Thursday, March 20, 2008
I really didn’t want to buy these; they couldn’t possibly be better than the Brach’s Bunny Basket Eggs (or worse, for that matter). Which I didn’t like, but have devoted followers. But I have to admit that it’s a valid confectionery expression: a grainy marshmallow covered in a lightly-flavored jelly bean-like shell.
What convinced me to get these though was the name: Hiding Eggs.
It seems obvious that Judson-Atkinson Candies is well aware that these aren’t for eating! They’re for hiding ... possibly without any hope of every finding. They’re all individually wrapped, which is great for throwing in Easter baskets or reassuring when you find one stuck in the sofa cushions in August and shrug and eat it anyway.
They come in the standard color & flavor variety of fruit jelly beans: Orange, Lemon, Grape, Cherry, Lime and Vanilla.
I’m not going to lie to you, this is not a comprehensive review, I didn’t eat all of them. I tasted the purple, orange and white ones and that was it. Read the Brach’s Bunny Basket Eggs review for my complete rant on the subject of these candy impostors (not that they’re BBBE impostors, but that they’re masquerading as edible confections).
The centers are soft and grainy, the shells are crunchy and grainy. The flavor layer is very mild, but the tastes distinct enough that you could probably tell them apart with your eyes closed. Each egg is a substantial hit of sugar, weighing in at a little over 13 grams each and about 50 calories (yes, that’d be 13 grams of carbs!).
So if you’ve been having trouble finding the Brach’s, or just want a brand that’s made in the USA (most Brach’s products are no longer made here), Judson-Atkinson Candies has your new favorite hiding egg. Added bonus, they were only $1.49.
The one thing that I find so enchanting about these is that they’re part of a rather extensive line from Judson-Atkinson that includes all different sizes of these eggs. Pigeon Eggs (small marshmallow eggs), Hen Eggs (medium marshmallow eggs) & Turkey Eggs (large marshmallow eggs). The Turkey variety tops out at about 1/3 larger than the Hen Eggs (which I think I’ve reviewed here ... it’s so hard to tell).
They’re an important part of Easter, I’ll grant you that. I’ve had mine for the year (just like I used to eat my bit of Pork & Sauerkraut for New Year’s as a kid ... for the record it was the pork that I didn’t like, I love sauerkraut), so I should be very lucky. Since they’re wrapped they may make good filler for pinatas, so pick some up on clearance next week.
These have a marshmallow center, so contain gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Just to make things clear, the package says, “Tangy Fruit Flavors” ... just in case people thought they were some other assortment of flavors associated with Smarties. They never actually say which fruits they are, though.
Actually, I think Smarties are an ideal Easter candy, with their pastel colors and light flavors. I like Smarties. I like their lack of flavor, the way they dissolve so quickly and smoothly. I like their tiny tablet size, their light colors and complete indistinguishableness from one another.
These jelly beans were about the same price as others are these days, retail of $1.99.
The shell is a dry and a little crumbly and cool on the tongue (as dextrose usually is). The shells have a tangy and flavorful layer. The flavors aren’t very strong or complex. Grape is the most vivid, in that grape soda way. Green apple is pretty mild. Blue tastes like ball point pen ink smells (I think it’s raspberry). Cherry is very tart and then very sweet but less bitter than most pink/red cherry candies. Lemon was probably the sweetest of the bunch.
What was missing was the white Smarties, you know, that one that we all think is pineapple and is by far the best. (What? You don’t think so, too?)
The colors are bright and opaque, rather like highlighter pens. The funny part is that Smarties actually makes their lack of color in their compressed dextrose tablets a selling point. From their website:
In the case of these little jelly beans, I think they’re using just as much dye as everyone else. Most of all I noticed the similarities between the Smarties Jelly Bean and the SweeTarts Jelly Beans.
So I gathered up an assortment of both and put them side by side. The SweeTarts Jelly Beans are on the left and the Smarties Jelly Beans are on the right. They are extremely close in colors, although the Smarties are missing the orange one completely.
The beans were essentially identical with the Smarties being slightly more flavorful, mostly in the tangy layer. The colors very little but the purple and the green are the easiest to tell apart by looking at them and the blue in the SweeTarts version is punch flavor, not raspberry.
