Monday, July 9, 2012
During the holidays they do a few just marshmallow pieces, like a large marshmallow heart for Valentine’s. But I’ve found that they’re not the same honey flavor or the same dense texture.
I picked up their new box of See’s Milk and Dark Marshmallow. At the moment they’re sold in the single format, there are six marshmallows in the box, three of the milk chocolate covered variety and three of the dark chocolate covered.
They’re the same size and shape as the Scotchmallow, but instead of a single twirl of chocolate on top, these have three rows of chocolate swirls. Each piece is about 60 calories, so a pair might make a good treat yet still pretty spare on the calorie side.
The first is the Milk Chocolate Marshmallow. The chocolate is a pleasant, rich chocolate color. The Guittard-made chocolate is good, it’s smooth and has a strong dairy and deep roasted cocoa flavor to it.
The marshmallow is bouncy and dense. It’s hard to photograph because it looks like a solid white mass, but it’s actually filled with tiny, tiny bubbles, instead of big ones. The marshmallow is smooth, it has no starchy or chalky flavor like the extruded ones for toasting. The vanilla flavors are subtle and there’s a light note of honey, but it’s very mild.
I’ve usually shied away from the milk chocolate version of the Scotchmallow, but in this case the simple balance of the sweet milk chocolate and the frothy marshmallow is well done.
The Dark Chocolate covered Marshmallow starts off a little, well, underwhelming. It looks great, it’s glossy and because I bought these in a box, they weren’t all scuffed up like the stuff I pick out at the store that they toss in a bag.
But it smells a little, well, sweet and kind of fake.
After cracking the chocolate shell though, that changes. The real vanilla notes come out right away. They’re thick and like dark rum. The honey notes comes to the front, like a floral syrup in my nose. The chocolate is not overwhelmingly dark, but it has enough bitter notes that play against the sweetness of the honey and vanilla. The vanilla is soft and cushy, like the marshmallow texture. The chocolate has a dry finish that’s swept away by the thick honey.
I love the play of this. Mostly I liked eating the sides of chocolate off, and having a more marshmallow and less chocolate. I look forward to seeing these in the candy case so I can just get one or two of them.
One of my favorite of the boxed pieces is the Scotchmallow. It’s a layered piece, a base of chewy caramel then a layer of fluffy yet dense honey marshmallow, all covered in dark chocolate. They’ve even started selling them in “quick to go” packages in the store of half pound bags. I’ve always loved See’s caramel, as it was the first commercial caramel I found that reminded me of my grandmother’s homemade. But for this piece it’s the honey flavors of the marshmallow that really sell it.
See’s chocolate are made on shared equipment that may contain traces of peanuts and tree nuts. It also contains milk, eggs, soy and gelatin.
Friday, July 6, 2012
I’ve tried a few items in the Grandessa line from Aldi over the years and found them to be passable, but not their highest quality brand.
It’s a simple package, a matte plastic bag, rather small but dense. At only 7.5 inches by 4.5 inches it holds nearly a half a pound of soft licorice twists.
The licorice fingers are pretty big, they’re about 1.5 to 1.75 inches long (just a little shy of the size of my pinky finger, but I have very small pinkies).
They’re soft and a bit sticky on the outside. The chewy is doughy and soft and does get stuck on the teeth. The flavor profile is overwhelmingly earthy. There’s a lot of molasses and dark sugars (treacle, brown sugar and molasses are all ingredients). The flavor notes are anise, a light tangy note as some molasses can have, sweet licorice, black pepper, beets, pipe tobacco and coriander. The thick chew is less appealing to me though, because it does have a note of raw wheat flour.
Compared to Panda, it’s has more mineral and earthy flavors. It reminds me a lot of Kookabura Australian Liquorice, and may well be made under contract for Aldi’s Grandessa house brand by Kookabura. The ingredients are similar, though not exactly the same.
They’re made in Australia in a facility that processes peanuts and tree nuts. The ingredients list mono and diglycerides, so I can’t say that these are vegan.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
I first review the revived Flicks chocolate candy about two years ago. (Read that here.) But when I saw this new version called Flicks | Cacao at the drug store last week, I stopped to read the label before I dismissed them.
