Monday, November 25, 2013
Kraft is always keeping up with special versions of marshmallows during different seasons. This year I spotted the Jet-Puffed Peppermint Mini Mallows at Target in the baking section. (I’m sure these have been around before.)
It seems like a pretty simple confection, which is largely the selling point. They’re pink swirled mini marshmallows, small enough for snacking or including in recipes
They vary a little in size, but most are half inch cylinders.
They’re quite fresh, bouncy and light. There’s a dusting of corn starch on them, so they’re not sweet immediately, but a little chalky. The mint is mild, but fresh. There’s a light hint of the red food coloring aftertaste, if you’re one of those folks who can detect it. But for the most part, I liked them very much. I threw a handful in some hot chocolate and liked how creamy they melted and added that little minty touch without too much sweetness.
They’re an exceptionally good value. It was $1.00 for a large 10 ounce bag. That’s less than $2 a pound. They’re pretty spare on calories, 2/3 of a cup is only 100 calories and seems like a lot of candy. It’s a nice ingredient, something to use on cupcakes or in hot chocolate or just throw in a small bowl to keep around for kids to snack on without filling up. (Please watch small children with marshmallows and any small candies, as they are a choking hazard.)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
A few weeks ago the internet excitement for new limited edition products spilled over into big media with the news that Frito Lay was introducing chocolate covered potato chips: Lay’s Wavy Potato Chips Dipped in Milk Chocolate. This news was apparently mind-blowing, as if USA Today and ABC News have never seen chocolate covered potato chips before.
The new limited edition packages are sold only at Target until the end of the year. The bag is small, something I’d call a “king sized” bag that you’d see at a convenience store that would hold two servings. This bag, however, holds five ounces and says it’s five servings. Chocolate is heavier than Potato Chips by volume.
The bag is pretty and it was easy to spot on the shelves (partly because Target devoted so much shelf space to them, I think it was three shelves about four feet wide in the holiday section).
The chips look an awful lot like the images on the bag. Most were whole or at least large with a consistent coating of chocolate ... on one side. Virtually all of the chips were coated with thick milk chocolate on one side. I don’t have an issue with this, as it was plenty of chocolate, but when saying that they’re dipped in milk chocolate, I have to wonder how that was accomplished without getting chocolate on one side.
They are the thick ridged chips, which hold up well to the chocolate coating. The potato notes come through quite clearly. The salty hint and the earthy tubers combine well with the creamy and sweet chocolate. But the ratios are a bit off, there’s still a lot of chocolate and the chocolate is really, really sweet. Like most chocolate covered potato chips, they’re on the greasy side. I enjoyed them, but found two or three were more than enough (4 chips were listed as a serving). There’s a filmy, greasy feeling on my tongue that followed that left me regretting eating them at all.
I might buy these again, but I think I’m more likely to enjoy potato chips as an addition to a bar or bark than as a chocolate coated item on their own.
As a comparison, I happened to have the Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Covered Potato Chips sitting around as well (similar expiration date). The Lay’s are far more consistent - the chips are more often flat, less often stuck together and since they’re coated on one side, more potato flavor. There’s also far less salt in the Lay’s. The Trader Joe’s variety has 140 mg in a 1.5 ounce serving and the Lay’s has 45 mg in a 1 ounce serving. The price difference is also noticeable. The Trader Joe’s is $3.99 for 6.5 ounces versus the Lay’s $3.49 for 5 ounces. The ingredients are nearly identical as are the calories per ounce.
There’s no statement about the sourcing of the chocolate. These contain milk and soy and are also processed on equipment with peanuts and tree nuts. There’s not statement about gluten on the package at all, but the Wavy Lay’s do not contain any gluten ingredients either.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Hershey’s hasn’t announced much that’s new for Christmas this year, and it’s a little early for Holiday candy in some stores, but I did spy these new Hershey’s Peppermint Bark Bells at Target over the weekend.
As you’d guess with Hershey’s, the white confection is a quasi-mockolate like their Candy Cane Kisses. It’s made from sugar and a mix of vegetable oils including cocoa butter, palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower. The ingredients list on the package is long, so long that it might account for why there’s no other marketing or propaganda on there. There’s the name of the product on the front and bag but nothing else ... no description, really nothing other than the obligatory ingredients and nutritional panel.
