Thursday, February 5, 2015
Valentine’s Day candy is disappointing because it’s usually about the packaging. So, I was pleased at Whole Foods when I spotted two limited edition varieties from Theo Chocolate for Valentine’s Day ... and on sale at 2 bars for $3 (they’re usually $4 each). I’ve often said that a fine chocolate bar is better than a greeting card and in this case, far cheaper. There’s even a “To” and “From” spot on the back of the bar. (But the ideal touch would be to include at least a personalized post it note.)
It’s called Theo Red Hot Cinnamon Love Crunch. The description on the back said: The red-hot crunch of cinnamon brittle in smooth, rich, 70% dark chocolate - spicy and sweet.
Sounds amazing: for $1.50, I was getting a unique bar that combined cinnamon and chocolate, that was also fair trade certified, non-GMO, organic, vegan, soy-free, Kosher and made here in the USA. Goodbye, ordinary candy in a heart shaped package! (The other bar I picked up was the milk chocolate My Cherry Baby.)
On the tongue at first it’s a little tangy. The melt is a little grainy, I wasn’t sure if it was the crunchy bits or not at first, but it seems that some of it is spices. It became apparent very quickly that this was not just a cinnamon and chocolate bar. My bad for not reading the label fully.
Here’s the deal: the package is pink, the printing on the back is brown. In full light and my reading glasses, I can read it. But not in the dim light and glassesless state I was in at Whole Foods. (My usual trick when I don’t have my glasses and the print is tiny is to take a photo with my phone and then blow it up, but I read the description and thought that was the extent of the flavors.)
The ingredients of interest here are (after you get through the chocolate stuff): cayenne, cinnamon leaf essential oil, black pepper essential oil, nutmeg essential oil and clove essential oil.
I actually like spicy things (curry, cinnamon, black pepper and ginger), but the one I can’t do is red pepper. Capsascin is one of those compounds that people experience differently because of genetic differences. For me, cayenne isn’t fun, there’s a lot of heat that doesn’t seem to dissipate and in higher concentrations it just induces nausea. So, I avoid anything other than mild chili items. While there’s a proliferation of chili peppers in confection, and for the most part they’re tolerable, though not always enjoyable for me.
This was freakishly hot for me. I got the different sensations from the various spices, I could actually discern the difference between the black pepper and the cayenne and the cinnamon. (Clove actually has a bit of a numbing effect.) The cinnamon really only came in at the beginning as a scent. The tangy bite of the chocolate did help to mellow the pepper at first, but once it hit my throat, the one-two punch of black and red pepper was too much. The little brittle crunch pieces were supposed to be cinnamon, and maybe some of them were, but other larger bits seemed flavorless.
I tried this bar twice, eating only one of the large squares each time in small bits. The warming effect from the spices lasts a long time, well over a half an hour. Though it didn’t upset my stomach, it really didn’t please me either and I don’t plan on finishing the bar.
If your loved one is partial to the extremely spicy side of things, this might be a good option, especially if you’re looking for something without dairy or soy (the Lindt dark chocolate products contain milk and soy ingredients). The bar is made in a facility that also handles peanuts, wheat, milk, eggs and soy.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Brach’s Red Velvet Candy Corn is one of the newest in Brach’s wide-ranging attempt to create a Candy Corn for every flavor under the sun. Many of their flavors are inspired by desserts, like Apple Pie and Carrot Cake ... it’s not surprising that they went for Red Velvet Cake, and certainly appropriate for a Valentine’s-themed candy.
It’s no secret if you’ve been reading Candy Blog that I think Red Velvet as a flavor is stupid. So, you can guess where this review is going to end up, if you’re not the kind of person who scrolls to the bottom to see the rating before reading.
For those who are blissfully unaware, Red Velvet Cake is a yellow cake made with a touch of cocoa (classically with some vinegar to bring out the red) and buttermilk and then topped with ermine icing or the easier-to-make cream cheese frosting. So the flavor has become it’s a not-quite-chocolate cake with some cream cheese. For the most part the appeal of the cake is the stunning visual appeal of the layers of velvety dark red (usually enhanced with colorings) and the creamy white frosting. Sadly, most people experience it as a cupcake.
Since Red Velvet Cake is a layered item, making a Candy Corn variety is actually kind of logical. The layers, however, make no sense. It’s like they took the ingredients and used those, instead of an assembled cake. The base is dark brown, and like Red Velvet Cake, it’s not actually chocolatey, simply less sweet. The middle layer is just red food coloring in otherwise unflavored fondant. So, for me, it’s bitter. The top is white, and has a more crumbly texture and even less flavor. There’s a general vanilla note, especially when I smelled the candy in the bag.
