Friday, August 30, 2013
I’ve only been to Amsterdam once, so I’m not certain whether the name of this chocolate bar is compelling in its native culture, but I found it a little odd: Droste Cookie Milkchocolate XXL Pastille. It’s also possible that in the year 2013, all the good candy bar names have been taken and now confectioners are just using random word sequence generators based on the elements within the bar.
Luckily the picture on the package does most of the communication. It’s a chocolate bar, made with milk chocolate, in the form of a sectioned circular disk, filled with cookie bits.
The bar is only 50 grams (1.75 ounces) so it’s a generous single serving or two petite portions.
The disk is three inches across, and if my math is sufficient, each section is about 7/16th of an ounce.
The chocolate smells very milky, quite sweet and has a hint of malt to it (my guess is from the cookie). The snap is good and the distribution of the cookie bits looks generous but well balanced with the chocolate.
The melt is nice, silky even. It’s a little sticky but the cookie dust cuts through that. The chocolate tastes a bit salty, which is odd because the sodium content isn’t alarming (55 mg). The cookie bits are like digestives, quite dry and crumbly with a little hint of salt and malt and barely sweet at all. On the whole, it was very munchable and it reminded me how much I loved Droste as a kid. It was the premium chocolate I remember getting the most (the pastilles in the hexagonal box) and helped me to appreciate dark chocolate.
The price as a little steep, $2 for a single serving. The Ritter Sport Biscuit bar, with 100 grams (twice as much) for only 50 cents more at Cost Plus is probably what I’d put in my basket next time.
The bar contains gluten and may have traces of peanuts and tree nuts. There’s no statement about sustainability or ethical sourcing, but the Droste website is mostly in Dutch and the English part isn’t very well written. There are other versions of this bar at Cost Plus World Market, so I might try some as the weather cools off. (The “feels like” temp here in the neighborhood is 119 today.)
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Ritter Sport is the brand of German chocolate bars that come in a square format and more than a dozen different varieties. The newest is Ritter Sport Coconut in milk chocolate. The package says it’s with tropical coconut flakes in a coconut and milk filling.
I like how inexpensive Ritter Sport is compared to other consumer brands from Europe, like Cadbury Dairy Milk or Lindt, and balances quality and munchability. No, it’s not exquisitely fine chocolate, but it’s fantastic chocolate candy.
I tried another version of a coconut bar from Ritter Sport a few years ago, a sample bar from their store in Waldenbuch, Germany called the Ritter Sport Kokosmakrone which also had some corn flakes in the coconut cream. The cream center is a common format for Ritter Sport, in fact, a lot of German candy bars like those from Milka also use this style.
The ingredients were a little disappointing. Ingredient #1 is Sugar and ingredient #2 is Palm Oil. This is similar to the Amarena Cherry I had earlier this year, which is also a filled bar. The saturated fat content is 45% of your daily RDA in 6 pieces. The other interesting ingredient, though far down the list, is hazelnut paste.
The milk chocolate is rich, sweet and smooth. The coconut center is interesting, because the coconut is actually crunchy and the filling with it is quite smooth and creamy, unlike the moist and chewy Mounds bar filling. I liked the filling quite a bit, and had no trouble finishing the bar. Coconut is not my favorite of all of their inclusions and I don’t usually like their white cream filled bars either. So I’ll probably stick to the Corn Flakes bar over this one.
Though Ritter Sport has a sustainability pact for their cocoa, there’s no mention of the source of their palm oil.
Monday, August 26, 2013
The Boyer Candy Company may be best known for their Mallo Cups, which they’ve been making since the 1930s which they claim is the first “cup candy”. (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were introduced in 1928, but were not actually sold in little fluted paper cups at first.)
It’s natural for there to be other versions of the chocolate cup with a marshmallow filling and coconut topping. The Boyer Dark Chocolate Mallo Cup is really just the same, even the simple packaging looks like they’ve been making this version for 50 years.
The bumpy top of the cup shows that there is actually some coconut underneath. Like every Mallo Cup I think I’ve had in the past 20 years, the bottom stuck to the wrapper (I think freezing them prevents this, but changes the textures). It smells a bit like coconut and of course chocolate with a strong whiff of vanilla.
The interesting thing to note about the Mallo Cups is that they’re not actually marshmallow. (Though the name is Mallo Cup, the description on the package says that the center is whipped creme.) Marshmallow, for the most part, is made with gelatin. The Mallo Cups are made with egg whites. That would mean that these are really a meringue creme. The center is a great texture, it’s soft and creamy without too much stickiness and no grain whatsoever.
