Tuesday, February 21, 2006
I think it might be marshmallow day here at CandyBlog.net.
Last week I was at the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax to meet up with some other bloggers and I knew I had to stop at Littlejohn’s Candies because a reader told me they had the best toffee. Of course once I got there my eyes were drawn to these plump caramel kisses - soft caramel drenching a puffy marshmallow. I completely forgot about the toffee.
So, I got two, one in chocolate and one in vanilla. (And a pecan praline which was divine and I ate before I could take a photo of it.) I figured I can always go back for more toffee ... and another pecan praline.
Once I opened the wrapper it was obvious that these caramels were made with lots and lots of butter. They were creamy, very smooth and exceptionally sweet with a slight hit of salt to it. The marshmallow center was smooth and light without being too foamy. The center also wasn’t very sweet, so it gave a nice backdrop to let the caramel dominate the flavor stage. The chocolate caramel wasn’t as tasty to me, there wasn’t enough chocolate to set it apart from the regular caramel and I plan on sticking to the vanilla in the future.
These are messy candies. They stuck to the cellophane wrapper and to my fingers as I held it. They’re too big to put in your mouth all at once (about the size of a squashed golf ball), so eating them posed a challenge. I ended up with sticky fingers. In the future I think I’ll leave them in the cello and scrape them off with my teeth.
Since the Farmers Market and the adjacent Grove shopping center are such a tourist destination in Los Angeles, if you do come to the city be sure to seek this place out for something a little different from the tourist fudge that you find at many places. (Though they certainly have fudge.) It’s a classic, working farmers market and they actually make the candy right there with big plate glass windows so you can learn all of their sugary secrets.
There are a couple of other iterations of the famous red foil Rocky Road. One is Mint, which I found only recently but was in such bad condition, I could hardly give it a fair review. The second is this one, which I found at the Rite-Aid which is Dark Chocolate.
This bar comes in a pleasant, lightly gold-tinted wrapper. I’ve decided that all Rocky Road bars are dented and cracked as a consequence of the scant packaging. No matter, it doesn’t seem to affect the taste at all. This bar doesn’t smell quite as chocolately as the milk chocolate one does, but does have a very sweet aroma.
The marshmallow is thick and foamy, but not very moist. It has some good give to it without being too rubbery and a not-too-fake vanilla taste to it. There’s very little contribution from the cashews in the chocolate coating except for some texture. I think the bar might be better served without them, but then I’d probably notice that the quality of the coating chocolate isn’t really that good.
Overall, I liked it quite a bit better than the traditional milk Rocky Road, but its rarity is an impediment to purchasing it again. I’ve been in plenty of Rite-Aids in Los Angeles and this is the first time I’ve seen this there and it’s not good enough for me to keep going back to that particular Rite-Aid (Santa Monica Blvd. & La Brea).
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
There are a lot of new Hershey’s Kisses out. Some of them are natural progressions of the classic milk chocolate morsel. Dark Chocolate and their sassy purple foils are one of those and of course Hugs with their almond centers. Some of the new Hershey’s Kisses sound like pre-existing products in the Hershey’s repertoire. When I heard about the Caramel Kisses, I thought, “Aren’t those just Rolos?”
Rolos have been around in the United States since 1971 and I think I remember their introduction. I also remember some of the other advertising campaigns, including the Rolo song (You can roll a Rolo to your pal/it’s chocolate covered caramel ... you can roll a Rolo to your friend/it’s chocolate covered caramel from end to end). They’ve never held much interest for me, I enjoy eating them with other things, like pretzels or apples, but not just as a treat by themselves.
The Caramel Kisses are soft, flowing caramel in a molded chocolate shell shaped like a Kiss. Rolo is a soft but chewy caramel in a molded chocolate shell shaped like a tall disk.
The chocolate on the Caramel Kiss is sweet and likable, with a fair amount of grain and that inimitable Hershey’s tang to it . The caramel is flowing and sweet with only a slight toasted sugar note to it. The vanilla is rather chemical in nature. They’re a good size and have a good proportion to the elements.
The Rolo has a very sweet chocolate outside, with a fair amount of grain and a sort of “graham” taste to it. The caramel inside is pleasingly soft but not messy and flowing. It’s chewy without pulling on the teeth. It doesn’t have much flavor to it, not much of a toasted sugar note, but it’s smooth and milky. They smell of sugar and fake vanilla.
