Monday, February 28, 2011
Just Born has been steadily expanding the Peeps line of products for the the past five years or so. Beyond just new colors and shapes for the iconic sugar crusted marshmallows, they’ve also delved into flavors and more recently, the addition of chocolate.
The newest member of the Peeps repertoire is Peeps Peepsters Chocolate with Marshmallow Flavored Creme. They come in two varieties, milk and dark chocolate and sound like an interesting new version, more about the chocolate and less about the marshmallow.
I found them at the drug store before Valentine’s Day, so I paid full price for my bags - $3.99, which I found startling for 11 ounces of candy whose first ingredient was sugar and contained palm kernel oil.
I’ll start with the Peepsters Milk Chocolate with Marshmallow Flavored Creme which are enclosed in an easy to spot yellow bag with brown and green trim. The pieces inside are visible through a little window and foil wrapped in a matte pastel assortment of yellow, orange and pink.
The pieces are a little bit bigger than a Rolo. They feel solid and firm. Even without unwrapping them a vague soft vanilla flavor wafted from the bag. The little domes on the pieces have a little Peep on them, but that’s the only chicky thing about them. There’s really nothing that otherwise makes these feel Peepy except that the packaging tells me so.
The chocolate is smooth and has an excellent snap (however, it is rather cold in Los Angeles right now, they’ve been sitting in the unheated Candy Blog studio, which is about 58 degrees right now). It’s quite sweet but what’s most notable about the creme center is how firm it is. It seems to have the same density as the chocolate. So biting into it is like biting into a thick chunk of chocolate. As you can see from the cross section, there’s a lot of chocolate and not much filling.
The chocolate is sweet and milky, which adds to the marshmallow notes. The cream center does melt a bit on the tongue, kind of like a white chocolate but without the extra milk notes and malty flavor. Instead it’s all vanilla and sweetness. I didn’t get marshmallow at all. If this was served to me without a name, I don’t think think I would have come up with marshmallow as a descriptor. The essential elements of marshmallow are missing. (Lightness, fluffiness and smooth melt.)
The Peepsters Dark Chocolate filled with Marshmallow Flavored Creme are similar to the milk counterpart. They come in a blue bag with white polka dots and the same brown trim. The foil wrapping on the pieces is blue, green and lilac. (So you could mix these in a bowl and knowing the key, pick out your preference.)
The dark chocolate contains milk fat, so it’s not suitable for vegans ... but the creme center has milk products in it anyway. There is no gelatin in it though, so lacto-ovo vegetarians can indulge if they want to. The thickener used for the center is gum arabic.
The caloric density on the dark version is slightly higher, there are two more grams of fat per serving in this version.
Again there’s nothing Peepish about these. They have a much more pronounced vanilla smells to them, and less of the milky notes.
The chocolate is deep and rich, though not entirely well rounded. There are bitter, woodsy notes of charcoal and a lack of fruity notes to balance it all out. So it’s a very rough sort of flavors in combination - the one note sweet vanilla flavored center and then the cocoa powder outside. The balance of sweetness in this was much better though, so I definitely felt much less throat-searing on this version.
It’s an interesting brand extension from a company that I’ve never really though of much more than a sugar candy manufacturer. The foil is cute, but the ratio of center to chocolate was a bit off for something that I thought was going to have the lightness of marshmallow. The attention to detail on the production though is much better than my recent experiences with the Chocolate Covered Peeps. The pieces were well made and protected appropriately by their wrappings. I like that there’s no unnecessary food coloring used in the centers to make them violently yellow - so parents can feel better about giving these to kids. And for once vegetarians can enjoy a Peeps product.
But if I were to pick up an Easter themed cream, I think I’d stick with the Russell Stover eggs line, even though the ratio of chocolate to cream is pretty much the opposite.
UPDATE 11/29/2012: Just Born updated the packaging look for Peepsters this year, though the product remains the same. They also introduced a Christmas-themed version with red and green foil wrappings.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Just Born introduced Chocolate Covered Peeps for Easter 2010. They also made an appearance in the pumpkin shape for Halloween. But the most interesting of their new chocolate covered version of the marshmallow shapes is the Christmas introduction of the Peeps Dark Chocolate Covered Mint Flavored Marshmallow.
