Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Since I’m on the topic of classic candies this week (starting with Orange Slices) another favorite are what are simply called the Raspberry. They’re a simple construction that mimics the actual berry quite nicely: it’s a gummi center covered with crunchy colored nonpareils in the approximate size and shape of a real raspberry.
Quite a few companies make them, Haribo’s are probably the most famous, but there’s also a great version made here in the United States by Jelly Belly (they also come in a white grape version called Champagne Bubbles).
Today’s new item is Bebeto Premium, a line of crunchy coated gummis made in Turkey by a company called Kervan. They’re being introduced to the American market at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago this week. I picked up a few samples in Cologne at the ISM candy fair there in February, and now that I know that they may be available here, I thought I’d review them.
The product line boasts all natural flavorings and colorings. They’re packaged in stand up bags with zip lock tops for freshness and each variety comes with two flavors in the mix. I got to try three of their new varieties: Tropical, Berry & Turkish Coffee
Tropical: The crunchy bits outside are sweet and have a very light fruity flavor. It isn’t until I got to the gummi center that the flavor really developed. The Tropical Ananas (Pineapple) was intense, a good blend of tartness and those pine and rosemary notes that fresh pineapples have. It was more like the fresh flavors than the canned ones. The Tropical Orange was a little more subdued, but with a good dose of zest in there to carry off a fully developed fruit flavor.
ones were rather like I expected. Blackberry starts very sweet with the light, crunchy nonpareils but then gets a good fruit jam kick from the gummi center. The flavor notes were dark enough to be considered blackberry. The Raspberry was more fragrant and floral than the Blackberry and of this pairing, it was definitely my favorite. Happily I also experience no flavor interference from the colorings.
The Turkish Coffee & Mint variety was the one I was looking forward to the most. I know that coffee or anything creamy sounds like an odd match for a gummi base, but I’ve had some wonderful Japanese versions, so I know it can be done well.
As this is an actual Turkish candy from a Turkish candy company, I expected a lot from their Turkish Coffee. The package was a mix of brown and white candies, the brown ones were the coffee (obviously) and white was mint.
The Turkish Coffee pieces smelled wonderful, like strongly sweetened, fresh coffee. The coffee flavor, in this piece, was much more apparent on the outside with the little crunchies. So far, so good. I was enjoying it and looking forward to the more intense coffee center. But that didn’t happen. The center was tangy. Generically tangy, but still with a coffee note to it. It’s like someone tossed a spoonful of lemon juice in my coffee. I thought for a while it was an error, that the little packet I had was a mistake, that they were changing over a production line. But every packet I had (I think I had four or five of these little samples that had three or four pieces each in them that I gathered from several different places - both the press room and the booth for Bebeto) was the same.
Mint was similar. The white crunchies were a strong peppermint with just a hint of spearmint. But the center was tangy. I didn’t mind that as much, I thought of it kind of like a less than zesty mojito.
I love that there are no artificial colorings in these candies. The flavors chosen for this line are great with the exception of the Turkish Coffee. I though the fruit flavors went well together in their pairings. However, the Turkish Coffee was just too weird, when I want a coffee flavored candy, I don’t want too much extra with it. Tartness definitely not a bonus. They’re a little more adult in their packaging and flavor combos, but this can easily be a family candy. I don’t know the recommended retail prices on these, but if they’re comparable to Haribo, they could fit well in the American market. The crunchy coating means they don’t stick together and would look great in a candy dish. I give the fruits a 7 out of 10 but Turkish Coffee gets a 5 out of 10 and should go back to the drawing board.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
It’s hard to find a good gum these days. I was looking for sugarless gum, something to clean my mouth between meals. But I also didn’t want something filled with artificial sweeteners. I detest things like aspartame (NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame potassium (AceK) and saccharine. The other option for sugarless is Xylitol, which is a sugar alcohol which has a light, and very sweet flavor profile and a cooling effect which is ideal for gum. Xylitol is also show to be helpful in reducing plaque build up in the mouth between brushing that can lead to tooth decay.
