Thursday, September 22, 2005
Both Hershey and Nestle recently introduced their standard chocolate bars now stuffed with a caramel center. If they could stuff two different candies into one, I can stuff two bars into one review.
Hershey seems to have changed their chocolate recipe. Maybe it’s like the New Coke. Many of their products, including their limited edition line are sporting something they call “Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate” but here it’s called simply “Creamy Milk Chocolate.” It’s definitely different than the chocolate I’m accustomed to in my Kisses.
This is a four segment bar with a little filling of soft, flowing caramel. The chocolate is very sweet and doesn’t really smell like much, but the caramel has a nice toasty scent to it. It’s rather runny, so instead of biting each segment in half, I’d recommend stuffing the whole thing in your mouth. It’s got a little salty tang to it, but mostly it’s a very sweet bar.
(After writing all of this I realized I should probably pick up some Rolos and find out how different this bar is from them.)
Since the Crunch bar is the centerpiece of the American Nestle brand, it only makes sense that they’d put caramel inside of it eventually. This bar has three beefy segments. The bottom layer of chocolate is very thick, about half the height of this bar and contains a good amount of crisped-rice crunchies. The rest of the chocolate coating does not have crisps in it.
This caramel center is less runny than the Hershey’s but is immediately saltier. I checked the label and it has twice the sodium content of the Hershey’s. The salt is actually a nice counterpoint to the exceptionally sweet Nestle chocolate. The crisps really aren’t as dense as you’d find in a regular Crunch bar, which is kind of disappointing. This bar had a bit more of a cardboard flavor to the chocolate and it was so sweet that it made my throat hurt. Though I love Nestle’s European chocolate, I really don’t care much for the American stuff because of the lack of chocolatey flavor to it.
If I could, I’d put the caramel from the Nestle version in the Hershey version and call it a great bar. As it is now, both are good bars but nothing mind-blowing for me. The Five Star bar holds my heart right now for caramel bars.
Ratings - Hershey with Caramel - 7 out of 10
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I’ve always been a huge fan of Goetze’s Caramel Creams (often referred to as Bulls-eyes), not really because of the caramel, but because of the incredible cream.
The cream in the center of a caramel cream really isn’t creamy, it’s intensely sweet but very light and has this intense cooling effect in the mouth. I don’t see Goetze’s very often in Los Angeles but I do pick them up a couple times a year when I do.
Cow Tales (I don’t know why they’re Tales and not Tails ... though the website does tell part of the history) are very similar to the famous Caramel Creams. The main difference is the shape. Imagine a very long (about 7 1/2”) rope of caramel that’s actually a tube filled with the famous caramel cream. It doesn’t look like much when you take it out the wrapper. It’s soft and bendy and has a light dusting of corn starch to keep it from sticking.
The most interesting thing about Goetze’s caramel is that it’s nothing like any other caramel I’ve ever had. In fact, I hesitate to call it true caramel as the first ingredient is not sugar, butter or cream or even corn syrup, but WHEAT FLOUR. So really, the caramel is more like a cookie dough, which is a pretty cool flavor. It has a good chew without any stickiness. It’s sweet, but also pretty mellow. There are not carmelized sugar notes to it, just a consistent floury vanilla taste.
My favorite way to eat Caramel Creams is to turn them inside out onto my tongue so that I can eat the cream first and then I follow it with the caramel husk. The Cow Tales make that a bit harder, so I just ate it as the good candy-maker intended, biting off pieces and chewing. The combination of the mellow caramel and the sweet center is really nice.
Given a choice, I’m going to stick with the familiar caramel creams. They’re easier to share and it’s easier to choose how to eat each caramel. On the west coast I can usually find Goetze’s products at Rite Aid (which is based in Camp Hill, PA, only about one hour from the Goetze’s factory). On a slightly related note, Rite Aid usually carries Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, too.
Rating - 6 out of 10 (for the record, Caramel Creams are an 8 out of 10)
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
I don’t know if this bar is sold at this little candy shop at the Pittsburgh airport because it’s called Sky Bar or because they carry a lot of other hard to find nostalgia candies (they didn’t have Valomilks, but they did have Cow Tales). I’d seen these when I was growing up, but was never really interested in them, as I’d always assumed that they were the candy bar version of Whitman’s Samplers.
