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Ethically Sourced

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Taza Stone Ground Chocolate Mexicano

Taza StackTaza Chocolate makes their chocolate from bean to bar in Somerville, Mass. What sets them apart from the many other small batch chocolate makers that have sprung up in the last 10 years is that they stone grind their chocolate in the rustic, classic Mexican tradition. Taza sources their cacao through direct trade sources to assure quality and ethical practices.

They make a wide variety of products but the ones of most interest to me are the Mexicano Discs. They make 10 different varieties, but I got samples of two that I thought would represent the style best: Cacao Puro Chocolate Mexicano 70% and Taza Salted Almond Chocolate Mexicano. I also noticed recently that Trader Joe’s has started carrying a strikingly similar set of chocolate discs, so I’ll throw in some notes about that.

Taza Stone Ground Chocolate

The Taza website describes the Taza Discs as Rustic, round dark chocolate discs with a distinctively gritty texture, some sweet, some savory, some spicy. The packages have two discs in them, 2.7 ounces total (1.35 ounces each).

The discs are either for eating straight from the package or making into a drink by mixing with a whisk (or molinillo if you want to be authentic) and some hot milk (or water).

Taza Cacao Puro Chocolate MexicanoThe packaging is extremely simple. It’s a printed, stiff parchment style paper that’s folded around the chocolate and sealed on the bottom with a large sticky label.

The Cacao Puro Chocolate Mexicano 70% is organic, gluten free, soy free and dairy free plus Kosher and made with only two ingredients: organic cacao beans and organic cane sugar.

The process for making the chocolate is very simple. The roasted cacao is placed in the stone mills and ground, then ground a second time with the sugar added. As noted on their website, it’s not a lot of processing, no conching and no emulsifiers are used. The chocolate is then tempered and molded into the discs.

Taza Salted Almond

(My photos for the Puro turned out poorly, so just imagine this Salted Almond is the Puro. It really looks the same, just a smidge darker.)

The look of the bars is a little dusty, less than glossy. The snap is solid, these are tough and dense bars. The melt is, well, not very smooth. It’s described as rustic and rustic is what it is.

The overwhelming flavor note I had was green wood, it’s a little like black tea, with other notes of lemon peel, raisins and a hint of figs and leather.

The texture is grainy, there are grains of sugar, which are interesting because they dissolve quickly. Then the is the grit of the large cacao particles. This gives the overall flavor of the chocolate a sort of variation, there are parts where the flavors might start as citrusy but then after chewing (yes, later because of the grit, there is more chewing than a really smooth dark chocolate might obligate me) some other flavors come out, like the tobacco and tea.

Taza Salted Almond Chocolate MexicanoIt was really looking forward to the Salted Almond Chocolate Mexicano.

The chocolate here is only 40% cacao, with a larger proportion of sugar plus the almonds and salt taking up the other 60%. I really expected the cross section of this one to look more rustic, with more bits of almond in there, but it’s really well integrated.

It’s quite sweet, the graininess is taken up with the sugary grains with a hint of salt. I didn’t catch much from the almonds, except that they gave it a more creamy and mellow flavor that moderated the bitterness of the cacao better than the sugar. The chocolate flavors were also evened out, so I just got a sort of fudge brownie flavor from the whole thing.

I tried making a hot chocolate with this, since that’s part of the appeal of the Mexican-style of rustic chocolate. I didn’t put a lot of chocolate into it - about half of a disc for about 6 ounces of whole milk, I’ll probably add more next time. It’s best to use a whisk for this, all I had was a fork, so there was a lot of stirring (and a good thing that I didn’t fill up the cup all the way). The flavor is much more nutty and the sugar dissolves completely. The grittiness of the cocoa part goes away (until you get to the sludge at the bottom which is then a mix of almond bits and cacao nibs, which is also great).

I prefer this as a hot drink to a bar for eating, but that’s just me. It’s a bit expensive and requires a lot more work than just dumping a powder into some hot water, but I appreciate good ingredients and can take that extra minute for the stirring. (And now that the weather is getting cooler, I need a sort of whisk that’s ideal for one cup of chocolate.)