The dark chocolate has a decent flavor to it, though not complex or overpowering, it has a nice chocolate candy contribution to the whole. The coconut flakes within give some texture ... overall, it’s a good modernization of the classic candy cups. I’d love it if they spent a little time fixing the production issue of the oozing and insufficient base.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
For me, Klondike Bars always seemed like a candified version of ice cream. So it seemed a bit odd to see that there was a new line of Klondike Bar themed candies, under license from Unilver and made by Flix Candy.
I picked up the Klondike Mint Chocolate Chip: The Candy! at Dylan’s Candy Bar, which is walking distance from my office. The candy bars there are stupidly expensive, this was $2.29, which is pretty steep for something that isn’t fair trade, organic, shade grown and packaged in a reusable, recycled tin. But the back of the package does say that they’re made in the USA.
It’s been years since I’ve had a Klondike Bar, but here’s how they described this room temperature,shelf stable version: Mint chocolate chip center covered in dark chocolate flavored coating.
Though it’s easy to shudder at what the chocolate flavored coating might mean, I reminded myself that most ice cream novelties also aren’t made with real chocolate, in order to get the right mouthfeel on a frozen dessert, many use other tropical oils in addition to the chocolate solids.
First, it’s not one big block, it’s four one inch square pieces. That’s fine with me. That was always one of the most frustrating things about Klondike Bars, they were too big for me to eat before they started to melt from holding them.
The coating is actually okay. It’s not greasy or slippery or too soft or too crunchy. It’s actually chocolatey. The filling is overwhelming tough. The pieces smell strongly of peppermint. The center is kind of like a frosting cream though not grainy. The center is a little smoother, maybe a little fattier than the filling of a York Peppermint Pattie. There’s a salty note to the center, which moderates the sweetness. If there were chocolate chips anywhere in the middle, I missed them.
Ultimately, I don’t see much reason to eat this instead of a York Peppermint Pattie or if I’m really going decadent, the Trader Joe’s Honey Mints. But I admit, the packaging is pretty good.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Lily’s Dark Chocolate Sweetened with Stevia is a fair trade chocolate bar that contains no added sugar. It’s 55% cocoa solids and has all natural and non-gentically modified ingredients. It’s part of their introductory line that includes four bars.
I’ve seen them in a few stores now, including Whole Foods. I understand that it’s particularly difficult for diabetics and others who wish to avoid refined sugar to find chocolate that truly tastes like chocolate. This bar sparked a lot of reading on my part, which means a lot of thoughts that I’ll express here on the subject of non-nutritive sweeteners and what constitutes a satisfying chocolate experience.
The Lily’s Sweets website has this to say about the chocolate bar:
I have no problem with stevia in concept, it’s similar to licorice in that it tastes sweet and comes from a plant but has no calories. However, both in their natural form, have a noticeable aftertaste. In the case of stevia, I find it metallic and bitter, but not all people experience that; the newer stevia-enhanced sweeteners include erythritol as a base to combat those aftertastes. The extract, known as steviol glycoside, is 300 times sweeter than sugar.
Let me back up for a moment to address what’s in regular chocolate and why. In an ordinary dark chocolate bar that’s 55% cocoa solids, the other 44% is made up of sugar. (The remaining 1% may be emulsifiers and flavors such as vanilla.) For many people, anything over 70% cocoa solids is not just bitter, it’s too intense. In higher cocoa percentages, chocolate makers sometimes increase the amount of cocoa butter to dilute the dense flavors of the cocoa itself. But when you’re using a sweeteners that’s 300 times stronger than sugar ... that means that a value for value replacement would give you a 98% cocoa solid chocolate that might be sweet, but incredibly dense.
So when using stevia instead of sugar, confectioners combine it with a low sweetness sweetener that adds bulk - basically it takes up the space that the sugar would have without adding a flavor of its own (milk does a really good job of this, too). Erythritol is only about 60-70% of the sweetness of sugar. Another bulking agent is called inulin, which is a soluble fiber that’s about 10% as sweet as sugar and has a smooth taste and texture.
The majority of the calories in good quality chocolate come not from the sugar but from the fat. But reducing the sugar calories does make a significant difference in the calorie count here. Most solid chocolate is between 140 and 160 calories per ounce. I calculated Lily’s at about 113 calories per ounce, but be careful since 85 of those calories are from fat. What’s truly startling about the bar’s nutritional panel is not just the calories, but the fact that a single 1.4 ounce serving has 50% of your daily recommended fiber.
