Posts Tagged With: Candy

Review: Brach’s Flavored Candy Corn

There are three sure signs that autumn is fast approaching: the leaves begin to change color, pumpkins start showing up everywhere, and Halloween candy hits the stores. Perhaps the most ubiquitous of all seasonal sweets is Candy Corn.

Candy Corn dates back to the 1880s, and was the brainchild of George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia. The shape and colors are meant to resemble actual kernels of corn, though size-wise the candy is about three times as large. Candy Corn was originally made by hand and contained sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s wax, fondant, and marshmallows. The mixture was warmed and poured into buckets, before being transferred to kernel-shaped molds by men called “stringers.” It took three passes, one for each of the colors (white, orange, and yellow). The process has since been automated, but the recipe is largely unchanged.

As popular as Candy Corn is – Brach’s sells between 9 billion and 15 billion kernels every year – it’s also one of the more reviled candies, ranking poorly in some consumer research polls. My own family would seem to back this up: neither my wife nor daughter are fans, though I love the stuff. You can find more information on our National Candy Corn Day post from last October.

Different variations of Candy Corn are available year-round these days. Over the past few years, new seasonal flavors have been added, including caramel apple and green apple (2011), pumpkin spice and S’mores (2013), and caramel macchiato and apple pie (2014). We decided to review a handful of these newer flavors, settling on caramel apple, pumpkin spice, and apple pie.

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Results were a mixed bag (pardon the pun). None were as good as the original. Why mess with perfection?

All three varieties had the same chewiness and “mouth feel” as regular ol’ Candy Corn, but diverged from there. The caramel apple were the worst. They  lacked any discernible flavor, making the effort of eating them pointless. Rating: 1 Knife. Don’t waste your time.

Shun-Classic-7-1-2-Inch-Wide-Santoku

 

 

 

 

The pumpkin spice, at least, had plenty of pumpkin spice-y flavor – a little too much, IMHO. I don’t blame Brach’s for jumping on the pumpkin spice flavor trend; we can thank Starbucks for that, with the explosive popularity of their seasonal pumpkin spice lattes. These had the same flavor profile, and definitely woke up the senses. And dammit, they smell just like autumn. Rating: 3 Knives. OK in small doses.

the-3-knives-you-need-in-your-kitchen

 

 

 

 

The best of the bunch, by a long shot, were the apple pie. Believe it or not, they taste exactly like their namesake: you get clear hints of apple, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I was tempted to warm them up and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Candy Corn à la mode, anybody? Rating: 4 Knives. The resemblance to real apple pie is uncanny.

4 Knives

 

 

 

 

 

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362/365: National Chocolate Candy Day

They’re really milking it down the homestretch. December 28 is National Chocolate Candy Day!

It feels like we’ve celebrated about a hundred different chocolate and/or candy holidays this year. They have been so plentiful, I think we need a new food pyramid. One that looks like this:

chocolate-candy-pyramid

But, I can now say that this is the very last one! There are no more chocolate holidays this year. No more candy holidays, either. This is it, baby!! And it’s a good thing, too. Because at this point, I’ve got absolutely nothing new to say about either chocolate or candy. However, there is one final twist to our challenge: we are traveling out of town for New Year’s, leaving today for Ely, Nevada. We’re going to spend a week visiting family and friends in Ely, Las Vegas, and Elko, and stopping by to say hi to a ghost in Tonopah. Which means we are going to finish up this monumental project on the road, some 840 miles from where it first began. That in itself seems a little odd, but it’s just representative of some of the many challenges faced during the course of the year. A lot of times we were on the go, away from home, but we made it work then…and we’ll make it work now.

We ate a couple of miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups in honor of this holiday. Very early in the morning, before we hit the road. It’s going to be a long travel day, and that was one less thing we had to worry about en route.

National Chocolate Candy Day

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360/365: National Candy Cane Day

You’ll really earn your stripes if you help us celebrate today’s food holiday. December 26 is National Candy Cane Day!

National Candy Cane DayCandy canes are cane-shaped hard candy sticks that are traditionally white with red stripes and peppermint flavored, though nowadays different variations exist. There are a lot of false reports about how candy canes are religious symbols, with the colors representing blood and purity, the three red stripes symbolizing the Holy Trinity, and the shape itself, a letter “J” when inverted, standing for Jesus, but while these stories sound plausible – especially given the candy cane’s association with Christmas – they simply aren’t true. In reality, candy canes were the invention of the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany in 1670. Bothered by the noise caused by children attending his Christmas Eve services, the choirmaster enlisted the aid of a local candy maker to create a peppermint stick to shut the heathens up keep the children preoccupied. Since he was giving them away during church services, he had the candy maker bend them into the shape of a shepherd’s hook to remind the kids about Jesus. Perhaps that’s where the other, more elaborate stories originated! Candy canes were traditionally all white until the turn of the 20th century, when stripes began to appear.