The candies come individually wrapped and weigh 1 ounce exactly. (There’s also a milk chocolate version, but both that I bought were crushed & sticky so I’ll have to find more.) Like the other chocolate covered versions before, they’re not just a chocolate covered classic Peep, they lack the sugar crust so the chocolate is the cloak it gets instead of the grainy coating.
The tree shaped minty Christmas Peep is just shy of three inches long and pretty tall at about an inch thick. The dark chocolate shell contains a bit of milkfat but is otherwise has a pleasing dark sheen and makes a convincing tree shape. The package says that they’re gluten free, but of course aren’t vegan (gelatin & milk) and may contain peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and coconut.
They actually smell more like sweet dark chocolate out of the package than mint, which I thought was a good sign after the overly sweet and underwhelming Easter and Halloween versions.
Biting into it, I found what I expected, which was a bright green, soft and moist marshmallow flavored with peppermint. The marshmallow is interesting, it’s fluffy without being foamy or latexy. The mint flavor is appropriately strong - strong enough to have a distinctive taste but not so strong to overwhelm the chocolate chip qualities of the dark coating. The smooth dissolve of the marshmallow is better than the slightly grainy and chalky chocolate.
I don’t generally get an aftertaste from green food colorings (blue & yellow), so my repulsion at the color was aesthetic, not technical. It did go far to convince me that this was something flavored like Creme de Menthe.
The product idea is sound, a flavored marshmallow in a festive, seasonal shape covered in chocolate. There aren’t any other mass-marketed candies like that. I still question the necessity of the strong food colorings (and maybe some sprinkles on there would serve a similar purpose of the tree “decoration.” I’m still not much of a marshmallow fan, so these don’t suit me, but I’m sure there are some fans who will enjoy these. They could benefit from higher quality chocolate and eschew the strong colors.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Peeps Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow is pretty much the biggest thing to happen to Peeps. Oh sure, they’ve dabbled with cocoa flavored Peeps or maybe put them inside a chocolate shell, but an actual chocolate dipped Peep made by Just Born is pretty revolutionary.
First thing, they’re singles and they’re individually wrapped. Other Peeps are sold in trays with more than one serving. So each one will be fresh and ready to eat. (This may or may not be a good thing, I’m not sure if Just Born is going to make Chocolate Covered Stale Peeps.)
I’m going to start with the dark chocolate covered version because that’s what I was attracted to first, but I also have the milk chocolate version. They’re nicely priced, I think the regular retail is about 80 cents, but I picked these up at RiteAid at two for a dollar.
The big thing about Peeps in their chick format (not the bunny format) is that they sit upright. A standard array comes in a conjoined row of five weighing 1.5 ounces. In this case a single Peep is covered in chocolate and sits on its side. They’re huge but well detailed for a chocolate enrobed item. (Think about how hard it is to get details on the blanket covering something that’s extruded in the first place.)
Each piece is one ounce and biting into it answers several questions I had:
First, it’s a yellow Peep in there. Unlike a standard Peep which is only colored on the outside sugar crust, this Peep has coloring all the way through the marshmallow. (Not really something I’m fond of, in fact, I prefer the Ghost Peeps for Halloween which have no artificial colorings.)
Second, there is no sugar crust. It’s just a skinless Peep covered in chocolate.
The dark chocolate coating isn’t a terribly complex chocolate or even that dark (there’s no percentage on the package). It has milk fat in it (but it’s not like we had any hopes that a chocolate covered marshmallow was going to be vegan, did we?). The shell is rather thin, perhaps a little thicker than I’m accustomed to with the Russell Stover versions.
The marshmallow texture is airy and far lighter and less latexy than I experience with Peeps. I can put my tongue through it in my mouth, kind of like a smooth sugary foam instead of a marshmallow.
It’s sweet of course but not grainy. The dark chocolate has a bittersweet and dry quality to it that helps round out the fake vanilla flavoring.
The Peeps Milk Chocolate Covered Marshmallow comes in a bright yellow wrapper (kind of violating the unspoken industry standard that blue is milk chocolate). It was extremely easy to spot when I first walked into RiteAid, so they can definitely say that the package fits the brand.
