Thursday, June 10, 2010
Barratt Liquorice Catherine Wheels
Barratt makes fanciful and light confections with names like Sherbet Fountains, Frosties, Refreshers, Dip Dabs and Flumps. It’s all happiness and light ... or is it? They they also make Bruisers, Candy Sticks and Black Jacks - names that could be taken as harsh. They’re nothing compared to the Liquorice Catherine Wheels. Sure, Catherine Wheel is an outdated term for a cartwheel but it’s also a torture device named for the method of execution of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
Okay, maybe we’ll consider the name to be taken from the cartwheel.
Like the American confectionery landscape, European candy makers have been consolidating for years, with smaller companies being bought up and integrated into multinational concerns. Barratt was most recently owned by Monkhill Confectionery which was in turn owned by Cadbury. They sold it off to Tangerine Confectionery in 2008, making Tangerine the #4 sweets maker in the United Kingdom.
This particular candy is an interesting hybrid construction. Licorice strips are wound up around a nonpareil licorice button. The buttons came in a variety of colors - I saw pink, light blue and orange ones. This package had a tray of six wheels and clocked in at almost four ounces. (At first I was a little miffed that it was three bucks, but then I realized it wasn’t a single portion, it was at least three.) They’re made with natural flavorings and colorings, though a word of caution that they use carmine coloring ... but there’s also gelatin in there, so they’re not even close to vegetarian.
Each wheel is pretty big. They’re about two thirds of an ounce each and the package says 60 calories. They’re two inches in diameter and the licorice belts are about a quarter of an inch. Unwound, there’s at least 34 inches of chewy black licorice strip. The strips are made of a wheat and molasses base and strongly flavored with licorice. They’re woodsy and dark, with a deep tangy note. The chew is stiff and kind of tough, but lasts a really long time. There’s no weird aftertaste from artificial colors.
The center button is aromatic and reminded me more of anise and other balsamic compounds like lavender and rosemary than licorice itself. The nonpareils aren’t as crunchy as I would have thought, they’re actually smaller than something found on a SnoCap, so maybe that’s part of it. The jelly/gummi center is smooth and has a good chew to it. They’re a good bite and a light contrast to the molasses and charcoal notes of the black straps.
I was surprised and pleased by these. They’re fun to eat, since there are so many ways to approach the pieces. I like that there’s a variation in the textures and flavor profiles. I wish I could buy a smaller package though, maybe two or three at a time. The tray seemed silly, but maybe they need that to keep them from getting really stuck together. They’d probably make great decorations, like in the center of a cake (but far too much for a single cupcake).
So my European friends, is this the only brand of these or are there other variations on this? I’d like to try them all.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.