Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Princess is currently known for their marshmallows and Tangerine is known as the company who manufactures the Anthon Berg line of filled chocolates, so it seems natural that they’d combine these skills for an Easter egg. At about the same size as a Cadbury Creme Egg, they’re still a little lighter. (The package didn’t say, but I’m guessing this is less than an ounce.)
The pastel foil wrapper holds a very pretty chocolate egg with a swirl on both sides. Mine were pristine and without the usual dings and scrapes that most of the eggs get at the store because they were sent right from the PR folks handing the Princess account. (Yay!)
It smells lightly of milky chocolate and a little like raspberry. In fact, I wasn’t sure if it was a flavored marshmallow until I bit into it.
The marshmallow doesn’t quite fill the hemispheres, there’s a little gap, as it’s apparent that they fill the halves and then join them together. The marshmallow is pleasantly plump and foamy, a little dry and very pink. It’s a little grainy at times, but not in an unpleasant way. The raspberry flavor is just an essence, a whiff, no hint of tangy berry overtones.
It was sweet, but not too sticky or overwhelming like I find the CCE. Though I think I still prefer the Russell Stover Marshmallow & Caramel Egg, this one is pretty tasty too, and of course cute and hefty enough to impress any child if it were in the Easter basket on a Sunday morning.
I couldn’t read the little print on the foil wrapper, but the press kit emailed to me heralded that “Princess Marshmallow Egg contains only natural colours and flavours, no added salt and no hydrogenated fats.” (They actually do have all that stuff on their website, so few American companies actually do that.) There’s actual real vanilla in there too ... I’m kind of jealous that the Brits get to have real chocolate with real vanilla in it for less than a dollar.
UK readers can pick these little gems up for about 40p in corner shops, garage forecourts and Somerfield supermarkets.
Monday, March 3, 2008
A couple of years ago I was pleasantly surprised by the Russell Stover Cream Easter Eggs. Though I’ve never been much of a fan of the Cadbury Creme Eggs, I wasn’t surprised to see that Russell Stover is now making a similar product and knowing that they did nice things with the other eggs, I thought I’d give this array a try.
There are some striking similarities between the CCE and the Russell Stover. First, they’re all 1.2 ounces (yes, the Cadbury’s used to be larger, back in 2007 they were changed from 1.35 to 1.2). The Cadbury’s currently come in the classic Creme Egg, Caramel Egg and the newest version is the Orange Creme Egg.
The Russell Stover Eggs do not duplicate any of these flavors. Instead they’ve gone with slightly different versions.
The most promising in my mind was the Russell Stover Dark Chocolate Creme Egg. One of my major complaints with the CCE is that it’s far too sweet and lacking in flavor. I figured a dark chocolate egg with a chocolate creme might provide some, I dunno, flavor to balance the sugar.
It looks good, I have to admit. The dark shell holds a thick and glossy creme. It doesn’t smell like much, but the textures are pretty good. The shell is crisp and easy to bite but doesn’t shatter into a gazillion bits. The creme center is rather like a gooey frosting, it’s not very deep in chocolate-ness, but still pleasant. When eating around the edges and getting more chocolate than creme, it was pretty good. But the proportions towards the center began to make my throat burn it was so sweet.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
Russell Stover Chocolate Creme is the same as the dark chocolate egg, only with a milk chocolate shell. It’s not an overwhelmingly milky chocolate, so it doesn’t really do much to add a different flavor to the whole thing.
I found it much sweeter overall than the dark chocolate version. Still pleasant if you’re the type who eats frosting by the spoonful (which I admit to doing at times). The fudgy-ness of the creme center is more noticeable in this one.
Rating: 5 out of 10
I know you’ve probably wondered how they make these. Here’s what I think they do (and I’m just guessing):
If anyone actually knows how this actually happens, please pipe up in the comments!
The Russell Stover Vanilla & Chocolate Creme was the egg that I least wanted to eat. Milk chocolate with a white creme and a dollop of chocolate cream in the center, the most similar to a Cadbury Creme Egg. I’ll admit that I only ate half of this. The creme did have a strong vanilla flavor (though it verged on coconut sometimes). The chocolate shell was pleasant, but I really couldn’t tell when the chocolate creme kicked in.
It was better than my previous experiences with the Cadbury Creme Egg, but still not something I’m interested in eating again (or even finish the last bite of).
I give this one a 5 out of 10.
The Russell Stover Marshmallow & Caramel egg is a milk chocolate shell with a marshmallow center with a little dollop of caramel for the yolk. This one is actually lighter than the others, as you might guess, and only clocks in at .9 ounces.
