Friday, February 13, 2009
I have more candy than I will ever be able to review at my pace of 5-7 products a week. Here are a few items I’ve tasted recently and some notes on them (most gratuitous photos). So here are some small bites of a whole week’s worth of candy. Get ready to scroll!
I visited with Anne Hickey and the Plush Puffs’ crew when I was at the Fancy Food Show. At closing time they gave me a box of their Vanilla Bean Marshmallows. It’s new packaging for them, which I really like. It’s still spare and highlights the product well.
But what I liked best is that they’ve made the marshmallows a bit smaller. Now they’re 1” cubes instead of the larger version I tried several years ago. This means that when toasted the center gets molten before the outside catches on fire. (There are important physical laws that even marshmallows must obey.)
The box has been sitting next to my stove top and some evenings I’ll toast up two or three for dessert on the gas burner. It makes the house smell wonderful.
I visited a few times with Seth Ellis Chocolatier while at the Fancy Food Show. They had a lovely array of samples, but for some reason I eschewed their truffles and became obsessed with their Candied Lemons.
Perhaps it’s because of this little nugget from their website, “We candy the freshest organic lemon slices slowly, over twenty-five days, using a traditional European method to preserve the intense lemon flavors.”
The box contains one full lemon slice plus and extra quarter. Special bonus, the packaging is made with wind power (well, that and some tree pulp).
The candying doesn’t make the peel as soft as some others, but then again, sometimes that makes them gummy and flavorless. This definitely has a bitter bite and because the pulp is also still there, it’s quite tangy. The dark chocolate is creamy and also has a woodsy bite to it.
I must have been obsessed with lemon and lemongrass at the Fancy Food Expo because the other item I knew I had to bring home was L’Estasi Dolce Sweet Ecstasy Lemongrass Ginger Truffles.
Lemongrass is a bit of a strange flavor. I love it in Thai cooking (hot & sour soup especially). It imparts the zesty notes of lemon peel, but it has a soft side to it as well, that I can only compare to bubble gum.
These nicely sized truffles are a real ganache made with lots of real cream.
The center is soft and silky with an immediate soft flavor of lemongrass. Then there’s the warming power of the ginger. The woodsy ginger flavors never come forward, it’s just that little burn in the background. This all combines well with the slight dairy flavor of the cream and the mellow dark chocolate.
One of the Fancy Food Show items I mentioned in my show notes was Rubicon Bakery.
They not only make all natural, wholesome products right here in the United States, their mission is to help people in need by giving job training, jobs placement assistance to work their way out of poverty.
The package pictured here is a mock up used for the distribution of the samples, the real thing is much nicer.
They’re little meringue kisses, a little larger than a Hershey’s Kiss. The center is a crunchy fluffed egg white made flavorful by the addition of gobs of real freeze dried strawberries. To seal in the crispness, they’re dipped in bittersweet Guittard chocolate.
The freaky part about the whole combination is that it’s so tasty & satisfying yet so low in calories. They say that a serving of five is only 90 calories (about 100 calories per ounce, amazing for a chocolate product). So even if you ate a whole box of 15 bites, you’re still under the 300 mark of most king sized candy bars.
SFGate wrote about them last week too, those lucky dogs, it’s a local company for them.
These candies have single-handedly caused me to swear off of all Andes products except for the original Creme de Menthe.
The Mocha Mint Indulgence is a freak product. I don’t even know what it is. The pieces are ugly (sorry, no photo of the interior, this is supposed to be a tantalizing post). Putty brown mockolate over a layer of mint green confection like the center of the regular Andes.
It smells like minted cardboard. The texture is like grainy wax. The flavor is like musty Christmas candles found in a drawer at an estate sale.
To close is something to restore our confidence in nuts: Ococoa Nut Butter Cups made right here in Los Angeles by Diana Malouf. I picked them up from her in person before Christmas but never go around to posting the review.
More than just gourmet peanut butter cups, these are tall cups filled with exotic nut butters & fruits. The flavor array is: Classic Peanut Butter, Pistachio Date, Sesame Fig, Hazelnut Chocolate, Almond Cherry, Cashew Apricot, Marzipan Truffle, Macadamia Guava, and Sunflower Honey.
The box is elegant and substantial.
The cups are about an inch high with a cute ruffle of chocolate around the collar and an inch in diameter at the top.
They were a bugger to photograph the interior, luckily their website has the fantastic and accurate cross sections that you can peruse. This one is Guava jam & macadamia nut butter. Probably the best experience I’ve had with macadamias & guava, which aren’t really my fave, but done very well here.
