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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Joseph Schmidt

Joseph Schmidt is a high-end chocolatier based in San Francisco and known for their stunningly beautiful sculptural creations of chocolate. I went to their shop and picked up the ugliest chocolates I could find, cuz I’m like that.

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Okay, maybe they’re not the ugliest chocolates I’ve ever had, certainly some of my homemade creations have been pretty homely. The candy above is a strange disk of chocolate referred to as a Batik Slick. Sounds as good as it looks, eh?

It’s simply a very flat truffle. The disk has a little batik-inspired pattern on the top and a lightly flavored ganache in the center. It’s a lot of chocolate and very little filling.

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They came in a box of four, weighed in at 3 ounces and had a strange design of bats made from artisan paper and gold googly eyes on the outside. (I bought them on November 1st ... they were from Halloween and 25% off). I have no idea what the different flavors are.

Dark Chocolate with Yellow Tulip may have been rum. Sweet and mellow, a bit creamy and with no real notable flavor except for maybe a hint of bubble gum. Milk Chocolate with Full Moon tasted a bit like coconut. Very sweet and a little greasy. Red-Centered Chocolate Blob had a nice milk chocolatey taste, smooth and creamy. Yellow Burst with Green tasted like lemon. How nice! I like lemon. The dark chocolate was very sweet but creamy and set off the zesty taste.

imageThe truffles are a bit more traditional, except for the fact that they look like the nose cone of a missile. I’ve never been fond of molded chocolates, for some reason I prefer enrobed or dipped chocolates. I don’t know if it’s the rustic look or there’s actually some difference in the chocolate structurally. I’ve had Joseph Schmidt truffles before a few times but I’d never been able to pick them out myself. So at the store I picked the “mini” version because I thought the large ones were just so freakin’ huge that I’d want to eat them with a knife and fork ala Mr. Pitt.

This one is Raspberry Brandy and is nice and dark with a soft and flowing ganache. The shell cracks and falls apart quite easily but has a nice mellow and smoky taste to go with the raspberry infusion.

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The other flavors were just as acceptable though nothing thrilling. Pecan Praline was sweet and woodsy, but more maple flavor than nutty. All Dark gave me a good sense of the chocolate, which is Belgian and smooth but the ganache was more buttery than chocolatey. Grand Marnier was ordinary, a touch of orange but it seemed lost in the butter and underwhelming chocolate.

I guess I just don’t understand the fuss about Joseph Schmidt. They’re interesting and certainly less expensive (about $25-$55 a pound) than some of the upscale chocolatiers out there makin’ noise. I have nothing against the tried-and-true flavors either (I’m a See’s nut, remember?) I just wasn’t satisfied after eating them.

Name: Batik Slicks & Assorted Mini Truffles
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Joseph Schmidt
Place Purchased: Joseph Schmidt (San Francisco)
Price: $11.00 & $1.00 each
Size: 3 ounces & unknown
Calories per ounce: 133
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Chocolatier

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:27 am    

Monday, January 8, 2007

KitKat Mint Dark Chocolate Minis

imageThough I try to be on top of the Limited Edition candies and review them when they first come out, I totally dropped the ball on this one. The KitKat Mint Dark Chocolate Minis came out in time for Christmas, though they’re not specifically packaged as a holiday item (other Hershey’s holiday products had little snowflakes on the packages).

The good thing about them being a quasi-holiday item is that they came on sale after Christmas along with all the other holiday candy that may be fresh but sports a now dated red and green wrapper. According to the freshness code, these are good until July 2007!

(On a side note, I have not seen the Cookies ‘n’ Mint Nuggets again this year.)

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Let me just start by saying that I liked these far better than the Mint KitKat that came out in the middle of last year. While that one was sickly sweet, this was minty and fresh tasting.

