Thursday, August 5, 2010
On my recent trip to Ohio I was delighted to visit the local Aldi twice. I was worried there wouldn’t be much candy in the summertime, as I know that Christmas and Easter are the best time to visit Aldi’s candy section. I wasn’t disappointed with the variety of candy. I’ll have coverage in the coming weeks of many of my finds, but first the one that I was most excited about: Choceur Chocolate Crisp Bars.
This cute box holds a compact stack of little chocolate covered wafers with hazelnut creme. There are 10 little bars in there, each portion is two bars, but each finger is only 95 calories for those watching their tally.
The package describes them as crisp wafers and hazelnut creme covered in fine milk chocolate. What that amounts to is a hazelnut KitKat knock-off.
The little fingers are nicely wrapped in a stiff paper-backed foil. They’re 4.5 inches long and about .75 inches wide. They pieces are in three distinct segments though each of those is more than a bite.
I admit that I had a little trouble with keeping these from the heat. (No air conditioning for the first five days of my trip.) My other goods did fine, but for some reason the way I packed these wasn’t insulated enough. However, the texture and consistency is unmarred.
They smell slightly toasty and sweet with a little milky note. The bite is soft and very crispy. The hazelnut cream is a lot more forward than the cream filling in KitKats. The cream is in between the wafer layers (looks like only two layers instead of KitKat’s three) but also heaped under the domed top, too. The milk chocolate coating is sweet and has that European dairy twang to it. The crispy wafers are light and flavorless which allows the hazelnut cream to be the most recognizable note. There’s also a slight malty flavor to it all. The crisp and airy wafers along with the slightly sticky-sweet chocolate actually makes a good combination. A single bar isn’t quite enough to satisfy on its own, but again, two are the recommended dosage.
The price is great, they’re $1.79 for the box of 10, which means that each bar is about 18 cents. That’s a crazy good deal for a real chocolate product. (It also says on the package that there are no preservatives or artificial colors - but it’s not like it’s all natural or a particularly great list of ingredients which include fake vanilla and palm oil, albeit low on the list.)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Marzipan Bites are elegantly simple little marzipan blocks covered in dark chocolate. The ingredients are simple and encouraging: Sugar, almonds, chocolate liquor, water, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and invertase. So it looks like it may be a fun candy for vegans. (The package does say that it’s processed on equipment with other tree nuts, milk and wheat though, so might not be good for those with milk allergies or gluten issues.)
The long box has a gold plastic tray inside with two compartments holding five pieces each.
The gold and red foil wrapper is simple but elegant and thankfully has a clear label that says what’s inside. (I can see buying several of these Choceur items and then taking them out of the package and putting them in a bowl or on a serving plate with cookies.)
L?becker Edel Marzipan means marzipan from L?beck, a city in Northern Germany. The style there has some strict requirements such as the sugar content should not exceed 30% (making the product at least 70% almonds). L?beck is best known for the Niederegger confectionery (whose marzipan is among my favorites).
The pieces are a stylish two bites. They’re long and narrow - about 1.75 inches long, .75 inches wide and .5 inches high. The dark chocolate enrobing is thin but shiny and well tempered. The scent of dark chocolate is most forward upon opening the wrapper. When I bit into it, that’s when the almond flavors emerged, a bit like almond extract. Happily they dissipated quickly and the pure almond paste was left behind.
I liked the texture of it quite a bit, it’s not the smooth and doughy paste the shapes are usually made from, instead it’s a bit grainier than that. It’s moist and has a good authentic nutty almond flavor that includes those sort of toasted notes that are often drowned out by flavorings. It was very fresh and clean tasting and for someone who doesn’t usually enjoy marzipan, especially when it’s not flavored by things like orange, ginger, coffee or lemon this was quite a revelation.
Each piece is about 60 calories and being mostly almonds, it’s not as bad a treat as many others that you can indulge in over the winter holidays and is quite filling. (There are 4 grams of protein per serving of three pieces.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
In this case the tray holds to columns of the little bricks of praline chocolate bites, 14 in all.
