Monday, October 10, 2005
Name: Turkish Delight
I’ve included a couple of reviews here for Turkish Delight (or Turkish Paste), which is a rather obscure kind of candy in the States. I found this chocolate covered Turkish delight bar at Cost Plus. It’s a little smaller than a deck of cards.
What intrigued me at first was the quote on it that said that it was “Full of Eastern Promise.” At first I thought it said Easter, so I was confused enough to pick it up and look closer.
The bar is basically a delicately rose flavored jelly center covered with sweet milk chocolate. I happen to like flowery flavors, so it’s a big hit with me. It isn’t heavy and cloying like some fruit, minty or nut flavors can be and it has a pleasant aftertaste that lingers, like I’ve eaten a bouquet.
Being chocolate covered it also solves a common problem I have with Turkish delight, in that it’s usually covered in corn starch, which is just freakishly messy. I just wish it weren’t so danged expensive. Turkish Paste is usually about $8.00 a pound, but this stuff would end up being over $15 a pound. But the cool thing is that most other Turkish Paste is sold in 1/2 pound boxes and I don’t usually want that much, so I guess there is a middle ground in there.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Name: Jelly Babies
If you have ever watched Dr. Who with Tom Baker, you’ve seen him carry around that little white paper bag and offer folks Jelly Babies. I never knew what they were, just that they were different from jelly beans and not quite Swedish fish. I finally stumbled across them at a little grocer I stopped in after a meeting in San Francisco over the weekend that carried a lot of UK candies (I picked up a very fresh Curly Wurly while I was there too!).
Unfortunately, not having grown up in the UK, that is the sum total of my exposure to them. I had no idea until I started to make this post that the different colors had some sort of personality. This site has a pretty good history of the candies (apologies as they seem to have put black text on a dark blue background). The important thing to note about this review is the brand - these are Norfolk Manor Jelly Babies. The Bassett’s Jelly Babies (the original) are not imported into the US (so I’ll have to have someone grab some in the UK).
A jelly baby is simply a jelly candy with a grainy, crystallized sugar coating on it. Not quite a smooth as a jelly bean, the coating is like a very fine granulated sugar, only with flavor.
The colors are quite nice, in soothing herbal colors of red, green, another green, orange, yellow, another yellow, and black. The smell fruity and sweet, just like jelly beans. If you remember the Swedish Jelly Rats I reviewed a while back, they’re kind of like that, but larger and with a bit more of a sugary coating. The shapes are wonderful, little pudgy-bellied, round-headed babies. The babies are flavored according to their colors, but I wasn’t really able to figure it out. Orange is orange, yellow is lemon and one of the greens is lime. Beyond that, I can only say that they were fruity. Black might be currant, red might be strawberry.
They’re exceptionally sweet and the flavor has no hint of tart to it, just a slight blessing of fruit aroma for the most part. They cute and easy to share and of course they’re a nostalgia favorite for generations of Brits. I am, sadly, not terribly impressed with them. Should I find the Bassett’s, I will probably give them a try, just to be sure that I’m not missing something. Just for the record, I do like jelly candies in general: gummi bears and Swedish fish and even some jelly beans, these were just too sweet without enough flavor.
More about Jelly Babies here.
Rating - 4 out of 10 (alas, I don’t think I’m going to eat the rest of them)
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Yes, in the continuing quest to not only bring you the best and worst candies in the world, I’m going to educate you on the subtleties between our seemingly identical candy choices.
First, a little background (some of this I only know vaguely so feel free to correct me). M&Ms were originally developed as a candy for soldiers to give them quick energy in combat situations and be easy to carry. Some people wonder what M&M stands for, and many think it’s for the Mars brothers, but in reality it’s Forrest Mars, Sr. and Bruce Murrie. Murrie’s father was one of Hershey’s trusted partners at the company and provided the chocolate inside M&Ms until the 70s.
