Thursday, October 1, 2009
A couple of weeks ago I visited a Middle-Eastern market in Orange County called Jordan Market. They had a great selection of hard to find Persian and Middle Eastern confections. They had several brands & styles of Halvah, Turkish Delight and, as the title of this review shows, Persian Nougat.
Anyone who’s been reading along on Candy Blog knows I’m a pushover for nougat. I’ve had Persian nougat before (I get it in little individually wrapped pieces at Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream in Hollywood), but I was attracted to this large box both by the price and the statement on the box: All Natural Persian Nougat - Packed in Flour in the Traditional Way.
I’m accustomed to Turkish Delight being packed in corn starch so figured this would be a similar powdery experience.
Persian nougat it different from French, Italian & Spanish nougat in that they don’t use honey in it. Instead the primary flavor is rosewater (sometimes orange blossom).
The box was shrink wrapped to keep it fresh. Inside the waxed paper sheets fold back to reveal what at first looks like a box of loose flour. A little shake of the box and the lumps of nougat are revealed.
This is the messy part thought. I took out a couple of “cakes” of the stuff and dusted them off with the brush I use to clean my shooting table. Underneath the plain cake flour are little white irregular pieces that look like raw biscuits. They’re about 2 1/2 inches around and lumpy. They smell rather like flour.
The nougat is pretty firm so biting into them is a little bit tough. (Though they are easily cut into bite size pieces with a sharp knife.)
Once I broke through the powdery outsides, it was easy to get a sense of the personality of the traditional Persian nougat.
It’s liberally dotted with green pistachios and has a smooth chew with a strong rosewater flavor. I happen to like rosewater and of course pistachios have a grassy & floral note to them as well. (I think this nougat also comes in an almond variety.) It’s flowery without being too soapy for me, but Robin from next door did think it was a little too much like grandma’s purse. Amy-Who-Spits-Things-Out came by for seconds today though.
Each piece is a large portion, there are 12 in the box which means that they’re each about 1.33 ounces each. Quite satisfying.
I think next time I’ll go for the individually wrapped pieces because my only real issue with them is the horrible mess ... which probably keeps me from eating the whole box.
Friday, August 28, 2009
But I was in a nutty & nougat mood on vacation earlier this month, so I picked up this Wheeler’s Pecan Divinity bar. It looked like a fluffy change from French-style nougat. But after opening it and photographing it I was left wondering ... what is divinity?
Divinity is a mixture of sugar and egg whites and of course nuts (I usually encounter it made with walnuts). It’s kind of a cross between marshmallow and nougat - it has the fluffy texture but uses no gelatin like marshmallows do and doesn’t include honey like nougat often does. (More at About Candy.)
This particular divinity bar is quite large, about seven inches long, two inches wide and one inch high. Though that sounds big, it’s quite light - clocking in at only 4 ounces.
It looks like the innards of an old-school Mars Bar (what is now a Snickers Almond) except made with pecans.
Splitting it open it comes apart easily, with a slight graininess to the fluff apparent without even tasting it. I was a bit disappointed when I split it to see that the nuts weren’t incorporated completely, they were just sitting on top. It’s not that I wanted more nuts, but I like nuts that have been imbued with the sugars of a nougat or divinity as well as the flavor they impart.
The divinity smells like egg whites and vanilla. The texture is airy and light but extremely sweet - much sweeter than a meringue, which is mostly egg whites with a little sugar. Instead this was mostly sugar with a little eggs to bind it together. The nuts gave a good woodsy note to it, but they really weren’t as dense as I wanted.
The sweetness and graininess was just not what I was looking for in my store-bought divinity. But since I have so little reference to what real divinity is supposed to be like, I have little notion of whether or not this is good for what it’s supposed to be. In a vacuum I have to say that I’m hard pressed to finish the bar and that’s mostly a disappointment because I paid $6.50 for it.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The name Toblerone comes from the founders name, Theodor Tobler and the word torrone, which is the name of the almond & honey nougat. There have been a few other sizes & shapes of the bar over the years as well as dark chocolate, white chocolate and layered versions.
This year was the first time I saw the new Toblerone Fruit & Nut in stores. The box is a curious design, half yellow, which is easy to dismiss as the regular variety and the other side is purple with a gradient in of the two colors in the center.
Even though it’s called fruit and nut, the only substantial difference here is the addition of raisins. (I wonder why they’re not currants, which I think would be more exotic and evocative of European mountains than plain old dried grapes.)
The bar smells sweet and milky with perhaps a little hint of malt or honey from the nougat. Breaking the pieces apart it’s easy to see the small raisins in there.
