A faux chocolate product that contains some but not all the components necessary to be considered true chocolate. Mockolate is most often missing cocoa butter, which creates a frustrating illusion of chocolate but little of the taste or mouthfeel.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
For over eighty years folks enjoyed a simply little candy called Flicks. They were disks of chocolate (or mockolate) like large chocolate chips sold in foil wrapped tubes. Great for munching at the movies or sharing with the kids.
They were originally made by Ghirardelli starting in 1904 and over those decades they never changed. Seriously, never altered the manufacturing equipment at all. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that eventually the machines broke down and couldn’t be easily repaired. Instead of developing a new process Ghirardelli simply stopped making them. But folks missed them, so after sitting idle, in 2004 the Tjerrild family bought the trademark and rights to the candy and set about repairing the old machines. Though the actual machinery is no longer in Racine, Wisconsin, but now in Fresno, California - they still use the same Ghirardelli mockolate formula.
The package is simple. It’s a cardboard tube covered in foil that wraps around and into the ends to close them up. Then they’re covered in plastic wrap to protect the freshness. (I believe they’re change it this year and putting the candies inside into a plastic baggy and getting rid of the overwrap.) The tube is about 5.25 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter, about the same as half of a paper towel core. The foil comes in four colors, for no particular reason I guess: red, blue, gold and green.
I admit that I’ve been hesitant to review these. I’ve had Flicks before, probably 30 years ago and recall them being cheap tasting (even then I knew the difference between real chocolate and substitutes). But enough people were pining for them that they were brought back after 15 years out of production, so the narrative of something being brought back from the dead is compelling.
The disks are between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch in diameter.
The pieces don’t smell like much at all and look rather waxy. The texture at first isn’t very encouraging, it’s waxy and immediately gives off sweet and powder milk notes. But then it gets a little creamier as it melts, it’s a little malty, a little bit of salt in there. It’s very sweet. They’re not so much a chocolate as a simple kind of mockolate tablet. I can’t say that I love them, but didn’t mind eating them as much as I thought.
Overall, I have very little interest eating these when there are so many better things I can do with 220 calories and $1.39 that don’t contain palm oil. Ghirardelli makes such nice baking chips, it’s a shame these can’t just be those.
Here’s a little factory video, which is so utterly charming that I forgot I didn’t like them that much.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
While the news that KitKat is now available in both Dark and Milk Chocolate is hot news here in the United States, Nestle continues to churn out fantastically inventive versions for Japan.
Japanese KitKat are getting easier to find in the United States, I picked up mine in Little Tokyo at various grocery stores. The price is a bit steeper than an ordinary KitKat, usually between $2.00 and $3.00 depending on the variety and the store. (Here’s one store in Little Tokyo.)
I get the impression that Royal Milk Tea is the Japanese version of what we know here in the US as Thai Iced Tea, a strong black tea mixed with lot of sugar and milk (in the case of Thai Iced Tea the shortcut is sweetened condensed milk).
It smells lovely though, like a cross between Jasmine and Earl Grey Tea. There are sweet vanilla notes and a little roasted barley or lapsang suchong in there. The actual texture of the white confection (a mixture of milk, palm oil and sugar) is a little greasy but otherwise smooth. The flavoring of the coating is mellow and a little spicy, like a hint of chai. Inside there’s more of a darker tea. It’s quite milky, as the whole Royal Milk Tea name might imply. I’m not much for milk in my tea, so that part of the confectionery simulation is lost on me.
I didn’t know that Ginger Ale was that popular in Japan, but I guess it must be if there’s a KitKat for it. Or Nestle has run out of ideas to make into KitKats. (Where are my Pixy Stix KitKats?)
The flavor of the white confection outside is sweet and a little lemony. Inside the cream has a warm and woodsy burn of ginger. There are little specks and pops of sour, like carbonation.
It’s a weird bar. It’s not comforting like I find actual ginger ale. But then again it’s more exciting, probably because I’ve never had a candy bar like this before. I can’t say that I’d buy it again, but I can see where it has its place.
