Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Atomic Fireballs were invented in 1954 by Nello Ferrara, the son of the founder of Ferrara Pan. The spicy flavor and the exceptionally long lasting candy was instantly popular (coupled with the pop culture obsession with all things atomic at the time).
Atomic Fireballs are made in a process called hot panning, where layers of sugar syrup and flavor are deposited on a single sugar grain core. The pans are hot as they tumble the developing candies through this long process. It takes two weeks and at least a hundred layers to make the familiar spicy jawbreaker. You can see the process here at the Ferrara Pan website. Ferrara Pan sells over 15,000,000 every week!
Atomic Fireballs come in two sizes, a little pea sized one in boxes similar in format to the Lemonhead and the more popular full-sized, individually-wrapped jawbreaker. (Ferrera Pan still makes Red Hots, which are cinnamon imperials and though they’re nice they’re NOT the same thing.) I haven’t seen the little ones in years, but a quick search on the internet indicates that they’re still around. (Here’s a great shot of their old packaging.)
It’s still easy to find Atomic Fireballs individually wrapped, usually for a nickel or dime each at checkout stands at convenience stores or liquor stores.
All that history and nostalgia aside, how are they?
The outside is rather mild. The shiny ball is smooth and takes a moment to release a strong blast of cinnamon (and a little bitterness too for those who can taste Red 40). Either I’ve become extremely resilient over the years (and judging from my inability to eat my husband’s chili, I’d say not) or they’ve decreased the hotness of this product.
The cinnamon was definitely tingly and spicy but didn’t really gain any momentum until the second “major” layer. I recall not being able to hold one in my mouth for very long as a kid ... it’s no issue at all now.
I also think the texture has changed slightly. It feels a bit lighter, a little more chalky now. It loses flavor after that second internal layer. I had no problem crunching one open for the cross section with some nutcrackers ... something that was extremely difficult years ago because of the density (and possibly they were larger back in the olden days). The best way when I was a kid to break them open was to drop them onto concrete. This was more fun with the old full-sized Everlasting Gobstoppers because they had colored layers.
Fireballs were one of those candies I enjoyed eating while reading and later on long car trips where I found the hotness kept me alert while driving. I’m a cruncher, but the sphere has to be dissolved down to at least a third of its original size before I can crack it open with my teeth. I wish they were as strong as I remember them, they’d get a full on 9 out of 10 if they did. But this watered down version is still a fun 7 out of 10.
Other fun things I found out while researching this:
This package was made in Mexico, I’ll try to find out if they still make them in the United States.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:37 am
Monday, August 6, 2007
If you’ve ever been to Europe you’ve probably seen the Milka bar called “Alpenmilch”. It comes in a lilac-colored wrapper featuring a lilac colored cow on it. Billed not as a chocolate bar, it’s called a “Chocolate Confection”. Reading the ingredients, it’s not added vegetable fat that keeps it from being called “chocolate” in the United States, it’s whey and hazelnut paste.
Milka was introduced in Switzerland in 1901 by Suchard as an affordable confection for the masses. The name comes from the German words Milch (milk) and Kakao (cocoa).
The Suchard company was briefly run by Philip Morris starting in 1990. In 1993 Philip Morris rolled their other food conglomerate, Kraft, in with Suchard and is now called Kraft Jacobs Suchard AG. This huge company makes a lot of well-known European sweets under the brands Marabou, Terry’s, Toblerone, Callard & Bowser, Cote d’Or and Daim. At the beginning of this year Altria (the new name for Philip Morris, which sounds like a diet drug to me) announced it was spinning Kraft back off into its own company.
I found this attractive looking bar at Target for $1.69. I’ve also seen the white confection version at the 99 Cent Only Stores, but I wanted to try this one first.
The funny thing about the bar is the little marketing line on the back:
I’ve never heard chocolate described as tender before!
The bar is rather light looking, lighter than a Hershey bar. It has a softer snap to it, as most milk chocolate bars do. It smells distinctly milky and a little nutty. It melts slowly and has a very sticky, fudgy feel on the tongue. The thick melt does release a lot of flavors. The primary flavor is powdered milk, followed by a little burnt sugar taste and a light touch of hazelnuts. Though the bar is pleasant, there’s very little “chocolate” flavor in here.
There must be a lot of milk in this bar because a single serving (1.48 ounces) contains 10% of your RDA of calcium and 3 grams of protein. (Of course a glass of milk has three times that.)