It turns out that it’s not far off from that. The bar is undeniably pretty. Four joined pieces of candy, with pretty domed tops, fluting up the sides and the Necco logo on top. Unlike Necco wafers, where you never know what you’ll get in the roll, the Sky Bar is consistent. The far left piece (if you set your bar like the package shows you) is caramel. Not a chewy caramel, it’s a sweet, sticky concoction with a nice salty hint and good carmelized sugar notes. The next one over is by far the least interesting to me, the vanilla cream. Slightly light, very sweet and rather bland, it simply brings out the rather cardboard notes in the milk chocolate. After that is peanut which I think is their masterpiece. This is not a peanut butter, like you’d think, it looks like caramel and is smooth but has the wonderful roasted taste of peanuts and a good hit of salt to balance out all the other sweets. The last section is fudge. Sweet and with that slightly cooling grain to it, the fudge is nice and not too sweet but suffers from the same blandness of the whole bar - too much sugar and not enough chocolate in the chocolate.
I can see how this bar was so successful for so long. Steve Almond talks about the history of the bar in Candy Freak (chapter 2), that it was one of the most popular bars on the east coast and had a prominent billboard in Times Square which was re-lit at the end of WWII. As a bit of nostalgia, it’s fun. But it’s not my nostalgia, I have not particular affinity for it, so it’s merely an experience for me. It’s probably a great bar to share with friends (as long as there actually is something for everyone) and probably speaks to people who really like variety in their candy.
Rating - 5 out of 10
Monday, September 12, 2005
Name: Five Star Bar - Caramel
A few weeks ago I did a radio interview and on the show Steve Almond gave the host a Five Star Bar. Steve had also featured the bar in his book Candy Freak, so I was already aware of its virtues. Still, I’d not seen one in person. I did get a gift over the holidays though, of a little package of their milk and dark chocolate squares, which were very nice and smooth.
The bar has it all. It’s a hefty little log, about as wide as it is high and twice as long as that. At two ounces, it’s bigger than your normal candy bar, but smaller than a king-size. It’s not quite gourmet, but too good for the regular candy shelf.
Upon biting into it there’s an intense explosion of caramel. The first ingredient on the package is CREAM, so you know how fatty and smooth this bar has got to be. The caramel has a good carmelize sugar taste to it, without going too far into toffee land. It’s very sticky and smooth. Inside there are nuts and a few dark chocolate bits (not enough for me, but you know, who am I to quibble with something so positively reviewed).
One thing’s for sure, I’m going to try all their Five Star Bars. For the record, my husband also picked up the Java Truffle Bar and a Peppermint Bark (I don’t have the package in front of me and their website is down). The Java bar is really nice, with a good smokey coffee flavor to it and it’s not too sweet (and made with dark chocolate). The mint one is really smooth but not quite minty enough for me.
Interesting note - I give high marks to all candies with the word five in their name. Coincidence?
Rating - 9 out of 10 (they’re really expensive)
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Name: Curly Wurly
Upon reading Steve Almond’s Candy Freak (one of these days I’ll put up a comprehensive review), I found out that the discontinued bar from the 70s called Marathon is kind of available in the UK as Cadbury’s Curly Wurly.
The concept behind this bar is simple. A loosely braided caramel plank is covered in milk chocolate.
And they did it beautifully. The bar smells of carmelized sugar, very sweet. The caramel is soft but plenty chewy. I find it’s important to give the bar a good bite or else you’ll end up with little bits of chocolate flaking off on your clothes.
Now, with that out of the way, does anyone else know what curly wurly means? I’m familiar with it from the lyrics to Blinded by the Light:
Tell me, what is this curly wurly that Early Pearly is riding in?
Rating - 8 out of 10 (it’s gotta be easier to find for me to give it tops)
Friday, August 5, 2005
Name: White Chocolate Take 5
I own a lot of clothes with chocolate stains on them. However, I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to drive me to convert to white chocolate. In another revamp of a current candy bar with white chocolate, here is the Take 5 White Chocolate (limited edition).
