Thursday, February 4, 2010
If the statistics braniacs are correct, you’re less likely to receive chocolate this year than a year when Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday. This is because the major heart-shaped confectionery purchasers are men and when the holiday falls on a weekend the celebrations are more likely to be date-related than object-related.
I picked up this box of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Hearts with Rich Truffle Filling on a weekend (long before Valentine’s Day though). The box holds 7.05 ounces and 16 Belgian truffles. Well, the package calls them truffles, I’m not convinced as you’ll see in a moment.
The flat and simple box has a stylized cartoonish design on the front though the overall format is similar to the Belgian Fancies I bought before Christmas.
I like the overall design, it’s simple and spare and not so precious or frilly that it couldn’t work for either gender or as a gift between friends or family. The box does and excellent job of protecting the candies, which were all shiny and flawless.
The hearts are nicely sized for a single bite. They’re about one and a half inches at the widest, about three quarters of an inch high.
The ingredients list for these non-flavored bonbons is extremely long. In my perfect world the definitions of things like ganache and truffle are pretty strict. A truffle is chocolate mixed with extra dairy fats like butter or cream. That’s it. There can be flavorings, inclusions and maybe even nut butters but then it becomes a bonbon with a truffle ganache base filling. The Belgian maker of these has things in here like corn syrup (third ingredient) vegetable oils (fourth ingredient) and some other things like glycerin, crystalline fructose, mono & diglycerides and citric acid.
The result of those ingredients is not so much of a mock ganache but something that I think of as really good chocolate frosting. The thing is, the reason to put all that extra fat into ganache is to make the melting point lower, so that it actually melts in your mouth quicker than chocolate. (Cocoa butter has a higher melting point than dairy butter.) Putting all those different oils in there just isn’t the same and things like corn syrup add moisture, which makes it chewy and gives it an almost-caramel like pull when it’s bitten.
Now, all that aside, they’re not bad to eat. The chocolate shell is rather sweet but very smooth. The flavors are berry and a little bit on the woodsy spice side. The semi-sweet shell plays well with the very sweet center. There’s a slight fudginess to it, I hesitate calling it a graininess but it simply tastes sugary instead of chocolatey. For a store bought box of chocolates, they’re not bad, but at $5 for a box I expect a little better. In fact, I wouldn’t mind paying an extra dollar for fewer ingredients and a more intense chocolate punch.
This is unfair. Pretty pictures of bad chocolate.
I’m a big fan of Aldi candies and chocolate and for the most part they’re far better than you’d expect for the price.
This is not one of those cases. The Grandessa Signature Origin Chocolate Assorted Sticks were in fact assorted and were clever little sticks of chocolate. (Package photo here.)
The Java milk chocolate tasted burnt and sour.
The Madagascar 72% was fruity smelling but so fatty and empty tasting that it was pointless as a chocolate flavor delivery device.
The Sao Thome 75% was bitter, dry and more like buttered charcoal than chocolate.
Eat with your Eyes is a recurring feature where I just show you stuff I’ve photographed but probably won’t get around to reviewing. Feel free to share your reviews here of the candy if you’ve had it.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Marich Confectionery is a California candy maker that specializes in panned items and novelty molded creams and fondants for all holidays. I’ve recently fallen in love with their extra dark chocolate panned items like 72% Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews and Dark Cacao Nib Toffee (which I’ve bought twice with the intention of reviewing but ended up eating).
Their new Black Heart Licorice items are all natural and instead of being wheat-based with molasses, these are more of a gumdrop style dense jelly candy.
I picked up my samples from the Fancy Food Show last month. They were showing off two versions: Black Licorice and Black Cherry Licorice.
The package design is nicely done. The six inch stand up box with the cut out window shows off the candy and is no bigger than it needs to be. The tab on the back folds into a little slot and keeps the candy closed and pretty fresh inside its inner cellophane bag. There’s a little story on it about a candy maker creating the candy to woo a woman, but I skipped right to the candy. (You can see a snapshot of the ad about it here.)
The Black Heart Black Licorice are darling little matte hearts. They feel a little rubbery, like they’re made out of silicone. The scent is only very lightly of anise.