Frankly, neither of these candies float my boat. I know that in a Head-to-Head the battle is supposed to be fierce and the winner takes a huge prize, but I’m just not fond of either of these candies enough to purchase them again. Instead it’s one of those board games that you start and it gets so complicated or boring that you just agree to wander away.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Sometimes it’s packaging that keeps me coming back to a product line.
I just love these little cans and medallions of chocolate. I’m not fond of the price, but in this case it was a gift. It’s the last of the flavors from Splendid Specialties that I needed to try. Tea is pretty high up there as a flavor in my Pantheon.
The disks of chocolate are wrapped in orange foil and stamped with a little leaf emblem. The chocolate is sweet and milky and has a strong but still soft orange component. The black tea flavors come from actual black tea leaves in the chocolate. These aren’t terribly distracting from the smooth quality of the chocolate but they do provide a fair amount of grit from time to time.
What I appreciate about this combination is that there’s no clove in there. Most orange/tea combos end up with clove in the mix, which I just don’t like.
The tea flavors linger in the mouth in a good way, but I think I still prefer the Jasmine one I tried first last spring. The packaging makes it ideal for carrying on trips because it can’t get crushed easily. Or perhaps put it in a picnic basket - there are six pieces in each little can and it’s resealable. I wish Splendid Specialties would tackle dark chocolate. I think all their flavors would be equally compelling mixed in some smooth and bitter Belgian chocolate. But let’s face it, this is special occasion chocolate, at $3.00 - $3.50 for ounce and a half, I’d rather get a Dagoba bar.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Everyone’s talking about Valentine’s candy. But I thought I’d give you a taste of a few other seasonal treats instead. Yesterday it was candy to watch whales by. Today it’s Olympic candy. A friend of ours, Matt, was working in Torino for the Winter Olympics on the Canadian Pavilion and just returned. He was thoughtful enough to bring back some candy, and this Caffarel Gianduia is “officially” branded Olympics merchandise (it even has a hologram seal!).
These little cuties are packed in a clear cello bag, each piece wrapped in gold foil, marking the Torino 2006 Olympics. The pieces are shaped like little old lady handbags and are about two bites each (or you can put it all in your mouth, don’t let me stop you).
Caffarel is the chocolate of Torino, so it’s a natural fit. And if I do say so, I think this is a sporty chocolate. What I found particularly fascinating while browsing the Caffarel site was the story of how they invented this gianduia chocolate. Back in the 1860s cocoa was rationed, so Caffarel figured out a way to create a chocolatey confection that didn’t feel skimpy. This gianduia contains 28% hazelnuts! The wondrous thing about combining the chocolate with hazelnuts is the soft feel it creates on the tongue. It’s sweet, without masking the chocolate and nut flavors. But very sticky, consider this the Italian version of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
I was also happy to try these because the last Caffarel bar I had to try had bloomed and I’d heard that this was an excellent Italian brand. I can see why now. Tasting these little morsels has also made me crave their darker sisters called Gianduiotto Fondente, which is made without milk.
If you’ve ever had Ice Cubes and are looking for a more sophisticated version, especially one without the addition of hydrogenated oils, this might be it. Soft, nutty and sweet with that slight cooling sensation that makes me pop another one in my mouth, just to make sure they all do that. It’ll be a sad day in my house when these are gone, and that’ll probably be soon, I can’t risk them melting in this freaky heat wave we’ve got going on in Los Angeles right now.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:40 pm
Thursday, February 9, 2006
I was searching for this bar for a while. I’ve only tried one other milk chocolate bar from Dagoba (the Chai), so I was curious to see what their plain milk chocolate was like without all the other embellishments. But I think that milk chocolate shines well with some textured interest like nuts, so this was next on my list of bars to try. However, I didn’t see it at Whole Foods or Wild Oats. This bar was given to me by Amy, the neighbor.
This bar is milk chocolate (high cocoa solids content at 37%) with hazelnuts and crisped rice.
The Dagoba milk chocolate is insanely smooth. It’s very milky and has a slight floral note to it, maybe orange blossom, but it’s not soapy. It is, however, very sweet. The dairy part of the milk chocolate is a little sticky and tastes like powdered milk, though much better than a Cadbury. The crisps in the bar are fun, but few and far between. I counted three or four per “stick” of the bar. I’m not asking for them to be as dense as a Nestle Crunch, but a little more frequent would be nice. The hazelnuts were similarly scarce, though I think they imparted some of their nutty flavor to the rest of the bar nicely.
