Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I have a deep attraction to pretty candy. I’ve always enjoyed arrays of colorful candies spilled out on my desk. I like to arrange them in patterns, rainbows, color combos. I put them in glass jars, layered by color or shape. Mix them up, repeat and eat.
Most candies are pretty limited in what they can do with shapes and variety. Compressed Dextrose - the plain old chalky sweet and tart candies however, are extremely flexible when it comes to design (I call them chalk candies). With the loss of Tart ‘n Tinys, the time has come to find a replacement.
Oak Leaf (part of SweetWorks) is one of the few sugar-candy companies that really pays attention to the possibilities of pretty candy. At the All Candy Expo I got to see in person the huge variety that they make. I also got to bring home a good selection of those that attracted me most.
Holy moly, the green Baby Tears is actually lime! Who knew anyone made anything lime any longer? It’s all green apple these days. I think blue is Blue Raspberry, which was okay but certainly not sour.
There are a few versions of baby tears out there, (ZOMG has a review here).
Most of the candy is the same, the only differences are the colors and shapes. Some have different flavors depending on the mix. I was tickled by this Bonz variety. They sell it a couple of different ways, with just the skulls, just the bones and a mix of the two. (The plain bones are fun for a dog theme, the mix is great for Halloween or pirate themes.)
The bones themselves were super tart and kind of chalky on the inside instead of being dense. Pink (cherry), Red (also cherry), Yellow (lemon), Blue (sweet raspberry), Green (lime) and White (pineapple?). The candy shell was thin and easy to chomp through or dissolve off.
The skulls didn’t have an identical color line, there was a Purple (grape) and Orange (orange) and the Green was darker (watermelon).
These were dreadful. As cute as they are, they’re just as tasteless. The scale, for one, is just horrible. The Watermelon is the same size as the Strawberry and that’s bigger than the Lime! The Orange has a cute bumbly coating, but it’s so thick and flavorless I was worried it was actually a piece of plastic display. The grape had a similarly hard shell filled with a flavorless sweet powder. The Banana was the only standout, though I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Some days when I chomp on them I find the fake banana flavor comforting. Other days it feels rather cool on my tongue and slightly bitter I’m wondering if I’m eating fingernail polish remover. I had another small assortment of little fish in my mix and found the banana-yellow one in there even more alarmingly chemical-tasting. (I’m wondering if there’ll come a day when someone diagnoses Banana Candy Workers Lung.)
All of the candies are fun and at most places where I see them in bulk (at those pick-a-mix places at the mall) they’re way overpriced. You can buy them for about $2.50 a pound on Amazon (different brand) ... if you’re willing to buy 24 pounds of Bonz at a time. I wouldn’t pay more than $4 a pound for these unless I was depressed and nothing but bright food coloring and sugar could shake the doldrums.
They make Super Sours (different sizes, coated and uncoated), Smiles, Snaps, Lil’ Jewels (perhaps like the old Tart ‘n Tinys?) and Fishes along with all sorts yellow Bananas and multicolored Crazy Bananas.
The best way to buy these, as far as I can tell, is from those candy machines in kiosks at malls and arcades. At only a quarter for a little handful, it’s a pretty good pick-me-up.
If I wanted a fun and casual candy buffet (especially one that could stand the heat in summer), these could definitely be at the top of my list. Though some flavors are hit & miss, I still give them an 8 out 10 ... because they’re still pretty to look at if I don’t eat them.
EDITED 11/28/2007: I updated this to correct an earlier error. I attributed this candy to Concord Confections in error. These candies were made by Oak Leaf.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Gimbal’s LavaBalls aren’t a new product, I even saw them at the 2006 All Candy Expo. But I never saw them in stores (except online in 5 lb boxes), so I was hesitant to write about something that you couldn’t get.
Well, I found them, at Walgreen’s (and they’re probably in other places) ... so here’s a review!
Gimbal’s is an old San Francisco panned confectioner, run by the same family for four generations. They make a line of gourmet jelly beans, some fun licorice product and pectin/jelly items. The bonus with Gimbal’s (besides the high quality) is that their facility is practically allergen free ... their candies are free of gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, gelatin, gluten, eggs and dairy. They’re also Kosher. (They do use Soy.)
LavaBalls are chewy hot cinnamon candies. Like their name implies, they’re a spicy cinnamon.
They’re like a giant jelly bean. The gumdrop center is lightly spiced, kind of like a Spearmint Leaf, mild but still making a generous contribution to the overall flavor. On top of that is a little layer or super-spice that’s covered by the rest of the nicely warm candy shell.
They’re about the size of a marble, which is a satisfying size for a sizzling chew. They’re not too hot for me, but there’s a pleasant burn and sometimes they’ll catch me a little bit with a tickle in my throat.
The balls are about the size of a marble, so they’re bigger than their newest competitor, the Chewy Atomic Fireballs (which are not allergen free) and marginally spicier and just deeper in flavor.