Because Christmas just passed, we had candy canes on hand. Celebrating this holiday was a breeze!

Categories: Candy | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

353/365: National Hard Candy Day*

Hope you’re dressed for suck-cess. December 19 is National Hard Candy Day!

It’s also National Oatmeal Muffin Day. We just didn’t feel like eating the muffin, man. The muffin, man. And since hard candy is synonymous with Christmas – a mere six days away now (!) we decided to stick with that.

Archaeologists have uncovered traces of hard candies at dig sites in ancient Egypt, China, and Arabia. Of course, rather than Dum-Dums, these “candies” were really no more than fruits and nuts dipped in honey. Sometimes they were even attached to sticks to prevent sticky fingers, a precursor of lollipops. Hard candy is made by boiling syrup until it reaches the “hard crack” stage, 300 degrees. It is then flavored, poured, and allowed to set. There is a large variety of different hard candies available including butterscotch, candy canes, Jawbreakers, Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, Pez, rock candy, and lollipops. It’s even the name of a Counting Crows album. More hard candy is sold at Christmas time than during any other time of the year.

To celebrate, we had a classic hard candy that’s been a favorite for generations: Life Savers!

National Hard Candy Day

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324/365: National Peanut Butter Fudge Day

Today we find ourselves in a familiar sticky situation. November 20 is National Peanut Butter Fudge Day!

Alas, yet another fudge holiday. There have been plenty already. We noshed on nutty fudge, chewed chocolate, and partook in penuche. Each time, we mentioned fudge’s storied history, how it originated in a women’s college in the 1880s and was such a sensation that other women’s colleges across the country attempted to make their own versions of fudge, with varying results. No need to rehash all that…but I do have a rather humorous story to share.

I mistakenly thought today was National Beaujolais Nouveau Day. I was so convinced of this, I popped open a bottle of the wine. We toasted and sipped. I posted the blog entry. We even planned dinner around this (spaghetti, which of course goes perfectly well with red wine). And then, when I was reading over the post – ironically, something I rarely do afterwards – I noticed that I had written the holiday landed on the third Thursday of November. The only problem with that? Today is WEDNESDAY. The problem is, as I’ve mentioned before, about a third of the way through the year I realized these posts are so time consuming, I should write them in advance. Knock out a bunch ahead of time, and fill in the blanks on that particular food holiday. This worked out well. At first I’d write a few ahead of time. Then a week’s worth. Then…well, let’s just say I had gotten in the habit of really writing far out in advance. The only downside is…well, today. Looking at my calendar weeks ago, I was off by one day. I thought the 20th was a Thursday. It was not. You know what really confuses me, by the way? I had also partially written this post in advance. I don’t know what I was thinking. Suffice it to say, at 6:30, we were suddenly scrambling to celebrate peanut butter fudge. I remembered a friend, Wendy, had mentioned how easy fudge is to make. You can even do it in the microwave, she said. A quick Google search confirmed this. I was able to find an easy four-ingredient microwave peanut butter fudge recipe. It’s here, if you’re interested.

Making the fudge took less than ten minutes, but then we had to let it set in the fridge for 90 minutes. Amazingly…it turned out delicious! The consistency was spot on, the flavor, rich and intense. Who knew fudge was so easy to make?!

National Peanut Butter Fudge Day

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212/365: National Jump For Jelly Beans Day*

It’s a real leap to say today’s food holiday won’t put a spring in  your step. The last day of July is National Jump For Jelly Beans Day!

I took this challenge literally.

I took this challenge literally.

It’s also National Raspberry Cake Day (which sounds interesting, but tomorrow we’re celebrating raspberry pie). Now, we’ve already done the jellybean thing), so this is yet another food that is celebrated multiple times. I suppose purists would argue that last time around we weren’t incorporating aerobic exercise in our celebration so this one is different, but c’mon…if it were up to me, we’d be celebrating something else that gets no official glory. Like ketchup, as I’ve mentioned many times. Or stuffed cabbage rolls. Or corn on the cob.

So I’m turning to you, dear readers, and asking you this: if you could create your own food holiday, to which dish would you pay homage?

To celebrate, we ate jelly beans. And we jumped. Doesn’t get more basic than that, does it? But not just any old jelly beans. Bacon flavored jelly beans, ’cause that’s how we roll.

They were awful. 

Fortunately, we had backups available. We’d gotten a sour fruit mix of Jelly Bellies, and those were our saving grace. Tart, chewy, and delicious. There’s a reason Jelly Belly is the top-selling jelly bean in America!