I had these all wrong, all wrong. I thought from the description and the kind of vague illustration that they were a little hazelnut praline (toasted nut paste with caramelized sugar) covered in milk chocolate. When I first opened them I thought, these are really light in color. I thought there’s no way they can be chocolatey.
And it’s true. They aren’t chocolate, it’s a single block of just the nougat. The ingredients go like this: Hazelnut paste, sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, nonfat milk powder, chocolate liquor, malt extract and soy lecithin. See, there’s barely any chocolate in there at all.
Then I realized I was thinking these were going to be gianduia, in the sense that they’d be a chocolate and hazelnut block. Instead they’re a hazelnut and milk block. Quite different. Once I adjusted my thinking, once I adjusted my expectations I realized that these are ingenious little cubes.
They’re only 1 inch long and .75 inches square. The color is like a milky coffee. They smell extremely sweet, a little like toasted hazelnuts and milk. It’s quite soft and melts easily (thank goodness we’re at the time of year when the unheated parts of my house hover around 60 degrees).
At first on the tongue it’s milky and melts into a cool and slick puddle. Then the hazelnut flavors emerge. It’s not as intensely hazelnut as many other gianduia candies that I prefer. Instead this is just a much better version of Ice Cubes, using the native hazelnut oils and cocoa butter for the rich fats instead of other tropical oils.
I didn’t find them terribly substantial in the end and found myself preferring the marzipan (which is kind of a shock after all of these years of proclaiming I don’t like marzipan). But the demonstration of a confection with so much cocoa butter that’s not specifically “white chocolate” is charming and worthy. I’d probably prefer it if it accompanied something a bit stronger, maybe had a dark chocolate coating or if I just at it with some salty shortbread or strong coffee.
The calorie count on these is much higher due to the fat. Each is only 55 calories, but they’re smaller than the Marzipan bites so they clock in at 178 calories per ounce.
Rating: 6 out of 10
These are two decent finds from Choceur that would be fun additions to a holiday candy bowl.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
So far I’ve enjoyed my latest bundle of Aldi confections that my mother sent to me from Ohio. Two of the heftier items in the package are the long boxes of Choceur After Dinner Mints. I quite liked the Choceur items I’ve picked up before, especially since they’re nicely packaged into individual servings. (Each mint is 45 calories.)
The “mints” come in two flavors: Orange and Peppermint with the boxes handily color-coded in orange and green respectively.
I liked the orange box because it captures the holiday vibe without resorting to red and green. It’s just an orange box with brown accents and a variety of white & brown snowflakes around the edges.
Inside the box it’s rather like every other box of after dinner mints I’ve had, such as After Eight and the Divine After Dinner Mints (which was fair trade and also had a nice design). The Orange After Dinner Mnits box weighs a hefty 10.5 ounces, kind of like a narrow brick. Each piece is tucked into an open brown glassine sleeve. Each sleeve reminds me that it is the Finest Quality, as if there could be some little folders that didn’t have that notation that contained sub-standard quality candies.
They’re two inches long and one and a quarter inches wide. They’re have a nicely rippled top and a decent chocolate scent with a touch of orange. However, once I bit into it the orange flavor is overwhelming. The dark chocolate has a thin layer of soft & smooth fondant inside. It’s a “whole orange” flavor with both juice and zest notes and reminds me more of the Jaffa orange candies I’ve had from the United Kingdom. The chocolate texture is creamy has a touch of cocoa bittersweetness, but mostly the flavor here is orange and a pure blast of sugar.
