Monday, November 14, 2011
Brach’s, now owned by Farley’s and Sathers has had its ups and downs. Lately I’d say they’re on the upswing. They have newly designed packaging and a new logo along with a return to their classic formulas.
One of Brach’s standard candies for many years has been their Brach’s Milk Chocolate Stars which are not only a favorite for candy dishes, they’re occasionally featured in cookie recipes. This explains why I spotted this bag not in the candy aisle at Target but with a special display of holiday baking items.
The pieces are large what I’d consider a big bite or two small bites. They’re a full inch across and weigh a little less than 4 grams each. (For comparison, a Hershey’s Kiss is about 4.5 grams.)
The front and back of the package make multiple mentions of the fact that the stars are made from 100% milk chocolate. Some Brach’s items stopped using real chocolate over the years (oddly enough some of that cheapening occurred while the company was run by Barry Callebaut, a Swiss company and one of the largest makers of chocolate in the world. (But they also make mockolate.)
The ingredients do actually qualify this product as milk chocolate, though the list is very long for what is usually a six ingredient product:
The stars a bit scuffed up but I was still pleased at how attractive they are. They vary a little bit, as they’re not molded but squirted out onto a line. The have a sweet scent, a bit on the caramel side of milk chocolate. The melt is pretty quick and very sweet but with a very mellow salty note to it.
Though the melt is passably smooth, it is quite sticky. I did a quick analysis of the chocolate compared to Hershey’s Kisses. There’s just a smidge more sugar in it and a little less fat. (Basically, my calculations put Hershey’s Kisses at 29.3% fat by weight and Brach’s Milk Chocolate Stars at 26.3%. So if there’s less fat there’s either going to be more sugar or more protein, in this case it’s the sugar with Hershey’s at 56.1% and Brach’s at 57.9%.)
The flavor is not complex or difficult. There’s a slight dairy twang to it, but nothing like the sour belch of a Hershey’s Kiss nor the powdered dairy taste of Cadbury. I suspect that they stand up well in the oven and probably get an even better toasted taste to the sugars that bring out the fudge notes. It’s a little too sweet and sticky for me to eat alone, but with some nuts or pretzels or really anything else like a tall glass of water or strong coffee to cut it, I’d find them passable.
If I were baking the only reason to use them would be for aesthetics. If I were going for taste, I’d pick up Ghirardelli or Guittard which are only slightly more expensive ... or if I needed something really stunning Valrhona.
They’re made in a facility with nuts, peanuts and wheat plus they contain soy and dairy. Not Kosher.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Wrigley’s which now runs the Starburst franchise of products just came out with a new variety, called Starburst Flavor Morph. They come in both the long single serving pack, a king size and the 13 ounce bag I picked up at Target over the weekend.
The package says that they have Flavor Changing Beads, which sounds kind of high tech and kind of like a feature of cosmetics/hygiene products.
The newest Starburst offers more than just a variety of flavors in each pack - now, consumers will get to experience a variety of flavors in every square. The candy, which features flavor changing beads, morphs from orange to orange strawberry or cherry to cherry lime.
So, basically, instead of four flavors in the package, there are just two.
Cherry -> Cherry-Lime is wrapped in red with white waves on the little waxed paper wrapper. They’re dark pink and at first do taste just like the traditional Cherry Starburst. The Cherry Lime notes come in rather late, and the advertised flavor beads aren’t evident as pops or crunches. The lime notes were actually a welcome transition in the flavor of the chew, the citrus goes well with the very traditional artificial cherry flavor.
Orange -> Orange-Strawberry looks just like an Orange Starburst, but with a few little flecks. However, it smells like a Strawberry Starburst. So the flavor morph in this instance was not really transitional ... the flavor was absolutely orange and strawberry the whole time. I liked the combination, it’s different from the usual citrus or strawberry combinations.
I haven’t been excited or converted from the classic Fruits package by any of the new Starburst introduction in the past 10 years. This version is no different, it’s a novelty. It’s missing the usual variety and the flavor combinations while appealing aren’t radical enough. While it doesn’t say Limited Edition on the package, I don’t expect them to stick around very long.
Starburst are marked as a gluten-free product. They do contain gelatin, so are not appropriate for vegetarians/vegans and are not Kosher. There are no statements about nuts or other allergens on the package though other sources say they’re nut free. A serving of 8 pieces contains 20% of your daily RDA of Vitamin C. I found them expensive as well, $3.14 for a 13 ounce bag of sugar candy is a bit steep.
