Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I love the combination of chocolate and cookies. The KitKat bar is a great confectionery combination of the two. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve craved sweets less and come to appreciate texture and taste a bit more. So an ordinary milk chocolate KitKat can be a little sweet for many snacking situations (and there are many snacking situations).
I picked up the KitKat Otonano Amasa, which is the “adult taste” version - a little less sweet and with more cookie texture.
KitKats from Japan come in smart little boxes instead of plain old plastic packaging. I suppose it’s wasteful, but they do protect the contents well. On the back there’s a little “To” and “From” section for gifting.
Inside the box are two individually packaged two-finger pieces. Each is listed as 95 calories each.
The bars are just like any other KitKat, cream filled wafers covered in chocolate. But the chocolate here has little bits of dark chocolate cookies incorporated. The taste is similar to the Oreo Bitter Bar I tried recently. But in this case the texture at the front is is the creaminess of the chocolate. The flavor is slightly bitter like charcoal or, well, Oreos. The crispy wafers are light and flavorless.
It was a great combination, I liked it so much that I bought another bag of the snack sized ones. Which is goofy because they’re ridiculously expensive for KitKats. The package here was $2.25 for 1.19 ounces, the bag was $5.89 for 5.29 ounces. I could get some fine chocolates (well, See’s) for about $16 a pound.
Which is what leads me to the trepidation I have about the bar. The ingredients.
Palm oil. That’s what the bar is. Most of the time I find palm oil candies to be greasy and stiff, but this was really well done for a rainforest destroying confection. Oh, and palm oil is bad for you. Far worse than cocoa butter. So if I’m going for a candy that has a whopping 160 calories per ounce (which is about as high as the scale goes), it’d better be exceptional. So while I enjoyed this candy physically like it was a 10 out of 10, the price and ingredients knock it back to 8 out of 10.
Monday, May 09, 2011
A few months ago I was contacted by Zeke’s Candy Company with an offer to try their Old Fashioned Cracked Butterscotch. I love butterscotch, but then I thought, what is butterscotch? Do I even know what the real stuff is beyond the artificially colored and flavored butterscotch disk hard candies that I grew up on?
Their website only added to the mystery, as there were no photos of the candy itself, just the containers. When it arrived, it was just as mysterious, a deep brown box. It rattled, like it was a jigsaw puzzle made out of ceramic. It was pretty heavy to, so this was some dense stuff. Inside were two sealed bags of powdery and jagged pieces. Pieces range in size from a half an inch across to an inch and a half.
The ingredients are simple: butter, cane sugar, unsulfured molasses, water, vinegar and salt. So there was no “flavor” for butterscotch, it was obviously what they did with these simple ingredients that made scotched this butter.
As an artisan candy, the pieces are not machine made in any fashion. They’re thin pieces of “bark” that are broken into pieces small enough to suck on and then tossed in powdered sugar to keep them from sticking together. This is a bit messy, as there is both a bit of powdery residue on the fingers and a few little shards in the bottom of the bag when you’re done. It also means that this candy really can’t be placed into a candy dish, it needs to be kept in an airtight container (a zipper plastic bag will do) or else it gets tacky.
Once the powered sugar is gone from their surface, it’s apparent to me that Butterscotch is just toffee cooked to a slightly different texture. Where toffee cleaves into crunchy pieces, butterscotch is like a hard caramel, it’s smooth and eventually warms enough to become a very stiff and sticky chew (but only do it if you have complete confidence in your teeth or dental work).
The flavor is great, full of deep notes of caramelized sugar, molasses, honey, toast and salt. It’s a slow candy, great for times when you need something to go with a pensive activity.
I had a really hard time not crunching on it, so it got to be a challenge for me to at least wait until it was soft enough to chew. I found the stuff satisfying and addictive at the same time. It’s nothing like any other butterscotch candies I’ve had, the deep creamy smoothness is so much better than a straight sugar and corn syrup base.