I enjoy these a lot and would definitely find them good traveling candies, a movie watching snack and good for swift novel-writing. Each LavaBall has about 13 calories each.
They do contain beeswax (and artificial colors/flavors) so may not be suitable for vegans.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
This is the bread pudding I’ve been pondering for the past month and I mentioned in this review. It’s based on the flavors of a Molasses Peanut Butter Kiss (also Mary Janes, as the name implies): sticky peanut butter, sticky molasses and creamy custard.
I made this recipe based on the bread pudding recipe I’ve been using for years in The New York Times Cookbook (I have a first edition, I don’t know if this is in subsequent editions): New England Bread Pudding. I’ve never actually followed the recipe as written, I’ve always mucked around with it.
This bread pudding has a base, mild flavor of peanut butter with a little woodsy hit of molasses that’s mixed into the milk & egg custard base. There’s actually no refined sugar in here (except for whatever was used in the bread). Bread pudding is pretty hard to mess up, so feel free to alter proportions, just be sure to cook it completely.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cube or pull apart the bread. Bread can be stale or fresh, but let it dry out a bit if possible. Set aside.
In a large pot that will hold all of the above ingredients (approximately 2 quarts) put in the milk and butter. Heat over medium until milk starts to scald. Turn down to low and add peanut butter and molasses, whisk to combine (or if you like things rather freeform, just stir). Add whiskey. Scramble the eggs in a separate bowl, then add about a half a cup of the hot milk mixture slowly, combine then add to milk mixture in pot.
Combine and allow contents to warm up to just under a boil. It will thicken slightly with the addition of the eggs.
Turn off burner. Add bread, stir gently then allow to sit for five minutes.
Prepare your baking dish. For mine I used four ramekins that hold 12 ounces each. You can make it all in one dish (one that holds 48 ounces - pick something that won’t be more than 3” deep or else it won’t cook completely in the center). Whatever you choose, you’ll need a pan a bit larger to use as a water bath. Place the smaller pan into the large pan. You can grease it if you want, I don’t and it doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference.
Optional: drizzle some molasses in the bottom of the baking dish. This gives it a bit of a sauce on the bottom, but if you’re not fond of molasses (why are you making this?) then you can omit this step.
Scoop the pudding mixture with a measuring cup or ladle into the ramekins or baking dish. Make sure it’s spread evenly. I crumbled a little brown sugar on top to make a crust, but feel free to omit.
Put the pan into the preheated oven. Add water to the larger pan, about an inch or two. (Make sure this doesn’t dry out.) Yes, you can add the water before you put it in, but this makes it very heavy and more likely to spill.
Bake for 40-60 minutes. In order to check for done-ness, listen to hear if the butter is sizzling around the edges. Also, the pudding will pull away from the sides a bit. Insert a knife into the pudding about one inch from the side. If it comes out clean and hot, it’s probably done. Shake the pan gently and see if the center has a more liquid “jiggle” than the rest. If so, leave in another five minutes. Repeat the above. If you bake it a little longer, that’s okay too, just make sure that the water bath doesn’t evaporate.
Allow to cool and set up before serving. Can be refrigerated and served cold or warmed up in a microwave or oven.
Serving suggestion: A la mode or with some whipped cream. Drizzle a little extra molasses and or peanut butter on if desired.
Makes 8-12 servings
The bread pudding is rather hearty and filling, so I’d suggest it as a winter dessert. I also think it’s a mighty fine breakfast. (I know, some people think that’s crazy, but really, how different is bread pudding from French toast when you think about it?) I’m planning on making this again with an egg bread and possibly more peanut butter. I’ll report back with any findings.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Technically this happened last week, not this week, but bear with me. Last Friday I got to meet another one of my fellow candy bloggers (I have a set of three in-person meets so far!). Joanna from SugarSavvy.net was in town and we went out to lunch at the Farmers Market (because it was the densest candy location I could think of near my office). We had a little lunch with the incredible view of Littlejohn’s Toffee & Fudge. They were wrapping their slick and gorgeous caramel kisses (caramel covered marshmallows). Joanna bought some penuche, a pecan praline for a friend and I also got a praline and a piece of honeycomb (because it looked so good on Rosa’s post over at SugarSavvy ... but I ate it and can’t review it now). I probably jabbered on a lot about candy, but it’s pretty rare that I get to talk to anyone about candy except through the blog.
She also gave me a wonderful selection of four chocolates by Xocolatl de David. I’ve gobbled them up without taking their picture or reviewing them. (I’m sure I’ll have them again and do some coverage.) Mmmm ... dark and scorched fleur de sel caramels coated in rich chocolate. I definitely have to visit Portland one of these days.
