Tuesday, February 21, 2006
I think it might be marshmallow day here at CandyBlog.net.
Last week I was at the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax to meet up with some other bloggers and I knew I had to stop at Littlejohn’s Candies because a reader told me they had the best toffee. Of course once I got there my eyes were drawn to these plump caramel kisses - soft caramel drenching a puffy marshmallow. I completely forgot about the toffee.
So, I got two, one in chocolate and one in vanilla. (And a pecan praline which was divine and I ate before I could take a photo of it.) I figured I can always go back for more toffee ... and another pecan praline.
Once I opened the wrapper it was obvious that these caramels were made with lots and lots of butter. They were creamy, very smooth and exceptionally sweet with a slight hit of salt to it. The marshmallow center was smooth and light without being too foamy. The center also wasn’t very sweet, so it gave a nice backdrop to let the caramel dominate the flavor stage. The chocolate caramel wasn’t as tasty to me, there wasn’t enough chocolate to set it apart from the regular caramel and I plan on sticking to the vanilla in the future.
These are messy candies. They stuck to the cellophane wrapper and to my fingers as I held it. They’re too big to put in your mouth all at once (about the size of a squashed golf ball), so eating them posed a challenge. I ended up with sticky fingers. In the future I think I’ll leave them in the cello and scrape them off with my teeth.
Since the Farmers Market and the adjacent Grove shopping center are such a tourist destination in Los Angeles, if you do come to the city be sure to seek this place out for something a little different from the tourist fudge that you find at many places. (Though they certainly have fudge.) It’s a classic, working farmers market and they actually make the candy right there with big plate glass windows so you can learn all of their sugary secrets.
There are a couple of other iterations of the famous red foil Rocky Road. One is Mint, which I found only recently but was in such bad condition, I could hardly give it a fair review. The second is this one, which I found at the Rite-Aid which is Dark Chocolate.
This bar comes in a pleasant, lightly gold-tinted wrapper. I’ve decided that all Rocky Road bars are dented and cracked as a consequence of the scant packaging. No matter, it doesn’t seem to affect the taste at all. This bar doesn’t smell quite as chocolately as the milk chocolate one does, but does have a very sweet aroma.
The marshmallow is thick and foamy, but not very moist. It has some good give to it without being too rubbery and a not-too-fake vanilla taste to it. There’s very little contribution from the cashews in the chocolate coating except for some texture. I think the bar might be better served without them, but then I’d probably notice that the quality of the coating chocolate isn’t really that good.
Overall, I liked it quite a bit better than the traditional milk Rocky Road, but its rarity is an impediment to purchasing it again. I’ve been in plenty of Rite-Aids in Los Angeles and this is the first time I’ve seen this there and it’s not good enough for me to keep going back to that particular Rite-Aid (Santa Monica Blvd. & La Brea).
Friday, December 9, 2005
Name: Plush Puffs Assortment
Yes, artisanal marshmallows. And why not? The stuff we’ve been getting from Kraft are not what marshmallows are capable of. And those things that you find in cereal? Please, let’s not even grace them with the name marshmallow. They’re not even marshy!
I was sent a generous sample pack from Ann of Plush Puffs, which is based here in Los Angeles (Sherman Oaks, to be exact). The weird thing is that until I started Candy Blog, I didn’t really think much of marshmallows. Besides the See’s Scotchmallows, there were very few marshmallow things that I would even try. Peeps were never on the menu, but I have been known to toast marshmallows, if only because they’re the only grillable dessert I know.
Instead of just plain marshmallows, Plush Puffs are flavored with intense combinations of spice, nuts and/or fruit essences:
Caramel Swirl - I think I’d rename this one to “sticky toffee” because it had a nice carmelized sugar note to it and it was sticky. It was very sweet and had a little bit of caramelly fudge topping on it.
Chocolate Chipetta - this is the only one that doesn’t feel “sweet” to me. It’s rich and toasty tasting with a good chocolate hit. One of my top three flavors.
