Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The Oh Henry! bar is one of oldest extant candy bars in North America. There are two stories of the origin of the bar. The first is that the bar was invented by Tom Henry in 1919, who ran the Peerless Candy Company (known for their hard candies) where the bar was known as the Tom Henry Bar. He sold the recipe for the bar to Williamson Candy Store in Chicago.
The other story is that it was actually invented by the Williamson Candy Store and named for a helpful customer whom the female clerks would often ask favors of, by saying “Oh, Henry, could you move that heavy box.”
It was often billed as “the ten cent piece of dollar candy” and became popular in Chicago eventually expanding as a national candy bar through the tenacious efforts of John Glossinger (whom Glosettes are named after). Williamson Candy, at some point, sold out to Ward-Johnson which was swallowed up by Nabisco in 1981 (which was also holding the Curtiss bars - Baby Ruth & Butterfinger included- at that time). Finally in 1990 Nestle bought the Curtiss bars, SnoCaps, Goobers & Raisinets from Nabisco. (Some of this is a bit murky and I traced it mostly through trademark registrations, and probably matters very little in the end.)
The bar is simple enough, a vanilla fudge center with caramel & peanuts then covered in chocolate. It’s gone through some changes over the years besides ownership. This is where things get interesting from an evolutionary standpoint. In 1987 Hershey Canada got the rights to produce the bar (through Nabisco which owned Canadian confectioner Lowney). The Hershey’s Oh Henry! is more than a little different from the American bar, as we’ll see.
Though the American bar used to be a single, it has now morphed into a double bar (a la Mounds) while the Canadian version remains pretty much the same as it was 30 years ago.
The package on the Nestle version says: 2 peanutty * caramel * fudge bars in milk chocolate. It weighs 1.8 ounces (51 grams). It comes sealed in a simple yellow plasticized wrapper.
The package on the Hershey version says: crunchy peanuts, chewy fudge, creamy caramel, covered in a chocolaty coating. It weighs 2.2 ounces (62.5 grams). It comes in a mylar wrapper with a small folded paperboard tray.
The innards of the two Oh Henrys! tell more about them. The American Oh Henry! is rather organized and stratified.
The Nestle one has a caramel base then a fudge mixed with peanuts. It’s all covered in what they call real milk chocolate. It has a nice roasted peanut flavor, but the difference between the caramel and the fudge is minimal. The fudge is a bit saltier, but caramel is short and grainy instead of being chewy and creamy. At first I thought it was just a not-so-fresh bar, so I bought another. And another. This is the third I’ve bought and second I’ve photographed for this review.
The two pieces are nicely sized and the flavor balance overall is good. I would prefer some really good creamy chocolate to pull it together, but that’s just not Nestle’s style.
The Hershey one reminds me a bit of a narrow Payday Chocolatey Avalanche. The fudge is at the center here and much lighter in color (reminding me quite a bit of a nougat except there are no eggs in it). On top of the fudge is a thin layer of caramel which holds the peanuts. The whole thing is covered in a chocolatey coating (which actually contains real chocolate with cocoa butter, but it also has modified palm oil in it, which takes it out of the real chocolate column).
The nuts play a much bigger role here, probably because they mingle with both the (mock)chocolate and the caramel. For fake chocolate, it does a much better job of being creamy and tasty than Nestle’s real stuff. The caramel has a kind of fake butter flavor to it, but this is only noticeable if you take the bar apart and try to eat the elements separately (now why would you wanna do that?).
While Nestle just lets the Oh Henry! bar do its thing here in the States, up in the Great White North it’s another story entirely. Hershey goes to down with the bar. First, it’s one of the largest single-serve bars in Canada, so it’s known as a good value. Hershey also does limited editions and other versions of the bar. I got a hold of a few.
It’s not quite as sweet as the regular Oh Henry! and really quite a nice bar. The dark chocolate gives it a bigger chocolate pop instead of all that dairy-tasting milk chocolate. I could use a dash of salt, but, that’s just me, eh.
All of the variation bars are slightly smaller, at only 60 grams (2.12 ounces).
It’s a bit flatter than the other bars. It’s also a bit greasy. This one also has a mockolate coating which isn’t as creamy and just a bit bloomed.
