Friday, August 22, 2014
Back in 1995 Cadbury introduced a hollow, molded chocolate novelty called Yowie that included an animal toy in the center in Australia. They were wildly successful not only in Australia but in Oceania, as well, even outselling the more globally known Kinder Surprise Egg in those territories. Then about 10 years ago some disputes between Cadbury and the product line’s creators, they were discontinued (more about that here).
There are plenty of hollow chocolates out there filled with little candies, but it’s not easy to find them with a toy surprise. In the United States they are banned because in most cases the toy inside qualifies as a choking hazard. Even though the toy is enclosed within a plastic egg that is far too big to be swallowed, it’s the tiny toys (often requiring assembly) that have American regulators on watch for them. (I’ve brought back the toys from Kinder Eggs from Germany, but never the intact candy.)
The Yowie Group has found a way around all of this regulation by simply making the toy inside too big to be a choking hazard and are reintroducing the Yowie line of toys enclosed in chocolate ... starting this time with the United States.
Yowies also have a few other features that Kinder Surprise Eggs do not. The chocolate is considered real chocolate (all natural) and is Rainforest Alliance certified. They’re shaped and molded not like a simple egg, but in the form of different characters. Inside the molded chocolate is a plastic capsule (also kind of a toy itself) that holds the toy. The toy is actual decent quality and are themed as little animal figurines with information inside the capsule about them.
The chocolate is formed in halves, fully designed on both sides (though the back is less interesting). It comes apart rather easily to reveal the capsule inside. They’re rather large, about 2.75 inches tall.
I bought two of them at Lolli & Pops in Glendale (I can’t even find anywhere online to buy them as I write this). They were expensive, $3.75 each. Sadly, one of them was badly bloomed and inedible. They had the same expiration on them, and none of my other chocolate I purchased had any texture/blooming issues, so I’m going to have to say that it happened somewhere between manufacturing and the checkout counter. (So, I staged the photo below to make sure you’d see both of the toys.)
The chocolate itself is pleasant. It’s very thin, so once I put a piece in my mouth, it melted very quickly. It has a fresh “dairy milk” flavor, a rounded cocoa note and a smooth texture. It’s not the best milk chocolate I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly very good for a chocolate novelty item.
You’re not buying it for the chocolate anyway, and as far as candy indulgences go for kids, it’s only one ounce (most chocolate/candy bars are 1.5 to 2.5 ounces) so it’s pretty low in calories overall (153). The little toys are solid and good quality for something considered a novelty ... though certainly not a product I’d be willing to pay more than 50 or 60 cents for, let alone $3.75, even if it does include an ounce of chocolate. But this is for kids.
It’s difficult to read the foil for the ingredients and other information. The press release from the company says that the chocolate is ethically sourced and their website shows the Rainforest Alliance logo. The chocolate is gluten and nut free and Kosher certified. The novelties are made here in the United States at Whetstone Chocolate of St. Augustine, Florida.
Friday, April 18, 2014
A classic item for wedding favors are little parcels of confetti. Confetti is a generic Italian term for panned candies such as Jordan almonds, coated nuts, mints and of course chocolate. Tradition is a little sachet of five pieces, symbolizing health, wealth, fertility, happiness and longevity for the couple and their guests.
Another style of presenting the panned sweets is to wrap the little pieces up and form them into flowers and other shapes. I’ve seen these for years, I remember seeing a display of them in New York City’s Little Italy in a deli by the counter. They were so pretty, I’m not sure I even understood that the petals were edible. This photos shows them made with Jordan almonds and tucked into crepe paper. I’ve seen them made with cellophane which can be clear or tinted as well as tule mesh, which can also be uncolored or tinted (but probably isn’t sanitary).
I picked up this little bouquet in London at Harrod’s in their Easter display. It was expensive for so little actual candy, £3.50 for about 15 little pieces (about $5.85 USD). It’s made by Confetti Pelino of Sulmona, Italy. They were established in 1783, in a region of Italy that’s well known for this traditional and painstaking method of confectionery.
This isn’t as much a review of the candy as it is a deconstruction of the assembly of the five stems of flowers.
The bouquet is held together by green floral tape and decorated with green crepe paper leaves of the same color. It’s pretty top heavy, as the candy petals are thick and will tip over the little bouquet when placed in a water glass or wine glass (so be careful if you’re playing with these at a wedding reception). Each little flower is on a stem of wire, held together with tape and string. Floral tape isn’t exactly sticky, so there’s no issue of excessive adhesive with these. It unravels quite easily.
