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.
Friday, October 30, 2009
I was happy to see that Brach’s was expanding its Halloween offerings beyond candy corn. I love peanut butter and chocolate and though nothing really compares to the Reese’s products, a little foil wrapped sphere sounded good.
Brach’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins say they’re Rich Chocolaty Pumpkin With a Peanut Butter Center. There’s a companion product, the Brach’s Caramel Pumpkins. They’re both sold in 9.25 ounce bags and I was a little surprised to see that they weren’t even real chocolate. (The real shock came later, as you’ll see.)
The foil on the pumpkins comes in two different “faces”, one on each side of the sphere. There’s a happy one with its teeth missing (shown) and then on the other side is a triangle-eyed one. It’s an impressive look when they’re piled in a bowl. Each is one inch in diameter.
The foil is easy to peel off. At first I though mine were dented, but it turns out there’s a little divot in each where they’re molded. (But they are easy to dent as well.) The chocolaty ball inside doesn’t have any imprints on it, it’s just a sphere with a slight texture to it (like a miniature basketball).
The smell like wonderfully fresh roasted peanuts.
Biting into it, it depended on the temperature what the filling was like. When I first got these it was quite hot, so the ambient temperature was over 80 degrees and the peanut butter center was gooey and slick. It was quite nice, not quite a meltaway, but definitely a whole different experience from the dry and crumbly Reese’s peanut butter. When the weather cooled and I tried them again the peanut butter was firmer, a bit more dry but still quite smooth. The roast of the peanuts is dark with a slight bitterness to them. It’s salty and satisfying.
The coating is mockolate. Unlike mockolate products created by Hershey’s, these don’t have a trace of cocoa butter at all in them, It’s all partially hydrogenated palm kernel or palm oil. It’s quite cool on the tongue and has a bit of a greasy melt. It lacks all chocolate power, it’s more of a cardboard version of chocolate flavor. When it’s all chewed together it’s not as noticeable, but nibbled off separately it’s quite bad.
The Brach’s Caramel Pumpkins were even less appealing. (Well, the one thing they had going for them was 20 fewer calories per serving, but of course lacking all the nutrition that the peanuts provide.)
The foil wrapping is gold instead of orange but still has the same faces & green stem for hair.
They smell like butter flavoring and sugar.
The bite is similar, the chocolate-flavored-coating tastes grainier and of course lacks true chocolate flavor. The caramel filling is interesting, it’s a little like a pudding - sweet but not actually cloying. It’s smooth and not quite flowing but not stiff enough to be chewy.
The whole thing was a dreadful mess.
The worst part though was if you look closely at the photo above you’ll notice a tiny little logo on the sphere. It’s the R.M. Palmer logo.
These are just the R.M. Palmer Creepy Peepers! And Creepy Peepers are cheap - usually about a buck for a 6 ounce bag, these Brach’s things are over $3.00 a bag in stores.
I just don’t get it. Brach’s used to distinguish itself from the bagged candy as being just a little better ... this repackaging of something most of us wouldn’t dare touch is pretty creepy. I hope Brach’s gets its act together and goes back to its core value of quality candy.
If you like these, well, skip the Brach’s middle man and just get the R.M. Palmer. They sell them year round in sports shapes (I think that’s the basketball texture).
Monday, August 17, 2009
Here are a few of those items that I can at least tell you a little about.
Blood Orange HiCHEW from Morinaga are tasty little taffy-like chews I picked up in Little Tokyo about a month ago.
Like most HiCHEW, they’re individually wrapped and come in a single flavor pack. They also have a different color center.
The blood orange flavor wasn’t distinctively different from the other orange flavors I’ve had like Tangerine and Orange. It was juicy and had a nice mix of zest and tang ... but ultimately it wasn’t quite as exotic as I’d hoped.
Not that it kept me from finishing the package.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I went to Munchies on Pico a few weeks ago looking for some Israeli candy (reviews to come). I was pleased to find these little Paskesz Nutty Chews which were available in the bulk bins in these little individually wrapped pieces. I thought, How cool! They sound like Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews! (They were also available in a “bar format” which held I think five or six of these in a package.)