The interesting thing that I noticed about the ingredients is that it doesn’t seem that these are just your regular individual Peeps run through an enrober. These appear to be a different formula. The marshmallow portion goes like this: Sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, whey (milk), gelatin, cocoa processed with alkali, and less than .5% of the following: invertase, natural and artificial flavors, soy lecithin, yellow #5 and potassium sorbate.
Regular sugar-crusted Peeps contain: Sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, contains less than 0.5% of the following: potassium sorbate, artificial flavors, yellow #5, carnauba wax. (The wax, I believe, is the eyes.)
The sweetness and moistness of the marshmallow is even more noticeable over the dark chocolate version. The milk chocolate shell has some good dairy notes, but it isn’t quite as creamy as I would have liked. The good thing is that it held together well, I didn’t have big flakes coming off as I bit into the fluffy marshmallow.
The texture differences were rather minor here, not at all like the ordinary sugar crust but not enough of a contrast to provide added interest.
Mostly I found the milk chocolate version too sweet though the fake vanilla was actually kind of fun - like a White Toostie Roll is fun for a while and then I realize that there is food out there with real flavor.
I don’t quite understand why they had to make them yellow inside, I think a lot of parents might have preferred them to leave out the Yellow #5.
I know that many bakeries, candy stores and fudge shops have been dipping Peeps and offering them to their customers for many years, so this version may be a bit of an adjustment and some may prefer the inner sugar crusting.
The package says that they may contain peanuts, tree nuts, egg and coconut - in addition to the ingredients soy and gelatin. They are gluten free.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
In my joy of experimentation with Peeps and mashing their sticky innards into other foodstuffs, I’ve jumped from fun & tasty to the illogical conclusion of savory & disgusting.
(Okay, well, they’re not all disgusting.)
I like marshmallow Peeps as an idea, but not much as a confection. They’re fun to look at, pose & contemplate. But I don’t get much pleasure out of eating them. Pairing them with savory items was supposed to be a way to moderate their grainy over-sweetness.
I picked up a few things to try with my Peeps for 2009: Goldfish Crackers, Cheetos, Pepperoni (turkey for me) and Nacho Cheese Sauce.
Scroll slowly, otherwise you’ll overwhelm yourself.
Pepperidge Farms has come out with some new flavors & variations of the classic Goldfish Crackers. As a kid the Pizza flavored ones were my favorite but now I prefer the Cheddar. (Though given a choice I’d probably still opt for Cheezits.)
The new variation that I picked up is in their whole grains line. This one is Toasted Corn.
After reading over the ingredients, corn is pretty far down on the list. And they’re not really corn flavored, they taste more like those Chik’n Biskit crackers I used to like to drink with flat 7-UP in a friend’s basement as a pre-teen while we played with Troll Dolls.
The crunch and salt actually goes well with the sweet fluffy marshmallow and grainy sugar coating. It’s the dusting of garlic that the crackers seem to have that ruins it for me. A plainer cracker, like Saltines or Oyster Crackers is probably a much better and actually realistic Mash Up idea.
Nope, I went the other way:
I had trouble finding my favorite brand of plastic cheese. I usually buy Frito Lay, the stuff that comes in a squat can and probably has a shelf life of three years. All I could find is this Mission Cheddar Cheese Dip.
I’m sorry friends, I wussed out. I didn’t eat this. I thought it was fun to construct. In the future I think I might use different color Peeps than the traditional yellow. I think the green to simulate jalape?os and maybe the purple & pink to really make it jarring would have the best impact.
I did try Peeps on corn chips ... which is actually rather nice. The salty grains of the chips and the sweet sugar granules played nicely.
There’s probably a great idea in there somewhere for S’Mores Nachos using chocolate tortilla chips, chocolate chips, caramel sauce & Peeps. (All toasted under the broiler, natch.)
This is a Peep in that Mission Cheddar Cheese Dip.
The Mission Cheddar Cheese Dip is a bit too soupy and watery for me. I like a thicker, more gelatinous cheese sauce (or just real gooey, stringy cheese).