Each little piece of candy is a small, circular disk covered in cellophane. The cellophane is twisted together, the pointed, twisted ends are then tied together with a bit of string, and then taped onto the wire stem.
The candy at the center of these isn’t a Jordan almond, just a little sugar disk. It’s kind of bland, and as far as I can tell, unflavored. It dissolves and tastes like, well, sugar.
As candy, it’s expensive and darned difficult to eat because of all the string and wire and tape and wrappers. As a favor or decoration is classically charming. There are a lot of different ways to achieve these with different colors of candy, different sizes, different tape and leaves or flower shapes. Harrod’s is a fine place to buy one bunch if you’re curious, but if you’re interested in using them as favors or centerpieces, do some research on which will suit you best.
Though chocolate candies could be used, I would advise folks to stick to centers that are more weather-tolerant. It’d be fun to make them with M&Ms or Reese’s Pieces, but I can’t imagine anything with a lot of oil in it would do well with the heat of being handled a lot or possibly sitting in the sun or a hot car. I looked around to find a tutorial for making these but didn’t have much luck (if you know of one, please leave a link in the comments). I can imagine that the same techniques could also be used to make candy wreaths, garlands and other styles of centerpieces.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
One of my favorite styles of gifts (especially when I had much more modest capital than now) was the gift of beloved common items to delightful excess. This meant that it might a pretty jar filled with Atomic Fireballs or shoebox filled with Reese’s Peanut Butter Miniatures. The sheer volume in itself is a luxury, something most normal people don’t do for themselves, but they’re happy to relish it from a loved one.
Part of a newer trend from the candy companies is to pre-package this for you. You can buy something that looks like a Giant Tootsie Pop that holds a bunch of lollipops, or a giant box of Wonka Nerds. A few have gone so far as to create actual giant versions of their candies - Hershey’s has been making a 5 Pound Hershey Bar for quite a long time. A few years ago they also created the World’s Largest Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (each in the twin pack is a half a pound) and the 1 Pound Snickers Slice n Share has returned again this year.
The newest addition to this is the Giant York Peppermint Patties.
The package holds two half pound patties, so it’s one full pound of York Peppermint Pattie goodness. Unlike the normal Peppermint Patties on the market right now, which come as a single 1.4 ounce pattie or in the individually wrapped miniatures, these are not meant to be eaten as a single serving or portion of a serving. Each pattie is deemed to be 6 portions.
A regular pattie is about 2.65 inches across. The half pound patties are about 5.25 inches across. The ingredients are identical.
The trick with supersizing a filled confection is ratios. The 5 Pound Hershey Milk Chocolate bar is not substantially different from a 1.55 ounce one, since it’s a solid object. For a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup it might mean a different in the milk chocolate and peanut butter filling. For the Snickers Slice n Share, I found it difficult to get all the textures and flavors in a single bite because of the masses of each. In this case, the texture is dominated by the peppermint fondant.
The first thing I noticed was the color and texture of the fondant. It’s a bit more moist than the 1.4 ounce pattie. It’s smooth and has less of a crumbly break than the small ones. It’s pretty easy to slice, though a little stickier. The chocolate layer is thicker (and nicely rippled on the top) and provides a good, slightly bitter counterpoint to the sugary center. It’s lightly minty, as expected, a clean flavor. Overall, it still captures the essence of the York Peppermint Pattie without violating the ratios too radically. It’s difficult to eat, as you might expect. I sliced off pieces (but not actual slices) and ate them. The pieces from the center obviously got less chocolate than the edges.
An interesting difference with the Giant Patties is that they’re made in the United States. The other sizes of York Peppermint Patties are now made in Mexico. Still, the Mexican-made Patties are almost always a better deal. Even on sale at Target for $8.00, that’s eight dollars a pound. Most of the time you can get the miniatures in lay down bags for about five dollars a pound or less if you find a good sale. As a gift it’s a great idea, especially for a Secret Santa or for a child to give to a hard-to-buy-for-but-not-diabetic grandparent. The chocolate is not certified ethically sourced at this time. (Though if Hershey’s were going to roll out brands, it would be easy to make York Rainforest Alliance Certified since it contains so little chocolate. As a side note, the Bliss line will be Rainforest Alliance Certified by the end of the year.)
I bought this at Target, the only place I’ve seen them for sale. They’re not even mentioned on the Target website or even the Hershey’s website.
York Peppermint Patties contain dairy, soy and eggs. May also contain peanuts and tree nuts. There is no statement about gluten on the wrapper.
