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Christmas

Monday, November 19, 2012

M&Ms White Chocolate Peppermint

M&Ms White Chocolate PeppermintLast year M&Ms introduced the first of their White Chocolate holiday M&Ms for Halloween called Candy Corn. Then earlier this year for Easter came the plain White Chocolate M&Ms in pastel colors. Proving that the Candy Corn was no fluke, the returned again this year. For Christmas this year we have the M&Ms White Chocolate Peppermint which are available exclusively at Target this season. (WalMart has another exclusive flavor, Milk Chocolate Orange M&Ms.)

I don’t know if they come in individual portion bags, the only size I saw at Target, in a large display on an endcap in the seasonal section was this 9 ounce bag. The design prominently features the Red M&M and a mostly red and white design (except for the brown of the M&Ms logo and the nutritional widget).

M&Ms White Chocolate Peppermint

The pieces are larger than regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms, like all the other special flavor varieties. I’m not sure why they’re beefier, but they’re consistently that way. They’re made with real white chocolate, it’s the first ingredient on the package (made from sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk, milk fat, soy lecithin, salt and natural flavor). In this price range, it’s not easy to find real white chocolate, so that’s a big plus.

M&Ms White Chocolate Peppermint

I’ve noticed from the comments here that some people are not fond of Mars style of white chocolate. It’s quite fatty, with a lot of cocoa butter in it (and probably a fair bit of milkfat) and has a pretty clean flavor but can be a little greasy. They’re high in calories - a single ounce contains about 157 calories, more than standard chocolate which is usually about 135.

They’re sweet but not sticky or cloying. The mint is strong enough to leave a fresh taste in the mouth, but not so much that it blasts my sinuses. The overall effect is like Guittard Smooth n Melty Mints, those pastel drops with nonpareils on the bottom of them. Except these are made from real white chocolate, even Hershey’s abandoned real white chocolate in their Candy Cane Kisses years ago. I liked that most of mine were white, with only about a third of them red. The red had a little bitterness to the shell from the Red 40 food coloring, so I was able to mostly avoid them. I think it’s a solid product and I’d like to see it return next year. (But I’m still hoping for Egg Nog M&Ms.)

Related Candies

  1. Dove Cookies and Creme + Ghirardelli Cookies Jubilee
  2. M&Ms White Chocolate (Easter)
  3. M&Ms White Chocolate Candy Corn
  4. Russell Stover Peppermint Bark Snowman
  5. Dove Peppermint Bark
  6. Robitaille’s Presidential Inaugural Mints & Turtles
  7. Smooth n Melty


Name: White Chocolate Peppermint M&Ms
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Target (Eagle Rock)
Price: $2.89
Size: 9 ounces
Calories per ounce: 157
Categories: Candy, Christmas, Mars, Kosher, M&Ms, Mints, White Chocolate, 9-Yummy, United States, Target

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:34 pm     CandyReviewChristmasMarsKosherM&MsMintsWhite Chocolate9-YummyUnited StatesTargetComments (9)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Limited Edition Nips Egg Nog

Egg Nog NipsNestle makes a wide variety of their Nips, which are known best for the Coffee Nips variety.

Their Limited Edition Egg Nog Nips variety caught me by surprise, mostly because I didn’t know they made seasonal versions.

The box is the same format and size as the standard Coffee Nips. It holds 4 ounces and sells for a little over a buck at grocery and drug store chains. I felt like the box could have held another ounce or two, but you know that whole “settling may occur during transit” may come into play. Each piece is individually wrapped, and the whole box is also sealed in a clear cellophane wrapper to protect the contents.

Egg Nog Nips

The pieces are large and nicely domed. They don’t smell like much, so it wasn’t until I popped one in my mouth that I got a sense of what was different.

They’re sweet and smooth with a slow and satisfying dissolve. The creamy flavor has a strong milky flavor mixed with notes of nutmeg and a touch of clove and cinnamon plus vanilla. The custardy candy is pleasant and isn’t too cloying. I might have preferred a little stronger kick of spice to it, as it is it’s not that different from the Butter Rum Nips. (Though a hint of rum might be nice, too.)

A gingerbread version probably isn’t that far behind.

Made on equipment that also processes peanuts. Gluten free. Contains dairy, soy and coconut.

Related Candies

  1. Werther’s Original Hard Candies
  2. Trader Joe’s Eggnog Almonds
  3. Nips: Mocha and Chocolate Parfait
  4. Ghirardelli Holiday Squares
  5. Coffee Rio
  6. Nips: Butter Rum & Peanut Butter Parfait
  7. Nips: Caramel & Dulce de Leche
  8. Coffee Nips


Name: Egg Nog Nips
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: CVS (Park LaBrea)
Price: $1.29
Size: 4 ounces
Calories per ounce: 121
Categories: Candy, Christmas, Nestle, Kosher, Limited Edition, Toffee, 7-Worth It, United States, Sav-On/CVS

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:59 am     CandyReviewChristmasNestleKosherLimited EditionToffee7-Worth ItUnited StatesSav-On/CVSComments (7)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Niederegger Marzipan Classics

Niederegger Marzipan FactoryIn December I went on a grand tour of Germany. It was a junket sponsored by German Sweets, an export organization. Their goal was to improve awareness of German confectionery in North America.