I really don’t have a preference of one over the other. If you have a choice, I say go with whichever is cheaper or whichever brand you feel you prefer to support.
They’re both made in Canada and come in 14 ounce bags, though their ingredients label differs slightly ... so it’s entirely possible that this factory churns both out under contract with Nestle or CeDe Candy.
While all of the Smarties compressed dextrose products are gluten, nut and milk free, the Smarties Jelly Beans are made in Canada and are made in a facility that processes all the hit-list allergens: peanuts, nuts, milk products, soy products, wheat, eggs and sesame seeds.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Nerds just don’t appeal to me much, part of it might be that they’re kind of hard to eat (maybe they should be sold in straws like Pixy Stix?), but I love the idea of them. Enter the Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans.
Where regular jelly beans lack texture, each Nerds Bumpy Jelly Bean has oodles of nooks & lumps on a crunchy candy shell.
Where regular jelly beans lack a flavorful punch, each Nerd has a tasty tart layer just below the candy shell.
Yes, they look like freakish confectionery mistakes or maybe wads of leftover acrylic paint. They’re hard and have uneven textured shells. But they’re also vividly colored, so there’s no confusing any muted colors (is this pink or magenta?).
The biggest contribution these beans have to the jelly bean pantheon is crunch. They’re really crunchy.
Orange: a nice mellow orange flavor, with a rather tart flavor layer under the shell.
Lemon: the tartest of the bunch, it does kind of lose its zazz when I got to the end of chewing it up when it was just a big wad of sweet.
Strawberry: I was afraid this was going to be cherry, it’s not quite the vivid red I photographed, just slightly on the pinker side of red. A nice sort of cotton candy delicate floral strawberry with a dose of sour power.
Green Apple: my mix seemed to have an inordinate amount of these, which is too bad, because they were my least favorite. They are sour and do taste just like artificial green apple.
Grape: fantastically artificial, like having a Grape Shasta (complete with a slight fizz mimicked by the crunchy shell).
It’s funny how excited I am about these. Let’s face it, there hasn’t been much innovation in the jelly bean world since Jelly Belly started adding more flavor by using both a flavored center and a flavored shell.
These are fun to eat because there are so many options. You can just pop them in your mouth and chew them up, or let them dissolve or nibble away at the crunchy coating.
The centers are clear and have only a light flavor and a vague tartness to them.
I think they’re a great change-up from the milder jelly beans out there and will definitely appeal to kids, but are still palatable for adults. I enjoyed all the flavors (though picked around the green ones after I finished my review). Still, I found that I couldn’t eat as many of them as I can eat jelly beans. The tartness gave me a tummy ache after about a quarter of the bag. (See the levels of testing at Candy Blog Labs that I go through?)
The interesting news though is that while I was shopping at Walgreen’s a few weeks ago, I also found this little bag of Giant Chewy Nerds. I bought them, at first thinking they were a clearance item, perhaps a test marketing. But the expiration is December 2008, so they were definitely fresh.
So, it looks like this is what they’re called in the “Non-Easter Season”. I can find no mention of either of these products on the Wonka site (does that surprise anyone?).
These have a variety of artificial colors in them as well as Carmine, making them unsuitable for vegetarians.
Friday, March 7, 2008
It’s funny how many different interpretations there are in the confectionery world for the word “creme”. In the case of Cadbury Creme Eggs, it’s simply a runny fondant. In the case of many of the Hershey’s Kisses it’s a firmer fat based ganache style and in Starbursts it’s just a flavor.
In the case of Nestle, it means “something softer than chocolate”. I picked up their Nestle Crunch Creme Egg with Caramel and Butterfinger Creme Egg at the drug store to complete my All Egg Week.
At 1.1 ounces, the Nestle Crunch Creme Egg with Caramel is virtually the same weight as a Cadbury Creme Egg, but slightly narrower and denser.
The outer shell looks almost like dark chocolate. It has a pleasant little squiggly design and the name Nestle on both sides of the egg.
It’s easy to bite without any mess. The chocolate shell is pretty thick and contains the fillings well (no sticky eggs for me). The base of each half of the hemispheres is filled with a firm and lightly salty chocolate creme studded with crisped rice. Each side is a little shy of full and that reservoir holds a scant bit of flowing caramel along with a rather large void.
