Friday, October 9, 2009
The use of salt in candy is as old as toffee, caramel, & licorice but now it’s popping into chocolates. Lindt just released their newest, an Excellent Dark with a Touch of Sea Salt bar.
The package is quite pretty and elegantly simple. The standard paperboard sleeve with a cool dark blue background for the chocolate square sporting a little sprinkle of salt.
I usually like chocolate bars that come in paperboard sleeves, they protect the chocolate well, and should make it easy to keep the leftovers. Lindt has designed theirs so that once you open it, there’s no tab to tuck back in, instead it falls apart completely without a little piece of tape or a rubber band.
My bar was fresh and has a wonderful sheen. Smelling it, it’s not quite as complex as I’d hoped. The package doesn’t say how chocolatey it is, but it turns out that this simple dark-named bar is only 47%. The ingredients also list butterfat, which I don’t mind in milk chocolate, but feel it tends to make dark chocolate a little less potent.
Smell aside, the texture is quite nice. Silky smooth until, oh, a little pop of salt grains.
The flavors are deeper than the smell. A little coffee & woodsy notes along with a lighter chocolate cake flavor. The salt kind of sends me off into the realm of freshly baked chocolate chips cookies. There’s a bit of a dry finish that keeps it all from feeling like the experience was too sweet or too salty.
It’s a pretty well balanced bar and a nice example of salt & sugar being used together. It’s not quite as deep and satisfying as the darker offerings from Lindt and of course the fact that they’ve used butterfat means it’s off the list for vegans.
Lindt just relaunched their Excellence Chocolate website and I have to say that they did a nice job as far as I’m concerned. Big images, lots of information about the products, including ingredients & nutrition label. And most importantly it’s not done in all flash so no crazy sounds/music & I can link directly to a product page if I wanted to.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The most basic ingredients are sugar, corn syrup and baking soda. There’s no butter in it, like toffee and just about any kind of nuts or snack seeds can be added.
The crunch of brittle is provided by both the hardened sugar (which is made airy by the use of baking soda added just as the boiling mixture is removed from the heat) and the use of fresh nuts.
Most nut brittles are served in a rustic fashion. Big sheets of the candy are broken into little bits and planks.
I found Old Dominion brittle at the drug store and was intrigued. First of all, it’s all natural ... no coloring, no preservatives. Second, Old Dominion is a peanut company and they’ve been around for 95 years, so they must be doing something right. Third, the stuff was cheap.
I picked up two boxes. The Cashew Brittle was only 99 cents at Rite Aid and the Peanut Brittle was $1.69 ... but was twice the weight of the cashew.
The box seemed a little big for the amount of candy in it. But it was well packaged inside with an oversized & thick mylar pouch.
Inside the planks, slivers & pieces clank pleasantly, kind of like poker chips.
It definitely smells like toasted peanuts. Glancing at the pieces though they don’t have as many peanuts as I would have hoped, there’s a lot more brittle than peanut.
The candy has a fresh and crunchy bite - there’s a slight foamy lightness to it. It’s just a little salty, a bit buttery tasting. The nuts are small, like those Virginia Red-skinned peanuts. I ate about half the bag and got only one bad nut, and that one was just overtoasted. Yes, I would have preferred more nuts, but considering the price, it was a pretty good deal for a fresh & natural product.
I thought this would be a straight swap of cashews for peanuts but it’s actually not. The ingredients list butter (though rather far down on the list) and the color is just a bit lighter. It smells buttery and a little grassy like cashews often do.
I love cashews and all of these were sweet & crunchy. It’s fun to see someone making an affordable cashew candy.
The pieces were a little light on the cashews, but the candy part was still crunchy & fun without them. It tastes just a little saltier, which seems to offset the sweetness of the cashews themselves. I really can’t complain about it at all ... it’s a quarter pound of good quality candy for only a buck.
I liked the design of the boxes, classic and accurate in their depiction of the product ... well, maybe the pictures make it look like there are more nuts. I might have preferred a zip locked bag inside, but I usually have extras around and just tuck them into those to keep them from getting sticky from ambient moisture. It’s a little hard to see because it’s just emboss/stamped into the end of the box, but they do list a “best by” date.
The calories listed for the peanut brittle are 180 per 30 grams (a little over 1 ounce). This makes no sense to me, even one ounce of peanuts is only 160 calories ... so I think there’s a typo. The cashew package says 130 calories, which seems about right for a product that’s mostly sugar.
Old Dominion, based in Norfolk, Virginia, also makes Butter Toffee Peanuts, Peanut Squares/Bars and a “covered” version of the peanut brittle (which I steered away from because it was mockolate).
