Thursday, February 26, 2009
Malley’s Chocolates is a Northeast Ohio favorite. They started in 1935 and currently produce their candy locally in Brookpark and distribute to 17 of their stores, plus many other shops that carry their products. In addition, they make a variety of bars that are sold by groups & schools for fundraising. Not as well known as the World’s Finest line, these bars have an additional local flair to them.
Last October I visited the factory with my mother while we were in the Cleveland area. There is a tour, which amounts to walking up and down a hallway with huge plate glass windows that show the factory in action along with little displays about the history of chocolate and the company. While it is unguided, the factory workers are quite aware that there are people watching and even made a few little signs and held them up to tell us what was being made on each line.
The factory has several enrobing lines, production lines, kettles, mixers and even sorts & roasts their own nuts. That is coupled with their packaging & assembly. It’s all free to watch, so if you’re in the area, especially on a rainy day, it’s a fun diversion especially with kids.
The store features the entire array of their production from the fine boxed chocolates, their marshmallow favorites, foil wrapped novelties, chocolate dipped pretzels & cookies (called Malley Ohs!), nut & caramel clusters (Billy Bobs), Buckeyes (peanut butter balls covered in chocolate), mint meltaways and their line of candy bars. The general prices of their candy is $16 to $30 per pound for their fine chocolates and $10 to $15 per pound for their enrobed snacks.
I bought a box of chocolates for myself & to share with family while I was traveling, but brought home an array of their chocolate candy bars for review. (Though, sadly, they don’t sell them on their website.)
The wrappers are bold and actually pretty thick. They’re mostly an advertisement on the back for their fundraising programs. The company’s colors are mint green and pink, which features heavily in their packaging.
The bars are big, 2.25 ounces each and only $1.00 each, so it’s a great value for a quality product. The chocolate is real (and may be Guittard, I saw some Guittard boxes on the factory floor and no other company’s chocolate there, but some companies use from multiple suppliers). The ingredients are pretty straight forward, their chocolate is made sugar, milk, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, soy lecithin & vanillin. Their dark chocolate is similar and does use milkfat in it.
I picked up their Milk Chocolate Crunch Bar (crisped rice), Peanut Butter Cups, Milk Chocolate Pretzel Crunch Bar and Dark Chocolate Pretzel Crunch Bar.
Once I opened the package it became clear why. Inside is a tray to protect the little cups. Instead of the fluted paper lining this tray is the mold for the cups.
They’re only 1.5” across and a half an ounce each.
They may be small, but they are darn cute and practically flawless.
Since I saw for myself that Malley’s roasts their own nuts fresh, I can only guess that they make the peanut butter for this cup themselves. It’s nothing like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
The center is so smooth it feels like it’s whipped. It’s not just peanuts though, it has a (un)healthy tippling of additional oils in it like palm kernel and rapeseed, more peanut oil and some non fat dry milk, sugar and the requisite salt.
The chocolate cup is also silky smooth, a little sweet and sticky but it has a good chocolatey punch to balance with the roasted flavor of the peanut butter. The peanuts have a slightly bitter toasted flavor to them.
The presentation of them is really appealing and even though I bought these in October and ate them in February, they were absolutely fresh tasting.
Rating: 8 out of 10
My main interest in Malley’s, truth be told, was that I heard they made a line of pretzel bars. I love a chocolate covered pretzel and have been lamenting that Hershey’s has cheapened their once-stellar Take 5. I was so sure I’d love theirs that I picked up two of each of their pretzel bars.
The bar is long with four segments alternating with a molding of the Malley’s logo and “Quality since 1935” then some little pinstripes. Each little block segment is about a half an ounce, a nice little portion.
With a bar with inclusions, thickness is important so that the chocolate and crunchies can mingle properly.
The milk chocolate is wonderfully sweet and smooth, there’s a dairy component to it, but it’s not too strong. There are lots of little salted pretzel bits that provide a light crunch and slight malty/cereal flavor.
It’s a really satisfying combination. Nothing fancy about it, just good old fashioned comfort.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The Malleys Dark Chocolate Pretzel Crunch has a reversed package design featuring the mint green with pink and brown accents. If I wasn’t looking for the bar, I probably would have mistaken it for a mint product.
This bar is much bumpier on the bottom, which pleased me, since that indicated lots of pretzels.
It smells like cocoa, on the sugary side.
The shiny tempering means that it has a satisfying snap to it, which goes really well with the crispy and light pretzel bits. The chocolate is semi-sweet, not deep or complex. It’s like eating pudding with pretzels. A little bitter bite to it, but for the most part it’s typical mass-produced dark.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The final bar (but didn’t photograph for some strange reason) is the Chocolate Crunch Bar which is milk chocolate with crisped rice.
By the time I got to this bar, I realized that I really liked the milk chocolate that Malley’s uses. Sure it’s sweet and sure it lacks some of the complexity that fine artisan milk chocolates can have. But it’s addictively eatable.