At about 25 cents each, it was a nice little chewy morsel, a vegan caramel with a good note of molasses with very dark roasted peanuts all covered in a dark mockolate.
After reading the ingredients, and noting that they’re made in the United States I’ve concluded that these ARE simply repackaged Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. sigh
Rating: 8 out of 10 (same as Goldenberg’s)
I’ve been craving butter and sugar ever since my vacation when I started thinking about Bananas Foster. What doesn’t help is that Littlejohn Toffee is at the Farmers Market ... walking distance from my office.
So one day I was over there and decided to pick up a couple of their Pecan Pralines for review. They’re large puddles over four inches across (shaped in a shallow fluted cup) studded with pecans. Instead of the chewy style of praline, these are the sandy style. The recipe tastes pretty simple, butter, sugar and pecans (though I can’t be sure).
They melt in my mouth and the pecan provide a nice chewy, even fattier punch to the whole thing. You’d think it’d be too sweet, but the nuts seem to moderate it. It sandy and crumbly and doesn’t even look that good, but it smells like sweet buttery caramel sauce. Something about the texture wins me over.
After my first purchase of them (and failed photo shoot because I had my camera settings wrong) I had to go back and buy another one. And I’m sure it won’t be the last - it sounds like they’re expensive at $2.50 each, but after having one I’d probably pay double.
Rating: 9 out of 10
This was an impulse purchase at Robitaille’s Fine Candies while on vacation.
As you can see, it’s a deviled egg ... made of white confection. It was packaged in a tiny plastic bag with a curl of ribbon. No name, no ingredients ... the appearance was really all I needed. (I think I paid $1.85 for it ... more than I think I’d pay for a real deviled egg.)
The egg white is really white, something now found in real white chocolate (and knowing what they put into their Inaugural Mints, I’m going to guess that I’ve been eating all sorts of partially hydrogenated tropical oils). It’s smooth and rather pleasant.
The egg white is sweet, sweet with a touch of fake vanilla. The yolk cream is minted (with a few little nonpariels).
The only issue with the verisimilitude is the half egg doesn’t actually have a little depression for the yolk ... small quibble.
The Cafe Society - Candy Girls reviewed a similar version of this made with a crisped rice mixed in, which sounds much better. Of course best would be some really good quality white chocolate ... but I’m still swooning over my LEGOLAND white chocolate blocks and savoring the last few.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Thursday, July 9, 2009
In case you haven’t been reading along, Nips are a hard caramel, first made by a company called Pearson’s which was later bought out by Nestle. They’re a great summer candy because they don’t melt but have a rich creamy flavor that can satisfy that craving even on the stickiest of days.
Both are variations on previously reviewed Nips, as they’re filled & flavored.
The Chocolate Parfait Nips are made up of a Caramel Nip outside and a chocolate flavored inside.
The caramel is a little salty, creamy and with a silky sweet melt on the tongue. Sometimes it softens up a bit for splitting & bending ... or cementing teeth together.
Inside the bliss of the confection loses track for me. The chocolate center is like an oily Tootsie Roll. The chocolate flavor is weak and the texture is worse than that, a sort of waxy, greasy mess.
I’ve had this box for several months and I’ve eaten all of four of them so far.
The Mocha Nips are a bit darker looking. The rich hardened caramel is coffee flavored, just like the original Coffee Nips. In this case the mocha element comes from the cocoa paste filling.
The creamy, milky coffee outer portion is just like the classic Nip ... a good rounded coffee flavor. The inside though, like the Chocolate Parfait isn’t quite chocolate, it’s more like a frosting.
The bold strength of the coffee flavored outside masks the chocolate deficiencies better than the Chocolate Parfait, so I did end up finishing most of the box.
While I appreciate the attempt to create a few other versions, the chocolate just isn’t good enough to make me chose these over the classic solid flavors.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Here are two new super charged coffee bean candies. GoGo Beans are made by How Do You Take Your Coffee and feature “The Eating Roast” coffee, which are beans that are chosen & roasted to be tastier for consuming than for brewing (I already reviewed their JAVAZ). Jitterbeans are the overclocked version of Crackheads (review here) from Osmanium ... and when I say overclocked I mean it, each piece contains about 20 mg of caffeine so the package has as much as 6 small cups of coffee.
