Friday, September 2, 2016
Since Labor Day is here, it’s the last opportunity to review a few summer candies. Mars introduced a new version of their revived Crispy M&Ms with their Crispy M&Ms S’mores.
This version comes, as far as I can tell, only in the larger bags, no single servings. The bag itself is green, just like the regular Crispy M&Ms, though a large part of the front is shaded in a toasty marshmallow brown.
The object of the flavor, as far as I can tell from the illustration, is to add the flavors and maybe textures of S’mores to the M&Ms. The chocolate is already there in a regular M&M,and of course Crispy M&Ms already have a cookie center, so this is all a good start conceptually.
The pieces come in three colors, a nice choice to evoke the marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers that go into a S’more. Upon opening the bag though, I found that they smelled ... a lot. The scent definitely has elements of graham crackers - a sort of maple and fake butter note. Then there’s a more buttery toffee note that I think is supposed to be the toasted marshmallow. But it all comes off overwhelmingly like a seasonal Yankee Candle.
The pieces are lumpy and inconsistently formed ... not like the smooth and regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms I’ve come to rely upon. Even though some are moderately spherical, they are still too lumpy to roll around on a flat surface ... so that’s a plus.
The flavor seems much sweeter than the regular Crispy M&Ms, though it could just be that there’s far more vanilla flavoring in there, which always makes me think things are sweet. It’s a soft sweetness, not too throat searing. The graham flavor is pleasant ... they’re not terrible, but I was really turned off my the smell. Once I let the package sit open over a weekend, it wasn’t too bad.
The odd thing was that I expected the crispy center to actually have something “graham” to it, but it looks the same and when I pulled some pieces apart, the center really tasted no different from the airy, ricey and slightly malty version in the regular Crispy M&Ms.
S’more are really about a whole immersion into the process of making them and then eating them hot. Reducing them to the neat and tidy candy coated morsels takes most of the risk away (no one gets burned, no one messes up any clothes) and also all the challenge. I have the ability to make S’mores in my home at any time, but I don’t, because they’re really about the environment that you create them in.
I’ll stick to the standard Peanut M&Ms for now ... or Almond M&Ms if I’m lucky enough to find them in stores.
Monday, March 21, 2016
This new version, sold in bags of minis, is called KitKat Premium Hazelnut. Japanese confectionery has a successful track record of adapting French techniques and flavors for the Japanese market, so I was very interested to see how the global Nestle corporation did in this version.
The little minis are quite small. It’s not just a shorter, half sized version of the standard four fingered bar. These are two inches long and 1.2 inches wide.
The flavor is called hazelnut, but what’s most interesting about the picture on the package, is that it features feuilletine along with some hazelnuts. Even if you don’t recognize the word feuilletine, you’ve probably had a version of it before. Think of a very crispy crepe, or the flaky layers of a sugar cone. It’s a caramelized sort of cookie that’s usually crumbled and added to other things, like chocolate ganache or cream centers.
The ingredients for this version of KitKat unfortunately show that this isn’t a true chocolate product, as many Nestle chocolate items tend to be these days. The chocolate coating includes vegetable oil, though a lot less sugar than the usual chocolate coating, so part of what gives this a premium feel is that it’s not as sickly sweet as the standard milk chocolate KitKat.
These little bars smell like sugar cones and roasted hazelnuts. It’s quite appealing. The chocolate coating is rather slick and has a little bit of an oily melt, but also a good roasted coffee and woodsy chocolate flavor. The center looks light and crispy, just like the usual wafer layers, but it has the precise flavor and texture of feuilletine. It’s a little grainy and as a more caramelized crunch to it. Magic. Still, the oily and slick mockolate coating lacks the complexity and texture of real chocolate. In this context, it seems to work on a candy level, but I wouldn’t dare call it premium.
