Tuesday, September 30, 2014
At first I wasn’t sure what these were. The back of the package says real dried cranberries! covered in rich Ghirardelli chocolate!. But the front says that it’s infused with raspberry juice and a touch of freeze-dried cherries.. A quick peek at the ingredients doesn’t show anything else, except that the cranberries have some sunflower oil in them (makes them more pliable). At first I thought they were like the Brookside fruit things, a little jelly center with some dried cranberries thrown in, but instead they’re actually dried cranberries with some other fruits thrown in.
The Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Cranberry are packaged like the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews I also picked up at the same time, expect this package is pink instead of light blue. The stand up gusset bag reseals after opening with a zip lock, which is common in these morselized treats these days.
The ingredients and other packaging don’t say how dark the chocolate is, they call it semi-sweet and it has dairy fats in it. I’d guess somewhere around 55-60% cacao.
They smell very fruity, like cooking jam or a baking pie. It’s alluring ... and they are darling little morsels. The sizes are irregular, but each is wonderfully panned with a glossy shine.
The bite is soft, softer than I would expect from a piece of dried fruit. The cranberries are plump (I guess plumped with the other fruit additions and a touch of tapioca syrup). It’s immediately tangy and with that light tannic bitterness that cranberries have. The chocolate is smooth, though not quite silky, it offsets the fruit very well and brings its own dry finish.
I found these very satisfying and preferred the texture of the centers to regular raisins or dried cranberries which can be grainy or overly chewy. Though there’s a lot less fat in here than many chocolate treats, with only 120 calories per ounce, that means there’s also more sugars, though some are obviously from the fruit and not as readily available. There’s also 2 grams of fiber, 10% of your vitamin C and 8% of your RDA of iron.
Friday, September 26, 2014
As if Circus Peanuts weren’t enough of an enigma, now they’re branching out into seasonal varieties.
If you’re not familiar with Circus Peanuts, they’re a fluffy, grainy, marshmallow shaped like a peanut, the same color as an orange creamsicle but flavored like bananas. Every once in a while you see other holiday shapes, like bunnies for Easter. Though I’m only a fan of Circus Peanuts by concept, because once I actually eat one I wonder what I was thinking. They have some sort of hypnotic amnesia field around them, and I often forget I don’t like them and eat them. (I think there’s a genetic component to this, there are some people who are immune to this and know they hate them and can avoid them, then there are others who actually like them so there’s no need for the amnesia.)
Melster Marshmallow Candy Corn Circus Peanuts are basically not banana flavored, but candy corn flavored ... and not just orange, but also yellow and white.
Here are the things that recommend them:
Here’s the top reason to buy them: You’ve always wanted to like Circus Peanuts but you were turned off by the flavor. Don’t worry, Candy Corn Circus Peanuts have no flavor. (I’m just going to call them CCCP now.)
If you’re a fan of marshmallows in your cereal, like Lucky Charms, these are actually a pretty good version of that as a candy. The original Lucky Charms marbits were Circus Peanuts, but I think these match the flavor better.
These were fresh and do smell lightly like vanilla and sugar. It’s comforting. Rather clean and bright. The bite is soft, but the texture is grainy. They’re like a marshmallow, but much denser ... but not quite a nougat. Really, they taste just like a very sugary marshmallow. If you’ve ever wanted Campfire Marshmallows with more sugar in them, this is for you.
These can’t even muster being divisive like the banana Circus Peanuts, that’s how ineffectual they are. That said, there’s a Peppermint version for Christmas ... Candy Warehouse (who provided these) also sent some of those, I can’t wait!
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Ghirardelli is one of America’s oldest chocolate companies, founded in 1852, and is known mostly for their chocolate bars and baking products. I was surprised to see they’re now making panned chocolates, but I definitely snapped up this bag of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews at Target. It was on sale for $4.00 for the 5.5 ounce bag, which is a bit steep, but quality isn’t cheap and the costs for raw materials like cocoa, sugar and nuts are going up lately.
The package describes them as whole roasted cashews covered in rich Ghirardelli milk chocolate. Simple. The nuts are, as promised, whole, or at least halves (which are the same shape but a little flatter). The ingredients are all natural and include a touch of tapioca syrup (for the glaze, I believe) instead of something that might be corn or wheat derived (and more likely to cause allergic reactions). There’s more than a touch of sea salt, a whole 125mg per 40 gram serving.
They look stunning, they smell great. It’s a sweet, nutty smell with a note of dried milk. The nuts are crunchy and fresh, the salt is mixed into the milk chocolate and immediately pops. (It’s a little much for me, but I’m a known salt-sensitive in my circles.) The milk chocolate is creamy and thick and not too sweet. Overall, it’s a great iteration of an iconic confection.
Chocolate covered nuts are a decent enough treat, nutrition-wise. Yes, there’s a lot of fat in there, but most of it is good fat from cocoa butter and the nuts, plus a dash of cholesterol from the milk in the chocolate. But it does have 4 grams of protein to balance out the 14 grams of sugars along with 6% of your RDA of calcium and 8% of your iron.
