Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Things are looking up in Los Angeles. More and more small confectioners are opening storefronts. Last year it was Valerie Confections, where I’ve been picking up teacakes and petit fours along with their toffees and truffles.
I was so pleased to see that Little Flower Candy Company also opened a cafe in Pasadena at the beginning of the year. Since my whale watching trip was canceled on Saturday morning, my husband and I went over for some lunch and sweets.
They only make candy during the week, so there wasn’t anything to see in the kitchen except our lunch being made. I had a vegetarian sandwich with a tempeh base, olive tapenade, sprouts and avocado on a hearty whole wheat bread. I also had an excellent fresh cup of coffee roasted by City Bean Coffee. My husband had a turkey and cheese sandwich on the same bread and we both got super-garlicky and salty pickles.
After lunch we browsed their selection of fresh candies that include Little Flower’s famous caramels and marshmallows, but I wanted to try something new. So I picked up a package of the stunningly gorgeous Honeycomb and some Marshmallow Puffs.
Honeycomb is pretty simple stuff, the recipe is easy, most call for something like this:
The first three are boiled together to 300 degrees, then removed from the heat and the baking soda is added. (Read more here.)
The trick with Honeycomb is working quickly and of course having the benefit of low humidity. The fellow behind the counter said what was special about Little Flower’s is that they actually use a bit of honey in there too.
It smells wonderful. Sweet and a touch like honey and a bit like cotton candy and butter.
The look of it is also lovely, with the glossy sheen on top and all the nooks & crannies.
The taste was a little disappointing. The crunch was good and it dissolved well. The honey and burnt sugar flavors were wonderful but towards the end it became a bit of a ball of soft sugar with a very strong taste of salt, metal and baking soda.
I was so disappointed. But I gave it another try and found the trick was to eat a smaller bite, not a whole piece at a time. But if I did put too much in my mouth I’d just spit out the unpleasant dreck at the end. (I also found it gave me the burps later on, just like soda does.)
The Marshmallow Puffs sold at the cafe are not like the gourmet, handmade marshmallows that Little Flower Candy Co. is already known for. What attracted me to these first of all was the packaging and the curious cross-branding. The narrow funnel shaped bag is in red, white & blue, in a rather retro design.
What I found so quirky and adorable about it was that the brand on there, besides Little Flower Candy Co. is Melissa’s, a Los Angeles-based produce company. (I have no idea why, but hey, I’m not going to argue.) They’re actually made in Belgium (not a place I knew did marshmallows.) But packaging & origin aside, what got me to buy the bag was the flavor assortment, Strawberry, Vanilla and Orange Blossom. I tasted one before I bought it and it’s divine. It’s not orange juicy, it’s more of a floral essence that has some strong bergamot overtones.
It reminds me of honey and flowers and Earl Grey tea and the wonderful marshmallows that make up the bulk of See’s Scotchmallows.
The marshmallows are all natural and have no artificial colors. The little puffs are extruded drops. They’re rather firm and latexy, but still have a good puff that melts in the mouth.
Strawberry is fragrant and sweet and reminds me of angel food cake and cotton candy.
Vanilla isn’t as sweet as I’d feared and tastes, well, like a marshmallow.
The clerk was kind enough to pick out a package that had a preponderance of orange blossom in it, so I only had three vanilla and five strawberry. The rest are the divine orange blossom. They don’t sell them on the website, but I was told if you called in an order they’d sell them to you. But you may also see them in grocery stores that carry Melissa’s produce as well. (I’d guess look at the more upscale ones like Gelson’s or Bristol Farm style chains.)
Here’s the review at Colorado Chow that got me off my duff and over there. Little Flower is known for their excellent artisan caramels & marshmallows. I’ve only reviewed the Lemon, Vanilla and Salted caramels on the blog, and can recommend them highly.
Little Flower Candy Co.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
As disappointed as I was that the Peppermint Peep Stars had artificial sweeteners, I was just as excited to see that Trader Joe’s has Peppermint Marshmallows that are not only all natural, but also Kosher! (Which basically means that they’re using Kosher gelatin, which is non-porcine.)
However, Nicole at Baking Bites already had a review of them, which didn’t say they were bad, just that she wasn’t thrilled with the flavor. I still really wanted to try them, especially because it was Hanukkah.