The marshmallow is very moist and has more of a “fresh pie” meringue texture to it. It wasn’t very sweet, instead it was just a little foamy. The caramel had a little salty and buttery taste to it that set off the marshmallow and very sweet milk chocolate well. It’s not at all like a Scotchmallow, but had it’s own wonderful qualities.
This was a very different sort of egg from all the others that I’ve had and the one I enjoyed the most.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Overall, they’re interesting, and certainly attractive and compact. But none of them fit the bill as something I’m interested in indulging in. I’ll stick to what I think they do best, their enrobed eggs. Alicia at The Girl Tastes also found the full line and split them open and displayed their gooey glory as well.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Though the standard big item in an Easter basket is a chocolate bunny, there’s nothing in the books that says that is must be a bunny. In fact, many companies make things like eggs (often filled with other chocolate or confectionery items), chicks, ducks, filled baskets, geese and some folks even do crosses.
This week I looked at four different options that could be purchased at just about any drug store or discount retailer: R.M. Palmer, Wonka, Russell Stover & Lindt, though this isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed hollow chocolate items.
Two years ago I visited Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven, and if you were ever looking for a Tiffany-style experience for Easter baskets, that’d be the place. You can get a hollow chocolate bunny the size of a toddler. (Well, toddlers aren’t hollow.)
Oddly enough at this writing there’s nothing on the Jacques Torres website that mentions anything about the impending holiday (I always figured Lent was the classic time to display Easter goodies).
So I thought I’d wrap up the week with two other devilish hollow chocolate items, though they’re not exactly for Easter, they give a good sense of some more pricey items that are out there.
Milk Chocolate Gnome by Michel Cluizel with a white chocolate beard - I was sent this as a sample a few days before Christmas along with some other items that I’d already tried (the single origin tasting kit, being one of them).
Cluizel is known as one of the few bean to bar to bonbon companies in the world, so they have exclusive control over everything from the quality of the beans to the molding and packaging of the product. This fellow came in a flat bottomed clear bag and in perfect condition. He’s made with a dark milk chocolate that is tempered to perfection. It has a nice milky scent and perfect snap when I bit the top of his hat off.
The chocolate itself isn’t very thick at the top but moreso as I got down to his little feet. The chocolate is sweet, perhaps a little too much for me, but extremely creamy with a well balanced chocolate flavor.
I also had a white chocolate flat snowman with a candied orange peel scarf and a nose and buttons made from chocolate pearls. The white chocolate was indeed buttery and sweet with wonderful vanilla notes.
I don’t know what you can get from Cluizel in the States via the web, but a visit to their NYC shop or any of their French locations would probably be divine. The closest item I can find online right now is in the Chocosphere “Bargain Basement”.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Chocolate Penguin from Hotel Chocolat - again, just before Christmas I got a package of some items from Hotel Chocolate which included some things that I couldn’t eat because of walnuts (okay, I actually ate one of them and besides being very uncomfortable from a swollen throat I was mostly cross).
The mostly milk hollow figure is a bit thicker than the Cluizel. It’s nicely formed and decorated in the shape of a penguin with both dark and white chocolate accents.
The Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate is 40%, which is really high in cacao for a milk. It’s very creamy with a strong dairy component, good malty tones and a mellow chocolatey base.
Hotel Chocolat is new to the States, but has a strong following in the UK (see the coverage at Chocablog for more reviews). They source their chocolate ethically and use natural ingredients. They don’t actually have any chocolate bunnies here in the States, but a really attractive “engraved egg” that’s either hollow or filled with an assortment of their chocolates. Their UK assortment is much wider (and has a great mix of elegance and casual kookiness.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
My hollow chocolate adventures are not over, I’m still planning on getting some from See’s (which uses Guittard milk and dark chocolate), Vosges, L.A. Burdick, Lake Champlain among others.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
It’s the Wonka Chocolate Golden Egg. It’s Wonka because it’s made by Nestle. It’s chocolate because that’s what it’s made from. It’s golden because that’s what color the foil wrapper is and finally, it’s egg shaped.
It’s sold in a rather large box, which I suppose protects it well, but seems a bit of overkill for the amount of actual candy you get.
The whole confection clocks in at 4.5 ounces (the largest of my candy reviews in Hollow Chocolate Rabbit Week). What’s also different about this one is that it has something inside, a handful of SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies. The egg itself is 4.5” tall. The box that holds it is 7” tall.
The chocolate shell is woodgrained. Or maybe it’s supposed to look like a nut. I have no idea why it would be either. Eggs are smooth.
