Friday, April 16, 2010
Madelaine Chocolate makes chocolate morsels. They make a wide array of chocolate pieces wrapped in novelty foils, but what they do that’s different from RM Palmer or even Russell Stover is they use really good chocolate.
Their array of foil wrapped treats is dazzling. Butterflies, poker chips, stars, hearts, balls, flowers and coins. They also make panned chocolates like a rainbow of Malted Milk Balls in both classic and specialty flavors. They’re a bit expensive but my real complain has been how hard they are to find.
It looks like they’re making a new push into retail outlets instead of bulk bins and wholesale quantities for party planners they packaging for the shelf. In addition to their new treats (some reviewed by Sugar Pressure) they have a new line of bonbons called Duets which are double filled chocolate spheres in four varieties.
Madelaine sent me a press kit with a sample of three of each of the new chocolates for review.
The chocolates come in stand up bags made of paperboard, ten chocolates to a package and retail for about $6.25 according to their own direct-sell website (but probably less on store shelves). That makes each chocolate about 63 cents, not bad when compared to a Lindt Lindor Truffle which is about where I think they’re aiming in the marketplace.
Milk Chocolate & White Chocolate Duets
The pieces are nicely formed and again, I’m using Lindor truffles for comparison. They’re individually twist wrapped and not only clearly marked, they’re color coded if you should dump them into a bowl with other flavors. They’re about the same size as Lindor, though lacking the little divot that allows it to sit up on its own. Instead of a coconut and palm kernel oil in the center, Madelaine uses a combination of real chocolate, milk products and canola oil for the ganache core.
This is a classic confectionery pairing: milk chocolate and white chocolate. The ganache centers are satisfyingly soft, so much so that they melt readily. The blend of the flavors is quite milky with a bit of a cream cheese tang to them. For the most part it was like eating a version of a chocolate cheesecake.
It’s rich and sticky, a bit cloying but not as sickly sweet as I would have expected for a white and milk pairing like this. The chocolate shell is also good quality though it was the sweetest part of the confection. The flavors are well rounded and wholly authentic, not watered down or thinned out by excess oils.
Caramel & Peanut Butter Duets
I thought, How good could a caramel and peanut butter bonbon be from a commercial company? After all, I was consistently disappointed by gooey caramel from mass manufacturers. It usually had a great texture but little more flavor than Karo.
The sphere smelled like peanut butter and chocolate. So far so good. Biting into it, the peanut butter side wasn’t quite a meltaway, but not quite the crumbly peanut butter of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. A good roasted taste, a little salty and pretty smooth. The caramel side was a revelation. The texture was ultrasmooth and thick though not chewy. The flavor profile was actually like burnt sugar, like a true caramel. The combination of the two along with the milky chocolate shell was decadent and homey.
Raspberry & White Truffle Duets
This one smells quite milky without a hint of the berry jam inside. After biting into it I recognized the yogurty white ganache side. The great part of this one was the raspberry filling. No seeds but lots and lots of jammy raspberry flavors - boiled sugar, floral berry notes and a gooey sticky jam texture.
Raspberry & Peanut Butter Duets
I saved the best for last. A few weeks ago I posted my favorite piece from an assortment of chocolates from William Dean Chocolatier that my sister gave me for Christmas. It was a peanut butter & jelly bon bon. Yeah, it sounds simple and homey. But what’s wrong with that?
This Duet has a layer of creamy peanut butter and that wonderfully flavorful raspberry filling. I could eat a whole bag of these without any problem.
They are expensive, but if I could buy them individually like Lindor Truffles I’d guarantee I’d pick up one or two of the PB&J on a regular basis. As a box, I’d hesitate a bit but probably go for it anyway - especially if I could snag a bag for about $5. They’re rich but not too decadent, a little more homey and have fresh flavors that fill a hole where I don’t think there are other commercially made products.
They will be released the week of April 19, 2010 and will be available at retailers such as WalMart and Kohl’s. (Check their website for current locations.)
Friday, April 9, 2010
It’s so frustrating when I know that there’s a candy out there I want to try but I just can’t get a hold of it. The Pink Grapefruit Tic Tac have been around for a couple of years, but as far as I knew they were sold only as a “big pack” and only at WalMart.
