Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy - Chocolate, Vanilla & Strawberry
Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy is a curious little confection. It’s curious in that it’s not really Turkish and it’s not really taffy. But it really was made by a guy named Victor Bonomo, whose father was from Turkey.
Turkish Taffy is made by boiling sugar, corn syrup and egg whites. But instead of being fluffed like a traditional nougat or pulled like taffy it was poured and baked in large sheets like candy bark. The resulting texture has an incredibly smooth and long chew with no hint of sugar crystals. It was originally sold in bulk and pieces could be purchased by weight at candy counters at department stores and five & dimes back in the 1940s. By the 1950s the company started selling bars where the customers were encouraged to whack them before opening to break into individual pieces.
When Victor Bonomo retired in the 1970s, the company was sold to Tootsie who made the candy from 1980 to 1989. Around 2003 there were tickles on the internet that the candy was going to return (including a few emails I got that never turned into anything), but it wasn’t until this year that it actually happened. Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy is now available in the classic bar format and little individually wrapped bites in the original four flavors: Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate and Banana.
I’ll start by saying that most chocolate chews are a disappointment. They can never match the chocolate punch of actual chocolate. The only thing going for a chocolate chew is the chew part, so it’d better be good enough to transcend the watered down flavor.
The color of Bonomo Chocolate Turkish Taffy is like chocolate nonfat milk, a light creamy brown. A bit lighter even than a Tootsie Roll, which I’m guessing is the most widely consumed chocolate chew in the United States.
To eat I followed the directions to whack the package firmly before opening on the corner of a table. I did it several times until I felt that the bar had been cleaved into several pieces along its length.
The pieces are thick and firm, but with some gentle pressure they do bend. Bend quickly enough and you can actually break it or pull very slowly and it will stretch. It smells lightly sweet and a little like cocoa and sweet, powdery marshmallows.
The chew is hard at first but melts after some work and warmth. The flavor is thin and watery - a light cocoa note but very little more than that. It’s not terribly sweet, which is a relief. The texture however, is dreamy. It’s smooth and silky, a chew that has no middle or end, it’s completely the same all along. The only thing that’s different is that it gets smaller the more I chewed.
The cocoa was disappointing, but the fact that it wasn’t too sweet and provided a strong texture without anything left sticking in my teeth was a huge plus.
The chew is firm and tough at first but softens. It’s exceptionally smooth and consistent, all the way to the end. The flavor is lightly creamy and has a good vanilla flavor that’s not too artificial though really not that deep either. It’s more robust than a Vanilla Tootsie but still not exceptionally interesting at a certain point.
Of the three classic Neapolitan flavors I tried, this was by far my favorite. The bar last a long time and since it’s a chew, it’s a lot lower in calories than a chocolate or nut product. So this 1.5 ounce bar has only 160 calories (the chocolate one has 150).
I avoid strawberry taffy for the most part. It lacks the things that I like about strawberries - like the texture of the seeds, the mixture of tartness, sweetness and floral aromas. Strawberries smell like cotton candy to me, or maybe cotton candy smells like strawberries - it’s like part of consuming it is the scent which carries its own portion of sugary calories.
The Bonomo’s Strawberry Turkish Taffy is bright, bismuth pink. It’s artificial looking, like a lump of plastic left over from an injection molding project for Barbie Corvettes. The scent is similarly off-putting. It says “strawberry with a hint of vinyl”. The texture is the same as the other varieties - smooth and a long, glossy chew. The flavor though was all sweet, a strange fake strawberry that was like a cheap body wash and a terrible bitter note from the food dye (it said Red #3 & Blue #3, which is not usually one I call out for bitter, metallic aftertastes).
While I thought it was ghastly, I can understand that some folks will love the stuff. I get it, I love things that I know are fake and weird, too - like American Cheese.
I know that Bonomo’s is a well-loved brand. I know that it’s also pretty intensive to create, so these packages were $1.99 each - twice the price of the Doscher’s French Chew, which is often sold as a replacement. Maybe with time and larger volume the price will drop back down, but I’d much rather have some real nougat. But at this price I expect artisan or all natural. They are Kosher but there’s no statement about gluten or nuts (they do say that they’re processed in a facility with milk products). Classic Caramel of Camp Hill, PA is making the taffy for the Bonomo Turkish Taffy company. Classic Caramel also makes SloPokes, Kits and BB Bats.
It also comes in Banana, I picked that up too, along with Doscher’s French Chew in Banana and will do a comparison soon.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.