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Every once in a while a limited edition comes back. This one, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Lovers Cups, came out in 2005 along with its companion, the Reese’s Chocolate Lovers Cups. I spotted them again in stores a few weeks ago and picked them up on sale at Walgreen’s over the weekend.
The package is more peanutty looking than the traditional bright orange wrappers. It was easy to spot on the shelves as a different variety. Unlike some limited edition varieties that other candy companies make, this is a full sized version of the original - the same 1.5 ounces (.75 ounces per cup). Yes, it’s true that Reese’s Cups have gotten smaller over the years. Brad Kent has the 1.6 ounce wrapper from 1997 and the change made sometime circa 2003 based on Mike’s Candy Wrappers.
I don’t think I tried these the first time they came around, as I think that the regular ratios of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are ideal. When I opened the package I was wondering if there was any chocolate at all ... even though it said Milk Chocolate right at the top.
Once I pulled the brown fluted paper off the cup I understood the construction. There is a milk chocolate container which is filled with the Reese’s peanut butter center and that’s capped with a peanut butter candy coating.
The cup has a soft bite, slightly crumbly. It’s definitely all about the peanut butter. The chocolate base provides a little cool & creamy sweetness but very little in the way of cocoa notes. The dry and salty peanut butter center has that inimitable texture and roasted peanut flavor. I found it to be much saltier, so I looked around for sodium content for the original and found that has 130 mg per package and this limited edition version has 170 mg. (Just a note, I think everything is salty these days ... my otherwise healthy diet is rather low in sodium.) However, it does have 6 grams of protein versus 4 grams in the classic. More peanut butter means more protein and actual less fat & fewer calories ... a whole 10 fewer calories.
I enjoyed these, and certainly had no trouble finishing the package. But given the choice I’m either going to go for the regular cups or the minis (I don’t think I’m going to touch the once perfect eggs now that they’ve gone mockolate).
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
There’s a lot that goes on before our beloved candy hits the store shelves. The same is true with Candy Blog, though it probably looks like all I do is play with candy, take photos of candy and of course eat candy. I also read about what’s going on in the candy business and of course visit trade shows and talk to candy companies, distributors & retailers.
One of the things I always found curious about the American candy business is how some foreign candies are represented in the United States. One such oddity was that the American distributor for Toblerone and Cote d’Or (owned by Kraft) chocolate for two years was Ferrara Pan. Yes, the Lemonhead & Atomic Fireball makers. Well, that deal ended in December 2008. So that left Ferrara free to move into the chocolate bar field without competing with his own interests ... and he’s come up with something that looks familiar yet has its own distinctiveness.
The chocolate is made in Belgium but the rest of the manufacturing is done at the new Ferrara facility in Forest Park, IL. If you like the behind the scenes stuff, you might love this article (which is one of the most blunt I’ve seen about how the candy business is a business and made up of people).
The new Ferrara Imported Belgian Milk Chocolate with Almond Nougat bar has a distinctive shape and a similar construction. It’s an atypical shape (a trapezoidal bar with deep sections) enclosed in a box shaped just like the bar. Yes, it’s a Faux-blerone.
The ingredients are in fact quite nice: milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, chocolate, soy lecithin and natural vanilla flavor), almond nougat (sugar, corn syrup, almonds, honey, egg white, natural vanilla flavor) plus wheat starch as a processing aid.
Inside the box the bar is sealed in a heavy mylar wrap with the Ferrara “F” crest reminding consumers that Ferrara has been making candy since 1908 on it.
It does smell quite good, sweet and milky with just a hint of the promised honey in the nougat.
Biting into it the first thing I noticed was how packed with nuts & nougat bits it was. My issue with Toblerone has long been the lack of enough bits to satisfy me.
The chocolate is quite milky but surprisingly smooth. The milky flavors are lightly caramelized, so there’s a malty & honey undertone to it. The chocolate comes across as rich, but also a little sweet.
I liked the little almond slivers and crunches and the Italian-style nougat which had a hint of honey and toasted marshmallow flavors. The bits are a little tough and sometimes sticky ... I’d kind of like to try the milk chocolate without the nougat & nuts. (Ferrara is planning on making sectioned chocolate balls a la Terry’s Chocolate Orange later this year as well.)
I’d say this is a great addition to a rather open segment of the candy shelf - better than a standard Hershey’s with Almonds and rivaling Toblerone without the price tag. I paid $1.99 for this bar ... on the shelf next to it was Toblerone, for $2.79 each. The fact that it’s all natural (no artificial vanilla flavor in there) is a bonus.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Their line of individually wrapped bites called Fioretto differs from the Lindor Truffles in that it contains no tropical oils (palm, palm kernel or coconut).
These little morsels are more of a cross between Perugina Baci and Ferrero Rocher.