Trader Joe's Salt & Pepper

The final one I have notes on is the Trader Joe’s special version, Organic Salt & Pepper. It has 54% cacao, so it’s a bit darker than the Almond version. The only real difference between this disc set and the Taza branded ones is the fact that there are no little letters T A Z A on the molded sections.

It smells dark and peppery with some rum notes. The salt is much more forward than the Salted Almond. The gritty texture seemed to go well with the rustic flavors of salt and pepper and the grainy sugar. The cocoa flavors were a bit lost though did remind me of brownie batter. Of the three that I tried, this was my least favorite, but mostly because of the overall sandiness. The heat of the black pepper takes a while to warm up, but lends some nice tones.

The style of chocolate is interesting and definitely different from the standard fare and novelty chocolates these days. Really, I think this chocolate will shine as a drinking product, not for straight eating. But that’s a personal preference. If you’re looking for a chocolate that’s easy to portion, made with vegan ingredients, that has no GMO ingredients, emulsifiers or gluten or added vanilla bean then this is a fantastic option.

Update 10/29/2012: Per the suggestions of readers that I should drink this as hot chocolate, I did just that with one tablet of the Salted Almond. I found it a little bland, but very rich. So for the remaining discs, I made chocolate pudding. The recipe was 1/4 cup of corn starch, 3 cups of milk and three discs (about 3.5 ounces) of chopped chocolate. I warmed the mixture on the stove over low heat while I used a whisk to completely incorporate the corn starch, then as the chocolate melted to emulsify it. Then turned it up to medium heat, stirred constantly until it just started to thicken and boil. I added some vanilla extract (optional). It’s very rich, not at all sweet.

For my mix I had one disc of Salted Almond and two of the Cacao Puro. I wasn’t interested in the Salt & Pepper as pudding.

Related Candies

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  2. Al Nassma Camel Milk Chocolate
  3. De la Rosa Mazapan
  4. Carlos V: Dark Knight
  5. Christmas Classics Poll Results
  6. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Line
  7. Nestle Carlos V Milk Chocolate


Name: Chocolate Mexicano: Cacao Puro 70%
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Taza Chocolate
Place Purchased: Samples from Taza Chocolate
Price: $4.50 retail
Size: 2.7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 148
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Taza Chocolate, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Organic, 7-Worth It, United States


Name: Chocolate Mexicano: Salted Almond
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Taza Chocolate
Place Purchased: Samples from Taza Chocolate
Price: $4.50 retail
Size: 2.7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 148
Categories: Candy, Taza Chocolate, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Nuts, Organic, 7-Worth It, United States


Name: Salt & Pepper Dark Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (3rd & Fairfax)
Price: $3.99
Size: 2.6 ounces
Calories per ounce: 148
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Trader Joe's, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Kosher, Organic, 7-Worth It, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:40 pm     All NaturalCandyTaza ChocolateTrader Joe'sChocolateEthically SourcedKosherNutsOrganic7-Worth ItUnited StatesComments (5)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Glee Sugar Free Gum

As I mentioned in some recent reviews, I’ve been chewing more gum lately. It’s hard to find gum that’s doesn’t use artificial sweeteners, but the market has expanded in the past few years as consumers have searched for alternatives to aspartame.

I picked up this package of Glee Gum Sugar Free Peppermint before a recent plane trip but then forgot to take it with me. So I’ve been munching on it at the office.

Glee Sugar Free Gum

Unlike sugared gums and other sugar free gums, chewing gum made with xylitol has an amazing cool feeling on the tongue. The candy coating on the Glee chiclets only enhances that.Glee is also made with all non genetically modified ingredients (including sunflower lecithin) and a natural gum base made from real chicle.

The flavor is a mild peppermint, it’s clean and not too overpowering but also lasts quite a long time. The chew is smooth, and while I’ve had problems with the chicle sticking to my teeth before, I don’t have that issue with the sugarless version (it could also be that I’ve had some of my fillings replaced since I started Candy Blog).