PUR Gum is made with xylitol and is gluten free, nut free, dairy free, vegan and free of GMO ingredients. The gum comes in three flavors: Peppermint, Spearmint and Pomegranate Mint. It’s sold by Action Candy Company, based in Canada. I picked up these samples from the Frey company at the candy fair ISM Cologne earlier this year. It’s available in Canada and via online stores from Canada, though I expect it to be more widely available in the US soon.
The Peppermint pieces are nicely sized. They’re 3/4” long and 1/2” wide. They’re smooth and softly shiny. Two pieces are a good portion as suggested by the package. The mint is strong and quite cool as a result of the xylitol sweetener. As I’ll mention here quite a bit, the chew at first is a little tough, but it does mellow out.
The peppermint is clear and strong, there’s a light burn to it that continues for at least fifteen minutes into the chew. The sweetness doesn’t last long, but I’m fine with that.
Spearmint (in green) is racy. The chew is cool and fresh, but really strong. It’s Altoids strong. I find it burns a bit. The chew is soft at first but gets a bit stiffer as the coolness fades.
Even towards the later part of the chew, the minty flavor stays strong and the texture of the gum does loosen up quite a bit. The mint is green and penetrating without that grassy flavor that fresh muddled spearmint laves have.
The blister packs are nicely made. I understand the necessity for certain kinds of candy being sealed up like this, even though it takes up a lot of space. The pieces were easy to get out and the little paperboard sleeve was light and spare (and recyclable).
Pomegranate Mint in the pink accented package is different. The first note is a woodsy tangy thing that’s a bit floral and a bit minty. Then it’s very cool on the tongue, which is the xylitol. It’s all very busy. It’s not that the flavors or textures or temperatures are incompatible, it’s that they’re just not integrated. So it’s noisy, like three radio stations bleeding through on the stereo at once. But after a while with the chew it calms down and things start working a little better. The coolness fades and it’s just a mellow sweetness, the woodsy notes of the pomegranate and a light dryness comes out and then a fresh mint flavor. The texture of the gum base varies. At first it’s soft and mushy, then it seizes up and is quite tough for a while ... then towards the end (as in, maybe ten minutes, which is about the limit for a piece of gum for me) it softens up again. At the very end it still retains its minty notes but all the sweetness is gone.
Xylitol is an excellent substitute for sugar in specific applications like gum or mints and is good for folks who can’t have sugar, like diabetics. It’s not a calorie-free food though, two pieces of gum have 10 calories. There are also some white tea extracts in there, which may be added for flavor or perhaps for antioxidants. They don’t seem to make it worse but probably make it more expensive.
Some people are sensitive to the effects of xylitol. Such effects include abdominal gas and diarrhea. These effects are reported with larger portions than are found in chewing gum though, there is one gram of xylitol in each piece of gum and tests were showing effects when consuming over 65 grams per day. Also note that dogs are especially sensitive to xylitol which can cause seizures and liver damage, so please don’t let your dog have gum or mints made with any sugar alcohol - in fact, just don’t give you dog any candy at all.
I know that chewing gum with xylitol is probably really good for me as a between meal pick me up and substitute for candy snacking, and this version is already tops on my list. I didn’t care for the pomegranate at all, but the other two mint flavors are great. Now if I could just find someplace to actually buy it.
Monday, March 14, 2011
They’re little, beefy one inch rods of licorice with a candy shell. What’s interesting about these that’s different from most licorice pastels is the fact that the shells are flavored. They come with two flavors in each bag - lemon (yellow) and peppermint (white). As with all Panda licorice, the ingredients are all natural and vegan.
In Europe a slightly different version of this candy is available. I bought a bag in Amsterdam called Liquorice Comfits, which had three different colors (more about that in a moment).
This particular bag is small, it holds 100 grams which is 3.5 ounces. The retail price is pretty steep for a sugar candy, I paid over 2 Euros for mine in Europe and it appears that the American version will be prices around $2.50 to $3.00 per bag.