One of the places that sealed the deal to get me to attend was Lubeck, home to Niederegger Marzipan. If there was a candy that I was introduced to through the blog that changed my mind about a long held prejudice, it was Niederegger’s Cappuccino Marzipan bar.

Lubeck is actually home to many marzipan makers. At one time there were dozens, now there are a handful, but enough of them that there is a strict standard they must follow if they wish to be called Lubecker Marzipan. Kind of like sparkling wine can’t be called Champagne unless it’s from Champagne. How Lubeck became a center of marzipan creation when they don’t actually grow the sugar or almonds necessary for its creation is kind of an odd tale.

Lubeck is a Hanseatic City, which means it was a member Dudesche Hanse, an economic alliance of cities and merchant guilds in Northern Europe starting in 1358 until the 1860s when it was one of the last remaining members. As a center of trade Lubeck had access to the almonds and sugar it needed to make marzipan and the shipping routes to export it.

Niederegger Cafe in Lubeck (across from the market)

In 1806 Johann Georg Niederegger purchased Maret Confectioner, where the current Niederegger Cafe stands to this day. The company is still family owned, in its seventh generation.

Niederegger is widely regarded as one of the best marzipans from Germany. It’s characterized by its consistent texture and high quality. The marzipan is made in one facility, just outside of town in the traditional style of open copper pots.

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Hand checking of blanched almonds - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

The almonds sourced for Niederegger are from Spanish, mostly Marcona almonds though at times they also source from Italy. To start the almonds are cleaned and then blanched and then the fibrous peels are removed. There’s a lot of hand work involved in the entire process, as workers pick over the almonds after the blanching process to keep the quality high.

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Ground almonds & sugar added to copper kettle - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

The almonds are then mixed with sugar and ground and cooked in open copper pots. The staff were hesitant to give us exact times for how long these processes take, but it’s probably more than an hour and less than a day.

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Paste cooked in open kettle & mixed constantly - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

The cooking and mixing is carefully supervised by the cooks. The day we were there it was cold and rainy and it’s pretty much assured that the room was probably not heated and it was quite balmy. I can’t imagine what it’s like in there even with air conditioning in the summer. The pots generate quite a bit of steam and moisture.

Once the marzipan is finished multiple pots are dumped into a large one and quickly cooled with dry ice. The last step is the addition of rosewater, which I believe has a touch of alcohol in it. The marzipan is then molded into blocks and sent along to other parts of the factory for different purposes.

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Marzipan molded into hearts are enrobed in chocolate - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

Though Valentine’s Day isn’t as big of a deal in Europe as North America, the Niederegger Hearts are extremely popular year round but do show up in American stores for special holidays.

Niederegger Marzipan

All enrobed chocolates had the Niederegger name embossed on the bottom.

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Foil wrapped marzipan hearts are hand sorted into trays - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

Because the company makes such a huge variety of shapes, sizes, varieties and packaging styles, much of the work is done by humans, who are far more adaptable. This also helps to account for the higher price of Niederegger products.

image
Eyes of marzipan pigs are applied by hand - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

In addition to the machine made products, some are molded by hand and then hand decorated. Though no photos were provided, we visited one room where they did custom molded pieces, especially for corporate clients as well as favors for weddings that can be personalized for the couple.

Niederegger Marzipan Mini Loaves

Though many of the Niederegger products are expensive when priced out by the pound, there are plenty of items available for less than a buck. They have stick or log versions of their bars which are usually about one Euro and their little loaves are about 35 cents or so. The box above is their Klassiker which featured pistachio, orange, pineapple and espresso. I think this assortment is about 6 Euros. It’s one of the products I see for sale in the United States around Christmas but often for somewhere more in the neighborhood of $9 or $10.

Neideregger Marzipan

The loaves are enrobed, like the hearts in the factory photos above. I generally prefer enrobed chocolates, I like the way the coating adheres to the fillings better than molded products.

Niederegger Marzipan Collection

At the end of our tour, the Niederegger folks gave us a sampler tray of their most popular current products. (Later we also went to their cafe and shop where I bought about 40 Euros more of stuff.)

Niederegger Pineapple Marzipan

I think the little loaves are my favorite. The chocolate is quite thin and the foil is always cute. They’re barely an inch long, so it’s not even two full bites. Since there’s little chocolate, it’s very much about the marzipan. There’s not as much sugar in the Niederegger marzipan as in some other varieties. Also, it has a more rustic grind to it, it’s not a smooth dough or paste like some. Think of it like peanut butter cookie dough - it holds its shape but has a slight grain. The sugar is completely integrated though. There’s a toasty flavor throughout.

The trick with the little loaves though is that they get dried out quickly. I found that there’s no point in hoarding them, they should be eaten within 3 months if possible, and be sure to keep them in a sealed tin or zippered bag.

Niederegger Espresso Marzipan

The long bars solve that dryness problem with a thicker chocolate coating and a fully sealed plastic wrapper. Those seem to seal the moisture in much better. The Espresso Marzipan is by far my favorite of their standard flavors. So much so that I pick them up whenever I see them at a trade show, gourmet shop or when in Europe.

