meiji’s other candy products. Inside the sturdy paperboard box is a mylar pouch with the bar in it. Mine was in excellent condition - no scuffs, not even broken.
The bar is thicker than the standard Meiji Milk Chocolate bar, and has lightly defined sections.
The bar has varying amounts of the little marshmallows in it. Around the edges, it was hard to find marshmallows, but deeper into the bar, they were quite dense. The marshmallows are small, about the size of a pencil eraser or a green pea.
The chocolate is not quite the same formula as the classic Milk Chocolate Meiji bar, which is too bad, because I really enjoy that bar. This bar is technically not even chocolate, as it contains some other vegetable oils in addition to cocoa butter, such as sunflower, shea nut and illpe butter. This gives the chocolate a smooth melt, but a very cool feeling on the tongue. The flavors are dominated by a dried milk dairy taste. The marshmallows are soft and bouncy, a little tacky and chewy around the edges of the bar.
My disappointment with the bar is with the chocolate itself. I was fully expecting the deep, smoky Meiji Milk Chocolate that I’ve tried before. What I got was a little less than that, and when paying the full import prices, it’s a little steep. Next time I’ll just get the milk chocolate bar and some other marshmallows and do the rest myself.
Still, there’s something to be learned here .... there’s a product out there that our confectionery giants are neglecting. (Though it could also use some little salty pretzel bits to complete it.)
Monday, October 10, 2011
Russell Stover has epitomized Americana for as long as I can remember. They’re a safe and unassuming brand. Their boxed chocolates are dependably sweet and bland but have a nice flair for dependable and fresh holiday themed chocolate novelties.
I was a little surprised when I saw these new Russell Stover Day of the Dead Skeletons at the drug store.
They have two varieties, one chocolate covered caramel and one chocolate covered marshmallow - but what’s interesting about them is the South of the Border design on the package (bilingual as well).
I’ll start with the Russell Stover Caramel Covered in Milk Chocolate (Caramelo Cubierto en el Chocolate con Leche).
They’re large skeleton shaped caramel planks covered in milk chocolate, the package features a brightly clad skeleton. There are at least three different designs per confection. For the Caramel I chose this lady skeleton wearing a red blouse with poofy sleeves, a green full skirt, a yellow yat with dingleberries and holding maracas. It’s quite a sight, especially when designed with bright flat colors and accents of purple, orange and silver foil.
The pieces are large, about twice the size as the regular Pumpkin products they make. The Caramel was 2.5 ounces and about 4.5 inches long.
The design of the actual candy is not quite as impressive as the package. In fact, once I pulled it out of the wrapper, you could have easily convinced me this was a Halloween Saguaro Cactus. But shape aside, it’s a really lovely piece of candy. The chocolate is nicely tempered, it’s shiny and had very few scuffs and no leaks. The ripples were also nice to look at and gave a feeling that this was a piece of candy made by people.
The caramel is soft, but not runny. The bite is easy and the caramel has a good pull but not a lot of chew to it. It’s smooth and has a lot of toffee notes and very little grain. The milk chocolate is sweet and has a lot of dairy notes though not much going on other than that.
It’s a lot of candy - I couldn’t eat more than a third in one sitting, so it’s not an easy piece to have a little and then put it away.
It’s not an innovative piece, they make a similar product for Easter, but it’s fresh and I really loved the package.
The Russell Stover Marshmallow Covered in Milk Chocolate (Malvavisco Cubierto en el Chocolate con Leche) has an equally vibrant package design. I chose a skeleton wearing a sombrero and bright poncho beating on a magenta and yellow drum.
This piece is only 2.25 ounces, missing a quarter of an ounce because the marshmallow is so fluffy, but probably about 50% thicker than the Caramel version.
The shape is similarly blocky and poorly defined, but still has glossy rippled milk chocolate enrobing.
The Russell Stover marshmallow is always moist and smooth, fluffy but not too foamy. It doesn’t have much flavor, no honey notes but a good vanilla extract finish. It’s a clean tasting candy - everything tastes real - real sugar, real milk, real vanilla. It’s comforting and homey.
The Day of the Dead celebrations of Mexico are vibrant, social and life-affirming. It’s fun to see a confection here in the United States that feels like it’s appealing to those who want to join in the celebration without feeling like it’s exclusionary or pandering. I don’t know if these are going to be sold everywhere, I picked them up in the Echo Park neighborhood RiteAid, one of the denser areas of Mexican-Americans in the country and over 6 million people of Mexican descent in the Southern California metropolitan counties. Next, I’d like to see the inclusion of some real Mexican confectionery traditions.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Russell Stover makes a good selection of classic candies. It’s a step above mass-manufactured candy bars, but not quite to the level of fine chocolates. Their strongest area is in holiday specialty candies and they’re probably best known for their Easter Eggs. For the rest of the year folks just have to wait for them to come back or buy one of their sub-par boxes of chocolates.