Maple Pecan - holy moly! These were really good. The maple flavor wasn’t artificial or chemically like some candies can be. It was a good sweet woodsy backdrop to the sweet, chewy foam. It had almost a toffee-like flavor and I even had a few pecans in mine.
Peppi-Mint - it’s like a fluffy candy cane! Seriously minty, like someone’s made a foam Altoid or something. The color and texture looks more like a cake than a marshmallow but the intense flavor made me want to eat both but I settled for doing a mash-up with the Chocolate Chipetta which was really good. One of my top three flavors.
Toasted Coconut - this one smelled divine and tasted just a good. I love coconut and I love the nutty smell that reminds me of the beach and all the kids that could tan wearing that coconut oil suntan lotion. One of my top three flavors.
Sydney’s Cinnamon - this was not my favorite, though I had high hopes for it. It’s definitely cinnamonny, but it also has cinnamon oil, which gives it more of a candy hit than a spiciness (like eating a cinnamon hard candy). But where this puff really showed itself was in the toasting. (see below)
Vanilla Bean - I know, vanilla, kind of bland. It wasn’t really bland, a little salty and it just didn’t wow me. I think this would be good with something else, like maybe over pie or toasted or in s’mores.
Sam’s Sour Lemon - these had a gorgeous zesty lemon smell and pretty creamy and vivid yellow swirls in them. Calling them “sour” lemon doesn’t work at all for me (in fact, I would call them “zesty” lemon instead) but the flavor is really nice and mellow. I also didn’t care much for the mix of textures wtih the crunchy lemon sugar but it’s not a dealbreaker or anything.
There’s one more flavor on their list that for some reason I didn’t get in my grab bag, which is the one that sadly interested me most - Orange Honey. The honey flavor is not that noticeable in the other Plush Puffs but is one of the things that I’ve always found so intense about the See’s Scotchmallows. (I guess I’ll have to place an order.)
Per the recommendation of Ann at Plush Puffs, I tried some in my tea and of course toasted some of Sydney’s cinnamon:
I brewed a cup of Revolution Lavender Earl Grey tea and and dropped in about a quarter of a puff (I didn’t want to overload). As I took the photos I noticed the marshmallow dissolving into a beautiful aromatic foam. I enjoyed the combination of flavors, the creaminess of the marshmallow, the interaction of the botanicals of bergamot, lemon and lavender was really nice. And of course the sweetness of the puff was a nice change from my usually naked tea. Even after I’d slurped off the foamy dissolved puffiness there was still a nice lingering sweetness and lemony flavor. Definitely a cool way to decorate an ordinary after-dinner or afternoon tea. I still prefer my naked tea, because that’s just the way I am.
The drink marshmallows were invented for, of course, is hot chocolate. I got some amazing Mayan Hot Chocolate mix from Xocoatl from my sister-in-law at Thanksgiving which I made here at the office with some milk in the microwave. In went a half of a Sydney’s Cinnamon. Instead of dissolving in a bubbly foam and spreading across the surface like the lemon one in the tea did, this one hung together really well. But once I tried poking it with a spoon it melted completely. I scooped it up like some sort of dessert soup with some of the hot chocolate and enjoyed that until all I had left was my cocoa broth. The spice of the cinnamon went really well with the Mayan chocolate which already had a hit of spices in it.
I kept a few of the Sydney’s Cinnamon aside for toasting. I loaded one up on a carving fork because I know that a single prong really doesn’t do very well with a marshmallow. I put it over the open flame on the gas burner on my stove and it carmelized so beautifully and left the house smelling so good, I think I’ll just start toasting these like incense. Here’s a tip about toasting them. They’re huge. They’re actually too big to toast whole. There’s no way to get a fully molten center (I do not like medium rare toasted marshmallows) with a marshmallow this size. What is so intense about these is that they melt even at moderate heat, which turns them into this molten, intense foamy sauce with a crispy carmelized shell. In the future I think I’ll slice them in half and then have a greater surface area to center ratio.