Monday, August 27, 2012
I picked up these Victory Bubble Gum Sticks which are also known as Bubble Gum Cigarettes at Rocket Fizz last week. They’re a nostalgic item, now made by World Confections, Inc. and probably not very popular with a lot of parents.
There are a few different package designs, with different names like: Kings, Lucky Light, Target, Round Up and Stallion.
There were two kinds of fake cigarettes when I was a kid. There were candy sticks, which were like a Necco wafer sugar stick with a red tip that was supposed to look like it was alight. Of course the sticks were much thinner than an actual cigarette, so the effect was weak. The second is of course the bubble gum cigarette. It’s a rod of gum a little smaller than an actual cigarette, but each is wrapped in a bit of waxed paper with a light brown end to mimic the filter. Each piece of gum was coated in a little corn starch and the wrapper is loose enough that you could blow on one end and form a little puff of powder like smoke. Of course it only worked once.
The box construction on this Victory design box is a little bland. It’s a flip top box, so there’s no tab top that tucks back in or a flip top like real cigarette packs have. The artwork is minimal, but it works in the most impressionistic manner.
There were three flavors in my box of 8 sticks. Orange, Lavender and Pink.
Pink is cherry and it’s just horrible. It’s sweet and crunchy at first, then softens up and gives up all of its sugar over the course of about 10 good chews. It’s then very stiff and bitter (from the food coloring). The slight medicinal flavor of the cherry disappears quickly as well.
Orange is orange. The flavor is vague to nonexistent. It’s quite sweet and sugary and tended to stick to a couple of my fillings until the sugar was gone. It didn’t get as stiff and difficult as the pink, but also did do much in the bubble department.
Purple is grape. There’s a strong grape flavor initially, plenty artificial but still exactly what I expected. But that fades quickly along with the sugar in the gum. This flavor also gets dense quickly so the bubble blowing window is very short. The piece of gum is also pretty small, so the size of the bubbles was always going to be modest.
The gum is marginally passable, but the packaging is quite cute. Really all I was looking for was that experience of blowing the little puff of starch out. The gum is made in Macedonia, I think my first Macedonian candy. I think the Bubble Gum Cigars are more successful overall as a novelty item that still maintains its candiness.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
A few years ago I picked up a Big Bite Gummy Bear. It’s not the biggest gummi bear available on the market, but they’re easy to find and pretty well priced for a novelty item.
This year the Big Bite family of gummis is expanding with holiday themed shapes. For Christmas they have three: a Tin Soldier (red cherry), a Christmas Tree (green apple) and a Rocking Horse (red cherry). I found the Big Bite Gummy Rocking Horse charming and well designed so I picked that one from the display at Cost Plus World Market. They’re not as big as the Big Bite Gummy Bear (which is 12 ounces), they’re about half that weight at 5.82 ounces.
First, as a Christmas tree ornament, this is a colossal failure. It’s weight makes it too heavy and big to put on a normal tree. But as a party favor, stocking stuffer or table decoration, it does pretty well.
The gummi is constructed of two molded halves that are bonded together. They’re packaged in a clear plastic form (which could actually be the mold) that works as an excellent storage container for the partially eaten candy and also as a more appropriate ornament when you’re done.
Even though it’s not as big as the original Big Bite Gummy Bear, it’s still pretty large for a single portion of candy. (Come on, this is at least three portions.) The texture is soft, the surface is smooth but a little greasy because of the carnauba wax coating.
Out of the package, the Rocking Horse stands well on its own, though she’s (yes, I checked) a little head-heavy and tips forward.
I was disappointed in the flavor selection, but I understand with novelty candies they have to go with what’s most popular. (I would have preferred raspberry or strawberry or maybe something truly holiday themed like cranberry or cinnamon.)
Once I cut off the head, the halves of the candy pulled apart quite easily. The texture is pliable with a smooth flavor. It’s cherry and though not the best cherry gummi I’ve ever had, it was passable. It was light, a little tart and had a nice overall balance. It wasn’t too dark, not black cherry or wild cherry but more of the stereotypical cherry of most candies. (I think Tootsie Pop Cherry is as close as I can think of.) However, the edges of the product were tough and leathery, while the center was a bit softer. I also got a bit of an aftertaste and slight burning in my mouth ... this could be my reaction to the red food dye or just simple paranoia.
The tag lists the ingredients (contains gelatin and not Kosher/Halal) as well as the nutritional information. It was printed so small I had to photograph it and blow it up. The serving size is the whole candy but the calorie count for the whole thing was a rather modest 592 calories. (That Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte with the whipped cream at Starbucks has 520 calories.) But the really surprising part is consuming the whole thing is 10.7 grams of protein.
