Friday, March 27, 2009
It used to be that only Black Licorice jelly beans were sold in single flavor bags. Then Jelly Belly came along and let folks pick out just their favorite flavor and the whole world of jelly beans changed. But other than the gourmet beans, it still seemed like pre-packaged single flavors were pretty rare.
This year, as I was looking at the shelves at the drug store and grocery aisle, I was pleased to see so many different jelly bean flavor singles. (Gimbal’s also had color mixes that I might try to pick up on sale after Easter.)
Last year Nestle introduced the Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans, this year I found a new jelly bean version of one of their classic candies, the Spree Jelly Beans.
What pleased me even more than the new product was that I could just buy the lemon ones. I found these only at Ralph’s (grocery chain) this year, not at any of my other regular Easter candy aisles. They also come in Green Apple (light green) and Cherry (pink).
The first thing I noticed about these beans was that they seemed more opaque. In fact, completely opaque. No vague translucence here. The second thing I noticed was that they’re very smooth and have no “bottom” to them like most beans.
The ingredients say dextrose first. Most jelly beans start with sugar (a disaccharide, dextrose is a monosaccharide which is also known as glucose). Dextrose is what Sprees are made of! (As well as most “chalk” candies.)
On the tongue the flavor is mild and slightly cool. Dextrose is a little lighter sweetness than sucrose. The shell dissolves pretty quickly but it’s definitely different from the usual jelly bean shell. It’s not grainy except at the margin between the jelly center and the shell.
The flavor is a very mild sweet lemon at first, then there’s a little burst of tangy flavor at the edge of the shell and center. However, it wasn’t consistent. Every once in a while I’d run across a bean that had a really good Lemonhead burst to it, but most were much milder. I’d say most failed on the Spree motto of a kick in the mouth, which is too bad, because when they got their kicks in, they were definitely sizzling.
The crunch of the shell, if I chewed them up, wasn’t quite M&Ms style or as thick as the Nerds Jelly Beans, but still closer to that than a traditional jelly bean. The centers were basically flavorless, but a smooth and firm jelly.
On the whole, these were a very nice changeup from a regular jelly bean. They’re not quite as fun as the Nerds version, but the fact that they come in the pretty standup bags in specific flavors sets them apart. But they are a bit more expensive than regular beans. I got these on sale for $2, which I still thought was a bit high for seven ounces of sugar candy.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I’m buried in mints! So here’s a huge roundup of all the mint items in my queue that I wanted to get through before Christmas.
Like the Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows I picked up a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints come in a cute round tin and hold 2.45 ounces. Unlike the Espresso Pillows, these are not a very original product.
Inside the tin is a fluted liner that holds a large handful of soft, white candy-shelled mints. Each is about the size of a kidney bean. The tin says that there are no artificial flavors or preservatives. I think they shy from the “all natural” part because the white shell is created with titanium dioxide.
They reminded me of the classic Dutch Mints and luckily I had some of those around for comparison.
Jelly Belly makes a large variety of Dutch Mints. They come in different colors, these are all hot pink and individually wrapped, though you can also get them in the stark white, pastel mint colors or right now in the Christmas assortment of red, green and white. (And they’re Kosher.)
The Dutch Mint is the size of a garbanzo bean but my guess is the same mass as the TJ’s.
They’re both the same construction, a soft mint fondant with a thin layer or dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.
Both are lovely and addictive. The Trader Joe’s retails for $1.22 an ounce. The Jelly Belly can go for anywhere from $.70 an ounce for the small 2.9 ounce bag to $.56 for a one pound tub (check out Cost Plus World Market).
Jelly Belly Dutch Mints get a rating of: 8 out of 10
These also closely resemble the York Mints that also come in a tin.
The previous are great for toting around and especially nice if a restaurant gives you a few with the check. But if you’re entertaining, you might want to provide some other more chocolatey mint morsels.
I’ve always loved After Eight Mints, which are a flowing mint fondant in an ultra thin square. I used to love how they came in individual glassine envelopes, like a little file box of deliciousness.
Of course After Eights are made by Nestle now and not nearly as good as I remember them on top of the controversies that they’re made from questionably sourced chocolate. The Fair Trade movement has been working to bring families and communities out of poverty through fair payment for goods & services.
