Wednesday, September 15, 2010
This mix has three different varieties, one for each of the main characters in Eclipse: Peanut Butter filled Milk Chocolate (Jacob), Chocolate Truffle filled Milk Chocolate (Bella) and Caramel filled Milk Chocolate (Edward). The bag contains 20 pieces and weighs 10 ounces. As the Halloween candy was just being placed on the shelves in stores over the weekend, I didn’t get this on sale, so yes, I paid $3.99 for less than a pound of chocolate candy from the drug store.
The package design is rather nice, I like the new deco style Sky Bar logo design, it’s not completely subservient to the Twilight logos & look, but does well in combination. The artwork on the package shows what’s inside very well, and describes the product accurately. It’s a peeve of mine when makers of licensed products just think they can slap a logo and movie key art on there and folks don’t care what’s actually inside.
The Bella themed piece is Chocolate Truffle filled Milk Chocolate. The shape is of a large heart with the Bella name on it. Each piece is a half an ounce, so it’s a pretty large bite of chocolate. It’s about an inch and a half long and over a half an inch thick.
Necco is very helpful on the back of the package and lists the ingredients and nutrition information for each variety, so I was able to see that the ingredients were actually pretty good. It’s made with real chocolate for the shell and the center “truffle” is also real chocolate with a small boost of partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil (not that much though based on how low it is on the list, right before soy lecithin).
The center isn’t quite crumbly, but is dry and has a melt like a Frango. It has some cocoa flavors, but mostly it’s a sweet balance of vanilla and the milk of the chocolate coating. There’s a slight grain to it, which is made of salt. This definitely gave it some interest and kept it all from being sickeningly sweet. It wasn’t very strong on the chocolate front and definitely didn’t have the vibe of an actual chocolate truffle.
80 calories each.
The Caramel filled Milk Chocolate piece for Edward Cullen is very nicely crafted. It’s the Cullen crest in milk chocolate.
I opened a few pieces and they were all in excellent condition, glossy and with nicely created details.
So for the vampire character, inside his family crest is a salty, caramelized sugar syrup. This was by far the saltiest piece of the set (though only 25 mg per piece). The milk chocolate smells sweet and milky. The piece has a good snap and gooey bite because of the syrupy nature of the caramel filling.
The first thing I got from the caramel was a salty hit, the second thing was a cereal flavor note. I can’t quite describe it, it’s like a combination of butter flavoring and Cheerios or Sugar Pops.
It’s very sweet, a little too much for me as it gives me a sore throat, but it is a mercifully appropriately sized piece.
Peanut Butter filled Milk Chocolate is the piece themed for Jacob, the werewolf. I guess peanuts are earthy and wolves are wild animals, so maybe that’s the connection.
The little medallion is cute, it’s a oval with a howling wolf relief and full moon.
The whole piece is soft. It has a good roasted peanut scent that has a light floral and grassy note. The filling however, disappoints. It’s missing something, it’s like it’s been watered down (or perhaps oiled up with some partially hydrogenated palm oil). The center is smoother than a Reese’s PB Cup and less crumbly, but it needs to melt a bit to get the flavor out. So it’s greasy and just unsatisfying. The only thing I can say is that the piece is balanced well on the sweetness and didn’t really need more salt in it.
80 calories each.
10 of the pieces in the package if 20 were Peanut Butter. The breakdown for the others as 6 for Caramel and 4 for Truffle. So it’s either random assortments, or the peanut butter is deemed to be the most popular (or possibly cheapest).
I’m not fond of the Sky Bar, but these strike me as much better than that. First, everything was fresh (and I’m pretty sure that every Sky Bar I’ve ever bought was three years old) - even when a candy is on the cheap side, freshness does wonders. I wasn’t keen on the use of partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, but I don’t think it comprised a large amount of the product. I like the choice of these flavor variations, the vanilla cream piece I tried last year was simply uninspired. These feel like they could stand on their own without the licensing tie-in. I would never spend this much on this quality of chocolate if I didn’t have this blog, so if you’re interested in these, I wouldn’t spend more than $2.99 - hopefully you can find them for $2.00 or so on sale.
I couldn’t find any statement about gluten on the package, though no wheat ingredients are mentioned. It has all the other allergens though - soy, dairy & peanuts plus processed on equipment with eggs & tree nuts.