I don’t recommend it for humid areas as I did find that it got tacky and sticky if left uncovered even in the low moisture Southern California where I live. If you’re a fan of the style of hard lollipops from See’s, this is a great small piece version with fewer ingredients. I could see there being a few other versions of these, perhaps with nuts, cocoa or even some coffee.
Friday, May 06, 2011
I bought these Choceur Choco Dragees in Germany at an Aldi Sud market. They’re like M&Ms but have a stronger caramel milk flavor to them. They were also quite inexpensive and of course beautiful to look at even though they use all natural colorings.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Name: RJ’s Licorice Allsorts, Natural Licorice Allsorts, Licorice Chocolate Twists and Raspberry Chocolate Twists
Name: Werther’s Original Creamy Apple Filled
Name: Bebeto Premium
Product images are courtesy of the respective candy manufacturer.
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Necco Wafers are iconic little disks of crunchy dried sugar and flavoring. They’re the shape and size of a coin but the texture of unfired ceramics. The All Natural Necco Wafers SmartFruits come in little mini rolls. There are 23 rolls in the 11 ounce package and feature four flavors: Raspberry+ Acai, Lemon + Goji, Pomegranate + Goji and Blueberry + Acai.
I bought these a few weeks ago at the 99 Cent Only store. They’re a bit of a puzzle, since it appears they don’t even exist. There’s no mention of them on the Necco company website, I can find only two references on the internet to them: a review in Spanish from 2009 and a notice of the registration of the trademark for “SmartFruits.” I know that the product is not that old because of the trademark and the design of the package cannot be before 2009.
The pieces are muted and in most lighting situations I have trouble telling them apart without sorting them. Straight out of the package the little stack of 9 disks smells like ketchup and raspberry jam.
I wasn’t able to actually tell the flavors apart ... they all had a muted berry smoothie flavor to them. One was definitely lemony and tart but the rest were nondescript. They were not disgusting, but they were pointless.
The package says that there were real fruit antioxidants in here, but the nutritional panel doesn’t even register any vitamin C, which is easily the most palatable vitamin to put in a candy. The ingredients list lots of good things like freeze dried fruit (blueberry, raspberry, acai, goji berry) but it’s well after the sugar on the list, so they can’t make up much of the bulk. One roll is 50 calories. I can think of far better ways to spend your discretionary calories.
Like all Necco Wafers and Conversation Hearts, they contain gelatin and are unsuitable for vegetarians and are not Kosher.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Scho-Ka-Kola has a cult following, especially in Germany. The concept is simple, it’s a caffeine enhanced chocolate. They use both coffee and cola nut to boost the stimulant content which is where the name comes from, Schokolade (chocolate), Kaffee (coffee) and Kola (cola) . It was introduced at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin by Hildebrand as a “sport chocolate”. Later it was used during the war, especially by German pilots. Today it’s made by Sarotti, which is owned by Stollwerk which itself is now owned by international chocolate giant, Barry Callebaut. It’s still made in Berlin and the packaging has changed little over the years.
The tin is easy to carry in a roomy pocket (though I’d worry about melting). It’s about 3.5 inches in diameter and one inch high. There’s a helpful little thumb-print impression on one side of the lid, press it and the tin opens easily.
The round tin holds little “slices” of the chocolate disk. There are eight slices on each layer of the tin, separated by a stiff piece of waxed paper. A serving which would contain the equivalent caffeine as a cup of espresso. My guess (and part of this is from translating the package) is that a serving is four pieces and the actual caffeine content is about 50 mg. So it’s not a lot, but it’s a mild and even boost. It says to me that munching a few pieces an hour would be a good way to keep a steady dose of caffeine in your system without getting all jittered up.
The chocolate isn’t very intense or dark, it’s 52.5%, but the rest of the content isn’t all sugar either. It’s 2.6% coffee and 1.6% cola nut powder. Kola nuts (or cola nuts) are closely related to cacao and have a fair amount of theobromine as well as caffeine in them but far less fat.