Divine Chocolate has been doing this since 1998 in the United Kingdom and recently expanded into the United States. Not only do they have tasty bars they also have addition treats like these Divine After Dinner Mints.
The mints are nicely sized for two bites at about 1.5” square. The mild semi-sweet chocolate is crisp and cracks well. The mint fondant center is creamy and minted only slightly so as not to overpower the chocolate. The dark chocolate has some berry and fruity tones that combine well with the cool peppermint flavors.
I’ve seen these at Whole Foods (at an endcap display for hostess giving), so they should be pretty widely available this season.
Divine After Dinner Mints get a rating of 7 out of 10.
Creme de Menthe Altoids have been out for a few months, though it took me a while to find the variety that isn’t covered in chocolate. I realized that I might have seen them before, the green of the package is only slightly lighter than the Spearmint boxes. These were on sale for $1.50 to boot!
Basically the flavor of these is like a Peppermint TicTac. It has a powdery vanilla scent, softer than a harsh peppermint and perhaps just a hint of licorice.
But these are Altoids. Though they might start out mild, they do pack a much stronger kick later on. I like the flavor a bit better than the straight Peppermint if only because of the mix of aromas.
Creme de Menthe Altoids get a rating of 8 out of 10.
Quite a few folks have been lamenting that Trader Joe’s discontinued their English Soft Peppermints. I’m pretty keen on the generic & mild butter mints I find at the drug store, but those were some pretty good mints.
Around this time of year, however, I see a lot of these See’s Peppermint Twists in candy dishes around the office. It took me a while, but I think I found out who makes them. There were two contenders: King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy or Bob’s Sweet Stripes.
I saw this box of King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy at the 99 Cent Only Store and thought I’d give them a whirl. They were a dollar for 3.5 ounces.
I thought they were “butter mints” and read through this to see how I came to that conclusion:
So I was expecting a soft mint. Either crumbly soft or mushy soft.
These were neither. They’re soft as in rounded and smooth, but after that they were not butter mints until I sucked on them for a while. Which is kind of the opposite of “soft from the moment you open the box”. Annoyance aside, they’re peppermint candies. They are airy and dissolve nicely and of course none of those hard candy sharp edges. They’re sweet and a bit less intense than a starlight mint and really pretty to look at. Like those English Soft Peppermints that were really made in the Netherlands, King Leo are made in Mexico. Kosher.
King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy gets a 6 out of 10.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Most of the marketing looks directed towards women with a tagline of a sweet break from life. This is probably why I’ve ignored them up until now. I don’t want chocolate that’s a break from life, I want chocolate that’s with me every moment of my life. I want a partner. But hey, it’s not like I’m a normal demographic and I think anyone who markets specifically towards people like me (obsessive candy bloggers) is gonna get fired for incompetence.
This particular version of the Nestle Treasures is also called Renew with Dark Chocolate (though it doesn’t really say that on the package, except on the other side panel. The back, near the flap says Say “I Do” to a whole New You. Really? A whole new me just from a truffle?
The box is a polyethylene terephthalate (PETE - coded 1 for recycling) stand up “bag”. It’s actually rather nicely done. The translucent bronzy brown plastic let me see that it was only half full (there were 14 pieces when I dumped them out and counted). The package could be at least a third shorter and still have lots of breathing room and probably save on material, space & shipping. (At least I can recycle it curbside in my blue bin.)
Inside the little pieces are individually wrapped in orange-gold mylar. They’re nicely molded, every one I opened was perfect and shiny.
They smelled deep and smoky and mostly of peanuts. Yes, roasted peanuts.
The shell is 50% cacao chocolate, so it’s middle of the road semi-sweet. (A little chart on the back reminds me that dark chocolate has naturally ocurring antioxidants which help to maintain health.)
It’s quite smooth and buttery. The “ganache” center is made from chocolate and palm oil and maybe more cocoa butter. It’s not quite the same as a real truffle made with butter or cream, but has a great slippery meltaway texture (not as slippery as a Lindt Lindor Truffle though). It also features a little sprinkling of cacao nibs. Not big bits, more like coffee grounds. They provide a nice crunch but not much flavor. But the peanut notes at the top are distracting for me. (The ingredients list both natural and artificial hazelnut & peanut flavors.)