They’re pretty big, probably bigger than you’d think. A Hershey’s Kiss is about 4.75 grams while a Peppermint Bark Bell is 9.5 grams ... twice the mass. So a single serving is only 4 pieces for a total of 190 calories. The swirled foil is a mix of red, green and black (or maybe that’s brown) on silver.
The candy is simple structure: the top of the bell is a minty flavored white confection with nonpareil crunchies on top of a thin base of semi-sweet chocolate.
I can’t help myself, I like these. I like Smooth and Melty Mints even though I know they’re not real white chocolate. I don’t care. The white confection has a decent melt and mouth feel, it’s not quite silky-creamy but not completely grainy. There’s a good dairy note to it, it’s clean and fresh tasting with the peppermint addition. The dark chocolate base is dark enough that it balances out the sweetness of the bell. It’s a little on the dry side, but that’s okay.
It’s a very sugary confection, and one goes a long way (remember, it’s twice the size of a Hershey’s Kiss) but it’s just enough for me to get my white minty fix. I’ll probably still stick with the M&Ms White Chocolate Peppermint, since it’s all cocoa butter, but the foil wrapping on these would still be great in a candy bowl. The Dove Peppermint Bark is very similar, though quite a bit creamier but a bit more tame on flavors, and is still tops especially in ingredients.
Hershey’s is slowly rolling out its Rainforest Alliance certified line, starting with Bliss. I don’t know when they’ll get around to the holiday products but all of their chocolate is supposed to be ethically certified by 2020. Ingredients also include palm oil which should be RSPO certified by 2014. Other ingredients of note, artificial colors (in the nonpareils) and PGPR in the chocolate.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Lindt has a new line called Hello, but I also noticed this array of single serving bars at several drug stores and Target over the past few months. I picked up a full set (or at least I think it’s all of them - at the time I wrote this, I couldn’t find them on their website).
The packaging is very simple with a color coding that made it easy to check that I had all of them. (I had to go to two stores.) They’re small portions, at 190-230 calories per bar, they’re not too filling.
The Lindt Wafer Bar is described on the package as Milk chocolate with wafer and creamy hazelnut filling.. The little picture shows that the wafer part is like a flattened tube inside the hazelnutty center.
The actual bar I got wasn’t as much like the picture as the others, which were exactly as depicted. In this case, the first section contained only hazelnut paste (so the photo is of the second section). The wafers do not take up nearly as much volume as I’d hoped, so the effect is milk chocolate bar with a lot of hazelnut (nothing wrong with that) and a little bit of wafer.
The wafers are malty and less sweet than the rest of the bar. The milk chocolate is very sweet as is the filling, so it’s kind of throat searing at first. The mix of textures and flavors is quite good though, I like the Lindt milk chocolate in small bites, it’s very creamy and though it has a dairy note to it, it tastes fresh, not like dried milk. Perhaps I’m looking at the wrong brand, but I wanted more hazelnut in there, it seemed more cream than hazelnut. (But maybe I’m just used to the Ferraro style.)
The bar is: Milk chocolate with hazelnut cream filling and pieces of almond brittle.
This bar is bigger than the first one, at 1.3 ounces. It feels hefty as well.
The milk chocolate bar looks the same as the Wafer bar, glossy and light milk chocolate. There’s a whiff of cereal about it and a hint of hazelnut but mostly it smells sweet.
The chocolate is smooth and has a milky melt to it, kind of like pudding. The center is very crunchy, with little bits of almond in the hazelnut cream. It’s not terribly nutty, but very sweet with just a hint of salt to it. Overall, the filling was good, the textures nice and the proportions very well done ... but I wanted it to be less sweet.
The package says that the bar is Dark chocolate with hazelnut filling and whole hazelnuts. And so it is.
It’s the biggest bar of the assortment I picked up, as well, at 1.4 ounces. It’s also the fattiest, at 164 calories per ounce. If I’m going to spend twice as much on the bar, I’d better be getting something high quality in there.