They’re extremely satisfying, or not, because I actually wanted to eat the whole package. Sadly, the package only has 12 little bars (a single serving is listed as 3 bars). It’s an expensive treat and the ingredients don’t live up to the price. But the end result was too tasty to keep from giving it a solid review.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Mars has a few seasonal varieties of M&Ms available this year, including the White Strawberry Shortcake and Easter Sundae M&Ms (which are Target and Walmart exclusives, respectively). For the masses who can’t shop at those stores or don’t want a which chocolate product, there’s one other Easter version that’s new this year: Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs.
I was very excited about these by the name, since Mars already has a great line of malt products available in Europe under the Malteser name. This is not that, in any way.
The new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs are Crispy M&Ms in their format and ingredients. The only difference is not the addition of malt in the center, but butter flavor.
I picked up both the regular M&Ms Crispy in their Easter colors and the Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs for comparison, when a reader alerted me that they were no different.
There are some small format differences. As noted in the name, the Malts are mini, and they are slightly smaller than the regular Crispy M&Ms, but not something that you’d notice right away. But then again, the Malts aren’t really egg shaped at all, they’re just inconsistent so that some of them are kind of egg shaped and others are spherical.
The candies on the left are the Easter colors for the regular Crispy M&Ms and the handful on the right are the new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs. Slightly different colors, but similar irregular shapes.
The difference isn’t inside, either. The ingredients and the structure are the same. The crispy rice center is light and airy, but basically flavorless, it’s a little like cereal, a little malty. Outside there’s a little hint of chocolate, not much but with a bit of a milky note. The candy shell is crisp. But as I mentioned earlier, this Malt version is not malty, the outside has a butter flavor to it, and I have to emphasize that it’s just a flavor.
I’ve had these two bags for almost a month, I’ve finished the regular Easter crispy M&Ms but I can’t bear to even have the Malt bag open near me. The smell is disgustingly artificial. It’s not malt at all. I don’t know what Mars was thinking with this product version, but they should definitely consult with other parts of the company that actually make malted items in the future.
Monday, January 25, 2016
The new Dove Milk Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Crisp Promises are for Valentine’s Day. I picked mine up at Target (and they may be a Target-Exclusive item).
The shortcake part is a little odd, conceptually. For a real strawberry shortcake, berries (often in a sweetened syrup) are ladled over a biscuit type baked good. Some folks prefer a spongecake or poundcake but the key here is that they’re all soft and cakey. The cookie pieces in this case are made from tapioca starch, rice flour, sugar, palm oil, baking soda and some salt.
The other odd part of this is that there’s milk chocolate ... so if anything, this is an imitation of a chocolate covered strawberry with a few gluten free cookie bits (this is not, however, a gluten free product as it’s made in a facility that also uses wheat and peanuts and tree nuts).
The pieces are not a swirl of milk & white chocolate, like some other recent versions. Instead this is a solid milk chocolate piece, flavored with some strawberry and dotted with little cookie inclusions.
The strawberry flavor is very strong, but the milk chocolate holds its own with a creamy dairy note and a little toasty cocoa flavor. The strawberry is floral sweetness, no dried berry bits in this version. The cookie bits are odd, since they’re made with starch and not actual wheat flour, they are actually rather starchy, though they don’t get sticky-pasty like some gluten free cookies I’ve had. The overall effect of the crunchy cookie bit is really nice, it aerates the experience because you kind of have to chew it instead of just letting the chocolate melt away, which I think boosts the strawberry notes.
They’re pleasant. The strawberry isn’t too artificial or plastic (it does say natural flavor on the package, though it’s kind of vague). I don’t know if I would buy these again, but I appreciated the effort and novelty.
Friday, January 22, 2016
Moon Pies are a Tennessee treat, a little marshmallow sandwich featuring round graham crackers and then a thin mockolate coating. They’ve been around since 1917, though they’re a bit of a regional treat and sometimes hard to find. They’re something between a candy and a snack, because of the graham cracker element. They’re also pretty big, so I can see why it’s an appealing idea to morselize them.
