Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The cornerstone of an Easter Basket is the chocolate bunny. There are many to choose from and most often it’s about how it looks. I picked up three foil wrapped milk chocolate rabbits of similar size for a little comparison.
All were about the same price, between $3.99 and $4.49 (though prices vary from store to store, I picked all mine up at Target before the good sales started). All are American made, all are milk chocolate and all are Kosher. In the running are: Cadbury Dairy Milk Solid Milk Chocolate Bunny, Hershey’s Bliss Hollow Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate Bunny and Dove Fairy Bunny Silky Smooth Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny.
Each is similar in size, thought the Cadbury bunny is solid so weighs a little more. Though they come in boxes, I’m not sure they’d go into the Easter basket that way. So here they are out of their boxes. I found all of them to be overpackaged, especially considering how many chocolate rabbits (Lindt is most notable) that are sold simply wrapped in foil without a box or plastic form shield.
Side by side it’s easy to see how the different milk chocolates are vastly different colors. Cadbury is the lightest and has an orange hue. Hershey’s Bliss is the darkest and from my reading of the ingredients and nutrition label it has the least fat (more milk solids and sugar).
They’re all three dimensional bunnies with nice molds. They were all pretty much flawless out of their wrappers as well.
The Cadbury Dairy Milk Solid Milk Chocolate Bunny is made in the United States by Hershey’s from imported “chocolate crumb” from Cadbury’s facilities in the UK (at least that’s what I learned via the NYTimes in 2007).
The ingredients are different than the UK Cadbury Dairy Milk. There is no additional vegetable fat in there, but it does contain PGPR, an additional emulsifier often used in less expensive chocolate. (If you’re curious about the differences between the UK and US Dairy Milk, check out this head to head comparison.)
Sugar, milk chocolate, cocoa butter, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR, natural and artificial flavor
They all came with a crazy amount of packaging, the Cadbury bunny’s box was more than two inches taller than the rabbit inside. But it’s a generous size, a full six ounces which at the selling price of $4.49 it was the best value of the bunch.
The rabbit is a rather realistic representation, no anthropomorphism by the designers. It’s a classic sitting rabbit with high ears. The foil is great, the only one of the bunch that has a design on both sides. (The wrapping style is kind of like a chocolate coin, the two sides are a heavy printed foil and have a seam all the way around.) The fact that he could be seated facing either way was a great feature, especially if you’re designing an Easter basket for a particular tableau.
My Cadbury bunny was soft, even though my house was a cool 68 degrees. Biting off the ears was pretty easy, but after that I had to take a knife to him and give him a few quick jabs to break him up.
The chocolate has strong caramelized sugar and yogurty dairy notes. The texture is sticky as it melts though not as sweet as I expected at first. The cocoa is mild and woodsy ... it’s the classic dairy milk chocolate I think most people are familiar with. It’s a little grainy and gritty.
I was a little irritated at how hard it was to eat, requiring a knife or the unsanitary gnawing. But he was lovely. Here are some more shots I took if you want to see some other views:
The Hershey’s Bliss Hollow Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate Bunny was a little confusing. There were two products on the shelves at Target from Hershey’s (here’s where I picked all of these up). There was this Bliss bunny, which I thought was a good comparison to the Dove one, and then an identically molded one that was just “Hershey’s” but with a blue bow instead of a lavender one (I photographed the back of the package for later comparison).
The Hershey’s Bliss one has no PGPR like the Cadbury or classic Hershey’s recipe, but of course a price tag to match (in this case a dollar more).
The Bliss bunny wins for the least amount of packaging, if you can call this winning. Inside the box was a formed plastic piece that went over the front-facing side of the bunny but like the others, there was a lot of empty space in that box.
Bliss is a relatively new chocolate line from Hershey’s, it was introduced barely two years ago with a parallel line of products and pricing structure to the Dove line. The packaging and foil wrapping doesn’t quite rise to the level of elegance or chic sophistication that Lindt, Godiva and Dove have been perfecting for so long. But it’s what’s inside that matters ... well, in the case of hollow chocolate bunnies, it’s what’s inside the foil that matters, the really inside is nothingness.
Bliss was the lightest bunny in the bunch at only 4 ounces.
The shape is of a bunny on its hind legs, front legs kind of up in a begging position. She’s not carrying a basket or anything. The molding is nice, the details are pretty good, especially on the ears. I don’t care much for the design of it but the shape is good. It feels substantial, which is important to kids. It’s not easy to put a thumb through the side or anything.
The Bliss bunny had an excellent sheen. It broke nicely and wasn’t too soft. The bunny itself had thick sides, but not too thick that breaking it was difficult. (I actually like hollow bunnies more as I get older - I like the illusion or size but the ease of portioning.)