As another update, the winner for the Ultimate Candy Expo Box was Kimberly. It was a little warm in both our locations last week, so I’m boxing up a list of her top requests and a bunch of other stuff to send off on Monday. There were 537 valid entries (a few doubles on the comment thread and a few that came in via email). I’m kind of 21st century in my drawing method. I export the entire list to an spreadsheet. Sort it (in this case by email address) and then have a random number generator tell me which entry won.
I’m thinking about running another giveaway, this time filled with Limited Edition items (some you may have loved, many you may have hated!). Any thoughts?
As a little follow up to another post earlier this week, Hershey’s has named Richard Lenny’s replacement. They’re promoting from within and have tapped David J. West (43) as the new President, CEO and Director. West’s current position is Chief Operating Officer, Exec. VP, Sr. VP and Pres of the North American Commercial Group (see, he’ll have a much shorter title!). Don’t worry about Lenny (55), he’s leaving with plenty of compensation for his hard work this year: a $1.1 million base salary and $10.25 million in long-term compensations ... that’s just this year. (He has some other yet unexercised options worth $23.5 million.) More about Lenny’s history with the company here. Of the 20 top executives in Hershey, West was the youngest in senior management.
Chew on That has their monthly roundup of answers from bloggers. October’s topic is “What is the one thing in your refrigerator or pantry that you cannot live without?” As I’m not the cook in my household, my answer isn’t an ingredient, just something I eat.
Monday: Reese’s Whipps (4 out of 10)
Tuesday: Java Twix (8 out of 10)
Wednesday: Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Kisses (5 out of 10)
Thursday: GudFud Stuffed Marshmallows (6 out of 10)
Friday: Chocolate Poppers (6 out of 10)
Healthy Friday Bonus: Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks (6 out of 10)
Weekly average was 5.833 with 50% chocolate content.
Friday, October 5, 2007
After reading the publicity materials and nutrition label on these, I don’t think they can be called candy. But I have them and some folks expressed interest in the new Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks, I thought I’d do a review.
The snacks come in five flavors: Blueberry, Strawberry, Cherry, Raspberry and Peach. They are little, firm jelly pieces made with real fruit puree covered in a yogurt confection coating.
The first ingredient on the label is Fruit Puree (depends on the flavor, which always includes real fruit of that kind), followed by Fruit Juice Concentrates ... then Sugar. Of course the next item is Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, but I’m guessing that’s so low on the proportions it explains why the fat content is only 3 grams per serving (approximately 1 ounce or half the bag) and it says 0 grams of trans fat.
Not all the flavors interest me much, so I’m not even going to open the Peach ones. Some lucky Trick-or-Treater will get that later this month. While getting my samples on the last day of All Candy Expo the guy at the Promotion in Motion booth (they folks who make these for Welch’s) apologized for not having any Cherry. I told him that was no big loss either for me.
Generally, the little bits are kind of crumbly. The yogurt confectionery coating isn’t like a white chocolate, it’s not buttery smooth. It’s kind of like a flaky frosting. It’s not bad, it’s not too sweet and adds a bit of a milky flavor to the whole thing, but also a little chalky texture ... I’m guessing this because so many of the ingredients are dairy powders (whey powder, yogurt powder). But the coating has something to offer - both calcium (10%) and vitamin D (25%) as well as active cultures of Lactobacillus acidophillus and Lactobacillus caseii. Oh, yeah, and 100% of the RDA of vitamin C and 25% of your RDA of vitamin A.
Raspberry: lovely light scent, sweet and tangy. The jelly center is firm, with a nice crumbly chew. It’s not sticky, it’s not at all like a gummi or a standard jelly candy like Dots or tough like a fruit leather. It doesn’t have that fine smoothness that jellies of all kinds have, but the texture is pretty nice. The yogurt coating is only okay, as mentioned above.
Strawberry: smells like light spring flowers and cotton candy (pretty much how fresh strawberries smell to me). There’s a slight tangy ice cream scent as well.
Blueberry: this really tastes like blueberries, though it doesn’t have the deep flavor profile that the two other berry flavors sport.
The yogurt coating fell off of the centers when I jostled the bags around a lot. I would have recommended throwing these into a snack mix of some sort - nuts, maybe some chocolate panned nuts, dried fruits and pretzels. But I don’t know if the could stand up to it.
The ones shown here are a two portion bag (perhaps for parents to share with their kids or kids to share with each other). They’re also available in “snack packs” which have less than 100 calories (and I’m guessing are a little under an ounce).
Are they candy? No, they’re too fortified.
Are they something you might be able to sell your kids on instead of candy? Possibly ... it’s more likely you’ll be able to get your kids to eat these as a healthier snack than just chips or perhaps a finicky kid who won’t eat fruit might sample them. (There’s no significant fiber in there though.) As snacks go, I still think that the Florida’s Naturals Sour Fruit Strings do the best job of feeling like “no compromise” on taste, but if your kids like these and think they’re candy, then by all means, let them indulge in this instead of something worse.
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