They also come in two other varieties: Relax (milk chocolate & caramel) and Revive (milk chocolate & cappuccino).
There are lots of things I liked about these and I find myself continuing to eat them. But they don’t satisfy my desire for truffles, just my desire for something chocolate ... and not quite that either. Still, much better than the Hershey’s Bliss I tried recently (though not a one to one comparison as they didn’t really have a dark chocolate meltaway). They’re also quite different from the Dove Promises offerings as well, especially if you’re looking for something with nibs in it.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Last year I ordered some wonderful products from Artisan Sweets which included this Nougat aux Figues: Cuit au Chaudron. I promptly took a photo of the product and then ate it.
Made by Suprem’ Nougat G. Savin in Montelimar, France it is much like the Arnaud Soubeyran Montelimar Nougat that I’ve had previously, meaning it has wonderful lavender honey in it along with a generous embed of almonds. Of course it also has bits of figs in there too, as you might have guessed from the picture and name.
The figs gave the nougat a bit of texture, with the crunchy little seeds and combined well with the musky notes of the lavender honey. It seemed to make the whole thing a little sweeter, but it was a fresh taste. It’s expensive stuff, so it’s a sometimes-indulgence for me. ($8.00 for 3.52 ounces.)
This particular nougat has full macadamias in it. It’s a light nougat, it actually felt lighter than many nougats in the hand. The scent was a light vanilla, almost like toasted marshmallows. Wow, the marshmallow comparison was evident once I bit into it. The nougat is fluffy and completely smooth ... there’s no hint of sugary grain to it at all.
While I was completely missing any honey notes and macadamias aren’t my favorite nut, this was fantastic. Sweet without being sticky or cloying and just the right balance with the neutrality of the macadamias.
Walters is a South African company (which explains the macadamias) and besides these samples and a store I found in the UK online, I don’t know where else to get this. I guess I’ll just have to keep hitting Keller’s booth at the trade shows. Here’s a review from Our Adventures in Japan of the Almond variety.
I’ve been on the prowl for good sources of Caffarel in the United States. Besides picking up those few pieces at The Candy Store in San Francisco and seeing them at trade shows, I’m completely at an impasse on how to find them besides hyping them on Candy Blog in hopes that more shops will carry them.
And why? Their products are good quality and in most cases so freaking cute I want to put a leash on them and buy them squeaky toys.
Above is one of the new items they were showing called Conetto, which is like a teensy Drumstick Ice Cream Cone (warning, sound on that site).
The little confection is about 3 1/2” tall. The waffle cone holds a firm guanduia that is then rolled in little toasted cereal “nuts” with a few little chocolate chips tossed in there. The hazelnut paste is soft enough to bite like ice cream with the added bonus that it doesn’t melt. So take your time.
It only weighs .9 ounces, so it’s probably not a show-stopper when it comes to calories and since indulgence is partially about appearance, this might be an excellent calorie controlled treat. (Of course the wrapper doesn’t say how many calories, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not more than 150.) Now the only things holding me back are where to get them and how much do they cost?
BruCo makes wonderful flavored chocolate bars. I’ve had their orange one and rum one and thought they were quite nice with an attractive package. Last year at the Fancy Food Show I also tried their spiced chocolate and found it far too spicy for me. This year that had some other items that were definitely to my liking: BruCo Salt Tasting Chocolate, Ciocc’Olio & Cabosse.
Ciocc’Olio: The firm white chocolate center has a quick buttery melt. The taste is not strongly of olives. I was expecting a sort of grassy quality to it, but instead it was more nutty. It was definitely smooth and set off by the equally smooth and slippery melt of the dark chocolate shell.
Cabosse: I wasn’t quite sure what this was supposed to be. At first I thought it was a dark chocolate guanduia, but later I thought it was simply a firm ganache with cacao nibs in it. Strong and fruity, this was a nice piece, the perfect size and really attractive.
I also tried a Salt Tasting Chocolate set. I’ll probably have a full review of that at a later date. Basically it’s two different versions of a salted chocolate in one package. Hooray for variety.
