Monday, July 20, 2009
I’ve known about Zingerman’s classic candy bars for quite a few years, but finally found a local source for them a few days ago. I really wanted to see them in person, because while the Zingerman’s website is so fun & quirky with their little illustrations, I’d like more than a picture of a box when sinking $7 for a candy bar (yes, that’s what they are on their website).
I got the What the Fudge? and Ca$hew Cow Zzang! Candy Bars. The box heralds that they’re “taking candy bars back 100 years!” which I’m guessing they think that’s a good thing.
The boxes are smaller than I expected, 4.5” long and 1.25” high/wide. But the label says that the WTF? is 3 ounces. I looked at them out of the package and I thought there was no way it was 3 ounces, that’s more than a Snickers bar! (But sure enough, I used the postal scale at the office and they both came in at about 3 ounces even after I took out my photo-bites.)
So the fact that they’re sizeable almost makes up for the sticker shock - at least at the Larchmont Larder they were $3.95 each.
The What the Fudge? Zzang! Candy Bar looks deceptively plain out of the wrapper. The box says: Milk chocolate fudge, Muscovado caramel, and malted milk cream dipped in dark chocolate.
Biting into it, I didn’t seem that complex. In fact, I didn’t think it tasted like much more than sweet, sweet fudge covered in chocolate.
The top layer of malted milk cream was smooth, but a bit frosting-like. The milky flavors came across distinctly when I pulled the parts of the bar apart, but I didn’t really get much malt. The milk chocolate fudge is sweet and doesn’t have much chocolate punch but has a melty smooth texture with a slight grain. The “caramel” isn’t quite a gooey caramel, it’s more of a grainy buttery layer with some distinct molasses notes of the Muscovado sugar.
Most importantly, because of these extremely sugary innards, the chocolate coating is a very dark, rather bitter bittersweet chocolate.
The package says the serving size is the full 3 ounce bar, which is far too much for me in one sitting. (The box also had the cryptic tally of 260 calories for the full bar, which is pretty much impossible for any candy that contains fat ... and chocolate was the first ingredient ... I’d go for something along the lines of 130 calories per ounce for this bar, bringing the total to 390.)
The Cashew Cow Zzang! Candy Bar, as you can tell, was a little bloomed when I got it home. Happily the texture of the dark chocolate coating did not seem to suffer too much from the slight. The bar consists of Milk chocolate, cashew butter gianduja, cashew brittle & roasted cashews dipped in dark chocolate.
Though this bar is only reputed to be 2.5 ounces, it’s actually larger than the WFT? bar. (Also, when I weighed it after my bite, it still came in at 2.8 ounces, so their manufacturing process is a bit generous.)
It smells dark and toasty.
Instead of the layered order of the WFT?, the Cashew Cow is a muddled combination affair on the inside. The general look of it is a fluffed gianduja with some inclusions of nuts & crisped rice.
The center does have lots of textures going on: shards of brittle, cashews and crisped rice - all with varying degrees of crunch. The nutty background flavor is cashew with some buttery bits and the malty crisp of the puffed rice. And then the salt, there’s a lot of saltiness.
Sometimes I liked it, sometimes I found it a bit chaotic. It definitely wasn’t as sticky sweet as the WTF? bar, but this one seemed a bit too hefty for me as well.
The good thing was that both bars were distinct and unique ... I didn’t feel like saying “this is like a Milky Way” or “that’s like a Butter Brittle Hazelbar.” At $7 a bar, I’d be miffed ... at $4, I felt like it was a fun ride. I still prefer the BonBonBars as far as upscale candy bars go ... but again, these are nothing like those so it’s never going to be a one for one comparison and it might just all be about personal taste.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Each variety is a little different and sports a different package design. And each package holds a little over an ounce. (Actually, the boxes were basically twice as big as they needed to be.)
The Fruit Flavors Jaw Slammers introduced me to the product line’s mascot, this blond kid with a big jawbreaker in his mouth.
But more disturbing than the lack of info was the look of the jawbreakers.
