Friday, December 09, 2011
The best known American marshmallows are Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows which are big, airy cylinders of fluffed sugar and gelatin. Lately there’s been a movement in the United States for more artisan marshmallows, flavored and in different shapes and often with less chalky corn starch on the outside. In other countries marshmallows are usually flavored (France and Japan have wonderful marshmallow offerings that are rather grown up, while the United Kingdom and Netherlands still have a large selection geared towards kids).
Kraft’s Jet-Puffed brand has a large selection lately that go beyond the unflavored white version. I picked up all that I could find over the past month for comparison and review.
I’m often conflicted about whether Marshmallows are candy. Part of the confusion might be the fact that the most popular marshmallow brands in the United States are not sold in the candy and snack aisle but in the baking section. They’re used to make Rice Krispie Treats and S’mores, but I rarely see people just eating them.
The marshmallows are simple and cheap. I picked up most of the bags in this review for only a dollar - this bag was 10 ounces and nearly the size of an airplane pillow ... a lot of candy for a buck.
Jet-Puffed are large, they’re about an inch and a third tall and about an inch in diameter. Each is about 7.5 grams (about a quarter of an ounce). Marshmallows are pretty low in calories, as there’s no fat in them - they’re just sugar with a little protein (gelatin) to keep them fluffy. Only 100 calories per serving of 4 (one ounce).
They’re chalky on the outside, coated with a light powdering of corn starch to keep them from sticking. They’re puffed, pliable but still firm. They’re a little latexy, like memory foam - squish it and it bounces back eventually.
The flavor isn’t quite vanilla and not a strong as pure sugar. They’re, well, marshmallows. Not much to write home about and not a candy I’d eat on its own. They toast up very well, with more of the burnt sugar flavors. The large size means that the center of mine usually cool while the outside is crunchy and the mantle is molten.
They’re very soft and moist when fresh, but I don’t mind a slightly stale marshmallow either. They get a little stiff and chewy on the outside, providing a little more textural interest.
What started this whole marshmallow episode was this bag of Jet-Puffed SnowmanMallows I spotted at Target. They’re French Vanilla flavored, which sounded good, like a custardy version of the traditional American marshmallow.
They’re called mini-marshmallows on the bag, but they’re actually about the size of two of the standard mini-marshmallows.
I prefer the format of the little one inch tall and half inch wide Man. He toasted up well, the smaller size meant that the center became molten as the outside crisped. Of course it was ridiculously easy to catch him on fire.
They’re pink and remind me of the French guimauve, which often come in long ropes. The color is soft and pleasant. The scent is like Frankenberry Cereal. The flavor is a mild, floral and artificial strawberry. It was like a very watered down Strawberry Quik.
I toasted it hoping it would taste like cotton candy, but it just tasted like hot Strawberry Quik. Like many of the candies that I eat with Red #40 food coloring, I taste a weird, metallic bitterness towards the end and for a few minutes after.
This was the first variety that struck me as seasonal, obviously, but also the first one that I felt like achieved its goals of being an actual good candy. I recognize that not everyone likes gingerbread, so a gingerbread flavored marshmallow will not be as popular as strawberry or vanilla.
They’re shaped like little men. The get squeeze and deformed in the bag, so their little arms point in different directions. They’re about an inch and a quarter tall and about a half an inch thick and an inch from fingertip to fingertip.
They smell rich and spicy. And they taste that way too. If you’re fond of the gingerbread spices: ginger, cinnamon, clove and pepper, you will probably dig these. The overriding flavor is actually ginger but there’s a little cinnamon and pepper warmth to them. It doesn’t taste artificial at all - just like a spicy marshmallow. It’s absolutely like eating a foamy cookie.
I tried toasting them and liked the result, but prefer the soft and foamy texture of them at room temperature.
This bag was slightly smaller, for some reason, with only 8 ounces in it. The mallows were also smaller, which was fine with me as I like to pop a whole one in my mouth. (The back of the package actually has a warning that says to eat only one at a time and supervise children plus cut them up for smaller children.)
They’re cute as foamy sugar buttons. They smell good, not that different from the Gingerbread, but definitely on the sugar and cinnamon side of things.