The caramel is a bit salty, not very caramel flavored, but I don’t expect that from Nestle. The chocolate creme is still chocolatey without any greasiness or sticky-milk qualities. I wanted more crunches though, I really like crisped rice and think this would benefit from more of it.
It’s a very dense egg, I think I might prefer it in a slightly smaller form (maybe a half an ounce like the Canadian Cadbury Eggs I tried last year) but it’s a rare egg these days in the drug store that’s just going for chocolate (with that little bit of caramel & crunchies).
I give it a 7 out of 10.
Nestle also makes the Wonka Golden Creme Eggs, which are pretty much the same thing except there are graham cracker flavored bits in there instead of crisped rice.
The Butterfinger Creme Egg says it’s 1.15 ounces but I have my doubts with that huge void there. At first I thought it was just that one that was a little underfilled, but the second one (still wrapped in the photo) had a similar large cavern of nothingness.
It smells sweet chocolatey with a good roasted peanut butter undertone.
My major complaint with Butterfinger bars is that they don’t use real chocolate on the outside. In the case of these (and the Butterfinger Jingles), it’s real Nestle Milk Chocolate (which still isn’t spectacular) ... well, that’s what the foil says, “Butterfinger Pieces & Peanut Butter Creme in a Milk Chocolate Shell” but I’m kind of unclear when I read the ingredients that featured the second ingredient as “confectionery coating” but that may be a mock white chocolate base of the creme filling.
All that aside, it’s an enjoyable egg. The center has all the flavor of a Butterfinger. That buttery flavor with the little crunchy bits of peanut butter brittle (that don’t stick to your teeth!) a little bit of salt to even out the very sweet chocolate shell. It’s nothing like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg, but that’s okay, they’re both pretty inexpensive, get both.
A solid 7 out of 10 for this one as well.
Monday, March 3, 2008
A couple of years ago I was pleasantly surprised by the Russell Stover Cream Easter Eggs. Though I’ve never been much of a fan of the Cadbury Creme Eggs, I wasn’t surprised to see that Russell Stover is now making a similar product and knowing that they did nice things with the other eggs, I thought I’d give this array a try.
There are some striking similarities between the CCE and the Russell Stover. First, they’re all 1.2 ounces (yes, the Cadbury’s used to be larger, back in 2007 they were changed from 1.35 to 1.2). The Cadbury’s currently come in the classic Creme Egg, Caramel Egg and the newest version is the Orange Creme Egg.
The Russell Stover Eggs do not duplicate any of these flavors. Instead they’ve gone with slightly different versions.
The most promising in my mind was the Russell Stover Dark Chocolate Creme Egg. One of my major complaints with the CCE is that it’s far too sweet and lacking in flavor. I figured a dark chocolate egg with a chocolate creme might provide some, I dunno, flavor to balance the sugar.
It looks good, I have to admit. The dark shell holds a thick and glossy creme. It doesn’t smell like much, but the textures are pretty good. The shell is crisp and easy to bite but doesn’t shatter into a gazillion bits. The creme center is rather like a gooey frosting, it’s not very deep in chocolate-ness, but still pleasant. When eating around the edges and getting more chocolate than creme, it was pretty good. But the proportions towards the center began to make my throat burn it was so sweet.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
Russell Stover Chocolate Creme is the same as the dark chocolate egg, only with a milk chocolate shell. It’s not an overwhelmingly milky chocolate, so it doesn’t really do much to add a different flavor to the whole thing.
I found it much sweeter overall than the dark chocolate version. Still pleasant if you’re the type who eats frosting by the spoonful (which I admit to doing at times). The fudgy-ness of the creme center is more noticeable in this one.
Rating: 5 out of 10
I know you’ve probably wondered how they make these. Here’s what I think they do (and I’m just guessing):
The hollow chocolate shell is molded in two pieces.
After the shell hardens they fill it with the egg “white” material. Then they deposit the “yolk” in one side of the egg. Both are not flowing goo like it is when you open the eggs, instead it’s a near solid material like fudge. An enzyme is added to it just before filling the eggs that creates a reaction that makes the goo into a viscus liquid in several weeks. (This is how cherry cordials are made.)