The large marshmallow cubes come in a little tub and weigh a hefty 7 ounces. The packaging was a bit, well, feminine with all its pink and green-ness. But it was refreshingly un-holiday, which might mean that they’d be an all-year product. When they say that they’re all natural, they’re not kidding. The pink swirls are created with red radish juice.
They’re only vaguely pink with some little streaks of darker pink inside some of them. They were very hard to get out of the tub. The first one I mangled (but put back together for the photo) so I just dumped the whole tub out and lightly teased them apart. (Perhaps some waxed paper between them in the future?)
They felt very strange and fleshy in the hand. A little bouncy, a little latexy and not terribly light for a marshmallow. The outer texture was a little grainy, I’m guessing where the moisture of the marshmallow mixed with the sugar and dusting of corn starch. They smell like peppermint, but on the medicinal side somehow. Like toothpaste. And maybe mentholated rubbing alcohol.
The first time I bit into one I was puzzled and repulsed. I made my husband and a neighbor try it. They were both, well, not thrilled (and I had to give them something nice to eat after that). I waited a couple of days and dug around into the bottom of the tub to see if that was just a bad couple of squares.
It’s like eating toothpaste. They’re kind of fluffy, but not light. The texture is grainy, like a sugar paste. I can only imagine this is a bad batch because Nicole’s looked more like marshmallows and less like wads of chewed bread dough.
I went back and looked at Nicole’s photo and realized that this must be a bad batch. My best indication for this is that the tub weighed over 10 ounces (the marked weight is 7). So I went back to the store on Hyperion in Silverlake. All of the others on the shelf looked the same and were the same lot number, so I passed (and obviously picked up a bunch of other goodies you’ve been reading about this week). I also told the manager on duty that there was something wrong with them. I figured another store would have a different batch. So today I went off on my lunch break to the location on Third and La Brea. Sadly I didn’t memorize the lot number and ended up buying the same lot (1101071730 exp 01/26/2008) and finding the same grainy consistency (and this package weighed 9.8 ounces according to my postage scale).
I shouldn’t have to work this hard. (I haven’t decided if I’m going to take these back. At $4, I want something that’s at least the intended quality, even if I don’t like it.)
As far as buying artisan marshmallows, I’d say stick with either one of the actual artisan companies (Plush Puffs, Little Flower Candy Company & Boule are some good Los Angeles-based ones) or go for the French ones from Arnaud Soubeyran or the Williams Sonoma house brand (I tried them last year but never got around to reviewing them, they’re very dense and latexy but really satisfying). Or just get some Jet Puffed. It’s sad, because these are the first Kosher marshmallows I’ve found.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Marshmallow purists probably don’t think much of flavored marshmallows, in fact I don’t usually care much for them beyond the kiss of honey or toasted sugar notes.
But Peeps Peppermint Marshmallow Stars have changed that. They’re light, peppermint flavored marshmallows, just in time for Christmas.
The stars are very puffy and fluffy. The outer sugar coating seems to be well adhered, I’m guessing the flat surfaces have a lot to do with this. The whole marshmallow is peppermint flavored, rather strongly and the pink peppermint sparkle-flakes are also strong peppermint.
If I had any complaints at all about these it’s that they didn’t get stale very easily. I opened a package last week and left it open, but the marshmallow is still rather soft and only slightly tacky. It gives it a nice chew, but I was hoping for something a little drier.
I actually ate a whole tray of these.
And then read the ingredients to see that they contain Sucralose and AceK. Sigh ... artificial sweeteners. (It said less than .5% of the candy was composed of these, but when sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar, they don’t need to put much in and it did shave 20 calories off the total for a serving compared to a regular Peep.) I felt really betrayed, though I can only blame myself for not reading the ingredients completely before eating them. (I did have a stomach ache for the rest of the morning, but that could have been caused by, well, eating a tray of marshmallows for breakfast or the ibuprofen I’ve been popping lately.) I thought they were really tasty and I would actually buy these and eat these again if they didn’t have those artificial sweeteners. I just have to ask ... why?
I can’t figure out how to rate them now. I was all set to give them an 8 out of 10. For now I’m going to give them a 6 out of 10.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I’ve been planning another Peeps Mash Up for a while and thought that Halloween was the perfect opportunity for a Monster Mash Up.
I even went out and bought the new Peeps Spooky Friends, thinking it’d be so fun to have the variety of the different shapes. Alas, Peeps Spooky Friends are not terribly mashable. However, the Candy Blog Candy Archives is always prepared, and I was able to pull out my trusty Peeps Yellow Bunnies as a stand in. (They also photograph better than the conjoined Peeps Ghosts.)