The texture is a smooth and dense chew, a bit firmer than a Dot, but still easy to bite. The flavor is clean and clear - anise with some deeper woodsy licorice. It’s not very sweet, in fact, these have a bit of salt in them (75 mg per serving). Though they are colored, it’s all natural coloring so there are no strange artificial bitter flavors to get in the way of the real stuff.
They do stick in my teeth a little bit, so that’s a distraction. The flavor isn’t too strong to mean that I was constantly munching them without getting that overly full or burnt out feeling.
The surprising item for me was the Black Heart Black Cherry Licorice. I didn’t even want to take the samples, but figured they were red and would photograph well, I should at least try them. When I read the ingredients, it actually sounded pretty good. Again, all natural so no nasty Red #40 to give me a weird aftertaste ... but there’s also licorice root extract in there too. So it’s truly red licorice.
They don’t smell promising to me, like black cherry flavoring. However, the texture is quite dreamy ... it’s silky slick and easy to chew. The flavor is tangy and has a black cherry note to it. It’s woodsy and has an actual cherry pie flavor and then just a hint of the bouncy sweetness of licorice. The whole thin isn’t too sweet either, again, the benefit of the touch of salt in here. Wow, a cherry candy I actually like, because it actually tastes like cherries. For those who don’t like licorice, it’s not a bold anise flavor, just a different kind of sweetness that highlights the woodsy notes of the cherry flavors.
I don’t know if they’re in stores yet, I didn’t see them at Whole Foods, which is usually where I pick up Marich candies (though I also see them at Gelson’s in Southern California as well). I expect the price to be around $3.50 to $4 per package, so a little steep.
I was enchanted with Vintage Confections Caramel and Nougat Pinwheels online and was pleased to find out I could buy them at a shop in Pasadena.
So I picked up a handful of them, dutifully photographed them. Then I ate them. No review, just ate them.
They’re a smooth nougat layered with a light and chewy caramel then rolled up and sliced into pieces.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The newest wave is covering savory items in chocolate ... and what a wonderful and imaginative trend it’s become. The inventiveness of chocolatiers and confectioners goes far beyond pretzels and potato chips.
Today I have a new item from Kimmie Candy Company, which makes all sorts of panned items, it’s salty corn nuts, covered in chocolate and then in a colorful candy shell. They’re called Sweet & Salty Corn Bits which really doesn’t do them justice. I don’t know if they’re in stores yet, but the rather mousy looking package isn’t going to help them stand out from other items that look like they belong at a truck stop.
Corn Nuts originated back in the 1930s with Albert Holloway as a bar snack. They’re soaked whole corn kernels that are then deep fried. The big innovation came in the 1960s when Holloway found and hybridized a giant version of corn from Peru. Corn Nuts when national shortly after that when Holloway sold the company to Nabisco. (It’s now owned by Kraft and sold under the brand of Planters.)
A corn nut is a rather hard and crunchy nugget, far denser than popcorn and with a flavor more like a corn chip or Frito. They’re very satisfying but like corn chips but also don’t have that much fat in them for a fried snack (about 40 calories from fat per ounce).
The candies vary quite a bit in size and shape. Some are a small as a half an inch across, most are rather flat but some are almost an inch long ... but the average is actually right there in the middle at 3/4 of an inch.
The color mix of three earthy variations: saffron yellow, orangish-red and maroon-brown. The bag smells a bit like Fritos and chocolate ... I know it sounds a little weird, but I like it.
They’re quite crunchy, so much so that sometimes biting into one, it’s almost like a rock at first. The shells are thin and crispy and the milk chocolate inside is sweet and light. It provides a creamy background and a rather cool sensation on the tongue as it melts. It’s not terribly complex or challenging, but completely addictive. Kimmie Candy sent me two four ounce bags, and within 36 hours of opening either one, they were gone.
These should be sold in movie theater style boxes, because they’re the perfect mix of chocolate, candy and salty crunch. I didn’t feel sick or stuffed from eating them and for something that has a “salty” kick, there’s very little in there - only 75mg.
UPDATE 4.15.2010: Kimmie has changed the name of these to Milk Chocolate Covered Kettle Corn Nuggets with some slight reformulations. They’re now multi-colored (maroon, blue, green, yellow, orange & pink) and have a buttery toffee flavor on the corn bits. I haven’t tried the new version yet.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.