The flavor is like cinnamon the spice, not the hard candy. The corn starch coating kind of pushes that along with the slight chalky texture before it dissolves away. It doesn’t taste overtly artificial, but it’s also not as fun and nuanced as the Gingerbread. I expect they’d go great in hot chocolate. Toasted they were quite nice, but tasted much more sweet when hot.
The Kraft Jet-Puffed Chocolate Royale was a problematic flavor. First, it’s a chocolate flavored marshmallow. There is no actual cocoa, let alone chocolate in there. The scent is ghastly. It was like wet cardboard. It was so bad that after I took a picture of the package and opened them, I had to sequester them.
The problem is that I don’t remember where I put them (I admit the Candy Blog Studios are pretty messy right now) but I can still smell them even though I stuffed them inside another bag first.
Overall, I’m inclined towards the generic American marshmallow and enjoyed the different flavors. I prefer the corn starch coating to the sugar sanding of Peeps. They’re a great candy to share and versatile to keep on hand as an ingredient. If you’re watching your calories, they’re very low stress - I can’t eat that many because their airy texture makes me feel full very quickly. But they’re also all sugar and the texture can be bland (but that’s why folks invented Rice Krispie Treats, Rocky Road and S’mores).
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
At the same time I bought the Sunspire Peppermint Pattie, I also picked up both of their Coconut Bars.
Sunspire makes premium candy with all natural ingredients, nothing artificial. In my experience with their products they tend to use evaporated cane juice instead of refined sugar and often use unsulfured molasses as a sweetener. They also eschew genetically modified sources so most of the products I’ve seen use a rice syrup when needed instead of corn syrup. Besides the malty, earthy flavor that molasses usually adds, I have no problem with sweet & satisfying candy being made from these elements.
Add to that Hershey’s decision to move manufacturing of Mounds, Almond Joy and York Peppermint Patties to Mexico, I thought it’d be cool to find an excellent American-made substitute for folks who want to buy more local. (Though in my case Monterrey, Mexico is a bit closer than Hershey, PA.)
Instead of the two piece style of Almond Joy or Bounty this is a long, one-piece bar, a bit thinner. The rippled milk chocolate enrobing is glossy and appealing.
The almonds in this bar are not whole ones popped on top like Almond Joy, they’re crushed & mixed in with the moist coconut flakes.
I didn’t really see the almond bits in there, but the color was a bit more on the cream-colored side than the dark chocolate & no almond version (see below.)
The bar smells pleasantly like coconut and unpleasantly like Hershey’s Milk Chocolate often does - a bit gamey & sour ... rather like baby vomit.
But I pushed on, because I actually like the taste of Hershey’s milk chocolate, even though I can’t take the smell of it for very long.
The flavor of the milk chocolate is tangy, it’s like acid reflux but in the convenience of a pre-packaged bar. It’s terrible. I can’t eat it. I tried several times, it’s just too awful for me to stomach. (I even waited a couple of days, just in case I was the one who wasn’t feeling well.)
Then, as some sort of deja vu, I lured Amy into my office to try it. (Remember, not only does Amy have no problem spitting things out, she also has a hate-hate relationship with Sunspire’s Sundrops.)
I understand personal preferences for certain flavors, it’s rare for any candy product to induce a verified gag reflex.
Rating: 1 out of 10
It’s a simpler bar, just a firm coconut center, lightly sweetened and some dark chocolate enrobing.
The enrobing on this one looked similar, though there were a few bloomed spots. As the expiration date was March 2010, I felt pretty safe eating it.
The chocolate is slightly bitter, not extremely creamy but has its own decent flavor. The center is firm and chewy, more like an uncoated coconut bar than something soft & moist like a Mounds.
This tastes like no compromise candy. All natural ingredients, not organic but at least not genetically modified or overprocessed. The ingredients are vegan however they were made in a plant that processes wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs and soy. Kosher.
The price is a bit steep and to be honest, if I’m going for a candy bar when at Whole Foods or similar stores, there’s very little that could pry me away from the Q.Bel wafer bars. But if I was in the mood for coconut, the dark bar is notable.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Friday, April 03, 2009
For some reason people want Energy. I’m not quite sure why they’re looking for products specifically labeled that way, as my understanding is that all food contains energy. Calories are available energy from food. If it doesn’t have calories, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not food.
But consumers, I believe, have been duped into thinking that stimulants are actually energy. They’re not, they’re just, well, stimulants. Stimulants make you feel like doing stuff, as the general state of humans (if you believe advertising and general laws of physics) is to be inert and bored. Stimulants, though, don’t cure boredom or actually get anything done.