Sometimes I find sugar free gums have a strange, metallic flavor, but in this case I got no strange notes. It was refreshing and simple. Xylitol is not a no-calorie sweetener, it’s a sugar alcohol that has a fraction of the calories of sugar. But mostly it has either no effect on the bacteria that cause cavities or, in some studies, can effectively combat it (but it takes more than just a couple of pieces of gum a few times a month). Xylitol, like most sugar alcohols, can cause stomach distress when consumed in large quantities by some people. Gum is usually not an issue, unless you’re chewing more than one package a day if you happen to be one of those sensitive people.

This is pretty much my go-to gum now. I still prefer real Chiclets because of the satisfaction of chewing the sugar out and then going for three more pieces. But this is probably better for my oral health, the flavor lasts longer and is made with all natural ingredients. Now I’m hoping they’ll come out with more flavors, like cinnamon.

Glee Gum does come in little single-serving boxes for Halloween treating, however, the sugar free varieties are not available yet. As far as I can tell, this would be the perfect item for folks who are nut-free, gluten-free and sugar-free to give out without seeming like stick-in-the-muds. (But it would help if it also came in the bubble gum flavor, too.)

Related Candies

  1. Tea Forte Minteas Lemongrass Yuzu
  2. PUR Gum: Xylitol Sweetened
  3. Wee Glee Gum
  4. Three Pink Bubble Gums
  5. Roca Buttercrunch Thins
  6. All Sugar Free Week (May 5-9)
  7. Glee Gum: If You Like Stuff Stuck to Your Teeth


Name: Sugar Free Gum (Peppermint)
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Verve
Place Purchased: Erewhon Grocery (Park LaBrea)
Price: $1.25
Size: .62 ounces
Calories per ounce: 61
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Verve Inc, Ethically Sourced, Gum, Mints, Sugar Free, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:39 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewVerve IncEthically SourcedGumMints8-TastyUnited StatesComments (5)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Poco Dolce Hazelnut Bar

Poco Dolce Hazelnut BarPoco Dolce is a small confectioner based in San Francisco known mostly for their lovely toffee tiles (really, take a look). A few years ago they started making specialty chocolate bars as well.

The one I picked up in San Francisco was one I was particularly looking forward to. It’s simply called Hazelnut Bar made with bittersweet chocolate. The ingredients are exceptionally simple, chocolate, hazelnut butter and sea salt. Since it’s a dark chocolate, it’s also vegan (though processed where it may have come in contact with milk proteins, other tree nuts or peanuts and there’s no statement about the sourcing of the sugar).

Poco Dolce sources their chocolate from nearby Guittard Chocolate Company, choosing from their Rainforest Alliance certified chocolate. The hazelnut butter comes from Oregon.

Poco Dolce Hazelnut Bar

The bar is not that large, though the box makes it seem like it would be close to one of those 3 ounce tablets. Instead this one is 1.763 ounces ... or what I’d consider a very generous single portion.

The dark bar is nicely tempered and the smooth hazelnut butter is well integrated. The texture is smooth, no hint of hazelnut bits but a strong hazelnut flavor. The bar is bitter, but in a roasted way. The melt is good, though a little firmer than a regular dark bar at first, but has a lighter feel on the tongue than a straight chocolate. It’s lightly sweet and lightly salty, deeply chocolatey and nutty. It’s also exceptionally filling. About two pieces were a great pick me up. So while the bar was expensive and small, I felt like it lasted a long time.

One of my complaints about hazelnut paste (gianduia) as I’ve gotten older is that it’s too sticky and too sweet. This bar has none of those issues, yet still remains decadent.

Related Candies

  1. Poco Dolce Popcorn Toffee
  2. Pernigotti Gianduia: Piedmont Hazelnut Paste
  3. William diCarlo Perle di dolcezza
  4. Eat with your Eyes: Poco Dolce
  5. Guittard Akoma Fair Trade Chocolate Chips
  6. Ice Cubes
  7. Caffarel Gianduias
  8. Scharffen Berger Gianduja


Name: Bittersweet Hazelnut Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Poco Dolce
Place Purchased: Fog City News (San Francisco)
Price: $5.75
Size: 1.763 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Poco Dolce, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Nuts, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:51 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewPoco DolceChocolateEthically SourcedNuts8-TastyUnited StatesComments (0)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Madre Chocolate: Dominican, Jaguar & Rosita de Cacao

Madre Chocolate DominicanMadre Chocolate is a newer bean to bar chocolate maker based on O’ahu in Hawaii. The logo for Madre Chocolate tells a lot: it’s the Maya glyph for cacao. You can see a larger version in this Archeology magazine article. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be “smiling” on the Madre version, but that’s the way it looks to me.