Taste of Nature makes Cookie Dough Bites and a variety of other little morsel items sold in theater boxes. The Moon Pie Bites sound pretty good, “Delicious marshmallow & graham in a chocolatey coating.” Well, until you get to the coating part.
The pieces actually smell pretty good. They vary in size, but most are between the size of a pea and a garbanzo.
The the description says it’s marshmallow, it’s actually just marshmallow flavored and there’s no gelatin in the list of ingredients. So these are fine for vegetarians and they’re Kosher. However, it is a mockolate coating, which is made from sugar and palm oil and whey and some cocoa, among other ingredients. It looks decent, but doesn’t really add a chocolate component to this combination candy.
The overwhelming scent of the pieces is graham. It’s a pleasant cereal sort of smell, kind of like vanilla and digestive biscuits and maple syrup.
The pieces are a bit crumbly and dry inside. They’re grainy and have little crumbly graham cracker bits in them. The mockolate coating is neither waxy or greasy, so that’s kind of a blessing. It’s a little cool on the tongue but doesn’t really ruin the otherwise disappointing candy. All elements are equally bad. The center has little sugary bits, the vanilla flavor is overly fake, the graham bits have little of the crunch of real crackers and the chocolatey coating isn’t chocolatey.
Moon Pie Bites contain wheat, milk and soy. They area also made in a facility with peanuts, tree nuts and eggs.
Friday, December 18, 2015
I have a soft spot for Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies. Mostly the soft spot is in my memory, because I don’t find the current day item meets my pickier standards. It shouldn’t be that hard to make a chocolate cookie with a minted chocolate coating.
So, if I can’t get my itch scratched with Thin Mints, perhaps I should turn it on its end and have something chocolate with cookies, instead of cookies with chocolate. Mars’ new Target-exclusive Promises for Christmas are just that: Dove Milk Chocolate Holiday Mint Cookie Promises.
The idea is simple, and certainly not original. They’re milk chocolate, lightly flavored with peppermint along with some crunched up chocolate cookie pieces.
The milk chocolate is fudgy and sweet, but definitely smoother than many other brands like Hershey’s and Nestle that are on the shelves at the moment. The little cookie bits are sandy and crunchy with a bitter note of charcoal and cocoa. Mostly they just sit in the crevices of my molars. The effect is a nice textural change from the smooth melt of the chocolate and a slight note of salt.
The ratio of chocolate to cookie is very good, definitely more chocolate, but they weren’t stingy with the cookie bits, they were in every bite. They were a little on the sweet side, which is really the profile of the Dove Milk Chocolate. Still, I’d love it if someone would do these in dark chocolate.
I hope Target brings these back next year and hopefully they’ll get wider distribution so everyone can enjoy them. But now I’d like someone to explain why I can’t have them all year, like the long gone Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Mint bar.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Trader Joe’s often has the most wonderful seasonal confections. They’re often reasonably priced and unique items that are hard to find anywhere else. Many of the items at Trader Joe’s for 2015 are returning from previous years, including their cordials, passport chocolate stacks and Belgian chocolates. The newest item that caught my eye are the Trader Joe’s Chocolate Marbles.
There’s nothing particularly wintery or holiday about them. They’re just chocolate spheres filled with different pralines. There are six varieties, each sphere is then given a mottled color coating to distinguish it from the others. There are ten marbles in the package. It’s just shy of 5 ounces, so each piece is about 4/10 of an ounce. The flavors are: caramel, coconut, praline & almond, and chocolate mousse. The description on the Trader Joe’s website goes like this:
Almond Praline (Green), Hazelnut Praline (Orange), Chocolate Mousse (Blue), Coconut (White), Caramel (Brown), Crispy Cookie (Yellow)
They’re about the same size as a Lindt Lindor Truffle, but really the similarities end there.
The tray is wonderful for protecting the candies, but makes it devilishly hard to get them out, they’re tucked in there and I couldn’t quite grab a single. All I would end up doing is spinning it around in its little cup. However, once out, the slightly bumpy outside means that they’re not as rolly as some spherical chocolates. (Sixlets probably max out the scale at a 10 and these are probably about a 4 - they can sit on a flat surface but anything raked and they will go with gravity.)
