Monday, September 27, 2010
Most of what I love about Halloween is the tradition. But sometimes I do like to see a bit of novelty thrown into the mix. Earlier this year I saw that Whitman’s, makers of the famous Whitman’s Sampler boxed candies, started making holiday novelty candies. Their first entry for Easter was a series of pastel confection coated marshmallows. Their entry for Halloween is similar, a candy corn shaped Marshmallow covered in Halloween Pastelle.
The candies are sold individually wrapped, I found mine at RiteAid but I also saw them at Walgreen’s. Each piece is an ounce and comes in a simple cellophane sleeve with a decorative Halloween black & orange border. At fifty cents each it wasn’t hard to take a gamble on them.
The construction is simple. It’s a rounded triangle of soft, almost gooey marshmallow covered in a white confection. The coating is orange and yellow and frosted in the form of a piece of candy corn. Of course it’s missing a whole stripe, which was a bit disappointing. But the shades and ratios of the colors that they do have are dead on good mimics.
This is pure sugar with scant other ingredients to break up the sweetness. The “pastelle” coating has a good snap like a white chocolate but no other flavor - no milky notes, no vanilla. It’s smooth enough though that it creates a bit of a creamy container for the marshmallow. Since this was exceptionally fresh the marshmallow was moist and fluffy, though also a bit sticky. It melts into a fluffed cream instead of a latexy marshmallow. It’s less sweet than the coating, but on it’s own it’s still throat searing.
It’s cute to look at and of course quite economical as far as Halloween-themed edible decorations go. While I found the Easter ones a little off-putting because part of me wanted them to be flavored, this one actually reminded me a little of candy corn. Not enough to make me buy it again.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality. Back in the early days of commercial cultivation in the eighteenth century they were extremely expensive, so when a host provided pineapple as part of a meal, guests were honored. Eventually the images of pineapples were also used in decorating, probably because of the tastiness of the fruit as well as the fun shape and symmetry. I mention this because of the charming image on the Hello Kitty Tropical Pineapple Marshmallow is of the white cat holding a pineapple, dressed in a sharp polka dotted blue dress and sporting a blue hibiscus flower at her ear.
Japan does marvelous things with marshmallow, I feel like they’re an extension of their gummi culture (after all, most of the ingredients are the same). Part of it, I think, is that marshmallows are formulated & marketed for people of all ages. Hello Kitty is obviously aimed at tweens and folks who are young at heart. But other varieties of marshmallows go for anime fans and there are even “beauty marshmallows” in Japan that purport to have rejuvenating collagen in them.
The marshmallows are light and about 1.25 inches around. They have little pinch points on the ends so they remind me of little sausages of balloons. The outside is soft and lightly powdery (corn starch).
The smell sweet and lightly floral, like a ripe pineapple in the store. The marshmallow texture is soft and latexy with a light bounce.
Biting into them I know that the center was going to have a little jelly reservoir. It was still surprising and ultimately nice. The marshmallow itself is sweet and has that pineapple floral thing going on, but the jam center definitely gave it some pop. The goo was a bit like the pineapple sauce on an ice cream sundae. It was sweet and tangy and had little bits of real pineapple in it.
After popping a few of them, I wondered what they were like toasted.
The aroma was amazing, I like toasted marshmallows, but this had an added flowery note that really smelled delicious. The outside toasted well, though the jam center didn’t get quite as molten gooey as I hoped. The toasting seemed to make it all a bit sweeter than it was at room temperature. They might make an excellent addition to a S’more - though the Strawberry version is probably a bit better flavor-wise.
As far as marshmallows go, I prefer them either covered in chocolate and used as an element in a larger candy (Scotchmallows) but my second choice is flavored. The jam center gives some texture variation and reminds me of a Westernized mochi. For someone who’s watching their weight or wants to give a small treat to a kid, marshmallows fit the bill - they’re low in calories plus there’s a lot of air in there. So you could eat the whole bag and it’s only 300 calories. (The other plus is there are no artificial colors in this version - though they do use artificial flavors but mostly real pineapple.) The whole Hello Kitty thing is really just about the packaging, but in this case I think the choice of licensing was at least with a quality product. I picked these up at a market in Little Tokyo, but I’ve seen the Strawberry ones at Cost Plus World Market.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
South Africa Marshmallow Footballers are made by a company called Sweet Cred based in the United Kingdom, which sounds more like an casual clothing company than someone who makes confections. They specialize in gummies, sour ropes and marshmallows along with novelty shapes and holiday themes. The candies themselves are made in China.