The cheese was tangy and salty and had a cheddar “flavor” to it. The combination with the Peeps wasn’t so much bad, but the tangy yogurt quality of the dip didn’t go well with the fake vanilla flavor of the Peeps. I don’t recommend you try this at home.
Cheetos now come in some insane flavors and textures. I like both the Crunchy Cheetos and the classic Cheese Puffs. (And some crazy sweet versions in other lands.)
Peeps have a definite advantage over Cheetos in several ways. Though Peeps are brightly colored, they don’t make a mess on your hands. And Peeps may actually be better when they’re stale.
It was funny how much more I tasted the corn when combined with the sweetness of the marshmallow. Corn (Grits) is a great breakfast cereal so this was like mixing my savory grits with my sweet grits. The crunchy texture was a good offset to the silky smooth marshmallow and the micro crunch of the granulated sugar.
The Flaming Hot Cheetos might be a fun experiment.
But really, when it comes to preserved meats and mashing names together, there’s nothing that can come close to Peeperoni. (It’s hilarious, I know!)
It took me a while to find turkey-based Pepperoni (as I don’t eat mammals, except for gelatin because I can’t possibly give up gummis), which I know is nothing like real pepperoni except that it comes in little disks and contains insane amounts of salt.
This Hormel Turkey Pepperoni smells like feet. I didn’t know if that was normal or not.
First, like the cheese sauce experiment, there is no “mashing the sticky Peeps into the pepperoni” action. Peeps don’t stick to pepperoni. It’s like pushing to north ends of magnets together.
So I broke out the toothpicks.
The salty and chewy texture of the pepperoni was a nice complement to the sweet fluffy chew of the marshmallow. I think part of the failure of this is the abject lack of fat in this turkey version.
As an alternative to this, I think a sweet Lebanon Bologna might actually be interesting, especially if fried and put together on some slices of sweet egg bread.
For even more Peepitude, here’s a list of some other Peep occurrences on the internet ... some you’ve probably already seen, but some you might not have. Serious Eats is also devoting this week to Peeps Week.
Here are my previous Mash Ups.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
The first version will premiere next Valentine’s Day in the shape of Peeps Chocolate Mousse Marshmallow Bears.
I’m not sure why there hasn’t been a bear shaped Peeps all along, they’re an ideal Valentine’s emblem (and really, why can’t we have Bear Peeps all year round?). However, this package is all about love, with its red wrapper & little hearts.
The packages I got were for evaluation purposes only, so I don’t have the complete nutritional info & ingredients list. I decided to open the Peeps Chocolate Mousse Marshmallow Bunnies for the purposes of the review.
They’re nice looking, medium brown. They’re sparkly with the light sanding of sugar. (I’ve often wondered what corn starch dusted Peeps would be like.)
They’re extremely soft, softer than regular Peeps are, if you ask me. They smell like chocolate breakfast cereal, like Cocoa Puffs.
But the big question, at least in my mind, was are these different from the Cocoa Peeps?
I just so happened to have a package of Peeps Cocoa Marshmallow Bunnies (left) for a direct comparison.
Though they looked similar in my memory, putting them side by side, it’s easy to see that the new Mousse Peeps are darker.
The cross section shows that the Mousse Peeps is cocoa through and through, where the only slightly creamy colored on the inside.
The difference in taste? Well, if you’re expecting some sort of decadent mousse-like product, you’re going to be disappointed. The new Mousse version are kind of like a fluffy, watered down Tootsie roll. Pleasant and less-sweet than the ordinary Peeps, but still, not a chocolate phenomenon.
They’re great with coffee but like the Cocoa version, it’s very hard to get them stale. I’ve had this package open for two weeks and they’re still pretty squishy.
However, these are awesome broiled. The center becomes frothy and runny and the sugar dust becomes a crunchy shell. I put them in the toaster over for 3 minutes. Be sure to have them on foil or parchment or else they run all over the place. You also might need a spoon to eat them. Microwaving also gets the same soupy center, but the outside doesn’t get crispy (so it’s the confectionery equivalent of trying to make pizza in a microwave ... it’s edible but it’s not the same).