It’s really peanutty. It’s also pleasantly salty ... or unpleasantly so if you think that 115 mg is a little much for a candy bar (the standard Hershey Oh Henry! has 50 mg).
The peanut center also made the caramel more noticeable, probably because it isn’t as dense and chewy as the fudge. (This one is not a limited edition but appears to be a permanent variation.)
The final limited edition item is the Oh Henry! Oh Canada. It first appeared last year for Canada Day (July 1st) so mine is a bit past its prime (the expiration says January 2008).
The bar is described on the wrapper: Crunchy peanuts, red chewy fudge, white creamy caramel, covered in a chocolatey coating. This combo results in red and white in every bite!.
Yes, that fudge center there is actually red. And maple flavored.
Even if it is expired, it was still pretty tasty. I liked the intense maple flavor that permeated the bar. It was like toasted, caramelized pecans.
Overally, I much prefer the Canadian Oh Henry! from Hershey, even if it does have mockolate on it. The Dark Oh Henry! is superior to all the others, but since it was a Limited Edition, the original (which by the way, better reflects the American original anyway) will do in a pinch. But given a choice, I’d probably opt for the whole thing sans (mock)chocolate and get a Payday.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I like the kind of sour stuff that gets the jaw a-tingling, stuff that has a bit of flavor to go along with the intense acidity. Warheads by Impact Confections makes some pretty intensely sour stuff, but their new QBZ are simply rated sour on their intensity scale. (The Warheads Junior Extreme Sour are two steps above.)
These little gem cubes come in Green Apple, Strawberry, Blue Raspberry & Watermelon. They’re marketed as “bite-sized, sour-coated cubes don’t stick to teeth like many chewy candies.” I picked these up at Walgreens in a cute single serve package.
They are actually little cubes, a bit irregular but brightly colored. They have a little sugary/sour sanding on them to keep them from sticking together.
They have an easy, soft bite, a bit of a cross between a fruit jelly and a gummi (they do have gelatin in them).
These are definitely edible, not something you’d only do for a dare. The flavor mix is fun though I’m mystified why there’s no orange or lemon in there as they are actually flavors that are supposed to be sour.
They’re fun to eat either way - you can suck the sour powder off and get a really intense tingly kick or chew it quickly to mix the tangy outer coating with the milder, more flavorful center.
I think I still prefer the sour gummi bears, but then again those just had a flavor variety that I prefer. These are also similar to the Albanese Beeps (Caitlin at Candy Addict reviewed them here). Albanese is made in the USA, Warheads are made in China.
Preferences aside, these may be easier to find than other, better gummi sour options or, of course, Sour Patch Kids.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Ghirardelli has really expanded their line of chocolate bars over the past five years. Not only that, I see their products everywhere now thanks to the expansion of higher end chocolate into grocery stores and drug chains. They even have a charming chain of ice cream stores.
But I’ve ignored them on the blog for a long time. Probably because my initial impression of them has been that the chocolate bars is waxy and bland. But they’re wildly popular and have been making chocolate since 1852 in the Bay Area, one of my favorite candy destinations, so I needed to put those impressions to the test.
That’s not to say that I don’t use their chocolate chips, I prefer them to Nestle’s Toll House Morsels or Hershey’s Baking Chips and they’re often on sale for a decent price.
So I picked up this assortment of tasting squares after Christmas when they were on sale. They feature the new line of Intense Dark in three different flavors.
The Espresso Escape wrapper says: dark chocolate with finely ground espresso beans in 60% cacao. As usual I was worried about the bits of coffee beans, but in thsi case they really were so finely ground as they matched the particle size of the cocoa solids.
Roasted brewed coffee flavors mixed with the woodsy taste of real beans. Very little chocolate flavor here, it’s all coffee but with a smooth chocolate texture. Good cocoa butter melt, very silky. Light vanilla overtones. But the cedar and smoke is quite tangy.
While I enjoyed the texture quite a bit, the flavor was just a little too, well, Intense (tm).
The Mint Bliss package says: dark chocolate with natural mint in 60% cacao. What the front of the package doesn’t mention is that there’s also some unidentified “artificial flavor” in this as well.