Inside the package is a tray with eight little pockets to hold the Footballers. Yes, eight. Not eleven. Maybe it’s a metric conversion thing. You don’t get a whole team.
It’s only 88 grams (which means each candy is just 11 grams) but a huge package - about the footprint of a sheet of A4 paper.
The marshmallow figures are wearing the uniform colors of the South Africa national team. But that’s about as far as the resemblance goes. They’re mostly “peachy” looking guys, but a few are what I’d call “violet putty” color, certainly nothing like the real team. Did you look at the photo there? Yeah, none of them have green hair or huge, puffy noses.
As decorated marshmallow candies, there’s a lot more to them than just the ordinary sugar crusted Marshmallow Peep. These are frosted in several colors and then coated in a sugar crust. They’re a basic strawberry flavor as far as I can tell.
The marshmallow in the center is whatever color the footballer’s flesh is, but it’s all the same flavor after that. The hair, stripes, eyes, smiles and shoelaces are frosted after the sugar crust and are quite a bit more crunchy. The clothing is simply chewier than the marshmallow.
The texture is soft and latexy, it has a nice foamy chew to it but it’s very sweet, even when I took bites without the sugar crusting. Each piece feels like a lot of candy - it’s about three inches high and only a little over a third of an ounce. Kids will probably enjoy them, especially those fascinated with soccer (football).
The candy reminded me of so many other Chinese marshmallow candies I’ve had. It’s passable stuff and in the case of Sweet Cred, they’ve gone the extra mile and are sourcing beef gelatin, so these are Halal.
As with many of the novelty marshmallows I’ve had, I think they make better edible decorations than actual edible products. So for cupcakes or a cake or just a fun buffet in celebration of the World Cup, these would be great. They’re probably also great for giving to kids with vuvuzelas, if only to make them stop for the minute that it takes for them to gobble these.
These were sent to me by a wonderful reader (along with some other items I’ll get to reviewing, like premium nougat).
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
There’s a part of me that thinks that marshmallows aren’t candy at all. It’s probably because the traditional dusty marshmallow puffs are sold in the baking ingredient aisle in big bags instead of single serving packets.
But maybe I should rethink that; it appears that Campfire has. I spotted this little 1 ounce bag of Campfire Mini-Marshmallows at the CVS at the beginning of summer and thought it was a fun idea. Sure they’re far more expensive than the big bag a few aisle away. This was 50 cents for one ounce and the big one pound bag is about $2 - so maybe I’m a schmuck. (The same applies to plain chocolate bars and chocolate chips.)
While the bag only holds one ounce, it looks pretty bountiful. The packaging is just a miniature version of the large bag but does mention prominently that it’s a gluten free food. It also says “naturally fat free” and while that’s natural, some of the other ingredients aren’t, like the artificial flavor and tetrasodium pyrohosphate.
It’s a boy with a marshmallow head wearing a little backpack and yellow shorts. He’s waving and I guess that’s all okay. But he’s also wearing a navy blue tee with a flaming marshmallow on it. I suppose it’s like any other kid with a Metallica concert tour tee, but it’s a little skewed by the fact that we do actually consume fire roasted marshmallows more often than fire roasted human skulls. (If the research I did is true.)
There’s not much else to say except that these are teensy little marshmallows that I associate more with winter than summer. They’re the perfect kind to toss into a cup of hot chocolate. For roasting over a campfire, well, they’re too small however for a microwave version of S’mores they might do well. As an easy to eat treat they’re pleasant but that’s about it. Like most grocery store marshmallows, they have a powdery starch coating. They smell sweet and a little like plain vanilla (but not very complex like a good vanilla bean).
They’re squishy and a little fleshy and yield a good chewy bite. I prefer mine a little firmer, so I left the package open for a week or so until they were firm and dry. Since they’re so airy, an ounce feels like a lot and if they’re savored properly it’s a good diet candy since there’s less than a hundred calories in a bag. (With regular sized marshmallows it takes about 4 to equal one ounce.) If you need a quick marshmallow fix and a big bag of the giant ones is too much, well this is a good option. They’re probably fun to add to other snacks, like trail mix or popcorn at the movies.