I wasn’t quite sure what the actual flavor was, is there a strawberry soda that it was referencing, like those Ramune ones? Was it supposed to be like strawberries in champagne?
After opening I at least found out that it was a pink, strawberry flavored confectionery coating with the standard wafers and a tangy strawberry creme between.
The berry confection is milky and has less of a strawberry flavor than I would like. It’s kind of like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of Frankenberry. The startling and inventive part of this bar is the cream filling. There are little “pops” of flavor which emulate carbonation well. They’re not pop rocks or fizzing powder. Instead they’re granules of what I’m guessing is citric acid and/or salt. So the tongue gets lots of little explosions of intense sour or salt. It’s a good mix and fun to eat. I would have preferred more strawberry flavor or even dark chocolate (so it’d be like a dark chocolate covered strawberry with a glass of champagne).
Kinako Ohagi KitKat shows a mochi with kinako (and probably bean paste inside). The idea of converting that into a KitKat, honestly, isn’t that appealing to me. I thought the red bean KitKat I tried a few years ago was interesting, but putting all the flavors of mochi into a KitKat just seems like too much. A KitKat is a KitKat and needs to maintain certain aspects. Throwing too many things into the mix just means that something is going to be done poorly and that leads to disappointment.
I was relieved to see that this was at least a milk chocolate bar.
It smells deep and roasted, milky and a little like corn chips. The milk chocolate is soft and fudgy but passably good. The wafers are crisp and crunchy and the kinako is, well, like soy powder. It’s a cross between the flavor of corn meal and peanut butter - it reminds me of protein supplements. The toasty flavors go very well with the wafers and milk chocolate. But the traditional KitKat was good before. This doesn’t make it better.
The last one confused me (and I didn’t take a picture of it, but you can safely substitute the Royal Milk Tea. It’s Milk Coffee KitKat but based on the box I thought it was Sakura Tea or something. What I also didn’t properly note was that this was on of the KitKat mailers, a box that has a little “dear” and “from” form on the back so that you can give it to a student to wish them luck on exams.
It smells sweet and milky and just slightly off. Biting into it the first time, I thought I was being poisoned and had a bad package. The center cream was just intensely bitter. Then when I caught on that it wasn’t cherry and it was coffee the bitterness didn’t seem so caustic. But still intense. Too intense to allow actual coffee flavors.
At least it was called Milk Coffee, with the milk first I was getting much more of the sweet white confection than coffee notes. Chewing helped, instead of my usual eating of the cream as a layer. It just didn’t have the rounded and complex coffee notes, it reminded me instead of what I thought coffee was when I was seven or eight years old - expensive bitterness.
Overall I was less than impressed with the heavy use of white confection instead of actual chocolate. (Nestle has been in trouble lately with animal activists over its use of poorly/unethically/unsustainably farmed palm oil - their response here.) I guess I’ve found after all this exploration (trying about three dozen different kinds over the years) that the plain old ones are great and the ones made with even better chocolate are phenomenal. They don’t need fancy flavors. But I’m not going to begrudge anyone who wants to have a little fun now and then.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I buy candy a lot of places, but probably the ones that fit best with the original intentions of Candy Blog are the dollar stores. Dollar stores and discounters like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar Store and 99 Cent Only Stores have a mix of closeout products, mainstream candies and then a bunch of weird stuff that you’ve never seen before and may never see again. One of the purposes of Candy Blog was to seek out those fringe candies and demystify them. Here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve picked up:
There’s no reason a couple of handfuls of fresh peanuts and some sugar can’t be dirt cheap and delicious. The good news is that I think Old Dominion has done an excellent job filling that niche. Old Dominion Butter Toffee Peanuts don’t come in the most attractive package ever, but the package has five ounces and boasts only four ingredients: peanuts, sugar, butter and salt. They’re Kosher and American made.
They’re a simple panned nut. A buttery toffee coating on whole peanuts.