I’ve been scouring eBay and the discount dollar stores ever since, hoping they’d turn up. Thankfully last weekend I found them at the 99 Cent Only Store - and for only 59 cents a package. I bought two, because I knew I’d love them.
The box holds exactly one ounce, which sounds like a single portion to me, the way I eat Tic Tacs. (I eat them like they’re candy.)
They’re a beautiful shade of pink (carmine but at least the ingredients are all natural). They don’t smell like much, but they sound great in the package when I shake it.
They’re soft and smooth, a little slick on the tongue at first. Then they give up the flavor. The grapefruit is a good zesty blast, especially after the pink outside coating comes off. It’s tangy but I wouldn’t call it sour. I usually chew mine, so I was getting a big dose of grapefruit. It’s pretty intense if you eat a lot of them in a row since they use real dry pink grapefruit juice. In fact, after about half the package it was making my tongue vibrate a little bit from the citrus oils. There’s also a little bit of a mentholated after taste, it doesn’t really make them minty, but it does make my breath feel fresher when I inhale.
I would definitely buy these on a regular basis if I can find them reliably.
I saw that Ebidebby found them and Candy for Dinner also The Candy Enthusiast had the Citrus Punch Limited Edition version that included Pink Grapefruit.
Ferrero has changed the packaging just slightly. The old polystyrene that made such a satisfying rattling sound is gone and now they’re using polypropylene which cuts energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Of course it’s also important to reuse and then recycle the packaging when you’re done. The polypropylene is a little softer so the candy boxes don’t crack as easily as they used to. Do you have any tips on what to do with the boxes when you’re done?
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I’ll have a full wrap up when I get home, but instead of writing this morning I’m hitting the road early as we expect bad weather and I wanted to be extra careful on the drive back from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
So I’ll just have to leave you with this dreamy cross section of a Xan Confections “Big Mouth” which is an organic crisp brown rice and marshmallow base with a layer of caramel and homemade peanut butter covered in milk chocolate.
I’m excited to get my samples back to the photo studio and of course start eating them!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
My mother sent me a crazy-big box of holiday candies from Aldi that arrived over the weekend. I’ll have lots more on those (photo here) soon.
The first item I wanted to mention was such an incredible deal. It’s rather generic looking box, designed smartly and spare though a rather vague package about what’s inside. It’s called Chocolate Swiss Assorted Chocolate Squares. (They’re not really squares, but the Swiss aren’t known for their precision, oh, wait, they are.)
The box holds 7.05 ounces and cost $2.29. Inside are about 45 tiny little gold-wrapped chocolate bars in four varieties. The bars are tiny, less than 5 grams each and 1.25 inches long and .75 inches wide.
After spreading out the contents, it looked like miniature stacks of gold bullion. I divided them up to get a sense of the distribution of the flavors. It’s obvious just at a glance that the red labeled ones (Gianduja) are the most prevalent. Then there were almost equal amounts of the Milch and Haselnuss. There were only seven Zartbitter.
The utilitarian color-coded labels say Schweizer Schokolade: Swiss Chocolate.
The cute little bars are perfectly formed. The scent is soft and milky with a light malty note.
The texture is silky smooth and sugary. The dairy flavors are most prominent with the malt and some caramelized notes. The cocoa takes a back seat, providing just a subtle woodsy note and of course the inimitable melt. The bite is quite small, so this was one case where I wanted slightly more from these slight pieces.
This bar was the same as the milch but with the addition of some crushed hazelnuts.
The scent is mostly from the hazenut. There’s a light toasted and cereal note in there. The texture of the chocolate is the same as the milch, soft and creamy but with a strong grassy flavor of the hazelnuts and the crispy crunch of the pieces. Wonderfully snackable.
Gianduja, or gianduia, is a paste made from sugar, chocolate and hazelnuts. Depending on proportions of the ingredients, sometimes it’s solid enough to make into bars. This gianduja is still a bit softer than the milch. There’s no snap at all, it just bends (and as you can see from the photo, gets dented easily).
That softness gives it a quick melt. In this case it has a strong roasted hazelnut flavor and a little bit of cocoa in there. It’s quite sweet, but doesn’t have much grain like some other versions like Milka can. It’s a bit sticky and completely filling.
This is quite a nice looking little bar. It has a very bright snap to it and a smoky scent.