Marshmallows are made with gelatin so are not appropriate for vegetarians. They say they’re gluten free but no other allergen status like nuts or dairy is mentioned on the package
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Girl Scout Handbook is the first recorded transcription of the recipe. For the uninitiated, S’mores are constructed like this: a fresh toasted marshmallow is mashed on top of a piece of milk chocolate between two graham crackers. Three great tastes are made better by their association.
I don’t consider S’mores themselves to be a candy, because they violate one of the primary rules of candy: it must be ready to eat and require no cooking or assembly.
The Russell Stover Giant S’mores Bar takes the assembly and toasting out of the equation.
I had to buy my bars online at the Russell Stover webstore because I couldn’t find them in any of the shops near me. At $1.49 it’s a bit more expensive than other candy bars, but it’s also unique so I figured it was worth it.
The bar looks exactly as it’s depicted on the wrapper. The 2.5” graham cracker squares sandwich a large square of milk chocolate covered marshmallow.
In all instances at least one of my graham crackers wasn’t quite stuck to my marshmallow, but reassembly was simple.
It was messy, biting into the corners was fine, but the deeper I got into the bar the more crumbling of the graham cracker and flaking of the chocolate I got. The marshmallow center was moist and fluffy, just like all the other chocolate marshmallow products from Russell Stover. The chocolate tasted milky and fresh. The graham cracker tasted like cereal and kept it all from being too sickly sweet.
In case you’re wondering, yes, you can microwave it. I put it in the microwave for 15 seconds, but took it out at 12 when the innards came oozing out. It makes a horrible gooey mess and the marshmallow deflates into a sticky latex bonding agent that gets dry and tacky. I lost a lot of it to the plate.
I’d say in the future I will just lay in a stockpile of whatever seasonal marshmallow product is around, like the Marshmallow Egg and then get my own graham crackers to make my own since these are so hard to find. It’s a great idea and pretty well executed with good quality ingredients.
The other item that prompted me to do my web order was the Russell Stover Dark Chocolate Mint Dream. They’ve been out for about a year, but I hadn’t seen them in stores. (I thought for sure they’d do an Easter version.)
The dark chocolate puck is a fluffy mint cream covered in dark chocolate.
It’s about the same size as the holiday Eggs, at 1.125 ounces it’s a nicely sized portion and rather economical on the calorie front with only 140 calories.
I bought three of them and all of them had cracks with innards leaking out. But still, they’re handsome and well proportioned at about two inches in diameter and about 1.25 inches high.
I feel a little bad reviewing these because of the cracking problem. I can’t say for sure what the filling is supposed to be, as I wasn’t sure if the leaking problem meant that the texture changed. The inside was similar in texture to the Raspberry Whip, but perhaps smoother. It’s almost a marshmallow, just as fluffy but the ingredients list no gelatin.
The mint is light and fresh, the center has a little salty note to it to even out the sugary sweetness. The dark chocolate isn’t terribly rich but it’s still creamy and not so sweet that it makes it all too cloying. It’s different from the fondant style of a Junior Mint, far fluffier and creamier. It’s enrobed instead of panned with a light glaze, so the chocolate melt is better. I would probably buy these again and would be willing to re-evaluate the breakage and seeping issue at that time.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
At a CVS in Hollywood last week I spotted an exceptionally odd Marshmallow Pop among the Easter candy. It was blue and kind of the flounder version of some sort of plush animal - the face was all on one side of the profile. I thought it was a manufacturing mistake - I took a photo of it and made fun of it on Twitter.
Then I was in another CVS, some 50 miles away over the weekend and found another display (pictured here), this time with a half a dozen of these same strange light blue marshmallow creatures. So of course I had to buy one. It was only a dollar.
It’s a large marshmallow pop. On top of a plastic stick is perched 2.46 ounces of powder blue, sugar sanded marshmallow with hand-decorated frosting features. The packaging is simple, a clear cellophane bag - the back has some imprinted nutrition facts and CVS house brand satisfaction guarantee. You can guess where this review is going.
He’s about 5 inches high, 4 inches wide and about 1 inch thick.