Target carries a rather wide selection of all kinds of chocolate. This isn’t really top of the line stuff, but if you’re a fan of European style milky chocolate or would like a less expensive version of guanduia (hazelnut chocolate paste), then this might be a good option. I’ll finish this bar and likely try the Milka White confection, but I’m not sure if I’d buy it again.
Note from wrapper: May contain traces of other tree nuts [remember there are hazelnuts in here] and wheat. This bar was made in Germany.
Friday, August 3, 2007
I forgot to mention the huge supply of Asian Mentos that Santos brought me (but you probably have some clue when you saw the Fuji Apple). So be on the lookout for reviews of the coveted Mentos Plus Citrus Mix, Mentos Xtrm (Spearmint & Peppermint), Summer Cherry, super-cute mini Mentos Lime Mint Cool Chews and even a different Sour Mix that has Pineapple in it. (Photos here to keep you as excited as I am.)
In other chew news, I found a blog post from a Canadian that mentions their version of the Carnival Flavors Skittles that have been all the buzz this summer. Theirs is called Skittles Unlimited and comes in a black package. See Amby’s post with photos. It looks like the same flavors as ours. They have them in Australia too, but the flavors are different: *popcorn, *jam donut, *toffee apple, fairy floss & bubble gum.
In other fun foreign candy news, I also saw this post on TalkLotaChocolate about something called Clickos “Happy Peanuts” from Germany. Sure, they sound like Goobers or Peanut M&Ms ... only made from happy peanuts.
Freakgirl posted this photo of a cupcake and then this post about the pictured cupcake. Yes, the two Elvis Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (miniatures) in the cupcake sound good (one inside and one on top), but so does the insane fresh banana buttercream frosting mounded on top.
USA Today published one of the strangest lists of the 10 Great Places to Milk Chocolate for all it’s Worth. Of the 10 I’ve actually had three (considering they’re all over the world, I consider that pretty good.) The choices are odd though. Naked Chocolate in Philadelphia and not someplace like Jacques Torres in NYC? Or Max Brenner in any one of their locations? Nothing from Australia. And Scharffen Berger represents the West Coast?
Here’s the Weekly Recap of Reviews:
Monday: Payday Fresh from the Factory (8 out of 10)
Tuesday: Mentos Fuji Apple (8 out of 10)
Wednesday: Ferrero Raffaello & Rondnoir (6 out of 10 & 8 out of 10)
Thursday: Confetti & Agrumetti Lemon, White Chocolate & Almonds (8 out of 10)
Friday: Candy Dump: The International House of Chocolate Bars Mallorca Bars from Spain, Cacao et Chocolate from France and Dark Angel from South Korea (6 out of 10 & 8 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 6.83 (for 12 items) ... 58% chocolate content.
I’ve been accumulating chocolate bars faster than I can review them. (And faster than I can eat them, to boot!)
Here’s a selection of what’s been in my queue for a while with some brief thoughts on each. I don’t know much about the companies that make them, but all were tasty enough that I’m going to keep an eye out for the brands again.
My boss went to Spain and brought back three amazingly beautiful artisan chocolate bars from a company called Mallorca. Each bar was similar in format - 10 squares and wrapped in clear cellophane. The plain bar was wrapped face up, the nutted bars were bottoms up to show off the elegantly placed nuts.
The basic bar is called Kilamanjaro Chocolate and was an admirable middle-of-the-road 75% dark chocolate. It was smooth and creamy with woodsy notes and a bit of coffee in there. There was a slight grain to it and a later crisp dry finish. It was pleasant but perhaps a little too dry and acrid for me in the end.
The milk chocolate was creamy and had strong dairy notes, almost sticky and fudgy (but then again it was rather hot when I was eating it). The hazelnuts were dreamy little spheres - they were coated with a crispy sugar glaze of caramelized sugar with the nuts fresh and crunchy inside. They went so well with the chocolate I was often torn between pulling the nuts out and eating them whole and eating them with the blocks of chocolate.
I would love to get my hands on this bar again.
The Chocolate Negro con Almendra Marcona Chocolate features two blanched Marcona almonds in each square. The almonds are crisp and buttery (and are always more rounded than the pointy American almonds).
The dark chocolate here was not as strong as the first Kilamanjaro bar. It was sweet and bright tasting, some citrusy flavors along with light woodsy notes and a good buttery melt on the tongue.
The almonds were the star here, I love Marcona almonds, it’s like they’re a different nut from the almonds I usually get, they have an almost hazelnut/pine nut flavor to them.
