Friday, April 17, 2015
Though the name of the new flavor is a little trendy, the idea is pretty solid. Maple is a great, distinctive but mild flavor. It’s an ideal addition to Jelly Belly’s line because it can be combined with other flavor beans. Though I didn’t have any on hand to try out, I would think that Banana and Strawberry would go well.
The packaging is fun, an aqua gingham motif on the bag gives it a homespun feel. The image on the front, though is not of Vermont maple trees with running sap and buckets, like I might have imagined, instead it’s more in line with what I see any neighborhood diner, a plate of pancakes with butter and a little pitcher of syrup. (Now, I love my little diner I go to, but I highly doubt they use actual maple syrup because their menu just says syrup.)
The beans are uniform looking, a medium caramel color, kind of like Sugar Babies. The bag does smell a lot like maple syrup, which is a sweet smell with notes of bourbon and vanilla with a little molasses or pipe tobacco.
The interesting things is that these are not just maple flavor but also pancake, so there are other flavor notes to the actual beans. Though the primary flavor is definitely, and perhaps over-the-top maple syrup, I also caught sort of buttery notes. It’s not the overwhelming buttered popcorn flavor, just a sort of salty and creamy flavor to it. (There are 25mg of salt per serving.)
So, there’s lots of maple-y flavor and buttery notes, but no actual pancake, which is fine, because just a jelly bean that tastes like pancake topping is good enough.
The fun part for many candy fans is that Jelly Belly are gluten free and peanut free. So if you can’t have actual pancakes because you’re gluten intolerant, you can have these.
I think the trendiness of these makes them appealing in the short term for buzz, but maple should stand the test of time. Of course the Honey jelly beans introduced a five years ago didn’t do so well and I think those did better in combination with other flavors than Maple.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Chocolate covered dried fruit is one of the simplest confections. Raisins, candied orange peels and ginger and cranberries are the most common chocolate coated items. Every once in a while a company comes along to put a little twist on the idea.
Nature Addicts (which goes by [N.A!]) makes Fruit Sticks, which are basically pureed fruit formed into easy to eat pieces. Then they went one step further and coated them in chocolate. They just call them Fruit & Chocolate, which is a descriptive name but not particularly distinctive. The only flavor is Apple Orange.
[N.A!] nuggets made 100% from fruits coated with a fine layer of premium 70% cocoa dark chocolate for a unique experience.
The fruit filling is made from concentrated apple puree, concentrated apple juice, concentrated orange juice, pectin, citrus fiber and natural orange flavor. The chocolate coating is 70% made with reduced fat cocoa powder, in addition to cocoa liquor. It’s sweetened with cane sugar. There’s also a little honey in there, so it’s not marked as a vegan product.
The nuggets are made in The Netherlands, and it’s all non-GMO ingredients. They’re not terribly attractive. There’s no glaze on the panned chocolate coating, so they’re a little lumpy, a little scuffed. They’re mostly flat rectangles, about 1/2 an inch long and 1/3 of an inch wide.
Even though the fruit bits are really more apple than orange, they taste like orange. It’s an immediately zesty flavor, but also very tangy. The texture of the filling is less of a jelly and more like a fruit paste, think a very soft fruit roll up.
It’s a good combination, though the sweet and sour of the chocolate and the filling is a little jarring because both are intense.
Even though it’s a dark chocolate product, they seem pretty kid-friendly. Smaller children probably won’t like the intense bitterness of the chocolate along with the intense sour of the filling, but older kids may find this a nice compromise candy for families that want something with a little cleaner ingredients for snacking. The bag is just over one ounce and only 110 calories, though there are 2.5 grams of fat, there are also 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein. I wouldn’t call them nutritious, but they’re tasty enough as a between meal snack or an addition to a trail mix.
Monday, April 13, 2015
It’s rare that I get to chronicle the demise of a candy on this blog, it’s even rarer to then be able to report of its return.
Tart n Tinys was a fringe candy to begin with back in the early 1970s. They were one of the early confections introduced by Breaker Confections, which also made other compressed dextrose candies like Wacky Wafers (more history on Collecting Candy). The innovation for the candy came around 1977 when they added a re-closable top that acted as a dispenser for the maddeningly small pieces. Later they were added into the Wonka brand in the 1980s, which Breaker licensed around the time of the movie premiere. But still, they were never headliner candies, they were never the centerpiece of the Wonka brand, and rarely included in other formats for the candies sold for Trick or Treat or in large lay-down bags.
Tart n Tinys were then discontinued around 2007, and even then, they were different from the original candy. They sported candy shells, like mini Spree candies, though they came in a larger box now and with the addition of a blue raspberry flavor. There was a chewy version, which again, might have been confusing for the existing Wonka brand which also included SweeTarts, Spree and Mini Chewy SweeTarts at that time.