As with most UK treats under the Nestle name, they were originally made by Rowntree which was later swallowed up by the growing Nestle corporation. Developed several years before the M&M, Smarties are still one of the most popular candies in the UK. The UK version are purported to have orange chocolate flavored orange Smarties (and back when there was a brown Smartie it was mocha flavored) but I am using Canadian Smarties for this head to head.
First, Smarties are slightly bigger than M&Ms. An M&M is approximately 1 cm in diameter while the Smartie is 1.5 cms.
However, the Smartie is slightly flatter than the M&M. I didn’t weigh them.
The most noticeable difference between the two is the candy shell. The Smartie shell is much thicker and has a very pronounced crunch to it. It also seems to have a flavor. When I looked at the ingredients for the Smarties, I saw that there is wheat flour (and cornstarch & sugar) in the shell whereas the M&M shell is made only of sugar, cornstarch and color. The Smartie has a slightly graham cracker taste to it. It’s pleasant and perhaps a little cinnamonny (I know there’s no cinnamon in it). The M&M provides more chocolate punch. I guess geometry would tell me that even if the mass of the Smartie is the same as an M&M it still has more shell by virtue of being less spherical.
As appearances go, they’re both exceptionally pretty candies. Given a choice between the two, I prefer less shell and more chocolate. In reality I usually buy Almond M&Ms more often than the plain ones, but if someone puts a bowl in front of me, I can hardly resist. But I can see that there would be times that I’d crave the cookie-like taste of the Smarties.
Friday, September 16, 2005
I know, you’re probably getting sick of me reviewing malt candies! But I’m not, as I’m on the search for the perfect malt candy in all markets. The description of Maltesers on the package is this, “Crisp, light honeycombed centres with chocolately coating.” In the States when a package says “chocolately” it means that the coating is not chocolate (it’s usually made with some other fat than cocoa butter). However, the ingredients list says Milk Chocolate in the first position, so it’s real chocolate (one of my pet peeves with Whoppers is that they use some sort of chocolatey wax).
What I noticed about these right away is that they’re small. About the size of a peanut M&M. The chocolate coating is rather thin, more like a shell than a dip. When you pop it in your mouth it’s rather easy to chip off 1/3 of the chocolate by chiseling it with the eye-teeth. At first I found the candy salty ... really salty for a malt ball. But then I came to really like the taste. The extra salt brings out the malt as a separate flavor from the chocolate. After chipping away most of the chocolate on many of them I let the malt honeycomb dissolve on my tongue. It’s a rather complex flavor, almost like a cereal flavor with good solid malty overtones along with some other notes that you’d find in a good hearty loaf of bread or kashi breakfast cereal.
At first I wasn’t wild about them, this exercise was more of an intellectual one, but as I ate more and more of them, I was trying to perfect removing the chocolate so that I could enjoy just the malted centers and found this to be a great activity while working tackling a rather complex project here at the office.
Next time in the UK or Canada, I’m definitely going to pick up more of these.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Tuesday, September 6, 2005
Much like the Cadbury bar, this is a pure milk chocolate bar. It’s hefty and the little bite size chunks that break off are the perfect size for your mouth. The color is pretty and the smell is mostly of vanilla.
It’s very sweet, that’s the first thing I notice. However, the creamy melt is very smooth though a little sticky. The thing that I rejoiced in, though, is that there is no “powdered milk” flavor, which I associate with Cadbury chocolates. It’s too sweet for me, as the sugary notes overwhelm the milk and chocolate flavors, I found it to be very pleasant. It was pretty good with my coffee this morning.
As a solid dark chocolate bar, I was hoping for more chocolate. I didn’t read the package ahead of time so I was surprised to see now that the first ingredient on the label is sugar. Called “The Original Plain Chocolate” on the label, it is rather plain. Since it’s so sweet, the chocolate notes don’t really come out readily.