They’re buttery, a little salty, crunchy and fresh. Not much more to say except that I wish they sold these in the vending machines in the basement of my office building. (My old office had PNuttles from time to time, which is similar, but a little more “toasty” where these are “buttery”.)
I bought the Zachary Thick Mints at the 99 Cent Only Store because they’re called Thick Mints. I mean, how could I resist. They’re mints and they’re thick.
They’re real chocolate, so they have that going for them. I don’t know much about Zachary as a brand for chocolate, I’ve had their sugar candies around Halloween and found them passable, but I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to sugar ... not so much when it comes to chocolate. The tray is flimsy and insubstantial as a serving piece (it bends and spills out the contents) but it did its job along with the box of protecting the product.
They are as advertised, they’re big and thick. They’re about the same diameter as the mini foil-wrapped York Peppermint Patties (about 1.33 inches across) but they’re at least a half an inch high. The inside is more like a Junior Mint (a flowing mint fondant) than a York Peppermint Pattie (a crumbly and dry fondant). The mint fondant is smooth, with a tiny grain to it but a smooth pull and strong almost alcoholic peppermint flavor. The chocolate is a letdown, not terribly cream and lacking a solid cocoa punch. It still does a good job of containing the minty center.
A couple of months ago I got the notion that I should review the chocolate covered caramel bites that come in Movie Theater boxes. (Yeah, a very specific genre of candy, but there are at least three of them.) This one got as far as the acquisition of the candy, photography and consumption. I just couldn’t think of much of a hook for it. But hey, I can’t let it go to waste.
I found Hershey’s Milk Duds, Tootsie Junior Caramels and Zachary Chocolate Caramels at the Dollar Tree. So they’re all the same price and basically the same thing. But very different.
Zachary Chocolate Caramels are the newest one on the market. The box is rather generic but at least well made. The photo of the baubles of milk chocolate are appetizing and the product within does actually look like that. The box holds 4.8 ounces, not the biggest value of the bunch, but still a lot of candy, especially if it’s real chocolate.
Of the three this was the only one that had a protective bag inside. They’re really big and have a decent milky smell. The milk chocolate is thick but not very flavorful. There are some dairy notes but the melt isn’t smooth. The caramel center is soft and easy to chew. It doesn’t have a strong butter or caramelized sugar flavor, it’s more like a cereal note. Just slightly toasty and sweet, it reminds me of Kraft Caramels.
The Junior Caramels box says that it has 10% more free, which is good because it doesn’t even manage to cram 4 ounces in there. The package says that they’re soft milk caramels in pure chocolate. (Here’s my original review when they were first introduced in 2005.)
The chocolate isn’t as thick as the Zachary ones and they’re not as glossy. They don’t smell like much and don’t taste like caramel or milk chocolate either.
The chew of the center is soft but not grainy. Again it’s lacking in butter, toasted sugar and that stringy pull that I love about caramel.
Milk Duds have been around since the 20s. They’ve gone through many changes in corporate ownership, packaging and formulation. Recently Hershey’s stopped using real milk chocolate to coat these choice little caramel bits which is too bad.
They really live up to their name when it comes to appearance, the caramel centers are rarely spherical, they’re flattened lumps. The caramel centers of Milk Duds are quite firm. The chew though is completely smooth and slick. The flavor is authentically toffee-like with a luxurious milky note. It’s so sad that the cardboard mockolate on the outside trashes the flavor with off notes and waxy cocoa. (I can’t say that the chocolate was great when it was real chocolate, but at least the flavor wasn’t off even if the texture was.)
It’s hard to declare a winner with this motley bunch. I love the center of Milk Duds, but the Zachary really do look the most appealing. I can’t say I want to eat any of them again and will probably dump out the rest of them before I flatten the boxes to be saved in my collection.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Yesterday I reviewed the new Necco Clark Bar with real milk chocolate and the Necco Clark Dark Bar with real dark chocolate. At the time I also purchased and compared the two other nationally available chocolatey peanut butter crunch bars: Nestle Butterfinger and Hershey’s 5th Avenue.