While they’re still solid the two hemispheres are joined (perhaps a hot iron is used to heat the chocolate shells around the edges and they’re pressed together. They’re wrapped in foil and sent off to stores.
If anyone actually knows how this actually happens, please pipe up in the comments!
The Russell Stover Vanilla & Chocolate Creme was the egg that I least wanted to eat. Milk chocolate with a white creme and a dollop of chocolate cream in the center, the most similar to a Cadbury Creme Egg. I’ll admit that I only ate half of this. The creme did have a strong vanilla flavor (though it verged on coconut sometimes). The chocolate shell was pleasant, but I really couldn’t tell when the chocolate creme kicked in.
It was better than my previous experiences with the Cadbury Creme Egg, but still not something I’m interested in eating again (or even finish the last bite of).
I give this one a 5 out of 10.
The Russell Stover Marshmallow & Caramel egg is a milk chocolate shell with a marshmallow center with a little dollop of caramel for the yolk. This one is actually lighter than the others, as you might guess, and only clocks in at .9 ounces.
The marshmallow is very moist and has more of a “fresh pie” meringue texture to it. It wasn’t very sweet, instead it was just a little foamy. The caramel had a little salty and buttery taste to it that set off the marshmallow and very sweet milk chocolate well. It’s not at all like a Scotchmallow, but had it’s own wonderful qualities.
This was a very different sort of egg from all the others that I’ve had and the one I enjoyed the most.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Overall, they’re interesting, and certainly attractive and compact. But none of them fit the bill as something I’m interested in indulging in. I’ll stick to what I think they do best, their enrobed eggs. Alicia at The Girl Tastes also found the full line and split them open and displayed their gooey glory as well.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Russell Stover has often had a rather stale image as one of the drug store chocolate brands. They’re trying to push themselves a bit lately and I think it shows, at least it’s caused me to give them a second look and for the most part I’ve been pleased.
They’ll never replace upscale chocolatiers, but they’re dependable and consistent, especially for holiday specialties.
Their Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny’s appearance is a rather ghastly caricature. The yellow foil wrapper with its green bow, blue eyes and huge eyelashes are trying too hard. (But I really like the touch of the pink inner ear.)
If the outside is akin to a drag queen, the inside is a fresh and athletic 22-year-old with clear skin and shiny hair. No need for any pasted on eyelashes here or colored contacts. The smooth sheen of the medium color of the milk chocolate is lovely, with its little curls of fur every once in a while for a bit of verisimilitude.
The shell is rather thin, as I expected when I picked it up. The thing is very light at 1.5 ounces (and rather similar is volume to the Lindt bunnies). The easy-to-break shell doesn’t detract from the appeal though, it just makes it easier to pick off a piece of your own chosing. Honestly, I don’t mind hollow bunnies. I was always rather stymied by solid bunnies as a kid, as they required whacking them on a hard surface or going to the kitchen and taking a meat fork to them. Hollow bunnies are easy to crack and munch.
I think this is the first time I’ve simply eaten Russell Stover’s milk chocolate. According to an article in Candy Industry magazine, they age their milk chocolate for 90 days (and dark for 150 days). I’m not sure who makes Russell Stover’s chocolate, an article mentioned that they’re using Callebaut for their Private Reserve line. No PGPR or milk solids in here, just real milk chocolate and fake vanilla.
The chocolate smells rather, well, sweet. More like fake vanilla and a little malty.
It has a nice quick and silky melt. It’s a little sticky and very sweet but has a lot of flavor packed into that.
The foil wrapping could be updated a bit without losing the appeal to children, but the product is rather good and an admirable value at 66 cents an ounce (probably less if you find them on sale).
They also come in 3 ounce and 6 ounce versions (and the website shows dark chocolate as well, but I had no luck in the stores).
Thursday, February 14, 2008
IIt has a simple name, Marshmallow Lollipop. t’s a pig shaped marshmallow pop, and it’s pretty big at 3.2 ounces of fluffed sugar and gelatin. They’re made by Confectionery Lane and actually come in some much more attractive versions such as decorated hearts. (Serious Eats has the Winnie the Pooh.)