I think I wanted more nuts, or maybe something a little more from such an expensive bar. Don’t get me wrong, I love many of the other bars I’ve tried (Roseberry) but this one didn’t quite sing for me. It’s still a solid performer and I wouldn’t turn it down if someone offered it to me, but I doubt I’ll buy it again.
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
I get a lot of questions about Choxie here at CandyBlog.net. And with good reason ... there aren’t that many places to find out about Choxie. There’s certainly no info on the Target website. I haven’t spent much time with Choxie, but I have to say that the products I’ve tried are always good quality, nicely packaged and feature interesting flavor combinations.
I picked up a few things last week, including the highly rated Champagne-Flavored Truffles. (I actually hadn’t seen them before.) They’re stunning looking little baubles of chocolate. Shiny and dark, the package highlights their gorgeous sheen. They smell rather spicy - of chocolate and a hint of wine. The truffles are about the size of a hazelnut in the shell (smaller than a malted milk ball).
These truffles are panned chocolate. Panning is when you take a solid nugget and tumble it, adding layers of coating on it. Panned candies can range from jelly beans to Gobstoppers to chocolate coated nuts to Lemonheads. Panning is usually done in large turning pans that look like cement mixers and can hold hundreds of pounds of candy. The coating can double the weight of each candy as each successive layer is added and then the final “polish coat” to seal them and give them the high gloss shine. In this case it’s called “confectioners glaze.”
The centers are made of white chocolate (made with real cocoa butter, not hydrogenated oils). The chocolate outside is sweet and smooth, a little on the sweet side but it’s definitely buttery and has a good smoky quality to it. The center is smooth as well and has a raisiny hint to it. Not really a champagne flavor in my mind, just a nice “boosted” vanilla flavor. The small size of them and their glossy appearance makes them easy to pop and of course easy to share.
As Valentine’s gifts go, the Choxie line has some really nice, inexpensive options. At less than $10 a pound for many of their offerings, they’re a really good way of expressing yourself without breaking the bank. The “shareable” nature of them is also a bonus. They also make nice hostess gifts or just a nice treat for yourself. Choxie has done a good job of bringing upscale into the realm of affordable. Their variety is also pretty stunning and it always seems like there’s something new when I check out the Choxie section. The ingredients also appear to be top notch, using real vanilla instead of vanillin and cocoa butter instead of palm oils.
Interesting note from the box: confections made in the USA, packaged in Mexico.
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Toffee is a strange thing. It’s like caramel gone too long on the burner, but it becomes its own special delight. In the United States, toffee is generally hard caramel: a mixture of sugar and butter. It’s boiled slowly to “hard ball” stage and then cooled, usually as flat pieces. What’s so wonderful about it is the way it cracks. It’s completely irregular. It flakes, it crumbles and it fractures. It’s buttery and sweet and often has a nice salty twang to it that cuts through the stickiness. (In the UK they also have soft toffees, which confuses the heck out of me, until I start eating them and then I get distracted. Mmm, toffee.)
I got these full-sized samples directly from Brian at Silver Bear Toffee in Colorado. The first indication of their decadence is that the label says “refrigerate,” now that’s fresh toffee!
The ingredients are pretty compelling too: chocolate, almonds, butter, sugar and corn syrup. Each package was a little white box with planks of broken up toffee. The toffee was then covered in chocolate on top and sprinkled with more almonds. The dark chocolate one was my favorite as the smoky and smooth chocolate matched the sweet and salty toffee perfectly. The toffee was so buttery though that sometimes my chocolate fell off the slab. No matter. Toffee is casual; toffee is jeans and a tee.
While I may have said I preferred the dark chocolate one, the milk chocolate one disappeared first (it could have been that toffee snitching elves were visiting my kitchen). The toffee crumbles wonderfully on the teeth and becomes a smooth and buttery experience on the tongue. There are lots of nuts in both versions but not in huge pieces, which I prefer (otherwise it’d be nut brittle).
When I eat commercial toffee bar, like a Heath bar, my usual custom is to eat the chocolate off first and then eat the toffee slab by itself. I have no desire to do that with this stuff, I want to eat the whole thing: the chocolate, toffee and nuts all at once.
The webstore isn’t open yet (I was hoping it would be in time for Valentine’s) but you can still order by phone:
Silver Bear Toffee
Toffee is $15 a pound and
$8.00 by the half pound. Mine came boxed well with a cold-pack to keep it from melting (not really an issue in the winter).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.