The bars are all roughly the same size and barring any sales, the same price. All are nationally available, and though Clark used to be hard to find, all of the bars here were purchased at RiteAid, a national drug store chain. Honestly, there are probably two main reasons to chose one over the other: flavor preference and ingredients.
The ingredients and concepts are very similar. A crunchy layered peanut butter crunch log is enrobed with chocolate or mockolate.
Necco Clark Bar (introduced by D.L. Clark in 1916-1917)
Noticeable molasses flavor, fresh roasted nuts but not overly salty. The texture varies from bar to bar, some are more hard-candy-like and others have a more crumbly layering with stronger peanut butter notes.
Nestle Butterfinger (introduced by Curtiss in 1923)
The center, when compared to the others, is obviously artificially colored. The scent of the bar is overtly “buttery” but without any real source. The coating is chalky looking and matte, without any ripples or variations. The crunch of the center is dense, though there are layers it’s a tightly wrapped bar. This gives it a density and satisfying weight. The mockolate coating is dreadful and the worst part of the bar. Salty and butter-flavored center has a good peanut butter flavor that at least covers the watery cocoa flavors of the outside.
Hershey’s 5th Avenue (introduced by Luden’s in 1936)
In earlier versions of the bar it was real milk chocolate and there were several almonds on top of the peanut butter center under the chocolate coating. The change over to a high-quality mockolate was about 4 years ago. The center of the 5th Avenue is by far the one I prefer. It’s like a bundle of spiky peanut butter crunch needles. They melt in your mouth with a burst of molasses, peanut butter and salty flavors. The mockolate is actually pretty good, though often very soft and pasty. The chocolate flavor of it is well rounded and the texture, though fudgy, is smooth.
If it were still in its original formulation, the 5th Avenue might still be the #1 bar for me. But given Clark’s new all natural and real ingredients, I have to go with the Clark Bar Dark and then the Clark Bar. Butterfinger comes in a distant #3 (or #4 if we’re using both Clark bars).
Thursday, April 15, 2010
The window in the bag is nice in that it shows the big, beefy looking pieces. I really wasn’t sure what the candy was, but I was pretty sure they were chocolate (or in this case decent quality mockolate) covered corn puffs.
The package is proud to state that it contains 63 grams. Is this an appealing amount? But what drew me to look closer were the little icons of milk, corn and soy. And then above that was the motto for the company:
More comfortable, you say? Well, I could be more comfortable when I’m relaxing (not that I actually know how to relax).
The nuggets are like lumpy, nubby chocolate thumbs. They smell like cocoa cereal, like Cocoa Krispies - a little chalky and sweet. The ingredients are okay, I think it’s a mockolate coating because the first five ingredients are sugar, cacao, palm oil, corn, lactose. I suspect it’s chocolate with additional palm oil, the smell and texture is convincing the the flavor not so much.
At the center of each 1.5” long piece is a foamy corn puff. They’re about the size and shape of a foam packing peanut. The centers are airy and crunchy but lacking a definitive corn meal flavor. In fact there’s very little to the center at all - just some texture. Not even a hint of salt. The chocolatey coating is mild and has a good creamy melt, but the cocoa flavors are a little thin and watery.
I’ve had them for a few months and find myself drawn to them expecting a good mix of textures ... and it does provide that. But the flavors just don’t rise to the occasion. I really enjoyed my Choco Mugi, which is chocolate covered barley or wheat puffs and was hoping these would be a corn version. (I’ve had several brands of the Choco Mugi and even though some are mockolate, I find it still satisfies my cereal & chocolate craving.) So I’ll stick with the Mugi in the future or maybe try to find the Kimmie Milk Chocolate Kettle Corn Nuggets.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Lately The Man and I have been searching for a new dog. As we’ve visited quite a few pounds and rescue organizations it’s startling to see how many rabbits there are. Rabbits are great pets, but too many of them are taken home by families that don’t know what’s involved with their care. Easter is a prime impulse season for pet rabbits (and chicks & ducks) so there’s an organization called Make Mine Chocolate that urges people to reconsider live animal gifts and instead keep the pet decisions out of the Easter basket. So make your Easter basket pet a chocolate one.