The chocolate was smooth and creamy, with a rich milky flavor with a little Hershey’s twang, but not too much. It’s sweet but not throat-searing and not at all gritty or grainy. I liked it much better than the Hershey’s rabbit I had last year and better than the Bliss foil wrapped pieces.
Here are more photos to give you a sense of the scale, wrapping and molding:
The final rabbit is the Dove Fairy Bunny Silky Smooth Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny. This one diverges from the classic rabbit shape and goes a little into the weird territory. This bunny has fat, fat butterfly wings (I don’t know how some conservative folks feel about mixing fairies with Easter).
The box has the most packaging, a clamshell formed clear plastic piece that protects the bunny and holds it in place. It did its job well, as my bunny looked great in and out of the foil. The back of the box has a poem about the Fairy Bunny, a poem that tells the story of this magical Easter bunny who has a product placement deal with Dove.
This ingredients looked okay, there’s PGPR in there but it comes after the flavorings. (I’ve been told that PGPR is great for manufacturers because it makes molding easier.)
The Dove bunny is by far the best looking one in and out of the foil, but definitely on the feminine side with its lavender wing accents and luscious eyelashes. (Even the whiskers look feline-sexy.)
It’s a squat bunny, so it doesn’t feel quite as decadent as the Bliss one, even though it weighs a half an ounce more at 4.5 ounces.
The walls of the chocolate were inconsistent. Some spots were thick and beefy, others, like the sides and bottom away from the edges were quite thin.
The bunny has a soft milky and woodsy scent, not too sweet. The texture of the chocolate is creamy and smooth. As I had my bunny open for tasting for a couple of weeks, I noticed that the flavor profile changed. I’ve noticed this with molded items that have a lot of surface area, and especially with chocolate that has PGPR. The flavor gets a little rancid ... not full on “my goodness, this is spoiled” but a subtle “this was better last week”. So I found myself gravitating, much to my surprise, to the Bliss bunny.
This bunny still wins for its looks, here are some more glamor shots:
On the whole, all three are good quality. They’re expensive by the ounce when you compare it to other chocolate like little foil wrapped pieces or big bars. But they’re also a special item for an Easter basket, gifting or just using as a decorative item. I suggest going for the chocolate you like ... but sometimes aesthetics trumps taste. Don’t forget to check out your local chocolate shop though - there’s something special about buying local from a company that molds their bunnies on site.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Seems like everyone’s getting into Easter versions of their popular candies. Cadbury-Adams has quite a few new varieties including Sour Patch Eggs and Sour Patch Bunnies (which I bought & will review soon) but the more innovative one appeared to be Assorted Swedish Fish Eggs.
The package is more than quirky. The little red Swedish fish is sporting white and pink bunny ears and a little talking bubble says, “What, you’ve never heard of Candiar?”
The package notes that it also includes Swedish Fish but it didn’t elaborate beyond that.
Inside it’s not a large amount of candy for a theater box. It’s 3.1 ounces, which means that the inner cellophane bag takes up less than a third of the volume of the box.
The assortment is a mix of the small Swedish fish and the little “eggs” which are half inch hemispheres. They come in three or four flavors/colors. Orange, lemon, lime and “Swedish Fish” flavor.
When I took the picture I didn’t know there was a difference between the light green eggs and the aqua eggs.
The Swedish Fish and the aqua eggs are the same berry flavor. Sweet, tangy and jammy.
The lemon eggs are mild, as are the orange ones. Not much zest or juice to it, but still an ultra smooth chewy gel. The lime ones were surprising and more sweet as far as I could tell and more zesty.
On the whole they were fun, the teensy eggs were different but took away from the interactive part of eating a regular size Swedish Fish (biting & pulling it apart).
These are made in Canada but there’s no allergen statement on the box. They contain no animal products, nut products or apparent gluten ingredients but you may want to check with Cadbury directly. They also may be vegan, depending on how you feel about eating mineral oil. (There’s no glaze or dairy in it.)
Monday, March 8, 2010
The flavors are Lemon, Apple, Orange, Tangy Cherry, Tangy Punch and Watermelon.
All the candies are sherbet colors, soft, opaque pastels. They’re bouncy and squishy, not quite greasy but they definitely cling together readily.
I expected them to be big, about the same size as the hoops known as LifeSavers Gummies, which themselves are larger than the hard candy version. Instead they’re actually smaller than the little images on the package. These cute and plump little shapes are barely the size of a traditional gummi bear. (I threw an M&M in there for you to see the scale.)