Monday, August 23, 2010
I picked up a handful of these enigmatic peanut butter bonbons in Ohio at the Dollar General Store. I really had no idea what they were, but at 33 cents each it was hardly a gamble.
I was concerned they wouldn’t travel well, but they did surprisingly well considering the mileage and temperature/humidity variations.
I had to take the wrapper off completely to find out exactly what they’re called and who makes them. They’re called Milk Chocolate Bonbon Whisper. They’re made by Arcor in Mexico. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Arcor’s chocolate candy. But since I already had these in hand I tried to keep an open mind.
Not only is the package vague, but it also leaves out the most important part about this candy, the peanut butter. The domed chocolate pieces are about 1.5 inches in diameter. Nicely formed, they’re glossy and rather cute. I picked up four of them and three made it back in good shape (and even the smashed one was still edible).
The construction is simple and rather familiar. There’s a large sphere of peanut butter surrounded by a light wafer then covered in milk chocolate. It reminds me of a New World Ferrero Rocher (swapping peanut butter for hazelnuts). There are no crushed nuts on the outside though.
The piece is about .7 ounces, so about the same heft as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. It smells lightly like peanut butter, a little hint of a grassy note instead of the dark roasted flavors of Reese’s. The chocolate looks light and milky, and though I was concerned that it wasn’t real chocolate but the ingredients listed cocoa butter and I think the soybean oil is in the peanut butter filling.
The chocolate isn’t fabulous, it holds everything together and is rather soft, but it’s not overly sweet or grainy. It just doesn’t have much of a cocoa punch. So the focus of the bonbon becomes the center. The peanut butter filling is smooth and fresh. It’s not greasy but feels a little empty at moments, like there’s a filler in it (maybe that soybean oil that’s so high up on the ingredients list). It’s sweet and salty and has a good overall peanut flavor. The crispy wafer is overshadowed a bit but still provides a nice crunch.
The wrapping is just a large piece of mylar. It wraps the piece very well though, even though it’s not completely sealed. The ingredients and manufacturing information was nearly impossible to read. The mylar is gold and the printing is blue. I ended up taking photos of the info and then blowing it up on the computer and adjusting the levels in order to read it.
It’s an odd little candy. It’s a great idea, but it lacked a bit of oomph and balance of textures with the flavors. It needs better chocolate and I think it could use little bit more crunch. But the price is certainly decent and the originality of the candy is a plus.
Thursday, July 01, 2010
While I didn’t get to attend the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago back in May, Mars was kind enough to send me some samples of their candies that haven’t hit store shelves yet. The one that got the most buzz (after Pretzel M&Ms, naturally) was the new Snickers Peanut Butter Squared.
First, it’s a new product in the Snickers line, not a limited edition. It’ll come out in December, but they’re obviously gearing up for a big push if they were distributing fully packaged samples more than six months in advance.
There are a lot of things that are different about this bar. The packaging is a little flatter, shorter and wider than the standard Snickers “log” package. The yellow background reminded me of the recently discontinued Snickers Cruncher.
Inside the package are two squares. See, it’s not even a bar, it’s two pieces. They’re 1.25 inches square and about .75 inches high. There’s a nice ripple on the top. They’re nicely made, beautiful to look at when placed on a plate and enjoyed like a fine chocolate.
What’s different isn’t just that this is a smaller candy. It’s 1.78 ounces total (.89 ounces per piece) and the package says that you can “twist wrap” to keep the second piece fresh. It might be about portion control. There are only 250 calories in this package compared to the 2.07 ounce classic Snickers that clocks in at 271 calories. So you’re paying more, perhaps gaining the ability to stop halfway.
But it’s not just the shape that’s different. Inside is a radical change for Snickers lovers. It’s a base of peanut butter nougat layered with a dry but dense peanut butter layer then a thin layer of caramel all covered in milk chocolate. So the caramel is minimized and the peanut butter portion is upped ... but it feels like there are fewer actual peanuts.