Since it was purchased in South Korea, I have not idea what the back of the package says except for the web address: www.happynco.com which didn’t help me much in figuring out this bar. Sure, the front says stuff like “lighten up your day with dark angel dark chocolate” but I was curious about ingredients and stuff. The website is filled with cutesy images with butterflies and daisies but no sign of this bar. The character on the package, the spindly-legged princess with blonde hair is called Happy Girl with her even blonder Happy Guy. But the bar is called Dark Chocolate Dark Angel from Hatai and says it’s 42% cacao. Not too dark ... kind of in the middle.
The back of the package has some helpful pictograms that told me that the bar can be broken in half while it’s still in the package (the paperboard sleeve is scored). Then I think you’re supposed to share.
The bar inside the package is quite cute (mine was a little broken, but I reassembled it). It features a large section with a butterfly in darker embossed chocolate and four smaller squares with a milk chocolate heart and potted flowers opposite a darker chocolate piece of wrapped candy and a rainbow.
The pieces have a nice snap (obviously, since they broke easily before I got the bar). The flavor is creamy and has a slight dairy edge to it. I wasn’t wild about it, but I thought the packaging was sweet (a little too sweet and immature for me, but fun for a tween or teen and the fact that you can get sheets or pillows to match just sends it over the top for me).
What I found in the end was it didn’t have quite enough of a chocolate hit to me, but it went well with a handful of almonds and pretzels as a snack.
Finally, I got three bars from Cacao et Chocolat in Paris shortly after Christmas from my father. Two of the bars (including the one shown) were dark chocolate. One was called Teculi and was 79% cacao. It was rich yet still buttery. The bar was crisp and glossy and really smelled glorious. It has some fruity cherries in there, maybe raspberry and plum along with the deep cocoa notes.
The second bar (which looked an awful lot like the first so there’s not another photo) was called Tobago and was 88%. This one I actually still have about 1/3 sitting around in my chocolate box. It’s very dark and really a lot of effor to eat. It’s like a riot of flavors in my mouth. Some acidic notes of citrus (grapefruit mostly) and dark woodsy tones of cedar along with coffee ... but then it’s just too dry for me. I miss the creamy cocoa butter to float it all around on my tongue.
The final bar in the set was a white chocolate one (which I didn’t photograph because it was broken). It was glorious ... it was so buttery and though sweet, it had some wonderful cocoa background notes (I don’t know if it was deodorized cocoa butter as a base or it just assumed some of the chocolate flavors from being shipped to me with the other strong bars).
In my package were also some truffles, which didn’t look photo-worthy after their world travels, but I found them quite nice, very simple. Creamy, toasted flavors and a good buttery melt. They have a nice website in both French and English (though I don’t know if they’ll ship to North America). It looks like the kind of place I’d definitely put on my list of shops to visit (along with everywhere else David Lebovitz tours).
I give the whole pile of chocolate a 6 out of 10 with the standouts of the Mallorca Chocolate con Leche Avellana Caramelizada and Cacao et Chocolat White Chocolate bar at 8 out of 10 (bars I would buy for myself). I have no idea of the price on these and of course none of them have nutrition labels on them.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
My friend Will went to Europe on a decadent cruise and found something truly “of the place” to bring back from Sorrento, Italy for me.
I’m telling you about this not so you can go out and buy these, because I’m not sure you can (they supposedly have a website but it’s not been working) but just to show both the universality of sweets and the local flavor.
This little box and bag contains some rather upscale almond dragees (rather like the Cherry Almondine M&Ms from last week) from a little shop called Confetti & Agrumetti.
These little olive-sized morsels have a freshly roasted local almond at the heart. It’s then coated in a white chocolate flavored with lime zest and then coated in a colored candy shell. The shell was not as sharply crisp as some Jordan Almonds I’ve had, but still a nice crunch. The white chocolate was thick and sweet but had a really strong citrus zest to it. The almond at the center was nicely toasted to a darker brown than I think we’re accustomed to here in the States. It was rich and flavoful and had a good crunch.
Antonio, the fellow who runs the shop, I hear is a hoot. He loves to sing to his customers and expressed a desire to live and retire in Southern California (how funny, because I’m pretty sure a lot of Californians would be happy to swap with him). You can see in this photo Will took of his wife buying these little goodies that the panning machine (it looks like a tiny cement mixer) is right out there in the open and you can watch him drizzle the candy coating on right before your eyes. (Perhaps panning drums will become the new stand mixers as must have appliances.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.