If you’re craving a dark chocolate version, Marich already makes those and they’re fantastic as well. (In fact, since this is Ghirardelli’s first outing with panned chocolates, I have to wonder if they subcontracted the production out ... and Marich is nearby.)
Monday, September 22, 2014
See’s Candies is a classic American confectionery company that makes good quality chocolates. They’re sold almost exclusively at See’s Candies stores, which are mostly found in malls, and mostly in the Western US but they’re also available online and from the occasional educational fundraiser.
Though See’s is known for their chocolates they also make a unique line of lollipops that are like a hard caramel on a stick. Over the past five years they’ve created seasonal varieties with more trendy flavors like Pumpkin Spice and Orange Creme. I wasn’t at all surprised to see the announcement that in additional to their Pumpkin Spice and Orange Chocolate this fall, they were also bringing out See’s Caramel Apple Lollypops.
Their pops are available singly at the stores or in bags of 8 online. If you’ve never had a See’s lollypop, they’re about 3/4 of an ounce block of hard caramel with a stick. The shape is blocky, about 1 inch wide and 1.5 inches tall.
It smells like apples, not the green apples of Jolly Rancher, but more like apple cider.
The flavor is immediately caramel and a little dash of salt with a note of apple peels. There’s no tartness, no tang; the apple flavor is less of a caramel covered apple and more like an apple pie with caramel sauce. The wonderful part of these lollies is that the dissolve is so smooth and it feels a lot more filling that its 70 calories might have you believe.
I enjoyed them quite bit. The items that detracted are the same problems I always have. The paper stick gets soggy and more often than not, the caramel block comes off the stick while the piece is really too big to hold comfortably in my mouth. Often there is a series of holes within the candy running its length which makes sucking on the pop problematic because it’s more like a straw where you suck in air than speed up the dissolve of the candy. See’s makes mini versions of their classic flavors, but not of the seasonal, limited edition ones.
Friday, September 19, 2014
To backtrack a little bit, this category of candy is called Compressed Dextrose. Dextrose is just a fancy way of saying sugar, but not the regular table sugar we’re used to, which is sucrose. Dextrose is the dry form of glucose, the same stuff in corn syrup. Dextrose is the basis of a lot of compressed tablet candies, like SweeTarts, Spree and Runts as well as Smarties.
Glucose so bio-available that you can absorb it into your bloodstream sublingually. Many parents use Smarties as emergency glucose tablets because they’re readily available, easy to portion, inexpensive and not hard to get a child to eat. I’m quite fond of Smarties, but that straight glucose often goes straight to my bloodstream and the subsequent crash means I rarely buy a whole bag. The Double Lollies are preferable conceptually, then, because they’re only 8 grams each. Since they’re usually sold by the piece and more expensive than the rolls, this naturally limits my indulgence.
The regular sized lolly has been around for years, though I can’t say for sure that I was always eating the Smarties brand. The Smarties Double Lolly is two flavors. Though they’re probably in several flavors, I could only find orange and yellow.
They’re chalky and dry, but have a pleasant citrus flavor overall. They’re tangy and grainy, dissolve quickly but leave a powdery mess if biting the small pop doesn’t go well. I don’t find sucking on it goes very well. The chalk is absorbent, and while that’s fine for hard candies, I don’t like seeing my lollipop now darkened and cooled by my spit. (Hence my biting usually.)
Interestingly the website for Smarties says that the Double Lolly is free of gluten (from wheat, barley, oats and rye), milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts or soybeans. However, it does not say that for the Mega Lolly.
I bought two of the Mega Lollies, one was lemon and orange and the other was orange and grape. The grape smelled floral and soapy. The pop itself is too big to comfortably fit in the mouth, so even if I were the type who liked to suck my regular Smarties lollies, the Mega just wasn’t going to work. It’s too dry, too awkward. Biting produced a mess of powder.
The odd part about the ingredients is the Calcium Stearate. It’s a flow agent and keeps the powder from caking. But the side benefit to this ingredient is that it contains large amounts calcium - a single Mega Lolly has 6% of your RDA.
Too big, too dry, not a good value and not enough control. The classic size doesn’t have most of those challenges, but I’ll stick to the rolls of Smarties tablets.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Back in 2005 Hershey’s introduced Twizzler Twerpz which were little snips of Twizzlers (orange and strawberry) filled with a sour paste. They didn’t make it very long, but did have some strong fans who continue to post on that review hoping Hershey’s would revive them. More recently Twizzlers brought out Sweet & Sour Filled Twists which were full twist length in cherry and lemon.
In this case, the little Bites, or niblets, are about a half an inch long. They’re cut from the extruded strawberry twist and filled with more strawberry-flavored goo.
The packaging for this King Size bag is a little odd. I understand the goal is to create a candy bowl, but I don’t think it succeeds. The package is gusseted on both the top and bottom and the opening for the package is in the middle of the pleats on the top. That all worked fine when I opened it at first. However, later on I wanted to read the nutrition information, which was covered by a flap, I tried to lift the flap and ended up pulling the whole seam apart.
The packages also don’t sit well on the shelf, they look slumped and hard to read. It’s a great idea, and I really hope they’re able to overcome some of these challenges. I think cookies have really solved this with the snack and reseal flaps.