The marzipan is generally sweet, but the dark toffee flavors of the espresso really balance it out and even give it a little bitter edge that pairs well with some of the bitter note of the almonds.

Niederegger Liqueur Marzipan Collection

In that big assortment from the Niederegger folks I got to try something new, their liqueur marzipans:

Rum Truffel - this was the most traditional and perhaps the most boring of the set. The reservoir center had a little slab of rum infused chocolate truffle. It was sweeter than the others, but had a nice little kick to it.

Orangen Liqueur is moister than most of the other Niederegger marzipans I’ve had. It’s hard to tell if there was a liquored up center, which was a little darker than the rest of the marzipan, or that was just where the stuff concentrated itself. The scent has a light touch of orange zest to it. The flavor of the marzipan is delicate, the chocolate creamy and only a very thin shell of it to seal in the marzipan and cut the sweetness. The bite of the liquor isn’t intense or harsh, just a light warming. I liked this one quite a bit, and tasted it compared to the classic Orangen piece as well. The liqueur does add a little more zest and less juice flavor to it, and the alcohol’s ability to make me blush probably gives me the impression that it’s said something flattering.

Armagnac Pflaume - is a plum brandy. The idea didn’t really sound that appealing to me, but I know that I’ve enjoyed many of the things that the Japanese have done with plums and confectionery, so I thought I’d give it a chance. This piece has a little ribbon of plum jam of some sort in the center. The flavor is a little like brandied prunes, tangy and with deep cherry and raisin notes. The alcohol was quite distinctive and hit me high in my chest, between my collar bones. 

Williams Christ is a Pear William brandy puree in the center of the marzipan. Though it looked rather like the Armagnac one, it definitely tasted distinctly of pear and a little like ripe bananas.

Niederegger Eier Liqueuer Marzipan

Eier Liqueur - is made with an egg liqueur. This is one of those drinks that I’ve never actually had except in confections (all German) so it’s hard for me to compare it to anything else. It’s like a creamy vanilla pudding center, with a slight rum buzz to it. I liked it, though the idea of egg cream in a candy is a little strange at first, and then I remember my love of nougat and custards.

Niederegger Vodka Fig Marzipan

One of the newer flavors I was really excited to pick up in Germany was their Niederegger Vodka Fig Marzipan. They’re wrapped in bright purple foil and came in a long package like the sticks, but really just a strip of the loaves.

Again, freshness was the key here. The center had a definite grain alcohol blast to it. The figs were well supported by the delicate flavors of the almond paste and the vodka did a good job of helping disperse that flavor throughout.

On the whole, I’m not sure I needed the vodka, just a fig marzipan would be fine with me. And when I say fine, I mean, I wish there were fig marzipans available easily. I might have to make my own.

Niederegger Marzipan WeihnachtskofektThe last box I bought was called Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtskofekt and I think I paid 6 Euros for it. It was a combination of three different winter flavors for Christmas. (Remember, I was there in December.)

The box was very simple, as are most of their packages. It was a paperboard box with a metallic gold plastic tray with little sections for each piece of candy. It protected the pieces extremely well (this was early in my trip and had to go on and off the bus every day for nearly 1,000 kilometers plus the flights home). So the inside did well, but the exterior got quite dinged up.

Since it was a seasonal product it was extremely fresh, the centers were soft and moist.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtskofekt

Arabisch-Mocca - toasty flavors of coffee and a little hint of chocolate in the center. The marzipan has more of a toffee and coffee flavor than anything almond. The dark chocolate shell seals it all up and has a nice bittersweet component that also gives it a creamy start.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtskofekt

Dattel-Honig is the only milk chocolate piece of the set. It smells like ripe bananas. In fact, it tastes like ripe bananas. Like actual fermented bananas, with a light alcoholic and tangy note towards the top. The milk chocolate and the dates keep it all rather sweet. I didn’t catch much on the honey side of things.

Ingwer is one of my favorite bars from Niederegger. The little pattie version is a gem as well. The ginger is soft and glace style, the dark chocolate keeps it all from being to sweet or sticky. There’s less chocolate in this version than the bar, and more of an alcoholic bite as well.

Kaufhof Candy Section in BerlinI know I have oodles more photos of the store, the cafe and the products I bought. But it’s more of the same. The ingredients are simple and great and I think Niederegger has very high standards for what they’ll produce. They make some other nougat (gianduia) products which I haven’t sampled extensively. They do great marzipan, one of the other marzipans that I’ve ever tried that I truly love, so I’m always eager to try more of those. I’ve noticed that no matter what kind of store I was shopping in, a department store like Kaufhof or a grocery store like Rewe, the prices were always the same. So no sense in going bargain shopping, the trick for me when traveling was finding a store that carried the size and format of the flavors that I liked.

(Disclosure Note: The trip to Germany was sponsored, so I did not pay for my airfare, ground transportation, accommodations or food while I was there. At the factory tours we were given generous samples to consume on site as well as some to bring home. Any reviews of those products will be noted as to that fact. But I also brought a couple hundred Euros with me and spent them liberally and almost exclusively on candy both from the companies we were introduced to as well as many other Germany/European products that I found in my prowlings of grocery stores, department stores and the factory outlets.)

