Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Twilight Candy Bar from Go Max Go Foods is a vegan version of Milky Way (Mars for those in the rest of the world).
The package is odd and incongruous. It’s lavender and has a simple and rather small name emblazoned on the middle of it, but most of the package is taken up with explaining what’s not inside: dairy free, vegan, no trans fat, no hydrogenated oils, no cholesterol, nothing artificial.
At over $2 per bar it is at least a beefy size (hah, I used a meat to describe a vegan bar) clocking in at 2.1 ounces.
Yes, that’s a whole lot of mock products there. Mock caramel (because real caramel contains butter and/or cream), faux nougat (because real nougat contains egg whites) and of course the rice milk mockolate (it’s possible to make real rice-milk chocolate without palm oils).
The bar looks, well, rather like a dud. The coating doesn’t have the bloom problem that my Mahalo did, but it’s also not shiny or crisp like real chocolate. Just kind of chalky looking with no sheen. It doesn’t smell like much either, just a little sweet and a little malty (which isn’t a bad thing in my book).
The construction of the bar is similar to Milky Way - a nougat layer on the bottom, caramel then covered in chocolate.
The caramel has some stringy pull to it, but not in the same silky way that a good dairy caramel does. This one is a little grainy (not a dealbreaker) with a well rounded saltiness, but severely lacking in the toasted sugar notes. Instead it tastes like brown rice, toasty but in a “toasted wheat bread” way, not a “sugar shell on a creme brulee” way. (But to be honest, the Milky Way caramel isn’t all that either.) The nougat is fluffy and has a hint of malt to it. It’s fine, but I’ll admit that this fluffed sugar nougat that American candy bars have isn’t really my favorite thing. The chocolate-flavored shell melts to a point, but not into anything creamy. It doesn’t impart anything chocolatey to the party.
In a way this bar succeeds because it’s just as throat-searingly sweet as a Milky Way. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t want to finish it. I think the vegan versions of the caramel and nougat are good enough for those who can’t eat the real stuff, but a good quality dark chocolate could have saved this bar.
(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.
Monday, January 11, 2010
I love variety, in fact I crave it. I was excited to find this selection of three different kinds turron (torrone) in this box from El Almendro. It includes Turron Duro, Turron Caramelo and Turron Crocanti.
Each piece is about one ounce (there are seven so I got three of the Duro) and individually wrapped. In fact the package was wrapped a lot. The box was wrapped in cellophane. There tray inside was wrapped in cellophane and each of the pieces is wrapped in cellophane. They’re very fresh.
The most remarkable thing about all three varieties is that they’re mostly almonds. Each lists the ingredients as 60% almonds.
Turron Duro is a light and crunchy turron. This version is common in both Italy and the Iberian Peninsula. El Almendro is Spanish and the best thing about it, of course, is that in Spanish you trill the double r ... it’s like extra exercise for your mouth, so you work off more calories.
The finger is three inches long and one inch wide, so it’s a nice bar-like portion. The white nougat is crispy and filled with nuts and has the scent of marshmallow, almonds and honey.
If you’ve always wanted more of those little nougat bits in a Toblerone, this is the stuff. They’re tacky but mostly crunchy, only mildly sweet with oodles of almonds. The honey notes are prominent but never quite dominate because there are just so many nuts. My favorite of the three,
The Turron Crocanti variation has a transparent amber version of the turron instead of the milky white stuff. Here the caramlelized sugar flavors win out over the honey. There’s no egg white in it, so it’s more of an almond brittle. It’s also a little more bitter as candy part is quite dark and burnt tasting (in the best way possible).
The Turron Caramelo was a little confusing to me at first. Every time I looked at it, I though ... oh, it’s a fig turron! And then I’d eat it and it’d be a sesame turron.
The candy looks like something I’d get in a dish at a Chinese restaurant. It smells quite dark and toasted, like sesame oil. Sesame isn’t always a good pick for me. I enjoy Sesame Snaps (those sesame finger cracker things) and Sesame Brittle (those little fingers wrapped in cellophane and sold at health food stores) and of course I’m a nut for Halvah. But sesame has a dark side - a side that reminds me of burnt hair and flaming plastics. The bars were extra hard and crunchy, which was a little disturbing as I’m worried sometimes that I’ll break my teeth on candy I’m reviewing and then where will I be!