If you’ve never done a Peeps Mash Up, the recipe is simple. Pull a Peep apart to reveal the sticky innards. Then press that sticky puff into a dish or package of something ... consume.
First up is Oreos & Peeps which was a combo I wanted to try for a while. Cookies and Cream is a nice combo that seems to go so well with ice cream, how could it be bad with Peeps? I tried it two different ways, the first was crumbling Oreos, as shown and mashing them into the crumbs. What I found is that I didn’t care for the cream part in there ... the closeness of the texture and graininess to the Peep itself wasn’t distinctive enough. Instead, the way to do a Peep & Oreo Mash is to open your Oreo, scrape the cream off with your teeth, then place the whole Peep on one side, replace the cookie topper, mash down and consume.
The darkness of the cookie, the little hit of salt and of course the sandy crunch of the Peep makes an excellent combination. (And completely redeems my opinion of Oreos after last month’s tasting of the new Cakesters.)
I give them an 8 out of 10.
I picked up a mini-mix pack from Kellogg’s (as they seem to be the only company that still makes them). First up, Cocoa Krispies & Peeps.
Cocoa Krispies are ideal for this snack, as they’re small and adhere easily to the exposed sticky marshmallow. They’re lightly crunchy, though a little sweet without enough cocoa contribution. I give them a 6 out of 10.
I was never a big fan of Apple Jacks as a cereal as a kid. I so rarely got to eat sweetened cereals, this was pretty far down on my list. (Cap’n Crunch was my favorite, followed by Froot Loops.) Would Apple Jacks & Peeps change my mind?
The simplicity of the flavors Apple Jacks, a little apple, a little cinnamon, actually sets off the flavorless Peep really well. They larger loops though, don’t hang onto the Peep quite as well, so smashing them a little to break the Os is a big help.
It helps that Apple Jacks had a pretty good jingle. (A is for apple, J is for Jacks, Cinnamon-toasty Apple Jacks! You need a complete breakfast, that’s a fact. Start it off with Apple Jacks. Apple Jacks! Apple Jacks! Ten vitamins and minerals-that’s what it packs. Apple-tasty, crunchy, too! Kellogg’s Apple Jacks! Apple Jacks, Apple Jacks ...)
I give them a 5 out of 10.
Even though the large flakes don’t stick well, the little bits do cling and still provide a good crunch. The thing I like best about this combo is that Corn Flakes have a wonderful dark, malty taste to them, and that sets off the lightly toasted sugar flavors of the marshmallow.
There’s also a little hit of salt in there, which mellows the more overt sugar. I think I might prefer an unfrosted Corn Flake in this case. But plain Rice Krispies are probably a good bet as well.
I give them a 7 out of 10.
It’s not illustrated here with a photo, but I also tried Corn Pops & Peeps. Once Corn Pops are removed from their packaging, even in a desert they immediately become sticky and tacky, so they’re an ideal item to Mash. Though they’re very sweet, their flavor profile matches Peeps really well. They have that lightly toasted flavor, but none of the malty, salty tones of the Corn Flakes. I give them a 7 out of 10.
They make a nice combo, though they don’t really have much of a visual appeal (but then again, neither to the Corn Flakes).
The one thing that disappointed me though, was that Froot Loops have changed so much since I was a kid. Back then we only had three flavors ... Orange, Lemon and Cherry. They went together really well and looked like food. The modern Froot Loops, well, I just can’t get behind blue food. And I don’t like all my flavors mixed up, I just wanted some light citrus fruit flavors, not a whole jumble of a world-traveled fruit stand.
The fruity flavors, though, stood up very well to the sugary sweetness of the Peep.
In the future I’ll probably go with the generic brand of fruity loops that have more limited flavors ... because I’m a fuddy duddy.
I give them a 5 out of 10.
The idea of wiping peanut butter on my Peeps wasn’t quite in the cards, but Reese’s Pieces & Peeps sounded like the perfect Mash Up. I heard that Reese’s has put out minis, but I can’t seem to find them. The larger Reese’s Pieces didn’t stick well to the Peeps, but the flavor combo of the lightly sweet peanut butter, the crunch of the shell and grainy sugar was a solid combo.
The colors also went really well. You’ve gotta give props when it comes to the appearance.
I give them a 8 out of 10.