The pieces smell like strawberry - sweet and floral. The chew is like a regular Twizzler, but a little softer. The filling is lightly tangy and has no chew of its own, really no other properties except that it’s soft (I believe it’s a jelly made from pectin). The size of the pieces is good, it’s easy to eat one or two at a time. The chew has a little bit of a pasty quality towards the end, which is remedied by eating another.
I ate them all, but I don’t think strawberry would be my favorite flavor from Twizzlers. I can’t see them making this in black licorice (what would the filling flavor be?) but raspberry or chocolate might be fun. They’re easy to munch on and are a better format for movie sharing.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Shurms are unique in the candy world, at least in my experience. The company offered me a couple of samples and I was eager to try their Caramel Coffee candies, but also figured I should try their Caramel Apple because it’s the season for such things.
They came in a 10 piece box (3 ounces), which retails for $4.59. They’re sold on the web and locally in Michigan.
Since this is the season of Caramel Apple candies, I have to say that this is a unique item and deserves attention on its own. It’s amazing to look at, though kind of hard to capture with the camera. The green candy is translucent, perhaps even glowing in the dark. It’s very green (of course those are food colorings doing that) while the caramel part is the color of over-milked coffee.
The Caramel Apple consists of two layers. The green layer is a pectin based jelly candy on a base of traditional soft caramel. It smells, well, lovely. The caramel has a good toffee note to it and a little butter and then there’s the fresh scent of apple.
The candy is soft. There are a few ways to eat it: pop the whole thing in your mouth at once, eat the layers separately or bite through both layers. I opted mostly for the latter. The pectin layer is an fascinating candy in and of itself. It’s firmer than a jelly, chewier than a gumdrop and a bit on the sticky side by itself. The green apple flavor is mild but well developed with both juice notes and a sort of apple peel flavor in there as well. The texture reminded me of Botan Rice Candy. The caramel is soft and has a light salty note and excellent toasted sugar elements.
It’s an interesting textural experience. The sweetness of the pectin layer is offset well by the salt of the caramel. The sticky melt of the pectin is broken up by the fat in the caramel. It’s not a candy I ever would have thought of.
The Caramel Coffee are a little different, since there’s no fruity tartness to cut through the sweetness. However, there is the bitter note of coffee. The pectin layer here is a deep brown and glossy, but not transparent at all. It smells like caramel, there’s no hint of the coffee. The pectin layer is definitely coffee, but very sweet. There’s a light acidic hint to it. The caramel is sweet and salty but also has a rum vibe going on. The whole thing has a satisfying chew and textures, but is missing something for me.
I appreciate how different this candy is, but curiosity doesn’t fulfill me. It’s great that these are gluten free and I do admire the limited but appropriate flavor combinations they have. There’s also a cherry and caramel version. (Gluten free but contains milk and soy.)
Monday, September 15, 2014
Albanese Confectionery is a small family-run confectionery company in Indiana. They started in 1983 and though their candies encompass chocolate covered nuts, nut mixes and chocolates. But in the past ten years, Albanese has become known for their extensive line of gummis that not only come in a wide variety of flavors, but also in some innovative shapes.
I finally picked up Albanese Rainforest Gummi Frogs at Lolli & Pops, since I was able to select them from the bulk bins instead of buying a 5lb bag on the internet (there were probably other options in between). There are three different flavor combinations: blue raspberry & orange, strawberry & grape and, sour lemon & sour green apple.
The pieces are quite large, about the size of tree frogs I was familiar with seeing in Northern California. (One lived in the shower of a house I shared in Arcata Bay bottoms.) The gummis weigh about a half an ounce each. They’re two inches long and their armspan is 2.5 inches.
My first little buddy is the blue and orange one. The blue body is blue raspberry with orange legs. The flavor has a wonderful sour bite to it, and a good pliable chew that’s not too tough. The legs are juicy, like an orange gummi should be, and a little more sweet than the body.
The yellow and green one is sour lemon and sour green apple. The green apple legs are absolutely sour, and it seems to emerge the more you chew. The flavor goes on, all the way until it’s completely dissolved. The green apple flavor is very Jolly Rancher. The lemon is equally good, with strong zest notes as well as that metallic Country Time Lemonade powder flavor. (I used to eat lemonade mix as a kid because it was cheaper than Fun Dip.)
The final frog has purple legs and a red body. The red parts are strawberry. It’s nicely tart and chewy, but not too tough. The legs are grape, and those have the same tart note, the flavor takes quite a while to develop and is very mildly “grape soda.”
The pieces are quite large and two is more than a serving as far as I was concerned. I liked the flavor combinations and the molding and design is well done. I can see children and adults enjoying these. They’d also fit well in theme parties or as decorations. It might be fun if Albanese considered wrapping them individually for Halloween treating.
Note, I did not have the nutrition information for the Rainforest Frogs specifically, so I used the Gummy Army Guys. I think that Albanese should include the ingredients and nutritional information on their website, since so many of us buy their candies in bulk bins and do not have access to that information otherwise.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.