The pieces are thick (just shy of a half an inch) and have these great ridges that make it easier to hold them without getting too warm from your hands and bite. (One piece is less than a quarter of an ounce, so it’s a fine mouthful if you won’t want to bite.) The flavors are quite deep and on the woodsy side. There’s a dry and bitter note to it in the flavor, but it didn’t leave me wanting a lot of water. The coffee flavor is muted, it’s mostly a roasted and charcoal sort of chocolate. Not intense but also not pansy. There were no acrid caffeine flavors for me, so the fact that the caffeine was still integrated into their natural sources probably helped. It probably also means that the caffeine is metabolized a little slower.
I picked up this little tin for 2 Euros, but in the States these things sell for about $6 retail. For $6 I could buy a truly extraordinary bar of chocolate. But if I were traveling in Europe and wanted an alternative pick-me-up to the sub-par coffee that’s found in far too many places, then this is the way to go. Easy to carry and share and with a reliable dosing scheme.
There is a little milk in there, so it’s not a vegan product. The tin also says that it may contain traces of almonds, hazelnuts and gluten.
Monday, May 02, 2011
Farley’s and Sathers bought Brach’s, the iconic pick-a-mix candy manufacturer back in 2007 from Barry Callebaut. For a while it seemed that the candy quality was getting worse, not better for the attention. But Brach’s is being rebooted, it appears. They’re getting a new look plus a new focus on their target demographic, women - especially mothers. So they’re focusing on quality and traditional favorites. One of the selling points is that they’re using real milk chocolate. Their newest product is Brach’s Peanut Butter Poppins.
They’re described as creamy peanut butter center coated in 100% milk chocolate.
It’s hard to discuss any chocolate and peanut butter product without referencing the most popular version of the combination, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. There used to be a product called Reese’s Peanut Butter Bites. They weren’t extraordinary, but had the advantage of being a Reese’s product that didn’t have individual wrappers or fluted cups. Those were discontinued and replaced just recently with Reese’s Peanut Butter Minis, which are a molded product.
The new Peanut Butter Poppins are a panned chocolate. It’s a sphere of “peanut butter” covered in milk chocolate and then sealed with a little glaze to make them shiny and keep them from sticking together. I say peanut butter because I don’t think that’s what it actually is. While they’re boasting that they now have their best tasting chocolate ever, have a look at the ingredients for the peanut butter center:
In my world, the first ingredient in peanut butter would be peanuts. This is not a whole peanut product, but instead it’s like juice from concentrate, they took out some of the natural peanut oils and replaced them with palm kernel oil.
They’re really lovely looking morsels. Though they vary a bit in size, they’re all spherical and shiny. Some are the size of a garden pea and a few were the size of a garbanzo. The smell sweet, milky and like roasted peanuts or freshly baked peanut butter cookies.
The waxy glaze on the outside is a little difficult to dissolve and leaves a little film in the mouth. Though they’re advertising this new milk chocolate, it’s not noteworthy. It’s not creamy and not even that chocolatey. It does its job of containing the peanut butter candy center. The center is smooth with little crunchy bits that I can only describe as sweet crunches, not peanuts. It’s like there’s a sugar crust in there that creates these little crystals that give it texture. It took me a long time to figure out if it was in the chocolate shell or the center. The center is very salty, in fact a serving of 25 pieces has 160 mg of salt, a lot for a confection.
The center tastes a lot like peanut butter cookie dough, it’s a well rounded flavor that includes salt, nuts and sweetness along with a rather smooth and cool mouthfeel. I found them extremely salty, but I recognize that my low salt lifestyle makes me more sensitive to those things. That, of course, didn’t stop me from eating the entire 5 ounce bag in two days - what can I say, there was a new Doctor Who on.
Poppins is a trademarked word for Brach’s, so maybe they have other plans for this line of candy. A creamy mint fondant might be a good next step or other fruit creams like strawberry, raspberry and orange and of course coffee.
I think they’re a great idea that’s well executed. Yes, they’re salty and no the chocolate is not fantastic, but I’d venture to say that it’s better than the stuff on the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups these days. I’m looking forward to finding their Malted Milk Balls and seeing if they’ve successfully resurrected the classic real milk chocolate and crunchy malt center.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.