The photo there at the top of this page is Sixlets, which are mockolate spheres covered in chocolate. Sixlets and Peeps also had a great deal of visual appeal with the muted fall colors and shiny shells. Sixlets have a natural coolness on the tongue, but not a very strong chocolate flavor. They stuck well to the marshmallow, but the overall effect was too sweet and not flavorful enough. I think I’ll stick to the original idea of M&Ms Minis.
I give them a 4 out of 10.
It’s been years since I’ve had BBB, and if you aren’t familiar with them, they’re candy coated peanuts. The candy coating is pretty thick, so some of them at first seem like jawbreakers. So the mixing of two vastly different densities has an odd and scary feeling to it. I’m afraid of chomping down too hard, lest the hardness of the BBB be too unyielding, but I also felt like I was practically gumming away the marshmallow and losing the texture and flavor combo.
I give them a 4 out of 10.
Candy Cane Pop Rocks & Peeps seemed like the perfect Mash Up. Peeps is coming out with Peppermint Star Peeps later this year, but I so loved my Pop Rocks and Peeps earlier this year, I thought, what could be better than peppermint Pop Rocks and a nice mellow Peep.
Well, the main problem with this idea is that the Candy Cane Flavor Pop Rocks aren’t actually peppermint!
Say what? Seriously, what would you think if someone handed you this package? If you opened it and dumped out the contents and saw the above pile of pink and white Pop Rocks ... what flavor would you expect?
Would you expect Strawberry?
Yeah ... they’re strawberry. I have nothing against strawberry Pop Rocks and thought they rocked my Peep ... but I wanted Peppermint Pop Rocks and I’m completely annoyed that someone out there not only thinks that any pink flavor can be considered candy cane flavored, but that they wouldn’t actually SAY that on the package if it was so.
I give them a 3 out of 10 ... not because it was bad, but because I’m irritated.
The next Mash Up Round Up will focus on Savory & Spicy!
What’s so different about them is that they’re individually wrapped. Oooh .... you know what that means? They’re not conjoined. There’s no little sticky spot where they’re separated from their row of quadruplicate siblings.
It also opens up the possibility for some diversity in a single package. This bag of 54 individually wrapped Peeps has three different shapes: Googly-Eyed Green Mummy, Purple-Eyed Jack ‘o Lantern & Shrugging Ghost. (There are other mixes that have skeletons, bats and spiders.)
While I love the idea of being able to give out fun little sugar puffs to kids for Halloween, I feel like they may think it’s a practical joke when they try to get the little packets open. Let’s hope their parents let them have scissors, because that’s what I resorted to.
I thought these would be the same as regular Peeps, and I happened to have some regular Easter Peeps around for comparison. Here’s what I found:
The main thing that detracted from any recommendation for Spooky Friends is that they’re not as puffy and therefore do not work with Peeps Mash Ups as well. I rather liked the light vanilla flavor, but I missed the springly-lofty texture. They also didn’t seem to get stale as easily, but I’ve only had them for a week ... poking holes in each package in order to let them get dried out isn’t really that practical either. They have their selling points but they’re still not going to get a better rating than the original.
At about 9 cents a marshmallow, they’re cheaper per item than the Frankford Marshmallow Pals, but they’re more expensive per ounce. Since they’re both made in China, I can’t see why you wouldn’t go for the more detailed Frankford Marshmallow Pals ... unless you don’t like coconut flavor.
The package notes that Peeps are Gluten Free.
UPDATE 10/31/2008: It does not appear that Just Born continued this product. I have not seen it for 2008.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I puzzled over the Orange Marshmallow Pumpkin at the store for quite a while. Was the marshmallow orange? Was the coating orange? Or was it orange flavored? The small print gave me a clue, “Naturally flavored,” it said. “Covered in milk chocolate,” it said.
“Okay,” I said. “Into the basket you go!”
Opening it up at home I still didn’t smell the orange. After biting through the chocolate shell, the orange flavor became more apparent, as did the color.
The marshmallow is super soft, moist and a little sticky. The light kiss of orange essence really changes this from a ho-hum marshmallow product to something I ate all of without complaining that my candy blog makes me eat these things (okay, that really doesn’t happen). The milk chocolate, though sweet, was rich enough to set off the sweet marshmallow and add some nice creaminess to the whole. I enjoy these sorts of seasonal products from Russell Stover because I know they’re fresh.
I don’t know if I’ll buy them again, unless perhaps they’re 10 cents in a sale bin in November, but I’ll keep an eye out for an Easter version of them next year.
