Showing posts with label nougat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nougat. Show all posts

Friday, July 20, 2012

Turron de Jijona


The Simpsons once did an episode about Springfield's lemon tree being stolen by some of the residents of Shelbyville. Jebediah Springfiled and his followers planted a lemon tree because it was the sweetest fruit available at the time. This show was about small town rivalry, something which I grew up with and am truly familiar with. When your world is small, you tend to attach significance to stupid things because you're not worldly enough to realize their insignificance. At the end of the episode, the Springfield mob steals back their lemon tree and they all enjoy a glass of lemonade as the Shelbyville denizens have a glass of turnip juice, because that was likely the only thing they had available at the time.

The reason I mention this is that so much of our food culture is about what is available at this time. The Moors, while occupying the Iberian Peninsula, sat around thinking about how they'd like to satisfy their sweet tooths (sweet teeth?). Unfortunately, they'd just conquered an area which was lacking in sesame seeds so getting their chefs to whip up some halva was rather tricky. Since they'd pretty much finished with taking over the Iberian peninsula, they put on their thinking caps and thought about what to do. Fortunately, Marcona almonds were close at hand and they decided to make halva out of it. Voila, turron was born.*

I never saw halva for sale when I was living in Japan, nor did I see turron. In fact, one of the first things I picked up at an American convenience store was a pistachio halva bar because I had been reading about it and wanted to try it. It was sticky, hard, and slightly bitter and I was not a fan. However, when my sister-in-law asked if I wanted anything from Spain when she visited there, I checked out traditional Spanish sweets and came across turron. She brought me back this box.


There are many types of turron and you can find them in various ethnic markets as well as available online. One type is like a nut brittle. This one is like an enormous wet slab of chalky nut butter. When you open the box, there's a sealed packet with lots of what looks like unpleasant meat juices swimming between the clear plastic and shiny plastic. It looks insanely nasty. 

Undoubtedly, turron de jijona is hard to handle because it is slightly soft, tends to break off in soggy clumps, and has a lot of wetness around it. That being said, it's worth the mess. It's a rich, sweet mass of almond butter mixed with honey. Turron de jijona is a form of nougat, so it is made with egg whites, sometimes raw ones, but I'm sure any packaged stuff that you buy is safe. I've had pistachio halva before and this was much, much better both in terms of texture and flavor. The halva I bought (from a convenience store in a package like a candy bar) was bitter and hard, like taffy. This was soft, melt in your mouth fatty, sweet but not too sweet, rich, almond, nougat and honey delight. There really aren't enough positive adjectives for how much I liked this.

In Japan, most of the nut-based sweets were made with peanuts or sesame, because that must be what they have on hand. In Spain, many things contain almonds. Fortunately, neither one of these countries ended up with "a cool glass of turnip juice". They both had lemons and made lemonade in their food cultures.


*I made most of this up. I don't think thinking caps existed back then.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tirol Sweet Halloween Variety Box

Have you ever seen a more adorable or happy-looking skeleton?

I love bright, vivid, clean graphics. Even if I wasn't keen on the candy in this Tirol Halloween box, I'd want to buy it for the bold, clean look. You may not be able to tell from the picture, but parts of the box (the ghost and other creatures and the trees) are perforated so they can be popped up and the box can be used as a little Halloween decoration or display. As it turned out, my husband picked this up at New Days convenience store (for about 210 yen or $2), so the choice wasn't really in my hands.


This is the second of these bright, attractive boxes that I've reviewed (though there have been at least several others which I've passed on). The other one was the W Purin one, and it was actually quite good. I have much lower expectations of these flavors because 3 of them are repeats of flavors that have appeared in less slick variety packs in the past (and 1 was a former 'Premium' candy), and I have reviewed 2 of them before.