The pieces are consistent and attractive. They’re not slickly smooth, but they are shiny. The yellow is creamy and the white is stark and bright. (The green ones are from the European mix.)
The white ones are Peppermint and I was hoping they’d be similar to Skoolkrit, which I love so much. The licorice center is soft and chewy but not deeply flavored. It’s a bit doughy, like Panda can be, but missing the dark molasses notes. The licorice flavors are exactly that, the mellow and lingering sweetness of the licorice root. Though they have aniseseed oil in them, there’s less of that flavor in the profile. The mint shell gives is a fresh start and finish. It’s crunchy and sweet as well, but doesn’t really stick with me after consuming.
The lemon was a bit more of an unconventional combination. It was definitely sweeter to me with a lemony start that reminded me of icing. The licorice just seemed sweeter in this version.
Both are fun to eat, but I kept waiting for some stronger licorice flavors that I was relieved when the bag was empty and I could move on to something else.
Without the flavored shell, you’d think they’d have more of a licorice punch, but it was the same thing. Too sweet, not enough rich burnt toffee notes.
I don’t expect that I’ll pick these up again. I’m sure there are plenty of folks who will like these and I expect for parents who want a great family licorice, this is a good place to start, especially with younger kids who are turned off by strong flavors.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I like Good and Plenty better, I certainly prefer the price.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I picked up this box of Jila Mints late last year. I was drawn to the box. It’s a cute little flip top box, a little over three inches tall and one inch wide. The design made me think they were Finnish or Swedish for some reason, but it turns out they’re made in Australia by a company called Ferndale Confectionery.
The Spearmint Jila Mints are themed in green. The back of the box has some charming copy: Jila round mints are made to last long, clearing the nose and freshening the breath. Refreshment from natural mint essence and energy from added glucose make them the ideal, modern personal accompaniment in work and social situations.
They’re made from sugar and glucose. Glucose is a little less sweet than sucrose, so I was looking forward to a mintier mint with less of a sticky sweet finish.
They’re a solid panned mint. A very small bead of mint is slowly coated in layers of sugar in a tumbling barrel over hours and days. This method has been used for hundreds of years (usually starting with a fennel seed as the center, like Anis de Flavigny).
They’re beautiful little matte green spheres. They’re about the size of large peas or dried garbanzo beans. They remind me of those small Atomic Fireballs and in a way they’re just a spearmint version.
The spearmint flavor is soft and has a strong herbal flavor that kind of penetrates like menthol. It doesn’t have that “green” or “grassy” flavor that spearmint candies or tea can sometimes get. The flavor goes through and though and is sometimes a little stronger in some layers. The mint lasts a long time and is practically un-crunchable for the first portion of the dissolve, when it gets much smaller, sometimes I can crush it.
They also come in Peppermint. I didn’t buy a box of them, but I did find after taking this photo that I had a sample from some trade show in my archives. Jila Mints Peppermint comes in a similar box, the design is navy blue and the mints themselves have no coloring at all. They’re just a soft white sphere. The flavor of the peppermint is quite woodsy at first but then mellowed out to a soft mint, like a Tic Tac.
I like this style of mint, even though I’m a hard candy cruncher. There was no distinction, really, between the layers as they dissolved, which gave me the sense that they were crafted with care and consistency. The price was pretty good for a box that contained about 1 ounce - the comparable Anis de Flavigny can cost several times this though they do come in a wider variety of flavors. The box is easy to carry and share and of course is easily recycled.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Yes, I’m the type of person who eats sugar straight. Mostly brown sugar, but sometimes raw sugar and of course honey. Then there’s maple sugar. That’s a kind of sugar that’s actually marketed in little molded shapes to be eaten straight by non-sugar-obsessed folks.
Big Sky Brands of Canada is known for their little compressed sugar candies like Jones Soda Carbonated Candies and Yogen Fruz Smoothies. Their new Maple Ice Mints Original are far more subtle and dare I say, elegant.