One of the things I like about classic candy corn is the honey note and the light hint of salt. There’s 70 mg of sodium in each serving (19 pieces) but I didn’t really get any pleasure from it.
They’re fine, but not as good as regular candy corn, and not inventive enough to make me either loathe it or love it.
If you’d like other thoughts on Red Velvet, listen in as Episode 7 of Candyology101 covers Valentine’s Day candy ... and Maria and I get to rant about our pet peeves.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Marabou is now owned by Kraft/Mondelez, so they can use real Oreo cookies and call them that on the package. I’ve had quite a few bars over the years that have Oreos in them, as Kraft also owns Cadbury, Toberlone, Terry’s and Milka. (Well, I’ve had the Cadbury and Milka Oreo bars, I’d love to try a Terry’s Chocolate Oreo-orange, once they invent that.) The bars that I’ve had were cream filled bars, that is, they were milk chocolate bars with a palm oil cream center with cookie bits mixed in. This bar is just what you’d think a cookies & chocolate bar should be.
The bar is made with Rainforest Alliance certified cacao, and contains at least 30% cacao. As a European “family chocolate” it also contains whey, which is considered a filler in the US, but then again, the US products with far less cacao mass to be called milk chocolate. Whey is just milk protein, it adds bulk without sweetness or extra fat, so as additives go, it’s not detrimental, though it can make the texture a bit more gummy.
It’s a big bar, at 185 grams, which is 6.53 ounces ... about twice the size of the usual large tablet bar.
The look of the bar is good, it’s large, so it was broken in a couple of places, but along the segmentation lines. The bar isn’t particularly thick, which means that the inclusions weren’t going to be very dense.
The segments aren’t quite square, they’re about 1 inch on the longest side. There really aren’t that many big pieces of cookies, but a bit of cookie crumb/grit to the whole bar. Marabou chocolate is quite milky, though some of it’s flavor has that powdered milk note to it, but it’s also marked by some good notes of malt and a generic sweetness.
The cookie bits are good, less sweet than the overall milk chocolate. The bits aren’t numerous enough for me, which led to a moreish quality that kept me eating it ... hoping I’d stumble upon the piece where all the cookies were.
I think a single serve, thicker bar, might mean better proportions if they continue with this. The Hershey’s density of cookie bits in their Cookies N Creme bars is a good target (it’s easy to see how much is in there because it’s a white confection with dark cookie bits). I wouldn’t pay the premium to import this if I were ordering on the internet, but if I stumbled upon this in an airport, in a regular size, I might pick it up again.
As near as I can figure, this bar contains milk, soy and wheat (but your Google Translate experience will vary, as will your ability to find the umlaut key). There’s no statement about peanuts or tree nuts.
Friday, January 30, 2015
Think about that name for a minute when you consider the product. They’re jelly beans with words printed on them. They’re bean shaped. The words are gushy commands or endearments. There are no hearts. There really aren’t even any conversations.
There’s no key on the package for the flavors, there’s not even a description of what the candy is. I consider this lazy. As far as I’m concerned, what happens is the confectioners come up with a product and the marketing and packaging people agree to make the most enticing package they can without actually committing to anything. So there’s no list of flavors, just some pictures of the candy and a name ... plus those obligatory things our government demands like ingredients and a nutritional panel.
There are six colors: pink, purple, green, orange, yellow and white. They’re not exactly pastel, like the package shows them, but not quite royal. The little mottoes include: Yours 4 Ever, I [heart] You, Peace, ILY, SWAK, Miss U, Hug Me, and Love. The print was red and hard to read on the orange, pink and purple beans, so only half were conversational, the others were whispering behind my back.
White is probably Pineapple. It’s tangy and finishes with a tropical floral note.
All of the flavors were odd and evoked a strange association for me. The Watermelon, each time I ate one, left a sort of a hot iron flavor swirling around. Pineapple finished like a cream soda served in an anodized aluminum cup. Lemon reminded me of fresh roasted Hatch chili peppers. There were no actual flavors, just a weird note to each of them that was certainly atypical.
I didn’t like these much. I only liked half the flavors enough to pick them out: orange, lemon and pineapple ... if pressed, I would grab a grape. The printing wasn’t very good and the little lines weren’t interesting enough to warrant putting my glasses on to discern them. I will give them credit for adding in something like watermelon, which is pretty uncommon. I might like a little bit of warning next time.