I’ve been looking for a summer dessert to have after grilling and this just might be the thing. Everyone can choose their own flavor and I think it’d be really cool to make some grown-up s’mores and drinks with them. They don’t quite fit into the “candy” family for me for some reason. They feel more like food, maybe that’s because they’re so satisfying and slightly saltier (more savory) than an ordinary marshmallow.
I should go back and add them to the gift guide, especially since they have baskets where you can choose the selection of flavors. Also, if you’re dubious about them, you can try their “scraps” which are not quite perfect marshmallows. I love factory stores. Overall this is the kind of thing I’d like to offer guests at a party and I can see myself ordering them for a summer grill or maybe part of dessert a holiday cocktail party. I don’t see myself just ordering them to eat, maybe it’s because they feel kind of precious being handmade and all, I just can bring myself to just wolf them down like so many handfuls of M&Ms or Skittles.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Monday, October 31, 2005
I’ve mentioned the See’s Scotchmallow a few times as being the epitome of fine marshmallowyness. So I figured I should probably detail it for folks who have never had one.
First, there are two kinds. There’s the one you can buy pre-packaged like a candy bar, pictured above. It’s 1.5 ounces and clocking in at 113 calories per ounce, for a chocolate treat, it’s pretty low on the calories per ounce. I’ll credit the marshmallow for that. The second kind is the little round one that you can get at the counter by the piece or in the mixed boxes (comes in both the standard mix and the nuts & chews). Not only is it smaller, but it is also cloaked in semi-sweet chocolate, not milk chocolate as the bar is.
Second, See’s makes one of the best caramels available in stores. What is it about them? I think it’s that they actually have carmelized sugar in them. Caramels are rather time consuming and though the ingredients are simple (sugar, corn syrup, milk and butter), they need to be boiled slowly and brought up to temperature. If you don’t boil it long enough or to the right temp, you end up with gooey caramel without much flavor. If you go too long, you get toffee (which is good in its own right). Basically, a good caramel is a chewy toffee. The marshmallow though, is what makes this candy special. And the best thing about the marshmallow is that it has a flavor. It’s not just foamy, gelatinized sugar and egg whites. It has a wonderfully rounded flavor of honey in it which sets off the toasty taste of the caramel and sweet creaminess of the chocolate. Often I’ll eat off the chocolate and caramel and just be left with a honey of a marshmallow heap. Ahhhhh! (I wish the just sold the marshmallows, maybe they have a version of a Peep I should look out for at Easter.)
Third, they’re great quality. They use real ingredients (except for vanillin) and they’re not that expensive. I prefer See’s far and away over Godiva as boxed chocolates from the mall go. Though they’re antiseptic stores, which resemble the school nurse’s office more than a candy shop, they’re a plain old hoot. And when you go into the store, whether you buy something or not, they give you a free sample. (I had a raspberry truffle when I was there on Saturday.)
Stores are found only in the West and Midwest, but you can always mail order.
Rating - 9 out of 10
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I know it seems odd that I’ve never had a Rocky Road bar before, but I’ve never been much of a marshmallow fan. To me the best thing about marshmallows is that they’re a dessert you can make on the grill. If marshmallows disappeared from the earth, I’d probably only lament the loss of Rice Krispies treats.
But, I thought it was high time I gave it a try - after all, how did I know I wouldn’t like it? First, the package is just fantabulous. It’s flashy red mylar and the lettering is bold and you can spot it easily from 20 feet. No wonder, it’s a big bar. At 1.8 ounces and the size of a tree limb, it’s a sizeable purchase for 75 cents.
The bar is rather unappealing when pulled out of the package, but really, when you look at most candy analytically it’s unattractive. I first pulled the bar apart for the photo and the sugary smell is just fantastic. It’s like putting your head into a box of Count Chocula.