But what is he? My first impulse is that he’s a plush version of the Quiznos creatures called Spongmonkies (here’s a video, but turn down your speakers before clicking). But this guy’s teeth are too good, oh, and he’s not furry. My second thought is that it’s a dinosaur, especially because the dentition indicates a carnivorous creature - some sort of Tyrannosaurus rex perhaps. The anatomy isn’t quite right. Look at how big his front legs are - well, there’s also that part where he’s crossed one arm across his chest and the other one is dangling like the elbow is dislocated. (Maybe he’s fallen off his bike and is holding his boo-boo, crying and running home to his mama.)
Then there’s the legs ... is there a leg missing? Is that a tail or a foot that’s also dislocated and facing backwards.
Is this actually some sort of roadkill? Pre-flattened with broken and missing limbs?
Anyway, let’s move on to the actual performance of the product as an edible.
It smells like some sort of raspberry - like an array of body washes and scented creams from Bath and Body Works. It also reminds me of a medicated pet shampoo I used to use (on my dog).
The sugary grain on the outside is substantial, far greater than I would have expected (and messier). It’s not like the fine stuff on Peeps, this is sparkly and gritty sugar.
The flavor of the marshmallow is well rounded, much more like those strawberry gummi puffs than a marshmallow. The texture is latexy, chewy and bouncy. The raspberry is both floral and tangy, sweet but not cloying. The blue goes all the way through and there’s a hint of an aftertaste to go with it. About a half hour later I was wondering if I’d been eating air freshener and forgot. The frosting bits were hard, crunchy and disconcerting - I wasn’t sure if it was unglazed porcelain sometimes.
A few bites in and I thought I’d eaten a little bit of the packaging. Little soft plastic bits (but it was wrapped in cellophane and this was nothing like that). The chunks, as far as I could tell, were unmixed gelatin globs. Flavorless and a little gummy, but probably perfectly edible. But not acceptable.
The nutrition label says one serving is the entire pop. While that’s only 240 calories, there’s no way I could eat more than the three bites shown. I stopped because my curiosity was satisfied, not my craving for a sweet.
It’s not horrible, but it’s really, really bad. While I enjoy novelties that might not be very palatable, they’re usually fun to look at. This is just frightening. The marshmallows are made in China, and since this is a house brand at CVS, there’s really no way of knowing where or how it was manufactured. I tried a similar product a few years ago from Walgreen’s house brand, a Valentine’s Pink Marshmallow Pig.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:48 pm
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Whitman’s is now owned by Russell Stover’s, so it isn’t surprising that they might move into the single serving items and it makes more sense that if they did, it wouldn’t be with an item identical to a Russell Stover product. The new line seems to be all “Easter Pastelle” covered marshmallows.
The eggs were priced as I expected, regular price was 59 cents but on sale at two for a dollar at Walgreen’s where I found them (also spotted at RiteAid).
I found them in three colors: Green, Yellow and Magenta.
I also found that they were not flavored, which might have been fun. A raspberry flavored Easter Pastelle coating with a plain marshmallow would be an innovative piece of candy. A white confection on a marshmallow is, well, ordinary.
Each egg is one ounce. They’re approximately 2.5” long and 1” high. The Easter Pastelle is thin and not quite crisp. It smells like, well, an Easter basket. A fake vanilla and sugar scent.
The Pastelle coating is made of sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and milk products plus some food coloring.
The marshmallow is very soft and foamy, moist and sticky, not chewy and latexy like some. It’s all very, very sweet. In the case of the pink one shown above, I got a bitter metallic aftertaste from the pink Pastelle. The green was tastier in that it had fewer aftertastes to mess with the tastes.
The large orange carrot shaped marshmallow is covered in two different colors of Easter Pastelle, the orange body and a green carrot top. The whole thing weighs 1.75 ounces.It’s a little over 4” long, so it’s a hefty piece of fluffed sugar. This package has a little waxed card in it, I’m guessing this candy needed a little more support than the eggs. (It also helped to show off the product well in the package.
The flavor profile is similar to the Egg, except that the carrot is a little flatter, so there’s not quite as much marshmallow to Pastelle.
The marshmallow didn’t seem quite as moist either. But still, this is some intense sugar. I couldn’t eat more than two bites before I had to slip it back into its package.