Nice buttery texture, but an incongruous tangy and musty taste along with the peppermint. It’s more of a fresh peppermint leaf taste, not a pure peppermint oil, which is a nice change of pace from their Peppermint Bark that I had over the holidays. But the combination of flavors still doesn’t quite jive for me.
It has a nice buttery melt with a light cool feeling but the flavor is a little thin. It’s a little fruity, on the raisin side of things.
It’s sweet, only the lightest trace of bitterness. Light dry finish.
Ghirardelli has some other versions in their Intense Dark line, including the Midnight Reverie that has 86% cacao, Evening Dream with only 60% cacao and two other flavored 60% called Citrus Sunset & Toffee Interlude. They also have some filled bars that I haven’t tried yet.
Overall, it’s nice stuff, certainly worth the price and a fun little pickup for coffee or after dinner, maybe a mid-day munch. I like the 10.6 gram squares, it’s a good size for a little taste of chocolate.
Note: the Mint Bliss & Espresso Escape have milk fat in them, so are unsuitable for vegans, but the Twilight Delight is milk-free (though made on equipment that processes dairy).
Friday, April 11, 2008
I’m hearing a lot of hatin’ on black licorice in the entries for the Red Vines Giveaway. Which makes me sad. I think a lot of folks are very attached to their favorite candies and I’m probably one of those people and maybe I take it a little personally when someone calls something that I appreciate disgusting. (But I’m not a converter or anything, I don’t like to force candy on people who say that they don’t like something.)
Licorice has a long and wonderful history as a confection and even a medicine. It’s also very flexible, used as a flavoring in hundreds of different sweet and savory items. It has some companion flavors as well, such as anise and fennel. One of the more commonly found licorices is the Red Vines Black Licorice Twists.
The most common kind of licorice here in the United States is the twist. It has a wheat base and is usually flavored and sweetened with molasses (and in this case, corn syrup too). Molasses is a great companion to licorice. While pure licorice is very sweet and soft on the tongue, molasses is deep and only mildly sweet with some interesting mineral notes.
The earthy combination and less sticky complexity to it all makes Red Vines Black Licorice Twists a nice treat. They’re not very licoricey, but that’s okay, they do have a nice texture and feel more like a snack than a candy sometimes. (Wheat-based candies can do that.) I think they’re best when they’re fresh, but stale is okay. I’ve revived stale licorice before by placing it in the microwave on top of a very lightly damp paper towel, covered with another paper towel and zap it for 10 seconds.
Licorice and licorice-like candies are increasing in popularity, probably because of their low caloric density and satisfying chew. As a grocery store purchase of licorice, I prefer Good and Plenty, but if you put Red Vines Black Licorice in front of me, I’ll definitely eat it.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I’d never had them until I started the blog. I picked them up two years ago to try and found the bag was so horribly stale that it wouldn’t have been fair. So again with full warning this time that National Licorice Day was approaching, I picked up another bag.
It’s mind boggling. I don’t even know where to begin with how confused, anxious and actually angry these make me.
First, I opened the bag and it smelled like sweet musk. Yes. Like the Australian Musk Lollies. And I know this smell because I recently bought a bag.
At first I thought I was crazy. I’ve had smell hallucinations and I’ve heard that simply coloring a food one way will make someone expect that flavor, so maybe I was just having some sort of synapse malfunction.
But it’s been a full week and I’ve checked with others. The reaction to the smell ranges from “It smells like my grandmother’s purse” to “that’s like a bad candle shop.”
None of it gets better. The colors are odd, like slightly bleached by the sun or perhaps rinsed in the colander with some fresh veggies and they’ve run.
The texture is like eating surgical tubing ... that’s been sitting next to leaking perfume samples for several months. They candy is made of little tubes of a similar wheat-based licorice vine (no twist to it) that is then coated on the outside with a candy shell (I can’t call it crunchy, only colorful). After chewing a bit the flavor does kind of warm up, after the musk has gone away it’s a little bit like licorice, but lacking the anise punch and the deep earthy molasses flavors.
The American Licorice Company explains them this way:
Maybe it’s just because I don’t like musk. But someone must like these candies or they wouldn’t be making them for those rabid fans. Or maybe people just use them for craft projects. They might make some decent kid-safe chunky beads for stringing on some embroidery thread.