The chocolate is sweet and though it’s milky it’s more on the honey side of the flavors than Swiss dried milk flavors. The texture is smooth, but not quite silky. The little hard nougat bits provide a little difference in texture, but are often sticky & tacky - not quite crunchy or chewy. The actual almonds are hard to find (even on the ingredients list they’re below honey, which means there isn’t much).
I like the size & shape of the bar. It’s easy to portion & then store the rest for later in the box. (Though I did end up replacing the foil wrapping it came in with some more heavy duty kitchen foil because it was destroyed by simply opening it for the photo.)
It’s a pretty bar and certainly a bit of a change from the 100 year old traditional one ... was it worth waiting a hundred and one years for? No. I think if I’m going to go for an inexpensive European bar with raisins in it, I’m going to go for the Ritter Sport Rum Trauben Nuss (though I don’t think you can even get them in the States any longer). But if you’re a Chunky fan and looking for something that’s better quality and more pointy, this might be for you.
Monday, July 13, 2009
The simple bar features Fudge with peanut butter nougat & peanuts wrapped in milk chocolate. Like most other limited edition bars, it’s smaller than the standard, this one is the smallest yet at 1.78 ounces.
While the bar may feel a little light, it’s pretty dense and the textures consistent throughout.
I’ve often felt like the Snickers/Milky Way/3 Musketeers nougat is more like a fluffy fudge than a nougat anyway, so this seemed like a stack of dense fudge on top of a layer of light fluffed fudge.
The peanut butter nougat layer has a light creamy color with a distinct salty hit and peanutty flavor. The peanuts studded in the fudge are distinct, a little on the soft side but crunchy and tasty.
The fudge itself has a slight but consistent grain to it, a nice chocolatey flavor and good salty/sweet balance.
The creamy chocolate coating brings it all together.
I missed the chewy caramel, but give this one its due because it is rather different from other existing bars. The salt keeps it from being cloyingly sweet like a Milky Way. Also, I noticed as I was trying to do my bites & slices that there were quite a few voids in there around the nuts. I can’t tell if this is normal or if mine was just an anomaly.
It’s quite a satisfying bar and I can see it being a big success all on its own.
Clocking in at 250 calories, honestly it doesn’t need to be bigger. (Regular bars are 2.07 ounces and 280 calories.)
This bar is supposed to be on shelves in August, but that’s what they said about the Coconut M&Ms which are actually out, so look sharp they may already be available. I’m planning to try another one when I find them.
Friday, June 19, 2009
If there’s one thing I think that’s might pull our government out of the red, it might Mars excessive registration of trademarks for their limited edition & marketing tie in candies.
For the new Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie this summer, Mars has created a line of collectible M&Ms packages that feature different characters from the Transformers pantheon plus M&Ms in Transformers-styled outfits.
The seven packages:
(Yeah, I’m missing some package images, but that’s all that came with the press kit Mars gave me ... how odd.)
What I think is most interesting about this is that the package is the only thing that’s different (besides, of course the Strawberried Peanut Butter M&Ms). Open up the packet of the M&Ms (mine was Bumblebee 2 of 7) and there’s no fun new design of the M imprint with a twist on the Transformers like they did with Pirates of the Caribbean Pirate Pearls, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Shrek II (basically Mega M&Ms). The Star Wars ones, though introducing Dark Chocolate M&Ms, did not have fancy imprints.
What is good news is that the packages are no smaller. With many of the limited editions what you get in addition to “specialness” is less. The Milk Chocolate Chocl-O-Bots packages have the same 1.69 ounces as the standard Milk Chocolate M&Ms.
The only truly transformed product for the movie tie-in is the Snickers Nougabot (tm). Due to physical laws of the conservation of matter, the energy required for the transformations, the bar is smaller than an unTransformerized one. *
This isn’t the first time Mars has mucked with the nougat for a movie. Back in 2007 they turned it green for Shrek but left it the same size, because really, how could a Shrek-ified candy be smaller? The traditional bar is 2.07 ounces and the Nougabot is 1.83 ounces.
The difference, otherwise, is really just the addition of Yellow #5. Considering how much some parents hate Yellow #5 (hint: enough to get it banned in Europe), it’s hard to understand why a candy which was formerly artificial coloring free would add it. Further, the Snickers website doesn’t list the Yellow 5 on the page for the Nougabot bar (sorry, can’t link directly to the page because of stupid flash & beware of annoying sounds).
So how does it taste? About the same. The flavor seemed a little “darker” but I don’t know if that was the caramel batch ... sometimes even big factory candies like Snickers can vary from day to day.
The only thing I liked about it is the same thing that I prefer about the Snickers Dark, that there’s one less bite in it. Because honestly I think that 1.83 ounces is the perfect size for a Snickers bar.