What I noticed most about this bar was the peanut butter taste to it. Let’s face it, white chocolate is not a flavor. Chocolate is a flavor, but white chocolate is like deodorized chocolate ... and deflavored while we’re at it. All the fat and sugar and none of the tasty/healthy cocoa solids.
The good news is that Hershey is using real white chocolate - you’re wondering what that means? Well, in order for chocolate to be chocolate it needs to contain cocoa solids (basically cocoa) and cocoa butter (that fat that is solid at room temp and melts at body temp). White chocolate really has no definition, but purists prefer white chocolate that’s actually made with cocoa butter because it’s such a neat fat. Hershey is using real cocoa butter for their white chocolate and it shows in this bar (if they’d only use real vanilla, we might really have a winner).
The bar has an overwhelming sweet peanut smell and taste. I’m guessing that the milk chocolate Take 5 has more of a balance between flavors, but because there is no chocolate flavor here, only texture, the peanut butter and peanuts dominate (that’s not a bad thing, if you like peanuts). The pretzels really stood out as a flavor (they’re a bit lost in the regular Take 5) and the crisp and salt was a great contrast to the sweet, sticky caramel and white chocolate.
I was surprised at how good this bar was. It’s still not my thing but if you’re a nut lover and want something satisfying like chocolate without the actual cocoa, then this might be for you. Again, if Hershey’s really wants to win me over (okay, it’s not like I’m boycotting them or anything after the Twosomes Whoppers) they should make a dark chocolate pecan version of this.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Name: Junior Caramels
What took the Junior line so long to expand? Apparently they’ve been around for a while, but not everywhere (I guess they’re sold in Canada?).
Junior is currently owned by Tootsie Roll. Junior Mints have long been a favorite of mine. For the record, I like them equally as well as peppermint patties - their fillings are rather different with the only similarities being they’re both white and mint flavored.
Junior Caramels are just soft caramel balls about the size of a garbanzo bean in chocolate. What’s good about them is that the caramel is actually soft and chewy, unlike Milk Duds, which I think must be subsidized by the dental care industry because they’re probably designed for pulling out fillings. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Milk Duds ... especially since they started using real milk chocolate on them, but Milk Duds don’t love me.)
You can pop more than one in your mouth at a time. But they’re kind of fun to bite in half, too.
The caramel in the Junior Caramel doesn’t have that good burnt sugar/toffee taste that Milk Duds do, but they’re still a good chew. They’re sweet and need a little something to counter that. I’ve been eating this huge box with some raw almonds and pretzels, I’ve found it’s a good combo. I haven’t tried them yet at the movies, but I’d think that they’re the perfect movie candy because each one takes a while to chew and actually goes well with popcorn.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Other resources - find a rerun of this episode of Unwrapped to see them made!
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Name: Nestle Toll House Candy Bars
If you’ve got a jones for sugar and something a little more satisfying than a candy bar, this might be the thing. Inside is a dense, crumbly cookie bar topped with caramel then a few chocolate chips and all enrobed in sweet milk chocolate.
The cookie part of the treat was least impressive. Because it was so thick it lacked that cookie feel and tasted more like a blondie and had no strong flavor of its own besides sweet. The caramel was non-existent, as it’d been absorbed by the cookie part and had no distinct chewy-ness to it. The occassional chocolate chip was a nice addition as it provided some actual flavor. The milk chocolate coating is all sweet and milky, but no real chocolate taste. What makes a Toll House cookie is the balance of the sweet and bland cookie to the complex pop of the dark chips.
There’s none of that here.
However, I still enjoyed the bar and found it rather satisfying. If I had anything to say about it, I think I’d suggest leaving the caramel out and maybe making the cookie just a smidge saltier. I’ll give the brownie bar a try to see if the flavor balance on that one is bit better. I’ve also seen that Hershey started selling cookies a while back (I’ve had the York ones and enjoyed them quite a bit) so I’ll have to check those out.
Rating - 6 out of 10
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