It smells just like a Snickers. Biting into it, it’s not as thick and the layers aren’t as distinct. The caramel is just a thin layer that’s a little tougher than the others. The peanut butter and nougat weren’t very distinct. It was a little salty and very peanutty. The chocolate was creamy. But there was something just kind of bland for me. I missed the decadent chew of the caramel, especially because it combined with the other flavors to create something new and wonderful in the mouth. However, there’s a much more intense peanut butter experience; the texture is far smoother than, say, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but not quite creamy.
I had two of these to try, so I got a pretty good sense of them. If you were a fan of the Snickers Nut ‘n’ Butter Crunch or Snickers Fudge, which I consider drier bars because they don’t have caramel, then this might be a good substitution. I actually prefer the Snickers Xtreme, which goes the other direction. It’s a bar with just caramel and peanuts. It was a limited edition item that will return in September 2010.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Nut brittle has to be one of the simplest and heartiest candies. It’s just a boiled mixture of corn syrup and sugar binding some nuts together. I’m rather keen on nut brittles, but they’re often difficult to eat and portion. A bar format solves most of that.
The Old Dominion Peanut Bar keeps it simple. There are only four ingredients: Peanuts, Sugar, Corn Syrup and Salt. That’s it, no preservatives ... not even any butter or cream, so it’s good for vegans. It’s a huge bar as well, 2.25 ounces for only 80 cents or so. Since it’s mostly peanuts there’s a lot of protein in there - 10 grams. Of course nuts also come with some fat, 8 grams in this case, but the sugar is actually pretty low for candy coming in at 20 grams ... and while we’re at it, 4 grams of fiber.
Technically I don’t consider this bar to be a brittle. A nut brittle has a little baking soda in it that makes the candy part bubble a little bit to create a foamy texture, easy crunch and lightly salty flavor. It’s different from a toffee coated nut as well, as toffee uses milk, butter and/or cream. So this is just a hard candy - a boiled sugar mixture that hardens and holds the nuts together while adding a sweet toasted sugar flavor.
As I’ve already mentioned, it’s dead simple. So the slab doesn’t necessarily look all that appealing. Unless you love peanuts. Then you’ll not only love the glossy abundance, but the wonderful fresh roasted scent.
The peanuts are also big. The crunch is very nutty, but the sugary coating has a nice toasted and salty flavor of its own. The fatty peanuts give it all a bit of a creamy toffee note even though there’s no dairy in there. The light color of the candy and nuts is a little deceptive, I though it’d be rather flavorless, but it’s quite deep. There’s a mix of the roasted notes of the peanuts which is sometimes grassy and sometimes quite dark like coffee. The bar is very filling. I honestly thought half of it was plenty for a little pick me up. While it tastes rather salty, it’s only 157 mg for the whole bar.
There are a few brands of these bars, the nationally distributed and easiest to find brands are the Mars Munch Bar (which has butter in it) and the Planters Peanut Bar. Since I found the Planters bar first, I thought I’d compare.
The Planters bar is 1.6 ounces and the same price at the Rite Aid. They’re distributed by Kraft, which now owns Planters nuts. The ingredients are a little more complex for a product where you get less: Peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, salt, peanut oil, TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness.
Aside from the size difference, they looked rather similar. The Planters bar had a bit more of a honey tone to the candy portion.
The taste of the Planters bar was a little more roasted and didn’t seem as fresh and crunchy as the Old Dominion. But it also had some darker toasted and charcoal notes that some folks might prefer.
The size difference and the fact that the Old Dominion doesn’t need any preservatives has me on their side for this one. The salt was more forward in the flavor profile, even though the salt concentration was similar. But in a pinch, I’d buy the Planters again.
These sort of nut bars are an excellent summer candy, they do well in the heat but still provide a powerful and satisfying mix of nuts with a sugary crunch and just the right hint of salt. They’re easy to carry around and even break up to share. They, however, don’t fare as well in damp conditions like high humidity unless consumed immediately.
So far I’ve been very pleased with the Old Dominion products I’ve been getting at the drug store. Very fresh and the fact that there are so few ingredients is actually refreshing.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I’ve been sampling their entire line so here’s the first and probably most approachable of the bunch: Perfect Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Roasted Peanuts.
The packaging is bold. I’ve had their bars before in the old look and honestly they didn’t impress me much. While some may not like the graphics, color combos and geometric patterns, I love them. They remind me of silk ties and scarves.
While the packaging has changed and the line has expanded, the format is the same.