Related Candies

  1. 2012 Fancy Food Show Notes - Day 2
  2. Limited Edition Ritter Sport Winter Kreation + Factory Store
  3. Haribo Ingwer-Zitrone Gummis
  4. Krauterbonbons from Lubeck Christmas Market
  5. 12 European Licorices
  6. Niederegger Ginger Marzipan
  7. Soubeyran Array

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:37 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasNiedereggerChocolateCoffeeGingerNuts8-TastyGermanyShoppingComments (9)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eat with your Eyes: Weihnachtskofekt

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtskofekt

I missed reviewing this array of Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtskofekt, special marzipan disks with seasonal flavors: Ingwer, Dattel-Honig & Arabisch-Mocca before Christmas. Suffice to say that they were fresh, nutty and delicious.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:07 pm     CandyChristmasNiedereggerHighlightPhotographyComments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Limited Edition Ritter Sport Winter Kreation + Factory Store

P1060141You may notice a lot more about German candies on the blog in the coming weeks. I went there for a week of candy factory tours earlier this month and have lots of fascinating adventures to share. (I’ll try to focus on candies you can either get in the United States or are worth seeking out.)

Ritter-Sport is a large German chocolate brand with a unique selling proposition, its chocolate bars are square. Their standard 100 gram (3.5 ounce) bar comes in 23 varieties with another 3-9 promotional and seasonal variations throughout the year. In the United States there are about six core varieties on shelves, but some stores like Target will sell about eight. Even in Germany, I still only found about 14-16 of the versions at the stores (which included the Bio and Winter Kreation varieties). The best place in Germany to find everything Ritter Sport sells, naturally, is at their factory store.

The Ritter family started making chocolate in 1912, but didn’t introduce the Ritter Sport square bars until 1930. They’re becoming better known around the world as 35% of their total sales (over 20,000 tons of the 60,000 they produce) are now for export. (Russia is their number one customer, then Italy, then the United States.) The quality for a consumer bar (sold for less than one Euro) is excellent and the company prides itself on its innovation, ethical sourcing of their raw materials and quality of their products.

Ritter Sport Minis - Winter Kreations

For the past two seasons in the United States I’ve actually been able to find the Ritter Sport Winter Kreations in stores. (Mel and Rose Wine and Liquors and a really good 76 gas station in Glendale on Glendale Blvd & Glen Oaks.) Last year the Winter Kreations limited edition set was Orangen-Marzipan (orange marzipan), Nuss in Nougatcreme (hazelnuts in gianduia) and Vanillekipferl (vanilla cookie cream). This year the Nougatcreme did not return but was replaced by Gebrannte Mandel (burnt sugar almonds).

Ritter Sport Orange Marzipan

The Ritter Sport Orangen-Marzipan bar is pretty special. When I got to Germany back in February of this year, this was one of the first bars I sought out and bought. After eating some of it, I bought the little assortment above plus an additional full size bar. Then when I was there earlier this month, I again bought a full size bar, since I think it’s the right proportion of chocolate and marzipan.

The bar is a little different from the classic Ritter Sport Marzipan bar in that it has a milk chocolate shell (sorry, it’s not vegan). It smells like fresh orange juice, almost like an orangesicle, actually, because of the sweet and milky chocolate. The chocolate is quite sweet and so is the marzipan center, but it all works swimmingly together. The orange flavors are both juicy and zesty, without being bitter. The marzipan is moist and sticks together like a cookie dough instead of being dry and crumbly. There’s a light hint of amaretto to it as well.

It’s terribly sweet, which is usually a turn off for me, but I enjoyed the decadent sticky quality, probably because it’s cold out and I usually want more sugar when I’m chilly.

I do wish that it was the dark chocolate shell though, but since this is the only other marzipan bar that they make regularly, I can understand wanting to hit the milk/marzipan market at least seasonally.

Ritter Sport Gebrannte MandelI don’t think I would have appreciated this flavor in the same way without my visits to the Christmas Markets in various cities. The Gebrannte Mandel stalls were ubiquitous (photo), sealing this confection as a definite seasonal fixture. It only makes sense that Ritter Sport would create a Winter Kreation that includes some toasted almonds with a caramelized sugar coating.

The base of the Ritter Sport Gebrannte Mandel is milk chocolate. Ritter Sport makes eleven different chocolate bases for its different bars, including several varieties of milk chocolate. This version has a cacao content of 30%, so a richer milk chocolate than most American consumer brands.

Ritter Sport Gebrannte Mandel

The bar is light in color, silky and smells much like the stalls at the Christmas Market, like toasted nuts and sugar. The nuts in this case are crushed (I’m not sure they’d fit well in the bar otherwise and might end up a little too crunchy). It’s sweet and the sugar coating on the nuts gives it more of a grainy crunch, but also adds more toasted flavor. There might be a hint of cinnamon in there as well.

Ritter Sport Vanilla

Ritter Sport Vanillekipferl is based on the classic Austrian cookie called the Vanillekipferl or vanilla crescent. They’re rather like a Russian Teacake or shortbread cookie with nutmeal in it. (There are no eggs in the traditional recipe.)

