Friday, December 12, 2008
Years ago there was a candy bar called Peanut Butter Snickers. It was the eighties and peanut butter was all the rage. The bar was simple, some peanut butter studded with peanuts and then the classic Snickers caramel all covered in milk chocolate. Then it was discontinued and people were sad.
Then last year, Santa brought a present to Peanut Butter Snickers lovers in the form of, well, Santa! The Snickers Peanut Butter Santas are an updated, Christmas novelty version.
I was curious if they were like the Limited Edition Snickers Nut & Butter Crunch which was a peanut butter nougat with peanuts in it covered in milk chocolate. This package doesn’t actually have a description, so I had to buy it to find out.
The package came with six little molded milk chocolate Santas, individually wrapped units not for individual sale. (Though I’ve bought the Snickers Caramel Creme Nutcrackers individually before.)
Outside of the brick red wrapper, the Santa is nicely molded. It looks exactly like the image on the over-wrapper, which is a comforting thought. (Though there really aren’t any other “promises” on the wrapper that it needs to live up to besides the fact that they’re supposed to be one ounce.)
Biting into the little fellow, I found that it wasn’t quite the old Snickers Peanut Butter nor the more recent Snickers Nut n’ Butter Crunch.
Instead it’s a hybrid of the two. It’s a peanut butter bottom. On top of that is a layer or thin, gooey caramel with crushed peanuts. (Not the thicker caramel of the classic Snickers.)
The milk chocolate has a nice snap but is very sweet. The caramel inside comes across loud and clear - it’s a bit sticky but also very salty (55 mgs per Santa). The peanut butter base is solid, the ingredients list it as a “peanut butter coating” which is made from sugar, palm oil, peanut flour, nonfat milk solids, peanut oil and some other stuff. It reminds me of those peanut butter baking chips ... or the inside of Reese’s Pieces.
It’s a nice size, not too big. The flatness means there’s a lot more chocolate flavor than a usual Snickers mini. Overall, I thought they were tasty and ate
four of them. They’re not quite as dense and filling as the old Snickers Peanut Butter, but still a tasty holiday treat.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Before Tootsie came out with their seasonal Candy Cane Tootsie Pops fans of peppermint and Tootsie Rolls were relegated to making their own. Though it was relatively simple to jam a Tootsie Roll on a chop stick and then smash a couple of starlight mints onto it, it just didn’t have the same classy, holiday flair as this store-bought version.
Candy Cane Tootsie Pops are a little different than other special flavor editions of Tootsie Pops. But not in remarkable ways. Yet I’ll list them for you anyway. First, the they’re in a clear cellophane wrapper. Second, the wrapper is done in a double twist at both the base of the pop and at the top of the pop. (Remember, the regular wrappers cover the pop and twist only where the stick meets the pop.) Third, the shape is not like the regular Tootsie Pop, which has a band that extends from the base up and around the top. Instead this band goes around the middle, just like a Charms Blow Pop. (Hmm, the wrappers are the same as Blow Pops too ... wouldn’t it be fun if they made mint Blow Pops?)
The wrappers are vexing. They’re sealed at the base, so hard to get off and not as easy to rewrap around the candy if you don’t finish it all at once.
The mint hard candy outside is peppermint. It has a pleasant swirl of red that goes through the white dominant base. It’s very smooth, in fact, smoother than a regular Tootsie Pop, fewer voids. Honestly, it made me wonder why Tootsie Pops aren’t all this smooth.
I’m a cruncher, so it didn’t take long before I was able to dissolve away enough of the hard candy outside to crunch into the Tootsie Roll center. Let me state that’s where this gets disappointing. A Tootsie Roll is just a chocolate flavored taffy. I like them well enough as a durable, all weather candy. But they’re really only good inside Tootsie Pops (orange). Because mint is rather one note (no tartness, just sweetness and cool mint) instead of complex like the fruit flavors (the flavor, the tart, the tangy all combined) the Tootsie Roll scent becomes very obvious. It smells like chocolate scented cardboard.
It smells like the box hot cocoa mixes come in after you take the packets out.
It’s just disappointing.
I think these are a fun idea, but there’s really no way to improve them without fixing the Tootsie Roll. The combo just doesn’t bring out the best that a Tootsie Roll has to offer and hide its shortcomings.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Hershey’s introduced their Signatures line last year, which is an upscale set of offerings within the traditional Hershey’s fare that’s available at grocers, drug stores and discount retailers. (The Reese’s Clusters were the first item in this line that I found.)
Hershey’s Bliss is also part of this Signatures line. The initial launch of Bliss included milk chocolate, dark chocolate and a milk chocolate meltaway.
