Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Name: Take Five
If I were to create the perfect candy bar, a great snack bar that would give me energy and taste good, it would contain the following: chocolate, pretzels, caramel and nuts. It’d be a great mix of simple carbs, fat and protein so as not to overwhelm the bloodstream with too much sugar. In my world it’d be a super turtle with a pretzel base, chewy caramel then pecans all covered in semi-sweet chocolate.
On a visit to the Chocolate Homeworld, er, sorry, Chocolate World in Hershey on New Year’s Day, this was the sample they gave us at the end of the ride. I quickly bargained with the other people in our party for theirs.
Hershey’s is dang close with the Take 5 bar. It’s got a pretzel center covered with peanut butter then a layer of caramel, a few chopped peanuts and then it’s all enrobed in milk chocolate. (Maybe I got that order wrong, it’s hard to tell.) The proportions are solid and the pretzel has got a great salty kick. If anything, the milk chocolate is a little sweet, but the salt on the pretzels and the slight saltiness of the peanut butter (which tastes like the center of a Reese’s ... maybe sweeter) balances well. If it only came in dark chocolate I might be in heaven.
The packaging is good, there are two little pieces in a tray and sealed in a the plastic packaging so they stay intact and are easy to slide out. I really wish they could figure out how to make this without hydrogenated oils, though it’s pretty far down on the list of ingredients and doesn’t show up on the nutrition part. For now I’ll keep buying it when I need a little boost during the day. It’s especially good with a morning cup of coffee, as I’m having the second piece right now.
As far as I’m concerned this bar could have lots of versions. A pecan/maple version, a pecan/dark chocolate turtle one, maybe white chocolate and walnuts or macadamias (not really for me, but a solid combo - I know that a white version of this same bar exists but I haven’t seen it yet) then another version with mint cookies and almonds.
Rating - 9 out of 10 (just make a dark version or a pecan one!)
UPDATE 9/2/2008: Sometime when I wasn’t looking (I photographed it last summer again) the Hershey’s Take 5 left the list of chocolate candy bars and joined the growing list of Hershey’s Real Mockolate.
The package now says: made with chocolate & pretzels & caramel & peanuts & peanut butter. That “made with chocolate” part means that the coating may contain chocolate, but it has other additives such as vegetable oils that mean that it’s not pure chocolate. The actual chocolate as an ingredient comes far down on the list as the number 6 item, after vegetable oils and high fructose corn sweetener and before nonfat milk (you can imagine there’s not that much milk in there).
The bars actually still look quite fetching. Little rather rectangular lumps with a pleasant sweet & peanutty scent.
Mine were exceptionally fresh, the pretzel was good and crunchy, a nice salty complement to the sweet coating. The coating didn’t have much flavor but did add a creamy texture.
This one was passably good, but I’ve had others in the past few months (I picked them out of a mix of snack size in a bowl at the office a couple of times) and I didn’t realize why they were kind of empty tasting for what I remembered. I just thought they were stale ... turns out that they’re just not designed to be good any longer.
Hershey’s still has an opportunity to reverse this and make it real chocolate again.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
To follow up on the earlier review of the Cup-O-Gold I figured I’d contrast that with Hershey’s S’mores bar. The S’mores bar is marshmallow on top of a graham cracker crust covered in chocolate. If you recall the S’mores most of us have made, they were a toasted marshmallow (or two), a few squares of Hershey’s chocolate between two graham crackers. What was great about that combo was that you’d freshly toasted the marshmallow so it was retardedly hot in the middle and of cuorse melted the chocolate and the ratio being the dominance of the graham crackers (which also kept your fingers from being burned).
In this bar Hershey’s has the ratios all askew. By far the dominant feature of this bar is the marshmallow center. It’s not a traditional white marshmallow but a slightly tan version that seems a tad nougaty ... perhaps they’re trying to make it taste toasted. Much sweeter than it needed to be and lacked that meringue feeling that a good marshmallow has. There no graham cracker here. Instead the crust seems to be a crisco and cookie bits amalgamation. Then it’s covered in very sweet milk chocolate.
Too sweet, not enough toasty flavor and the graham cracker thing was just plain wrong. Move along, nothing to taste here.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Okay, I’ll admit I bought this in an effort to diversify my offerings on the site. I like the idea of supporting some smaller candy companies, and this one is made right here in Los Angeles. I didn’t think I’d like it. I’m not that keen on marshmallow as a rule. I love toasted marshmallows, but for some reason I don’t think of those as candy. Most other marshmallow candies are just to sticky sweet. The only one to date that I like (and buy regularly) is See’s Scotchmallow - which is a marshmallow top on a disc of caramel covered in chocolate. Their mallow has a bit of a honey note to it, which complements the caramel well.
Anyway, this little delightful cup is made with milk chocolate with bits of coconut mixed in and crushed of almonds. Inside that is an incredibly light and foamy marshmallow creamy filling. I also liked the package. The graphics are bold and smooth and appealing.
The complex flavors really blend together well. The bits in the chocolate offset the sweetness of the chocolate and the foamy center gives a smooth texture and lightness to it all. The thing is, I’m still not sure if I’ll buy these again. Maybe if I get a jones for a scotchmallow and I’m not in the mall.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Monday, July 11, 2005
Name: Vaque Tona (Chocolate and Caramel)
In an attempt to be more international, I picked up these curiosities last week at the Big Lots, after being sent there by a blog posting about ice cream toppings.