The flavors and texture are very different from the milk varieties. It’s thick and chalky after it melts a bit on the tongue and is a lot like a rich chocolate pudding. It has some strong bitter components and some tea and astringency as well. Sometimes it tastes burnt, like the edge of an overdone brownie. It’s not complex, just kind of a comforting and fleeting bitterness and dryness. I can’t say that I loved it, but I found it a decent counterpoint to the very sweet milk chocolates from time to time.
It’s a great value, when you consider how much a mid-brand large chocolate bar would cost about the same. It’s more than Dove Chocolate Promises or Hershey’s Miniatures, but this is also a variety set that’s pretty hard to find. The ingredients are fair - there are no additional oils in there, but they do use PGPR (though it’s listed after soy lecithin so I have to wonder how much is in it and if it’s in all varieties).
Monday, November 9, 2009
The problem with Mr. Goodbar was that it was never Mr. Greatbar in the first place. When Hershey’s replaced the cocoa butter in it, I completely lost interest. So, I’ve been looking for Mr. Betterbar because I still believed there could be a simple, satisfying combination of milk chocolate and fresh roasted peanuts. When I was at the Target in Harbor City shortly before Halloween I spotted this new bar: Green & Black’s Peanut. Since Green & Black’s is organic and expensive, I thought for sure it was going to be better.
After I got the bar home and photographed it, I read a little closer to see that it wasn’t just a plain milk chocolate with whole (or half) pieces of peanuts. No, this was something quite different but still equally compelling: Milk chocolate with caramelized peanuts and a hint of sea salt - 37% Cocoa Content.
The bar looks smooth and shiny. It also looks darker than most milk chocolate bars, somewhere between a true dark and a milk chocolate. I like how Green & Black’s bars are just a little thicker than the Lindt Excellence or Scharffen Berger. This is great especially when there are inclusions, because it leaves room for them to stack and still be surrounded by chocolate.
The bar smells incredible. It’s deep and smoky with a great authentic peanut scent along with the faint hint of caramelized sugar and milk. The texture is equally great, there’s a silky smooth melt and a sweet dairy flavor along with some dark bitter notes of both chocolate and toasted nuts. The peanut flavors are quite strong, and the nuts themselves are crunchy but there’s also the wonderful surprise of both little buttery toffee bits and a crisp toffee coating on some of the peanuts. The salt is also a nice complement to the flavors, keeping the rather sweet milk chocolate from becoming too sticky and setting off the woodsy notes.
I ate this bar up in less than two days. Then I went looking for another. I still haven’t found one, but when I see it, I’ll buy it. Oddly enough, it’s still not the Mr. Goodbar substitute I was looking for, but I’m going to just be happy with the serendipity that brought it into my life and be grateful that my mistakes are so tasty.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I’ve had a few Hachez chocolate products over the years, though I haven’t written much about them (just this one review). They’re a German chocolate maker (though they have Belgian roots).
My boss was traveling in Europe recently and returned with a stack of candy, and this bar was definitely blog-worthy (all others were tummy-worthy).
The Edel Vollmilch Nuss is a dark milk chocolate bar studded with hazelnuts.
The wrapper is odd in that it doesn’t look like the other Hachez products I’ve seen, which are long narrow bars. However, the classic shield and seal that accompanies the logo is the same. The wrapper here is a heavy and glossy paper wrap with a light drawing of a squirrel holding a nut and some nuts growing on a limb. (And of course the little image of the chocolate bar itself.)
It’s a thick bar, and even so the nuts protrude from the bottom of it in a cobblestone look.
The bar smells smoky and woodsy with a strong grassy hazelnut scent and a slight hint of dairy.
The texture I’ve experience with Hachez before is extremely smooth with no grit and this was no exception. The melt is slick and silky and the twang of the dairy notes were spot on perfect. The notes have a toasted flavor to them that echoes some of the darker notes of the rather dark milk chocolate (37% ... but remember that 24% of the mass of this bar is just hazelnuts).
It’s a wonderful eating bar. The hazelnuts are a little small, but then again there were a lot of them. Every one was roasted to perfection so it was crunchy with just a slight sweet note to it. I enjoyed it simply as a hearty snack and a decadent little treat after dinner. And now it’s gone and I’m going to have to find a way to get them in the United States.
