April 2010

Whoopie Pies Revisited

I talked about whoopie pies almost exactly a year ago, and oh the difference a year makes!  In that time, whoopiee pies have become the "it" dessert among food bloggers, and are aimed to surpass cupcakes as the fashionable dessert of choice across the land.

Whoopie pies still aren't very common here in the Northwest, and I often find myself explaining them.  I say that they are what the Oreo cookie is distantly referencing.  And some people understand the "homemade Moon Pies without a chocolate coating" reference.  Not that Moon Pies are terribly easy to obtain out here, but still.

Panda All Natural Soft Black Licorice

Licorice is all the rage with the health food nuts these days, if you haven't noticed.  It has all kinds of crazy-ass health benefits.  Turns out that proper black licorice is something that you should eat every once in a while, to top up on all the micronutrients.

I like black licorice, but I'm kind of a wimp about it.  I'd like to develop more of a taste for "the real stuff."  I decided to start with a stick of Panda licorice, because I had heard that it was on the mild side.  For someone whose primary experience of licorice has been black jelly beans and Good 'N Plenty candies, this was a bit of a departure.

Gummy Raspberries

These are probably one of the most puzzling candies I've run across so far. (Not counting Circus Peanuts, obviously.)  For one thing, this is the gummy that I was able to find the least amount of information for online.  Every other gummy candy has its proponents, and occasionally even a Wikipedia entry.  But not the humble raspberries.

Gummy raspberries come in two colors, black and red.  In all the mixes I've ever seen, the proportion is strongly skewed towards the red.  A quick glance at the bag beside me shows a ratio of about 15 red to 1 black.  Which I find interesting, because most - maybe all - candy assortments usually have a much closer ratio.  Granted one hopper may dump more red Dots into the box than green ones, but it's usually fairly close.  But the black raspberry gummy is definitely, deliberately more rare.

Swedish Fish

Does it seem like I'm on a gummy kick this week?  Okay, you caught me - the grocery store's bulk foods section had a big sale on gummy candy.  Which caught my attention, because I prefer my gummies slightly stale.

Which brings us to the issue of Swedish Fish.  Much like Dots and Red Vines, I feel that Swedish Fish are better when they have been properly ripened.  This used to happen naturally, pre-purchase if you will.  But it no longer does, thanks to the new plastic bag packaging.  Which aside from being wasteful, results in gummies which are tender and soft to the tooth.


Gummy Worms

Ah gummy worms, that bastion of candy.  As far as I know, gummy worms are exactly like gummy bears, except in a different shape.  Although gummy bears were invented in the 1920s or thereabouts, it wasn't until the 1980s that the gummy worm was invented.  The first gummy worm was the Brite Trawler, produced by Trolli.  

This heralded the beginning of a "gross out" phase in gummy candy.  I remember a teacher once admonished me for eating a black licorice gummy rat in class once.  It was apparently just a little too gruesome and distracting as she was trying to teach.  At the time I thought it was funny and cool - my candy even grossed out the teacher!  But now I just feel kind of bad for her.  What kind of person sits there eating a giant black gummy rat in the middle of class?

Pfeffernusse: Cookies That Taste Like Pepper (Yes, Really!)

Technically we're a little out of season for pfeffernuesse right now, but I learned something interesting about it this morning, so I'm going to make my first ever batch tonight.  For some reason I always thought that pfeffernuesse was peppermint flavored.  I guess this makes more sense than the truth, which is that they are flavored with pepper and other spices!  I have never tried pfeffernuesse, because every time I looked at them I couldn't help but think that a hard peppermint flavored cookie covered with powdered sugar would be gross.  Luckily I was wrong on at least part of that assumption!

Daifuku Mochi Shiro (Rice Cake)

I think a lot of Americans (maybe most) are familiar with mochi only in ice cream form.  I have tried one or two ice cream mochi, but they just don't do much for me.  But "real" mochi?  Oh yes!

The first thing I always notice about mochi when I pick them up at the store is their surprising weight.  They must be very dense, for something so small to be so heavy.  I would say they weigh nearly as much as a stone, volume for volume.  A medium sized mochi (the ones I buy are 110 grams) nestles nicely in the hand, almost like some kind of pet.

Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme

I associate the "white chocolate" thing with the mid 1980s.  That's when white chocolate first came to my attention, with the white chocolate Nestle Crunch bar.  As you probably already know, white chocolate is more of a byproduct of the chocolate making process than a thing in its own right.  White chocolate is basically cocoa butter without any of the cocoa liquor or chocolate liquor.

According to the strangely bureaucratic Wikipedia article, in order to be called "white chocolate" in America, the item must be at least 20% cocoa butter by weight.  On the other hand, some white chocolate-like products such as Almond Bark may seem like white chocolate to the untrained eye, but they contain no cocoa butter.

Tootsie Roll "Flavor Roll Twisties"

I had always called these "flavored Tootsie Rolls," but it turns out that their real name is the somewhat more cumbersome "Tootsie Brand Flavor Roll Twisties."  If that doesn't scream "this product name was designed by committee," I don't know what does.

As a general rule, I am opposed to individually wrapped candies on ethical, ecological grounds.  How much waste do we need in our lives?  Those little wrappers were once a natural resource which had to be cut down, and transported, and milled up, and waxed, and printed, and shipped, and now you're just going to un-twist it and throw it away.  We waste too much in this country, and wrappers like this are an excellent example.

Diet Candy: Dark Chocolate Raisinets

Dark chocolate is the darling of the day.  If you watch the health news, dark chocolate is one of those quirky "things that you love which are also good for you," like red wine.  To quote About.com's hyperbole, dark chocolate "contains many of the benefits of dark vegetables.  These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants."

The hype is that antioxidants protect you against free radicals, which cause aging.  Couple little problems with this: free radicals don't play as big a part in aging as we originally thought; antioxidants don't foil free radicals as well as we originally thought; flavonoids aren't very effective as far as antioxidants go; and dark chocolate doesn't have as many flavonoids as other (healthier) sources.