Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Rolos were introduced in the United Kingdom back in 1937 by Mackintosh’s, which was a well known toffee company. (Toffee in the UK is generally more like caramel is in the United States, soft and chewy or actually a flowing syrup.) Mackintosh later merged with Rowntree (creator of the KitKat) in 1969 and that company was then bought up by Nestle in 1987. Though Nestle and Hershey’s are huge rivals in the United States, Hershey’s maintains their license for Rolos and KitKats here.
Rolos are available in two formats currently, the rolls with an individual serving and foil wrapped versions which are usually sold in mixes in bags along with other Hershey’s favorites. (Here’s an early Candy Blog review of Rolos.)
Rolo Minis are new from Hershey’s, to go with the other items in the new Hershey’s minis line like Hershey’s Drops and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Minis. They’re a smaller version of the popular candy, though might not have the precise ratios of elements. The point, I guess, is to provide candies that don’t have all that messy packaging:
Why is it called a Rolo? One of the key features wasn’t what the candy was, but how it was packaged, it was a roll. That’s it. But here it is in a bag. They kind of roll, but just in small circles. They’re just little knobs of milk chocolate with a chewy caramel filling. That could be called anything.
Geometrically speaking, the form of a Rolo is called frustum-shaped. That is, a cone that has had its pointy end lopped off. So the base is wider than the top. In the case of Rolos, there’s also a little rim around the top, which has no purpose as far as I know. There is no logo or any other branding on the candy itself.
The pieces are rather scuffed up from rolling around in that bag. In fact, they’ve come all the way from England, where they were made. Seemed a little odd to me, but these are imported from England and made by, well, I’m guessing Nestle.
Though the chocolate is a bit dry looking, it’s actually pretty good. It’s smooth enough to melt well, the caramel center is stiff enough to provide a good chew but not so hard to pull out any teeth. They remind me of a softer version of Milk Duds back when they were made with real milk chocolate.
Overall, they’re much better, less sweet and smoother than the large version of Rolos. I found myself munching on these a lot more readily than the regular Rolos. They go well in a mix, too, with some nuts and pretzels.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
While cruising around for Christmas candy at the grocery store after a dentist appointment I spotted these Norfolk Manor Crunchy Nuggets. They’re British, I know this because there’s a Union Jack flag on the front of the box. (Which leads me to believe that this is not a product or brand that’s actually sold in England.)
The candy is similar to the Cadbury Crunchie or Violet Crumble bars, a chocolate covered nugget of sponge candy. I can find sponge candy at local candy shops that make their own candy, like Littlejohn Toffee, but they usually do big hunks of the stuff covered in either milk or dark chocolate. The appeal with this product is that they’re just little nuggets in various shapes and sizes, easy to grab by the handful and snack on.
The box says that they’re Milk Chocolate Covered Honeycomb Pieces but in reality the coating does not actually meet the American standard for chocolate, as there is whey in there (considered a substandard filler). So, it’s actually mislabeled.
Inside the rather large box is a much smaller packet of candy. I’d say that this is also misleading, there’s no need and no expected settling for this much candy, which took up about half of the volume of the box. Even if the cellophane pouch that held the candy was completely full, it wouldn’t have filled more than 2/3 of the volume.
The nuggets are cute and appealing. They’re shiny and well coated. None of them were left with little bald spots, which with sponge candy can allow moisture to deflate them.
The honeycomb or sponge candy texture was not as foamy or flavorful as I’d hoped. It was more like Violet Crumble’s dense texture than the Cadbury Crunchy’s pumice type of foam. The flavor of burnt and toasted sugar was missing for the most part, which is too bad because the mediocre, fudgy and milky chocolate-style coating isn’t good enough to make up for it.
I’d find these passable in a mix of other better candies, like some plain nuts, pretzels and chocolate covered nuts. The texture is definitely good but lacks the best qualities of sponge candy and actual good milk chocolate.
I’ve had the package for over month and only managed to finish them up while playing video games after Christmas. (Which is to say, mindless eating.) My opinion of Norfolk Manor isn’t very high after tasting their knock-offs of other iconic British standards like Wine Gums and Jelly Babies.
The package says that it’s made in a plant that processes peanuts and tree nuts. Contains soy and dairy. But it’s gluten free.
Friday, November 18, 2011
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a candy origin story quite like this before: The Original Harrogate Toffee was designed to clear the palate of the putrid taste of Harrogate’s Sulphur Water, famous in the 19th century for it’s healing properties.
Think about that for a moment. A candy was invented to cover up the taste of a drink that most of us would consider poison. (I’ve lived in an area with sulfur water before, we didn’t drink it.)