I liked the little stand up bag, it’s simple and not too fussy. What I liked even more is that they sell the chocolates in single flavor bags plus this assortment of all three. To top it all off, Target had them on sale for $2.50 a bag (regularly $3.50). While that sounds like a good deal, it’s not like there’s a lot in the bag - it’s 4.1 ounces and holds 10 pieces.
The Nougat Hazelnut Praline is in a blue wrapper, which may be the universal color of hazelnut.
Inside the cellophane the little candy is further wrapped in paper-backed foil. The pieces are about 1.25” in diameter and barely 1” tall. They’re lumpy affairs with obvious cereal crunchies lurking below the milk chocolate coating.
They smell sweet and milky, and a little like malty rice crispies.
Biting into them is quite a journey of textures. The chocolate shell does have crisped rice bits in it. Then the center is a soft hazelnut cream with crushed hazelnuts in it. The hazelnut aroma comes out quite distinctly once the seal has been broken.
It’s sweet but with a good bit of hazelnut and milk flavor to it. It’s sticky and a bit cloying but the variety of nut & cereal crunches break that up.
Cappuccino was a bit of a mystery, as the package didn’t really have any description. So I was pleased to see it was a milk chocolate shell (not a white chocolate one). It does smell like rich dark espresso with a liberal helping of sugar.
Like the hazelnut, there were crisped rice bits in the shell. The center here, though, had no nuts. Instead it was a creamy coffee, milk & chocolate filling. It’s a bit crumbly but melts easily. It has a strong coffee flavor and even bits of coffee beans in there (not my favorite way to get coffee flavor).
I liked the flavors and the crisped rice covered up some of the bitterness associated with the little crunchy coffee bits.
As I mentioned at the top, there were 10 pieces in my package. As you might imagine there were at least three of each ... and the flavor that got four was Caramel.
The wrapper is a tantalizing burnt orange. It smells a bit buttery and like Stroopwaffles (if you’ve ever had those, you’ll know what I mean).
The consistent element in the Fioretto is the chocolate shell with a moderate amount of crisped rice in it. It’s creamy and sweet, but doesn’t have a super chocolate punch to it, allowing whatever center is there to be the dominant flavor.
The caramel center is smooth and almost like a pudding. There’s a faint cinnamon or mild spice in there, like this is a baked good instead of a chocolate. It’s a comforting sweet flavor and texture, but lacking that bunch of “caramel” that I would expect to have notes of butter, salt and burnt sugar.
I prefer these over the Lindor Truffle line, if only because they seem more chocolate-based than oily. I would love to see them in a dark chocolate version.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
A couple of weeks ago I visited a Middle-Eastern market in Orange County called Jordan Market. They had a great selection of hard to find Persian and Middle Eastern confections. They had several brands & styles of Halvah, Turkish Delight and, as the title of this review shows, Persian Nougat.
Anyone who’s been reading along on Candy Blog knows I’m a pushover for nougat. I’ve had Persian nougat before (I get it in little individually wrapped pieces at Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream in Hollywood), but I was attracted to this large box both by the price and the statement on the box: All Natural Persian Nougat - Packed in Flour in the Traditional Way.
I’m accustomed to Turkish Delight being packed in corn starch so figured this would be a similar powdery experience.
Persian nougat it different from French, Italian & Spanish nougat in that they don’t use honey in it. Instead the primary flavor is rosewater (sometimes orange blossom).
The box was shrink wrapped to keep it fresh. Inside the waxed paper sheets fold back to reveal what at first looks like a box of loose flour. A little shake of the box and the lumps of nougat are revealed.
This is the messy part thought. I took out a couple of “cakes” of the stuff and dusted them off with the brush I use to clean my shooting table. Underneath the plain cake flour are little white irregular pieces that look like raw biscuits. They’re about 2 1/2 inches around and lumpy. They smell rather like flour.
The nougat is pretty firm so biting into them is a little bit tough. (Though they are easily cut into bite size pieces with a sharp knife.)
Once I broke through the powdery outsides, it was easy to get a sense of the personality of the traditional Persian nougat.
It’s liberally dotted with green pistachios and has a smooth chew with a strong rosewater flavor. I happen to like rosewater and of course pistachios have a grassy & floral note to them as well. (I think this nougat also comes in an almond variety.) It’s flowery without being too soapy for me, but Robin from next door did think it was a little too much like grandma’s purse. Amy-Who-Spits-Things-Out came by for seconds today though.
Each piece is a large portion, there are 12 in the box which means that they’re each about 1.33 ounces each. Quite satisfying.
I think next time I’ll go for the individually wrapped pieces because my only real issue with them is the horrible mess ... which probably keeps me from eating the whole box.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.