The marshmallow isn’t overly sweet, but it’s foamy and has a good rubbery pull to it. The chocolate coating though is very sweet and the cashews are rather hard to discern. The mixture of textures is the real treat in this bar, with a real focus on the marshmallow, the light airyness of the bar sets it apart from just about everything out there. I hardly feel like I’ve eaten almost two ounces. It still hasn’t changed my mind about marshmallow in general, but I can see why it’s such an enduring favorite.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Name: Peppermint Cup-O-Gold
This candy cup has left me mystified. Is it really from Adams-Brooks? They don’t mention it on their website ... no one mentions it on their website on any of the internets. Have I stumbled across an inter-dimensional 99 cent store that sells candy unknown to us here?
Why is it called Cup-o-Gold anyway? The center is clearly white. The package is silver ... these things trouble me. But not enough to keep me from eating it.
Like the original Cup-O-Gold, this milk chocolate cup sports toasted coconut and almond bits in the chocolate. The ratio of chocolate to the filling is a little off. Upon my first small bite (not pictured), I didn’t hit filling, just chocolate. The second bite, which was sizeable (like the photo) didn’t hit filling. Finally on the fourth bite which by now meant half the cup was gone, I hit a small hidden cavity of filling. Instead of a light, frothy filling like the Cup-O-Gold, this one was a little tacky, a little stiff. The mint was barely perceptible.
I bought this thinking it’d be like a milk chocolate Junior Mint - a gooey minty cream center. Alas, the coconut competes too much with the scant mint. If there were less chocolate and more filling, perhaps it wouldn’t seem so overpowering. However, the package does say thick rich milk chocolate, so who am I to go expecting things not advertised?
Rating - 4 out of 10.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Name: Mikakuto Osushi Gummy
This has got to be one of the cutest candies I have ever seen. It’s gummi sushi. The fish is little fruit-flavored gummies, the rice is marshmallow and there’s a little chocolate goo inside the marshmallow (I’m not sure what that’s supposed to be).
Inside the box are eight individually sealed pieces. There’s a huge variety. As far as I can tell: a grape octopus, a pineapple roe, a raspberry tuna, a green apple something (looked kinda like edamame, but you don’t usually have that on rice), a berry shrimp ... I think that’s about it. I’m guessing the variety differs depending on random chance. There’s a little guide on the inside of the lid ... in Japanese, but at least it shows you all the varieties.
The gummi part is very fragrant, soft and fresh. The marshmallow is a really nice complement to the tart gummi, but the chocolate center just kind of ruins it for me.
As a gift or stocking stuffer, this is great. It’s novel and well packaged (easy to wrap) and the images on it are really cute. It’s a little expensive, but I’d be willing to buy something like this for the right person. For just eating, I’ll probably stick to regular gummi bears.
Interesting fact from wrapper: no MSG!
Rating - 7 out of 10 (because of the price and funky chocolate filling)
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
To follow up on the earlier review of the Cup-O-Gold I figured I’d contrast that with Hershey’s S’mores bar. The S’mores bar is marshmallow on top of a graham cracker crust covered in chocolate. If you recall the S’mores most of us have made, they were a toasted marshmallow (or two), a few squares of Hershey’s chocolate between two graham crackers. What was great about that combo was that you’d freshly toasted the marshmallow so it was retardedly hot in the middle and of cuorse melted the chocolate and the ratio being the dominance of the graham crackers (which also kept your fingers from being burned).
In this bar Hershey’s has the ratios all askew. By far the dominant feature of this bar is the marshmallow center. It’s not a traditional white marshmallow but a slightly tan version that seems a tad nougaty ... perhaps they’re trying to make it taste toasted. Much sweeter than it needed to be and lacked that meringue feeling that a good marshmallow has. There no graham cracker here. Instead the crust seems to be a crisco and cookie bits amalgamation. Then it’s covered in very sweet milk chocolate.
Too sweet, not enough toasty flavor and the graham cracker thing was just plain wrong. Move along, nothing to taste here.
Rating: 4 out of 10
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