The thick bar has loads of big crisped rice. Crisped rice is great, it’s like nature’s malted milk balls. This bar had the perfect ratio of crisps and chocolate. Still a bit sweeter than I’d like but for the price I don’t think you can find a better chocolate and crisped rice bar.
Rating: 9 out of 10
If a kid comes knocking on your door to do a little fundraising, you might think you’re doing them a favor by supporting their cause, but you really can’t go wrong for a buck with this purchase.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
They’re a long bar of ganache encased in a hand painted chocolate shell that’s meant to be sliced instead of popped in the mouth whole.
The bars come in two sizes, a four inch long/six ounce bar and an eight inch long/twelve ounce bar. Though $14 for the small one sounded like a lot at first, when I thought about it, that’s a little over $37 per pound, which is pretty good for a box of fine chocolates. The small version makes 10 servings.
I got a hold of two bars from a media event called Food Fete (great writeup here): Double Hazelnut Caramel Truffle and Cappuccino with a Twist.
The Double Hazelnut Caramel Bar is A striking, hand-painted truffle with contrasting tiers of milk chocolate flavored with rich hazelnut puree, white chocolate infused with caramel, dark chocolate and a hint of ground hazelnut.
The bar has a simple construction. It’s a rounded prism shape, as described on the package, it’s about four inches long and 2 inches wide/high.
The shell is banded with colored white chocolate and milk chocolate. Inside are three layers of ganache.
First, I have to say, it’s an amazing construction and it looks just like it’s supposed to. I liked the banded coloring, it was appetizing and made an excellent presentation. Slicing the product was pretty easy, I had no trouble at all with the above knife, which I wiped after each slice (they suggest warming it in hot water and then wiping it dry). The bar was at room temp, which may have been a little colder than normal (about 62 F).
I made my initial slices rather thin, about a quarter of an inch is pictured. After a little math later on I realized they should have been over a third of an inch. You can gauge it yourself for the number of guests & how much they want to eat. thicker provides both a good portion and makes it easier to pick up, even if you cut them in half, especially if it gets a little warmer upon serving.
The ganache center was smooth and soft, a little fudgy. The flavors were light but pleasant. The center layer definitely had the caramel notes and the toasted hazelnut flavors while the top and bottom layers were more of the straight chocolate variety.
Personally I might have preferred more hazelnut to it or at least more of a punch of flavors, but it was definitely a decadent little treat.
The second bar was Cappuccino with a Twist. The little tag described it like this: An artfully hand-painted truffle filled with the mingling flavors of milk chocolate, coffee-infused white chocolate, dark chocolate, coffee liqueur and a subtle finish of lemon.
I didn’t care much for the design on the outside of this one, though once cut up it didn’t matter much. But then again, with less design on the outside I wasn’t eating as much food coloring.
The three layers here worked excellently. The bottom was a dark chocolate that had just a hint of strong coffee. The middle layer was softer, sweeter and less intense. The top was a white chocolate with a strong note of lemon zest. Towards the end of it all there’s a slight alcoholic punch.
I liked the layering on all of them, they were distinct and made eating them a bit of an adventure.
The interesting part of all of this is that the ganache is the star here. Once sliced, there’s very little chocolate shell, far less than most truffles, so it’s all about the cream and chocolate concoction.
They make a really nice presentation piece, the only drawback when serving to a small number of people is the lack of variety. So if you’re serving 20 people, two or three of the small bars would mean only two or three choices instead of the wide variety you could do with regular truffles.
However, the ability to control the portion size and the sheer novelty of seeing a huge log of chocolate that you can have a slice of is pretty spectacular.
I took this to an Oscar viewing party and it was part of a buffet of desserts. In the future though I think it would be an interesting bar of a dessert cheese plate, served along with some cheeses, nuts, dried fruits, honey and crackers.
The drawback is mostly that this is a bar for sharing. I can’t see popping this out of the sleeve and chomping into it, well, maybe in some sort of 30 Rock scene with Liz Lemon on a crazed depression-fueled-chocolate-binge. So it’s a special occasion sort of purchase. I’ve only seen them in specialty stores (it might have been Bloomingdales), so web-ordering is probably a necessity. However, it would make an incredible hostess gift or finish to a meal. With economic pressures, this sort of splurge might actually be good - it feels decadent but isn’t as expensive as some artisan chocolates or even upscale bakery products and brings people together, which is part of the magical quality of food.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Years ago I toured the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, CA. At the end I was given a taste of their not-yet-introduced Pomegranate Jelly Belly, which boasts an infusion of antioxidants in addition to pomegranate flavor.
At the time I told them that I was hoping that someday they’d introduce a tangy citrus mix of Jelly Bellys with vitamins. (And then when I was done with the tour, I went and made my own custom mix in their store that consisted of all the citrus flavors.)