While the idea of a pig shaped creature holding a little heart that says love may only be compelling to the Cute Overload fanatics, I can see that there may be a niche of people out there that perhaps enjoy food shaped like the ingredients (what is gelatin made of, after all?) or perhaps someone has a nickname of Piglet ... maybe they raise pigs or had one as a 4H project ... oh, maybe they have pink skin!
This sizeable puff has, well, its size going for it. The lettering on it is rather clumsy. The pig’s face is cute enough but the body is kind of hard to understand and of course it’s not really a three dimensional candy, the back side is simply flat.
It smells kind of like Fruity Pebbles. It tastes like, well, tangy latex.
The texture is actually rather nice, very moist and consistent. But the flavor is just awful.
So I thought I’d toast it. It’s already on a stick, so why not?
Since the marshmallow was so moist it became really runny on the inside rather quickly, but the outside toasted up nicely.
But a tart and flavored marshmallow is not the same as a regular marshmallow (certainly not like the lovely marshmallows from earlier this week). Really disappointing. I ate about three bites and threw the rest of it out.
Oddly enough the nutrition label says that a single serving is the whole pop and is 260 calories. (I guess you can’t really cut off pieces and save the rest for later.)
Confectionery Lane sounds like a quaint company, but really they’re just a brand name used by East-West Distributing Co., which is owned and operated by Walgreen’s. There are lots of other cute and thoughtful Valentines gifts you can pick up, even on February 15th. This isn’t even worth free.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
In general, it’s a great idea. Why not have pretty foil confections?
Hershey’s has a few heart-shaped chocolates this year, but they’ve also created a special mix called Heart’s Desire. It features Hershey’s Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate Hearts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Filled Hearts and Hershey’s Special Dark Hearts (natural source of flavinol antioxidants (tm))
I was actually kind of pleased that they weren’t completely pink and red and pink. Instead the color coding is a little more intuitive. The Special Dark employs the global-standard purple, the milk chocolate is in the typical pink and the Reese’s is in gold.
They’re about 1.25” wide and 1.5” tall and weigh about .29 ounces each. (A Hershey’s Kiss weighs about .16 ounces.)
Special Dark - I used to think that the Special bar was just that. Mostly because I thought that it was my mother’s favorite chocolate bar. Back when it first came out in the 70s there simply weren’t any mass-produced dark chocolate bars available at the corner store. (To get a dark chocolate fix I had to eat chocolate chips.) I didn’t care much for it as a child, I found it a bit waxy and bitter. As an adult I find it chalky, grainy, too sweet and lacking in real chocolate oomph. It contains 45% cocoa solids, which you would think would make it extra chocolatey, but it is simply middle or the road fare. It’s not true dark chocolate as it contains milkfat. They are pretty though.
Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate - this version is, I guess, Hershey’s answer to critics who said that their chocolate tastes weird. The “extra creamy” kick may come from extra emulsifiers, this one sports both soy lecithin and PGPR. This version of Hershey’s chocolate actually tastes quite a bit different than the typical Hershey’s bar or Kiss. It is sweeter and lacks those deep musky dairy notes. Instead this has a bit of a toasted marshmallow taste ... and very little chocolate-ness. (I did some calculations ... standard Hershey’s chocolate is 27% carbs, the extra creamy variety is 29% carbs. So there you go, it is actually made up of more sugar.)
Reese’s Peanut Butter Filled Hearts - this was the one that I bought the bag for. In fact, I looked around at all the bags and picked the one with the most gold wrappers visible. The outside was a little greasy but still smelled over wonderfully roasted nuts (I love a fresh Reese’s!). The inside wasn’t quite the soft crumbly version of Reese’s peanut butter, instead it still had the same “crumb” to it, but it was slicker, maybe a little sweeter or a little oilier. It didn’t quite satisfy me the same way that a peanut butter cup does, but still, it’s a Reese’s!
They’re a pretty assortment, rather traditional and in a rare, large bag (16.5 ounces.). I don’t think I’d buy them again for myself, but everyone at the office seemed pretty jazzed when I popped the remainder in the communal candy jar (but then again, all that’s been in the jar for the past week is Tootsie Rolls).
I don’t know how far in advance Hershey’s makes these, but the expiration date is June 2008 ... that doesn’t seem like a very long shelf life to me.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.