In case you were wondering, bacon flavored jelly beans are NO BUENO.

In case you were wondering, bacon flavored jelly beans are NO BUENO.

 

Categories: Candy | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

201/365: National Lollipop Day*

You deserve a licking if you’re not a fan of today’s food holiday. July 20 is National Lollipop Day!

This is also the first post we are scheduling to publish. (Remember, we write the majority of these ahead of time)! We’ve gotta do it this way since we’re camping this weekend and  Internet service is hard to come by in the wilderness. Besides, we’re too busy making S’mores and keeping raccoons away from our food in order to worry about blog posts this weekend, so we’re happy to let Technology do her thing.

Yes, technology is a she, in case you were wondering.

It’s also National Fortune Cookie Day, but Confucius say no lookie for cookie in middle of forest. So, lollipops it is!

A man named George Smith, owner of the Bradley Smith Company – who manufactured candy and other sweet confections – claimed to have invented the modern lollipop in 1908, putting candy on a stick to make it easier to eat. He named the treat after his favorite racehorse, Lolly Pop, and trademarked the name. But lollipops have probably been around in one form or another for as long as man has roamed the earth. Prehistoric dudes are believed to have scooped honey from beehives using sticks, and licking them so as not to let any of the sweet nectar go to waste. Archaeologists have found evidence that ancient Chinese, Arabs, and Egyptians all made candied fruit and nut concoctions that were served on a stick to make them easier to eat. In the 17th century the English enjoyed soft boiled sugar candies that they placed on sticks for easier eating. Though the candy wasn’t hard, the concept is pretty much the same. During the Civil War children were given hard candies on the tips of pencils as treats. So at best, Smith reinvented something that had been around since the dawn of man. Nice try, George. He allowed his trademark to expire during the Depression, when people were too busy trying to put scraps of food on the table to enjoy a treat like a lollipop, and the name fell into the public domain.

To celebrate, we bought a bag of Dum Dums and enjoyed lollipops around the campfire.

National Lollipop Day

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132/365: National Nutty Fudge Day

May 12 is devoted to a sweet and rich confection that was probably invented accidentally. It’s National Nutty Fudge Day!

The exact origin of fudge – a drier version of fondant, made by boiling sugar in milk until it reaches the soft ball stage and then beating it while it cools until it’s smooth and creamy – is unknown. Most historians believe that fudge, an American invention, was created by accident when a batch of caramels recrystallized, leading to the exclamation “Oh, fudge!” The earliest mention of the treat dates to 1886, when Vasser College student Emelyn Battersby Hartridge wrote a letter discussing how her schoolmate’s cousin made a batch of fudge in Baltimore and sold it for 40 cents a pound. Fudge became popular at women’s colleges because it tasted delicious and was easy to make: students could cook a batch using nothing but a gas light or chafing dish. Wellesley and Smith soon had their own versions of fudge floating around campus in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is going to make me sound terrible, but could there be a correlation between the popularity of fudge at women’s colleges, and…well…PMS? I’m just wondering. Some women do seem to crave chocolate during certain times of the month.

Women aren’t the only ones who appreciate fudge, though. And there are no fewer than 3 fudge-related food holidays this year. I wasn’t actually sure where to find it, because fudge is one of those things you see all the time at bake sales, but rarely appears on grocery store shelves. My mom mentioned that a local produce store carries locally-made fudge, so we swung by there last weekend to pick up some fruits and veggies and, sure enough, were rewarded with fudge, too. So we grabbed a hunk of chocolate nut fudge to enjoy. It was creamy, nutty, and tasted great!

Nutty Fudge

Categories: Candy | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

26/365: National Peanut Brittle Day

Today is National Peanut Brittle Day. Why we call this hard candy “brittle” is a mystery, for it is anything but. Liable to break or shatter easily? Peanut brittle sometimes requires a mallet to break apart into pieces!

OK, I exaggerate. And I have to say, it’s really, really good. Tara’s mom sent us a bunch of treats for Christmas, including homemade brittle. Why we didn’t save a little bit for today is a good question! 

Brittles are one of the oldest candies around. When not busy hunting leprechauns or picking four-leaf clovers, the Irish enjoyed eating sugar coated peanuts as snacks. They began adding syrup, and brittle was born. There are many variations around the world. The Greeks have pasteli, the French have croquant, Indians have Gacchac, and Canadians have peanut brittle, eh. In the Middle East it’s made with pistachios, and in Asia, a mixture of sesame seeds and peanuts.