The chocolate itself is, well at least real. It’s very sweet, sticky and milky. It’s definitely not the wonderful Swiss milk chocolate that Nestle makes, but as novelty fare goes, it does pretty well.
Some pieces taste a little “fruitier” because of the SweeTarts.
My egg had eight SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies. Three red and five purple. I was spared the recent atrocity of the blue/tropical punch. I kind of hoped for more candy inside, but the amount matched the image on the box. Also, the candies rattle around inside and ding up the chocolate with little nicks and leave a SweeTart dust.
It’s fun, it’s well made (in Canada), but it’s a bit pricey at $7 to $8 retail (I haven’t found a store with them in stock, I got mine as a sample from CandyWarehouse.com). That ends up about $1.67 per ounce.
The Wonka Golden Egg is one of the few Wonka products that relates back to the 1971 movie adaptation. (And the best candy-themed musical rant ever.)
So if you have your own Veruca Salt at home, this might be the perfect featured item for an Easter basket.
Easter is in full swing as the Valentine’s candies are gone from the shelves and replaced by a profusion of pastels. It comes a bit earlier this year, March 23rd.
I did my regular seasonal circuit of the major retailers to see what was returning, absent and new:
There’s a hoarde of new eggs this year. Notably from Russell Stover (who has always done the larger enrobed eggs). I’ll have a roundup of those later next week and even a new one from Princess for UK readers.
Wonka has again mucked up the classicly wonderful SweeTarts Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies. The first year I reviewed them they contained Grape, Apple, Lemon & Cherry. Last year the lemon were dropped. This year they replaced the Apple with Blue Tropical Punch. Yuck. I am official on the wagon and refuse to buy these any longer as the only ones I’m interested in now are the Grape.
I’ve seen some “bunny corn” but still no sightings of the spring mix MelloCremes from Brach’s. You can get a quasi-substitute from Jelly Belly though.
Hershey’s has plenty of Kisses to chose from, including the return of the Coconut Creme Kiss, Vanilla Creme, Orange Creme & Lemon Creme, Pastel foil versions of regular, caramel, almond and dark chocolate and Pastel Kissables.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
It looks good, but it’s always bad.
Why do I keep buying it?
For you, dear readers. It’s a public service that I’m obligated to perform.
The thing about Palmer is that they have so many other things going for them. They have cute designs, usually their packaging is nice, they’re Kosher and of course they’re made in the USA (Pennsylvania for locavores). But it’s like they go out of their way to disappoint once the stuff hits my mouth.
“Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Palm Kernel Oil and/or Palm Oil), Whey, Cocoa, Lactose, Skim Milk, Soy Lecithin, Vanillin, Artificial Colors (Blue #1, Blue #2, Red #40, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 & Red #3). May contain Peanuts/Nuts.”
Look how far the cocoa is down on that list, #4 ... I think it’s only in there for coloring!
The rabbit is admirably attractive. It has a nice dark sheen, it’s shiny and has little details like the winsome eyeroll and it’s holding a flower. It took me a while to figure out that the white blob at his belly is a little fluffy white chick ... maybe. It’s also pretty thick. It’s just a little shorter than the Russell Stover one and weighs and extra quarter of an ounce. The walls of the shell are a bit thicker.
But you know, the taste is not that good. It has a cool feeling on the tongue, it’s very sweet and has a fudgy grain to it. It tastes nothing like chocolate, more like milk powder and peanut shells. (Oddly, that’s not really a bad taste, just not chocolate and not as sweet as I’d have thought based on the ingredients.)
The serving size is the whole rabbit, which clocks in at 260 calories, with only 50% of that from fat. Yes, the rest comes from carbs (usually chocolate is a 60/30/10 mix of fat/carbs/protein ... with some room for movement depending on dark or milk varieties - some extreme darks I’ve had are 85% fat).
Sometimes I wonder if Palmer is doing the cocoa industry a service by buying beans that would otherwise be turned into compost or rot in the co-op storehouses. I don’t think I’d mind their products if they were sold as “biodegradable decorations” ... but sadly the appearance of a nutrition label seems to indicate they really do think people want to eat it.
Considering the fact that there are actually good real chocolate bunnies around at similar prices if you keep your eyes open (Russell Stover isn’t quite as cute, but there’s also a Hershey’s version, too), there’s no reason to buy these except for off-label uses: Easter dioramas, photo shoots or just buy them all as a public service to remove them from the shelves so that others may not be faced with similar disappointment.
R. M. Palmer Hollow Milk Chocolate Flavored Bunny ... the Easter equivalent of a lump of coal.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Russell Stover has often had a rather stale image as one of the drug store chocolate brands. They’re trying to push themselves a bit lately and I think it shows, at least it’s caused me to give them a second look and for the most part I’ve been pleased.