One of the other companies that I see at the trade show a lot is Marich. They’re known for their fine panned chocolates, especially their Holland Mints and produced the first gourmet malted milk balls in flavors like Espresso and Peanut Butter.
They’re based in Hollister, California (which seems to be a hotbed of panning with other confectioners like Jelly Belly, Sconza and Gimbal’s nearby) but seem rather hard to find. Part of it is that they sell in bulk to many shops that repackage the product without reference to the supplier or they end up in bulk bins. In this case I found this little package of their Triple Chocolate Toffee at Ralph’s in Glendale after trying them at the All Candy Expo.
They were absurdly expensive considering everything else in that aisle, $2.89 for that handful pictured above. But they are lovely to look at. They smell great too, like burnt sugar.
I didn’t know at first if the triple was referring to how much chocolate was on the outside or the fact that there were three different kinds. But suffice to say that either title works, because there is a lot of chocolate on each of these ... a pretty precise proportion that matches well with the chunk of butter toffee at the center. The toffee itself is wonderfully crisp and has that great cleave that very buttery toffee has. A little salty, it balances well with the not-so-dark but also not-too-sweet chocolates.
I’d probably pick these up again, but not at this price. Luckily Marich has a webstore.
Everything here gets an 8 out of 10 but no further specs as I don’t know retail prices (unless otherwise noted), calorie profile and often not even the ingredients.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
If I bought a product that was simply named Snickers Nutcracker and given no other information, I would assume that it was a Snickers bar in the shape of a nutcracker. And what would I think a Snickers bar is? Nougat covered with a stripe of caramel with embedded whole peanuts and then covered in milk chocolate.
Of course I did buy a product name Snickers Nutcracker and I did not get a Snickers bar in the shape of a nutcracker.
Instead I got a nutcracker chocolate shell filled with caramel creme with crushed peanuts.
This is in stark contrast to the Snickers Egg I had back in March 2006, which was pretty much a Snickers bar in elongated hemispherical form.
But expectations and disappointments aside, this product is a little one ounce bar shaped like a squat nutcracker soldier. Inside is a caramel creme with crushed peanuts in it.
The center caramel is salty and tastes strongly of peanuts, not like peanut butter, but actual roasted peanuts. It’s not quite chewy, instead it’s a bit more flowing but still pretty smooth. The milk chocolate is sweet and contains the caramel well (no broken oozes in any of the nutcrackers I’ve had so far) and in good proportion.
It doesn’t have that “satisfaction” element to it that the heavy nut-ratio a Snickers bar has. I thought it was kind of fun, after all, how many gooey peanut caramel products are there? But I was really hoping for a Snickers.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I keep seeing this bar, but only in its jumbo form shown here. It clocks in at 4.5 ounces, no mere chocolate bar, this is a plank. Like the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Filled with Creamy Peanut Butter that’s also found in this size, I was hoping I’d run across a King Size or perhaps single serve size at some point. It’s like it barely exists. It’s never shown up on the Hershey’s official Hershey’s Milk Chocolate page.
But it’s clear it exists, not only because I have photos, but also independent corroboration from Nicole at Baking Bites with her review. For a while I saw the bar at the Dollar Tree so I though there must be something wrong with it, maybe it was old, maybe it was an import. But when I saw it at Ralph’s and flipped over the package to see that it expired in September 2008, it was made in the United States and it was on sale for a dollar, I figured it was time to give it a try.
It’s a lovely looking bar. It looks like a Hershey bar, a light caramely brown with 16 segments each with the Hershey’s name on them. It smells like, well, a Hershey bar. A little sweet, a little tangy. That Hershey’s tang isn’t quite as noticeable when you eat it though. What’s noticeable is a mellow malty note from the actual corn flake bits in there. They’re pretty dense and solidly crunchy. The malty corn flake flavors develop more as the chocolate dissolves away. I could use more corn flakes.
It’s in no way as good as the Ritter Sport Knusperflakes bar, but I ate the whole thing ... all 4.5 ounces of it (I got it on Sunday) so it has to be pretty good.