Lately Russell Stover has come out with some of their favorites in individually wrapped pieces in bags. I picked up this bag of Russel Stover Marshmallow & Caramel in Fine Milk Chocolate at the drug store. Russell Stover already makes this candy in fun shapes for the holidays, like Hearts for Valentines Day, Eggs for Easter, Pumpkins for Halloween and probably something like a Tree or Santa for Christmas (I can’t seem to find that one).
Each piece is individually wrapped and a little larger than I think you’d expect for a candy in a box of chocolates. They’re just a bit shy of a half an ounce (.494 to be exact) and clock in at about 57 calories - so two of these makes a pleasant snack at a rather low caloric density for a chocolate product. They’re quite attractive too, with nicely rippled and thick milk chocolate. The packaging protected them well, with no scuffs or cracks.
Most of the pieces were about 1.75 inches long and 1 inch across. They’re not as thick as I would have hoped, I kind of wanted a lofty marshmallow center like the See’s Scotchmallow. Each piece is about two bites. The marshmallow is soft and latexy, spongy and only slightly sweet. There’s a vague cinnamon and cereal flavor to the whole thing. The caramel is sweet and has a little chew to it. The chocolate coating is sweet, milky and a little sticky in the melt but overall of good enough quality to hold up to the other flavors.
The whole effect was a very sweet product with distinct textures and some slight differences in flavors. The caramel didn’t have much of the smoky, burnt sugar flavors which is too bad because that really could have pulled it together. As a small indulgence, it meets some very basic needs. I think it would probably be more fun to pop this into a microwave and then between a couple of graham crackers for a caramel infused S’more.
For folks who miss the holiday version of these, now you can have it year round. I might prefer the Valentine’s or Halloween version because it has less chocolate and more marshmallow but go with whatever suits your needs.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Trader Joe’s has some great summertime themed candies in their tubbed goodies. The Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Smashing S’Mores with graham cracker and marshmallow have been around for at least a year. I looked for them a few times and couldn’t find them and assumed that they were another one of those transient Trader Joe’s products. On my visit over Independence Day weekend though, there were stacks so I grabbed one immediately.
My tub held 12 Smashing S’mores and the label said that it was 7 ounces. (The nutrition panel said that a serving was 2 pieces and there were 8 servings in the package - I can understand there being one or so plus or minus in the average package, but I can’t understand how they could even cram 16 of these little S’mores into the tub at all.)
The ingredients are interesting. It’s real milk chocolate for the coating, the marshmallow uses Kosher gelatin (basically non-pork derived) and the graham cracker part is almost all organic (except for the vanilla and arrow root flour).
The little squares are about an inch to an inch and a half cubed.
The base is a rustic and thick graham cracker coated with a little milk chocolate then a square of marshmallow on top of that. The whole thing is then enrobed in milk chocolate with a decorative drizzle of dark chocolate.
The bite is soft, the marshmallow, which occupies most of the volume is soft, spongy and moist. It’s not that flavorful and not that sweet, so it offsets the other levels of sweetness well. The milk chocolate coating is creamy and better than average though very sweet on its own. The graham cracker was thick and more rough, like a digestive than the sort of grocery store graham cracker I’m accustomed to. The flavor was wheaty with a little touch of honey. The effect of all of it together is great, the pieces are not too big that an adventurous person couldn’t pop it all in their mouth at once, and the marshmallow grabs the chocolate well enough that it doesn’t all crumble apart when bitten in half.
The tub advises popping it into the microwave for 4 to 6 seconds for the traditional S’more treat. The effect of this is to create a completely gooey and soupy interior though the chocolate amazingly doesn’t melt completely. The thing I like best about toasted marshmallows is the toasted part. I could probably just eat the toasted outsides and leave the gooey stuff for someone else, so the microwave option doesn’t really do much for me, but I certainly can see others really digging it.
The big bonus here is that these are Kosher. It’s pretty rare to find Kosher marshmallows, and even harder to find Kosher marshmallow candy products.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Last week I reviewed the new Peeps Milk Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow. It’s a single Peep dipped partially in milk chocolate. Little did I realize that there were more in the family lurking at other nearby markets. (I went to RiteAid, Walgreen’s & CVS.)
Upon visiting Target over the weekend I found the other iterations of Chocolate Dipped Peeps. The first I’ll start with is the Peeps Dark Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow.
The package from Target holds only two Peeps and clocks in at an even one ounce and 110 calories. So it’s a very spare treat when it comes to calories but it looks quite decadent. The package is also $1.59, which I thought was more than steep for a mostly sugar candy. I’m sure they’re available on sale at some point, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try them.
The dark chocolate is sweet but has a potent bitter note as well with some basic cocoa flavors. The melt is smooth but with a dryness as well. Most of the time I ate around the edges, which meant that I was getting far more chocolate in the early bites in proportion to the marshmallow.