They’ll never replace upscale chocolatiers, but they’re dependable and consistent, especially for holiday specialties.
Their Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny’s appearance is a rather ghastly caricature. The yellow foil wrapper with its green bow, blue eyes and huge eyelashes are trying too hard. (But I really like the touch of the pink inner ear.)
If the outside is akin to a drag queen, the inside is a fresh and athletic 22-year-old with clear skin and shiny hair. No need for any pasted on eyelashes here or colored contacts. The smooth sheen of the medium color of the milk chocolate is lovely, with its little curls of fur every once in a while for a bit of verisimilitude.
The shell is rather thin, as I expected when I picked it up. The thing is very light at 1.5 ounces (and rather similar is volume to the Lindt bunnies). The easy-to-break shell doesn’t detract from the appeal though, it just makes it easier to pick off a piece of your own chosing. Honestly, I don’t mind hollow bunnies. I was always rather stymied by solid bunnies as a kid, as they required whacking them on a hard surface or going to the kitchen and taking a meat fork to them. Hollow bunnies are easy to crack and munch.
I think this is the first time I’ve simply eaten Russell Stover’s milk chocolate. According to an article in Candy Industry magazine, they age their milk chocolate for 90 days (and dark for 150 days). I’m not sure who makes Russell Stover’s chocolate, an article mentioned that they’re using Callebaut for their Private Reserve line. No PGPR or milk solids in here, just real milk chocolate and fake vanilla.
The chocolate smells rather, well, sweet. More like fake vanilla and a little malty.
It has a nice quick and silky melt. It’s a little sticky and very sweet but has a lot of flavor packed into that.
The foil wrapping could be updated a bit without losing the appeal to children, but the product is rather good and an admirable value at 66 cents an ounce (probably less if you find them on sale).
They also come in 3 ounce and 6 ounce versions (and the website shows dark chocolate as well, but I had no luck in the stores).
Monday, February 25, 2008
I’ll admit that finding a palatable chocolate bunny at the drug store isn’t easy. Lindt has led the way over the past few years, virtually taking over the high-end bunny domain. Instead of depending on novelty, the Lindt Bunny is the same year after year.
This year was the first time I saw a dark chocolate version, so I scooped it up, even at regular retail of $3.49 for a 3.5 ounce bunny. (But then again a 3.5 ounce Lindt Dark Bar is often about $3 anyway).
The elegant gold foil and dark brown bow is part of the appeal of this confection - it feels timeless but not dated.
Lindt uses their 60% dark blend for this bunny which also features no added dairy ingredients like many other so-called “dark” chocolates from big manufacturers these days. However, it’s not all natural, instead the use vanillin, an artificial vanilla flavoring.
Even out of the wrapper the bunny is quite beautiful. The sheen was pleasant and I was fortunate to get one that hadn’t been nicked & dinged up on the shelf.
It may be billed as a hollow bunny, but this is pretty substantial stuff. The ears are nearly solid and the head pretty thick as is the base. Most other rabbits this size would probably weigh 30% less. (And require additional packaging to protect them.)
The chocolate is pleasant. I don’t think the 60% is Lindt’s best, but is creamy and has a nice robust flavor with some coffee & cherry notes. It has a slightly dry & chalky finish, which makes me feel like I’ve just had a cup of cocoa. Seeing how Easter is in March this year, cocoa is quite welcome.
The Reindeer, like the Bunny, is equally handsome and actually sports the Lindt name on the side (the Bunny doesn’t).
Like the Bunny, the Reindeer had nearly solid ears and a thick base.
Since it’s the same size and has the same recipe as the Lindt Gold Bunny, just substitute that mentally. (Besides, you want to be prepared for Christmas, don’t you?)
Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve ever had Lindt Milk Chocolate before this. I’ve had their Lindor Truffles, but this all milk chocolate, all the time and quite a change for me.
It’s very milky but still maintains a robust chocolate flavor and none of the “powdered milk” flavor that I don’t care for in many European milk chocolates. It has more than a hint of malt to it, which of course I gravitate towards. It’s quite silky on the tongue and not so sweet that it makes my throat hurt.
As chocolate animals go, they’re both real winners. The price is a bit steep ... but if you have a mind to start some sort of new tradition of Easter Reindeer, you could get away with buying them after Christmas (this one was good until 5/31/2008).
The German Lindt website lists all sorts of other versions of the iconic Bunny, including 1,000 gram versions (yowza! that’s almost three pounds!), white chocolate and minis.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.