There’s no mention on their history page about the disposition of the Harrogate’s Suphur Water.
I bought my first tin of Farrah’s Original Harrogate Toffee (the larger of the two tins) back in 1995 when I first visited London. I picked up a few varieties of British-style toffee and this was the closest to what American’s think of as English Toffee. (That’s another long and convoluted thing I’m not going to get into right now.)
The tins are classic and honestly why I bought the candy both times.
The smaller tin holds 3.5 ounces, which ended up being 10 pieces of candy. The little toffee blocks were inside a cellophane pouch and wrapped individually in waxed paper twisted at the ends. Each piece is a little over a third of an ounce.
The ingredients are natural except for the flavoring. It includes lots of different kinds of sugar: sugar, glucose, cane sugar, demerara sugar, brown sugar, butter, soy lecithin and artificial lemon flavor.
The candy is a cross between hard candy and toffee. It’s mostly sugar but has a nice note of butter to it, which also gives it a cloudy appearance and interesting “cleave” when crunched. It’s sweet and has mild burnt and toasted sugar notes and a light kiss of lemon zest. It’s quite different from most other toffees or butterscotches.
The price is a bit much, but I assume I was paying for the tin. It was $5.99 for the teensy thing with its handful of candy in it. But it’s nostalgic and classic and the tin has a hinge on it and will likely find a spot in my desk for binder clips or flash drives once the candy is gone.
My desire for this may change if I find myself drinking a lot of sulfur water.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Marmite is a popular spread in the United Kingdom and other countries of the crown such as South Africa and New Zealand (though each has a different variation). It’s made from yeast extract and is rich in B vitamins. It was popular during the wars especially because it provided important vitamins and minerals for children that were otherwise scarce in their protein poor diets. In addition to the yeast extract there are some other flavorful vegetable additives such as onion, garlic and celery.
The idea of adding savory items and flavors to chocolate is not new. However, Marmite is probably one of the most savory of all ingredients as it’s pretty much pure umami with a little dash of salt. Umami is one of the five tastes that we can perceive with the tongue. The savory notes of food are made up of glutamates and nucleotides. Things can be savory even without salt, think of unsalted beef broth.
The peculiar part of this chocolate makes up very little of its bulk. The ingredients list that 98% of the bar is milk chocolate. The remaining 2% is Marmite.
My desire to eat this bar is very low. I’ve never had Marmite, but I have tried Vegemite, a similar product from Australia. It’s quite salty and has a strong savory flavor with a hint of vegetable broth. It was very smooth, almost like a jelly. After photographing this bar I left these little pieces pictured here on the shooting table but sealed up the rest of the package for later sampling. I intended to return and put the chocolate away after dinner, but didn’t get around to it for several days. When I returned to the room (which I keep shut up, because I have a dog), I feared that I had an insulation fire. It smelled strange, there was a hot, burnt plastic smell in the room. So I felt the walls and inspected the outlets and turned all the lights on and off. I went outside and looked at the house and sniffed around in the closets above the chocolate studio. Later I came back into the room and realized that it was the little pile of chocolate pieces.
I admit my mind is not open.
Opening the package again, it’s not really a burnt smell that I was greeted with. It was the smell of vitamins. You know, that vaguely yeasty smell that comes with those horsepills that are fortified with B vitamins and maybe even a few minerals. It’s not bad and maybe there’s a little hint of milk in the background. I’m trying to adjust my head to think that it’s molasses and other earthy flavors that I enjoy.
The snap is good and the initial bite gave me a mild salty note along with the milky chocolate. It’s a little malty and yes, there’s a savory and peppery sort of taste to it, kind of like cheese. But there’s also a little hint of the sulfurish onion and garlic. There’s also a little mineral note towards the end that reminds me of dried milk, sweat and that weird flavor in the back of my throat when I have a sinus infection. There’s also a lot of salt, about 300 mg per bar, which is about 100 mg per serving.
I’d say that it’s okay. I think the idea of a yeast extract infusion to add flavor and vitamins to chocolate isn’t a bad one, but the fact that there are those more vegetable flavors in there does not create a pleasant combination.
I admit I only had about four bites of this stuff. While it is peculiar, it’s not enough to keep me interested enough to continue eating it.
Friday, February 11, 2011
A few years back I was introduced to Walkers’ Nonsuch Toffees courtesy of my Candy Blog efforts. It’s a British toffee product that’s more akin to American caramel than the hard toffee we’re accustomed to in the States. They come in a wide variety of flavors and even a few formats (bars that require a smack & unwrap approach to individually wrapped nuggets).