Blue is Tangy Punch - it reminds me of Hawaiian Punch. It’s tangy of course and has an artificial flavor to go with the tropical fruit.
Green is Apple - it’s far less tart than I expected. A little like apple juice.
Orange is Orange - it looks like sherbet and tastes rather like it too, soft and mellow with a light sour note but mostly a juice flavor.
Red is Watermelon - at first I thought it’d be cherry. The watermelon reminded me of Jolly Ranchers in the best possible way. Fresh, a little more intensely fruity than the real melon and of course an artificial version of the actual flavor.
Lemon is Yellow - I didn’t care much for this one, it had a metallic note, like drinking lemonade in a can.
Pink is Tangy Cherry - this is not the cherry I associate with LifeSavers. It’s far too mild and though it’s called Tangy Cherry, it’s not terribly sour at all.
On the whole they’re adorable, rather mild but nothing extraordinary. Gummis for Easter aren’t that common, so it’s nice to see a themed product. There is no allergen statement on the package but it does contain gelatin and of course artificial colors & flavors. It doesn’t say anything about gluten or nuts.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
What I found most interesting about them, as the gooey center has been done quite a bit already, is the flavor array. These aren’t ordinary berries. Though there’s no Snozzberry the flavors are: Raspberry, Blueberry, Goji Berry and Cloud Berry.
Like the other new Wonka gummis, these are made in the Czech Republic and boast no artificial flavors or colors.
Each piece is about the same diameter as a nickel (about 3/4”). They’re high and domed candies. They’re not greasy to the touch, just soft and matte. They have a translucent amber colored gummi top with a dark red fruity goo center and it all sits on an opaque white base.
The texture is soft and chewy, with a good latexy bounce to it. The molding of each of the pieces is great and for filled gummies, I was pleased to see that none of them had oozed in the bag.
The goo reservoir in the center is rather small, just a little dab. It’s also not liquid, more of a jelly so it’s more moist than the rest of the gummi, but not a flowing syrup.
Raspberry (far right) is vivid and jammy. It’s not quite specific enough to be exclusively a raspberry, sometimes I thought it was more like a blackberry with a little black cherry note to it.
Blueberry (middle) is also lightly tangy. The unique flavors come from the goo center. It’s a little more tannic, more like it has notes of black tea mixed with the more vanilla berry flavors.
Cloud Berry - I’ve never eaten a cloud berry so I can’t talk about the authenticity of the flavor. What I can say is that it pretty much tastes like all the other gummis in this assortment. It might have a little note of green apple, but it’s very pleasant and a little more custard-like, probably because of the white kind of marshmallowy base. This was the most prevalent flavor in the bag, so I had quite a few of them.
I was hoping these would be a little more vibrant, that they’d have a little more pizazz. Wonka candies are usually known for being bold. Candies like Nerds and Runts are very specific. These were kind of tame. I appreciate the risks of making a naturally flavored & colored product and the unusual actual berry flavors instead of made up flavors. On the other side of that coin, all the flavors went together really well so it’s not like I noticed getting a “bad” flavor.
The allergen info on the bag has all the hot targets on it: made on shared equipment with peanuts, nuts, soy, milk, wheat and eggs. Also, it contains gelatin so it’s not vegetarian friendly.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Long before Hershey’s came out with Kissables, they had a product called Hershey-ets. They were introduced in 1954 and were pretty much direct competitors to M&Ms. They never quite took off so by 1978 the machinery for Hershey-ets was turned over to the Reese’s Pieces project and Hershey-ets were only made seasonally.
My personal memories of these candy covered chocolate lentils are pretty vague. I know that I could get them at Hershey Park in little vending machines for a dime or quarter for a handful. (Not to be confused with the machines that dispensed duck food.) The only reliable time, for many years, to find Hershey-ets was around the holidays when they were sold in Christmas colors and found in bags in the baking aisle or in these cute little clear plastic canes.
Then the disappeared in 2006 with the introduction of Kissables (2005)... then Kissables were reformulated from their original candy-coated milk chocolate drops formula into candy-coating mockolate in 2008... then they were quietly discontinued in 2009. Earlier this year Hershey’s announced a new product line called Pieces, which would add to the existing Reese’s Pieces line three new products: York Peppermint Pattie Pieces, Almond Joy Pieces and Hershey’s Special Dark Pieces. One item missing from that list was a classic milk chocolate version ... the Hershey-ets.
So I can’t say I was surprised when I stumbled on a display of Hershey’s Canes at Target a few weeks ago. They featured the Hershey’s Canes I remembered from my childhood - a clear plastic tube filled with Hershey-ets (green & red) or Reese’s Pieces (in white, green & red). They were only 99 cents so I picked up a few.