Each is about the size of a garbanzo bean, nicely spherical but mottled and uneven in color.
The melt on the tongue isn’t smooth until the first layer of color dissolves away.
I tried a few of the colors but the flavor was never more than “bland fruit” with a blend of citrus, banana and sweet berry. The texture is much like most jawbreakers, smooth and then a little burst of flavor (it you could call it that) and then a little bit rougher texture ... then smooth again.
About two layers down the candy stops and becomes a piece of compressed dextrose about the size of the old Tart n Tinys. But unflavored.
They’re wholly unoffensive, but not terribly stimulating or satisfying. I don’t feel ripped off, but I was hoping for a bit more flavor.
The Sour Jaw Slammers box is pretty bold in color.
At first the pieces looked to be similarly mottled as the fruit ones, but after touching them, they’re softly textured. I expected that to be a sour blast coating like Toxic Waste. Instead it was just the same as the fruit.
I waited through the layers until finally I got to that chalky candy layer and was rewarded with a very tart SweeTart like nugget.
Again, none of the flavors were particularly distinct, but the sweet outer layer and then the textural difference of the sour center was at least interesting.
Once I got the style of these candies down, I thought I knew what to expect with the Bubble Gum Center Jaw Slammers.
These were even more bumply than the others.
They were also more flavorful. Not a good flavor. It was a combination of Country Time Lemonade and ketchup.
Then there was the center.
I was expecting a piece of bubble gum at the center. Because that’s what the box said .. with bubble gum center.
So get to the middle and it feels just like a piece of compressed dextrose ... a bit tangy though. So I chew and find that it’s like a Razzle.
The net amount of gum (bubble gum, you know, for blowing bubbles) is about the size of a mustard seed.
Hot Red Shockers are, as I expected, to be like mini Atomic Fireballs.
The box design is a bit more of a downer than the others. Nowhere does it say that these are cinnamon.
In truth, they’re not just cinnamon. After first the little ball was a smooth and sweet cinnamon, then it ebbed into spearmint territory. The combination was like toothpaste or mouthwash. But then it came back around to cinnamon and there was definitely a red hot layer in there somewhere before the center became just a sugar ball.
I’m not sure why I would buy these when there are already two very good jawbreakers that fit the bill: Gobstoppers and Atomic Fireballs.
But I suppose if if I needed some water soluble ball bearings, this would fit the bill. Perhaps if I was looking for something to give away to people that I don’t care if they like me or not after receiving it. But not for me.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
While picking up a birthday cake for The Man a few weeks ago at Lark, a neighborhood bakery, I also sampled some locally made artisan nut brittles.
Morning Glory Confections makes a short list of nut brittles in quirky flavor combinations: Chai Tea & Cashew, Cocoa Nib, Coffee Bean & Pecan, Fleur de Sel & Peanut, Indian Curry & Pistachio and New Mexico Chili & Pumpkin Seed.
I’ve tasted all of them, but chose to buy a little package of the Chai Tea & Cashew. It wasn’t cheap, the 2 ounce package that contained four slender planks cost $4.95. But the artisan name was supported by the tantalizing ingredients:
Cashews, sugar, corn syrup, butter, chai spice (it included a list), Darjeeling tea leaves, baking soda, Madagascar vanilla extract, Kosher salt.
The glossy and narrow bars are lumpy with the cashews within and speckled with the tea & spices.
It smells a bit buttery and like warm tea and spices ... a bit like carrot cake, actually. The cashews are toasted to a crunchy light brown and have a darker flavor to them than I would have expected. The salt comes forward first then a little kick of creamy butter and the crisp flakiness of a toffee.
The baking soda keeps the salt note a bit on the mineral side of things, but also keeps the candy from tasting too sickly sweet. The key with Morning Glory brittles, all that I’ve tasted, is that it’s not about the nuts. While the nuts are nice, it’s about the flavors imparted to the brittle.
While I really enjoyed my four pieces, the price is just staggering (oh sure, it’s not so bad when you buy a larger quantity at $32 per pound.) I appreciated that the inner wrap was actually a zip lock to protect my precious bits from evil, evil moisture.