The bar is like many of Ritter Sport’s, a milk chocolate shell with a cream filling. In this case the cream filling was slightly sandy with a very sweet vanilla flavor. I can’t say that I got much of the shortbread or nutty qualities out of it. It was decent, but not really different enough from Ritter Sport’s non-seasonal offerings.

Ritter Sport Nougatcreme

The Ritter Sport Nuss in Nougatcreme was a 2010 flavor and was nicely done. It was a milk chocolate bar with a milky hazelnut paste center with a bit of a crunchy, crushed nuts. I didn’t think much of it one way or the other. Again, like the Vanillekipferl, it wasn’t that different from the regular nougatcreme bar.

P1060120

All of the above bars, oddly enough, I bought at the grocery stores (Rewe and Aldi for the bars in February and Kaufhof for the most recent marzipan and candied almonds). Our tour group visited the Ritter Sport factory campus on our last full day in Germany on our way to Stuttgart. The factory is in the small town of Waldenbuch, which has less than 10,000. But it’s about a half an hour outside of Stuttgart (which has about 600,000 people and over 5 million in the metro area) which is the center of Germany’s auto industry.

The Ritter family created a museum on the factory campus. Not just a chocolate museum that shows how cocoa is grown, harvested and processed into chocolate, there’s actually an art museum there. The building houses four areas: an interactive chocolate museum (upstairs to the right), a cafe (in the back left), a factory store for chocolate (on the lower right) and the front half to the left is the art museum.

P1060181

The exhibit while I was there fits well with the aesthetic of the square chocolate bars. They were selections from the Marli Hoppe-Ritter Collection in a variety of media. Most were paintings but a few sculptures as well.

All of the pieces had geometric elements and either bold use of color (in primary and secondary palettes) and rarely representational.

The space isn’t large, but is well laid out in four areas with tall ceilings and awash in light.

P1060193  P1060196  P1060187 P1060170  P1060166

P1060155

The Ritter Sport Factory Store is exactly what I want from a factory store. First, the prices are excellent. They are below the standard price for the bars (except for what you may find on sale) and they carry everything. There were no varieties or shapes that they make that I could not find on the shelves. The standard price for all 100 gram bars was .69 Euro (about 90 cents US). They were all fresh and in pristine condition and a pleasure to browse.

P1060146

In the back corner was the spot that I love factory stores for. It was where the seconds and over-runs were for sale. If I lived in the area, I’d be sure to visit often to see what turned up. There were plenty of bulk items, such as the Schokowurfel in bags. Far off there in the corner were piles on the shelves of plain white wrapped bars. They were test bars of new flavors, so I picked up a few of those for later investigation and indulgence. They were only a half a Euro each.

P1060157

The branded merchandise was nice. I liked the continuity of the themes, the colors and use of either the cross sections of the bars or the square shapes. However, the prices on these items were definitely premium retail. A little back backpack was 85 Euro. There were also large tins with the chocolate cross-section design - quite large and useful for only 7.50 Euro, but that largeness thing would have been an issue for getting them home. (But what a great gift idea to buy one of those tins, then one of the bulk bags of the minis and fill it up- the whole gag would be less than 20 Euro.) I picked up the coffee mug for my husband and filled it with minis for Christmas.

P1060135  P1060136  P1060154  P1060122 P1060123

So, if you’re in Stuttgart and tired of looking around at the cars or just swinging through the area, it’s a worthy diversion to Waldenbuch. There’s also a Ritter Sport shop in Berlin (which I doubt carries the factory over-runs) that has its own merits for it’s interior design.

P1060113Maybe you’ll also catch sight of their company cars in the area: these were parked in front of one of the factory buildings. When we first arrived in our tour bus, there was a third. It was canary and said Knusperflakes on it.

Full Disclosure: My trip to Germany was sponsored by German Sweets, a government funded trade organization. While this provided me with excellent access to people in positions at the candy companies, in this case all of the products featured here were bought and paid for by me. Of course being at the factory store with its excellent prices which were a fraction of what I pay for the products in the United States probably prompted me to buy things I might not ordinarily. The Ritter Sport factory was not actually on the tour set up by German Sweets (though they’re members), but since it only took our tour bus 15 km out of our way on the last day of our travels, they agreed to stop at my request.

Related Candies

  1. Ritter Sport Fruhlingsspezialitaten 2010
  2. Choceur Nougat Bites & Marzipan Bites
  3. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
  4. Niederegger Marzipan Orange
  5. Caffarel Gianduia 1865
  6. Treat Trip: Jelly Belly Factory
  7. Ritter Sport Assortment


Name: Orangen-Marzipan, Vanillekipferl, Gebrannte Mandel & Nuss in Nougatcreme
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ritter Sport
Place Purchased: Rewe, Aldi & Kaufhof
Price: $.90 (price varies depending on size)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Ritter Sport, Chocolate, Nuts, 7-Worth It, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:06 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasRitter SportChocolateNuts7-Worth ItGermanyShoppingComments (4)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Hachez Frohes Fest

Frohe Weihnachten
Feliz Navidad
Vrolijk kerstfeest
Joyeux Noël

Merry Christmas!

Did you get something sweet as a gift this year?