There’s not much to say about the construction of them, as most Earthlings are familiar with this candy construction. Milk chocolate ovoid covered with a brightly colored sugar shell.
Are they just smashed Kissables or are they mini Hershey’s Easter Milk Chocolate Eggs?
Kissables Original (2006) Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, milk fat, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR & artificial flavors), sugar, red #40, yellow #5, yellow #6, blue #1 & carnauba wax.
Hershey-ets (2009) Ingredients: Sugar, milk, cocoa butter, chocolate, contains 2% or less of artificial colors (yellow #5, red #40, blue #1), corn syrup, corn starch, modified food starch, resinous glaze, soy lecithin, carnauba wax, vanillin. (Manufactured on shared equipment with peanuts).
I don’t have a wrapper for the classic Hershey’s Eggs, but just by tasting these I’m going with a mini version of the Hershey’s Eggs. What’s weird is that there’s no PGPR in there.
Finally, since they look and act like M&Ms, I also did a little one-to-one comparison. Hershey-ets are little bulkier, a little less tapered at the edges. The shell is also thicker, so there’s more crunch.
M&Ms milk chocolate is sweet and tastes a bit like cocoa with a light peanut touch and milk. Not intense and the shell is like a light crust. They’re very easy to eat, and keep eating though they never quite fill me up.
Hershey-ets milk chocolate is classic Hershey’s tang. Honestly, sticking my nose in the little tube, it smelled like chevre, or at the very least, chocolate cheesecake. The tangy yogurt note cuts through the sweetness a bit, and the extra crunchy shell provides more than just melting protection. Still, they’re every sweet and after a handful they gave me a sore throat. I enjoy the fact that they’re so different from M&Ms, but they’re not quite the jumbo pop of the Easter version that I prefer which has more shell and more of an uninterrupted fudgy chocolate flavor and texture. I easily ate both tubes I had over two days.
Lately I’ve found that Hershey’s chocolate has tasted a little rancid, a little more like burps than is considered polite for candy. I’ve been blaming it on PGPR, which I think either adds some sort of off flavor or allows the flavors to oxidize quicker. These don’t seem to have that problem. The flavor, though tangy with that slightly caramelized milk note is still there, but either sealing them in the little airtight candy shell or the lack of PGPR gives me back my classic Hershey’s chocolate.
Though I don’t remember them, they were once available in single serve packages just like M&Ms, Candy Wrapper Archive has an image of them from the 60s. Retro Commercials remembers when Hershey-ets were sold by the bucket.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I love it when the Candy Blog community points me to something new. We have a little conversation going on in the Candy Blog Forums about the 2009 holiday candy offerings. One that ruffy mentioned was Hershey’s Kisses Filled with Irish Creme. I found them at Target as well and I suspect since no one else has seen them anywhere else that they may be a Target exclusive this year.
Irish Cream is a combination of flavors and textures; it’s usually heavy cream, whiskey and coffee. Kisses filled with Irish Creme are less of that. There’s no actual whiskey in there, for starters. It’s a molded chocolate shell filled with a sugar and oil paste with some milk products (nonfat milk and whey) and artificial flavoring. So maybe a more accurate name would be Kisses filled with Sweet Flavored Whey Paste.
While my confidence level in them was low, I was also plenty curious. The dark green bag and gold wrappers with green fireworks on them were certainly appealing.
The smell, when I pushed my face into the bag, is actually mildly alcoholic. I don’t know how they did that, but it definitely has a bit of a whiskey note.
Out of the foil it’s even more noticeable - more than just bourbon vanilla, this smells like strong stuff. The chocolate flavors of the molded shell aren’t much. It’s smooth enough, with a slight fudgy grain that’s definitely candy-like. The center is a bit of a paste, thicker than the cordial creme in some of the Kisses. It’s not quite grainy and rather like a fondant. The center is a little bit salty so it has an immediate difference from the chocolate shell. The whiskey flavors of woodsy alcohol are there along with a slightly warm and cozy background note.
The liquor flavor though has an odd medicinal quality, especially later on. It’s like the after effects of Cepacol or some other throat anesthetic. Eating another one kind of gets rid of the benzocaine & menthol aftertaste by introducing the primary tastes of sugar, milk and whiskey flavored cheesecake.
I’m not blown away, but they are different than the last few flavors. But a true coffee flavored Kiss might be a nice change one of these days or an Egg Nog for the holidays.