I’m so glad I did, because these are quite different from the original Flicks, which are tubes of mockolate chips wrapped in foil. The Flicks Cacao are disks of Premium Dark Chocolate. It’s premium West African Cacao, made in a recipe with five simple and tasty ingredients: Cocoa Liquor, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Lecithin, & Vanilla.. They even say that they’re GMO free (I’m guessing that’s the lecithin. In Europe many chocolate companies are replacing soy lecithin with sunflower lecithin, which is not only GMO free, it’s also soy free. I don’t know which kind of lecithin they’re using in Flicks.)
The pieces are more consistent than the standard Flicks, each is about 1 inch round. They’re still a bit scuffed up, but well protected in the package. As I noted in my first review, the packaging was changing. The foil wrapped tube holds a little mylar pouch instead of the chocolate rattling around inside the untreated cardboard tube.
Though the ingredients list is short and possibly vegan, the package says they may contain traces of milk (but nothing about gluten or nuts.)
The disks are perfectly sized for a single bite of chocolate. They fit in the mouth, with a good rounded shape so that they melt easily and mold to the roof of my mouth. The melt is decent, not buttery but at least smooth though a little on the firm and sweet side. The flavor is mild, it’s not intense dark chocolate, it’s light and approachable, hints of oak and vanilla. It’s like brownies.
I enjoyed it well enough and found the package simple, charming and fun. I would prefer a still darker version, but this is a huge step in the right direction for the product line to offer something that isn’t filled with tropical oils. I’d like to know the ethical sourcing of the cacao.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Hershey’s is introducing its first new candy line since, well, the last time they did it. (The last one was 2007.) The new Hershey’s Simple Pleasures line launched with three different products, all little foil wrapped chocolate patties that boast 30% less fat than most other chocolate things. Or something like that.
It’s odd to be reviewing another little chocolate covered patty after just reviewing some yesterday. Yesterday was something utterly simple, with only three ingredients (though peppermint). The Hershey’s Simple Pleasures Milk Chocolate with Vanilla Creme has oodles of ingredients:
Simple Pleasures, Complex Ingredients*: Milk chocolate (sugar, nonfat milk, cocoa butter, chocolate, lactose, milk fat, soy lecithin, PGPR, vanillin), corn syrup, sugar, glycerin, vegetable oil (cocoa butter, palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), sorbitol, nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of: natural and artificial flavor, milk fat, modified cornstarch, soy lecithin, glyceryl monostearate, caramel color, tocopherols, PGPR
* Actually, I added the Complex Ingredients part, so to be clear, their package copy actually states:
Go ahead, look back up at that list of ingredients and see if you can find brown sugar. Nope, I couldn’t either. Also, I’m not certain why they called them dry-roasted cocoa beans. I don’t know of another process. I don’t think anyone deep fries them, microwaves or steams them in a pressure cooker. So why mention that? To confuse people.
The patties are only 1 inch across and nicely made, a dome shape with a swirl on top. They were glossy and well tempered to give a snap when bitten or broken in half. (That’s actually not easy to do, because the filling comes out.)
The filling is less of a thick fondant like Junior Mints, it’s quite a bit more runny than that. It does smell quite a bit like vanilla, almost like pudding, which I found appealing. But the appearance of the filling is a little less appealing, since it’s just a sugar goo, like a lemon pound cake glaze that hasn’t set up yet.
The chocolate is more like the Bliss line, not the standard flavor profile of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. It’s sweet, a little grainy but consistent and with a mild cocoa note to it. The vanilla flavoring of the center pretty much screams the loudest though it’s closely rivaled by the severe sweetness of all the sugar components.
The lower fat is achieved in this product by creating a filling that’s pure sugar and water. There are also a few sugar alcohols in there, sorbitol is used, though in very low amounts (3 grams per serving of 6 pieces). So while the UNREAL candy line I reviewed last week gets its lower calorie profile by adding in fiber and other nutrients (also ending up with an incredibly long list of ingredients), Hershey’s gets there with oodles of carbs.
The Hershey’s Simple Pleasures Smooth & Creamy Dark Chocolate with Chocolate Creme is kind of the richer version of the Milk Chocolate & Vanilla Creme version. They both have the same calorie profile, though the Dark variety has twice the fiber (a whole 2 grams).