The candies are imported by a company called Novelty Specialties and are manufactured in China. I’m not enthusiastic about candy (or any food product) made in China because of their lack of accountability when it comes to food safety, though the United States and United Kingdom have their share as well. If I weren’t writing this blog, I never would have purchased, let alone eaten this product (but that goes for a lot of the candies I’ve tried, and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised).
The price was $3.99, which was the same price as the twice-as-big Big Bite Gummi Bear. $3.99 could buy some very nice, American or German gummis that you could put in a holiday themed package. Just saying. If you’re not planning on eating it and want to dispose of it in the garbage disposal, well, this is better than plastic.
Since writing the review of the Big Bite Gummy Bear, which seem to be widely available, the company’s website has disappeared. (Here’s the page I got when I went to NoveltySpecialties.com.)
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
This new version is amped up in size and has another twist, actual flavors to the candy buttons (the classics may be flavored, but it’s not perceptible). They’re called Candy Sweet Spots and they’re made in China by Greenbrier International, Inc.
The package is big. The strips are 11 inches long and 4.25 inches wide. There are three strips inside, which provides a full 2.4 ounces of candy - I paid a buck for it.
I’ve never seen a package include, perhaps even advertise, the word artificial so much. The name of the candy might actually be Candy Sweet Spots Artificially Flavored. Then at the bottom there’s a little arrow that points up to the candies themselves that also exalts, “Assorted Artificial Fruit Flavors!”
The package goes on to list all of the flavors, right there on top of the actual candies in the see through package. I appreciate the information.
Yes, they are bigger than the traditional paper buttons. For the most part they’re 1/3 to 1/2 of an inch in diameter. The old style buttons are a little less than 1/4 of an inch.
They come in four flavors: Artificial Cherry, Artificial Orange, Artificial Lemon and Artificial Raspberry. There are fifteen Sweet Spots of each flavor on each sheet.
The Sweet Spots are pretty much regularly sized and shaped. The bonus over their traditionally sized cousins is that these come off the paper rather easily. I had no trouble getting them off, no bits of paper stuck to the bottom. But they do leave a little residue of color/candy on the paper (so you can’t reuse the paper for notes or anything).
Cherry (red) is sweet and mild, it has an actual authentic artificial taste to it and even a little note of Red #40.
They’re really not that good as candy, but as something to amuse a small child for a while, they’re okay. They’re also made in China and contain gelatin and artificial flavors and colors.
I would say that they’re a good accent item, but the original Candy Buttons are too. You can peel them off the paper and put them on a decorated cake or cupcake, which is especially useful if you just want to do a plain uncolored frosting and not have to mix anything else. (And easy for kids to do.) Unless you’re looking for something in a larger scale, I’d say move along to some candy that’s actually good. But if you can’t resist the look of these, well, the price is good and the quality of the colors makes them at least a good deal as decorations. Other party ideas include hanging a strip on the wall to make “lickable wallpaper” or as an accent behind a candy buffet.
There’s another version of these called Mega Candy Buttons which are actually even bigger and are Kosher (so probably don’t have gelatin in them).
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I bought these Bubble Gum Cigars while on vacation last month, mostly because it’d be so longer since I’d seen the full array of the flavors in quite a long time. They’re made by Concord Confections in Canada which is now owned by Tootsie. (They also make Dubble Bubble Gum.)
I picked out three of them, in a standard array of colors orange, green and yellow. Each has a special name on the band, which is smaller than the standard cigar band (so I can’t wear it as a ring, even on my pinky). The wrapping is simple, just a clear cellophane sleeve, all were fresh and pliable (though if you’ll notice I dropped the orange one and it broke into pieces).
Cigars have faded a bit from pop culture, but starting sometime in the early 20th century it was common to celebrate a new baby with a gifting of cigars to friends (mostly by the father to friends, coworkers and contacts). As something that children today are aware of, it’s kind of an anachronism, as I know I can go months without even catching a whiff of the scent of a cigar, much less actually seeing someone smoking one. The relationship between real cigars and bubble gum ones is so far removed, I don’t think anyone can say that they actually improve the opinion folks have of tobacco. The reverse is probably true, the shape and association of a cigar with a children’s chewing gum is more likely a hindrance to sales.