One of my pet peeves with Peeps is the eyes. Are they edible? Many times I find them in my mouth and think that there’s an errant piece of plastic in my candy. Lately I’ve taken to picking they eyes off before consuming. This also prevents Peeps peeking. It also leads to a pile of eyes.
At the end of my review of the plain Peeps I wished that they made a flavored version. (Really, the press release about these new products doesn’t actually mention this version.)
So, here we go, Just Born does make Peeps Milk Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow. Wow, that’s a big name. But it’s also a pretty big morsel of candy. I like the fact that the Peeps are un-conjoined. Up until this introduction, I don’t think they ever sold separated Peeps before. We can now admire them in 360 degrees.
The Chocolate Mousse Peeps are usually found in the shape of Bunnies or during other seasons, Reindeer. I was hoping the fact that they were chocolate would mean no artificial colors, but for some reason the ingredients say there’s Yellow #5 in there.
In case you couldn’t tell from the first photos, the Peeps are just dipped at the very bottom. Though it doesn’t look like much from the side, the bottom is quite a large surface area of chocolate.
The Peep itself tastes like weak hot chocolate, sweet and though the sugar crust is grainy, the marshmallow is smooth and creamy. The milk chocolate base is sweet as well and without much of a chocolate punch but still has a good melt.
Two of these was a good treat. They took a little while to eat and enjoy, so for an indulgence that’s a little lighter in calories, it’s a good choice.
At this point I’m pinning all of my hopes on the Peeps Dark Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow. It has several of the things I was looking for, a less sweet marshmallow and the dark chocolate.
I haven’t been fond of Peeps other chocolate covered versions, mostly because the marshmallow ends up becoming a gooey, syrup mess. Also, they were using artificial colors for the marshmallow centers, which didn’t make much sense to me at all - the sugar crusted Peeps are uncolored.
But based on the other versions of the dipped Peeps, we were off to a good start.
The dark chocolate is only slightly more intense than the milk chocolate variety, but is blessedly less sweet. This means that the sweetness level of the whole thing is brought down to a level where I could concentrate on the combination of textures instead of the throat-searing sugar. The chocolate melted quickly and with a light coolness. The dark flavors were even slightly bitter for a moment. The sugar crust gave a grainy crunch to the marshmallow, which was light and airy.
For the first time I feel like someone made Peeps that were actually meant to be eaten and not used for decoration or as a biodegradable toy. I can only applaud this effort by Just Born who seems to have had a few mis-steps in extending the Peeps brand over the past five years. (You can only do so much with novel colors and then there were the made in China Halloween version.) Here’s the thing though: A See’s Scotchmallow Egg is about the same price, ounce for ounce. Sure, it has caramel in it, and that’s hard to compete with. But there are lots of other excellent chocolate and marshmallow products out there, especially around Easter. I’m not going to kid myself that $1.59 is a great deal for cuteness ... though these definitely are the first and only Peeps I have actually eaten willingly. (All others were consumed with a sense of duty for the blog.)
I still might not buy these for myself, but I can recommend them and I like the direction this trend is going in.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Last year Just Born launched Chocolate Covered Peeps. It was a natural evolution, as Peeps were already made in a variety of shapes and colors and even flavors. But the one thing lacking in that new product was an essential part of the Peeps experience: the sugar crust.
This year we have another new version, Peeps Milk Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A single Peep partially dipped in milk chocolate. They’re packaged in a tray of three, similar to the way the Sugar Free Peeps are sold. They come at a premium price, I paid $1.99 for my 1.5 ounces of new newness.
Each Peep is about a half an ounce. They’re fully formed, not formerly conjoined like the row of Peeps that usually come in a tray. They have a squat and wide base and just the very bottom of the base has a light coating of sweet milk chocolate.
They’re well protected by the overpackaging of the deep plastic tray. They’re also very fresh, though I prefer mine a little tacky and chewy. (I didn’t wait for some to get stale to post this review.)
The chocolate sticks well to the marshmallow, so even though it crunches when bitten, it doesn’t flake off easily. The flavor is quite milky and sweet and it’s passably smooth. The grain of the sugar crust would probably ruin any appreciation of a silky smooth chocolate anyway. The marshmallow is soft and chewy and relatively flavorless aside from the sweetness. They were probably some of the best Peeps I’ve ever had though I don’t care much for them ordinarily.
The proportion of chocolate to marshmallow was pretty good. Most of all I wanted something to cut the sweetness of the sugar crust and though the milk chocolate did a bit, it really wasn’t enough to warrant me buying these again.
I would love to try them with a really good dark chocolate dip. And I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing them in different flavors either. (Peppermint and dark chocolate? Especially if it wasn’t colored.)
UPDATE 3/28/2011: Oh, yes, they do make Dark Chocolate ones and Milk & Dark Dipped Mousse!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.