The 4 flavors are conveniently written in English: coffee nougat, almond, pumpkin tart, and "milk". Each candy is between 30-35 calories for its 2.25 cm (.9 in) square x 1 cm (.4 in.) tall size. Here are the reviews of each flavor:

coffee nougat:


This smells like milk chocolate even after it has been cut apart to reveal the firm nougat center. At first, you get the milk chocolate flavor, which is your average Japanese milk chocolate (which is to say, on the bittersweet side). The chewy coffee center comes in at the end very strongly when all of the chocolate has melted away and you chew on the toffee-like coffee center. The coffee flavor is similar to fairly decent quality instant coffee and not too strong. I wouldn't necessarily crave this, but I wouldn't mind it either. It wouldn't compel me to buy a box, but I'd certainly eat the ones that came with a variety pack as they are enjoyable enough for the calories.

chocolate almond:


This is the same almond as is included in other variety packs. Since I liked it before, I still like it now. It smells like milk chocolate or cocoa powder. It tastes like pretty decent milk chocolate with a super crispy deeply roasted and crunchy almond. There's a nice mix of almond and chocolate flavor but a bit of a bitter aftertaste from the chocolate.

Milk:


This is a milk chocolate shell with a "cream" filling according to the package description. One of the ingredients is "cream powder", but it doesn't taste much like cream and is similar to actual milk. There's an unusual taste to it, and I believe it is mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine). It's a very milk influence, but it gives it a light liquor flavor. This is pretty good, though rather sweet. Some may find the mirin flavor off-putting or odd though.

Pumpkin:


When I reviewed the premium version of the pumpkin Tirol, it had the same pumpkin coating and cookie center, but it didn't have the "soy sauce" that this has on it. I mentioned in the former review that I thought the pumpkin needed some other seasoning to offset the sense of it being a very sweet squash flavor. It seems Tirol agreed since they added this sauce to the latest incarnation. The variety pack versions are usually smaller, but also simpler than the premium ones, so this sauce was a surprise. Soy sauce in candies often tastes a lot like maple syrup. It is thickened and sweetened and this seems to turn it from soy- and salt-flavored to maple syrup-like. This was good, but my least favorite of the bunch. It still seems like sweetened squash to me, but at least this has an added dimension.

This is a nice collection, and I really love the size of these. I like to have just a bite or two of something sweet after lunch and one of these generally does the trick without making me feel overly full or like I've just piled on more calories on top of lunch. This is a more desirable combination of flavors without any stinkers in the bunch than some of the other variety packs I've sampled. I'd definitely buy this again if it came around next year for Halloween. I only wish that I could find a reason to preserve the box and wrappers because they're insanely cute Halloween graphics.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tirol Chocolate Milk Nougat


Most of the Tirol chocolate that you find in Japan is sold in tiny little squares. I found this larger bar, which is about the size of three of the smaller size candies, for 25 yen at a local 99 yen store. The old-fashioned wrapper, which seems to feature the FTD florist character in profile when he was a child, is rather curious compared to the newer, cuter package styles. This is the only Tirol candy sold as a bar sold in this size.


When I bought this bar, I thought it was a plain chocolate bar because the top just says "chocolate". The side also appears to simply say "chocolate" (in Japanese) as well, but if you look on the bottom, just under the Japanese word for chocolate is the Japanese for "nougat". So, when I bit into this bar, I was rather shocked to encounter some tough resistance from what I thought was some form of caramel.


While the texture of the nougat is tough and hard to bite through, and, like caramel, it sticks to your teeth, the taste is definitely nougat. The filling tastes a lot like a Three Musketeers bar though the texture is like eating taffy. This is a pretty typical texture combination for Tirol chocolates. The non-"premium" size of their kinako mochi candy has a similar tough to chew interior surrounded by a soft, sweet, mildly crumbly and easily melted exterior.

The bar smells like sweet, milky chocolate and the nougat has a very nice flavor, but I wouldn't want to eat this too often for fear of losing a filling. I also don't like to have to jog little blobs of nougat out of my teeth with my tongue. The portion control on this is great. It's small enough to satisfy without having to reach for another bar, unlike the smaller Tirol candies. It's only 113 calories for this 22 gram/.77 oz. bar.

There aren't many nougat bars in Japan, so if I was in the mood for it, I'd buy this again. I just wish the interior was less tough. Aside from the texture issue, this is a very enjoyable little bar. If you don't mind a good chew, you might want to sample this.

If you like the Tirol designs you've seen in the reviews of their candy on this site, you can download some wallpapers of this bar's design (though honestly, you'd look like a pedophile with a Greek God complex if you sported this design on your computer) or some of the other characters that have been shown on their wrappers including the little blobby cartoon fellow who looks like Shmoo on the kinako mochi candy.