I was attracted most to the Sesame Fig, which I gobbled up after taking a photo. The sesame paste is combined with chocolate to create a sesame Nutella of sorts, though quite firm. Inside the center was a reservoir of fig jam. The toasted & grassy flavors of the sesame went well with the fresh & slightly tangy notes of the fig. Sunflower Honey was next on my hit list. Sunflower seeds have such a distinctive taste. This center was like a creamed honey with sunflower flavors.
Cashew Apricot was really decadent, as the apricot’s pine-notes were offset by the deep toasted butter flavors of the cashews. The hazelnut was also stellar, the freshness of the nut butter was so different from many other guianduias I have regularly. (I shared some others and didn’t take complete notes on the rest.)
Unlike many nut creations that rely on salt to bring the nut flavors forward, Ococoa lets the sweetness of the nuts come through. The only problem I had with these, if it could be called that, was the construction. The chocolate cap on the top was very thick, so biting the pieces in half wasn’t very easy. While I don’t think it’s imperative that all chocolates be dissected, it meant that there was always a larger reservoir of chocolate at the end when sometimes I really wanted to end on a nut note.
They’ll set you back $22 for a 9 piece box.
Monday, October 6, 2008
A couple of years ago I raved about a product from Kandy Kastle: Gummi Lightning Bugs. It was both a candy and a novelty item and I was enchanted by the simplicity.
But when I spotted this on the shelves of the local 99 Cent Only Store, I just had to buy it. Not because I thought it was going to be good, but I was just too curious.
The Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae is pretty big for only 60 cents (well, technically it’s 59.99 cents) and boasts that it’s Fat Free, Cholesterol Free and Low Sodium. Because the target market for these is always swayed by those selling points.
Basically the candy is a stack of flavored marshmallows in Strawberry, Vanilla, Chocolate, Green Apple. It comes with a little packet of Chocolate Fudge Candy Gel to pour over it as if it were a real ice cream sundae.
The candy is toweringly huge at about seven inches.
It comes tucked in a little waxed paper cup with the marshmallows firmly adhered to each other and sprinkled with colored jimmies.
If you think they look like Play-Doh, I agree.
When they said gel they weren’t kidding. When I first opened it, there were a few thin drips, but the rest was congealed inside. So I squeeze it a bit to mix it up and then tried to drizzle it out on the marshmallow scoops.
It came out in a thin stream then a few chunks.
The ingredients explain a lot: corn syrup, sugar, modified starches, water, sorbitol, potassium sorbate, artificial flavors, artificial colors (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1 and Titanium Dioxide).
Note that this Chocolate Fudge Candy Gel contains no chocolate products whatsoever. I didn’t think it would need actual chocolate, but a pinch of cocoa might make a convincing fudge sauce.
It didn’t smell very good, kind of like fake vanilla, but not much else.
Then I was left with this sticky tower of dry and stiff marshmallows. It smelled like a cross between green apple flavor and new shoes.
I couldn’t eat it. I can’t eat it. I tried to take a bite of the chocolate marshmallow part, avoiding the sticky gel, but I couldn’t keep it in my mouth. It was cocoa-ish but had that green apple flavor to it as well. It was stiff and tacky and dry on the outside.
Just too horrible to consume but an incredibly cheap decoration if you’re looking for one. My inedible rating is probably unfair because I didn’t actual try very hard so if you’ve had this and loved it, please testify to my inaccurate description of the experience of not eating it below.
Patent Pending & Made in China.
Other braver folks: Riverfront Times.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
The first version will premiere next Valentine’s Day in the shape of Peeps Chocolate Mousse Marshmallow Bears.
I’m not sure why there hasn’t been a bear shaped Peeps all along, they’re an ideal Valentine’s emblem (and really, why can’t we have Bear Peeps all year round?). However, this package is all about love, with its red wrapper & little hearts.
The packages I got were for evaluation purposes only, so I don’t have the complete nutritional info & ingredients list. I decided to open the Peeps Chocolate Mousse Marshmallow Bunnies for the purposes of the review.
They’re nice looking, medium brown. They’re sparkly with the light sanding of sugar. (I’ve often wondered what corn starch dusted Peeps would be like.)
They’re extremely soft, softer than regular Peeps are, if you ask me. They smell like chocolate breakfast cereal, like Cocoa Puffs.
But the big question, at least in my mind, was are these different from the Cocoa Peeps?