I just ... don’t know what else ... to write about them. I can only assume that those people who hate licorice have tasted this and I can’t blame them for their hostility towards the stuff. (Go ahead and call me hypocritical for hatin’ on this stuff, I can take it.)
Rating: 2 out of 10
The Red Vines Giveaway closes on Saturday, April 12th, so enter if you want some! (Don’t worry, there will be no Snaps in the winner packages.)
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I was looking forward to this bar when I heard about it at All Candy Expo last September. It was teased, “Satisfy your taste for adventure! Rich chocolate. Crunchy nuts. And a cliffhanger kick of exotic spice and a hint of sweet coconut flavor.” That description doesn’t sound that gripping, but still a tasty combo.
The bars began showing up on store shelves in the past few weeks, along with the other tie-in items like the new color & icons in the Milk Chocolate M&Ms and Peanut M&Ms as well as the Mint Crisp M&Ms.
Here’s the obligatory and gratuitous cross-section:
It looks like a regular Snickers, it has the same milk chocolate coating and two layers inside. The top layer is caramel studded with peanuts and the bottom is a fluffed nougat.
There is a faint whiff of coconut, but I’m not getting any chai spices in there.
Still, all I’m getting is a bit saltier nougat and the coconut flavor mixed into the caramel.
It’s not bad, but certainly doesn’t live up to its name. If you’ve always wanted a coconut Snickers (and I know a few people mentioned a love of coconut in the Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Ideal Candy Bar question) this might be the bar for you. Of course it may also be a big disappointment for true coconut fans, as there is no actual coconut in there. You might just want to pick up an Almond Joy and smash it on top of a regular Snickers for a better effect (and a true mash up!).
While this may have disappointed me (and the Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Bar didn’t), I’ve got to give them props for trying some new things instead of just using the same ingredients in different ways (like the Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch) or taking away an element (like the Snickers Xtreme).
The package design is a bit better on this one, I think, than the Mint Crisp M&Ms. Don’t forget to check out the new colors of M&Ms, too.
The Milk Chocolate M&Ms are in a muted color palatte: Red, Brown, Amber and Cream.
They all have assorted new icons on them, integrated with the letter M in some way. I like the one that’s wearing the Indiana Jones hat and the map ordinal. There are also various pyramids and native masks. Some of them feel a bit like a retread of the Pirates of the Caribbean, including the skull. But I guess that’s the genre of movie. The Peanut ones rarely have a legible icon on them as well, but hey, that’s the hazard with using a real peanut center.
All of the Indiana Jones tie in Mars products are available in stores now. I found mine at CVS and Walgreen’s.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
They turned up at Walgreens, and on sale to boot (well, it was strange sale where they’d charge $2.99 a bag to mortals off the street, but someone with a coupon could get 3 for the price of 2 or something like that, but I was charged $1.59 after I gave them my best, “I don’t understand, the tag on the shelf says they’re a dollar each, but I don’t want to buy three.” and then they tried to explain it and I just kind of kept sweetly repeating that I should be able to just buy one and still get a sale price, even if it’s not the super-low price. Finally they just put a key in the register and that’s what I paid).
Each of these ropes is just shy of an ounce (.988 ounces), so it’s a satisfying portion and about 100 calories to boot.
They’re very soft, sometimes so soft that it’s hard to pull apart the ropes without breaking off pieces.
They’re fun to twist and roll, even tie in knots or probably do macrame. (I should have photographed the little scarf I made for a Peeps Bunny.)
And the taste? Well, it’s definitely a spicy cinnamon. It smells like Red Hots and has both a sweet flavor, a bit of a tangy bite and then after chewing for a bit, a low and pleasant cinnamon burn.
I don’t know what’s taken Twizzlers so long to make a really good cinnamon twist like this, but I’m glad they did. For those minding their calories, you may enjoy the interactivity and the low caloric density and overall satisfaction of the candy. I’m not sure when they’ll come out with these in single serving packages, but they should.
For some bizarro reason, these aren’t listed on the Hershey’s website even though they’ve been on shelves for at least three months.
These are made with a corn syrup and wheat base, so they’re not suitable for those who cannot have gluten.
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.
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