* My theory of this kind of violates the whole world of Transformers and many other fantasy, action & sci-fi movies where small things turn into big things without the perceivable addition of extreme amounts of energy. Anyway, in order to turn back and forth without loss of mass, you’d need lots of energy to turn into matter ... conversely to shrink you’d need to have a way to store a huge reservoir of energy (if you wanted to grow again) or release it. I’ve always wondered if Alice became super-dense when she shrank and puffy, aerated & light when she grew.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I picked up this Rally Bar at Hershey’s Chocolate World last month. The only place I know these are being sold is at the Hershey’s stores, as a few other candy bloggers have mentioned. (Hershey’s Insider, Jim’s Chocolate Mission & Sugar Hog.)
The Rally Bar was one of the few candy bars introduced by the Hershey’s company under its own brand name during the 70s. Sure, Hershey’s has plenty of chocolate bars with inclusions and they also have other candy bars like Almond Joy and Fifth Avenue but those were made by other companies that were later purchased by the Hershey’s corporation.
The Rally Bar wasn’t much of an innovation. It’s a nougat center with a coating of caramel, rolled in peanuts and then covered in a chocolatey coating.
I remember them existing when I was a kid, but I also recall them having a yellow, orange and red wrapper, not this generic white wrapper. The Rally isn’t quite extinct either, it’s found in some small enclaves around the world.
I was intrigued by the idea that Hershey’s would re-release nostalgic bars. Kind of like bringing back Good & Fruity.
The bar looks nice, it’s great to get a fresh candy product. Thought it wasn’t a real chocolate coating, it was glossy and smelled sweet and milky.
Biting into it, I got a feeling that this was familiar. The nougat center is a decent toasted vanilla flavor, the caramel around it didn’t do much for the flavor but adds a great texture and cements the peanuts to the bar. The nuts were well roasted and of the three bars I’ve eaten, only one had a bad nut. The mockolate coating is rather smooth, certainly less grainy that Hershey’s Milk Chocolate is these days and at least let the stars of the bar, the nougat and nuts come through.
After seeing them on Frances’ blog post though, I was pretty convinced that these were not really the Rally Bar, but just repackaged Oh Henry! bars as sold in Canada.
On the left is the Canadian Oh Henry and on the right is the Rally Bar.
They look rather similar. Each weighs 2.2 ounces (larger than most American bars). And Hershey’s no longer makes any of its candy in Canada, leading me to believe that they’re now made in the United States and exported. (Perhaps some Canadians could confirm this.) And they’re both mockolate.
The only appeal I see in this bar is the nostalgic value, whether you’re Canadian or American and remember it from the 70s. There are plenty of other bars that are remarkably similar and could probably serve the same role. Snickers, Chocolatey Avalanche Payday, Oh Henry (USA) and of course Baby Ruth. But I’ll finish the ones I picked up. No use letting them get stale.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Last time I was a Trader Joe’s, I was on the prowl for new candies. Usually October is a great time to find new things on the shelves. I completely missed this Trader Joe’s Lumpy Bumpy Bar. Not because there weren’t a lot of them on display, but simply because I thought it was house brand pain reliever.
I can’t quite put my finger on why it doesn’t look like a candy bar, perhaps it’s a bit more long cube shaped than bar shaped. Perhaps it’s the red background with yellow text and blue accents which remind me of those visual disturbances that accompany migraines.
But now that I’ve found it (thanks to a phone call from my husband at the store asking me if I wanted to try it), I have to set aside all that and look at what’s on the inside.
The box does seem like a bit of overpackaging, inside is a mylar wrapper around the bar as well. The wrapper itself is stupidly huge, about one and half times the length of the bar, so it’s folded over inside the box. Perhaps that keeps the bar from moving around.
But once out of all of that it’s obvious why they call it the Lumpy Bumpy Bar.
It’s pretty beefy looking and feeling. It clocks in at two ounces even, so about the same as a Snickers. And the description of it is also similar: creamy caramel and peanut nougat drenched in dark chocolate.
The first bar (pictured) had a rather liberal lump of peanuts on top. The second bar (the one I’m actually basing this tasting on) had only four.
The bar smells smoky and rich, like toasted sugar, peanuts and chocolate.
The textures are extreme. There are the deep crunches of the nuts - both on top and inside the nougat. The strip of caramel on the top of the nougat but under the chocolate is firm and stringy. The nougat is mostly soft and grainy, until I got to the bottom where it was more like a tough caramel.