I am always drawn to RM Palmer’s package and product design. Their products go downhill after that, but how could I resist this cute little chocolate bunny in a little hutch? It plays on a kid’s desire to nurture without resorting to anthropomorphism.
The My Little Bunny is actually a fun little teaching toy. It’s a bit more realistic that the regular seated bunny or cartoon style one carrying a basket. This one is about the size of a little baby bunny or a dwarf. It comes in a small box shaped and designed like a carrying hutch with simulated chicken wire on the plastic window. I picked the blue wood-grained box version, but there’s a pink one as well. Also, I think the rabbits come in different colors, I only saw tan ones at the store.
The foil design makes the bunny look a little bit stylized with its vague smile, but for the most part it’s very bunny-like in the crouched position on all fours. The box is far larger than the candy, which is a good thing for a pet, though kind of wasteful as far as packaging. (The bunny is 5 inches long and 3 inches high, the box is 6.5 inches long and four inches high.)
I liked the little box and thought a clever or motivated child might enjoy making use of it to keep a small stuffed animal or other light toys. Unfortunately it’s poorly designed. The little tab in the top that tucks in comes undone when the little carrying handle is used, even when the box is empty. A little tape will fix that (that’s the way it comes in the store), but a bit more thought would have made this far more useful with probably no extra work or weight in the packaging.
There’s a web page just for the My Little Bunny where kids can download an adoption certificate or play games.
The candy itself is subpar. I’ve had the chocolate flavored rabbit before which looked completely fake, like some sort of vinyl dog toy. This one looks like chocolate and is called chocolatey n’ smooth crisp n’ crunchy candy which I figure is a Nestle Crunch simulation.
Since there are no easily accessible ears, I just smashed the hollow bunny instead.
It smells like caramel and chocolate cake, not actual chocolate. The ingredients are sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (Palm Kernel and/or Palm Oil), whey, lactose, crisp rice, cocoa, skim milk, soy lecithin and vanillin. My goodness, cocoa is really far down on that list. On top of that look at the second ingredient, palm oil. Nestle has being going through a huge issue recently for not moving to sustainable palm oil - that campaign has targeted the KitKat bar, which uses a little dash of the stuff, for most RM Palmer products it’s a major component. It’s short sighted to encourage kids to “adopt” a chocolate bunny instead of a real one but then not use sustainable ingredients in the product itself. (Save a bunny, trash a rainforest?)
The flavor is sweet, the texture is grainy and there aren’t nearly enough crisped rice bits to make each bite crunchy. The cocoa notes are like cardboard and there’s a greasy film on the roof of my mouth by the time I finished three bites.
Blech. At least I can wrap what’s left back up in the foil and put it back in the little box and look at it instead.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Whitman’s is now owned by Russell Stover’s, so it isn’t surprising that they might move into the single serving items and it makes more sense that if they did, it wouldn’t be with an item identical to a Russell Stover product. The new line seems to be all “Easter Pastelle” covered marshmallows.
The eggs were priced as I expected, regular price was 59 cents but on sale at two for a dollar at Walgreen’s where I found them (also spotted at RiteAid).
I found them in three colors: Green, Yellow and Magenta.
I also found that they were not flavored, which might have been fun. A raspberry flavored Easter Pastelle coating with a plain marshmallow would be an innovative piece of candy. A white confection on a marshmallow is, well, ordinary.
Each egg is one ounce. They’re approximately 2.5” long and 1” high. The Easter Pastelle is thin and not quite crisp. It smells like, well, an Easter basket. A fake vanilla and sugar scent.
The Pastelle coating is made of sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and milk products plus some food coloring.
The marshmallow is very soft and foamy, moist and sticky, not chewy and latexy like some. It’s all very, very sweet. In the case of the pink one shown above, I got a bitter metallic aftertaste from the pink Pastelle. The green was tastier in that it had fewer aftertastes to mess with the tastes.