Brach’s was part of the Farley’s & Sathers candy company for a few years, but now they’re rolled into Ferrara Candy Company. I actually like a lot of their jelly beans, especially the Lemonhead & Friends Jelly Beans. The unique take on conversation items might simply be something with more flavor than the traditional chalky heart. Instead, the Brach’s Conversation Heart Beans have only slightly bested the wafer based candies ...which was too low of a bar.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
I keep a candy buffet going in my office, usually three to five jars of candy. I try to balance the offerings to complete a full “candy diet” of all the essentials: sour, gummi, spicy, chocolatey and nutty. Sometimes I’ll swap out chewy for spicy or creamy for nutty, but the basic goal is variety.
I mention this because candy buffets are big, they’re ubiquitous at events like weddings, showers and birthday parties. I like to curate my daily candy buffet based on what I’d want to eat, but a party buffet is a little different, because it’s also about being a decoration. Most candy buffet resources show off how to arrange candy based on colors, not textures or experiences. Sometimes there will be a nostalgic bent, so the packaging is the focus.
Yum Junkie is a new company based in the Los Angeles area that caters to the colorful candy buffet market with color-divided candies in most of the major sugar candy genres. When they asked me if I wanted to try some of their new candies, I opted for their Pufflettes, which come in the regular size and a mini called Petite Pufflettes. They describe themselves as Yummy, Gummy Bites. I got mixed bags, but they also come in single color/flavor packages as well.
Pufflettes are actually made in Spain in an array of six flavors. The candy is a puffy gummi with a white base and a fruity flavored top. The larger size is about 1 inch long and .75 inches wide and high. They’re a not quite round, more like an oval base. There are a few makers of candies like these, notably I’ve seen Trolli makes a strawberry version of these called Strawberry Puffs. Pufflettes are the first I’ve seen not only of a multitude of colors and flavors, but also the ability to buy them either mixed or separately. (But the minimum purchase is 5 pounds.)
Strawberry —Pink & White - this is the one that kind of got me interested in Pufflettes in the first place, because a few European gummi companies already make a strawberry gummi puff. These are, well, okay. It’s not quite as good as the Haribo layered Strawberries & Cream, or one of those artisinal real strawberry jam mixed with a vanilla marshmallows. The texture is nice and the floral-tart blend is good. But the white base could use more vanilla or toasted sugar notes.
The Petite Pufflettes are only .75 inches long and .5 inches wide. The product description online lists the regular sized ones at 75 pieces per pound, while the Petites are 125 pieces per pound.
Green Apple—Green & White - the listing said that green was lime, but it’s actually Green Apple. It’s definitely on the green side of things, with an almost grassy note to it. It’s tangy and vibrant.
I usually prefer my gummis to be much more intense. And the puffy texture, while fun at first, really just made them bigger than I wanted when it came to the regular sized ones. I’m more likely to pick up an intense gummi like the Haribo Ginger Lemon, so these are not going to be something I’d buy for myself.
As a decorative item to include in a buffet, these are great. They’re more substantial than a regular marshmallow, and more flavorful. They’re also bulky and provide a lot of visual impact per pound, because they’re fluffy. So I usually put about 3.5 pounds of candy into one half gallon candy jar (these Anchor Hocking dealies). I only needed about 2.5 pounds to make a half gallon jar look full (didn’t really matter which size). The mixed colors are beautiful and not too chaotic looking because the white bases give them a continuity. The individual colors are a great option of you’re making a buffet according to a design plan, especially if you need a lot of bang for you buck and don’t want to have only candies that people can get every day.
The Pufflettes are currently available on CandyWarehouse.com but I also saw them at the Fancy Food Show, so they may show up at other shops in bulk or other packaging.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
The newest trend, though, is unwrapped mini items, so Nestle has obliged with their 2015 version called Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups Minis.
I picked up a stand-up bag that holds a half a pound, but they also come in a king-size sharing bag.
The bag is appealing and easy to spot on the shelf. There are a lot of options on the morszelization front these days, with M&Ms as well as all the new unwrapped mini versions of things.
The design of the little unwrapped cups is well done. They’re fluted and have a rounded square top and circular bottom. However, they suffer from the same problem all of these unwrapped items in a bag do ... they get scuffed up. So they come out looking a little shabby, the chocolate dust often gives the appearance of bloom.
The cups are 3/4 of an inch across and about 1/2 of an inch high and each weighs about 4.5 grams (.16 ounces). The smell is like fake butter, the whole bag was a bit like kettle corn.
A serving is 9 pieces and has 220 calories. I can’t say for sure, but it feels like there’s a larger proportion of chocolate to the filling compared to the regular cups, but the ingredients and nutritional panel are virtually the same.
The chocolate is sweet, has a fudgy melt and is generally smooth on the tongue. The filling is a mix of small crunchy shards of Butterfinger center and a creamed peanut butter filling. It’s a nice texture with a good balance between sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy. The chocolate boost from the coating is nonexistent, I got more milk flavors from it than anything.
