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.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The first thing I was looking for at the Candy Palace at Disneyland was something unique. Why should I eat something that I can get anywhere? So I scoured the store to find something that was made only for sale at the Disneyland candy stores. Sadly, there really wasn’t anything there like that, so I settled for something that I thought I’d like that had a novel take ... the Dark Chocolate Pretzels in the shape of Mickey Mouse.
They were sold in a couple of different formats, a simple plastic baggie tied with a bow with a stack of four (mostly shopworn though), they had singles in the candy case for $1.25 each and then a nice box with 8 ounces of dark chocolate pretzels for $9.95. The box had all the classic Disney characters on it. Nothing from this century (the most recent characters on there are Beauty & the Beast and The Little Mermaid). The box looked like it protected the contents well (shaking it actually didn’t yield much in the way of sound, which is a good thing).
The pretzels are gorgeous! The dark chocolate is glossy, thick and with cute little scribbles to make it extra dense in spots. They’re in a deep tray, leaning against each other in little slots, eight pretzels total. (So that makes them 1 ounce each.)
Only one was broken.
The pretzels themselves are bigger than I’m used to, at first I thought they were stale but then I realized they were just really crunchy and a bit dense ... which kind of keeps them from being crispy in the way I’m accustomed to. The chocolate is good quality, not too sweet and with a good balance of smoky notes and a dry finish. The pretzel is only lightly salted, so this remains a sweet treat. Unfortunately this “dark” chocolate has milkfat in it, so it’s not for vegans. It is Kosher though (I don’t think anything in the candy case is). 8 out of 10
For the record I also tried a Milk Chocolate Pretzel out of the candy case, which I ate as I left the park. It tasted like, well, candy case. The pretzel was a little stale and the chocolate bland.
The candy case has a huge variety of chocolate treats in it. Nut clusters, caramel patties, peppermint patties, chocolate dipped crisped rice treats, chocolate marshmallow bars on sticks, little cups with white chocolate mixed with cookie bits, milk chocolate with M&Ms, chocolate haystacks, toffee, and of course the chocolate covered pretzels mentioned above.
I was drawn to the Milk Chocolate Caramel Marshmallow Bar. It’s about the size of a Snickers bar, though not quite as dense in hand. I was hoping for something to approach the See’s Scotchmallow.
Inside the bar the caramel and marshmallow are in equal proportions. The caramel is thin, though chewy and smooth (but lacking some deep burnt caramel flavors). The marshmallow is moist and springy and not too sweet. The milk chocolate is okay, sweet and milky and pretty smooth. It’s a sweet bar, but the marshmallow makes it feel both satisfying and light at the same time. $1.95 ... I give it a 7 out of 10.
I had very low expectations for the Small Mickey Turtles. The large ones in the case, though attractive in shape and size were a bit bloomed. The little ones weren’t quite as pretty, but the price was certainly better for someone who was looking for variety.
My expectation for something called a “Turtle” is this: caramel and pecans covered in chocolate. I like my caramel to be soft and chewy, but also flavorful to provide more than a textural counterpoint to the nuts. Pecans are a strongly flavored nut, so a good caramelized caramel is important.
The Mickey Turtle is a huge disappointment. The nuts didn’t taste fresh. The chocolate had more of the flavor of the refrigerator case than of chocolate and the caramel was less like caramel and more like a fudge or pecan praline (a chocolate covered pecan praline would be delightful, too).
Oddly enough the “turtle” pictured here with the white stripes wasn’t a turtle at all. I think it was supposed to be a truffle, but it tasted a bit more like a piece of fudge covered in chocolate. Again, it tasted like refrigerator more than chocolate.
The large (bloomed) Turtles were $3.00 each. The mini versions were 94 cents. Not bad as price goes, but it’s certainly not worth it. I give these (even the accidental “truffle”) a 5 out of 10.
If you’re coming to California and want a special candy treat to take home, go to See’s. The prices are better, the candy fresher and of course it just tastes better. (And I’ll wager you won’t stand in line as long ... most California airports even have a See’s kiosk.)
Next, I’ll try some of the prepackaged candy bars!
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
There are many surprising things about Circus Peanuts. In fact, everything is so incongruous that there’s nothing that’s not surprising. That’s how jam-packed full of nonsense they are.
They’re shaped like peanuts, big big peanuts in the shell. But they’re orange in color. The orange color bears no relationship to the flavor, banana. And why even call them Circus Peanuts? Because they’re jumbo sized and you might feed them to an elephant ... come on, that’s a serious stretch.
They’re one of the most enduring candies in the United States, made first in the 1800s. Kind of like the Candy Corn of marshmallows, no one really knows when they started for sure. Except in the case of Candy Corn where many companies have tried to take credit, no one really bothers to try to brand Circus Peanuts. You don’t even see a TM after the name! No one knows the history of Circus Peanuts because everyone is so confused by them that they wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to clear much up. We can all continue to live in blissful mild confusion (and perhaps irritation that so many niblets of corn are wasted on so many Circus Peanuts).
Circus Peanuts are made by at least four different companies in the United States: Brach’s, Melster, Farley and Spangler. Melster, based in Wisconsin makes more than Brach’s & Spangler put together, though often you don’t see them packaged under the Melster brand, they’ll be done for grocery stores and drug store chains or maybe just found in bulk. In this article from 2003, it turns out that Spangler alone makes nearly 4 MILLION POUNDS a year. What? Who the heck is eating all these ... or are they just used as decoration or perhaps packing materials.
Circus Peanuts are shaped like peanuts, usually light orange/peach in color and banana-flavored. When fresh, a bag of Circus Peanuts can smell more like fingernail polish remover. When stale they can smell like, well, nothing at all. The artificial banana flavor must be some volatile compound that evaporates when exposed to air or perhaps a fierce stare.
Technically they’re a marshmallow: they’re sugar, corn syrup (and/or high fructose corn sweetener) and gelatin with some color and flavor thrown in. The gelatin helps the whipped sugar keep its foam. But instead of being extruded as most marshmallows are, these are molded, which might explain some of their density. Because of the high amount of corn syrup in them, they’re rather moist when fresh and can become stale and pretty firm. They’re not quite smooth in texture like most marshmallows, instead there’s a bit of graininess to them. The look like they’re made of fine porcelain of terra cotta. They can even make that clinking sound if you wait for them to get very stale.
I have bought Circus Peanuts before, usually when I find them ridiculously on sale, like 25 cents for a 10 ounce bag. Then I open the bag, get woozy from the fumes and remember why I don’t hang out in nail salons. Then I eat one or two and curse myself for buying them. Later I’ll find myself sneaking into the bag and eating them one or two at a time. When eaten with other candy or salty treats like popcorn, they’re not so bad. (Try Twizzlers or Cheetos.) Not a ringing endorsement.
If there’s one thing to be celebrated about Circus Peanuts it’s that they led to the creation of Lucky Charms. A General Mills team was charged with creating a kids cereal in only six months. So they sat down with everything available to them, from Cheerios and Wheaties to a bunch of candy from the store shelves (apparently that’s what a kid’s cereal is made from). They put bits of stale Circus Peanuts (now called “marbits” in the industry for marshmallow bits) in a sugared Cheerios and everyone loved the idea. A cartoon mascot and bit of Americana was born. So if you find yourself stuck with some extra Circus Peanuts, perhaps chop them up and throw them in your breakfast bowl.
Some brief facts:
Other thoughts around the ‘net:
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.