When chewed up together the peanuts have a definite dark and burnt taste that pushes over everything else in its way. The thin chocolate coating doesn’t contribute much besides holding the rest of it together in its cloak. The nougat is mostly disappointing. I was hoping when I heard the $2 price tag, that the nougat would be Italian, Spanish or French style. Instead it’s more like a Milky Way Midnight with peanuts.
The only part I liked was the part that I think was a mistake - the chewy nougat at the very bottom was stringy and smooth and had a light touch of toasted marshmallow flavor to it. But since only one of my bars did this, I can’t even be sure that it was on purpose. The caramel on the top barely registers as a flavor or texture.
The good news for candy fans though is that this is a certified gluten free product and the ingredients are all natural. There are milk, soy and egg products in it though.
This bar is coming in all over the map from other reviewers (and from the photos, it appears that the bars are actually different in the amount of each element): Futile Sniff loves it (but had no peanuts on top and far more caramel), Gigi Reviews had a similar experience to mine except I found both of mine rather salty, Diana Takes a Bite found it too chewy and big while Patti at Candy Yum Yum wrote it a love letter. (Yes, it appears that all reviewers are women, I’m guessing the package looks too much like Midol for men to have taken notice yet. I must note that I’ve never purchased Midol, so if this is the kind of analgesic that comes inside that box, please let me know what I’ve been missing!)
So after all that, I’m still stuck on the See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar, it’s half the price (though not quite as large) and more responsibly packaged though it does have almonds instead of peanuts.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I realized when I started Candy Blog that there was no way I’d ever sample every single candy out there, let alone review them. What’s making it even harder now is that candies that I’ve already reviewed have changed and it hardly seems fair that the reviews here still stand against the present day products.
So, every once in a while I’ll revisit major products that have changed since my original review at least enough to warrant a new taste.
Hershey’s introduced the Take 5 in 2004 and it quickly became one of my favorite new candies. It combined all the great textures of crunchy pretzels and chewy caramel and creamy chocolate. But that was then, and this is now.
The package now says: made with chocolate & pretzels & caramel & peanuts & peanut butter. That “made with chocolate” part means that the coating may contain chocolate, but it has other additives such as vegetable oils that mean that it’s not pure chocolate. The actual chocolate as an ingredient comes far down on the list as the number 6 item, after vegetable oils and high fructose corn sweetener and before nonfat milk (you can imagine there’s not that much milk in there).
The bars actually still look quite fetching. Little rather rectangular lumps with a pleasant sweet & peanutty scent.
Mine were exceptionally fresh, the pretzel was good and crunchy, a nice salty complement to the sweet coating. The coating didn’t have much flavor but did add a creamy texture.
This one was passably good, but I’ve had others in the past few months (I picked them out of a mix of snack size in a bowl at the office a couple of times) and I didn’t realize why they were kind of empty tasting for what I remembered. I just thought they were stale ... turns out that they’re just not designed to be good any longer.
Hershey’s still has an opportunity to reverse this and make it real chocolate again.
Sunkist Fruit Gems are made by Jelly Belly these days. An alert reader let me know that the little “single serve” trays are back on store shelves, but instead of holding six fruit jellies, they now only have four.
Worst part of this news? The grapefruit one was missing. (What is it about grapefruit disappearing lately? Is it because of the news that grapefruit juice interacts with some prescription drugs?) This is not to say that the Sunkist Fruit Gems don’t come in grapefruit any longer, just not in this particular package.
Seeing how Sunkist is known as a citrus company, the fact that they made an assortment the neglects one of the citrus fruits and includes a berry is beyond me. The package is also similar to the old one and actually includes images of grapefruit (though the text clearly says which flavors are in the package).
The change in manufacturing location and ownership, as far as I’ve been able to tell, has made no difference at all for the actual candy. It’s still a nice, soft and flavorful fruit jelly without too much of a granulated sugar coating.
The only real difference here is that you get only 2/3 as much as you used to. I was hoping when Jelly Belly took over that they’d sell the jellies in individual flavors like they do with their famous jelly beans. No such luck yet. (For now whenever I see the Jelly Belly booth at a trade show I pick a half a dozen grapefruit jellies out of their sample bin and move along.)
Mars used to make a bar that was called, appropriately enough, the Mars Bar. That bar was discontinued and reintroduced under the much more famous Snickers umbrella of products as the Snickers Almond.
Then something happened, Mars mucked around with it and created the “More Satisfying Snickers Almond” which was really just the Snickers Almond with peanuts thrown in to make up for a lack of, well, almonds. It wasn’t a bad bar, but it wasn’t really distinctive.
Well, the old new Snickers Almond is back. It’s a white lightly sweet & salty nougat with a caramel stripe and whole almonds covered in milk chocolate.
I like the bar (though I prefer the dark chocolate version) and I’m glad they brought it back.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.