It’s somewhat of a disconcerting feeling to go to a store the day after Christmas and see all the cheerful Santas in a heap near the spoiled milk and store brand popcorn ball display, discarded in a net of partially broken lights, and see employees diligently setting up the former Christmas aisle for Valentine’s Day on December 26th. Sometimes they’ll even do it on Christmas night when nobody but the absent-minded dads comes in to a Walmart to get Christmas presents.
Whenever I go to a trade show that has these advance holiday specials months before the holiday even makes an impact on your wallet, I get that sad day-after-Christmas feeling burrowing a dark hole into my psyche. And not just because I’m Jewish. Wah waaaaah. Now, imagine Woody Allen repeating everything in the previous paragraph in a fairly nasal voice. “You know, I don’t think I could take a mellow evening because I – I don’t respond well to mellow. You know what I mean? I have a tendency to – if I get too mellow, I – I ripen and then rot, you know.” In any event, that’s my long-winded explanation for why I’ve been saving these Halloween candies and treats. I got these six months ago and they’ve been sitting in my fridge like a time capsule since then. And it makes me sad to envision holidays before they actually come. TL;DR, these are candies that may look unappealing because they’re not as fresh as they were half a year back. SOWWY.
Regardless, these caramels are beautiful. They incorporate sixty of my favorite flavors, which is the number I’m going to give because I don’t feel like counting the flavors. But honestly, this caramel is fairly multi-faceted. Salted caramel on its own can be a beautiful, graceful enigma wrapped in chocolate. Add a note of apple for a twist on the caramel apple and you’ve got a sophisticated holiday treat. But infuse the sea salt with chili and you’re dealing with another breed entirely. Chili and salt are two savory, strong ingredients that add to the depth and umami of a dessert, but when combined have the potential to really overwhelm a sweet confection and render it grainy and choked with spices.
However, that’s the kind of bush league game I’d expect from a worse company. Having enjoyed literally everything I’ve had from Bissinger’s in the past, a company with a few centuries of experience can generally experiment with no harm or ill will. I’m impressed that with a 300 year reputation, they’re willing to step outside the box and try something this wild. These are phenomenal. The outside is redolent with a sweet, unobtrusive and silky milk chocolate with the peppery bite of tangy ghost chili sea salt on top. The ghost chili flavor isn’t as powerful as sauces I’ve had with the same pepper. For hotheads, this will come as a disappointment, but it is for the better as it better maintains the balance when it doesn’t steal the show.
It’s quite a well-balanced caramel. The inside is lush and soft, with a buttery caramel center. The caramel is flavored on the light and milky side, no burnt or salted notes present in the caramel itself. But this is also a plus as it plays nicely with the wonderful apple flavors, a natural, tart, floral essence about as far removed from Jolly Ranchers as they come. All in all, an excellent treat and a fantastic incarnation of a holiday. From the reference to ghosts to the playful version of the classic caramel apple, this is the best tricky treat I’ve had so far. I want to see a pine and peppermint salted caramel for Christmas, a sweet potato cranberry for Thanksgiving, and a rabbit jerky truffle for Easter. I’m smitten with the idea of hyperspecific holiday treats, and with this in my belly, I can no longer go back to the halfhearted pumpkin-shaped candies of yore. (First DSLR food photographs thanks to my wonderful Mom!)