Now, I know I said that buying candy at dollar stores is scary. And I don’t think this review should dissaude you from that notion.
I could not get an accurate translation of Vaque Tona on the web. I tried both Spanish and Portuguese (the manufacturer is in Brazil) but didn’t get much out of it. So I’ve decided these are called Cowbells. I think that’s what they’re supposed to look like. Unless they’re udders.
What they are is a little tube that ends in a mesh dome. You press up on the plunger inside the tube to dispense lickable goo ... something akin to frosting. You can suck it right from the plunger or smash the little ring into it and lick it off of that.
The two flavors I picked up were chocolate caramel and caramel.
It’s basically frosting. A cutesy delivery device for frosting. And that’d be okay if it was actually good frosting. Frosting isn’t that hard to make, so it’s beyond me why these can’t be good. First, they’re rather stale tasting. Sure, they’re sweet, but the chocolate one doesn’t really have a cocoa punch to it, more of a cardboard taste to it. It’s mostly smooth and creamy except for a plethora of little chunks of what I think are sugar. They don’t seem to be distributed consistently enough to be a feature, but they were both like that. The caramel one was very strong in its flavor, which I think is kind of an artificial vanilla flavor.
I’m gonna have to give this one a resounding thumbs down. Though the packaging and concept is sound, the execution is, well, unappealing.
Rating: 3 out of 10
If you missed the broadcast of KCRW’s Good Food with Evan Kleinman on Saturday morning, it’s now available at their website:
You’ll find my segment starting at 34:20 (though they’re all great fun, especially the drive-in food segment before mine).
Saturday, July 9, 2005
Name: Wilbur Buds
I’ve mentioned my favorite chocolate before, it’s Wilbur. Wilbur is made in a small town in Pennsylvania, Lititz, a scant 27 miles from the more famous Hershey. Wilbur, in fact, predates Hershey and even has a version of the kiss, known as the Wilbur Bud (which was also introduced several years earlier than the Hershey Kiss).
The Wilbur bud comes in milk or semi-sweet chocolate and is pure simplicity. It’s just a large chocolate chip, with a little curl on top and a molded bottom that says Wilbur. What’s great about the Wilbur buds is that they are incredibly smooth and creamy. Where Hershey and Nestle chocolate has a slight grain to it, Wilbur has none, it’s pure chocolate smoothness. The milk chocolate is European style, so those who are fond of Cadbury will appreciate it’s milkyness. The semi-sweet is bold, with a strong cocoa taste, complex and slightly bitter but melts easily on the tongue. Part of this explained by the cocoa butter content. I know a lot of people are into this movement of 70%+ cocoa solids, but besides the smoky flavor of chocolate, what sets it apart from all other candies is cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is one of those rare fats that is solid at room temperature and liquid at body temp. The more cocoa butter, the more melty the chocolate.
So knowing all that, it should come as no surprise that I would go to such lengths to purchase said chocolate. A few weeks ago I called up the factory order line and got a five pound box. After all, it’s the best deal. And I have a wine fridge to store it in through the hot summer months.
One of the big things about chocolate is that there are two kinds: there are candy chocolates and savoring chocolates. Wilbur, for me, falls into both categories. Because of the high cocoa butter content (only 50% cocoa solids) it’s more snackable but the creamyness makes it wonderfully rich. I love eating these with other foods, too. It’s great in a homemade trail mix for hiking where you mix in some dried fruits (cranberries, apricots or raisins) and nuts (almonds, hazelnuts or cashews) and some pretzels. When I’ve got a stash, I usually keep a small bowl of them around at all times.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (if I could find it easily it’d be pure 10)
Friday, July 8, 2005
I’ll be on KCRW’s radio show Good Food tomorrow (7/9/05) at 11:00 AM talking about candyblog.net. If you don’t live in Southern California where it airs, you can also catch the show on the web via real player on this page after it airs. KCRW also offers PodCasts of its shows.
Leave me a note here if you know of where the show airs other places in the country (I was having trouble with a websearch on that).
Name: Green Tea and Black Sugar Caramels
I know, you must think me obsessed with caramels. But they are one of the most perfect expressions of sugar and fat. Soft, yielding, bursting with sugary flavor that lingers in the crevices of your mouth. They’re great for summer too, since they’re not subject to the temperature extremes of chocolate.
As promised, I’m ready to share my Japanese finds from my recent shipment.
First is Morinaga’s Kokutou Caramel. This is what’s known as a black sugar caramel, or probably what westerners know of as brown sugar or molasses. This caramel is darker than the milk caramels I’ve tried from Japan. It has a slightly rummy aroma and a definite molasses bite to it when chewing. It’s a really nice, smooth caramel with a good finish. There’s no molasses bitterness either. It’s not sticky, but plenty chewy with a good milky consistency.
Morinaga also makes a Matcha Caramel, which is a green tea flavored caramel. The nugget is definitely green. It smells of green tea and tastes just like green tea ice cream, with that same smooth roasted flavor and slight bitter tinge. Unfortunately after chewing for a while, it feels a little grainy and slightly bitter, like there are real ground up leaves in there. That aside, they’re quite addictive and both caramels complement each other well - so I can just alternate between the two all afternoon.
Rating: Kokutou Caramel - 8 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.