I just so happened to have a package of Peeps Cocoa Marshmallow Bunnies (left) for a direct comparison.
Though they looked similar in my memory, putting them side by side, it’s easy to see that the new Mousse Peeps are darker.
The cross section shows that the Mousse Peeps is cocoa through and through, where the only slightly creamy colored on the inside.
The difference in taste? Well, if you’re expecting some sort of decadent mousse-like product, you’re going to be disappointed. The new Mousse version are kind of like a fluffy, watered down Tootsie roll. Pleasant and less-sweet than the ordinary Peeps, but still, not a chocolate phenomenon.
They’re great with coffee but like the Cocoa version, it’s very hard to get them stale. I’ve had this package open for two weeks and they’re still pretty squishy.
However, these are awesome broiled. The center becomes frothy and runny and the sugar dust becomes a crunchy shell. I put them in the toaster over for 3 minutes. Be sure to have them on foil or parchment or else they run all over the place. You also might need a spoon to eat them. Microwaving also gets the same soupy center, but the outside doesn’t get crispy (so it’s the confectionery equivalent of trying to make pizza in a microwave ... it’s edible but it’s not the same).
In the end, I’m more inclined towards the Chocolate Mousse Peeps than any other Peeps to date, but that’s not necessarily a rave review.
For the record, the available shapes for Peeps are:
These should be in stores starting in January, but you can also buy many Peeps items all year round now directly from Just Born.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I picked this bar up at Target. They’re not available at all Target stores, in fact, the only one I see them at is the Target in Harbor City here in the Los Angeles area. I think it’s cool that Target has regionally relevant offerings and while this isn’t exactly a local product, I’m sure the folks who requested it and buy it are happy to have a taste of home.
Bubu Lubu is a Mexican candy from Ricolino. It’s described on the package (in English and Spanish) as strawberry flavored jelly and marshmallow with chocolate flavored coating. I know, I know, why am I buying a mockolate product? How could I not! Look at that metallic blue wrapper, the white marshmallow character with the spiky Lisa Simpson hair and strawberry-flavored scarf & gloves! And the name, people, just say that name out loud a few times.
They don’t say so on the package, but many folks enjoy Bubu Lubu frozen. (I don’t happen to care for cold candy, but that’s just me, so I ate mine room temperature.)
Even the shape of the bar is fun, with its little curves.
Inside, it’s pretty obvious how it lives up to the description. A white marshmallow base with a stripe of fruity red jelly and then covered in a crackly mockolate coating.
The strawberry jelly is tart and smooth but overwhelms any delicate vanilla flavors the marshmallow may have. The marshmallow is bouncing and lightly foamy, kind of like a meringue. The jelly creates a bit of a grainy coating, especially when it comes into contact with the mockolate, so it’s yet another texture. The mockolate, well, it’s kind of waxy and only vaguely cocoa flavored. I consider it the edible container for the jelly & marshmallow, not a full participant in this confection.
The bar is rather light, even though it looks pretty big it only weighs in at 1.23 ounces (35 grams).
Since there’s really nothing else like this in the American candy bar world, I think it’s great that this is finding its way onto American shelves. Not really a bar for me, the strawberry isn’t authentically jammy enough. But hey, it was 50 cents, so it’s not like I can expect something extraordinary. If you’re watching your calories, the fact that there’s no chocolate in there and all that marshmallow & jelly means that it rings in at a modest 126 calories.
This actually isn’t the first time I’ve bought Bubu Lubu, but this was the best looking bar I’ve had so far. I’m not sure if I’m not getting them fresh, or this is just the way that they always look. I’m not sure I’d ever find this combination, even factory-fresh with top notch ingredients excellent, but I’m sure that there are many fans of the bar.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I really didn’t want to buy these; they couldn’t possibly be better than the Brach’s Bunny Basket Eggs (or worse, for that matter). Which I didn’t like, but have devoted followers. But I have to admit that it’s a valid confectionery expression: a grainy marshmallow covered in a lightly-flavored jelly bean-like shell.
What convinced me to get these though was the name: Hiding Eggs.
It seems obvious that Judson-Atkinson Candies is well aware that these aren’t for eating! They’re for hiding ... possibly without any hope of every finding. They’re all individually wrapped, which is great for throwing in Easter baskets or reassuring when you find one stuck in the sofa cushions in August and shrug and eat it anyway.
They come in the standard color & flavor variety of fruit jelly beans: Orange, Lemon, Grape, Cherry, Lime and Vanilla.
