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
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Name: Take Five
If I were to create the perfect candy bar, a great snack bar that would give me energy and taste good, it would contain the following: chocolate, pretzels, caramel and nuts. It’d be a great mix of simple carbs, fat and protein so as not to overwhelm the bloodstream with too much sugar. In my world it’d be a super turtle with a pretzel base, chewy caramel then pecans all covered in semi-sweet chocolate.
On a visit to the Chocolate Homeworld, er, sorry, Chocolate World in Hershey on New Year’s Day, this was the sample they gave us at the end of the ride. I quickly bargained with the other people in our party for theirs.
Hershey’s is dang close with the Take 5 bar. It’s got a pretzel center covered with peanut butter then a layer of caramel, a few chopped peanuts and then it’s all enrobed in milk chocolate. (Maybe I got that order wrong, it’s hard to tell.) The proportions are solid and the pretzel has got a great salty kick. If anything, the milk chocolate is a little sweet, but the salt on the pretzels and the slight saltiness of the peanut butter (which tastes like the center of a Reese’s ... maybe sweeter) balances well. If it only came in dark chocolate I might be in heaven.
The packaging is good, there are two little pieces in a tray and sealed in a the plastic packaging so they stay intact and are easy to slide out. I really wish they could figure out how to make this without hydrogenated oils, though it’s pretty far down on the list of ingredients and doesn’t show up on the nutrition part. For now I’ll keep buying it when I need a little boost during the day. It’s especially good with a morning cup of coffee, as I’m having the second piece right now.
As far as I’m concerned this bar could have lots of versions. A pecan/maple version, a pecan/dark chocolate turtle one, maybe white chocolate and walnuts or macadamias (not really for me, but a solid combo - I know that a white version of this same bar exists but I haven’t seen it yet) then another version with mint cookies and almonds.
Rating - 9 out of 10 (just make a dark version or a pecan one!)
UPDATE 9/2/2008: Sometime when I wasn’t looking (I photographed it last summer again) the Hershey’s Take 5 left the list of chocolate candy bars and joined the growing list of Hershey’s Real Mockolate.
The package now says: made with chocolate & pretzels & caramel & peanuts & peanut butter. That “made with chocolate” part means that the coating may contain chocolate, but it has other additives such as vegetable oils that mean that it’s not pure chocolate. The actual chocolate as an ingredient comes far down on the list as the number 6 item, after vegetable oils and high fructose corn sweetener and before nonfat milk (you can imagine there’s not that much milk in there).
The bars actually still look quite fetching. Little rather rectangular lumps with a pleasant sweet & peanutty scent.
Mine were exceptionally fresh, the pretzel was good and crunchy, a nice salty complement to the sweet coating. The coating didn’t have much flavor but did add a creamy texture.
This one was passably good, but I’ve had others in the past few months (I picked them out of a mix of snack size in a bowl at the office a couple of times) and I didn’t realize why they were kind of empty tasting for what I remembered. I just thought they were stale ... turns out that they’re just not designed to be good any longer.
Hershey’s still has an opportunity to reverse this and make it real chocolate again.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Name: Green Tea and Black Sugar Caramels
I know, you must think me obsessed with caramels. But they are one of the most perfect expressions of sugar and fat. Soft, yielding, bursting with sugary flavor that lingers in the crevices of your mouth. They’re great for summer too, since they’re not subject to the temperature extremes of chocolate.
As promised, I’m ready to share my Japanese finds from my recent shipment.
First is Morinaga’s Kokutou Caramel. This is what’s known as a black sugar caramel, or probably what westerners know of as brown sugar or molasses. This caramel is darker than the milk caramels I’ve tried from Japan. It has a slightly rummy aroma and a definite molasses bite to it when chewing. It’s a really nice, smooth caramel with a good finish. There’s no molasses bitterness either. It’s not sticky, but plenty chewy with a good milky consistency.
Morinaga also makes a Matcha Caramel, which is a green tea flavored caramel. The nugget is definitely green. It smells of green tea and tastes just like green tea ice cream, with that same smooth roasted flavor and slight bitter tinge. Unfortunately after chewing for a while, it feels a little grainy and slightly bitter, like there are real ground up leaves in there. That aside, they’re quite addictive and both caramels complement each other well - so I can just alternate between the two all afternoon.
Rating: Kokutou Caramel - 8 out of 10
Monday, July 04, 2005
Name: Twix Dark Chocolate
You know what I like about Mars products? They have an expiration date. When I’m buying candy at a place where it might have been sitting around for a while (read: Liquor Store), I kind of like to know if I’m eating something ten years old.
This one was supposedly fresh, but the chocolate seemed slightly chalky. The liquor store had it’s doors wide open and it is now July, so I’m guessing climate control is not as important to them as getting people into the store.
Twix have been around for quite a few years (1979). I remember their introduction and walking to the corner store near the junior high and buying one. I was just mad about the $100,000 Bar and the Marathon Bar at the time and this seemed like a good evolution. But when I eat them they’re always too sweet. I don’t know what it is, I think that the cookie should be a pretzel or something and have a salty element to it. But that’d be a different candy bar and Mars has been very successful with the Twix and who am I to tinker with the recipe?
