Thursday, September 29, 2005
Name: Jelly Babies
If you have ever watched Dr. Who with Tom Baker, you’ve seen him carry around that little white paper bag and offer folks Jelly Babies. I never knew what they were, just that they were different from jelly beans and not quite Swedish fish. I finally stumbled across them at a little grocer I stopped in after a meeting in San Francisco over the weekend that carried a lot of UK candies (I picked up a very fresh Curly Wurly while I was there too!).
Unfortunately, not having grown up in the UK, that is the sum total of my exposure to them. I had no idea until I started to make this post that the different colors had some sort of personality. This site has a pretty good history of the candies (apologies as they seem to have put black text on a dark blue background). The important thing to note about this review is the brand - these are Norfolk Manor Jelly Babies. The Bassett’s Jelly Babies (the original) are not imported into the US (so I’ll have to have someone grab some in the UK).
A jelly baby is simply a jelly candy with a grainy, crystallized sugar coating on it. Not quite a smooth as a jelly bean, the coating is like a very fine granulated sugar, only with flavor.
The colors are quite nice, in soothing herbal colors of red, green, another green, orange, yellow, another yellow, and black. The smell fruity and sweet, just like jelly beans. If you remember the Swedish Jelly Rats I reviewed a while back, they’re kind of like that, but larger and with a bit more of a sugary coating. The shapes are wonderful, little pudgy-bellied, round-headed babies. The babies are flavored according to their colors, but I wasn’t really able to figure it out. Orange is orange, yellow is lemon and one of the greens is lime. Beyond that, I can only say that they were fruity. Black might be currant, red might be strawberry.
They’re exceptionally sweet and the flavor has no hint of tart to it, just a slight blessing of fruit aroma for the most part. They cute and easy to share and of course they’re a nostalgia favorite for generations of Brits. I am, sadly, not terribly impressed with them. Should I find the Bassett’s, I will probably give them a try, just to be sure that I’m not missing something. Just for the record, I do like jelly candies in general: gummi bears and Swedish fish and even some jelly beans, these were just too sweet without enough flavor.
More about Jelly Babies here.
Rating - 4 out of 10 (alas, I don’t think I’m going to eat the rest of them)
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Don’t worry, it’s worksafe:
I know it seems odd that I’ve never had a Rocky Road bar before, but I’ve never been much of a marshmallow fan. To me the best thing about marshmallows is that they’re a dessert you can make on the grill. If marshmallows disappeared from the earth, I’d probably only lament the loss of Rice Krispies treats.
But, I thought it was high time I gave it a try - after all, how did I know I wouldn’t like it? First, the package is just fantabulous. It’s flashy red mylar and the lettering is bold and you can spot it easily from 20 feet. No wonder, it’s a big bar. At 1.8 ounces and the size of a tree limb, it’s a sizeable purchase for 75 cents.
The bar is rather unappealing when pulled out of the package, but really, when you look at most candy analytically it’s unattractive. I first pulled the bar apart for the photo and the sugary smell is just fantastic. It’s like putting your head into a box of Count Chocula.
The marshmallow isn’t overly sweet, but it’s foamy and has a good rubbery pull to it. The chocolate coating though is very sweet and the cashews are rather hard to discern. The mixture of textures is the real treat in this bar, with a real focus on the marshmallow, the light airyness of the bar sets it apart from just about everything out there. I hardly feel like I’ve eaten almost two ounces. It still hasn’t changed my mind about marshmallow in general, but I can see why it’s such an enduring favorite.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
On my quest to find a good consumer coffee-infused chocolate bar, I found this at Target recently. It’s not quite mass-marketed but at least it wasn’t prohibitively expensive.
The package heralds the candy as a “Truffle Bar” but it really doesn’t rise to that level at all. As far as I know, a chocolate truffle is a mixture of chocolate and butter and/or heavy cream. It’s usually dipped in chocolate because it’s gooey but may be rolled in cocoa to keep it from sticking to things. The fascinating thing about a chocolate truffle is that it’s more fat (often) than chocolate, but this fat helps to highlight the intense and subtle flavors of chocolate in ways that a higher cocoa solids bar is not able to. This bar had no such center. The center was slightly softer than the plain chocolate outer shell, but more like a Frango than a melty chocolate cream.
The coffee flavor in the firm center comes from “Turkish grind decaffeinated [coffee]”, which probably explains the graininess of the center. The bits aren’t big enough to be considered crunchies but large enough to interfere with a smooth texture. Of course being decaffeinated means that there won’t be much of a problem with eating this bar before bedtime.
Overall the bar is a little sweet but has a nice chocolately flavor and a really good punch of coffee once it melts on the tongue. The chocolate and coffee blend well, with good woodsy notes and a slight acidic bite.
It’s not my dream coffee bar though, so I’ll keep looking. (I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but it’s been a fun quest.)
Rating - 6 out of 10
Monday, September 26, 2005
I’ve seen these tins at Trader Joe’s for about a year. While I was fond of the idea of a tin of chocolate instead of a foil wrapped bar, I just didn’t get a good feeling from the package. I was worried that the chocolate would taste tinny or perhaps be chalky.