As the winter holidays approached, the Hershey’s Bliss Creme de Menthe Meltaway Center appeared on shelves. I first spotted them at Hershey’s Chocolate World back in October, but they smelled so overwhelmingly minty without even opening the bag, I was afraid that the airline would think I was a drug mule trying to cover the scent of something illegal from the famous contraband-sniffing-Beagles of LAX.
So I waited for them to show up locally and sure enough Target has them in stock (on sale, though I’d hardly call $3.50 for an 8.8 ounce bag of Hershey’s a great deal).
Last year Hershey’s released a limited edition Hershey’s Kiss in Mint Truffle (and they’re back this year).
The exterior packaging is pretty, it screams mint & casual indulgence. The interior foil wrappers are not so nice. I was not keen on the shift from the elegant bronzy tones on the outside to the screaming goldenrod text with the green foil.
Inside the pieces were a little soft, a little greasy looking. But beyond that ... they were quite dreamy.
The chocolate is smooth and creamy and the center is just slightly fudgier with nice mint flavor that had both peppermint and spearmint notes (the spearmint part was a refreshing change). It was also a little salty, just like the Mint Truffle Kisses, but the chocolate was silkier.
I really didn’t think I’d like these, but they’re a very successful little morsel. Everyone at the office seems to agree, as the bag is now empty and folks have asked if there are any left.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
For years Sugar Babies were just plain old Sugar Babies.
Tiny little caramels panned with a sugar shell like a jelly bean.
Perfect just the way they are.
But Tootsie, like so many other companies, needed to expand the brand. So they covered them in chocolate and then some bitter green ogre skin (oh, wait, that was green apple flavor). Those were interesting extensions, because they actually built on the unique caramel of Sugar Babies and then added something else.
Now Tootsie has given us Sugar Babies Holiday Edition.
What’s different about these?
They’re white, red and green. That’s it.
I went out and bought a box of regular Sugar Babies just to be sure.
Even the original have artificial colors in them (why?) but the only addition to the list of ingredients for the Holiday Edition is titanium dioxide. (Mmm, like licking a lifeguard’s nose.)
Frankly, these Holiday Edition ones are downright ugly. They look like leftover nubs of erasers. The colors are dull but not muted enough to look like it’s on purpose. (And of course I can tell which ones are red by the bitter aftertaste that I get from Red 40.)
The other funky thing about these is the package design. I actually liked the blue and plain clip art style snowman. But I was extremely irritated by the little “snowflake” type decorative elements. Why? Because they have eight points.
Instead Holiday Edition Sugar Babies boxes are decorated with asterisks. And you know what asterisks make me think of?
If you have a Sugar Babies lover in your life and want to give them a little treat, make it a fresh box of the classic ones. The only reason to buy these is because you love Kurt Vonnegut.
Friday, September 05, 2008
This fall marks the return of the Candy Corn Kiss as well as two new harvest-themed versions: Pumpkin Spice Kisses and Caramel Apple Kisses.
I tracked down the Pumpkin Spice ones at Target. (They weren’t in with the regular candy, just at the check out aisle candy display.)
The package is Halloween-themed, with brown and orange webby pattern (which kind of reminds me of cantaloupes) and a taunting Jack-O-Lantern.
The package offers no description of the product and neither does the Hershey’s website. All I could figure out from looking at the wrapper was that these were some sort of orange-colored white-chocolate-like-confection (there might be cocoa butter in there, there might not, the ingredients are rather coy about it) filled with a cream that’s probably flavored like pumpkin pie.
The little foil wrappings are bronzy orange with wavy little brown stripes. The flags are brown and say pumpkin spice though many are greasy and look a bit more translucent.
The bag smells appealing, like ginger snaps or snickerdoodles. Sugary and spicy and everything nice-y.
It was warm for a few days so I tucked these away in one of my coolers. When I took the photos they were very soft, but even at temps in the high sixties or low seventies, they’re still mushy.
The orange confection outside has a bit of a greasy sheen to it, but otherwise is a nice pumpkin custard color. I bit a few in half (ended up cutting them for the photo) just to see what was inside, it’s a soft cream not unlike the New York Cheesecake flavored ones back around Valentine’s Day.
The taste, though sweet, has a great harvest spice flavor - it’s mostly nutmeg with a little cinnamon and perhaps ginger or allspice and maybe a hint of clove.
I really thought these were going to be terrible, especially since I didn’t like the fake butter flavor of the Candy Corn Kisses, but they’re pleasant. Not too sweet, a little bit of a custardy tang and though kind of grainy they remind me of a decadent flavored fudge. Or a very sweet cheesecake.