The bars are a simple molding with four distinct segments. This makes portioning easy and for me half of the bar (two segments) was about 1.25 ounces and a satisfying amount. The dark chocolate is shiny and though I scuffed my bars a bit when bringing them back from the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, they were pristine in the flavor department.
The dark chocolate is rich and buttery with a quick and slick melt on the tongue. The roasted notes of the peanuts bleed through and add to the dark and slightly burnt flavors of the cocoa. It’s mostly a woodsy and earthy bar. The center has a snap to it, but it melts pretty readily. It’s studded with peanut chunks but the base is a peanut butter meltaway. It’s salty and crunchy and basically peanutty.
I enjoyed it thoroughly. It doesn’t satisfy me the same way that a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup does, but the crunches and the far superior chocolate experience makes it something else. Now, if all this sounds a little familiar, you might recognize the bar format as something that Target has in the Choxie line. So if you’re having trouble finding Seattle Chocolates, you can always try some Choxie Truffle Bars, which are about the same price.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
I got an early taste of the new Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Minis courtesy of the Sweets & Snacks Expo. As the name explains, they’re an extra miniature version of the classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
The selling point in this version is that there’s no wrapper, no fluted paper cup. These morsels are ready to pop right in your mouth. The initial launch will be in King Size packages of 3.1 ounces, but I also expect them to be released as 8 ounce bags for baking. They won’t be hitting the stores until December 2010.
They look exactly like the foil wrapped miniatures, except of course, they’re smaller still. As ratios go, you can expect this to be the most chocolate version of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup you can get. (On the peanut-butter-heavy end of things, the Reese’s Egg is tops.)
Each is exquisitely formed, they all had a precise and consistent shape. As you can tell, they get a little scuffed up rolling around loose in the bag, so no glossy chocolate sheen.
They smell sweet and nutty. The chocolate is cool and melts quickly, with only a light milky cocoa note. The peanut butter center is just a quick pop of roasted peanut butter, crumbly texture and salt. Since they’re so small, a mouthful takes at least two.
These would be ideal for snacking and I could see them as a huge hit in theater boxes. For those who miss the Reese’s Peanut Butter Bites, these might be just the thing (there’s no waxy glaze either). The ratios weren’t quite to my liking but I enjoy the fact that you don’t have to unwrap each individual piece.
Friday, May 28, 2010
They come in a rather petite package, it weighs only 1.28 ounces, which is a pretty remarkable difference compared to the standard Butterfinger bar which clocks in at 2.1 ounces. Of course that does mean that there are fewer calories per serving, here a bag is only 170 calories (133 per ounce) while a bar is 270 calories (129 per ounce).
The package is a simple pouch, a little taller than a bag of M&Ms and in a bright yellow and orange with blue accents.
The Snackerz look every bit as appealing as the actual Butterfinger bar. They’re a bit chalky and smell like sugar and fake butter. They’re about 1.25 inches long and .75 to 1.00 inches wide. They’re decorated with little zags of orange icing confection. They’re an irregular puff shape, there’s a little pocket of Butterfinger creme in there.
The crunch is like a sweet version of Fritos or a breakfast cereal. Inside the sweets, salty and buttery flavored cream has a little hint of roasted nuts. The cereal and peanut butter combination is fun and different enough. The mockolate coating is a joke, it’s fresh so there’s no hint of rancid cocoa or anything that I get from Butterfingers now and then. But there’s no rich cocoa to go with it.
A few years ago I tried something called Butterfinger Stixx, which were a little wafer tube filled with a similar creme, but the difference there was that they were covered in real milk chocolate. That was a great idea. This is mediocre at best ... a smaller portion than most candies offer at this price but sub par ingredients.
After seeing what Nestle did with the Wonka line to create products with better ingredients, this is just plain disappointing. I know they can do better.
Made in Mexico, no Kosher statement on the package.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
I buy candy a lot of places, but probably the ones that fit best with the original intentions of Candy Blog are the dollar stores. Dollar stores and discounters like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar Store and 99 Cent Only Stores have a mix of closeout products, mainstream candies and then a bunch of weird stuff that you’ve never seen before and may never see again. One of the purposes of Candy Blog was to seek out those fringe candies and demystify them. Here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve picked up:
There’s no reason a couple of handfuls of fresh peanuts and some sugar can’t be dirt cheap and delicious. The good news is that I think Old Dominion has done an excellent job filling that niche. Old Dominion Butter Toffee Peanuts don’t come in the most attractive package ever, but the package has five ounces and boasts only four ingredients: peanuts, sugar, butter and salt. They’re Kosher and American made.