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:08 am     CandyChristmasHighlightPhotographyComments (7)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Bars: Hershey’s, Niederegger, Ghirardelli & Hachez

Here’s a small selection of what I’d call Christmas chocolate bars. I’ve got to eat them up before the holidays - it may be too late for you to get them by Christmas, but there are some special ones that are worth picking up at the after-Christmas sales.

Hershey's Golden AlmondHershey’s introduced their Golden Almond Bar in 1977. It’s a thick bar and clocks in at 2.8 ounces. The bar design and packaging has changed little over the past thirty five years. It’s still wrapped in gold foil with a gold sleeve. Bars are sold either singly or in gold gift boxes of five bars (see a 1984 ad here). They’re not that easy to find, I usually see them at the official Hershey’s stores at Chocolate World or the Times Square shop.

The bar is simple, it’s just milk chocolate with lots of whole roasted almonds in it. It differs from the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar as it’s supposed to be better quality chocolate. The ingredients do not differ from the Hershey’s standard milk chocolate which includes PGPR but is at least made in the United States and not Mexico as the other supposedly upscale Pot of Gold line is.

Hershey's Golden Almond

The bar is wonderful looking, it’s thick and has a great snap. It’s about 1.7 inches wide, 4.75 inches long and a beefy half inch high. There are some almonds in there though not as many as I feel are promised but they look like they’re fresh and of good quality. The chocolate looks a little darker than the standard Hershey’s but smells like I’d expect. It’s sweet with a slight yogurty tang to it.

The texture is smooth and fudgy, with a sticky melt and a light caramel and woodsy chocolate flavor. It’s not complex and it’s not extraordinary. But if you like Hershey’s chocolate and enjoy the decadence of a thicker piece, this is a good bar to choose. I liked the nostalgia of an actual foil wrapped bar, which is so rare these days. If there’s someone on your list that loves Hershey’s, this is a little bit more elegant way to give them what they desire.

Size: 2.8 ounces
Price: about $2.00
Rating: 5 out of 10

Niederegger Marzipan WeihnachtsschokoladeI’ll have more about my German adventures, including a tour of the Niederegger Factory in Lubeck in the coming weeks.

I found this seasonal bar called Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade at the Niederegger cafe at Marktplatz in Lubeck. The front of the package says Saftiges gewurz marzipan mit vollmilch-schokolade. So it’s a spiced marzipan in milk chocolate. The image shows almonds, cinnamon sticks and star anise. The ingredients don’t specifically list anise, just “spices” though cinnamon is a separate item.

Inside the paper wrapper there’s a stiff card (advertising the company and their website) and the foil wrapped bar.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade

The packaging did a great job of protecting the bar. It was glossy and unscuffed.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtschokolade

The milk chocolate is very light in color (33% cocoa solids and 14% milk solids). The bar smells like milky chai, a little spicy and very sweet. The marzipan is moist and a bit like eating Snickerdoodle cookie dough. The chocolate is smooth, but doesn’t contribute much in the way of cocoa to this, it just nicely encases the marzipan. The texture of the marzipan is a little more rustic than the French style fondant type that’s used for creating figures and shapes. Niederegger is meant for eating and enjoying.

The ratios on the 100 gram bars from Niederegger favor the chocolate more than the enrobed little classic loaves. (I’ll get into that more in my master post.) If you’re looking for a starter marzipan that’s more about the texture and celebrates almonds as the source ingredient, Niederegger really can’t be beat. It’s not too sweet and doesn’t have any fake amaretto flavors to it.

I would prefer a version of this with dark chocolate, but I can’t argue with the traditional recipe they have. It’s a great balance of subtle spice, sweetness, milk and almonds.

Size: 3.5 ounces
Price: 1.95 Euro (about $2.50)
Rating: 8 out of 10

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark BarsI’m no stranger to the Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark. They’ve been making it for years and it comes in a clever little square that’s perfect for some afternoon tea or coffee.

I found this set of bars at Target last month on sale for $2 each. They’re heralded as limited edition and come in milk chocolate and dark chocolate.

I’m not actually a fan of barks. I like my inclusions fully immersed in the chocolate. So the bar version of Peppermint Bark is perfect for my strange fondness for things being hidden in the chocolate.

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Bars

Unlike most Peppermint Barks, which combine white chocolate with crushed peppermint candies (like candy canes or starlight mints), the Ghiradelli version uses minty, artificially colored corn flakes. I haven’t the foggiest why they did it that way, but honestly, they created something unique enough to be a new genre.

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Bars

The milk and dark vary a little bit in their coloring. The milk version is sweet and has a lot of dairy notes to it from both the milk chocolate base and the white chocolate top (made with real cocoa butter). The mint is clean and bright, the little cereal bits are crunchy and a little salty and keep it all from being too cloying.

The dark version has two kinds of bits, the red bits and some little dark brown bits, which I think are little chocolate cookie pieces. The dark chocolate has a little smoky note to it which overshadowed the minty layer a bit, which I enjoyed. There’s a definite difference between the Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark and the Dove Peppermint Bark, which can also be found for comparable prices at similar stores. Personally, I prefer the Dove version, because it’s a bit butterier. This one is about the crunch, a grown up sort of crunch.