Monday, November 7, 2011
When I saw a tweet from The Impulsive Buy that there was a new kind of M&Ms, I was on the case. Marvo tracked them down, they’re called Cinnamon M&Ms and they’re an exclusive to Target stores right now (though some folks have them on eBay as well).
The bags are slight, with only 9.9 ounces compared to the standard 12 ounce bag of Milk Chocolate M&MS for the same price.
The package features the Green M&M in a white knit cap & scarf holding some cinnamon sticks. The illustration shows that the candies come in three deep red colors.
The pieces vary in size and slightly in color. The deep red and maroon are almost indistinguishable in lower light situations.
The pieces are larger than the regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms. The color is not quite as dense or shiny as the regular M&Ms. They’re a little dusty colored, like the color coating isn’t as thick or they aren’t as polished. It appears that the shade of brown and red are identical to the standard Milk Chocolate red and brown, but the maroon is new.
The flavor, as Marvo pointed out in his review, tastes like it’s concentrated in the shell of the candy, not in the milk chocolate. Some shells taste more cinnamony than others, but the red tastes the most like cinnamon. It’s not a “red hot” sort of flavor, it’s more of the ground spice flavor. It’s woodsy and rich with a slight heat to it, but nothing that’s too warm.
The largest pieces feel like they’re layered; as if they start out as a regular sized M&M, then get another layer of chocolate to supersize them. (They used to make Mega M&Ms, maybe this is just the same equipment being put to use.)
The flavor is different but not radical. It’s subtle and pleasant, but masks the also mild chocolate flavors from Mars very sweet milk chocolate. The candy shell is fun to crack and the textures work exceptionally well in this instance because of the ratios with the larger chocolate pieces.
I can’t say that I’ve been longing for these all of my life; and I can’t say, especially at this price, that I’d buy them again. Like the Coconut M&Ms, they’re only vaguely different but the cinnamon, like coconut, is a polarizing flavor. Either you like it or you don’t. So there will be folks out there that won’t.
I can say that these go very nicely with coffee, the cinnamon adds that fall, harvest essence to the whole event. So settle down with the morning paper and toss a few Cinnamon M&Ms onto your saucer for a little extra bump.
For traditionalist, the Milk Chocolate Mint M&Ms are also returning for Christmas.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Ritter Sport makes dozens of different chocolate bars. A few are seasonal varieties, such as their new Milk Chocolate with Strawberry Creme which debuted last fall in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Some packages feature the pink ribbon, others do not.)
The picture on the front of the package along with the name of the bar gave me most of what I needed to know: Milk chocolate filled with a cream of low fat yogurt, strawberry and crispy rice.
The ingredients don’t quite match up with that description. The first ingredient is sugar, which is fine with me as I fully expect my candy to be mostly sugar. The second ingredient is palm kernel oil. Nowhere in my chocolate, low fat yogurt or crispy rice do I ever expect to find palm kernel oil. So, its dominating presence here is unwelcome but the bar is at least redeemed with its third ingredient, cocoa butter, one of my favorite butters.
The bar is a familiar format for Ritter Sport. It’s 100 grams and comes in a square bar made up of 16 sections (four by four). The recommended portion is six pieces, which of course doesn’t create a whole number of portions. (I found for this review one bar was a portion, which means that it replaced my breakfast calories and all my snack calories for the day.)
The cream inside the bar is a faint pink with spots of actual dried strawberries. In addition, there are little bits of crisped rice. The chocolate outside is sweet and milky, like the Alpine Milk variety (though I’m not certain which version of the many Ritter Sport chocolates they used for this bar). The cream inside is sweet and mostly smooth without being greasy. The crunchies in the cream were interesting, sometimes they were the crisped rice, so they were a little salty and a little malty. But other times they were freeze dried strawberry bits so they were tangy and would soften into a slick reconstituted fruit mush. I liked the different pops of tartness or saltiness to go with the cream and milky chocolate background.
It’s a good quality bar (though not great, since a large portion is palm kernel oil) and is different from other American chocolate offerings. I found it on sale at Target for $1.66 over the weekend. For a 3.5 ounce bar of this it’s a good deal. Other bars are a bit lower in fat and have no palm kernel oil, but this is a limited edition item so it’s not as if I’m going to eat them all year round.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The Ghirardelli family owned and ran the company until the 1960s when the company was sold to the Golden Grain Macaroni Company (makers of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat), then in the 1980s Golden Grain was swallowed up by Quaker Oats (the Pennsylvania treat). About 6 years later Quaker sold Ghiradelli off and it was once again an independent entity, if only for about six years when in 1998 it was bought up by Lindt and Sprüngli of Switzerland (which was making chocolate only seven years longer than Ghiradelli).