Overall, this version of the cup relies too much on the chocolate, a problem I also recognized with the Reese’s Minis as well. , It’s a shame that Nestle makes such lackluster chocolate, but at least this product is supposed to be about the other flavors and textures. They’re probably great mixed in with pretzels, nuts and popcorn as a snack mix. But they’re still probably too big to use as an ice cream topping. I don’t plan on buying them again, as the proportions for this size are just off for me and the chocolate is so bad.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
They include the returning JuJu Hearts in cinnamon and cherry flavors, Peppermint Heart Nougats and at least three different kinds of wafer Conversation Hearts. The new items, which I’ll try to review this year, include today’s item, Brach’s Gummi Conversation Hearts.
They come in a 10 ounce stand up, resealable bag and cost $2.79. There’s no description on the package of what the candy actually is, just the name.
The hearts come in six colors: pink, orange, green, white, yellow and lavender. Each has lumpy motto molded into them, nearly all are in text-ese. I might have preferred emoticons.
The mottoes depicted were short, as I think the limit was 2 characters + 3 characters + 1 character stacked. So they went something like: 2 HOT or XO XO or QT PIE or BFF. Not exactly a conversation.
The gummis are opaque and look like latex paint. They smell a little off, a little too much like cherry and plastic. It didn’t matter which color they were, they all smelled like cherry.
Yellow is Lemon. The texture is quite bouncy. Each piece is really the right size for a gummi, not more than a bite, and easy enough to conceal if you like to let it dissolve or chew. It’s quite mild, not overly tart or zesty. Not even strong enough to classify as pleasant.
Green is Lime. This was floral and only has the smallest tangy bite. It’s so bland, I had a hard time figuring its flavor for a while.
Lavender is Grape. Grape is a rare flavor in gummis, so it ought to be savored ... this one has a little grape soda note to it, but not much else going for it.
Pink is Cherry. This is probably the best one, not that I like cherry, but it’s definitely cherry and a bit more vibrant than the others.
Orange is Orange. There weren’t a lot of these in my mix, which is fine. They had a lot of zest notes, which is good, but not much in the way of juice.
White is Pineapple. Probably. I don’t know what this is, there are not colorings (except for the titanium dioxide) so it’s definitely more of a blank slate. It’s a little tangy, kind of bright, but not citrusy, but then again, it kind of tasted like cherry.
I think Brach’s does some candies well, such as Candy Corn. Gummis are not something I would select Brach’s as my brand of choice. There are too many other companies making better gummis with better flavors and better shapes. Since they’re not appealing even as a decoration, I’d say these are not worth anyone’s time.
Monday, January 26, 2015
I wasn’t sure what a superfruit was, so I looked it up and apparently it’s just a marketing term. The general idea is that a superfruit is a fruit that has nutritional or health benefits beyond a normal fruit. Blueberries, goji berries and acai are included in this non-standardized list for their high antioxidant and flavanoid content. Many of these foods are sold with ORAC ratings on the package, which are meant to codify the antioxidant capabilities of the food.
Of course a candy that’s simply flavored for these “miraculous” foods is missing the point.
The new flavor assortment is: Raspberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Starfruit, Passionfruit Punch and Blueberry Acai. The ingredients are pretty much the same as the ingredients as all the other Starburst flavors, which are made from corn syrup, sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and less than 2% apple juice concentrate. They add in a bit of vitamin C (20% of your RDA) and some artificial colors and flavors.
Strawberry Starfruit is much more tart than the usual Strawberry but with less of the floral and toasted sugar notes. The Starfruit might add that additional tangy zap, as the fruit is usually rather white grape-like with a note of green apple thrown in.
Raspberry Pomegranate is the darkest red of the batch and comes in a purple wrapper. The chew is actually very intensely pomegranate and berry, not too sweet, very floral and with an almost dry finish that you can get with pomegranates.
Passionfruit Punch comes in the magenta wrapper and does taste exactly like a fruit punch. It’s quite tart, which is refreshing and gets my salivary glands going. I’m not usually fond of fruit punch flavors, but this one had a sort of dry finish to it which kept it all from getting too fake or metallic at the end.
I thought this was a stupid idea when I read about these for the reasons I introduced earlier. However, Starburst has succeeded in making each of the flavors distinct and intense. I don’t care for the smoothies or the cream flavors for Starburst, I prefer the really dense fruit chew that Starburst usually delivers. So, on that front they’re quite successful. I don’t know if I would want this mix over the traditional fruits version which has the citrus flavors I love, but I have to say that I actually liked each and every flavor in this package and have no reason to even look at the wrapper before eating.
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