When we began this challenge, I wondered if anybody else had attempted it. I scoured the internet, but could find no similar quest. And then a couple of days ago I stumbled upon a blog in which somebody did, in fact, attempt to do the same thing in 2011. He took a similar approach to us, and I was impressed with his posts, until they ended abruptly in May. I wasn’t sure if he burned out at that point, so I sent him an email, and he was kind enough to respond. The guy’s name is John, he lives twenty miles outside of New York City, and he did in fact complete his own holiday food odyssey – but was stymied by a computer that died and a lack of technological and social media savviness. He has been very supportive of our own attempt, is impressed with this blog, and has been quick to offer tips and advice. He wrote, “From time to time you may get sick of foods or desserts or whatever it may be. But I’m not sensationalizing or exaggerating when I say it changed my life. Food history is an amazing over looking part of history I think. I learned so much about culture and different time periods just be researching these meals. Also, growing up predominantly eating the meals of my grandmother from Italy, I became aware of this whole “American” culture in cuisine. I think you’re going to learn more than you expect.” 

Tara workin' that candy thermometer to the "hard crack" stage.

Tara workin’ that candy thermometer to the “hard crack” stage.

Thanks, John! Tara and I have already learned a lot, and feel like our own food horizons are expanding with each day that goes by. If you don’t mind, you can be our official “culinary consultant.” I may have a need for suggestions as we plow our way through the year!

Back to today. We sort of found ourselves scrambling late in the day, because our calendar had erroneously listed National Pistachio Day twice: January 26 AND February 26. So much for the bag of nuts we had sitting on the counter. A quick run to the grocery store yielded no peanut brittle, but Tara had a recipe in her trusty Fannie Farmer cookbook, and whipped together a batch of brittle. Start to finish, it took less than an hour – and turned out very tasty!

Categories: Candy, Nuts | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

8/365: National English Toffee Day

It’s National English Toffee Day! After the hard work involved in making tempura last night, we were thankful that all we had to do to celebrate this holiday was unwrap a Heath Bar and take a bite.

Nobody really knows where toffee came from. Much like Carly Rae Jepsen, it just showed up one day without warning and stuck around. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is a variation of taffy, a chewy candy made by stretching a mixture of boiled sugar, butter, and artificial flavors and coloring. Toffee contains similar ingredients (molasses may be substituted for the sugar, and sometimes raisins or nuts are added) but is heated to the “hard crack” stage, which means either 295 to 310°F or 3-5 for possession with intent to distribute, depending on your definition. English toffee, a buttery version often made with almonds, is especially popular in the U.S. and is, in fact, the #1 snack choice of housewives who are addicted to Downton AbbeyDespite the name, it has little in common with the toffee that is popular in the U.K. Wot the bloody ‘ell?

English toffee can be either hard or soft – debate rages over which is the most authentic preparation. (“Rages” might be a bit of a stretch considering the English are notoriously polite folk. Except during soccer matches. The conversation probably went more like, “I say, ol’ chap, me mum always made ‘er toffee soft, but I can see the appeal in hard toffee, too. Cheerio!”).

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do with English toffee. I suppose we could have tried making a batch from scratch, or using it to make cookies or brownies, but (SPOILER ALERT!) the next couple of days are going to involve cookies and brownies, so we didn’t want to overdo it.

Also, thank god for that gym membership.

In a burst of inspiration, I suggested we crumble up the Heath bars, coat a chicken breast with them, and saute that in a pan with a little butter and olive oil. This seemed like something a contestant on Chopped would do. One look from Tara put the kibosh on that creative (though admittedly out-there) idea. This is why I’m so happy to have a partner for this challenge: she’s the voice of reason.

English Toffee

Real quick before we close this out (and because just unwrapping and eating a Heath Bar is a cop out), I wanted to at least share something toffee related.

I’ve never been a toffee fan.  I remember my mom occasionally stashing one in the freezer to snack on while us kids were in school.  Several years ago a friend (Hi, Doreen!) borrowed one of my cookbooks looking to try out some new recipes.  A few days later she came in with a cake that had toffee pieces on top.  To this day, it’s one of my favorite cakes to make.  I considered making it for today’s holiday, but we’ll be noshing on baked goods the next two nights and I can only take so many goodies to the office.  Instead, here’s the recipe for you fine folks.  It’s super easy and definitely a crowd pleaser.

Thigh Cake (aka Better Than Sex Cake)
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 can sweetened condensed milk
8 oz jar caramel topping
8 oz tub whipped topping 
2 english toffee bars

Mix and bake cake according to directions in 9×13 pan. After baking, and while still warm, poke holes in cake with fork.  Pour canned milk and caramel topping over entire cake.  Let cool.  Spread whipped topping onto cake.  Top with toffee pieces (I freeze them overnight, place in a zip top bag, wrap in a hand towel, and break up the bars with a meat tenderizer).  Keep refrigerated.

Enjoy!

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

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