I mention all of this because there was something vaguely familiar about this bar called Ghirardelli Intense Dark Sea Salt Soiree when I picked it up and it took me a while to figure it out. A couple of years ago I reviewed Lindt Excellence Dark with a Touch of Sea Salt. While I found Lindt’s a good bar, it’s either the quality of the Ghirardelli chocolate or the addition of almonds that really make Ghirardelli’s bar special.
The bar’s mold is nicely designed. Each of the eight sections include the Ghirardelli eagle logo. The molding is overall good, though there are some voids and bubbles on the front of the bar, I didn’t notice anything else amiss when I snapped the bar in half or inspected the bottom of the bar.
I didn’t think it smelled particularly special, like brownies, which in itself is a tantalizing scent, but really didn’t do the rest of the bar justice.
The bar is called Intense Dark but I can’t find anything that says what the percentage of cacao is for the bar. The appearance is dark like coffee with a light reddish hue to it. The bar has a liberal sprinkling of crushed almonds in it and of course large flakes of sea salt.
The flavors of the chocolate are very mild, but a good blend of hot cocoa, coffee and woodsy tobacco. The almonds give a fresh crunch and the light sprinkling of salt doesn’t overwhelm any of the other elements.
It’s an extremely munchable bar, not too dark for a snack but still more sophisticated than a standard Dove or plain Ghirardelli bar. I didn’t expect to like the bar so much since it’s such a simple idea and construction, especially since I had the nut-less Lindt version before. The freshness of the elements and well executed format just come together so well here. I wish that Ghirardelli didn’t feel the need to use dairy (milk fat) in their dark chocolate though, it would make this a much more accessible bar. (It’s also made in a facility that processes peanuts as well.)
Friday, September 2, 2011
Wonka has a strong tradition of sugar candies, as the brand originated with Sunline, makers of SweeTarts, Pixy Stix and Fun Dip (Lik-M-Aid). One of their legacy candies is Laffy Taffy. It’s just fruity taffy with the added bonus of a joke or two on the wrapper.
Back when I was a kid Laffy Taffy was known as Tangy Taffy and was sold in large flat bars similar to Jolly Rancher Stix (well, bigger than that). They came in intense and artificial flavors like Green Apple, Watermelon and Banana. After the Nestle takeover of Wonka they made some changes, like dumping Wacky Wafers (photo) and changing Tangy Taffy to Laffy Taffy.
Laffy Taffy still comes in bars, but the most common product I see are these little two inch long pieces. Each piece is about 35 calories and is two bites. They come in tubs and of course are a staple of pinatas and Halloween bags.
They’re soft and usually take on the shape of the package, but they’re very easy to get out of the plastic wrapper once opened. It’s a true taffy, there are no egg products in there like Bonomos or Doschers taffy have. There’s a touch of oil, so they’re not completely fat free (about a half of a gram of fat per piece).
Strawberry is pretty, very pink and fragrant. It’s like cotton candy or lemonade. The flavor isn’t very strong, lightly tangy and sweet with a well moderated fake strawberry flavor. There are little snaps of salt and tartness throughout. The chew is long and steady and quite smooth.
Banana - this is an intense fake banana candy. The banana is intense enough that it gave me a cool feeling on my tongue, similar to the effect of nail polish remover in both the tingling and the strange caustic scent. I like fake banana, so the sweetness and weird artificial flavor was fun for me. Your mileage may vary.
Sour Apple - if they called this green apple, I don’t think I’d have much of an issue. However, with the word sour in there, I have certain expectations, such as tartness. This was not sour. It was not even particularly vivid, just a mild fake green apple flavor. The texture is smooth and chewy and there’s a strange salty note to it that bugged me in this instance.
Grape is purple and the taffy version of a grape SweeTart. It’s zippy with a purely artificial flavor that’s a cross between grape juice, straight malic acid and pen ink.
The jokes on them are true groaners like “How do billboards talk?” (Sign Language!) and truly poorly written ones like “What kind of chain is edible?” (A Food Chain!)
I’ve grown out of these, for my fruit chews I prefer something a little tamer and friendly like Skittles. But these have the advantage of being vegetarian (no gelatin) over products like Starburst or Bonomos. They’re Kosher; there are no nut or gluten statements on the package.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I’ve seen Brach’s Maple Nut Goodies in stores for years. And for all that time, I not only didn’t know what they were, I really had no curiosity. But as the Candy Blogger, I felt it was my duty to pick them up and give them a try. So I bought some.
I got the package home, opened it up and the devils were hard as rocks. I must have gotten an old bag. So I kind of dismissed it mentally. About a year later a co-worker gave me a bag and I experienced the same issue - they were rock hard.