In the end, I’m more inclined towards the Chocolate Mousse Peeps than any other Peeps to date, but that’s not necessarily a rave review.
For the record, the available shapes for Peeps are:
These should be in stores starting in January, but you can also buy many Peeps items all year round now directly from Just Born.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Happy Easter from Candy Blog ... here are some fun Peeps-themed postcards you’re free to share with your friends:
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
This is another one of those cool idea novelty Easter candies that just doesn’t have a name. Marshmallow Peeps inside a Milk Chocolate Egg just does not roll off a whiny child’s tongue in a desirable way. There is a little ribbon on the top of the box that says “Just Hatched”, so I think if they’d gone for something like Peeps Chocolate Egg Hatchlings or something, it might be a smidge more compelling.
Names aside, it’s pretty easy to figure out what this is. It’s a solo yellow Peep inside a milk chocolate egg.
The egg is wrapped in gold foil with a life-sized Peep in yellow. The egg has a little flat spot on the bottom of the larger end so it sits up rather easily, even without the clear plastic packaging.
What I find rather fun about the Peep inside is that it’s an only child. Peeps in the larger broods always have at least one little joint where they’re in the row with their siblings. This one has no conjoining scars.
The Peep is a little softer than I’m used to, perhaps the moist and nutritive atmosphere of a milk chocolate egg keeps it factory fresh. Still, it’s a Peep.
The chocolate shell is thick and firm. It’s not great chocolate and includes real vanilla but PGPR. The chocolate is passable, not as good as the Russell Stover Bunny, and certainly not the See’s Hollow Eggs with Novelty or Lindt. The chocolate and Peeps combination is kind of fun, Peeps need a little something with them, if you ask me, but I’d like a stronger milk flavor to my chocolate in this case or something darker to offset the sugar crust.
The foil is pretty thick and makes it easy to save at least half of the shell for later (the package says there’s two portions ... I’m not sure if they mean that you eat half of the Peep for each portion or not.
It was a bit pricey at $2.99 for mediocre chocolate ($1.00 an ounce). I think you’re better off getting the classic Lindt Gold Bunny (and you get to choose milk, dark or white these days usually for about $1.00 an ounce) for about the same price and then just get a whole tray of Peeps.
However, as a learning experience, if you have kids and want to talk to them about where birds come from, this is actually a pretty accurate little candy ... you know, there’s a tiny baby bird inside a chocolate shell. It’s absolutely better than giving live animals to a kid for Easter. (Don’t forget the Make Mine Chocolate campaign.)
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Now it’s Easter season and time to trot out these cute little baby farm creatures. The package calls them Artificially Flavored Marshmallow candies, which doesn’t really explain them that well. Inside there are 10 little pouches that hold 9 or 10 candies in each.
The candies come in two shapes: Chick & Bunny (could you have guessed?). They also come in four colors: yellow, lavender, fuschia and turquoise.
They’re really cute. The colors are vibrant and actually go through and through, the insides are soft pastel versions of the exterior colors.
Each is about the size of a Flintstone’s Chewable Vitamin, but happily tastes nothing like it. They’re not a compressed dextrose candy (like SweeTarts), these are made of sugar and corn syrup (like marshmallows, actually).
They’re very crunchy and have a light marshmallow flavor. Marshmallow flavor? Well, it’s kind of like the lightest fake vanilla and light sugar. Kind of like a tasteless Altoid.
Not really something I want to eat as a candy, but they are really cute and the bags are really tiny, so it’s an appropriate size indulgence. (Heck, each bag has only 36 calories.) They’re probably better as decorations ... on cupcakes ... scatter them around on the table or maybe in a mix of other candies. I suppose you could also use them for a Peeps Mash Up. They certainly maintain the Peeps appeal as being one primarily of appearance.
Just Born raised a bit of a controversy last year when they introduced their Spooky Friends individually wrapped Halloween marshmallows. Instead of being manufactured in Bethlehem, PA, they were made in China. Though the company says that this is the first time they has outsourced their production, it’s not the first time that they’ve licensed their name. Flix introduced the Peeps Lollipop Rings & Slider Pops last year, which are also made in China, just as these are.
Just Born also added new Tulip shaped Peeps to their line this spring.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.