Devoted fans bought up the last few cases of Tart n Tinys, I even held onto a few boxes (I have two or three, still). Then Leaf Brands started to buy up the old trademarks and research the recipes in order to revive the candies. (Leaf brought back Astro Pops in 2012 and is also promising a return of Wacky Wafers this year.)
The new Tart n Tinys are similar to the original packaging for the candy; a simple cellophane bag. They were expensive when I picked them up, at Dylan’s Candy Bar, for $3.49 for a 1.5 ounce package. Though they don’t have the candy coating of the version that was discontinued, there are blue candies in there. They’re made in America and a Kosher.
The wee little cylinders are 1/4 of an inch high. They’re about 3/16 of an inch in diameter. The candies were only slightly powdery within the package, which you can kind of see in the picture of the wrapper up there.
There are six colors and flavors: blue raspberry, grape, orange, lime, lemon and cherry. There’s no listing of the flavors on the package.
Blue Raspberry is sweet and tart with a pretty good floral berry flavor to it.
Grape is smooth and acidic but without much grape punch to it, though it’s hard to rival the SweeTarts grape.
Lemon is mild, a little tangy but not too much lemon in there either.
Orange is probably the best, a good mix of the juice flavor and tartness.
Lime is surprising, I was certain it was going to be green apple, so that was nice. It’s a good lime, not too artificial and not too much like a floor cleaner.
Cherry is pretty bold, sometimes it seemed like it was the most intense of the flavors in the mix. The black cherry flavors were well rounded, good deep notes and a puckery finish.
As a candy sold as tart, they’re not as sour as some of the modern Warheads or Toxic Waste type products.
The texture is generally smoother than SweeTarts, which tend to be a little crumbly and lumpy. However, the flavor is not as intense, so there’s plenty of tart but less actual defining flavor between them. This makes it easy to eat them together as a mix, but harder to chose over SweeTarts for flavor alone. However, I liked all of the flavors and didn’t have to pick any of them out, the fact that there’s orange, lime and raspberry in there makes this a unique mix among the sour dextrose candies.
The upshot of all of this is that, yes, they are very much like the original candy. However, the packaging is lacking the original flair with its recyclable dispenser box ... and the price (I admit that it’s probably not the normal price) is ridiculous. I’ll stick to SweeTarts until these come down to normal pricing. But, they really are fun to stack and arrange.
Monday, April 6, 2015
I’ve been putting off this review of SweetWorks Celebration Candies for months. I’ve seen them at stores quite a bit lately, not just the bears, but SweetWorks makes a wide variety of shapes and color variations for different party needs. My hesitation was that they look great, but didn’t taste like much at all.
This particular variation is little candy coated bears in pearlescent yellow, green and white. The sparkly coating is created with food-safe mica based pigments.
I got a sample of their peg bag of this variety that’s 12 ounces, but I’ve seen smaller 6 ounce bags and of course some wholesalers will sell by the case. They’re a very popular item for candy buffets, or for decorating and party favors for baby showers and birthday parties. They’re made by OakLeaf in Canada. The package says that it’s peanut free, tree nut free and gluten free, however, the package says that their facility does use milk and soy.
The bears don’t smell like much, a little perfumey but otherwise a clean smell. I don’t know if they have particular flavors, as the package only mentions what you can do with them: candy buffet, baked goods, party favors, themed events, candy dish, bridal shower, baby showers. Nowhere does it mention just eating or how they’ll taste.
They’re a pressed dextrose candy, a compacted powder made from glucose (dextrose) is flavored and stamped out under high pressure to make the candies. Then they’re tumbled with some colors and glazes to make them even prettier.
What is also nice about them is that they’re designed on both sides, so the front is the bear’s face and belly, the back has a tiny little buttocks tushy thing going on.
When I was at the Lolli & Pops candy store, I noticed that they had some uncoated multicolored bears as well, so I picked those up to see if there was a flavor difference.
These are actually quite different from the coated version, which is kind of sad, because these are nicer. The texture is a little on the powdery side, compared to the SweeTarts tablets but not as chalky as Smarties.
Green is Lime - which is rare. It’s a more floral flavor than most lime candies, and much less sour than a traditional SweeTart.
Red is Cherry and passable, though more sour than cherry flavored. Heck, it might even be strawberry.
Orange is Orange and has a good orange soda flavor that balances the tart and juicy flavors.
Yellow is Lemon or maybe Pineapple. It was terrible, sweet and soapy.