Well, Dark Chocolate Twix to the rescue! Where the milk chocolate in the classic Twix is cloying, the dark chocolate here has a slight bitter and smoky taste that complements the caramel and sweet cookie very well. I’m sure if the chocolate was fresh it’d taste even better.
I hope they add these to their repetoire permanently. I’d actually buy them.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Name: Wha Guru Chew
Reading over the ingredients list, I’m wondering what this has to do with the Yogi Bhajan. But I suppose even the most enlightened among us wants a sweet now and then. While there’s nothing bad about these caramel nut bars, they contain no trans fat and use brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice instead of corn syrup, I’m struggling with the health food aspects of this. Aw hell, let’s just call it candy and be done with it.
These are fab. I can’t tell you how fab these are. The caramel is flavorful and soft, the nuts are fresh and crunchy and the smell is pure buttery sweetness. The only problem I have with them is that they’re very soft, so you taking them out of the package is nearly impossible and even getting the package open without scissors ended up too much of a challenge for me.
Cashew Vanilla - the right sweet notes of vanilla blended with buttery cashews. There are also sunflower seeds in here, which add an extra crunch and earthy taste to the bar to balance the sweetness of the caramel. A little touch of salt balances it all out.
Almond Ginger - it doesn’t smell quite as inviting as the cashew vanilla bar (I don’t think ginger smells that good inherently, as it has a rooty/earthy smell). But biting into this bar wipes away any hesitation that this bar will be as good as the former. The ginger pops out as a spicy base for the sugary caramel and the mild almonds. A slight trace of lemon zest links all the flavors together well.
Peanut Cashew - this one diverges from the recipe of the above two which are sweetened primarily with brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice. This is sweetened with clover honey (and barley malt syrup). This honey base makes for a less viscous caramel but really amps up the flavor. The first tone you get upon biting into it is a strong orange essence. In addition to the peanuts and cashews are sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Of the three this was my least favorite, though still worthy of trying.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
I can’t fault the candy manufacturers trying to tweak their most popular candies instead of reinventing the wheel. Sometimes they arrive at something that’s as good or even better than the original.
In the spirit of my recent review of the White Chocolate Reese’s, I picked up a few other reduxes.
Name: Nestle Crunch Dark
Very fresh, the crisps were crunchy and the bar was glossy and smooth. The chocolate was not waxy, but didn’t really have the melt-in-your mouth feel. The chocolate content was pretty good, but not quite enough to soothe me completely. Maybe it was a little sweet.
On the whole, I think crunch bars are perfect the way they are. Milk chocolate and crisped rice are perfect together. Why mess with it?
Name: White Chocolate Kit Kat
Again, there was nothing wrong with the original Kit Kat. This white Kit Kat seems a bit saltier, which helps to balance the bland sweetness of the white chocolate. It’s not something that I’d be interested in again.
Name: Milky Way Midnight
First, I congratulate them for spelling midnight correctly. This bar was very fresh but reminded me that I never cared much for Milky Ways because they’re too cloyingly sweet. I like Snickers, mostly because they mixing sweet and savory. Also, I don’t like candy bars that are too much sugar and not enough fat (and maybe a little protein thrown in). So, in that respect the dark version is much more successful. The richer taste of the chocolate balances the caramel and bland nougat much better.
I have to say, after having plenty of imported candies and things from the remainders at the 99 cent stores, having fresh candy really makes a difference. Even a middle-of-the-road candy like Hershey’s Kisses are better when they’re fresh. Candy’s a treat - if you are going to use those “discretionary” calories on something with no nutritional value, choose something fresh and satisfying. Life too short for bad dessert.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Name: Hi-SOFT Caramel and Milk Caramel
First, I give high marks to Morinaga’s packaging team. Like the Hi-CROWN chocolate, the Hi-SOFT caramel comes in a spiffy hard box, perfect for carrying in a pocket or purse and fun to flip open to share. I’m not sure how many caramel products Morinaga markets, but these are just two I’ve found.
Of the two, I prefer the taste and texture of the yellow box Milk Caramel. Both are soft and chewy without being grainy, but the milky smoothness of the Milk Caramel far outweighs the Hi-SOFT’s keen box. Of course nothing will ever top the happy fat cows that got me started on the Japanese caramels.
In fact, of all the caramels I’ve tasted over the past few months, I like the Milk Caramel best. Looking over the ingredients it has the right mix of sugar and milk products, a dash of salt and something I didn’t expect - tea extract.
Rating: Hi-SOFT - 6 out of 10; Milk Caramel - 8 out of 10
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Name: Super Butter Caramel
I’ve never had better caramels than my grandmother’s and for commercially produced ones I’ve usually opted for See’s. However, I loved this package. The fat little cows just made me laugh.
Inside the package is a tray that fits two caramels across, tiny little cubes that resemble chicken bullion more than candy. They’re a bit grainy but definitely have the super-butter element to their credit.
When I went back to the same store, I couldn’t find them there on the shelf. As far as recommendation goes, if they were sitting around, I’d eat them.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.