Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
This year Russell Stover jumped on the strawberry trend quite well. They already make a Strawberry Cream Heart for Valentine’s Day, but this year they’ve also added at least three new items with the strawberry theme. I picked up two. The first is the Russell Stover Strawberries & Cream Mix which the package says is strawberry and white pastelle hearts combine for a rich strawberry and cream taste.
The pink package sports lots and lots of hearts, including a few that show the size and shape of the candies. And it’s actually pretty accurate, they do look like little drawings of hearts colored in off white and palest pink. It’s a white confection version of the iddy biddy Santas and Bunnies they do in milk chocolate. (Though they mercifully sell those in little single-serve packages.)
The pieces do smell rather sweet, mild and with a decent strawberry note. They’re soft and matte and kind of strange because they’re very quiet. They’re light and have no candy shell, so pouring them from the package means more sound from the bag than the tumbling of the candy.
When Russell Stover says pastelle, they really mean a combination of sugar, fractionated palm kernel oil, partially hydrogenated palm oil, some milk solids & fats plus a few dabs of food coloring and flavor.
The effect is pretty much what you might think. Mostly waxy, rather sweet, a smidge milky and vaguely strawberry. The white pieces are supposed to be vanilla, but are really just less strawberry because of their proximity in the bag.
They’re not as sweet as I feared they would be. Mostly I’m disappointed that they’re so expensive when Mars was able to make actual white chocolate strawberry M&Ms for less for Easter this year. The one thing they have going for them is that they are pretty darn cute and would be great as a decorative element for a cake or cupcakes or just scattered on a dessert plate. Because they’re a mockolate product, not a coated candy, the colors won’t run and they’re not as likely to melt in most serving situations.
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
There’s not much of a description on the package, just that the squares are filled with strawberry filling. The filling appears to be made from sugar, high fructose corn syrup, palm oil and freeze dried strawberries and colored with fruit and vegetable juice (very vague). It also has some added TBHQ as a preservative. There’s no indication of the cacao content of the chocolate itself, but I’d guess it’s somewhere in the low 60% range. Each square is 70 calories.
The squares are elegant and simple. They’re 1.75 inches square and sport the Ghirardelli logo in a beveled field. In my experience the packaging protects the pieces well and they usually look stunningly gorgeous.
If there’s an issue with the filled squares from Ghirardelli is that they temper their chocolate to be very crisp and snappy ... so the filled pieces can be messy to eat when the chocolate breaks apart upon biting and the filling dribbles out. So, make an effort to bite on the diagonal, or pop the whole thing in your mouth at once.
The chocolate is sweet but with a nice dry woodsy note to it, which goes well with the strawberry flavors. The strawberry filling is quite like a finely pureed strawberry sauce. It’s not overly sweet, has a strong tangy note and just a touch of seed flavor to it (and some actual seeds).
Because the edges are so thick and the chocolate in the center is so thin, there’s a large variation in the proportion of filling to chocolate in any given bite.
I liked them quite a bit, it was the best imitation of a chocolate covered strawberry that doesn’t spoil that I think I’ve had. Ghirardelli Strawberry Squares contain soy and milk and may also contain traces of tree nuts. There’s no statement about gluten.
Monday, January 25, 2016
The new Dove Milk Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Crisp Promises are for Valentine’s Day. I picked mine up at Target (and they may be a Target-Exclusive item).
The shortcake part is a little odd, conceptually. For a real strawberry shortcake, berries (often in a sweetened syrup) are ladled over a biscuit type baked good. Some folks prefer a spongecake or poundcake but the key here is that they’re all soft and cakey. The cookie pieces in this case are made from tapioca starch, rice flour, sugar, palm oil, baking soda and some salt.
The other odd part of this is that there’s milk chocolate ... so if anything, this is an imitation of a chocolate covered strawberry with a few gluten free cookie bits (this is not, however, a gluten free product as it’s made in a facility that also uses wheat and peanuts and tree nuts).
The pieces are not a swirl of milk & white chocolate, like some other recent versions. Instead this is a solid milk chocolate piece, flavored with some strawberry and dotted with little cookie inclusions.
The strawberry flavor is very strong, but the milk chocolate holds its own with a creamy dairy note and a little toasty cocoa flavor. The strawberry is floral sweetness, no dried berry bits in this version. The cookie bits are odd, since they’re made with starch and not actual wheat flour, they are actually rather starchy, though they don’t get sticky-pasty like some gluten free cookies I’ve had. The overall effect of the crunchy cookie bit is really nice, it aerates the experience because you kind of have to chew it instead of just letting the chocolate melt away, which I think boosts the strawberry notes.