It’s a little odd that all the press and marketing on this bar talk about the stevia, but note that it’s the second to the last ingredient. The dextrin inulin and erythritol make up more than a third of this bar (from my calculations erythritol is 15% alone, and I reckon, based on the amount of fiber chocolate usually has that the inulin is about 22%).
The chocolate smells very rich, like brownies or hot chocolate. There’s no sweetness note to the smell but there is a hint of coconut. The texture is soft and easy to bite and though the melt is pretty good, it has a sort of gummy texture to it. It doesn’t quite melt like chocolate usually does, and I blame the lack of sugar, which is easily dissolved in water (or saliva) but erythritol is less soluble.
The chocolate profile is on the woodsy side, with notes of smoke and pecans. But the coconut flavors were pretty pronounced as well, though not in a bad way. The sweetness was odd. It was fine at the start of the chocolate melt, as the chocolate flavors are strong, but not too overwhelming. Later the aftertastes kick in. There are several of them, there’s a bitterness that could just be the chocolate, there’s a higher pitched sort of liquid metallic note like aluminum and then there’s a lingering sort of coolness. As long as I kept eating pieces, the aftertaste didn’t bother me, but after about five squares when I gave it a rest, it all came back.
I can acclimate to the aftertastes, I didn’t notice anything else associated with it, like being inordinately thirsty or making other foods taste strange. It is notable that some people are sensitive to erythritol and inulin, especially when consumed in higher quantities than, say, a breath mint. So if you’re considering this bar, start slowly. I can’t say for sure, but I think this gave me stomach cramps. Not the first serving, which was just a few squares when taking the photos. But later when I ate about a third of the bar on an empty stomach, I found it made me uncomfortably gassy.
For diabetics or other folks who need to watch their sugar, it’s a good alternative. I was really surprised that the calorie count didn’t ruin the fat content but it’s still not a magic product that gives you everything you’ve always wanted. There’s always a trade off. I’ll stick with moderate portions of good quality, high cacao chocolate.
Friday, August 16, 2013
A solid layer of crunchy peanut butter topped with caramel and coated in creamy ‘milk’ chocolate. Vegan
It’s made with dairy-free rice “milk” chocolate which can’t actually be called chocolate according to the FDA, which has strict standards about such things. However, there are no other fillers in it, just cacao, cocoa butter and some evaporated cane juice. It’s an actual vegan candy bar that’s also fair trade and organic. That’s a rare thing. Of course, feeling good before you eat the candy is nice, but not really very productive if it doesn’t actually taste good. Now that I’ve tried all three of Eli’s Earth Bars multiple times, I’m ready to say that they’re actually good, but a little funky.
There’s really no comparison for this bar to a commercial bar on shelves today. The center is like a crushed Butterfinger bar (or if you prefer, the vegan version would be an Atkinson’s Chick-o-Stick) mixed in with some peanut butter and then a layer of caramel then covered in chocolate.
It smells peanutty and sweet and a little like Cap’n Crunch. The rice milk chocolate coating is a little greasy and thin tasting, it’s more like a chocolate milk taste than an actual chocolate taste. The soft center is sweet peanut butter with a bunch of crunchy, peanut crisp lumps. Then there’s a stripe of caramel on the top that gives the whole thing a chew.
It’s odd, not quite successful but still compelling enough that I always eat the whole bar. (I’ve tried this bar three times now.) If you don’t or can’t eat dairy, this is a very tasty approximation of a dairy bar (but it’s made on equipment that does use dairy, so not for those with true allergies). But I’d prefer to just eat Chick-o-Sticks if I need a vegan peanut candy fix.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
If I were to dream big and come up with attributes of an ideal candy bar, I’d probably start with real ingredients. Each ingredient should contribute flavor or texture. It should have real chocolate. It should be organic and fair trade, as ethical as possible. (And if this is a dream, it would be one dollar and sold everywhere.)
Sjaak’s Organic Chocolate has been doing just that, with their new line called Eli’s Earth Bars. They’re organic, fair trade and some are vegan as well as being made right here in California. The bar is a nice size, the portion is 1.5 ounces, which is what I prefer for a snack. I picked up all of their bars when they first came out, diligently took their photos, ate them and then tried to find more for the review. It took me 2 years to find them in a store again.
I finally found my Eli’s Earth Bars Dream Big Bar at Erewhon, walking distance from my office. The packaging design is good, it’s attractive but not too weird looking. It looks like there’s a candy bar in there, not some mush of seed hulls and dates.