The flavor is actually quite pleasant after I smashed the bar around inside the package when I had my second one. The sesame overshadows any honey or almond and definitely ventures into the bitter burnt notes. This was my least favorite.
I’m glad I got a variety that confirms how much I prefer the version that has egg whites in it. Now I just need to find a package that has them in these perfect sized fingers. Often the Spanish turrons come in dinner plate sized wheels, which means messy smacking & breaking.
It’s pretty wholesome and filling stuff, at only 110 calories per stick and the fact that it’s mostly almonds and all natural might make some parents pretty happy.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
There’s a lot that goes on before our beloved candy hits the store shelves. The same is true with Candy Blog, though it probably looks like all I do is play with candy, take photos of candy and of course eat candy. I also read about what’s going on in the candy business and of course visit trade shows and talk to candy companies, distributors & retailers.
One of the things I always found curious about the American candy business is how some foreign candies are represented in the United States. One such oddity was that the American distributor for Toblerone and Cote d’Or (owned by Kraft) chocolate for two years was Ferrara Pan. Yes, the Lemonhead & Atomic Fireball makers. Well, that deal ended in December 2008. So that left Ferrara free to move into the chocolate bar field without competing with his own interests ... and he’s come up with something that looks familiar yet has its own distinctiveness.
The chocolate is made in Belgium but the rest of the manufacturing is done at the new Ferrara facility in Forest Park, IL. If you like the behind the scenes stuff, you might love this article (which is one of the most blunt I’ve seen about how the candy business is a business and made up of people).
The new Ferrara Imported Belgian Milk Chocolate with Almond Nougat bar has a distinctive shape and a similar construction. It’s an atypical shape (a trapezoidal bar with deep sections) enclosed in a box shaped just like the bar. Yes, it’s a Faux-blerone.
The ingredients are in fact quite nice: milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, chocolate, soy lecithin and natural vanilla flavor), almond nougat (sugar, corn syrup, almonds, honey, egg white, natural vanilla flavor) plus wheat starch as a processing aid.
Inside the box the bar is sealed in a heavy mylar wrap with the Ferrara “F” crest reminding consumers that Ferrara has been making candy since 1908 on it.
It does smell quite good, sweet and milky with just a hint of the promised honey in the nougat.
Biting into it the first thing I noticed was how packed with nuts & nougat bits it was. My issue with Toblerone has long been the lack of enough bits to satisfy me.
The chocolate is quite milky but surprisingly smooth. The milky flavors are lightly caramelized, so there’s a malty & honey undertone to it. The chocolate comes across as rich, but also a little sweet.
I liked the little almond slivers and crunches and the Italian-style nougat which had a hint of honey and toasted marshmallow flavors. The bits are a little tough and sometimes sticky ... I’d kind of like to try the milk chocolate without the nougat & nuts. (Ferrara is planning on making sectioned chocolate balls a la Terry’s Chocolate Orange later this year as well.)
I’d say this is a great addition to a rather open segment of the candy shelf - better than a standard Hershey’s with Almonds and rivaling Toblerone without the price tag. I paid $1.99 for this bar ... on the shelf next to it was Toblerone, for $2.79 each. The fact that it’s all natural (no artificial vanilla flavor in there) is a bonus.
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:
Milk Chocolate - Pack 1 of 7 - Chocl-O-Bots (tm) - Optimus Prime
Milk Chocolate - Pack 2 of 7 - Chocl-O-Bots (tm) - Bumblebee
Milk Chocolate - Pack 3 of 7 - Chocl-O-Bots (tm) - Ironhide
Peanut - Pack 4 of 7 - Delect-O-Cons (tm) - Megatron
Peanut - Pack 5 of 7 - Delect-O-Cons (tm) - Star Scream
Peanut - Pack 6 of 7 - Delect-O-Cons (tm) - Barricade
Strawberried Peanut Butter - Pack 7 of 7 - The Twins
(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.
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