GoGo Beans are super-fortified and offer both the caffeine inherent in the bean plus an addition kick added to the candy shell plus some special B vitamins, taurine and ginseng. The format is an bean at the center (specially roasted for eating) then a mockolate coating all covered in a thick candy shell.
The shell has a pretty immediate light bitterness which may be the fortification or may be the food coloring. That fades away pretty quickly for me. The inside has a mellow cocoa flavor but not a huge kick for me. The texture is soft and has a decent melt, but at times felt a little waxy. The bean at the center was lovely, just as I found with the Javaz - crunchy and crisp with a strong coffee flavor but no oily bitterness.
The Jitterbeans follow the tried and true format of chocolate over an espresso bean and adds a candy shell. Like the original Crackheads, these are in the classic tuxedo colors of black and white, though there’s no actual white chocolate in there.
The candy shell is rather thin and offers a sandy crunch. Inside the chocolate is sweet and has a bit of a spicy woodsy ginger flavor to it along with the mellow coffee notes. The extra caffeine isn’t bitter at all though some of the beans in the center had a bitter kick. The whole thing is rather tasty and probably very dangerous for those who don’t know that there’s a lot of caffeine in these and consumes a whole box. I limited myself to three beans in the three different times I tried these. That said, I have a hard time believing they have that much caffeine in them without so much bitterness that I’ve found in other caffeinated candies - maybe someone can comment on the caffeine in “guarana seed extract.”
Both of these are great, durable & portable caffeine supplements. They’re tasty and what’s most important - portionable so you can control exactly how much caffeine you take in. That said, I much prefer the more sedate and non-fortified versions and will stick with the JAVAZ for my candy, coffee & caffeine combination. The addition of artificial colors wasn’t enough of selling point.
Jitterbeans and GoGo Beans get a 6 out of 10 - not bad candy, but not for me.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I’m a little hesitant to do a full review of the product based on a “fun sized” bar, so consider this a preview.
The wrapper says that the new bar is Baked Wafers, Caramel, Peanuts & Creme. It’s a nice white & waffle pattern background with the familiar Baby Ruth logo.
The layers are pretty complex. There are wafers and in between the lower wafers is a peanut butter creme. On the top of the wafers is a pretty thick layer of caramel and then some chopped peanuts.
The whole effect is a startlingly familiar flavor to the Baby Ruth but with the texture of a KitKat.
The only disappointment here is the chocolate. Nestle doesn’t really make many chocolate candies any longer and this new bar is no exception. I don’t have the ingredients, but judging by the other Nestle Crisp bars that I do have access to, this is a mockolate coating.
It lacks a good creamy component (more waxy) but has a little cocoa punch to it ... just no good dairy milk chocolate addition.
The new packages for Butterfinger Crisp and Crunch Crisp sport the tag line De * LIGHT * fully CRISPY
The most significant change is the reformatting of the bar.
The original Crunch Crisp was a long & wide bar. The new version is not only smaller (the overall weight of the package) but is also now a narrower (but slightly taller) bar in two separate pieces. The original was 1.74 ounces, the new on is 1.34.
The last few times I’ve tried the Crunch Crisp bars the ambient temperature was over 80 degrees ... not the best climate for this bar.
Since then I’ve acquired these two versions and both benefit from temps in the high sixties. (Hooray for Southern California’s June Gloom.)
The flavor & overall ratio of crunch, creme & mockolate is similar with both bars. It reminded me a bit of chocolate pudding & ice cream cones. It’s harder to take a “big bite” of the new small bars.
Because of the wafers they seem less like candy and more like decadent cookies.
Since having the Q.bel bars, though, it’s hard to say that these are more than passably decent.
Like the Crunch Crisp this one has gone from 1.76 ounces to 1.41 ounces. It also goes from being manufactured in Venezuela to the United States.