I was about four chunks into it before I started tasting the notes. It’s a very consistent cocoa flavor, hardly any trace of bitterness but some slight smoky, woodsy notes. The package says 39% cocoa mass, which probably explains my disappointment. I’m not saying it should be 70%, I’m just thinking that a little more cocoa butter and less sugar might make for a smoother bar with more flavor. As a mass market consumer bar it’s on par with the American Hershey’s Special Dark. Nothing fantastic but probably very dependable. Too bad it’s not even vegan, the ingredients list butterfat.
You might wonder why the bar is called Bournville - it’s where Cadbury put their first large production facility in the 1870s.
Ratings - Galaxy - 6 out of 10
Friday, September 2, 2005
Name: Wine Gums
Imagine a gummi candy that smells like Elmer’s Glue. It took me a couple of days to figure out what they smelled like, but it was one of those non-toxic smells that kind of get under your skin.
There are a variety of colors/flavors in this package:
They’re random, not the systematic stacking that you can count on in a roll of Lifesavers. The flavors are smooth, not terribly tart, not terribly sweet. There is a definite musky taste to it, which is what I guess the “wine” part is. This is most noticeable in the purple one. The flavors kind of grew on me - at first I didn’t care for the purple one so I ate them first, then I was sad that I didn’t have any more.
What really suprised me is how much I liked the red ones. I’m not a fan of red candies but these weren’t too cherry or strawberry and had a nice sort of sizzly flavor to them. The only flavor I didn’t like was the green one, which tasted just like floor cleaner smells.
Next time I go to Canada or the UK, I’ll be sure to pick a roll of these up. They’re easy to carry and a good little zesty pick-me-up.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
It’s strange, but I got this bar (two different sizes) as a gift from two different people the same week. They’ve got good taste (thanks Ruth & Jay)! I’d first tried Green & Black’s last Thanksgiving when my sister-in-law brought a box of the little medallions to dinner. They were super, and not at all grainy like some other organic chocolates I’d tried.
Green & Black also uses Fair Trade suppliers for their cocoa and also organic. Green & Black was purchased by Cadbury Schweppes earlier this year.
This bar is a little different because it’s flavored. Maya Gold is dark chocolate with orange and spices. Think of that orange spice tea. The chocolate is smooth, rather sweet but doesn’t overpower the chocolate flavors. The main spicy flavor note that I detect is clove, which I don’t normally like, but it works well with orange. There’s a little hint of vanilla and perhaps some nutmeg.
Overall, it’s not my favorite flavor of chocolate, but the consistency of the chocolate itself is very good. Not quite as buttery as the Chocovic last week, but sweeter and I can see myself eating more of this in one sitting.
Other reading - here’s more about G&B’s Fair Trade Maya Gold bar.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Name: Toffee Crisp
I have to say that I think I am always bound to like candy that comes in orange wrappers. Perhaps it’s that I already associate it with Reese’s which is a fine brand. The package describes it as “toffee and crisped cereal filled milk chocolate” which I’d probably reverse and call it chocolate covered toffee and crisped cereal, but really, they’ve got all the bases filled.
This combo might sound familiar to those who have had a Nestle 100 Grand, which is milk chocolate and crisped rice covering caramel. In this incarnation the crisped rice is mixed in some sort of toffee flavored cream (and not in with the chocolate covering) and then has a stripe of caramel on the top and is then covered in crumbly milk chocolate (it could be that my bar was beaten up).
It’s sweet and really satisfying because it’s so big. (I don’t think the photo conveys the size, think of a fat Snickers bar.) The toffee part of is a bit lost on me, as far as I can tell there is no actual toffee in here. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. This bar would fit into my list of bars to eat when I’m hankering for a crunchy bar. Much better than a Crunch or Krackle because of the added creamy crisped rice and you know I never argue with good chewy caramel. It’s kind of like the Whatchamacallit, except it doesn’t have a peanut butter component (but if they made one, I’d be down with that).
Rating - 7 out of 10
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