The bar is stunning. Three molded hazelnut sections in glossy dark chocolate. The dark chocolate looks great and smell a lot like roasted hazelnuts and coffee.
The chocolate is buttery and has a good melt, although like many Lindt chocolate, it might be a little too slick on the tongue and not enough chocolate flavor in there.
The hazelnut center is fantastic. The hazelnut paste is soft and has a great fresh flavor and though it’s sweet, it’s not too sticky. The whole hazelnut is crisp and crunchy and I believe blanched to remove the skin, which keeps away some of those bitter notes.
Of the three bars, this was my favorite, though it could benefit from darker chocolate.
I don’t see myself picking them up again, as interesting as I thought they were. They’re overpriced, though my guess is that perhaps in Europe they’re more economical. It’s odd, because the Hello Crunchy Nougat was a very similar bar to the Wafer, but twice the size for the same price. They also don’t use natural vanilla, it’s artificially flavored, which makes me wonder if there may be cut corners elsewhere. I think I’ll stick with Ritter-Sport’s Knusperflakes and Dark Chocolate Whole Hazelnut but if I feel like spending a little more, I’d step up to the Gardini Bitter Chocolate and Gianduia with Sea Salt.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Candy Corn broke out of its traditional flavor set at least 10 years ago. It’s only natural, since the fondant candies known as mellocremes were capable of so much more than just being different colors for different holidays: reindeer corn and bunny corn.
But Halloween has always paid host to the more interesting varieties. Lately we’ve seen caramel apple flavors, fruits like tangerine and green apple or toffee. Some candy companies have even taken to covering them in chocolate. Brach’s has a large variety these days, my favorite from their assortment is still the Brach’s Halloween Mix, which is not candy corn but little Halloween shapes like bats, pumpkins and maple syrup jugs. They’re lightly flavored and come in cocoa, maple, banana and whatever that honey flavor candy corn is.
The Brach’s S’mores Candy Corn straddles the summer and fall line, as S’mores are often a summer camp favorite but can easily be made in the fall around a crackling fall bonfire.
If I understand the point of these correctly, it should be a chocolate base, marshmallow middle and graham cracker flavored top. I have to say that they’re pretty ugly. The base is a dusty purple and bleeds into the white center.
They smell like a cross between the reliably over-sweet Candy Corn and graham crackers. The base is vaguely cocoa, but in the most watered down and flavored fashion. The middle layer is wonderfully vacant of flavors, kind of like a marshmallow. The orange tip has a distinct cereal and cracker note to it, like a graham.
The effect is something that’s very candy corn-like in flavor, but not very convincing as a S’more. I don’t see the point, really, especially since they’re not very attractive.
S’mores Candy Corn contains gelatin, no surprise as most candy corn does and certainly marshmallows do. It’s also made in a facility that processes everything else:peanuts, tree nuts, milk and eggs plus it contains soy and sesame.
As a side note, Brach’s has changed hands quite a few times in the last decade, and this has made some of their products a bit inconsistent. The company was owned by Farley’s & Sathers most recently and they have merged with Ferrara Pan and the whole company is now called Ferrara Candy. The Candy Corn manufacturing for Brach’s was moved off to Mexico at least two years ago and I’ve heard many reports from die hard fans that it’s not the same any longer (even though the ingredients list appears the same). I agree, it doesn’t seem as smooth and consistent as it used to be and I have switched to recommending the Jelly Belly Candy Corn if you’re actually going to eat it. Brach’s is still fine for decorative purposes.
Monday, September 23, 2013
In the ranking of Halloween candy, hard candies were usually pretty close to the bottom of the list. Unless it was Jolly Ranchers. A handful of green apple and cinnamon were welcome in my trick or treat bag, and even better if the home gave out the sticks.
It’s fun to see Hershey’s Jolly Rancher brand branching out a little bit for Halloween with their new Jolly Rancher Caramel Apple Lollipops. I found these at Target but saw them earlier at CVS and RiteAid (for at least a dollar more) so I think Hershey’s has given them very wide release.
It’s hard to believe that these will topple the current seasonal Caramel Apple Pop favorite from Tootsie.