Three and a half years later, it’s here! I have no idea if they took my suggestion or realized it was simply something that had to be done.
At the Fancy Food Show Jelly Belly displayed this package (shown here in a rather dim photo taken by Emanuel Treeson). Over the weekend I got my first taste via a sample from Jelly Belly.
Though I like Jelly Belly, I rarely buy the pre-made mixes because there are just too many flavors that I don’t like and at the price of the product, it’s far too expensive to toss a third of them.
Jelly Belly’s Sunkist Citrus Mix is a blend of five jelly bean flavors all fortified with Vitamin C. Each 40 gram portion (1.41 ounces) provides 25% of the daily US RDA of Vitamin C. (Sorry, no other antioxidants - it would have been nice to sneak some beta carotene in there.)
The flavors are Sunkist Lime, Sunkist Pink Grapefruit, Sunkist Orange, Sunkist Lemon and Sunkist Tangerine.
I have no idea if these are actually the same flavor as the non-Sunkist varieties. I tried a one-for-one taste test with the pink grapefruit and found that the Sunkist one was definitely zestier, maybe a little tangier. But that could have been a freshness issue.
Of the five flavors, I preferred the ones that had a tangy bite: lemon, tangerine and pink grapefruit. All had a lot more zesty notes than most jelly beans but the orange was just too plain old sweet. The great thing is that I loved the combination of flavors, I liked picking through them but none of them was a “shunned” flavor that was left over.
Since I’ve been battling a cold, this was one candy that I’ve been indulging in. Even without a decent sense of smell on Saturday, the tangy notes were still welcome. While I don’t necessarily think that they’re the reason that I’ve gotten over the cold, they really brightened my day.
Jelly Belly are now listing their products as gluten free, dairy free and this one in particular is gelatin free. They would be vegan except for the beeswax used in the glaze.
They should be in store by Easter, they haven’t appeared on the Jelly Belly website yet.
Friday, February 20, 2009
I have a bit of a cold and don’t think it’d be fair to review anything else this week. So here’s your candy tease of new products, some just arriving on shelves.
Name: Reese’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Name: Toxic Waste(r) Shockingly Sour Hi-Voltage(tm) Bubble Gum
Name: Gimme Calcium
Name: Breath Savers(r) Strong Mint Menthol and Energy Mint Caffeine
Name: Chocolate Flavored Mega Smarties
Thursday, February 19, 2009
It’s simply an olive shaped chocolate truffle, packaged with a cocktail pick so that it can be served in a drink.
I think I’d probably be floored if I ordered a cocktail and ended up with a fancy 55% dark chocolate truffle with a real Vermont cream ganache. (Of course there are some restaurants where I order coffee just because it comes with a little dish of chocolate chips, so I’m easily enchanted.)
I acquired my sample packages (that contain two Cholives with picks - the regular package is a little tin or jar) at Food Fete, which is a media event for food, beverage and lifestyle writers. It was held on one evening during the Fancy Food Show, and provided an opportunity to really connect with the food makers (and they weren’t concerned with missing a sale because they were talking to a reporter or blogger).
They olive styling is so complete, there’s even a little dimple where a pitted olive would have a hole. This is the recommended spot for inserting the cocktail skewer (and don’t go all the way through to the other side, a half an inch will do).
The truffle has a pleasant fruity & woodsy chocolate aroma. The bite of shell is crisp (I didn’t dip mine in alcohol). The ganache center is light and buttery, like a supercream frosting - a little bit sweeter than the shell, but still quite rich.
As a decadent little accompaniment for a drink, they’re nice. A great size and a fun method for serving. I appreciate that they’re good quality as well. Their info says that each one is about 35 calories (which I didn’t think was bad for a real chocolate treat).
At first I thought these were just skinny Lindt Lindor truffles, but they were much better than that. Though it made me wonder if folks skewer those & serve them with drinks, too. (The Lindt Lindor Truffle Eggs would probably be perfect for that! So consider squirreling some of those away after Easter this year for that purpose.)
I can’t see using these for ordinary drinks. They’re suited for more cream-based cocktails or at least sweet ones. At 50 cents to a dollar per Cholive, they sound a bit steep. But if you’ve got a mind to economize but still want to indulge, perhaps inviting a few friends over for some upscale cocktails instead of dinner & dessert, you can splurge on a tin of these. (The really clever thing is that they sell in bulk, so you can buy a tin or jar, and if you love them you can buy a bulk bag & keep refilling it so it looks nice on your bar - and of course feel free to pop one every once in a while.) Their website also features some tantalizing drink recipes to get you started.
Don’t be surprised either if these start turning up at bars and events like weddings.
Note that they do not hold up in hot drinks ... not that they’re bad that way, but it’s just a different experience to fish a melted truffle out of the bottom of cup of hot coffee.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.