In this case the package description on the back is slightly more accurate, this variety does have brown sugar in the ingredients list. But the qualification of the 30% less fat is qualified that it’s based on the average of milk chocolates on the market. I don’t know what the average fat content of dark chocolates is (I don’t even know where to find the source material for those statements - it’s not on their website).
The pieces are, again, well made and packaged. The red foil creates an appetizing wrapper and the chocolate does look really good, well molded and glossy. Each piece is only 30 calories, and a recommended serving is 6 pieces, which is quite generous. (The whole package holds 22-24 pieces, or if you lose it and eat the whole thing, it’s about 675 calories.)
This smells a bit fudgy, a bit like brownies. Sweet and dark. The chocolate center here is a bit thicker than the Vanilla Creme. It’s like a frosting, thick and sweet and not quite grainy. The cocoa flavors are actually much better than any commercial frosting in a can. The dark chocolate shell is much sweeter than the center and actually started giving me a sore throat after the second one.
The portion control is pretty good on these. Three could be a nice treat and come in under 100 calories and look like a sufficient indulgence. But the bang for the buck and actual satisfaction I got was sub par. The reliance on sugar instead of flavor meant that mostly I was left with the feeling that I’d eaten a bunch of sugar, not some chocolate.
The Hershey’s Simple Pleasures line also includes Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate with Chocolate Creme but I didn’t find those at the Target I got these at.
The fact that Hershey’s has such huge brand recognition and is on so many shelves means that these may succeed in spite of their drawbacks. I don’t care to spend that much money on so little chocolate, I’d rather have a handful of at least all-chocolate chips in a smaller portion. That’s a simple pleasure. This is just too complex for me.
Simple Pleasures are made with dairy and soy. There’s no mention of shared equipment with nuts, peanuts, eggs or wheat/gluten. They’re made in Mexico.
Monday, July 2, 2012
Sure they’re peppermint patties, so you’re wondering what’s so special about that? They have three ingredients in them. Just three: honey, chocolate liquor and oil of peppermint. The center is creamed honey (it just means whipped, there’s no additional dairy) and some peppermint to flavor it. The dark chocolate coating is just cacao, there’s no sugar in it. All the sweetness comes from the whipped honey center.
As far as I can tell, they’re made by Honey Acres of Wisconsin. I first tried them at the Fancy Food Show in 2008 (brief review here) and could only find them online for a while at Natural Candy Store (I’m hesitant to order chocolate candy because of melting problems with deliveries). The first time I tried them, I thought they were good, but not fantastic. But the memory of them stuck with me, so I was glad to see that I could pick them up again. (Update on that, it’s possible they’re made by Heavenly Organics.)
They’re gluten free, contain no artificial colors or flavors and no preservatives.
The patties are 1.5 inches in diameter and wrapped tightly in an aqua colored aluminum foil.
While the ingredients are good and considered pure, this is by no means a low calorie product. There’s more chocolate on them than a York Peppermint Pattie, so don’t expect them to be extremely low calorie. York Patties are about 102 calories per ounce, so almost pure sugar, very little fat. Dark Chocolate Honey Mints are 127 calories per ounce, so less than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or something similarly fatty.
The dark chocolate is thick and densely dark. It’s all chocolate, so it’s intense. Just eating the chocolate is tough, because it’s unsweetened. But there’s plenty of cocoa butter, so it may be a little bitter but it does have a smooth and silky melt. The element here that surprised me, and remember, I’ve had these before, was the creamy honey center. The mints I had four years ago must have been a little bit older, because these are fresh and exquisitely textured. The honey center is smooth and buttery but not greasy, the dissolve is cool on the tongue. It’s sweet and has that musky honey note to it, but also a refreshing and crisp peppermint note. It’s not too strong, not too sugary.
Taken together, the bitterness of the unsweetened chocolate is offset perfectly.
After writing last week about candy being “unjunked” from artificial ingredients, here’s a candy that takes the confection back to its barest basics ... and then leaves it there. No nutritional fillers ... just pure ingredients, each with a job to do.
Update 3/7/2013: I bought another bag of these recently and noticed that they’ve changed their production style. They’re now a molded candy instead of enrobed, so the shells are very consistent and shiny. The flavor profile is the same, though perhaps a little more chocolate now.
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