The smell is confusing. I get a lot of buttery notes, but it’s like artificial butter flavoring or something. The flavor is immediately tangy and overly sour apple. But then again, this is a Jolly Rancher candy, so it I guess it just has to be mostly green apple. The green and caramel color swirls look like the flavor should vary, but I didn’t detect enough of a respite from the tartness of the green apple in the caramel.
The texture is good, I didn’t notice any voids or sharpness. The pieces were all perfectly formed and didn’t have any of that sticky/deformation/melting problem that the Tootsie Caramel Apple Pops have.
Overall, though, these are just too tart for me and don’t have enough actual caramel or toffee in them. However, they do seem to be free of actual dairy products, so if you’re looking for a caramel product without milk, cream or butter, this might be for you. I’m not planning on eating the rest of this bag, but I’m confident the neighborhood kids won’t be disappointed on October 31st.
Friday, September 13, 2013
The Pumpkin Spice M&Ms are a Target exclusive this year (just as the Candy Corn M&Ms were also exclusive their first year at WalMart). The package is cute and was easy to spot at the store. It features the orange M&M character looking like a pumpkin.
The flavor is not pumpkin pie itself, but the spices used to turn pumpkin custard into a seasonal dessert. Traditional pumpkin spices are a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and/or mace. The ingredients for these M&Ms are vague, just listing “artificial and natural flavorings” at the end of the list.
The pieces are, for the most part, the mega size. They’re larger than a standard M&M and come in three colors in the package: dark brown, orange and green.
The flavor is overwhelmingly cinnamon. Though they smell like chocolate, they taste like chocolate milk sipped in a room with too many Christmas-scented candles. The candy shell is crispy and the milk chocolate center is, well, a bit fudgy and grainy. I think I prefer the size of the regular M&Ms, since the chocolate is merely passable. In this format the amount of sugar easily overwhelms the chocolate.
I didn’t actually notice that much of a difference from the previous limited edition Cinnamon M&Ms from two years ago. Maybe a little more note of clove. I would have preferred more of the nutmeg and ginger spices than the Tic Tac notes of cinnamon candies.
Pumpkin Spice seems to be a pretty hot flavor these days (though the Hershey’s Kisses version has been around since 2008), a lot of seasonal candies are being released (see list below of previous reviews). If you like Spiced Chai or cinnamon in general, it’s a great time to pick up this twist on old candy favorites. If not, wait a few months and the Candy Cane and Egg Nog versions will emerge.
Finally, with all the crazy flavors of M&Ms that have come out over the years, I’m a loss to why they’d go with something like peanut butter and jelly before coffee.
Friday, August 2, 2013
The front of the package asks, “Feeling hot? Have a shot!” followed by a little heart.
The bar is big and has nicely formed, milk chocolate domed sections which hold the coffee flavored filling. The ingredients are interesting because sugar is so prominent in them, as is vegetable oil (in the form of coconut, palm and palm kernel) but coffee and milk are pretty high up there, too.
It smells good, a little sugary but with a burnt and toasted smell of fresh coffee as well.
At first I found the bar extremely sweet. The milk chocolate is sticky on the tongue, though has a smooth melt. The filling is interesting, because at first I just thought it was a cream with a touch of coffee flavoring. Instead it’s layered - there’s a coffee sort of ganache layer that has crystals or crunchies of actual coffee in it. Then there’s the milky layer, which is a little tangy but not as sweet as I’d expected, so it balances out some of the bitter and very strong notes of the coffee (barley malt powder is listed on the ingredients, that may be in the cream to tone down the sweetness).
As I noted on the previous Nougat Crunch bar, all the Lindt Hello products are milk or white chocolate. I like the flavor profile of this one, but the cream fillings leave me a little on the overstuffed but not quite satisfied side of things. (I have this issue with the much oilier Lindor Truffles.) Lindt was one of the first very dark chocolates I got into sometime in the last century, I’d like to see them add more of that to this line.
Lindt is engaged in a program to create complete traceability for their ingredients, including labor conditions and sustainability for their cocoa but they don’t specifically say anything about palm oils. The package says it may contain peanuts and/or tree nuts. Contains soy, milk and because there’s barley malt, I’d say it’s not gluten free, either.
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