Caffeine is the most common stimulant and is naturally found in a product that masks the bitter and unpleasant taste of it very well: coffee. Caffeine also works as an additive in other products in smaller quantities, usually products with natural alkaloids, like chocolate or perhaps strong fruit flavors.
There are some other compounds which are also grouped into energy products: Taurine and B vitamins (Niacin, B6 and B12). These have their own distinct flavors, often known collectively as the “vitamin burp” taste. (You can read about these at Energy Fiend)
All of this writing, however, is just vamping. After trying my first Beechies Force Chewy Candy, I didn’t want to continue.
Lemon - it looks pretty good and the first crunch of the candy shell was a bright & promising sweet lemon flavor. But chewing it, well, I should probably start posting photos of my facial expressions. The first was something akin to “Wha? Is this really happening? Does this really taste like this?” kind of quizzical look. Then a bitterness set in, which caused me to furrow my brow. Then came a general distasteful look that someone might mistake for “May I spit this out in your hand please? Please! Right now!”
And then I waited for a couple of weeks. I reviewed a bunch of other stuff, even avoided reviewing yesterday by posting a new products announcement list. I carried the bags around with me in my “to review” package. The wrapper does say recharge - refresh - renew so I thought I’d try again.
Green Apple went a little better. The candy shell is tangy and has that comforting artificial apple flavor. Then ... well, it took a turn for the worse. The soft chew of the center, which is rather like a Mentos, had a bit of a bitter tingle. The flavor was that midrange bitterness that reminds me of dirty gym socks. But it was mercifully short
Strawberry was a beautiful red. Much prettier than any Mentos. The shell flavor was soft and sweet. The inner chew was musty and tasted like generic chewable vitamins.
935 mg of Taurine
This combination of chemicals does not give me energy, it gives me angry.
I emailed the company, Richardson Brands, to see if they actually still make these. They never responded. Their website doesn’t list them on a product page but includes them in the ingredients/nutritional section. I found record of them being offered at All Candy Expo in 2006, but under different flavors. The only place I’ve ever seen these for sale is at the 99 Cent Only Store, but I have seen them at multiple stores and the packages appear fresh and current.
The chew itself was odd looking, it’s olive green. Really nicely done olive green, but just not a color I associate with rich, roasted coffee. (But I do associate with unroasted coffee.)
The outer shell is sweet and has a mellow coffee flavor. The inner chew is rather promising. It’s sweet and has a latte taste - both creamy and with some good brewed coffee flavors. The bitterness is there, but rather believable because of the coffee flavor.
I still had the aftertaste of bitter B vitamins, but it didn’t feel as strange because there was no tangy fruit flavor component. I wouldn’t call these great, but compared to the fruit ones, they’re actually edible. They reminded me of the Chewy Coffee Rio.
The other trick I found is to actually chew it all up. When I ate my second Java, I left the candy shell dissolve. Bad idea, because that’s where the extra sugar was. The center chew is not as sweet, but if you let it dissolve like a hard candy, it’s not a bad either. They do end with coffee breath though, so have some real mint Mentos on hand for that (as a side note, there is a caffeinated version of Mentos available in Europe).
An 8 ounce cup of brewed coffee (yes, I actually drink just an 8 ounce cup) contains about 100 mg of caffeine but no calories. Each bag contains two servings (140 calories)... and for only a buck, it’s a pretty good price for an easily metered amount of caffeine. I suppose you can swallow them whole.
I can see these having their place. For travelers, especially those who don’t want to take in a lot of liquids, it’s a nice alternative to coffee or energy drinks. They’re extremely portable (although 14 of them do take up a bit of space).
The package says a serving is 14 pieces, but it holds on 25 ... so it’s just shy of two actual servings. They’re made in
Colombia, which knows a lot about coffee. I’m keeping the Java (4 out of 10) ones on hand for medicinal purposes but I’m throwing out the fruit ones (1 out of 10).
Monday, October 06, 2008
A couple of years ago I raved about a product from Kandy Kastle: Gummi Lightning Bugs. It was both a candy and a novelty item and I was enchanted by the simplicity.
But when I spotted this on the shelves of the local 99 Cent Only Store, I just had to buy it. Not because I thought it was going to be good, but I was just too curious.
The Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae is pretty big for only 60 cents (well, technically it’s 59.99 cents) and boasts that it’s Fat Free, Cholesterol Free and Low Sodium. Because the target market for these is always swayed by those selling points.
Basically the candy is a stack of flavored marshmallows in Strawberry, Vanilla, Chocolate, Green Apple. It comes with a little packet of Chocolate Fudge Candy Gel to pour over it as if it were a real ice cream sundae.
The candy is toweringly huge at about seven inches.
It comes tucked in a little waxed paper cup with the marshmallows firmly adhered to each other and sprinkled with colored jimmies.
If you think they look like Play-Doh, I agree.
When they said gel they weren’t kidding. When I first opened it, there were a few thin drips, but the rest was congealed inside. So I squeeze it a bit to mix it up and then tried to drizzle it out on the marshmallow scoops.
It came out in a thin stream then a few chunks.
The ingredients explain a lot: corn syrup, sugar, modified starches, water, sorbitol, potassium sorbate, artificial flavors, artificial colors (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1 and Titanium Dioxide).
Note that this Chocolate Fudge Candy Gel contains no chocolate products whatsoever. I didn’t think it would need actual chocolate, but a pinch of cocoa might make a convincing fudge sauce.
It didn’t smell very good, kind of like fake vanilla, but not much else.
Then I was left with this sticky tower of dry and stiff marshmallows. It smelled like a cross between green apple flavor and new shoes.
I couldn’t eat it. I can’t eat it. I tried to take a bite of the chocolate marshmallow part, avoiding the sticky gel, but I couldn’t keep it in my mouth. It was cocoa-ish but had that green apple flavor to it as well. It was stiff and tacky and dry on the outside.
Just too horrible to consume but an incredibly cheap decoration if you’re looking for one. My inedible rating is probably unfair because I didn’t actual try very hard so if you’ve had this and loved it, please testify to my inaccurate description of the experience of not eating it below.
Patent Pending & Made in China.
Other braver folks: Riverfront Times.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Hershey’s Miniatures were introduced in 1929. At that time the assortment was pretty much the same: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, Krackel and Mr. Goodbar. (Though Hershey’s made a bar called Semi Sweet, the present iteration, a dark version didn’t find its way into the mix until the Special Dark came along.)
Hershey’s bills the mix as A little something for everyone (r).
I remember as a kid getting these in both my trick-or-treat haul and my Christmas stocking. They’re a great mix of candy because even though everyone has their favorites (and my rankings for them have changed over the years), even if you don’t like all of them it’s pretty easy to find someone to trade with.
Each piece is a nice size, two bites for those who prefer to savor or one big bite for those looking for a quick fix.
I wasn’t sure when I picked up the bag if they have a consistent mix, so I documented mine. It actually feels like a good proportion: 11 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate and 6 each of the Krackel, Mr. Goodbar and Special Dark.
This particular bag was 9.2 ounces, they’re available in a wide variety of sizes though and often in bulk bins at large grocery stores.
It’s hard to approach a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar without some sort of personal history. Those of us who have grown up on them know the flavor pretty well, though I don’t think most of us think much about it. Those who taste Hershey’s for the first time as adults though have expressed strong dislike for the taste and/or texture. All I can say is that it’s distinctive and they wouldn’t keep making it if someone didn’t like it well enough to keep buying it.
It has a sweet smell, a bit milky and dare I say, cheesy (feta) and milky. There are also notes of black pepper and caramel.
One of the nice things about the Miniatures is that the bar is thicker, so a bite (half the bar), is a nice mouthful that give more opportunity to revel in the flavors and textures. The milk chocolate is rather fudgy, not quite firm even a room temperature. It dents instead of chipping or flaking and is more likely to bend than snap. It’s a little grainy like a fudge, but the particle size is small. The flavors are strong, it’s sweet without burning the throat and has some mellow cocoa notes mixed with that inimitable tangy yogurt flavor of Hershey’s along with some toffee and maybe a touch of hazelnut.
I hate to sound like an old fart, but I think it was better before. I think something happened that it became grainier.
It sounds like I hate the stuff, but I don’t. I feel the same way about it as I do for things like Fritos, American cheese, grape soda and Fudgesicles. They’re really not that good, but I love them anyway.