I was really excited to visit the Walkers’ Nonsuch booth at the ISM Cologne candy fair and was gifted this lovely bag of one of my favorites: Walkers’ Nonsuch Treacle Toffee. I’ve tried it before in the bar format and was more than pleased. I haven’t, however, been exposed much to their nuggets. Much of the time, I prefer candies that are well packaged, and twisted wrappers on something that’s vulnerable to moisture like caramels meant that I stuck to the sealed bars. But a trade show is a place where I’m confident that the candy is fresh and well treated.
Treacle is a syrup made from sugar cane and is basically just a bit lighter than Black Strap Molasses.
The pieces are soft and satiny, a thick medallion about 1 inch to 1.25 inches in diameter. The chew is soft and smooth, like a fresh caramel. The buttery notes are evident right away but most notable are the deep toasted sugar notes of molasses. There’s very little bitterness or metallic aftertaste like I notice with some molasses candies. Molasses does have a high mineral content and this can be evident to even untrained palates. It’s a little salty with coffee notes and even a touch of deep cocoa. Other earthy flavors flit in and out, like beets and licorice and ginger. Overall it’s nutty, like pecans or Brazil nuts but has an exceptionally smooth chew.
I love these. I got one full bag at the ISM Show, which are extremely fresh with an expiry date of December 15, 2011. I really hope I can find these somewhere in Los Angeles in the future (but I’ll be content with the bar format) because they’re already gone. For people who love rich caramel chews with the deep flavors of molasses, these are a must.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Here in the United States we have an iconic candy bar called Milky Way. There are a few different versions of it, it comes in dark chocolate (Milky Way Midnight) and an all caramel version called Milky Way Caramel.
In the United Kingdom and much of Europe the bar is called Mars and comes in a dark version as well as some other more fanciful varieties such as this Mars Delight bar that I picked up at Mel & Rose Wine & Liquors. I liked the design of the package and I was wondering if it was like the Milky Way Crispy Rolls (which are not based on the American Milky Way, but the UK Milky Way, which is like our 3 Musketeers).
The package says that it’s Surprisingly Crispy, Deliciously Smooth. The ingredients listing also helpfully breaks down each element of the bar into percentages and separate ingredients, which I love. The bar is 10% crispy rippled wafers (they’re very airy), caramel cream (21%), cocoa cream (24%) covered in milk chocolate (44%).
The bars were lovely. It’s hard to believe that this bar, which was only weeks away from its expiry date and half a world way in a flimsy wrapper looked so good. Each is about 2.5 inches long and pretty wide. Each one has about 99 calories in it, so maybe it’s for dieters who want a little treat. (Still, I think 200 calories for a whole package is a bit steep, I don’t think many folks will be able to control themselves and eat only one.)
The milk chocolate is soft but smooth and creamy. It has a pleasant fresh dairy flavor to it and an overall sweetness that’s deep and malty. The advertised caramel and cocoa cream wasn’t as evident to me, there was a bit of something in there between the chocolate and the wafers but nothing notable - not much texture and the caramel notes just came across as more malty sweetness. The wafers were light and crunchy with a toffee note to them, more like corn flakes than wheat flour wafers.
I enjoyed them enough that I ate both, but there was a full week between the two sessions. It didn’t leave me wanting more and the fact that I paid a ridiculous $1.75 for this because it was an import left me wanting it to be far superior to something I can get at any drug store. I think I’ll stick with the Q.bel bars, just because they’re easier to find not just because they’re cheaper but also use better ingredients. However, if Mars wanted to make these for the American market, I think I’d be more inclined to buy them, especially if they came in a dark version.
The bars were introduced in 2007 and had some pretty radical advertisements.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I picked up this package of Bassett’s Mint Favourites because it looked like a fun bunch of candies that were different from what we have here in the United States. It features: Mint Toffees, Murray Mints, Murray Butter Mints and Everton Mints.
I don’t know much about Murray Mints, so I tried to do a little research. They’ve been around since at least the fifties and were also sold in rolls. They were also one word, Murraymints. I think they were an independent company that made them, I can’t find any reference in their advertisements to Bassett’s or any other company that Bassett’s swallowed up like Trebor or other Cadbury properties.
Murray Mints were known as the too good to hurry mints. Here’s a set of old animated television advertisements.
So what are these classic hard candy mints like?
Bassett’s Murray Mints
The lightest tasting mint of the group, it was also a bit larger. The mint was mild and sweet, the texture of the candy is smooth. There’s a lot of milk in it, so the candy was a cross between a standard boiled hard candy and an American style crunchy toffee. I detected a note of clove in it, which wasn’t that appealing to me, but I appreciated the complex flavor combination of milk, mint and spices.