They’re pleasant. The strawberry isn’t too artificial or plastic (it does say natural flavor on the package, though it’s kind of vague). I don’t know if I would buy these again, but I appreciated the effort and novelty.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
It’s hard to resist a pretty bit of packaging, especially when, as I mentioned in last week’s review of the Theo’s Love Crunch, a chocolate bar is far better than a greeting card. The bubbly design in reds and pinks is a bit feminine, but the flavors should suit anyone who likes their milk chocolate on the deeper side of the pool.
This Theo bar delivers on the promise of the package, for me. The wrapper for the Theo Chocolate My Cherry Baby bar says, Fall in love with cherries in dreamy 45% milk chocolate - tangy, sweet and yummy.
The bars are made in Seattle with ethically sourced, non GMO, no soy, gluten free, Kosher and in this case, at a darn affordable price. For some reason they weren’t $4 a bar, which Theo is usually priced, but I got mine for $1.50 each.
The bar is a dark milk, which is a nice place to start for a high end bar. The flavor is quite deep with rich coffee notes, but also quite a bit of malt and even a hint of yeast in there. The cherry pieces are tiny and a bit on the leathery side. They’re tangy and chewy, but not freeze dried crispy bits either. The flavor combines well, though both seem to bring out bitter notes in each other - I got the cherry skin bitterness on one hand and the roasted acrid notes from the chocolate.
It’s a tasty bar, easy to eat, but I felt no need to eat more than a large square at a time, even though a half of a bar is the recommended dose.
I do enjoy Theo Chocolate’s seasonal bars quite a bit, much more than their standard just-chocolate. The gold standard for them will probably always be the Dark Chocolate Salted Almond ... but toss in a few cherries for a holiday version, and I might be inclined to revise my opinion.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
Valentine’s Day candy is disappointing because it’s usually about the packaging. So, I was pleased at Whole Foods when I spotted two limited edition varieties from Theo Chocolate for Valentine’s Day ... and on sale at 2 bars for $3 (they’re usually $4 each). I’ve often said that a fine chocolate bar is better than a greeting card and in this case, far cheaper. There’s even a “To” and “From” spot on the back of the bar. (But the ideal touch would be to include at least a personalized post it note.)
It’s called Theo Red Hot Cinnamon Love Crunch. The description on the back said: The red-hot crunch of cinnamon brittle in smooth, rich, 70% dark chocolate - spicy and sweet.
Sounds amazing: for $1.50, I was getting a unique bar that combined cinnamon and chocolate, that was also fair trade certified, non-GMO, organic, vegan, soy-free, Kosher and made here in the USA. Goodbye, ordinary candy in a heart shaped package! (The other bar I picked up was the milk chocolate My Cherry Baby.)
On the tongue at first it’s a little tangy. The melt is a little grainy, I wasn’t sure if it was the crunchy bits or not at first, but it seems that some of it is spices. It became apparent very quickly that this was not just a cinnamon and chocolate bar. My bad for not reading the label fully.
Here’s the deal: the package is pink, the printing on the back is brown. In full light and my reading glasses, I can read it. But not in the dim light and glassesless state I was in at Whole Foods. (My usual trick when I don’t have my glasses and the print is tiny is to take a photo with my phone and then blow it up, but I read the description and thought that was the extent of the flavors.)
The ingredients of interest here are (after you get through the chocolate stuff): cayenne, cinnamon leaf essential oil, black pepper essential oil, nutmeg essential oil and clove essential oil.
I actually like spicy things (curry, cinnamon, black pepper and ginger), but the one I can’t do is red pepper. Capsascin is one of those compounds that people experience differently because of genetic differences. For me, cayenne isn’t fun, there’s a lot of heat that doesn’t seem to dissipate and in higher concentrations it just induces nausea. So, I avoid anything other than mild chili items. While there’s a proliferation of chili peppers in confection, and for the most part they’re tolerable, though not always enjoyable for me.
This was freakishly hot for me. I got the different sensations from the various spices, I could actually discern the difference between the black pepper and the cayenne and the cinnamon. (Clove actually has a bit of a numbing effect.) The cinnamon really only came in at the beginning as a scent. The tangy bite of the chocolate did help to mellow the pepper at first, but once it hit my throat, the one-two punch of black and red pepper was too much. The little brittle crunch pieces were supposed to be cinnamon, and maybe some of them were, but other larger bits seemed flavorless.