Size: 3 ounces
Price: $2.00 (on sale at Target)
Rating: 7 out of 10

Hachez Weihnachts Knusper BarThe last item I have is not quite a full review. The Hachez Weihnachts Knusper Bar (Christmas Crunchy Bar) is a darling looking bar. The soft white paper wrapper has a classically illustrated scene of a child ice skating on a pond.

Feine Vollmilch-Chocolade mit Zimt, Mandeln und Nussen

My German was getting pretty good, even though I’d only been listening to German podcasts for a week and was only there for a day. The front of the package said Fine milk chocolate with cinnamon, almonds and nuts. The little image also showed all of the above -cinnamon sticks, milk chocolate blocks, almonds and a hazelnut in its shell.

So I was very excited when I got it home and put at the top of my list to photograph and review before Christmas. I took it out of the wrapper, snapped it in half ... it looked and smelled so good:

Hachez Weihnacht Knusper Bar

The bar was glossy and showed no ill effects from the long journey (about 750 more miles on a bus at that point then the 5,700 mile plane ride).

I broke off a little piece of it to try after the photo, I was greeted by wonderfully smooth and milky chocolate and amazingly fresh, crunchy and crushed nuts and a hint of cinnamon. I could taste the hazelnuts and something else ... it wasn’t pecans, it was walnuts. What I didn’t realize was that while Nussen might be a generic word for nuts, it usually meant walnuts. (Walnusse is the more specific word.) So technically, I didn’t eat any of the bar. I had to spit it out and rinse out my mouth (I still ended up itchy and with a sore throat all evening - my allergy has not developed beyond this irritation stage). But I’m going to go out on a limb after eating many of the other Hachez products in the past week (which I’ll have reviews for) and say that this really is a good bar.

Size: 3.5 ounces
Price: 2.20 Euro ($2.89 purchased at Hachez factory store)
Rating: 8 out of 10

Do you have a favorite winter flavor combination? Anything regional or something from long ago that they don’t make any longer?

Related Candies

  1. Lindt Holiday Almonds
  2. Choceur Nougat Bites & Marzipan Bites
  3. Dove Peppermint Bark
  4. Al Nassma Camel Milk Chocolate
  5. Hershey’s Special Dark with Almonds
  6. Niederegger Ginger Marzipan
  7. Dove Caramels & Chocolate Covered Almonds


Name: Golden Almond
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey’s
Place Purchased: gift
Price: $2.00 retail
Size: 2.8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: Candy, Hershey's, Chocolate, Kosher, Nuts, 5-Pleasant, United States


Name: Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Niederegger
Place Purchased: Niederegger Cafe (Lubeck, Germany)
Price: 1.95 Euro (about $2.50)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 143
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Niederegger, Chocolate, Nuts, 8-Tasty, Germany


Name: Peppermint Bark with Milk Chocolate & with Dark Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ghiradelli
Place Purchased: Target
Price: $2.00
Size: 3.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: Candy, Christmas, Ghirardelli, Chocolate, Cookie, Limited Edition, Mints, White Chocolate, 7-Worth It, United States, Target


Name: Weihnachts-Knusper
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Hachez Chocolade
Place Purchased: Hachez factory store (Bremen, Germany)
Price: 1.90 Euros ($2.89)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 161
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Hachez, Chocolate, Nuts, 8-Tasty, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:49 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasGhirardelliHachezHershey'sNiedereggerChocolateCookieKosherLimited EditionMintsNutsWhite Chocolate5-Pleasant7-Worth It8-TastyGermanyUnited StatesTargetComments (2)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Krauterbonbons from Lubeck Christmas Market

Krauterbonbons Booth in Lubeck, GermanyI went to Germany last week on a Candy Junket sponsored by German Sweets, part of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Our group consisted of 10 American journalists & writers and covered 1,500 kilometers and in only five days we saw seven confectionery factories (map).

Though the weather was rather dismal (but expected) with temperatures in the forties and rain the whole week, we still braved the brisk and damp weather to take advantage of the famous Christmas Markets in as many towns as we could. The first one we stopped at was Lubeck, Germany, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) feature mostly food and hot alcoholic beverages but also a small smattering of seasonal tasties like confections and some giftware like Christmas ornaments, hats, leathergoods and other small items.

P1050115
The Weihnachtsmarkt in the Marktplatz of Lubeck, Germany.

P1050120One of the most common confectionery stalls that I saw at all three markets was the one that sold fresh candies nuts and gingerbread cookies. The cookies are for gifting and many were decorated garishly with frosting and had little affectionate sayings on them (photo). Most were heart shaped and came in a variety of sizes. Of course they’re horrible for bringing back in a suitcase, so I just looked at them.

The nuts were really appealing, just toffeed nuts of all kinds (photo). Almonds were the most common but each booth had a good assortment of walnuts, cashews and some peanuts. Some had more exotic flavors, the most common was a Christmas spice, but others had licorice or Nutella. The prices were pretty good, a little 100 gram (3.5 ounces) was 2.50 Euro and I believe they would mix if you asked.

Berlin Christmas Market at Alexanderplatz

The market in Berlin at Alexanderplatz near our hotel also had a small assortment of booths, again, most selling drinks and hot food and a more international fare of gift items (Russian nesting dolls, Indonisian carved bowls) as well as one confectionery stall with a rather large range of traditional candies from Germany and a few that looked more Nordic or Dutch.