It’s a welcome change from the traditional mint and the orange does leave a clean and refreshed feeling. I liked them better in memory, not in practice though. I felt better about them after I was done while the zest was still kind of lingering, not while I was eating them.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The ingredients are pretty clean: Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Glucose Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Invertase, Soy Lecithin and Peppermint Oil. (However, this is also exactly what the Orange ones say, right down to the peppermint oil.) They’re made in Germany and feature the Aldi “Double Quality Guarantee” which means that if you don’t like it, they’ll give you your money back and another of the item. (You know, just so you can make sure you didn’t like it.) Honestly I had no issues with the quality of any of their items ... it’s often that they’re just not to my tastes.
While I found the Orange ones far too orangey, the mint ones were just right. I felt like I could taste the chocolate, which was dark and roasty as well as the clear peppermint flavor. The texture of the fondant was light and crisp. It was like they were flattened Junior Mints. With more chocolate by proportion than a Junior Mint but packing all the minty power.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Though I liked the design of the box from a graphics standpoint, it wasn’t actually substantial enough for something that holds so much candy. When the package is full and the stabilizing force of the shrink-wrap is gone, it was clear that the paperboard wasn’t built well enough. The single flap of the top and the simple folded over edges meant that the box had to be picked up carefully, best with two hands when full, or else the top would fold open and the candies spill out. Serving from it is good but putting them out in a large quantity inside their little sleeves is kind of problematic as they’re slippery.
Both are great hostess gifts and a really inexpensive item to include in a coffee when having friends over or easy thing to bring to an office to-do. (Note, I say they’re inexpensive but I don’t have the price info, so I can only guess that these are less than $4.00 for a box.)
These are not Kosher but are vegetarian and should be considered vegan (invertase is listed on the ingredients, which is an enzyme produced by bees, but for industrial food purposes is almost always made via yeast for cost savings).
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, January 5, 2009
I discovered for myself then what all the buzz about Aldi markets was about. Like Trader Joe’s (owned by the same family), Aldi has “house brands” of confections. I sampled quite a bit of their Choceur (Luxury Mini Chocolate Bars and Coffee & Cream) already so when my mother offered to send me some more, I took her up on the offer.
Moser-Roth is a German chocolate company, and I couldn’t find much on them except that they’ve been around since 1902 and most recently were bought up by Storck (who make Werther’s, Toffeefay, Riesen and Mambas) in 2007 - well, that’s what the German Wikipedia says, the Storck website makes no mention of it. I’ve never seen them anywhere but Aldi here in the United States. (Maybe someone who knows German better can help out with that, even the translators don’t make it much clearer whether Aldi just has them under contract or bought them.)
The package doesn’t give much information about the company, but does say a little about the chocolate itself: The chocolate is made from the finest quality ingredients, carefully prepared according to a classic recipe. Chocolate lovers will savor the strong aroma of dark chocolate blended with the best South American cocoas.
The packaging is one of my favorite styles. It’s a paperboard box/sleeve that holds a hefty 4.4 ounces but packaged in five smaller single portion bars.
Each little bar is wrapped in a light paper-backed foil. It doesn’t say much on it, not even what kind of bar it is, just Privat Chocolatiers and then on the side it has a little warning: may contain traces of nuts and/or dairy products.
The little bars are the perfect weight, as far as I’m concerned, each is .88 ounces and about 145 calories.
The scent is a light woodsy and coffee aroma. The color was a little dead, a little on the gray side of brown instead of red. It has a distinctive snap and crunch, I was concerned it would be chalky. But it melts nicely. It’s a little tangy but not fruity and buttery - kind of like cashews or pistachios.
As a little indulgence they’re extremely satisfying. I didn’t feel the need to start another bar after the first one for several days.
Like the dark, this little sleeve holds five .88 ounce individually wrapped bars. Part of the description goes like this: In this variety, bits of buttery golden toffee are encased in fine milk chocolate made from select cocoa varieties. This extraordinary combination gives the smooth chocolate its refined crisp, making it pure enjoyment for chocolate lovers.
Like most milk chocolates, this had a much softer snap than the dark chocolate.
The bar was pristine, nicely tempered and glossy smooth. The little nuggets of toffee were pretty easy to spot even before I took a bite.