The lovely medium blue marble is filled with Chocolate Mousse. The shell is dark chocolate with a milk chocolate filling. The filling is soft and creamy and definitely sweet. It’s light but I wouldn’t call it a mousse. The dark shell was different enough from the filling, but if I wasn’t told what this flavor was, I’m not sure I’d guess it. However, it’s quite different from the Lindor, it’s much more dense in flavor with less of that thin oily feel on the tongue.
The white marble is filled with a chocolate cream with Coconut. This was rather mainstream tasting, very pleasing for my American palette. This was the only one I was able to pick out by scent. The chocolate was sweet and the little crispy coconut bits did make it all pop a lot more than the more delicate praline pieces.
The brown marble is filled with two half domes of Caramel. It tastes like a lot more chocolate on this one, but the caramel holds its own. The caramel is a bit more of the saucy side than chew. The flavor is quite deep, with scorched and burnt sugar notes particularly strong. There were also a lot of milk flavors, more than the other pieces, so that may have been part of the caramel.
I think this was my favorite of the assortment, because it was so different from most American and British caramels. The only drawback I noticed after the third or fourth piece was that the colorful coating was a little waxy and though it seals in the flavors and keeps them from melting if you hold them in your hand for a few minutes ... it’s a shellac and rather tastes like it.
It’s a milk shell with a milk chocolate paste in the center and little cereal or cookie bits. It was a little malty and a little corny… when I say corny, I actually mean it tasted like corn nuts or polenta or something. It was not as sweet as some of the other milk chocolate pieces and definitely different.
Green - Almond Praline has a darker chocolate shell, though I’m not sure if it’s full dark chocolate. It balanced the almond praline pretty well. It’s not marzipan, it’s more of an almond butter mixed with a touch of cocoa and sugar. It’s sticky and satisfying, but doesn’t have a strong jolt of almond flavor.
The orange marble is filled with Hazelnut Praline. This is quite sweet but has a very good roasted hazelnut flavor. The filling is more paste with a definite crystallized sugar grain to it. It doesn’t have the smooth melt of the mousse, so it’s a bit sticky. I thought the milk chocolate shell made it all too sweet, but the lingering toasted nut flavors really kept it from being cloying afterwards.
I think these are a great hostess gift, excellent for using as an accent to a dessert plate of holiday cookies, or tossing in a little dish with some snacks. The price, for the quality and unique appearance, is quite good.
These are made in France, is suspect by the same confectioner that made the Magic Beans. The ingredients look good, all natural things, even natural colorings They contain milk, wheat, hazelnut, almond, soy, coconut. May also contain traces of chestnut, pistachio, walnut and/or eggs.
Monday, November 30, 2015
This Winter Edition of the classic square Ritter Sport is a cream filled chocolate bar with 16 little squares. I found mine at Cost Plus World Market, which has been a pretty reliable source for the winter versions (though less often the summer ones). They’re a smidge more expensive than the regular Ritter bars at $2.99, but they’re also placed with the Christmas candy, not the ordinary candy bars.
The bar is described as milk chocolate filled with hazelnut creme and hazelnut cookie pieces. I love the hazelnut bars that Ritter Sport makes, so this was a really enticing idea.
The bar, once broken, looks an awful lot like the chai one, no real perceptible nuts or nut paste or cookie bits, just off white cream.
The bar smells milky but with an actual hazelnut note to it. The cream center is a bit on the greasy side, but does actually have crunches of cookies and some small hazelnut bits. That roasted hazelnut smell, that Nutella scent, takes over the chocolate though. While the coating is milk chocolate, it definitely tastes more like gianduia.
The bar is decent, but not special enough for me. It’s a little on the bland side, and the greasy cream filling doesn’t have enough of the hazelnut punch I’d hoped for. The cookie bits are too few and of course the cream filling is really high in palm fat.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.