The large orange carrot shaped marshmallow is covered in two different colors of Easter Pastelle, the orange body and a green carrot top. The whole thing weighs 1.75 ounces.It’s a little over 4” long, so it’s a hefty piece of fluffed sugar. This package has a little waxed card in it, I’m guessing this candy needed a little more support than the eggs. (It also helped to show off the product well in the package.
The flavor profile is similar to the Egg, except that the carrot is a little flatter, so there’s not quite as much marshmallow to Pastelle.
The marshmallow didn’t seem quite as moist either. But still, this is some intense sugar. I couldn’t eat more than two bites before I had to slip it back into its package.
These aren’t stellar, but they are different enough from what you can get in the drug store aisle from Russell Stover, RM Palmer, Hershey’s or Dove, so they have that going for them. Folks who like really high glycemic load (28 g total weight: 21g of carbs, 3g of fat) fluffed confectionery will probably go crazy for these. The carrot would make an amazing decoration on top of a carrot cake or a plate of Easter desserts.
I still think a bit of flavor thrown in would be interesting. Orange-flavored, Mint-flavored, Lemon-flavored coatings would really set this apart from the ordinary.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The happy red wrapper features jaunty typography and little playing card suit symbols in lavender. The name has one of those Z things on the end of it, I’m not sure if it was because there as already a Joker bar and they had to pick another name (actors usually go with a middle initial). Or maybe that was to make it cool and hip. As cool and hip as a vegan who doesn’t eat real chocolate. Much of the wrapper is spent explaining what’s not in the bar. There are no dairy ingredients or cholesterol, no hydrogenated oils or trans fats and it’s free from artificial flavors and colors. Their description on the website is a little more appealing:
The bar, if you couldn’t already tell, is a vegan version of a Snickers. But really it’s just inspired by the Snickers, as there’s very little that’s the same except for the inclusion of peanuts. The bar I got was a little worse for wear. A bit melted on one side, this is generally the hazard with mockolate candy, which often has a lower melting point than chocolate. But the good thing about mockolate is it doesn’t lose its tempering as easily - so the texture that exists is generally the same after resolidifying.
The construction inside is a smooth and dense “nougat” with peanuts on top and then layered with a caramel-like chew. It’s all covered in a thin layer of rice-milk mockolate. The bar is a bit flatter than Snickers (about the same weight though, which is 2.07 ounces), but also a bit longer (about 4.25 inches long).
The bar does smell good, like opening a can of Spanish peanuts. Lightly toasted, the nut aromas are not at all dark and there are hints of toffee sweetness.
The texture had a few similarities to the Twilight - a chewiness but no buttery caramel flavors. The good news is that the grassy and green tasting peanuts covered up a lot of other things that I found lacking in this bar. The chocolate coating felt greasy (possibly because parts of it were melted & reformed) and the nougat center simply had none of the fluffy qualities associated with American nougat nor the silky dissolve of the European versions.
The bar was filling, too filling for me, I was pretty satiated after about a third of it.
I liked it better than Twilight and Buccaneer, but then again I like Snickers better than Milky Way or 3 Musketeers for the simple reason that I like peanuts. I’d rank it as my second favorite of the Go Max Go bars, but really, don’t make me eat any more of them.
On the whole I don’t like things that pretend to be other things: fake meat, fake fur and certainly not fake chocolate. But these bars go further, they try to emulate complex things like caramel and nougat, which can be done, but I have to wonder why. There are plenty of other fabulous vegan things that can be done with sugar and chocolate (and nuts) - trying to pretend to be something else instead of something originally awesome is just an exercise in disappointment.
For a vegan version of this candy, try Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews (also called Chew-Ets) in the dark version. Far cheaper but not free of hydrogenated oils.
(For anyone interested in the candy maker’s reaction to this post, check this out.)
Go Max Go is not organic, not fair trade, not Kosher and is made in a facility with dairy, eggs, wheat, peanuts and other tree nuts. They do market themselves as dairy free and gluten free, but there can be traces because of their manufacturing practices.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.