Monday, November 9, 2009
The problem with Mr. Goodbar was that it was never Mr. Greatbar in the first place. When Hershey’s replaced the cocoa butter in it, I completely lost interest. So, I’ve been looking for Mr. Betterbar because I still believed there could be a simple, satisfying combination of milk chocolate and fresh roasted peanuts. When I was at the Target in Harbor City shortly before Halloween I spotted this new bar: Green & Black’s Peanut. Since Green & Black’s is organic and expensive, I thought for sure it was going to be better.
After I got the bar home and photographed it, I read a little closer to see that it wasn’t just a plain milk chocolate with whole (or half) pieces of peanuts. No, this was something quite different but still equally compelling: Milk chocolate with caramelized peanuts and a hint of sea salt - 37% Cocoa Content.
The bar looks smooth and shiny. It also looks darker than most milk chocolate bars, somewhere between a true dark and a milk chocolate. I like how Green & Black’s bars are just a little thicker than the Lindt Excellence or Scharffen Berger. This is great especially when there are inclusions, because it leaves room for them to stack and still be surrounded by chocolate.
The bar smells incredible. It’s deep and smoky with a great authentic peanut scent along with the faint hint of caramelized sugar and milk. The texture is equally great, there’s a silky smooth melt and a sweet dairy flavor along with some dark bitter notes of both chocolate and toasted nuts. The peanut flavors are quite strong, and the nuts themselves are crunchy but there’s also the wonderful surprise of both little buttery toffee bits and a crisp toffee coating on some of the peanuts. The salt is also a nice complement to the flavors, keeping the rather sweet milk chocolate from becoming too sticky and setting off the woodsy notes.
I ate this bar up in less than two days. Then I went looking for another. I still haven’t found one, but when I see it, I’ll buy it. Oddly enough, it’s still not the Mr. Goodbar substitute I was looking for, but I’m going to just be happy with the serendipity that brought it into my life and be grateful that my mistakes are so tasty.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Their line of individually wrapped bites called Fioretto differs from the Lindor Truffles in that it contains no tropical oils (palm, palm kernel or coconut).
These little morsels are more of a cross between Perugina Baci and Ferrero Rocher.
I liked the little stand up bag, it’s simple and not too fussy. What I liked even more is that they sell the chocolates in single flavor bags plus this assortment of all three. To top it all off, Target had them on sale for $2.50 a bag (regularly $3.50). While that sounds like a good deal, it’s not like there’s a lot in the bag - it’s 4.1 ounces and holds 10 pieces.
The Nougat Hazelnut Praline is in a blue wrapper, which may be the universal color of hazelnut.
Inside the cellophane the little candy is further wrapped in paper-backed foil. The pieces are about 1.25” in diameter and barely 1” tall. They’re lumpy affairs with obvious cereal crunchies lurking below the milk chocolate coating.
They smell sweet and milky, and a little like malty rice crispies.
Biting into them is quite a journey of textures. The chocolate shell does have crisped rice bits in it. Then the center is a soft hazelnut cream with crushed hazelnuts in it. The hazelnut aroma comes out quite distinctly once the seal has been broken.
It’s sweet but with a good bit of hazelnut and milk flavor to it. It’s sticky and a bit cloying but the variety of nut & cereal crunches break that up.
Cappuccino was a bit of a mystery, as the package didn’t really have any description. So I was pleased to see it was a milk chocolate shell (not a white chocolate one). It does smell like rich dark espresso with a liberal helping of sugar.
Like the hazelnut, there were crisped rice bits in the shell. The center here, though, had no nuts. Instead it was a creamy coffee, milk & chocolate filling. It’s a bit crumbly but melts easily. It has a strong coffee flavor and even bits of coffee beans in there (not my favorite way to get coffee flavor).
I liked the flavors and the crisped rice covered up some of the bitterness associated with the little crunchy coffee bits.
As I mentioned at the top, there were 10 pieces in my package. As you might imagine there were at least three of each ... and the flavor that got four was Caramel.
The wrapper is a tantalizing burnt orange. It smells a bit buttery and like Stroopwaffles (if you’ve ever had those, you’ll know what I mean).
The consistent element in the Fioretto is the chocolate shell with a moderate amount of crisped rice in it. It’s creamy and sweet, but doesn’t have a super chocolate punch to it, allowing whatever center is there to be the dominant flavor.
The caramel center is smooth and almost like a pudding. There’s a faint cinnamon or mild spice in there, like this is a baked good instead of a chocolate. It’s a comforting sweet flavor and texture, but lacking that bunch of “caramel” that I would expect to have notes of butter, salt and burnt sugar.
I prefer these over the Lindor Truffle line, if only because they seem more chocolate-based than oily. I would love to see them in a dark chocolate version.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.