Friday, September 11, 2009
When I was in college at Humboldt State University one summer I house-sat for a friend and as a thank you they gave me some tickets to see Twelfth Night at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. So my best friend and I packed up her rabbit puppet in her yellow Dodge Dart and we hit the road for the journey to Ashland to see the show.
The theatre was in the classic outdoor Elizabethan-style, except for the electric lights and assigned seating. The show was fantastic. In addition they also had an amazing selection of treats and sweets to consume during the show. At an intermission I picked up a roll of Callard & Bowser Licorice Toffee. The roll was long and had individually wax-wrapped pieces. I was ill informed what they were, I was expecting buttery hard candy with a licorice note to it. Instead it was what we call a caramel here in the States and it had a pleasant spicy & woodsy flavor. I ate the whole roll right there during the show.
Over the years I found them here and there but the last time I had some was when I was in London sometime late in the last century.
Callard & Bowser was a British founded in 1837 and the maker of toffees but most notably to Americans are their Altoids mints. They were swallowed up by Kraft, which later spat them back out in 2004 to Wrigley’s ... which in turn was bought out by Mars last year. Somewhere along the way they discontinued the Licorice Toffee. So I no longer look for it. Instead, I’ve been on the prowl for alternatives and found a few promising options to suggest to readers. Today, I present to you the Walkers’ Nonsuch Liquorice Toffee.
Unlike the other Walkers’ Nonsuch Toffees I’ve reviewed so far, these are individually wrapped in twisted paper-backed foil. The wrapper is cute & easy to identify as licorice since it’s a simple black & white design with a checkerboard pattern and red text.
Each little nugget is a little bigger around than a quarter and a lovely lump of sugar, sweetened condensed milk and treacle. It also features real liquorice extract as well as oil of aniseed.
They’re softer than the bar toffees; it’s an immediate stiff chew that softens with heat & mastication. The flavors are buttery and dark - not so much licorice but a soft anise with deep woodsy tones that reminded me of pumpernickel bread and spice cake. It’s smooth and satisfying.
I found the 150 gram (5.3 ounces) package to be completely inadequate (but it’s partly my fault for sharing these with my other licorice loving friends). The good news is that I got them at India Sweets & Spices and have also seen them listed online at The British Food Shop down in Orange County and if I get really desperate I can order online at Licorice International (though more than twice the price I find them locally).
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
It’s odd how I look back into the Candy Blog archives when I pick up a new candy and see how seasonal some of my finds are. Over the weekend I went out to India Sweets & Spices for a tasty & dirt cheap vegetarian Indian lunch. The restaurant (which serves cafeteria-style) is also a grocery store. In their refrigerated section, right next to the yogurt & kefir is where they store their candy. I was pretty pleased to see a large selection of Walkers’ Nonsuch Toffee which I really enjoyed two years ago this week.
They carried the nutted varieties, both Roasted Hazelnut and Brazil Nut plus the Fruit & Nut (raisins in caramel?). I opted for the Roasted Hazelnut Toffee.
The package looked pristine. The last packs I got, and everything I’ve seen on other candy review sites show the bars mushed. This one still had its sections intact - I’m guessing since it was stored in the cooled boxes.
The bar is a big slab weighing 3.5 ounces but only about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide - so it’s a dense mass of boiled sugar and milk. It’s scored into 10 pieces and whacking it on the side of the table seems to split it along those marks ... for the most part. (I hit it one time on one of the nuts and got, well, nutmeal for my troubles.)
The hazelnuts are pressed into each piece - one per piece ... there aren’t more hiding within.
While it’s called toffee in England, here in the United States I consider this caramel. It’s firm but softens easily in the mouth or warmth of your hand and makes a satisfying stiff chew. It stays completely smooth until it’s gone - no graininess at all.
The hazelnuts were roasted to perfection - crunchy, buttery and nutty. The combination of the texture and the burnt sugar notes & butter of the caramel was amazing. I wanted to gobble the bar up, but of course it has a limiting factor on it ... the caramel must be chewed and it takes time.
I wish there were twice as many hazelnuts. But still, pieces without nuts were awesome. No hint of rancid butter or nuts (which I do get sometimes with caramel products). Even better - I got this bar for $1.09 (I paid $1.77 for the last ones I bought). It’s a great deal for a quality product.
If I can’t get this again soon, I might just make my own hazelnut caramels.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.