The tin is rather ordinary but does the job. It has all the convincing faux wood grain of a early 1980s station wagon. It’s about 3.25 inches long and 1.75 inches wide.
Inside the tin are 30 little mints, each is about the size of an extra strength aspirin. They have a small maple leaf on one side. They smooth but leave a little powdery residue. They smell woodsy and sweet, like maple. The ingredients list both cane sugar and maple sugar, the color of them is a light sandy white and since there are no artificial colors in there, I’m guessing that’s the maple sugar that does that.
They’re sweet and have a light fresh mint hint far in the back, but mostly they’re a soft maple flavor. The great thing about the maple flavor is that it’s not sticky like the syrup and other sugar candies.
The problem with them is the price, I suppose. They were about $2 for less than an ounce. It’s tough in a Tic Tac and Altoids world to sink twice as much money into these. They’re not minty enough for me to consider them a mint, in that mints are consumed one or two at a time and then set aside for another day. Nope, I wanted to eat the whole box of them at once. I succeeded in eating them in three separate sittings. They still leave my mouth fresh and were wonderful with tea or just as a little delight in the middle of computer frustrations.
The package doesn’t say anything about the gluten status or nuts but they do appear to be all natural and probably vegan. (There’s calcium stearate in there, but I’ve never seen a candy that uses an animal source for the ingredient since the vegetable version is so cheap.)
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Godiva Chocolatier has been moving into more stores lately - places like Cost Plus World Market and even drug stores like CVS. This holiday was the first time I saw them in my ordinary grocery store (Von’s). The mass-market fare isn’t quite like the stuff in their shops, it’s small bites (Gems) and bars along with their Chocoiste line of little pearls.
They’re still rather expensive, this bag of Godiva Gems Peppermint Truffles was selling for $6.00 before Christmas. Though the bag looks pretty big (similar to the stand up bags from Ghirardelli which holds nearly 3 times as much), it only holds 3.5 ounces. But after Christmas I snagged this for only $2.64 ... a fair price for a real white chocolate product.
The package says: White chocolate with creamy candy cane filling.
The package warns that some settling of contents may occur in shipping, and they’re not kidding. There are 10 individually wrapped Gems inside, making two layers - that’s a lot of empty space in the bag. Each sphere is wrapped in a candy cane striped mylar twist.
The truffles are about 1 inch in diameter. They’re not completely spherical, they’re slightly faceted, I’m guessing to go with the Gems part of the name. They remind me of well-used polyhedral dice.
They’re formed from two hemispheres, so there’s a distinct seam in the center. Sometimes with a little gentle pressure on opposite sides of the seam, I can pop the sides apart. They’re each filled with the pink cream and then joined together with some more white chocolate.
The pieces are soft, the shell yields easily when bitten. The center is a soft cream made of white chocolate, sugar alcohols, butter and some palm oil along with some red food coloring and peppermint flavor. There’s just a little dash of salt in there. The sorbitol and xylitol are used as sweeteners to good effect. Both of them are lower in calories but they also are less sweet and provide a cooling effect on the tongue. (Some folks cannot tolerate sugar alcohols, but I don’t think there’s much in here.)
They were good quality, I liked that the ganache filling wasn’t greasy and thin tasting like the Lindt Lindor Truffles, which I see these as competing with. But the flavor combo wasn’t really best for me, I wanted a rich, silky dark chocolate shell and the white chocolate, minty ganache center. White chocolate lovers may disagree though. They’re not too sweet, which is also refreshing.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
I’ve often made fun of R.M. Palmer as a maker of horrible candy. I do my best though to keep an open mind whenever I approach a candy from them that I’ve never had. Sometimes I’m rewarded.
I picked up their Peppermint Patties since they were on display as a “great value” at RiteAid. It was only $1.00 for a 5 ounce bag of individually wrapped patties. Each little pattie is about 1.5 inches in diameter.