The little shape of these Minis is also fun. Instead of the usual two-fingered snack size, these are a little shorter and of course are only one finger. About the size of my pinkie, which is rather small as fingers go. Because of the small size I felt like there was more chocolate on these. But I also felt like the crispy wafers were really, really crispy. The minted chocolate is pretty smooth, a bit sweet and lacking a rich chocolatey experience, but generally in support of the cookie and mint elements.

I don’t know if I’d buy these again since I’m getting a little tired of them since it was a 10.5 ounce package, but I found them to be far better than most of the other Limited Editions I’ve had in the past year or so.

There are lots of other reviews of these online cuz I am late to the party: SugarSavvy.net, SugarHog.net, News You Can Eat & Slashfood.

Name: KitKat Mint Dark Chocolate Minis
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey's
Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Echo Park)
Price: $1.80 (50% off!)
Size: 10.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 151
Categories: Chocolate, Mint, Cookie, United States, Hershey's, Limited Edition, Kosher, KitKat

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:28 am    

Friday, January 5, 2007

Mallow Blast

Here’s a strange product line from Hershey’s in the Philippines. They’re called Mallow Blast and are described thusly on the package:

It’s a mind-blowing combination of light chewy Marshmallows bursting with luscious grape flavor, dipped in rich Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.

Hershey’s Mallow Blast(tm) - an explosion of flavors!

Also available with Strawberry and Orange Flavored Filling.

I’ve tried other Asian marshmallows before with a fruity filling in them, but this was a first to have them dipped in chocolate.

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The Grape Mallow Blast packaging was certainly fun looking. The overall package is a pack with five individually wrapped pieces. Mine were slightly smashed but otherwise unharmed by their journey.

The grape ones smell very strongly of grape jelly and no hint at all of chocolate. The little twist of marshmallow is about as big as my big toe, but with a fruity filling (my toes might be filled with fruit, I’ve never checked). The marshmallow is springy and not terribly sweet. The jelly center is firm and tangy and of course grapey.

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The Orange Mallow Blast smelled more of chocolate. The orange inside was actually pretty nice. A bit on the artificial side, but with a balance of zest and tang to it. The chocolate was crumbly and not terribly creamy, but all things considered, it was tasty enough for me to finish off the package of five.

Of course it’s not real chocolate on the outside, but I guess the labeling restrictions are different for other countries. The package clearly calls it Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, but the only “chocolate” in there are some milk solids and cocoa powder much later on the list after the number three ingredient, hydrogenated palm kernel oil. That said, they’d probably make a good treat for dieters, as they’re rather satisfying but not that dense in fat calories (6 of them have 3 grams of fat and 150 calories).

I could see these being popular in the States. The way that they’re packaged though makes it easy for them to get crushed, so they’d probably have to place them in a little tray with sides or something to prevent that.

The Mallow Blasts are certified Hallal.

Name: Mallow Blast
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey's
Place Purchased: gift (thanks TSOGB!)
Price: unknown
Size: 32.5 grams
Calories per ounce: 120
Categories: Chocolate, Marshmallow, Jelly, Hershey's, Kosher/Hallal

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:55 am    

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Whitman’s Sampler Tin

This was a super-cute stocking stuffer that Santa gave me this year. I have to say that Whitman’s has never been of much interest to me. Perhaps it’s that I’ve found them a bit stale tasting. But it also might be the package, sure Whitman’s Samplers are retro looking, but that not-so-fresh appearance may have been affecting my taste.

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But without the regular packaging, I have to say these looked pretty good. The tin has a Tiffany blue background and gold printing. It’s about the same size as a Sucrets lozenge tin, but a little deeper. Each piece of candy is nestled in a little perfect-shaped spot in the plastic tray.

The long milk chocolate rectangle was called Milk Chocolate Butter Cream, which was a kind of chewy sweet fudge. Very sweet, but a pleasant flavor combination.

The round dark chocolate piece was called Dark Chocolate Coconut and unsurprisingly had a coconut center like a Mounds bar. Fresh tasting and not too sweet, the real winner in the box.

The Messenger Boy was cute, with it’s little cross-stitch look. It was a small tablet of milk chocolate. Sweet and unremarkable.