I tried this bar twice, eating only one of the large squares each time in small bits. The warming effect from the spices lasts a long time, well over a half an hour. Though it didn’t upset my stomach, it really didn’t please me either and I don’t plan on finishing the bar.
If your loved one is partial to the extremely spicy side of things, this might be a good option, especially if you’re looking for something without dairy or soy (the Lindt dark chocolate products contain milk and soy ingredients). The bar is made in a facility that also handles peanuts, wheat, milk, eggs and soy.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Brach’s Red Velvet Candy Corn is one of the newest in Brach’s wide-ranging attempt to create a Candy Corn for every flavor under the sun. Many of their flavors are inspired by desserts, like Apple Pie and Carrot Cake ... it’s not surprising that they went for Red Velvet Cake, and certainly appropriate for a Valentine’s-themed candy.
It’s no secret if you’ve been reading Candy Blog that I think Red Velvet as a flavor is stupid. So, you can guess where this review is going to end up, if you’re not the kind of person who scrolls to the bottom to see the rating before reading.
For those who are blissfully unaware, Red Velvet Cake is a yellow cake made with a touch of cocoa (classically with some vinegar to bring out the red) and buttermilk and then topped with ermine icing or the easier-to-make cream cheese frosting. So the flavor has become it’s a not-quite-chocolate cake with some cream cheese. For the most part the appeal of the cake is the stunning visual appeal of the layers of velvety dark red (usually enhanced with colorings) and the creamy white frosting. Sadly, most people experience it as a cupcake.
Since Red Velvet Cake is a layered item, making a Candy Corn variety is actually kind of logical. The layers, however, make no sense. It’s like they took the ingredients and used those, instead of an assembled cake. The base is dark brown, and like Red Velvet Cake, it’s not actually chocolatey, simply less sweet. The middle layer is just red food coloring in otherwise unflavored fondant. So, for me, it’s bitter. The top is white, and has a more crumbly texture and even less flavor. There’s a general vanilla note, especially when I smelled the candy in the bag.
One of the things I like about classic candy corn is the honey note and the light hint of salt. There’s 70 mg of sodium in each serving (19 pieces) but I didn’t really get any pleasure from it.
They’re fine, but not as good as regular candy corn, and not inventive enough to make me either loathe it or love it.
If you’d like other thoughts on Red Velvet, listen in as Episode 7 of Candyology101 covers Valentine’s Day candy ... and Maria and I get to rant about our pet peeves.
Friday, January 30, 2015
Think about that name for a minute when you consider the product. They’re jelly beans with words printed on them. They’re bean shaped. The words are gushy commands or endearments. There are no hearts. There really aren’t even any conversations.
There’s no key on the package for the flavors, there’s not even a description of what the candy is. I consider this lazy. As far as I’m concerned, what happens is the confectioners come up with a product and the marketing and packaging people agree to make the most enticing package they can without actually committing to anything. So there’s no list of flavors, just some pictures of the candy and a name ... plus those obligatory things our government demands like ingredients and a nutritional panel.
There are six colors: pink, purple, green, orange, yellow and white. They’re not exactly pastel, like the package shows them, but not quite royal. The little mottoes include: Yours 4 Ever, I [heart] You, Peace, ILY, SWAK, Miss U, Hug Me, and Love. The print was red and hard to read on the orange, pink and purple beans, so only half were conversational, the others were whispering behind my back.
White is probably Pineapple. It’s tangy and finishes with a tropical floral note.
All of the flavors were odd and evoked a strange association for me. The Watermelon, each time I ate one, left a sort of a hot iron flavor swirling around. Pineapple finished like a cream soda served in an anodized aluminum cup. Lemon reminded me of fresh roasted Hatch chili peppers. There were no actual flavors, just a weird note to each of them that was certainly atypical.
I didn’t like these much. I only liked half the flavors enough to pick them out: orange, lemon and pineapple ... if pressed, I would grab a grape. The printing wasn’t very good and the little lines weren’t interesting enough to warrant putting my glasses on to discern them. I will give them credit for adding in something like watermelon, which is pretty uncommon. I might like a little bit of warning next time.
Brach’s was part of the Farley’s & Sathers candy company for a few years, but now they’re rolled into Ferrara Candy Company. I actually like a lot of their jelly beans, especially the Lemonhead & Friends Jelly Beans. The unique take on conversation items might simply be something with more flavor than the traditional chalky heart. Instead, the Brach’s Conversation Heart Beans have only slightly bested the wafer based candies ...which was too low of a bar.
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