P1050113

The booths that sold Krauterbonbons, and I saw at least three of them in Lubeck, all smelled quite strongly of anise. It was as if they were using aromatherapy to attract customers. Two of the booths looked like they produced the candy right there. They had a copper kettle, a large counter of marble and a small pressing machine that can either cut the little candy pillows from a pulled rope of the hot sugar mixture or mold press them into individual pieces. However, we walked through the Lubeck market twice, once on the night we arrived around 8 PM, then again the next day when we visited the Niederegger cafe at lunchtime. Neither time did I see them making any candy, nor any of the other booths. Perhaps it was all theater, and perhaps it was just something they did in the morning to make their inventory for the day.

As it was my first visit to a Christmas Market, I picked up a small bag of their Krauterbonbons Mischung (Herbal Sweets Assortment), which fit easily in my pocket and I thought would travel well.

DSC_6221rb

Inside the homely little plastic bag were 28 pieces in about ten different varieties. The shapes varied, some were just little pillows, others were rather rustic but pressed lumps and then there were the gems with their ornate patterns. They’re lightly sanded to keep them from sticking.

I can’t say what the flavors were supposed to be, as there was no key and many of the flavors I purchased were not sold separately (so I couldn’t match them up with the photos I took of the varieties in the jars at the booth).

Some were completely foreign to me. The little red puff was at first rather like raspberry, but there was a note of cola and maybe even Dr. Pepper (whatever that flavor is).

The light green flattened rod was pure peppermint. It was quite strong and fresh.

The black one that looks like a stylized corn cob is dark and sort of like molasses but lacking much else in the herb or spice area.

The brown rock looking thing was like a chocolate flavor, it tasted like black bread (Schwarzbrot with an hint of malt. If I had to find an American analogue, it’d be a chocolate Tootsie Pop. I actually liked this one quite a bit, it’s weird getting the flavor of dense, fresh bread in a hard candy.

The amber piece with a bee on it was honey, naturally. It was lovely. It tasted like honey and I wanted a whole jar of these, if not to eat, then just to look at.

There was also a single clear pillow with some black specks in it. It was a light anise and the exact flavor of the smell they were using to attract folks to the booth.

DSC_6224rb

The light green flower with the cross in the center (back right) was rosemary. It was really refreshing, a little like pine and menthol but without any hint of bitterness.

The ribbed one with the cross in the center was like a cough drop, a mix of flavors similar to Ricola. It was minty but not completely peppermint, there was a menthol component and maybe a little touch of honey. The shape was fun to look at, as I kept an example of each on my desk lined up while tasting.

The black one with the hammers on it was like the one that I thought was like black bread, but with a strong note of licorice to it. It wasn’t overly sweet and I found it very soothing, especially with some bland, black tea.

P1050106If I had more time and was able to scope better, I probably would have gone back and picked up the flavors that were missing from my assortment. Lubeck definitely had the best assortment of these little lozenges and of course I would have loved to have seen them making them. (Mental note, next time, add “When do you make the candies” to my list of phrases I might need.)

If you’re going to be in Germany in the winter, the Christmas Markets are definitely something you should see, if only for a few hours. I think they’re probably more appealing to folks who eat sausage and drink alcohol but the one we saw in Schmalkalden actually had some fantastic looking cheese and cured meats. The architecture of many of these cities is lit up so I really felt like I was part of the place.

I was hoping to see more of a variety of sweets, but I fully understand the 90% of the Christmas Market is about tradition and the time warp of walking around a square in the dark with pretty lights and a cacophony of sounds and smells. There were no chocolates anywhere, though some of the stalls sold long ropes of flavored licorices and I actually got a giant Smurf gummi at one of them. The smaller the town we went to, the more they felt like they were true community events, not just something made up for the tourists. Their Christmas celebration through Advent, though front and center at every town, felt less commercial and more about community, even if it was temporary.

P1050405
Zucker-Stuble in Schmalkalden

(Disclosure Note: The trip to Germany was sponsored, so I did not pay for my airfare, ground transportation, accommodations or food while I was there. At the factory tours we were given generous samples to consume on site as well as some to bring home. Any reviews of those products will be noted as to that fact. But I also brought a couple hundred Euros with me and spent them liberally and almost exclusively on candy both from the companies we were introduced to as well as many other Germany/European products that I found in my prowlings of grocery stores, department stores and the factory outlets.)

Related Candies

  1. Papabubble Amsterdam & Pillow Fight
  2. Nory Rahat Locum
  3. Panda Soft Herb Licorice and Licorice Cremes
  4. Pumpkin Pie Gourmet Candy Corn
  5. Niederegger Marzipan Orange
  6. The Apothecary’s Garden: Herbs (and some Bees)


Name: Krauterbonbons Mischung
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand:
Place Purchased: Lubeck Christmas Market
Price: $2.35
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: Christmas, Hard Candy & Lollipops, Licorice Candy, Mints, 6-Tempting, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:07 pm     Behind the ScenesCandyReviewChristmasHard Candy & LollipopsLicorice CandyMints6-TemptingGermanyComments (4)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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