Happily, as you can see from photo the wedges are shiny dark chocolate with a good snap to them. They’re simply bittersweet Belgian chocolate that’s been repackaged here in the states in Chinese made tins.
The chocolate is 70% cocoa solids but it’s still rather sweet for bittersweet. The sugar is most apparent upon first resting a bit on the tongue. Then it melts pretty easily with only a slightly uneven grain to it. It’s got good chocolate notes, mostly in the lower, earthy range without the higher acidic and fruit notes. The smoky quality is there as are the woodsy tones. The cocoa butter is really nice and light and allows the flavor to spread easily, there is only a slightly dry finish to it.
The grain is a little distracting and the sugar a little too apparent. However, I did just what the package shows, I traveled with this chocolate, putting it in my bag and taking it on a humongous two-day road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back and it not only weathered it well, it was a welcome treat.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (I’m keen on trying the flavored chocolate wedges, too)
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Both Hershey and Nestle recently introduced their standard chocolate bars now stuffed with a caramel center. If they could stuff two different candies into one, I can stuff two bars into one review.
Hershey seems to have changed their chocolate recipe. Maybe it’s like the New Coke. Many of their products, including their limited edition line are sporting something they call “Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate” but here it’s called simply “Creamy Milk Chocolate.” It’s definitely different than the chocolate I’m accustomed to in my Kisses.
This is a four segment bar with a little filling of soft, flowing caramel. The chocolate is very sweet and doesn’t really smell like much, but the caramel has a nice toasty scent to it. It’s rather runny, so instead of biting each segment in half, I’d recommend stuffing the whole thing in your mouth. It’s got a little salty tang to it, but mostly it’s a very sweet bar.
(After writing all of this I realized I should probably pick up some Rolos and find out how different this bar is from them.)
Since the Crunch bar is the centerpiece of the American Nestle brand, it only makes sense that they’d put caramel inside of it eventually. This bar has three beefy segments. The bottom layer of chocolate is very thick, about half the height of this bar and contains a good amount of crisped-rice crunchies. The rest of the chocolate coating does not have crisps in it.
This caramel center is less runny than the Hershey’s but is immediately saltier. I checked the label and it has twice the sodium content of the Hershey’s. The salt is actually a nice counterpoint to the exceptionally sweet Nestle chocolate. The crisps really aren’t as dense as you’d find in a regular Crunch bar, which is kind of disappointing. This bar had a bit more of a cardboard flavor to the chocolate and it was so sweet that it made my throat hurt. Though I love Nestle’s European chocolate, I really don’t care much for the American stuff because of the lack of chocolatey flavor to it.
If I could, I’d put the caramel from the Nestle version in the Hershey version and call it a great bar. As it is now, both are good bars but nothing mind-blowing for me. The Five Star bar holds my heart right now for caramel bars.
Ratings - Hershey with Caramel - 7 out of 10
Some people start their year in January, others start their year with the Fiscal Year, Rosh Hashana or maybe Chinese New Year. I like to start mine with the beginning of Candy Season. Candy Season starts in October with Halloween and goes through Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras and ends with Easter. On all of these holidays there are special candies and of course the extra-special half-off sales starting the day after the holiday at your local grocer and drug store. Stock up and save!
As a special treat today, if you’re curious about the new Halloween candies, check out this page with great photos and reviews of all the special Halloween treats this year:
Great reviews, taste tests and of course oodles of photos. (Thanks to the anonymous person who sent me the link!)
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Name: Extra Dark Chocolate (72%)
If someone told me that there’s a black hole at the center of these chocolates, I’d be inclined to believe them. I’d also wonder about the prowess of chocolatiers being able to implant a chocolate singularity at the center of each disk ... those Dutch, they’re really talented.
Anyway, these are the familiar Droste Chocolate Pastilles, which I used to (and still do) get in my Christmas stocking. Because Santa thinks I’m very good. I usually get the mixed Pastilles that are half milk and half dark chocolate, because I’m inclusive like that.
These are new to me, so I picked them up. I’m fond of very dark chocolate, though as a snack item they’re more difficult to eat a lot of because of the flavor density. Droste’s 72% Extra Dark Chocolate is super-duper dense. Unlike some super dark chocolates, Droste strikes the right ratio of cocoa butter so that the chocolate actually melts on the tongue. The scent is a wonderful nutty/smoky aroma. On the tongue the disk melts right away without a hint of grain. There’s a pretty immediate bitter bite to it though followed by a puckering dryness that’s at once intriguing and thirst inducing.
As a solo snack item, I’d probably pass on these, but the cool thing about the Droste Pastilles is that they’re in these wonderful little disks in an easily reseable foil package (just twist it shut and it keeps the air out and pop it back into the hexagonal cardboard tube for later). I think this would be paired really nicely with some red wine, maybe some dessert cheese or put it into a bowl of coffee or vanilla ice cream as a garnish ... or maybe with some nuts and dried fruits.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (I know, I’m giving out a lot of 7s lately)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.