All I can do is hope they don’t make it worse and give them a 6 out of 10.
The Special Dark bar was introduced in 1971. I always liked the packaging, but not the bar itself. It looked rich and sophisticated, which appealed to the part of me that yearned for status that could be bought for 20 cents at the corner shop. But to actually eat one as a child was akin to eating raw fish, I just didn’t have it in me. Yet.
Similar to the milk bar, this one also has a slightly soft snap.
It smells sweet, a little woodsy.
The texture is rather chalky and doesn’t melt into a creamy puddle in my mouth. Instead it just tastes sweet and more like hot cocoa made with water than real rich chocolate ... there’s a thin-ness to it all, probably because Hershey’s now uses milk fat.
There’s a dry finish with a slight metallic bite to it.
So while I’ve come to love and prefer dark chocolate, this is like eating cheap chocolate chips to me. A diversion while I wait for the better choice ... like those freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or a wonderful single origin Ocumare bar.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Mr. Goodbar was introduced in 1925. Later, during the depression, the bar was sold as “a tasty lunch” back when meal replacement bars were simply candy bars. (And it’s still not a bad idea if you get a really nutty bar.)
Even though the bars are smaller these days and don’t cost a nickel, it’s tempting to think that this bar is unchanged since Milton Hershey started producing it.
Sadly it’s not a war or a depression that’s change Mr. Goodbar. I can’t say what The Hershey Company is thinking these days but they’ve changed it. Mr. Goodbar is no longer a chocolate bar.
Instead he’s a silly oiled up shadow of what he used to be. The description of the bar was more recently peanuts in milk chocolate but is now just made with chocolate and peanuts.
The bar looks the same as ever. A milky, chocolatey sheen with little peanuts peeking through. It smells like deep roasted peanuts and sugar. (More like peanut brittle than a chocolate product.)
The flavor is overwhelmingly peanut. The peanuts are roasted dark too, so there’s a slight burnt taste to it that I think is meant to mask the nonexistent chocolate.
Yes, this mockolate is shallow and unimpressive. The texture isn’t all that different from the Milk Chocolate bar, but it has a different melt. It’s cool on the tongue. It’s actually salty (looking over the ingredients in the old recipe and the new, salt now appears).
For a mockolate bar, it’s quite passable. For a time tested icon it’s a travesty. I don’t care how depressed I am or the country might be, this is not a tasty lunch.
Rating: 4 out of 10.
Krackel, I’m told, is the last candy bar that Milton Hershey developed that still exists today.
It went through a few changes over the years, when introduced in 1938 it had nuts and crisped rice but by the late 40s it was a simple crisped rice and milk chocolate bar. (The packaging was also similar to the Mr. Goodbar, sporting a yellow stripe and brown instead of its present red.)
Today the bar is all but gone. The full size has been discontinued (2006), only the miniature remains. To add insult to injury, the bar isn’t crisped rice in milk chocolate, no, now it’s made with chocolate and crisped rice.
One of the things the Krackel bar has had going for it over the years, especially in the miniature size is the crisped rice. They’re big crisped rice pieces. Nestle Crunch has moved to some sort of BB-sized rice product that just doesn’t deliver the depth of crunch or the malty & salty taste.
The crisp is definitely there, the malty flavor peeks through. But the
mockolate, oh this isn’t even worthy of being wrapped up and called R.M. Palmer.
I’ve given away four of these little bars and asked people what they think to people who profess that the Krackel is their favorite in the miniatures assortment. I didn’t preface it with anything, yet they all recognized that this was terrible. Empty, vapid, lacking all chocolate flavor, no creamy component and no puddle of chocolate ooze melting so that all that’s left is the rice crisps.
I was curious how mock this mockolate was but I am simply unable to get the information out of Hershey’s. (Read more about that experience here.) It’s just disgusting that Hershey’s, the Great American Chocolate Bar company, is making this ... they should have just let this bar die a natural death than let it be zombified into this mess.
Rating: 1 out of 10
There is nothing to do but simply stop buying this deplorable product. 12 out of the 29 bars (41%) here are not even chocolate and yet I’m paying chocolate prices!
If you like the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, I’d suggest getting just the snack sized bars, they’re a little bigger, but at least you don’t end up with any Krackels or Mr. Goodbars and you get more value for your money. (Unless you were looking for some individually wrapped & solidified cooking oils.)