I’m not going to lie to you, this is not a comprehensive review, I didn’t eat all of them. I tasted the purple, orange and white ones and that was it. Read the Brach’s Bunny Basket Eggs review for my complete rant on the subject of these candy impostors (not that they’re BBBE impostors, but that they’re masquerading as edible confections).
The centers are soft and grainy, the shells are crunchy and grainy. The flavor layer is very mild, but the tastes distinct enough that you could probably tell them apart with your eyes closed. Each egg is a substantial hit of sugar, weighing in at a little over 13 grams each and about 50 calories (yes, that’d be 13 grams of carbs!).
So if you’ve been having trouble finding the Brach’s, or just want a brand that’s made in the USA (most Brach’s products are no longer made here), Judson-Atkinson Candies has your new favorite hiding egg. Added bonus, they were only $1.49.
The one thing that I find so enchanting about these is that they’re part of a rather extensive line from Judson-Atkinson that includes all different sizes of these eggs. Pigeon Eggs (small marshmallow eggs), Hen Eggs (medium marshmallow eggs) & Turkey Eggs (large marshmallow eggs). The Turkey variety tops out at about 1/3 larger than the Hen Eggs (which I think I’ve reviewed here ... it’s so hard to tell).
They’re an important part of Easter, I’ll grant you that. I’ve had mine for the year (just like I used to eat my bit of Pork & Sauerkraut for New Year’s as a kid ... for the record it was the pork that I didn’t like, I love sauerkraut), so I should be very lucky. Since they’re wrapped they may make good filler for pinatas, so pick some up on clearance next week.
These have a marshmallow center, so contain gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
This is another one of those cool idea novelty Easter candies that just doesn’t have a name. Marshmallow Peeps inside a Milk Chocolate Egg just does not roll off a whiny child’s tongue in a desirable way. There is a little ribbon on the top of the box that says “Just Hatched”, so I think if they’d gone for something like Peeps Chocolate Egg Hatchlings or something, it might be a smidge more compelling.
Names aside, it’s pretty easy to figure out what this is. It’s a solo yellow Peep inside a milk chocolate egg.
The egg is wrapped in gold foil with a life-sized Peep in yellow. The egg has a little flat spot on the bottom of the larger end so it sits up rather easily, even without the clear plastic packaging.
What I find rather fun about the Peep inside is that it’s an only child. Peeps in the larger broods always have at least one little joint where they’re in the row with their siblings. This one has no conjoining scars.
The Peep is a little softer than I’m used to, perhaps the moist and nutritive atmosphere of a milk chocolate egg keeps it factory fresh. Still, it’s a Peep.
The chocolate shell is thick and firm. It’s not great chocolate and includes real vanilla but PGPR. The chocolate is passable, not as good as the Russell Stover Bunny, and certainly not the See’s Hollow Eggs with Novelty or Lindt. The chocolate and Peeps combination is kind of fun, Peeps need a little something with them, if you ask me, but I’d like a stronger milk flavor to my chocolate in this case or something darker to offset the sugar crust.
The foil is pretty thick and makes it easy to save at least half of the shell for later (the package says there’s two portions ... I’m not sure if they mean that you eat half of the Peep for each portion or not.
It was a bit pricey at $2.99 for mediocre chocolate ($1.00 an ounce). I think you’re better off getting the classic Lindt Gold Bunny (and you get to choose milk, dark or white these days usually for about $1.00 an ounce) for about the same price and then just get a whole tray of Peeps.
However, as a learning experience, if you have kids and want to talk to them about where birds come from, this is actually a pretty accurate little candy ... you know, there’s a tiny baby bird inside a chocolate shell. It’s absolutely better than giving live animals to a kid for Easter. (Don’t forget the Make Mine Chocolate campaign.)
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Princess is currently known for their marshmallows and Tangerine is known as the company who manufactures the Anthon Berg line of filled chocolates, so it seems natural that they’d combine these skills for an Easter egg. At about the same size as a Cadbury Creme Egg, they’re still a little lighter. (The package didn’t say, but I’m guessing this is less than an ounce.)
The pastel foil wrapper holds a very pretty chocolate egg with a swirl on both sides. Mine were pristine and without the usual dings and scrapes that most of the eggs get at the store because they were sent right from the PR folks handing the Princess account. (Yay!)
It smells lightly of milky chocolate and a little like raspberry. In fact, I wasn’t sure if it was a flavored marshmallow until I bit into it.