The last one was the Milk Chocolate Caramel which was just the right consistency. Easy to bite but chewy with nice long strands of caramelized sugar and butter. It could have used some more salt to balance the very sweet milk chocolate.

Do they beat See’s (my touchstone for inexpensive boxed chocolates)? No, not even close. These were fresh tasting but a little too “middle of the road” for me. I wanted more zing, more flavor and less sweet. But I do love the tin.

I am curious to try their new Organic Sampler at some point.

Name: Whitman's Sampler Replica Tin
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Whitman's (Russell Stover)
Place Purchased: Santa Claus
Price: $1.49 retail
Size: 1.75 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Caramel, Coconut, United States, Russell Stover, Limited Edition

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:00 pm    

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Recipe: Peppermint Stick Layer Cake

This was my traditional birthday cake throughout my teen years: The Peppermint Stick Layer Cake. My mother came up with it as a way to use up the remaining candy canes from Christmas but it’s a great cake to make any time of year. The whipped cream is lighter tasting and less sweet than a buttercream or sugar frosting, but you’re free to create your own adaptation with your favorite frosting recipe. When the cake is well chilled it’s almost like an ice cream cake.

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I like mine as a four layer cake because it means that the ratio of whipped cream to cake is about equal.

Ingredients:

2 8” Round Chocolate Layers (I make mine from Devil’s Food cake mix - use any recipe or mix you like)
1 pint of heavy whipping cream (well chilled)
1/2 cup of crushed peppermint candy canes (or starlight mints)

Allow your cake layers to cool completely before assembly.

Whipped Cream

Chilling is essential to great whipped cream. I make mine using a two bowl method.

Take a large pasta pot and fill the bottom with ice and then a bit of water. Fit a mixing bowl over it (I have a lipped bowl that fits inside my pasta pot well). Make sure the ice water mixture comes up to at least 1/3 of the side of the mixing bowl.

Pour in your pint of whipping cream. Add a dash of salt.

Whip using an electric mixer or whisk well.

At about the halfway mark (when the whipped cream starts to hold its shape) start adding your crushed peppermint candy.

Continue to whip and taste as needed.

I prefer my whipped cream a little less sweet but your mileage may vary depending on how chunky your candy is and how sweet you want it. Be prepared to add between 1/4 to 1/2 cup of crushed candy. If you want it really minty, add some peppermint extract. If you want it really pink, add some red food coloring.

Assembly

Once your cake layers have cooled, make sure that they are flat (cut off any mounding).

Either cut carefully or use dental floss to split each of the layers into two. (I’ve found cutting them easier if the cake is frozen.)

Place first layer on cake plate. Mound some whipped cream on layer and spread evenly.

Place next layer on top of that, repeat with as many layers as you have.

Frost top. Depending on how generous you’ve been with your whipped cream, you can also ice the sides, I kind of like being able to see all the layers without it being cut.

Dust the top with some remaining chunks of candy canes or whole starlight mints. Don’t add them until you’re ready to serve, they get a bit runny after about an hour in the whipped cream.

Chill cake if you’re not serving immediately. You can even freeze it and serve it that way.

Other variations:

● Use Cinnamon Candies instead of Peppermint
● Use white cake instead of chocolate
● Use a square cake pan and divide in half both in height and width to create stack
● Sunset magazine featured a Candy Cane Cake too, they used a bundt shaped Angel Food cake, which means no layers. So as a whipped cream delivery device it’s sadly lacking. But if you’re looking for, you know, a balance and perhaps something that’s not quite as fatty as eating a half a pint of whipped cream yourself, then go for it!
● Make cupcakes and use pastry bag to fill them with minty whipped cream and then frost them with it as well

Related: How to make Candy Cane Sugar and 33 Things to do with Leftover Candy Canes

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:43 am     CandyRecipesReviewChristmasChocolateHard Candy & LollipopsMints9-Yummy

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