The innards look virtually the same to the last one I ate four years ago.
It smells like fake butter flavor ... or maybe butterscotch candies. The crispy wafers are good, the cream in between is a little salty and has a light peanut butter taste (actually less peanutty than the Baby Ruth).
The chocolate on this seems less punchy and more like the waxy stuff from a Butterfinger Bar.
I’m sure the new two piece format makes production for both full serving & fun size much simpler. (And I really don’t have a problem with that, I like fun sized bars because sometimes I want variety for my “single serving”.)
I don’t have much of an issue with companies making products smaller in order to keep prices the same (or raising prices) though in this case they’ve not only made it smaller, it’s not quite the same as before because the shape may change some ratios. Still, they pack some calories for such small bars - the new Crunch Crisp is 190 (was 250) and the Butterfinger Crisp is 210 (was 250).
Again, having found the Q.bel line, I see no reason to personally entertain this stuff any further unless I had some sort of financial issue that I couldn’t afford the Q.bel or no longer had access. (But these still wouldn’t be a choice high on my list. Nestle is capable of making chocolate and I think these would be much better with it.)
Expect the new line of Crisp bars including the Baby Ruth Crisp to hit shelves late August or early September.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Hershey’s Whatchamacallit was introduced in 1978. I remember the launch, the commercials and buying the candy bar quite a bit in the first few years when it came out.
It was a peanut butter & crisped rice bar covered in milk chocolate. It was simple, crunchy, looked really big and was satisfying.
Hershey’s has never seemed particularly proud or supportive of the Whatchamacallit. Their advertising for it waned after the eighties; maybe they wanted to go out on a bang with this classic commercial:
The Hershey’s website lists only four notable moments in Whatchamacallit history: introduction (1978), reformulation (1987), package redesign & king size release (2002). You can see the earlier, less “blasty” package design on Brad Kent’s wrapper archive and Mike’s Candy Wrappers (2002 & 2003)
The page mentions nothing about the second reformulation where the bar lost its milk chocolate and gained its rich chocolatey coating (circa 2006).
This bar is made with chocolate, cocoa crisps and peanut butter. At first glance it sounds like it might be the original Whatchamacallit, the one without the caramel (well, that also had real chocolate).
Instead it’s a block of cocoa flavored crisped rice covered with a strip of peanut butter and then covered in Hershey’s inimitable imitation chocolate.
As with many limited edition products, this bar is slightly smaller than the original. It’s 1.5 ounces versus the 1.6 ounces of the Whatchamacallit.
Whatchamacallit on the left and Thingamajig on the right
It’s hard to review the Thingamajig in a vacuum, so naturally I’m comparing it to the Whatchamacallit. I’m also prone to wondering if, when Hershey’s was developing the Whatchamacallit, that they didn’t go through this bar as part of the evolution of the new product, obviously rejecting it.
The Thingamajig has a nice cocoa scent along with a whiff or roasted peanuts. It’s not quite a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup smell, but pretty close.
The bit into the bar is a quick snap, biting through the cocoa crispies is easy, they’re crunchy but have plenty of give since they don’t seem to be held together by marshmallow or peanut butter like the Whatchamacallit.
The mockolate coating is rather good ... I have to give Hershey’s credit, their fake chocolate can often be better than some other companies’ real chocolate. The cocoa flavors from the crispy center probably help.
The peanut butter is a bit salty, creamy and smooth (smoother than a peanut butter cup center).
Overall, it’s a nice experience ... probably not something I’d want again. I’m not sure why Hershey’s did it, but they’re not really taking any credit for it (they never emailed me about it, it doesn’t appear on their website) and it will probably disappear without any fanfare as well.
Rating: 6 out of 10
As a little side note, since I’ve never done an official review of the Whatchamacallit (which by now I’m rather dreading typing), I thought I’d add that here:
The bar smells like cocoa and toffee. The peanut butter crisped rice center is great. It’s buttery, salty, crunchy and has a good roasted nut flavor and a strong butter/dairy note to it. The caramel, though only a very thin layer, gives it a bit of a chew that holds it together in the mouth. The mockolate coating is creamy and melts well but offers no chocolate flavors here ... just a sealant for the crispy bar.