The marshmallow doesn’t quite fill the hemispheres, there’s a little gap, as it’s apparent that they fill the halves and then join them together. The marshmallow is pleasantly plump and foamy, a little dry and very pink. It’s a little grainy at times, but not in an unpleasant way. The raspberry flavor is just an essence, a whiff, no hint of tangy berry overtones.
It was sweet, but not too sticky or overwhelming like I find the CCE. Though I think I still prefer the Russell Stover Marshmallow & Caramel Egg, this one is pretty tasty too, and of course cute and hefty enough to impress any child if it were in the Easter basket on a Sunday morning.
I couldn’t read the little print on the foil wrapper, but the press kit emailed to me heralded that “Princess Marshmallow Egg contains only natural colours and flavours, no added salt and no hydrogenated fats.” (They actually do have all that stuff on their website, so few American companies actually do that.) There’s actual real vanilla in there too ... I’m kind of jealous that the Brits get to have real chocolate with real vanilla in it for less than a dollar.
UK readers can pick these little gems up for about 40p in corner shops, garage forecourts and Somerfield supermarkets.
Monday, March 3, 2008
A couple of years ago I was pleasantly surprised by the Russell Stover Cream Easter Eggs. Though I’ve never been much of a fan of the Cadbury Creme Eggs, I wasn’t surprised to see that Russell Stover is now making a similar product and knowing that they did nice things with the other eggs, I thought I’d give this array a try.
There are some striking similarities between the CCE and the Russell Stover. First, they’re all 1.2 ounces (yes, the Cadbury’s used to be larger, back in 2007 they were changed from 1.35 to 1.2). The Cadbury’s currently come in the classic Creme Egg, Caramel Egg and the newest version is the Orange Creme Egg.
The Russell Stover Eggs do not duplicate any of these flavors. Instead they’ve gone with slightly different versions.
The most promising in my mind was the Russell Stover Dark Chocolate Creme Egg. One of my major complaints with the CCE is that it’s far too sweet and lacking in flavor. I figured a dark chocolate egg with a chocolate creme might provide some, I dunno, flavor to balance the sugar.
It looks good, I have to admit. The dark shell holds a thick and glossy creme. It doesn’t smell like much, but the textures are pretty good. The shell is crisp and easy to bite but doesn’t shatter into a gazillion bits. The creme center is rather like a gooey frosting, it’s not very deep in chocolate-ness, but still pleasant. When eating around the edges and getting more chocolate than creme, it was pretty good. But the proportions towards the center began to make my throat burn it was so sweet.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
Russell Stover Chocolate Creme is the same as the dark chocolate egg, only with a milk chocolate shell. It’s not an overwhelmingly milky chocolate, so it doesn’t really do much to add a different flavor to the whole thing.
I found it much sweeter overall than the dark chocolate version. Still pleasant if you’re the type who eats frosting by the spoonful (which I admit to doing at times). The fudgy-ness of the creme center is more noticeable in this one.
Rating: 5 out of 10
I know you’ve probably wondered how they make these. Here’s what I think they do (and I’m just guessing):
If anyone actually knows how this actually happens, please pipe up in the comments!
The Russell Stover Vanilla & Chocolate Creme was the egg that I least wanted to eat. Milk chocolate with a white creme and a dollop of chocolate cream in the center, the most similar to a Cadbury Creme Egg. I’ll admit that I only ate half of this. The creme did have a strong vanilla flavor (though it verged on coconut sometimes). The chocolate shell was pleasant, but I really couldn’t tell when the chocolate creme kicked in.
It was better than my previous experiences with the Cadbury Creme Egg, but still not something I’m interested in eating again (or even finish the last bite of).
I give this one a 5 out of 10.
The Russell Stover Marshmallow & Caramel egg is a milk chocolate shell with a marshmallow center with a little dollop of caramel for the yolk. This one is actually lighter than the others, as you might guess, and only clocks in at .9 ounces.
The marshmallow is very moist and has more of a “fresh pie” meringue texture to it. It wasn’t very sweet, instead it was just a little foamy. The caramel had a little salty and buttery taste to it that set off the marshmallow and very sweet milk chocolate well. It’s not at all like a Scotchmallow, but had it’s own wonderful qualities.
This was a very different sort of egg from all the others that I’ve had and the one I enjoyed the most.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Overall, they’re interesting, and certainly attractive and compact. But none of them fit the bill as something I’m interested in indulging in. I’ll stick to what I think they do best, their enrobed eggs. Alicia at The Girl Tastes also found the full line and split them open and displayed their gooey glory as well.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.