(I would also take this opportunity to recommend Lark’s cakes. They have an impressive carrot cake that is both beautiful and fulfills my husband’s and my particular issues: he doesn’t like raisins and I can’t eat walnuts. So it’s all about the moist carroty cake with warm spices and a light, not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. We’ve picked up this cake three times in the regular size and one of the itty two-serving size since they opened.)
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
One of Scharffen Berger’s new projects is the Chocolate Makers Series with limited runs (about 120 cases) of single origin beans. There are two on the market right now. A Scharffen Berger rep sent them to me after I twittered about my obsession with the Milk Nibby bar.
In this case the both of the bars are 65% cacao dark chocolate - an easily accessible for nascent chocolate tasters, but not too sweet for hardliner chocophiles.
The boxes are quite smart - simple kraft paperboard boxes with a wrap-around label including tasting notes for the bar.
Inside the package the bar is enclosed in a glassine sleeve and sealed with a sticker. It’s well done, I found it easily protected the bars and was great for munching on a little, breaking inside the sleeve & serving to others.
The Tome Acu is sourced from cooperative farmers in the Brazilian State of Par?, which if you look on a map is a big, wide area far from any roads.
From the package
Here’s what I got: Light green wood scent with slight bitter notes. Very sweet at the forward flavors but kind of in the honey/syrup arena with notes of cinnamon, raisins, green olives and green tea. The bitterness was high pitched and short lived, but gave way to some lower boiled cherry and plum notes. Still, quite a tangy chocolate and what I have come to expect from the Scharffen Berger style.
Though Theobroma cacao originated in the New World, more cocoa is grown in Africa than anywhere else in the world. Ghana is second only to C?te d’Ivoire in production. The earliest plantings in the area were from the Amelonado cultivar which, interestingly enough was also from Brazil (like the Tome Acu).
The Asante bar is named for the Ashante region & peoples (map). They’re known for their beans as well as the care the farmers & cooperatives take in the fermenting process, which is crucial to making good chocolate. (Underferment and the chocolate is acrid, overferment and the chocolate is musty.)
From the package
Here’s what I got: Coffee, cedar & cardamom plus a strong molasses/sugary vibe. The chocolate punch in here was strong and clear reminding me of the smell of chocolate cake without much of the sourness that I often get from Scharffen Berger bars.
The texture of both bars was excellent. Plenty of cocoa butter, smooth and silky melt without grittiness. The snap on both was bright & crisp.
You can follow along with the Chocolate Maker’s Series in the journal on the Scharffen Berger site, even if you never buy one of the bars, the process is quite interesting to read along with great photos from all over the world.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Often they come in different flavors, but the classic caramel has endured for nearly 100 years. One line is the Meiji Dice, which are little caramels that come in pairs inside cube boxes that also double as dice. More recently, as Meiji has acquired the Pokka Coffee company, they introduced the Pokka Coffee Caramel.
The cute packages feature half with icons of the Pokka coffee brand with their logo & seal. The other half are the dice - in this case using little coffee beans on each side to mark the numbers.
The caramels are bigger than the Morinaga ones I’ve had before, or the other, similar Meiji cubes.
They’re about 5/8 of an inch square with a distinct checkerboard texture on them. Each pair is wrapped in waxed paper and tucked into a box. So there are eight caramels total.
They smell very sweet and a lot like dark roasted coffee or espresso. There’s very little milk taste to it, though milk is a major ingredient. It’s definitely a sweet black coffee flavor. (Some coffee caramels taste like coffee ice cream.) I liked it much better than the grainy & gone texture of the Chewy Coffee Rio.
The dark, rich flavor and the soft, ample chew was really appealing to me. I found I ate three of the boxes before I was even ready to do this review. They were a bit on the expensive side for a mass-manufactured candy ... and the overpackaging is sweet for the first day or so, but silly and wasteful after that. I’ll likely stick with the Morinaga Caramels I know and love so well, or perhaps try the Meiji Chelsea Coffee if I can find them.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.