They’re a simple panned nut. A buttery toffee coating on whole peanuts.
They’re buttery, a little salty, crunchy and fresh. Not much more to say except that I wish they sold these in the vending machines in the basement of my office building. (My old office had PNuttles from time to time, which is similar, but a little more “toasty” where these are “buttery”.)
I bought the Zachary Thick Mints at the 99 Cent Only Store because they’re called Thick Mints. I mean, how could I resist. They’re mints and they’re thick.
They’re real chocolate, so they have that going for them. I don’t know much about Zachary as a brand for chocolate, I’ve had their sugar candies around Halloween and found them passable, but I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to sugar ... not so much when it comes to chocolate. The tray is flimsy and insubstantial as a serving piece (it bends and spills out the contents) but it did its job along with the box of protecting the product.
They are as advertised, they’re big and thick. They’re about the same diameter as the mini foil-wrapped York Peppermint Patties (about 1.33 inches across) but they’re at least a half an inch high. The inside is more like a Junior Mint (a flowing mint fondant) than a York Peppermint Pattie (a crumbly and dry fondant). The mint fondant is smooth, with a tiny grain to it but a smooth pull and strong almost alcoholic peppermint flavor. The chocolate is a letdown, not terribly cream and lacking a solid cocoa punch. It still does a good job of containing the minty center.
A couple of months ago I got the notion that I should review the chocolate covered caramel bites that come in Movie Theater boxes. (Yeah, a very specific genre of candy, but there are at least three of them.) This one got as far as the acquisition of the candy, photography and consumption. I just couldn’t think of much of a hook for it. But hey, I can’t let it go to waste.
I found Hershey’s Milk Duds, Tootsie Junior Caramels and Zachary Chocolate Caramels at the Dollar Tree. So they’re all the same price and basically the same thing. But very different.
Zachary Chocolate Caramels are the newest one on the market. The box is rather generic but at least well made. The photo of the baubles of milk chocolate are appetizing and the product within does actually look like that. The box holds 4.8 ounces, not the biggest value of the bunch, but still a lot of candy, especially if it’s real chocolate.
Of the three this was the only one that had a protective bag inside. They’re really big and have a decent milky smell. The milk chocolate is thick but not very flavorful. There are some dairy notes but the melt isn’t smooth. The caramel center is soft and easy to chew. It doesn’t have a strong butter or caramelized sugar flavor, it’s more like a cereal note. Just slightly toasty and sweet, it reminds me of Kraft Caramels.
The Junior Caramels box says that it has 10% more free, which is good because it doesn’t even manage to cram 4 ounces in there. The package says that they’re soft milk caramels in pure chocolate. (Here’s my original review when they were first introduced in 2005.)
The chocolate isn’t as thick as the Zachary ones and they’re not as glossy. They don’t smell like much and don’t taste like caramel or milk chocolate either.
The chew of the center is soft but not grainy. Again it’s lacking in butter, toasted sugar and that stringy pull that I love about caramel.
Milk Duds have been around since the 20s. They’ve gone through many changes in corporate ownership, packaging and formulation. Recently Hershey’s stopped using real milk chocolate to coat these choice little caramel bits which is too bad.
They really live up to their name when it comes to appearance, the caramel centers are rarely spherical, they’re flattened lumps. The caramel centers of Milk Duds are quite firm. The chew though is completely smooth and slick. The flavor is authentically toffee-like with a luxurious milky note. It’s so sad that the cardboard mockolate on the outside trashes the flavor with off notes and waxy cocoa. (I can’t say that the chocolate was great when it was real chocolate, but at least the flavor wasn’t off even if the texture was.)
It’s hard to declare a winner with this motley bunch. I love the center of Milk Duds, but the Zachary really do look the most appealing. I can’t say I want to eat any of them again and will probably dump out the rest of them before I flatten the boxes to be saved in my collection.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.