El Bubble is green and Apple Flavored. I admit that I’m kind of a gum purist. Chewing gum should be mint, cinnamon or that Juicyfruit flavor ... and bubble gum should be bubble gum flavored. None of these cigars is actually bubble gum flavored (I couldn’t find a pink one). The apple is actually rather more on the actual apple juice flavor side of things than tangy green apple. It’s sweet and light. Even after the sugar fades, it’s not offensive or even very strong at all. I don’t think anyone sitting near me would recognize the flavor.
The gum is soft and easy to chew. It’s gets very soft and grainy quickly, kind of made my mouth fill up with saliva. But a little chewing and the gum firms up into a stiff enough piece that makes decent bubbles.
Gold Dragon is yellow and Banana Flavored. Banana is a rare flavor of gum in general, so it’s nice to find. I’m sure there are some sort of Freudian/Mae West jokes about cigars and bananas, as well. The chew is soft and sugary with a mild and sweet banana flavor. Eventually as the sugar fades the flavor is much more artificial and caustic. Bubble blown at this point end up filled with noxious vapors like walking into a poorly ventilated nail spa.
Wild Tiger is orange and Orange Flavored. It’s a purely sweet affair here, sickly sweet with only a touch of orange flavoring. Don’t worry, it’ doesn’t taste like Aspergum, that would be too intense. Instead it’s more like some sort of sugar paste that was next to something orange flavored at one point.
They’re a fun little piece of gum, mostly inoffensive and colorful. They could easily just be little rods of gum or tubes ... but the idea of the little bands and their colorful names is the one bit of novelty here I enjoyed. The gum itself was passable, but I’m sure something that kids would chewy like I do ... just long enough to get the sugar out, then blow a few bubbles and move on.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Mederer GmbH is a Germany candy company best known for its Trolli is a brand of gummis. By 1975 gummis were already very popular in Germany, with most of the market dominated by Haribo. So Mederer introduced the Trolli line with an affectionate mascot, the Trolli troll, with rainbow hair. The Mederer company also started making gummis in the United States, in Iowa, but later sold that off in 1996. It changed hands a bunch of times (passing through Nabisco & Wrigley’s, notably) to what is now known as Farley’s and Sathers Candy Company.
So in the United States, the Trollis you buy here are different from the Trolli candies from Europe (which are now made in Germany, Spain and Czech Republic). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get the German Trolli brand, you just have to look for it under their American brand, called e.fruitti.
While I was in Europe earlier this year, I visited with the Trolli company’s booth at the ISM Cologne candy fair. They make an amazing array of candy and many of their gummis, most in novelty flavors and shapes, which are available in the United States as well. One that I was excited about was the Trolli Gummi Bear Rings. (They’re sold here in the United States with the same name, here’s a comparison of the non-US branding of the candy with the Trolli brand and the American efruitti branding.) They’re exactly what the name sounds like, rings made out of gummi candy with gummi bears on them like gems.
The bears are made with real fruit juice. Each piece is a combination of two flavors which are: orange, strawberry, apple, lemon/lime and cherry. The bears come in a variety of poses as well, with reclining bears, bears doing single pawed handstands, waving and splits.
The pieces are firm and have a soft, non greasy waxy coating. They fit pretty well on the top of my rather chubby fingers. If I tried I could get them down across the big knuckle. As long as your hands are really sweaty or damp, they don’t get sticky.
The gummi part is quite stiff though still chewy and intense in its flavor. I’ll just dissect them and take the flavors separately:
Cherry (red) is quite good and not the American style, it’s more Kirsch-like, more like a classic cherry juice flavor.
Lemon/Lime (yellow) is zesty and tangy. It really is a great flavor to complement just about all the others.
Orange (orange) is rather ordinary. There’s a fair amount of zest which keeps it from tasting like a rubberized version of orange Jell-O. But it was still a little bland.
Apple (green) isn’t the regular artificial American green apple flavor, this was quite authentic, with apple juice flavors, it reminded me a little bit of a fruit roll up with a much smoother texture.
Berry (blue) is the one I wasn’t sure about. The flavor of the blue gummi was rather berry-ish, more like raspberry. But the package said strawberry. However, the red was most definitely cherry. So I’m not sure about this one. It was tasty, chewy and a bit sour with some nice florals and jam notes.
The big point to these though isn’t the flavor it’s the fact that they’re rings. You can wear them while you eat them. As an alternative to keeping them on your fingers, I’d say putting them on a necklace (just a piece of string) might be fun too. Just in case you were thinking that these were the gummi equivalent of brass knuckles, well, they would have the opposite effect if you punched someone with them on. They’re quite bouncy. (Don’t try that at home, please.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.