I don’t think they’re something I’d buy again, even if they were seasonal, but I certainly enjoy a little spice in my life now and then. Sera at The Candy Enthusiast found them at the same time as I did and has a review today as well. She’s a bit more fond of them than I am, but I’ll chalk that up to her obsession with all things pumpkin. Other early reviews are also positive: Franklin Avenue, Megan’s Munchies and keep an eye on the Kiss Candy Spotting thread in the Candy Forums.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
With a smidge of fanfare last month, M&Ms/Mars introduced their new M&Ms Premiums line. The inaugural product launch includes five flavor variations that are a delightful chocolate gem with a colorful outside and a rich scrumptious inside.
These are not to be confused with the Special Edition offerings M&Ms had last year which featured such combinations as Cherry Almondine, Vanilla Crisp, Orange Creme and a few others I can’t remember. Those sold for $6.00 in a bag that held less than 6 ounces. (That bag was also unremarkable, similar to packaging for the regular M&Ms.)
Instead the new Premiums have radically different packaging, jewel tone boxes and most of all, a new type of colored coating in iridescent and speckled shading.
The packages are narrow and tall, with curved waists. They look rather modern, but more like they have some sort of grooming product in them or perhaps even feminine hygiene products. (All joking aside, it’s rather cute how the boxes have little feet at the back that keep them standing up.)
The flavor variety is at once classic and adventurous. They use white, milk and dark chocolate in the line, often in combination with a layered effect and the only nut present in their initial offerings is the almond.
But the radical departure here for M&Ms is the loss of the crisp, candy shell. Instead these morsels have no sugar shell. They have a wash of mottled colors and then a confectionery glaze to seal it all in and give it a shine.
As comparison I picked up some regular M&Ms to contrast this. The standard Milk Chocolate M&M has a clearly delineated shell, created by coating the tumbling lentil several times with the sugar syrup which dries in layers and builds up the familiar crunch.
So what is this new covering? It can’t be described as a shell, instead it’s more like a skin. It’s made from colorings, a little dash of oil and confectionery glaze (which contains shellac, a natural product but probably not vegetarian) - so it’s rather like a coat of latex paint. It’s not exactly flavored, but dissolves quickly, but into rather unappealing waxy flakes.
Chocolate Almond M&Ms Premiums
This cobalt blue and dark blue speckled egg shaped candies are milk chocolate around an almond.
They’re really not that different from the M&Ms Almond or if the shell thing is a bother, then compare them to the Dove Chocolate Covered Almonds, because other than the coloring, that’s exactly what they are.
It’s milk chocolate and to be honest, I would have preferred dark, but I have to review what’s in front of me.
The almonds are rather puny, some are smaller than peanuts. But they’re fresh and the milk chocolate is sweet and consistent and the right proportion. I can do better for the price. (Trader Joe’s.)
Raspberry Almond M&Ms Premiums
If I was disappointed with the classic milk chocolate covered almond, I should have kept my mouth shut. Because the twist on that is the over-engineered and under-tasty combination of raspberry flavored white chocolate over almonds covered in dark chocolate.
They smell like lipgloss and look like fake fingernails.
The texture is quite smooth and creamy, the white and dark chocolate a velvety. The almonds are fresh and crunchy, but the raspberry flavor just goes and spoils it all. It’s that fragrant raspberry essence - all flash and no real depth. I had a bunch of these mixed together in a bowl and they just polluted all the other ones. (That’s a tip if you were planning on using these for an event ... do not mix the raspberry.)
Mocha M&Ms Premiums
This amber and bronze little beads are a milk chocolate base lightly flavored with coffee.
The milk chocolate is moderately smooth, a bit milky and tastes rather like a mocha with a light fudgy grain to it. They’re even slightly bitter.
I’ve always wanted coffee M&Ms. These are pretty good. Pretty pricey and probably much harder to find but a nice change of pace from plain chocolate.
Triple Chocolate M&Ms Premiums
This is where things get exciting for this new line.
The triple chocolate is not triple the size of the others, instead if offers the three different kinds of chocolate: milk, white an dark.
The dark outer layer is buttery smooth, only a slight bitter tinge. It’s pretty thin and gives way to the slightly salty and very sweet white coating. Then the center is the milk chocolate. Kind of typical milk, a little more on the dairy side that I recall regular M&Ms tasting.
I liked chewing them up, but they’re fun to let melt through the layers.
Mint Chocolate M&Ms Premiums
As a twist on the ordinary minted chocolate M&Ms that are available around the holidays, the Mint Chocolate Premiums have layers as well.
