What the Hell Is Ice Cream Soft Candy?

Malto Bella Gourmet Malt Balls

By: Northern Flair

I Paid: $2.99 for a 5-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 5stars


Marketing: 3stars

The Malto Bella line of high-end malted milk balls gives the crunchy, low-grade snack of yesteryear a sleek, modern edge. The Chocolate Truffle variety starts with a standard malted milk ball core and covers it with reasonably good dark chocolate and creamy truffle chocolate layers. It has a nice, full mouthfeel and conjures up memories of a hot fudge malt.

The Cappuccino Toffee variety is even better. The coffee-toffee taste is mild and natural, not a blast of gas-station-style flavor chemicals. There’s almond at play here too, present at the back end of the candy as a quiet but reassuring afterthought.

You can find Malto Bella gourmet malt balls online, and they seem to crop up in a lot of gift baskets and at various little stores. If you have older relatives in your family who savor malted milk balls, slip them some of these; it may take a couple of minutes before they catch on to the fact that their old, reliable go-to candy has been upgraded, but the realization will be a pleasant one.

Baskin-Robbins Soft Candy

By: Baskin-Robbins

I Paid: 79 cents for a 3.1-ounce box (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 1stars


Marketing: 1stars

Here’s a dubious idea for a product: soft candy based on ice cream. The best aspects of ice cream—most essentially, that it’s a frozen dairy-based product that melts slowly into a delicious sweet soup—are precisely what you’re chucking overboard when you decide to reinvent your down-market ice cream brand as a line of candy.

That the actual product is as horrific as the concept is a tribute to how little Baskin-Robbins must care about its own reputation. When you open a box of the Mint Chocolate Chip variety, your nostrils are immediately assaulted by a wave of noxious vapors. It’s flavor by chemistry lab, the edible equivalent of those scratch-and-sniff stickers everybody was crazy about back in second grade. The candy itself is relatively harmless (like a slightly grainier version of saltwater taffy), but the unrelenting torrent of artificial mint is morally offensive.

Even worse is the Very Berry Strawberry variety, which starts pounding you with the scent of strawberry Quik before you even get through the foil wrapper. For what it’s worth, cats seem to love the stuff. My orange tabby became extremely excited when the package was opened and began trying to chew through the wrapper. The reward inside was a piece of taffy that tasted like grainy strawberry bubblegum mixed with low-grade milk solids. If you’ve ever wanted to experience the candy-counter embodiment of despair and failure, Baskin-Robbins has you covered.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.