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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.