Caramel and peanut butter topped with whole peanuts and coated in creamy ‘milk’ chocolate. Vegan
The bar looks great. The milk chocolate coating is actually made with rice milk, so it’s not technically milk chocolate since there’s no dairy in it. But the chocolate is still made with real cocoa butter (none of those palm oil fillers). I was thinking the bar was going to be kind of like a Snickers, but it’s actually a bit more like a Baby Ruth.
It’s about 3.5 inches long and 1.25 inches wide. The appearance of the outside looks like chocolate, but it tastes a little, well, odd.It’s smooth, but has a bit of a milky note without thinning out the flavor. Mostly I get a rice, or cereal flavor from it. The caramel center is stiff and a little tough to bite at first, which tears the bar apart. The peanut butter is the right balance of smooth and salty, the peanuts are fresh and crunchy. Aside from the tougher than normal chew of the caramel, the textures go well together. There’s the right amount of sweet, salt and fat going on.
The bar most certainly doesn’t taste like disappointment or shame. It tastes like a candy bar. It’s not healthier, it’s still a candy bar, but it doesn’t compromise on the core beliefs - it’s vegan and organic and ethically sourced.
Gluten free but made on shared equipment with dairy.
Monday, August 12, 2013
On my short vacation last month, I made on candy related detour on what was otherwise a cookie-fueled holiday. The Man and I swung through Bakersfield, CA to stop at Dewar’s Family Candy and Ice Cream Parlor.
I’ve tried Dewar’s Chews before, while on vacation I’ve picked them up at a candy shop in Cayucos. I was excited to go to their land or origin and try more of them. At the shop the outside temps were about 100, so I was eager to get our candy and stash it in the cooler in the back seat immediately. At the counter in the shop, which is mostly an ice cream parlor at their main location on Eye Street, the gal let me taste any variety I wanted. That was great, because I’d tried the five or six main flavors, but there were some interesting ones like Roasted Pecan and Chocolate Hazelnut that were of particular interest.
The taffy was $14.50 for a pound, which is a bit steep, but considering the fact that they use fresh local nuts and real dairy for the caramels, I thought it was worth it.
I chose: Pistachio Caramel, Peanut Butter, Almond, Pistachio, Roasted Pecan and Chocolate Hazelnut. I also got a 12 ounce box of the classic flavors to take to the office that included Peppermint.
All of the chews that I liked featured nuts. The plain caramel is good, don’t get me wrong, it’s smooth and soft and chewy. It’s not quite as decadent as some of the artisanal versions that are popping up, but they’re rich and dependable.
The Roasted Pecan was one of the few that featured lots of nuts mixed in. It’s a strongly vanilla taffy with pecans in it, that’s it. It’s great, a little salty, less sweet and satisfying with a maple and wood smoke finish.
The Chocolate Hazelnut was a bit sweeter, not terribly chocolatey but with a nice hint of hazelnut. It was one of my least favorite of the bunch, but I still ate all of them.
The Pistachio Caramel was just the caramel with some pieces of pistachio in it. Great.
The Peppermint is soft, it has a bit of a corn starch chalkiness on the outside, but the taffy is soft and chewy with a great, light mint flavor. Very clean, no graininess.
The exclusive or unique item though are their nut filled vanilla chews. They’re a plain vanilla taffy filled with ground nuts. The first one I tried was Peanut Butter, which is quite nice. I’m accustomed to a molasses chew with peanut butter, but this was much lighter, much more appropriate to summer. The vanilla taffy is soft and chewy, the peanut butter center is a bit grainy and quite salty without being sticky. The combination is really fantastic.
The Almond version is also very good, with a deep roasted flavor without the artificial almond extract that some might want to impose on it. The Pistachio was also very fresh tasting with only a hint of the green tea and floral notes of the pistachio nuts.
The most notable set though are the nut filled vanilla chews. There’s something about them that’s extremely enticing. They’re devilishly unsatisfying though, I would eat one, hoping that there’d be more nut filling and then eat another one, thinking that one would be the perfect ratio.
Dewar’s does a far better job of making a special taffy that’s worth taking home from vacation than any other candy shop I’ve seen. It’s good enough that I’ll likely make web orders in the future.
As a side note, the cookie part of my California Central Coast vacation was also great. The two great cookies of the Cayucos area are from the Brown Butter Cookie Company (I like their chocolate cookies, which are like buttery sand, they just fall apart in your mouth) and the Pecan Chews from Linn’s in Cambria which were like the toasty top of a pecan pie.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.