Here the center is white chocolate (and it’s real white chocolate with actual cocoa butter) and then a thinner dark chocolate coating, all in the crazy mottled green.
They’re fresh tasting, smooth and really enjoyable.
I have to say that after I got over the no-shell shock, I really liked the Mocha and Mint (and the Triple Chocolate were also nice). The pricing is far better than I expected for a product called Premiums. I picked up this set at Target for $3.99 per package. They’re six ounces inside a little reclosable cellophane pouch. They’re far less expensive than the 7 ounce packages of single color M&Ms that are sold on the M&Ms website for $7.99 a package.
These are likely to be popular with brides and other folks planning large parties. I can only hope that M&Ms will provide more efficient packaging for that purpose.
M&Ms are by no means the first to create this sort of product. Koppers Chocolates has been selling jewel-toned chocolate covered almonds (and these are huge almonds) for at least 18 months and little flavored unshelled chocolates called Savouries (I tried the cayenne one here) for years. Koppers has also been making Mocha Lentils & Mint Lentils at least since I was a kid. Madelaine’s Chocolate has also been marketing jewel looking Malted Milk Balls for a couple of years.
Monday, June 09, 2008
One of the items teased at the September 2007 All Candy Expo was the series of The Dark Knight (Batman) tie in products. As the Indiana Jones Mars products (Mint Crisp M&Ms & Snickers Adventure Bar) found their way onto the shelves about 6-8 weeks in advance of the movie release, I was keeping a close watch for the new Reese’s & KitKat products in the past weeks.
The Limited Edition line features:
I found the bags of the medallions at Target yesterday. They also had the Reese’s Pieces, but frankly, different colored RP just weren’t distinctive enough to get me to buy them. A new proportion of chocolate and peanut butter and the further enticement of dark chocolate is enough to get me to buy them, though.
The Reese’s Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bats bag is a rich chocolate brown, setting it apart from the regular Reese’s orange offerings (though it has that signature orange on the wrapper as an accent).
There’s also some sort of a sweepstakes thing going on where you can Find the bat-signal and win instantly but there was no game piece in either bag so I’m left to wonder how this thing works. (If it’s not a regular game piece that you open to find out if you’ve won, then what prevents someone from going through all the bags at the store and peeking through the little “window” in the package to see if there is a winning game piece?)
The dark ones are just shy of 1.75 inches in length and a little over 1 inch across and a half an inch tall. They weigh about 10 grams each (a regular Reese’s Miniature Peanut Butter Cup is about 9 grams).
I assume that these are absolutely fresh, and have an expiry date of April 2009. However, the sheen of the chocolate was slightly greasy, as Reese’s products usually are. (The exception is pretty much the Fresh from the Factory cups.) The bag smells like dark roasted peanuts.
The chocolate is very soft, so the whole thing has a mellow fudgy bite to it. It melts quickly, rather slick on the tongue but pretty smooth. The peanut butter filling, on the other hand, is exactly the sort of Reese’s peanut butter center you’d expect. A little sandy in texture, a bit salty and sweet.
The dark chocolate is actually bitter, so there’s a whole mix of flavors here - sweet, salt and bitter plus the textures of the chocolate and light crunch of the rough peanut butter.
It’s a great combination and really refreshing. The proportions here are weighted heavily towards the dark chocolate (which isn’t really “dark” as it has milk fat in it), much more than the previous regular-sized Limited Edition Reese’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.
The foil wrapper is also very appealing; it’s a bronzy brown around the sides and the top has the Reese’s logo and bat logo.
There’s a strange molding anomaly on them, just about all that I unwrapped had little bubbles on either end of the top. (I opened quite a few, looking for a pristine one for the photo, then finding this to be the norm, photographed it.)
Rating: 9 out of 10
The little oval medallion has the stylized bat-signal symbol molded into the top of each piece. Yes, the logo on these is a little different. As with most continuations of classic franchises, the bat-signal has evolved. The original was not an actual bat, but Batman & his cape ... at some point them omitted his head. Back in the old TV show days and the first few movies it looked like this which was pretty consistent with the TV series emblem.
But just as superheroes change their costumes, the logo became more angular and lost some of its bat-ness and wing fringes. (To me it looks more like a car logo now.)
The Reese’s Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bats are simply tasty. They’re everything you’d expect in a flattened Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniature. The chocolate is sweet and pretty mellow but has a slight cool feeling on the tongue. The peanut butter center is immediately salty, squishy and has the dark roasted flavors of peanuts & a sandy texture.
There’s less peanut butter, so fans of the peanut part and not the chocolate part should probably stick with the original or seek out the single serve size Bats (I haven’t found those yet).