Purple is Grape and probably my favorite - tart, floral and completely artificial.
Blue is Raspberry and so flowery, it was more like a soap.
These are nice edible decorations, but not great candy. I think the pearlescent bears may work well in decorating recipes since they don’t have a flavor, they won’t compete with anything. OakLeaf also makes Cry Baby Tears, which are the candies you’d want to get if you want something extremely sour with very little flavor variation.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
I’m a big fan of Malted Milk Balls and consider the candy coated Pastel Malted Milk Egg to be one of the best holiday candy creations ever. Brach’s has been making a pastel egg for at least 55 years, and malted milk balls for even longer.
Though the Brach’s brand has been around for over 110 years, they’ve changed ownership, leadership and product focus dozens of times. This means that the products themselves also change. The changes can be for consumer-driven reasons, supply issues and costs. I’ve noticed, since Candy Blog is coming up on 10 years, that the Brach’s Fiesta Eggs have changed quite a bit over the years, and have some photos and notes to document it.
Name: Pastel Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
Though this was my first year reviewing them, it wasn’t the first time I had them and thought they used to be better.
Name: Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
I’d say that this was a lackluster version, though I liked the center, the chocolate brought the whole thing down.
Name: Fiesta Malted Milk Eggs
These were simply too difficult to eat because of the size and shell. The center was good, especially because the ratio was so high.
Name: Malted Milk Pastel Fiesta Eggs
The center this year is different. It’s darker in color, which does indicate that the recipe or manufacturing process has changed. The colors are great, I like the shell, though many commenters do not like the new version. I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong here, except that I don’t plan on buying them again, but I’ll finish the bags I have.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
One of the problems with Pixy Stix, when it comes to offering them as party favors, gift decoration or as part of a candy buffet, is that you can only buy them in the assorted flavors. No one sells them in single flavor packages. Enter YumJunkie’s Sassy Straws. They come in twice the number of flavors, have really cute colors and designs on the straws what’s more, they can be ordered as separate flavor packages.
The flavor offerings go like this: strawberry (pink), watermelon (med-pink), blue raspberry (light blue), blueberry (blue), grape (purple), lime (green), cherry (red), orange (orange), black cherry (black).
The design of the straws is attractive when seen as a bulk arrangement. It’s simple, just a repeated pattern of colored swirls. The straws don’t have any writing on them, or notations of their flavors.
I picked up a full set of flavors at the Fancy Food Show earlier this year.
There’s no secret recipe for these granulated candies, it’s the same thing that makes up SweeTARTS or Lik-M-Aid. It starts with granulated dextose, which is just glucose (the stuff in corn syrup). Dextrose isn’t quite as sweet as regular table sugar, so this formula take flavors really well without being overly cloying.
The flavors are actually pretty good. I’m not going to go through each one, but I can say for me the highlights were Strawberry, Grape (which is not quite Pixy Stix grape), and Orange. The dissolve is great, with a granulated start, cool feeling as it releases the flavor and a tangy note throughout. I didn’t like the Blueberry and found the Black Cherry and Cherry to taste exactly the same (which is just fine, it’s really about the straw colors, after all). I did wonder why there was no yellow (lemon, banana, pineapple, whatever).
Each straw is about 6 inches long. While the candy is 101 calories per ounce, there are only 8 calories per straw (only 2.25 grams of candy in there). It would take more than a dozen of these straws to make 100 calories.
Now, someone needs to convince Wrigley’s that they should sell Skittles in individual colors.
Monday, March 30, 2015
While in London last year, I picked up quite a few chocolate bars. One brand that I noticed had good distribution and prices, was Willie’s Cacao. The company direct sources their cocoa beans and manufacturers their chocolate in England. For a small company they make a wide array of chocolate products, like the bars I picked up in single origin varieties like Madagascar, Peru, Indonesia and two different sourcings from Venezuela. In addition they also have a line of single origin cocoas, chocolate pearls and bars with flavors and inclusions.
I picked up the Venezuela Gold Las Trincheras 72% at Waitrose. The package is two little 40 gram bars that are wrapped separately for £2.99, or about $4.50. A lot of other single origin bars are priced at twice that, so it was a gamble that this was going to be passable stuff. The box is quite elegant, dark brown with orange, creamy yellow and gold foiled lettering. The package states that the single estate cacao comes from Hacienda Las Trincheras in northern Venezuela.
The flavor profile is described as smooth nutty notes, which is exactly why I like Venezuelan origin cacao.
The box helpfully gave me both the bar’s origin date and the best by date. It was produced in November 2013 and good until May 2015. I ate one of the bars after I returned from my trip last year, and saved the other in my climate controlled chocolate fridge until last month.