Bassett’s Murray Butter Mint
An actual buttery hard candy mint, rather like putting milk in a peppermint tea. It’s a little salty and a little like butterscotch. The center of the hard candy has a softer, chewy center. The peppermint is strong but not overpowering. Fresh but a little bit more earthy with the addition of salt and the creamy butter and even a hint of honey. I liked this one better than the classic Murray Mint.
Bassett’s Mint Toffee
At the store I had a choice of this Mint Favorites mix and just a bag of the Mint Toffee. I figured I’d like the toffee, but I wanted to variety to at least see the whole line of mint favorites. British Toffee is what we refer to as caramel in the United States. It’s usually firm but chewy, but sometimes is the style that’s soft and crumbly. Mostly toffee is in reference to any sugar that’s been boiled to the point of turning the flavor.
The piece is beefy, about an inch and a quarter long. It’s soft on the outside but a bit stiffer at the center (so it needed to warm up to chew). It’s quite buttery and has a strong dairy flavor more like milk or cream and of course an overriding peppermint flavor on top of that. The caramel flavors are a little lost, they can’t stand up to the mint, but the whole effect is still pleasant. The chew is smooth and lasts quite a while. It leaves a fresh feeling at the end.
I’m definitely keen on trying more of the Bassett’s toffee line after this.
Bassett’s Everton Mints
I thought this was going to be a licorice mint. Instead it’s more like a menthol mint, a cough drop flavor. It’s a combination of the peppermint and eucalyptus. It’s strong enough to give me a combination of burning and cooling in the back of my sinuses passages. The candy itself is smooth, with few voids, much nicer than the standard Halls cough drop. The chewy center is a bit more mellow but has a light anise and soft vanilla note.
Overall, a great mix that gives a clear sense of the similarities and differences between North American and British boiled sweets. Good quality and distinctive and ultimately satisfying. They’re all natural, though rather expensive here in the States at $4 for only 7 ounces.
Monday, October 11, 2010
The Cadbury Flake has been made for 90 years by Cadbury and has a clever little story to go with it. The story goes that a line worker in the Cadbury factory noticed that the over-run of the one their molds made little folded sheets of chocolate that was a tasty way to eat the chocolate. They’re billed as The crumbliest, flakiest milk chocolate..
I’ve had a few of the Flake bars over the years and never quite understood them (and preferred the versions that were dipped in chocolate). They seemed chalky and sweet but not chocolatey. So I thought I’d give it another try. I got a hold of a very fresh bar (expires February 2011).
The ingredients are similar to all of the Cadbury’s UK milk chocolate offerings. This bar was made in Ireland and contains: Milk, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, vegetable fat, emulsifier, flavoring. Milk solids are listed at 14% and the cocoa solids are 25%. So it’s a lot of chocolate and milk ... but there’s also a little bit of vegetable fat in there, which by United States FDA standards means that this doesn’t qualify as real chocolate.
Again, I’m coming to this bar with an outsider’s perspective. I didn’t grow up with it and I’ve never seen any advertisements for the bar. So taken at face value, the idea of a bar made of chocolate shavings is interesting, I like it when I find a pile of chocolate shavings on my dessert. The reality of the bar isn’t quite as attractive. It reminds me of elephant skin. It’s about six inches long and holds together well.
It smells a bit like cheesecake instead of milk chocolate. The dairy tang is like yogurt or cream cheese. It’s a bit crumbly upon biting, but not as bad as I’d feared. The texture is soft and chalky, but not quite fudgy. It dissolves more than it melts. It’s not sticky sweet, I think the milk notes cut that, but the cocoa isn’t quite as apparent for such a high cacao milk chocolate (as far as American chocolate goes for comparison).
The crumbly texture doesn’t feel decadent or indulgent to me, it just feels old or stale. The sour note to the milk wasn’t pleasant (though I can imagine becoming acclimated to it).
The bars are marketed as a low calorie, highly pleasurable experience. But they’re hardly low in fat, they’re about normal at 150 calories per ounce for chocolate, it’s just the portion that’s small at only 1.13 ounces per bar.
This bar is just a little shorter than the plain version, about 5 inches. It’s also made in Ireland.
The scent is a little nuttier, but still have the dairy note. This one also had a little more cocoa to it.
The bite was softer and the hazelnut was immediately apparent. There were little hazelnut bits and a nice roasted flavor overall. It seemed a bit moister and a bit fudgier ... but it also felt sweeter. So much so that my throat was seared by it after consuming half the bar.
I understand that these bars are remarkably different than others, but it’s just not something that appeals to me. The dryness just takes away all the fatty mouthfeel for me. I’m not keen on the fact that they’re not real chocolate, considering how expensive they are in the States, for that money I’ll get something that really pleases me.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.