Rating: 8 out of 10
Overall, this is a good tie in. I like the use of dark chocolate on a tried-and-true favorite. I also like that they tried a new shape instead of just tossing some different foil on the regular minis. (Of course then it just makes us sadder when they go away.) The proportions on the milk chocolate just didn’t have the same appeal as the regular minis or the larger eggs - but I’m sure some other folks will find them to be their ideal version.
Anyone found the large sized bats yet?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
This was a sample from All Candy Expo that I kind of ate before finishing the photo shoot. (I got the box obviously, but never did the unwrapped version.) I also shared most of it, even though I could have easily eaten it all by myself.
It’s a handsome light milk chocolate bar that lives up to the illustration on the package. It’s thick, each little section in the bar has a creamy peanut butter meltaway center (with crushed nut chunks).
I was dubious. But this won me over. Extremely creamy, so much so that it was like the milk chocolate and peanut butter were one. It didn’t feel greasy at all, even though it was thick and rich.
I have a bunch of other Ghirardelli filled bars (from the last ACE) that I still haven’t tried, this might push me to start opening them (I promise full photography on those though).
Rating: 8 out of 10
I hadn’t had any White Rabbit in a while, so when I saw that it was on sale at Cost Plus World Market, I figured when it’s $1.50 a bag is the time to give it another go. Instead I spotted this Red Bean (Azuki) version and scooped that up instead.
The wrapper has little dark red stripes on it. Inside it still has the same delicate rice paper wrapper that melts in the mouth to form a slick, gelatinous good. The milk taffy inside is a slight & natural looking pink. The red bean flavor is light and woodsy and pleasant. It seems to mellow out the sometimes sweet taffy and mixes really well with the milk flavors.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I picked these up at the Fancy Food Show. They look like just about any other peppermint pattie. The interesting proposition here is that the center is creamed honey with a touch of mint instead of a sugar-based fondant.
The other interesting bit about this is that the dark chocolate shell is completely unsweetened. The sweetness of the center completely balances out the could-be-bitter coating. I tried a few times to just nibble off the chocolate bits, but these are pretty small (about the size of the York Peppermint Pattie minis) and I wasn’t getting a bit enough chunk to really tell. (And as I’ve found, 100% chocolate doesn’t have to be unpalatable.) The center is smooth and a little cool on the tongue, with that beeswax taste & texture added to the mix.
It’s a great little mint. Artisan Sweets is the only place I’ve seen them for sale. But if you do come upon them, especially if you can buy only one or two, it’s an interesting combination of the musky honey tones with the mellow mint and the pop of creamy dark chocolate.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Jungle Chocolate from Yachana Gourmet
I don’t know if this is considered candy. It’s called Jungle Chocolate and I’d probably put it in the trail mix or snack category. It’s just cacao nibs, lightly glazed with sugar cane juice and then mixed with some other jungle-grown edibles. The four varieties I tried were:
While the mixes themselves didn’t wow me, I think I’d like to just try a plain old box of lightly sweetened nibs. (Or maybe lightly caramelized.)
The selling point here is that they don’t melt. I’ve put these through the paces. They’ve sat in the car, they’ve been in my house in the 100 degree heat. It doesn’t melt, instead, like a stew, it just makes all the flavors even better. This is chocolate that goes places that chocolate can’t go. It has all that stuff that you crave, even if it doesn’t quite have the texture.
It’s all fair trade, vegan and all natural. It’s a little expensive, but then again, knowing that the money goes right to a sustainable project in Ecuador may make it taste even sweeter. I wouldn’t call this a replacement for chocolate, but perhaps a replacement for other snack mixes. Retail is about $3.00 to 3.50 for a 2 ounce bag (that’s well packaged - protects the product, but not overpackaged).
Rating: 7 out of 10
I finally found these at Target, hiding on the backside of a display in the Valentine’s area (well, it was the Valentine’s area, but was then the Easter area). The package looks a heckuva lot like the Vanilla Creme Kisses that I might have seen them already and just passed them by.
Cheesecake as a “flavor” seems a little odd, but then again, so does Buttered Popcorn, Apple Pie and Chili & Chocolate, so never judge a flavor by its name.
They’re, I dunno, like the Vanilla Creme, a little more tangy. I think they’re more like yogurt. Or yellow birthday cake.
It doesn’t matter much to me, this Kiss has brought back that limited edition weariness that I experience from time to time. I haven’t been fond of any of the more subtle filled Kisses. While I like subtle and respectful balances in my haut chocolate, I kind of like my mass manufactured stuff loud & proud. I’ve had them sitting in my desk for months and I think that pretty much sums up how I felt about them. I could take them or leave them, but mostly I left them.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.