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Before I took on this challenge of the all-chocolate chocolate bars, I did take a test to find out if I’m a “supertaster”. People are divided into three categories: nontasters, regular tasters and supertasters.
Our tongues can detect five tastes: sweet, salt, bitter, sour & umami (savory). Nontasters (about 25% of the population) tend to enjoy more intensely flavor things such as super sours and liberally salted products, enjoy fatty & sweet foods while regular tasters (50%) shy away from intensity but sample liberally from all the major tastes & textures equally. Supertasters (25%) dislike stronger bitter & sour things and even high fat content foods. There are all sorts of scientific studies about evolution and how each of these types can be beneficial or detrimental to your ultimate longevity ... or enjoyment of that long life.
Although I have a very keen sense of smell, I am a regular taster. (I like coffee, super sours, broccoli & used to drink pickle juice - though I really like chocolate & cheese, I’m not that keen on other types of fatty foods.) So I figured I might be a good candidate for appreciating the more authentic tastes of the purest chocolate.
Dagoba makes one of the few 100% chocolate bars and the only one that I could find that was organic. It’s called Prima Materia which means, literally, prime matter. It’s usually used to refer to alchemical ideas about the base matter that makes up the universe, that all matter can be changed back into and then reformed. Kind of like stem cells are for living creatures.
In this case, this is the essential chocolate - just beans from Madagascar, ground up and made into a bar.
At only $2.75 retail, it was about the same price as a baking bar (though smaller of course). I got this one as a sample at the Fancy Food Show in January.
The Prima Materia is a dark looking bar, nicely glossy with a solid snap.
The melt on this was a little sticky, I can’t really explain it. Whatever it is, it’s not terribly dry. The melt lets the flavors come out slowly. I taste a bit of cherries and raspberry at the very start, but once it melts a bit more it’s all about the dark mulch of the forest floor.
There’s a light yeasty note in there that reminds me of dark beer. The bitterness is noticeable, but not enough to keep me from eating more pieces. By far this is the most edible of the bars I tried. I wouldn’t say that I’ll be eating a lot of it, but with some almonds or cashews nearby, it’s an acceptable form of entertainment for a while.
It really doesn’t take much to satisfy my chocolate craving either. (Of course then I start craving something else, like a glass of water & some sweet caramels.)
2 ounces - 185 calories per ounce - Kosher
After Christmas this bar, Ghirardelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate, was on sale for only $1.25, and found in with the baking products, I thought I’d throw it into the mix as a way to see if I was just being overly picky about what eating chocolate is in the first place (besides a fancy way to charge two or three times as much as chocolate chips).
The wrapper is very simple, but still quite compelling. The bar is large and flat, a little larger than the regular bars in the candy aisle, in this case it’s 4 ounces instead of 3.17 of the current Intense Dark line.
To their credit, Ghirardelli is clear that this is a baking bar. So this is an off-label application of the confection.
As lovely as it was, and it is a lovely bar, nicely tempered, perhaps a bit stiff but a deep red-brown, they are correct in not promoting this as an eating bar.
The smell was quite woodsy, like cedar and a bit grassy. It tastes like olives and asparagus. Bitter, moisture-sucking, mulchy and green.
Looking at the nutrition label it’s easy to see why this is so chalky, it has less fat than the Prima Materia, a whopping 40 calories per ounce less fat. (Have i mentioned lately that I love cacao fat ... sometimes I wonder what it’d be like if donuts were made by frying them in cocoa butter.)
4 ounces - 145 calories per ounce - Kosher
Meiji is a good consumer brand in Japan. They make all sorts of candy, not just chocolate products. (My favorites are their Gummy Choco and Chelsea.)
It’s a pretty bar with 15 nicely shaped scored pieces. The package is also good, an easy to open paperboard box that fits back together pretty well to hold the leftovers (and there’s gonna be leftovers, who eats the whole thing?). I was encouraged that it had a pretty high fat content, too.
The bar wasn’t expensive ($1.99), which is probably a pretty good indication of what I should expect for a chocolate without any sugar. The scent is of the dark roasted cocoa flavors, a bit of charcoal. There’s a very abrupt high-note of the vanilla flavoring in there as well.