The allergy notice on the package mentions that they’re made in a factory with tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and eggs. It also contains gelatin, so is unsuitable for vegetarians. The orange filling also has artificial colors in it (Yellow 6), so folks looking to stay away from those should opt for the regular unflavored Marshmallow Pumpkin.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Here’s a jolly little set of marshmallows just for Halloween: Frankford Marshmallow Pals. They were pretty affordable, just $1.99 for a package of 18 individually wrapped marshmallows - that’s about 11 cents each. That’s always the tough thing about marshmallows ... you can’t just open a bag of Jet Puffs and toss them in trick-or-treaters’ bags, even though they’re pretty cheap. So the little wrappers help quite a bit on that front.
Shaped marshmallows are certainly nothing new and Just Born with their Peeps line may be the epitome of seasonal marshmallows. But Frankford has definitely come up with something that sets it apart.
There are four different shapes in this mix: Jack O Lantern, Green Dracula, Even Greener Frankenstein Monster and Orange Witch.
Each is decorated with frosting, and may I say they did a really good job. Though some of them were a little smashed inside the package, they puffed back up again pretty well. The sugary coating also kept them from sticking to the wrapper. Each face has little frosting eyes, often hair and an expression on its mouth. They all look slightly different, when I pulled out all the Draculas, some looked slightly Asian, others downright fierce and one a bit cross-eyed with something of a dorky smile.
The color of the face is the same color of the marshmallow through and through. (Unlike Peeps, who are only colored on the outside.)
The marshmallows themselves as firm but moist. They have a latexy quality that gives them a very long chew. The flavor is lightly coconut, which I found pleasant and summery. Honestly, I prefer my marshmallows to taste like something. The frosting added a little crunch and it was a relief to find out that it wasn’t waxy like the eyeballs on Peeps.
Though I’m not really keen on eating marshmallows alone, the flavor helped. The really cute attention to details and vibrant colors swayed me. As an indulgence, they’re quite low in calories (being mostly air and having no fat): 38 calories per Pal. They contain gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians. The package does not mention gluten or nuts though there appears to be no wheat/nut products in the ingredients.
These were made in China.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I’ve seen them at Japanese grocers and Aji Ichiban before, but never packaged just for Americans. And certainly never in these sassy little three puff portions.
Enter GudFud. They’re here to bring us the Asian foamy sweets. They’re packaged to look like they’re Japanese (terribly cute and with Japanese characters on the label, what they say, I know not) but they’re actually made in China. I tried some before and wrote about them here.
I’ve never considered jelly and marshmallows “food”, but perhaps I can start thinking of them as “foood.”
The little individually wrapped Fruit Jelly Stuffed Marshmallows are a bit smashed when inside the package but fluff back up pretty quickly. There’s a lot of packaging, which I guess I didn’t notice at first because it’s mostly clear. The fruity ones were cute and once unwrapped, completely identical on the outside.
The jelly center is where things get different. The jelly is smooth and soft, not quite flowing, but not quite firm like an “orange slice” would be. Really, kind of like the jelly you’d spread on your toast. The flavor is mild, a little tangy, not terribly complex ... just, well nice.
The mix of fruit and marshmallow isn’t really great in my mind. So I tried toasting a package or two. They toasted nicely, though the center didn’t get that molten consistency that I’m used to with Jet or Kraft marshmallows. The marshmallow skin puffed well and browned (well, one caught on fire, but consider it a sacrifice to the marshmallow fire god). Still, the toasted flavor and jelly didn’t really grab me either.
So what about a Chocolate Stuffed Marshmallow. Though each of these are the same, the little packages still have a different little character on them. Each with a different reaction to getting a chocolate bar stuffed into their cranium.
The chocolate filling isn’t firm, it’s soft and easy to bite. It still doesn’t have a lot of chocolate oomph to it, more like a chocolate cream.
I like that the package has three marshmallows in it and you might be able to just pick them up where you buy candy bars. For those on calorie-restricted diets, a single package with three marshmallows is only 50 calories and practically no fat. I don’t know how satisfying they’d be, you might burn more calories opening all the wrappers than you’ll take in from the treats.
I expect they’ll start showing up in stores soon (they pretty much debuted at the All Candy Expo). If they came in large bags they could be fun Halloween treats. (You can buy a box of singles through their phone order system.)
Check out Sera’s review on Candy Addict.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.