It smells rather sweet and milky. The bite is soft and immediately sweet and creamy with a strong dairy flavor. The toffee crunches are exactly that, crunches with a distinct buttery flavor that made me think they were butterscotch flavor for a while it was so strong.
The velvety milk chocolate was a bit sweet for me, though I liked the slightly salty crunch, I would have prefered just a little less sugar here.
This bar is rather similar to the Dove Peanut Toffee Crunch (though obviously no peanuts here). But it’s also a bit of a better deal if the price on these is the same as the dark one.
The box is nicely made but perhaps a little downscale for what’s actually inside.
The photo doesn’t give a good sense of the scale here. The box is 4.5” across and 2.5” tall.
The height made more sense once I opened it. Inside each little truffle is wrapped in foil & tissue, with a little gather at the top. It reminded me of some Caffarel Eggs I got from Williams-Sonoma after Easter last year (never reviewed, just photographed & eaten).
The little eggs are, well, little. They’re molded with the name Moser-Roth on one side and little squirlies all over. They’re about 1.25” tall. The wrappings protected every last one of them.
This is pretty much the same as the Lindt Lindor 60% Extra Dark
I’ve never seen high fat milk powder, but it sounds awesome.
It was easy for me to bite them gently along the seam to cleave them in twain. Inside there’s a chocolate creme.
The outer shell is a nicely smooth very dark chocolate with a distinct bitter edge to it. The cream filling is less flavorful but achingly silky. Like the Lindor 60% Dark Truffles and some other vegetable oil based truffles, they’re a little “empty” tasting. But in the case of these the proportions are more equal with the chocolate shell and filling, so I got more flavor from them.
As a little indulgence they’re also pretty low in calories - only 52 each versus the 70 for a Lindor ... simply because of the size.
If there’s an Aldi near you, these are a great Valentine’s or Easter treat. (I don’t know if they were a Christmas item or an every day one.)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
While in Ohio popped into an Aldi’s market as my mother had scouted out their candy section for me. This international chain is kind of like Trader Joe’s or Fresh & Easy, offering low prices for standard and gourmet fare with most products under house brands and a rather warehouse-style shopping environment.
One of Aldi’s brands of confections is called Choceur and is priced so well that I was dubious that it could be any good at all. But they have a Double Quality Guarantee, which means if I don’t like it, they’ll give me another and my money back.
This box was called Choceur Luxury Mini Chocolate Bars and described on the front as Bittersweet chocolate bars with hazelnuts and rice crisps in a chocolate creme filling.
Inside the box are 11 little bars, which are more like sticks. They’re about 3.5 inches long and .75 inches wide and .5 inches tall. Each is nicely molded with a simple design on top and made the trip from Ohio, through Pennsylvania and back to California without incident. Each little bar has 100 calories (and unlike the 100 Calorie Chocolate Bars I wrote about yesterday, the packaging here has the appropriate balance of protecting the product, advertising the contents and not taking up more space than it needs to).
The little sticks have a sweet hazelnut and chocolate aroma.
The bite is soft, the center is a buttery light chocolate cream with little crisped rice bits and crushed hazelnuts. The hazelnut flavor isn’t overwhelming, not quite as intense as Baci or a true gianduia, but amazingly satisfying.
The chocolate is silky and smooth, but doesn’t have a lot of pop to it. It doesn’t detract from the bar much, it just supports the texture and gives a small bittersweet background to the sweet creme center.
Overall, for the price these are amazing. They’re the perfect little treat for coffee or tea, an afternoon snack or something to tuck into a lunch without breaking the bank. Or a hostess gift or perhaps dump them out of the box and put them in Christmas stockings. Are there better versions of this out there? Sure, but even Ferrero Rocher or Perugina Baci costs about $6 for the same amount but most of that is packaging and you’re not likely to see commercials for these.
I have another Choceur bar that I bought at the same time that I’m quite eager to try ... especially since this box is almost gone.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.