Brach’s is now owned by Farley’s and Sathers and recently did a complete re-design of their packaging earlier this year. So when I spied the new, bolder purple and pink wrapper at the drug store, I thought this was a signal that the candy was fresh. (The expiration was March 2012.)
I was still puzzled though, and part of it is because I have no awareness at all of this candy. There are plenty of candies, food, novels and movies that I’ve never tried but I’m at least able to identify. There’s nothing remotely familiar about this candy, probably because no one else makes a version of it. The package describes it as:
So the internet and friends will not solve this mystery for me, I had to open a bag for myself. Sure enough, this batch was not rock hard and it certainly did smell like maple and peanuts. So far so good.
The candy outside isn’t some sort of maple flavored white chocolate (though I’d actually love to try real white chocolate made with maple sugar ... someone, could you work on that?). The coating is like a dried fudge or frosting glaze.
The ingredients don’t really explain the candy very well either: Sugar, Peanuts, Corn Syrup, Palm Kernel Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Palm Kernel, Soybean and Cottonseed, Emulsified With Soy Lecithin), Modified Corn Starch, Maple Syrup, Gelatin, Salt, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Bicarbonate, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 1. Freshness Preserved By TBHQ and Citric Acid.
So what I’m expecting is some sort of maple fudge covered peanut. What I got instead was a muddly wad of confusion. It was soft. I bit into it and it was like a peanut butter cookie, with a strong maple flavor to it. The center was more like a soft dough then a fudge. There’s gelatin in there and oodles of fat (from the peanuts themselves and the various added oils) but it doesn’t taste like it at all. It’s dry.
The other thing is that there is no whole peanut in there. Granted, I only expected there to be one because the shape of the candy seemed rather like a coated peanut. Instead it’s little ground up peanut bits, like a chunky peanut butter. I figure this can’t be right. I’ve gotten a batch that wasn’t cured properly or maybe one where they left out the peanuts inside of all of them. So back to the store.
So this is bag number four. This one also has a far off expiration date, January 2012 and the new package design. The cross section above shows the detail a bit better. There are chunks of peanuts in some sort of soft, not quite crumbly, doughy fudge.
The whole effect is fine, just not quite what I was expecting. For what it is, it’s certainly different. It’s sweet, but the robust peanutty-ness balances that pretty well. There’s a little hint of salt and the maple is a more defined sweetness that’s not as sticky, more woodsy. It’s more like a snack, more like a cookie than a candy.
Just about every other candy I’ve had that’s been made by a major company for at least 50 years has its imitators. For some reason no one else makes Brach’s Maple Nut Goodies
Here’s an old ad from LIFE magazine featuring the Maple Nut Goodies. It also shows Iced Jelly Cones and Chocolate Ripple Nougats, anyone else remember those?
Friday, July 15, 2011
I saw this at Target, Market Pantry Chocolate Covered Malted Milk Balls - Milk Chocolate with a little tag next to it that said it was a new item. I figured for less than $2.00 for more than a quarter of a pound, I should take a gamble on them (naturally, that gamble also means sharing the results with readers).
The package is spare but accurate, there are a bunch of milk chocolate covered malted milk balls in there. It’s a bit generic, but it was enticing enough to catch my eye.
The malt balls are about the same size as Whoppers. The chocolate coating is thin, but of course made of real milk chocolate (not that simulated product on Whoppers). There’s a thin glaze on the balls, which keeps them from sticking together and of course gives them their attractive shine. It does keep it from melting right away though, but with minimal “waxy” notes. The milk chocolate is quite sweet and has the typical milky flavor profile of mediocre American milk chocolate.
The malt center is crunchy and has a tight, small bubble texture. It dissolves well or provides a delightful crunch, depending on what sort of consumer you are. The flavor is not overly malty, it’s more of a salty rice cereal flavor instead of a deep malty flavor. Still, it was satisfying and I found myself eating them without getting distracted by any weird deflated ones or off flavors.
I don’t know quite what all my criteria are for the perfect malt ball, but these aren’t there. The chocolate isn’t quite good enough, though I do like this ratio. The malt center has a great texture for people who prefer that sort of melt in your mouth delicate style, I kind of like the rustic ones that are more like Cap’n Crunch.
I’ve heard rumors that Brach’s has re-introduced their classic real milk chocolate Malt Balls, but since I haven’t found those, these are an admirable substitute, especially as a movie snack. The price is great, too, though keep your eyes out for sales. Though it says 5 ounces on the bag, because of the aerated nature of the centers, the volume felt like a lot of candy.
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