On the tongue it melts pretty nicely, but it’s quite bitter and dry. Keeping it further back on the tongue seems to help to recognize the other flavors that included a bit of a yeasty note of baking bread, wood smoke and burnt sugar.
I should note, in case you haven’t noticed so far, these are not low-calorie bars. In fact, this “sugarless chocolate” is some of the highest caloric density reviews I’ve ever done. (It’s the cocoa butter.)
But note that chocolate has a good amount of iron (10%), and about 3 grams of protein per ounce and 4 grams of fiber per ounce. That doesn’t even go into the positive effects that all those antioxidants have for your heart and circulatory system.
1.58 ounces - 161 calories per ounce (contains soy lecithin & artificial flavors)
I was so excited when I bought the Chocolat Bonnat 100% Cacao. I’ve never had Bonnat before, the only experience I have with it is reading this exhaustive series at DallasFood.org about Noka and seeing the bars at several upscale stores. At $8 a bar (granted it is a big bar at 100 grams), I was hoping for some sort of miracle. I’ve come to realize there’s a reason that chocolate with sugar is so widely available ... it’s just better that way.
The wrapper, I admit, is lovely. The regular Bonnat bars have white wrappers with similar lettering, but the 100% gets the special brick red treatment, which should be a good indication that you should stop and think about it. 100% Cacao. No sugar, not even lecithin or vanilla. Stop. Hazard. Danger.
The bar was wonderfully tempered. (As wonderfully tempered as I was ill tempered when I was done.)
When I first unwrapped it, it smelled strongly of green olives. Later when I tasted it, I kept getting the strong, puckering flavor of green olives, grassy matcha and artichokes. These are all good things as far as vegetables go, but I don’t like them together and I don’t like them as the primary notes in my chocolate.
Here’s the thing, I hear my flavors. Well, not quite hear ... they have wavelengths in my head (and kind of colors that go along with them). Flavors create vibrations. And different kinds of flavor combinations create different combinations of these vibrations & wavelengths. It’s called synesthesia and many people have it to some degree.
So when I talk about things being harmonious, it’s not just a metaphor, it’s an actual description of my experience. In this case the bar was screechy. It was unripe, unrehearsed, stuttery, weak and tinny.
I’ve had the bar for a couple of months and have unwrapped it a few times to see if it was just that I’d had the flu, the lights in the house were at the wrong level, the moon was in the wrong phase or was in a bad mood. No, this is like Phillip Glass & Stephen Sondheim collaborating on some sort of atonal opera about database programmers performed by deaf alley cats in a poorly ventilated auditorium with squeaky chairs that pinch. It’s probably a wonderful intellectual experiment, but it’s not an enjoyable physical one. (But again, this may be an experience colored by the way that my brain processed certain things and might be just glorious to folks who don’t get the cacophony of wavelengths.)
3.53 ounces - unknown calories
The best news is that I have a deeper appreciation of my blended chocolates now and single origins even more so. As far as pure chocolate as being a “sugarless” alternative to regular sweetened chocolate, I think a very small quantity of sweetened chocolate will be more satisfying than a larger portion of one of these. But your mileage may vary. I definitely recommend the Dagoba if you’re itching to try just one. (The fact that it has a reasonable price is also a selling point.)
All of the remaining bits of these bars will be taken next door to the neighbors this evening where I will donate them to Amy in the hopes that she’ll create some awesome and rich brownies out of them so that I may love this chocolate again.
Casey at Chocolate Note has far more appreciation for the most concentrated chocolate bars. For other deeper appreciations for these bars try the Seventy Percent for: Michel Cluizel Noir Infini & forum discussion about Bonnat & Cluizel.
Monday, April 21, 2008
This curious limited edition comes from Canada. In Canada there are fewer possessives in their confections. Hershey’s products are marked only Hershey Canada and Reese’s products have a logo that omits the apostrophe S entirely. (Okay those are the only two instances I could find.)
The package says it was Imported by Hershey Canada, Inc., but I guess Canadian labeling laws don’t necessitate saying where the product is actually from, just that it’s not from Canada. We certainly didn’t get these in the States ... I find it hard to believe that the American factory would churn these out for Canada and not us, and that only leaves the Mexican factories as a possible source.
I first learned of the existence of the Limited Edition Reese Hazelnut Creme candy on CacaoBug‘s blog. Even though she wasn’t pleased with them, I still wanted to give it a try and asked Canadian reader Amber to see if she could find them when she visited Los Angeles last month. (She’s my Canadian candy mule!)