These aren’t stellar, but they are different enough from what you can get in the drug store aisle from Russell Stover, RM Palmer, Hershey’s or Dove, so they have that going for them. Folks who like really high glycemic load (28 g total weight: 21g of carbs, 3g of fat) fluffed confectionery will probably go crazy for these. The carrot would make an amazing decoration on top of a carrot cake or a plate of Easter desserts.
I still think a bit of flavor thrown in would be interesting. Orange-flavored, Mint-flavored, Lemon-flavored coatings would really set this apart from the ordinary.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Peeps Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow is pretty much the biggest thing to happen to Peeps. Oh sure, they’ve dabbled with cocoa flavored Peeps or maybe put them inside a chocolate shell, but an actual chocolate dipped Peep made by Just Born is pretty revolutionary.
First thing, they’re singles and they’re individually wrapped. Other Peeps are sold in trays with more than one serving. So each one will be fresh and ready to eat. (This may or may not be a good thing, I’m not sure if Just Born is going to make Chocolate Covered Stale Peeps.)
I’m going to start with the dark chocolate covered version because that’s what I was attracted to first, but I also have the milk chocolate version. They’re nicely priced, I think the regular retail is about 80 cents, but I picked these up at RiteAid at two for a dollar.
The big thing about Peeps in their chick format (not the bunny format) is that they sit upright. A standard array comes in a conjoined row of five weighing 1.5 ounces. In this case a single Peep is covered in chocolate and sits on its side. They’re huge but well detailed for a chocolate enrobed item. (Think about how hard it is to get details on the blanket covering something that’s extruded in the first place.)
Each piece is one ounce and biting into it answers several questions I had:
First, it’s a yellow Peep in there. Unlike a standard Peep which is only colored on the outside sugar crust, this Peep has coloring all the way through the marshmallow. (Not really something I’m fond of, in fact, I prefer the Ghost Peeps for Halloween which have no artificial colorings.)
Second, there is no sugar crust. It’s just a skinless Peep covered in chocolate.
The dark chocolate coating isn’t a terribly complex chocolate or even that dark (there’s no percentage on the package). It has milk fat in it (but it’s not like we had any hopes that a chocolate covered marshmallow was going to be vegan, did we?). The shell is rather thin, perhaps a little thicker than I’m accustomed to with the Russell Stover versions.
The marshmallow texture is airy and far lighter and less latexy than I experience with Peeps. I can put my tongue through it in my mouth, kind of like a smooth sugary foam instead of a marshmallow.
It’s sweet of course but not grainy. The dark chocolate has a bittersweet and dry quality to it that helps round out the fake vanilla flavoring.
The Peeps Milk Chocolate Covered Marshmallow comes in a bright yellow wrapper (kind of violating the unspoken industry standard that blue is milk chocolate). It was extremely easy to spot when I first walked into RiteAid, so they can definitely say that the package fits the brand.
The interesting thing that I noticed about the ingredients is that it doesn’t seem that these are just your regular individual Peeps run through an enrober. These appear to be a different formula. The marshmallow portion goes like this: Sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, whey (milk), gelatin, cocoa processed with alkali, and less than .5% of the following: invertase, natural and artificial flavors, soy lecithin, yellow #5 and potassium sorbate.
Regular sugar-crusted Peeps contain: Sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, contains less than 0.5% of the following: potassium sorbate, artificial flavors, yellow #5, carnauba wax. (The wax, I believe, is the eyes.)
The sweetness and moistness of the marshmallow is even more noticeable over the dark chocolate version. The milk chocolate shell has some good dairy notes, but it isn’t quite as creamy as I would have liked. The good thing is that it held together well, I didn’t have big flakes coming off as I bit into the fluffy marshmallow.
The texture differences were rather minor here, not at all like the ordinary sugar crust but not enough of a contrast to provide added interest.
Mostly I found the milk chocolate version too sweet though the fake vanilla was actually kind of fun - like a White Toostie Roll is fun for a while and then I realize that there is food out there with real flavor.
I don’t quite understand why they had to make them yellow inside, I think a lot of parents might have preferred them to leave out the Yellow #5.
I know that many bakeries, candy stores and fudge shops have been dipping Peeps and offering them to their customers for many years, so this version may be a bit of an adjustment and some may prefer the inner sugar crusting.
The package says that they may contain peanuts, tree nuts, egg and coconut - in addition to the ingredients soy and gelatin. They are gluten free.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.