They’re molded instead of enrobed, which is kind of odd. (More like the Russell Stover version I mentioned last week in construction than the Haviland.) The molding has ripples on it to make them look liked they’ve been enrobed, but it’s easy to tell around the edge that they’re made in a mold. (And they look nothing like the image on the package, which I seem to have lost.)
The big difference between these and most other peppermint patties is the coating. This is not chocolate, it’s mockolate. The first ingredient on the list is sugar and the second is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (palm kernel, coconut and/or palm oil). It’s really evident upon biting into them. The coating has a decent melt and the whole thing has a cool and fresh minty scent. The cocoa flavors are just that, plain old cocoa, like I’m eating that paste that you make with water and hot cocoa mix, not actual chocolate. The minty center is creamy and smooth and has a very subtle flavor, almost like peppermint bubble gum instead of a strong breath mint style.
Since there’s more coating than filling, these are very high on the calorie count for a peppermint pattie. York Peppermint Patties are about 115 calories per ounce, which is great for a product that contains real chocolate. These clock in at 152 calories per ounce. For that you can have an actual chocolate truffle (sure, it’ll cost more) and enjoy the real fats instead of this partially hydrogenated artery clogging crud.
They’re not horrible, they’re just not that good. I don’t plan on finishing the bag.
Monday, December 20, 2010
I love Peppermint Bark and I’m kind of disappointed that it’s not available year round. There are a lot of different variations on the idea of peppermint bark, but most involves layering different kinds of chocolate (dark or milk with white chocolate) along with a peppermint flavoring and probably crushed peppermint hard candies.
This package holds a cardboard try with six individually wrapped Peppermint Bark Snowmen. I got them for $1.99 but I expect they’re on sale some places.
It’s a two tone mold, the base is dark chocolate and the top layer is white chocolate. The package notes in bold and all caps type on the back that its MADE WITH 100% REAL CHOCOLATE. This is what spurred me to buy it. There are so many minty holiday candies that aren’t made with all cocoa butter these days, like the Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses and even Andes Mints.
I can say that after eating these, it’s so obvious that real cocoa butter is superior to fractionated or partially hydrogenated tropical oils (and though all are high in calories, at least cocoa butter isn’t bad for your heart).
The fact that these “bark” snowmen are molded does ruin the rustic illusion of bark, but I have to say, I’m not really that fond of bark. I’m a believer in integration. If you want to put something in your chocolate bar, put it in there, get it all covered up. Don’t just let it float on top and get knocked off. Commit!
The base layer looks very dark, almost black. The ingredients mention that it’s made with chocolate processed with alkali, which often gives it that almost-black color. The flavor of the chocolate base reminded me of Oreos, it’s a toasted and smoky flavor. The melt is rich and smooth and though the chocolate flavor stands up to the others, it’s not overwhelming or bitter. The white chocolate is smooth and creamy, it has an excellent fresh dairy taste to it, more like butter than dried milk. Then there’s a light touch of peppermint. Though I think there are supposed to be peppermint candies in here, I didn’t get much. I ate three of the snowmen for this review and at first I thought that it was just a variation in the production run. But there were all rather sparse on the candy. This didn’t bother me.
It was like a good quality ice cream. Not too sweet, a good balance of flavors, clean and neat. I liked the portion and the molding was nicely done. I preferred the crispness of the flavors and clean distinction between the layers to the slightly more expensive Dove Peppermint Bark.
I really can’t find much fault with these at all. They’re not the most sophisticated candies in the world, but they were very well done. There are some artificial ingredients in there (there’s some red dye in the hard candy chips) but overall it tastes like a quality product considering the price (about 33 cents each). It would be nice if they can do other variations of the snowman for other holidays - I wouldn’t even mind seeing other flavor variations like strawberry for Valentine’s Day or Orange for Halloween. (I think Mint could return for Easter.)
Russell Stover really seems to shine with their holiday treats. These are easy to afford and stash in stockings or pass around at the office.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.