The cups, as viewed here, are naked. They have no paper cups. They’re also smaller than the typical Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, these clock in at a mere 15 grams each. (About the same size as the junior size individually wrapped ones.)
They smell like Easter. I think you know the smell, sweet and milky. The “chocolate” is marginal. Not chocolatey and though it smells milky, it doesn’t taste like milk chocolate. The melt on the tongue is waxy, which I was willing to chalk up to the hazelnut butter until ... well, read on.
The hazelnut creme center is less than creamy. It’s stiff, not quite a peanut butter and though it has sweet and smooth melt, I wouldn’t characterize it a creme.
The whole thing, sadly, doesn’t taste much like hazelnut. Not like the giuandiua I was hoping for. Oh, wouldn’t a Nuttela meets Reese’s be nice? This isn’t it.
I understand that hazelnuts are far more expensive than peanuts, so I understand why the little cups are 15 grams instead of the full-sized 21 grams. But if you’re gonna go to all the trouble of making a special edition for hazelnut lovers, give them what you promise. Hazelnuts! The ingredients for a RPBC are: milk chocolate then peanuts then all that other stuff. The Hazelnut Creme cup has an unappealing list of ingredients that goes like this: sugar, modified milk ingredients, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, hydrogenated coconut oil, hazelnuts, cocoa powder, dextrose, soy lecithin, artificial flavour, propyl gallate & ascorbyl palmitate.
So not only are you not getting any actual chocolate in here, you’re getting a scant amount of hazelnuts and that creme is made from modified milk ingredients.
It may as well be from R.M. Palmer, because that “Easter” taste I mentioned earlier is pretty much the Palmer taste. The taste of disappointment.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Last night I watched The Secret Life Of ... on Food Newtork. The topic was Sweet and Sour and part of the episode featured the All Candy Expo in Chicago. Jim O’Connor covered Lemonheads (a special fave of mine), traced the development of America’s Sour Tooth and of course toured the Expo floor.
Then part of the episode took a turn towards a product line called Too Tarts, made by Innovative Candy Concepts. This post is not a product review, because I absolutely refuse to eat the products on purpose. They’re shamefully misrepresented.
The package I picked up at All Candy Expo was purely by accident. I was sitting in a seminar and they were in a bowl and both me and the other folks at my table idly grabbed a bag and dug in. I spit mine out and so did the fellow next to me. It was seriously foul - the chew was rubbery and the taste was instantly fake and had a strong aftertaste. The package says they’re Real Fruit & Honey with NO REFINED SUGAR ... “up to 5 times more natural ingredients than any other fruit candy snack” ...blah, blah, blah. What they don’t holler at you on the front is that there are TWO different artificial sweeteners in there ... Acesulfame Potassium and Sucralose.
Acesulfame Potassium is also known as AceK. It’s 180 times sweeter than sugar and is not retained by the body. It’s known for a bitter aftertaste so it’s often used in conjunction with other sweeteners. In this case it’s Sucralose (found in Splenda), which more than 500 times as sweet as sugar and is also not retained by the body. If you’re curious about artificial sweeteners and their possible cancer causing/nerve damage potential, cruise around the ‘net.
Now, you might wonder why I rage against artificial sweeteners. Yes, I have a bad reaction to aspartame, but I actually believe they have their place. However, their place is not in candies marketed for otherwise healthy children. Childhood is time of training our bodies to understand what we put into them and learning our satiety levels with different foods. Part of how our bodies and brains judge how many calories we’re consuming has to do with how sweet they are. They’ve done studies and have shown that there may be some connection between diet sodas and obesity because the body is no longer able to judge properly how many calories it’s taking in. If adults are messed up with this stuff, what will it do to kids who consume it from a young age? What’s worse is these candies are making it look like they’re sweetened with either honey or fruit juice. Sure, the package says “No Refined Sugar!” But it doesn’t once mention the complex chemical compounds called ‘sweeteners’ they’re putting in there except in the fine print of the ingredients.
There’s no reason to give kids fake candy ... there are other options for sweet treats out there. Please read the packages carefully. I’m irritated that this candy exists and further irritated that Food Network gave them such a huge feature without ever mentioning the presence of artificial sweeteners in the candy.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.