Rating: 6 out of 10
But most of all, I have to wonder why the Whatchamacallit isn’t a Reese’s branded product, getting the full benefit of the peanut butter branding.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I bought another molded Palmer Easter item. (A product which I generally consider a biodegradable decoration, not actually meant to be eaten.)
I have to hand it to R.M. Palmer. They do a great job of keeping their prices low and their designs contemporary.
Quax: The Yummy Ducky pretty much had me with the packaging. (It certainly wasn’t the description of Hollow Milk Flavored Candy Duck that sold me.) It looks just like a bathtub rubber ducky. But it was also on sale for only a dollar.
Quax is a bit smaller than the average toy duck. He’s about 3 inches from beak to tail and three inches high.
He’s well molded, with a seam through his head and down his sides. (I would have thought it would be constructed with mirror-image sides, but this way presents a flawless face.)
He sounds like plastic, looks like plastic but thankfully smells like an Easter basket. (Mmm, vanillin.)
The ingredients are what I’d expect from Palmer:
The packaging seems a bit excessive for such a tiny candy toy - it’s 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall. But it does have a little to and from tag area on the back for gifting.
So I got out a bowl of water and plopped my Yummy Ducky friend into it.
Sure enough, he floats. He floats just fine. But he’s not balanced, so try as I might, I couldn’t get him to bob like a duck should, upright (or even tail up like a feeding duck might). Instead he did the duck equivalent of belly up and rested on his side. What this duck needs is a keel. Or feet. Then I think we might have something, an edible decoration for a punch bowl.
At this point I was pretty happy with my one buck purchase. It was cute, it smelled better than some vinyl toy and provided at least 800 words for my review without even cracking it open.
But I have to actually eat some, don’t I?
So I bit off the top of his skull.
The milk flavored candy has a very strong vanilla flavor with a little bit of dairy/dried milk going on. It’s incredibly sweet, actually throat searing.
It’s not that bad! Since it’s not trying to be actual chocolate, it succeeds at being better than plastic. I don’t plan on finishing it, but it was a fun little novelty item. It might even be amusing if they made them in a few sizes. You know, because they’re really not for eating, just decoration.
For those of you who for some reason now want to watch Ernie sing Rubber Duckie, here it is on YouTube.
Friday, February 13, 2009
I have more candy than I will ever be able to review at my pace of 5-7 products a week. Here are a few items I’ve tasted recently and some notes on them (most gratuitous photos). So here are some small bites of a whole week’s worth of candy. Get ready to scroll!
I visited with Anne Hickey and the Plush Puffs’ crew when I was at the Fancy Food Show. At closing time they gave me a box of their Vanilla Bean Marshmallows. It’s new packaging for them, which I really like. It’s still spare and highlights the product well.
But what I liked best is that they’ve made the marshmallows a bit smaller. Now they’re 1” cubes instead of the larger version I tried several years ago. This means that when toasted the center gets molten before the outside catches on fire. (There are important physical laws that even marshmallows must obey.)
The box has been sitting next to my stove top and some evenings I’ll toast up two or three for dessert on the gas burner. It makes the house smell wonderful.
I visited a few times with Seth Ellis Chocolatier while at the Fancy Food Show. They had a lovely array of samples, but for some reason I eschewed their truffles and became obsessed with their Candied Lemons.
Perhaps it’s because of this little nugget from their website, “We candy the freshest organic lemon slices slowly, over twenty-five days, using a traditional European method to preserve the intense lemon flavors.”
The box contains one full lemon slice plus and extra quarter. Special bonus, the packaging is made with wind power (well, that and some tree pulp).
The candying doesn’t make the peel as soft as some others, but then again, sometimes that makes them gummy and flavorless. This definitely has a bitter bite and because the pulp is also still there, it’s quite tangy. The dark chocolate is creamy and also has a woodsy bite to it.