It’s a nice combo. It’s a terrible name for a candy bar though. I think they should have just called it an extension of the Krackel line and called it Corn Krackel. Or maybe Mr. Cornbar.
Thanks to Patti for being the first to alert me to this possible domestic contender for Ritter Sport Knusperflake’s place in my heart.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Sometimes I really want some malted milk balls. I’ve never liked Whoppers much though, the mockolate coating simply ruins it for me. On the other hand, their Robin’s Eggs at Easter are pretty good. The mockolate layer is minimized by being far thinner, covered in a hard candy shell and of course a larger center for more malt.
Those sorts of candy coated malted milk balls used to be limited to Easter availability, but like many other items that are becoming more common for the Christmas holiday season (Cadbury Mini Eggs & Creme Eggs), Whoppers has their Sno-Balls.
But I will.
First, on the package there’s a penguin in front of an igloo. There’s also a polar bear and walrus ... which is fine, they’re arctic animals. The penguin, however, is a southern hemisphere animal. Why not just put a lion on there or a kangaroo?
Second, mockolate. Why, oh why, can’t Hershey’s put some real chocolate on here? It’s not even that much of a chocolatey coating here. The good thing, though, is that the Sno-Balls have less fat in them than regular Whoppers. A 41 gram serving of Whoppers has 7 grams of fat ... all of them saturated. The Sno-Balls have 5 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of them are saturated. Okay, still not great, especially when it’s coming from Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil. (Honestly, I can’t figure out how they both have the same 180 calories per serving though with 30% less fat in the Sno-Balls. Fat is twice as caloric as carbs or protein ... maybe there’s more fiber in regular Whoppers?)
But all that ranting aside, these are quite cute. The white spheres are speckled to various degrees with red and green. The crackly candy shell has a thin layer of mockolate below it. Both have a soft, cool effect on the tongue. The malt center is dense and crispy. It doesn’t have a huge malt or salt punch like some others, but a nice texture that melts in the mouth well.
I’d love it if they were a little bigger so I’d get more of the malt proportion I crave. What’s particularly nice about these over the Robin’s Eggs is that there’s less artificial coloring. I never cared for the pink Robin’s Eggs because they taste bitter to me. In this assortment there is no bad egg.
I’ve been eating them for a couple of days, and as long as I don’t think about how much I’d like them to be Chocolate Covered Malted Milk Balls, well, we’re getting along fine.
Monday, November 05, 2007
I love peanuts, though I rarely eat them plain. Peanuts are one of the most perfect nuts for candy. Moderate fat content, mild flavor that combines well with other flavors (especially chocolate) and spices. They’re also inexpensive, so can be found in a wide variety of candies from cheap to upscale.
Ferrara Pan Boston Baked Beans are one of those classic candies that capitalizes on simplicity. Candy covered peanuts. They’re sold in these little boxes, pretty cheap too, 25 cents for .95 ounces.
They’re named for a dish, a mix of beans in a brown sugar or molasses and spice sauce. These don’t taste anything like that, though they do have legumes at their center!
The sugar coating isn’t quite crisp, but has a slight grain. There’s really no flavor to it, just sugar. The peanut inside is a little soft, and tastes a little raw. No dark roasted flavors, just the fresh taste of peanuts. A little earthy, not at all salty and even a little on the sweet side. The nuts are well chosen. Even though all of them are not large, I didn’t run across any rancid or bitter ones.
When I was a kid Boston Baked Beans confused me. I don’t think I ate them until I was a teenager. I think I was afraid they actually were candied beans (and that’s not really that outlandish, as there’s an Indian confection which is candy coated garbanzos). The appeal of candied nuts just wasn’t apparent as a kid ... I don’t think I cared much for Jordan Almonds back then either.
But as an adult, I think these are fun and a nice snack. Not that easy to find though. These are suitable for vegetarians and vegans who eat beeswax, however the package states that the product is processed in a facility that also uses milk, egg and soy products (and wheat for those who are gluten-sensitive).
Just for giggles, I decided to list my favorite nuts for eating plain, in descending order of affection (though I have great affection for all):
Here’s what my favorites lists looks like for my favorite nuts that are included in candy:
So, what are you top nuts, and do you have a different preference when they’re included in candy?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.