The bars are lovely, the mold, which says Willie’s Delectable Cacao gives the otherwise ordinary 2.75 inch square a bit more flair. The tempering is very nice, there’s a good snap to the bar and no bubbles or voids. The color is a little on the red side of dark brown.
The melt is easy but not too quick. The ingredients are very simple, no emulsifiers. Just cacao, raw cane sugar and cocoa butter. There’s a little dryness early on, and some bright fruit notes. The overwhelming flavor I get is not nutty but raisins. I usually associate strong raisin flavors with Peruvian chocolate. There are some other notes of rosemary, roses and plums, but I didn’t catch more than a fleeting cashew note. It’s a bit bitter at times as well, but not so much that it distracted from the other flavors, just enough to keep it from getting too sweet.
For the price, I think they’re very well done bars, and I appreciate the packaging style that allows me to actually eat some now and really save some for later, as I did here. However, I didn’t love this particular bar enough that I would import it. I am interested enough in the brand that I would pick it up again, especially some of the other origins.
Friday, March 27, 2015
When I was at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January, I picked up a lot of little chocolate pieces, but not full sized bars for review. So here are a few thoughts on some items that are now in stores:
Perugina Baci are perfect little bites of dark chocolate and hazelnut. Of course they had to twist it up a bit and introduce a white chocolate version ... and now there’s Peugina Milk Chocolate Baci.
The wrappers are light blue instead of silver. They’re pretty and look the same in shape and structure as the standard dark. The milk chocolate does change the confection quite a bit. The hazelnut because more of the star, as well as the dairy notes from the milk chocolate coating and creamy filling. I still liked them, but I ate some classic dark at the same time. I still prefer the bittersweet coating because it brings out the roasted flavors. But these are still nice and probably something kids may enjoy more or supertasters who don’t like bitter things.
I enjoy BT McElrath’s Salty Dog bars (which it turns out I haven’t fully reviewed), which are a great sweet/savory mix of creamy chocolate, salt and crunchy toffee bits. So I was very excited to try the new BT McElrath Buttered Toast. It’s described as Toasted artisan breadcrumbs in our proprietary blend of 40% cacao milk chocolate.
It’s sweet and definitely buttery. There’s a soft bite to this and little bits that crunch like panko. There’s a light salt note along with a little toffee and malt to it as well. Even though it’s a very rich milk chocolate, it might be a little too thick and sticky for me ... maybe I’ll wait for the dark chocolate version to come along.
The BT McElrath Super Red is a 70% bar with little flecks of freeze dried fruit.
The tart notes of the berry bits with the rather dark chocolate combine for a lot more flavor intensity than something like a nut chocolate combo would give. The seeds also give a little bitterness, as does the chocolate and dark berry notes.
Vosges calls these Super Dark bars, though they’re only 72% dark chocolate. That’s because the super part isn’t modifying the chocolate, it’s modifying the inclusions, which are all deemed superfoods. It’s like they went out of their way to put bitter things in there. I picked up two samples (they look pretty much the same). Vosges Super Dark Matcha Green Tea features spirulina, matcha (pulverized green tea) and cocoa nibs. The grassy notes of the matcha are immediately forward. I enjoy a lot of green tea, though I don’t have matcha very often because it’s pulverized leaves, not just steeped tea. Though I understand that there’s more flavanol bang per gram in matcha than the brewed leaves, it’s just too intense for me. This bar brings out a lot of that experience, so if you’re a matcha fan, this is a fun bar, especially because there are some cocoa nibs in there for crunch. The bitterness was just too drying for me. I had to follow it with some Hojicha.
The Vosges Super Dark Coconut Ash & Banana features Sri Lankan coconut charcoal coconut ash and Hawaiian Banana. The bar does look much darker, blacker than a usual chocolate bar. It smells like coconut cream. The flavor is bizarre as well. There are the immediate chocolate notes, which are like crispy brownie edges, then the coconut flavors and something, well, umami that I can’t put my finger on. Then there’s the weird banana flavor, which is a little like fingernail polish remover, it’s not an integrated flavor, it’s like it escapes from the chocolate and evaporates immediately into the back of my sinuses - eventually within the chocolate I did come across a few tangy bits of dried banana, which were completely different on the banana taste spectrum. I wouldn’t call this a pleasant bar experience, though I do appreciate the attempt at the unique. The ash notes come out at the end, more as a sort of dry charcoal notes.
I actually love the little sizes of all the bars, and BT McElrath sells theirs in an array of sizes, some with mixed flavors so you can try more of choose to suit your mood. Vosges also sells some of their Super Dark pieces in boxes, but they’re about $80.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.