I must have been obsessed with lemon and lemongrass at the Fancy Food Expo because the other item I knew I had to bring home was L’Estasi Dolce Sweet Ecstasy Lemongrass Ginger Truffles.
Lemongrass is a bit of a strange flavor. I love it in Thai cooking (hot & sour soup especially). It imparts the zesty notes of lemon peel, but it has a soft side to it as well, that I can only compare to bubble gum.
These nicely sized truffles are a real ganache made with lots of real cream.
The center is soft and silky with an immediate soft flavor of lemongrass. Then there’s the warming power of the ginger. The woodsy ginger flavors never come forward, it’s just that little burn in the background. This all combines well with the slight dairy flavor of the cream and the mellow dark chocolate.
One of the Fancy Food Show items I mentioned in my show notes was Rubicon Bakery.
They not only make all natural, wholesome products right here in the United States, their mission is to help people in need by giving job training, jobs placement assistance to work their way out of poverty.
The package pictured here is a mock up used for the distribution of the samples, the real thing is much nicer.
They’re little meringue kisses, a little larger than a Hershey’s Kiss. The center is a crunchy fluffed egg white made flavorful by the addition of gobs of real freeze dried strawberries. To seal in the crispness, they’re dipped in bittersweet Guittard chocolate.
The freaky part about the whole combination is that it’s so tasty & satisfying yet so low in calories. They say that a serving of five is only 90 calories (about 100 calories per ounce, amazing for a chocolate product). So even if you ate a whole box of 15 bites, you’re still under the 300 mark of most king sized candy bars.
SFGate wrote about them last week too, those lucky dogs, it’s a local company for them.
These candies have single-handedly caused me to swear off of all Andes products except for the original Creme de Menthe.
The Mocha Mint Indulgence is a freak product. I don’t even know what it is. The pieces are ugly (sorry, no photo of the interior, this is supposed to be a tantalizing post). Putty brown mockolate over a layer of mint green confection like the center of the regular Andes.
It smells like minted cardboard. The texture is like grainy wax. The flavor is like musty Christmas candles found in a drawer at an estate sale.
To close is something to restore our confidence in nuts: Ococoa Nut Butter Cups made right here in Los Angeles by Diana Malouf. I picked them up from her in person before Christmas but never go around to posting the review.
More than just gourmet peanut butter cups, these are tall cups filled with exotic nut butters & fruits. The flavor array is: Classic Peanut Butter, Pistachio Date, Sesame Fig, Hazelnut Chocolate, Almond Cherry, Cashew Apricot, Marzipan Truffle, Macadamia Guava, and Sunflower Honey.
The box is elegant and substantial.
The cups are about an inch high with a cute ruffle of chocolate around the collar and an inch in diameter at the top.
They were a bugger to photograph the interior, luckily their website has the fantastic and accurate cross sections that you can peruse. This one is Guava jam & macadamia nut butter. Probably the best experience I’ve had with macadamias & guava, which aren’t really my fave, but done very well here.
I was attracted most to the Sesame Fig, which I gobbled up after taking a photo. The sesame paste is combined with chocolate to create a sesame Nutella of sorts, though quite firm. Inside the center was a reservoir of fig jam. The toasted & grassy flavors of the sesame went well with the fresh & slightly tangy notes of the fig. Sunflower Honey was next on my hit list. Sunflower seeds have such a distinctive taste. This center was like a creamed honey with sunflower flavors.
Cashew Apricot was really decadent, as the apricot’s pine-notes were offset by the deep toasted butter flavors of the cashews. The hazelnut was also stellar, the freshness of the nut butter was so different from many other guianduias I have regularly. (I shared some others and didn’t take complete notes on the rest.)
Unlike many nut creations that rely on salt to bring the nut flavors forward, Ococoa lets the sweetness of the nuts come through. The only problem I had with these, if it could be called that, was the construction. The chocolate cap on the top was very thick, so biting the pieces in half wasn’t very easy. While I don’t think it’s imperative that all chocolates be dissected, it meant that there was always a larger reservoir of chocolate at the end when sometimes I really wanted to end on a nut note.
They’ll set you back $22 for a 9 piece box.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.