Madre makes their chocolate in Hawaii, but uses personally sourced beans from Central America, where chocolate was born. The Madre Chocolate Dominican Dark Chocolate bar is made with fair trade beans, and is 70% chocolate using organic sugar and Mexican vanilla. There are no emulsifiers.

The bars are absolutely beautiful. They’re wrapped well, too. The bars come in a tough and really re-usable foil then inside a printed kraft paper sleeve. Many bars come in foil, but the foil tends to protect the bars only in the store, not after they’re opened. Here I was able to open the wrapper and rewrap the bar without any difficulty or mess.

Madre Chocolate

The bar itself has a beautiful mold, with designs inspired by Central America art and iconography. The Dominican Dark Chocolate bar is a deep reddish brown color with an excellent, crisp snap.

The bar has a strong dried cherry note to it and some deep, oaky smoked flavors. It’s on the bitter side with a lot of berry and spice to it, there are notes of hibiscus, black pepper, chipotle and black tea.

The melt is smooth, there’s some slight grit every once in a while, but for a chocolate with no emulsifiers, it’s exceptionally smooth with a crisp and brief dry finish.

Madre Chocolate Jaguar CacaoMadre Chocolate: Jaguar Cacao Chocolate from Central America was the bar that spurred me to get to know Madre Chocolate.

I’ve often wondered about the plants that chocolate comes from, like the diversity of citrus fruits. Theobroma is in the same family as the Mallows - which includes things like Kola Nut, Marshmallow, Okra and Cotton. Most chocolate aficinados already know about the three varieties of beans: criollo, forastero, and trinitario. So I was really excited to see that Madre Chocolate uses jaguar cacao, or mocambo which comes from the plant Theobroma bicolor. It’s another species of Theobroma and fruits in a similar fashion, in a large pod. The tree looks remarkably different but the beans can be treated in the same way: fermented, dried, roasted and conched. You can see more about all the Theobroma species on Wikipedia and pictures of the Mocambo on Fruitipedia.

The ingredients are organic cacao beans, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter, jaguar cacao and vanilla. So this is not a pure jaguar bar, but a combination. It is definitely lighter than the Dominican, looking almost like a milk chocolate bar.

Madre Jaguar

The texture is softer, almost lighter on the tongue than the Dominican. The flavors are also rather strange. There’s the standard cocoa notes, it’s woodsy and a smidge grassy. But then there are other flavors like ginger but also something more savory. I want to say leeks, but it’s not as obvious as something like onions, it’s just something faint in the background that isn’t quite “chocolate” in the traditional sense.

The melt is smooth, a little sticky but not sweet. There’s a milky quality to it, but of course there’s no milk in it at all. For folks looking for a dark chocolate or a dairy-less chocolate that’s not so bitter or astringent, this is that bar.

Madre Chocolate Rosita de CacaoThe final bar I have is the Madre Chocolate Rosita de Cacao which features cacahuaxochitl blossoms. The plant, Quararibea funebris, is also in the mallow family so distantly related to cacao. The blossoms were used to flavor the original Mayan chocolate drinks.

This bar also features the Dominican cacao of the first one I tried. The ingredients are the same: organic cacao beans, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter and then rosita de cacao and Mexican whole vanilla.

Madre Jaguar

That’s the Jaguar on top and the Dominican bar on the bottom, to show the difference in the color.

I’d read that rosita de cacao smells like maple sugar and I found it’s absolutely true. The woodsy, sweet notes of maple syrup were front and center when I unwrapped the foil.

This bar was a little grittier than the plain Dominican, but had a very different flavor profile. The dried berry notes were still evident, but the woodsy profile was much stronger. It was very oaky, very vanilla with strong bourbon, leather and pipe tobacco flavors. The texture did have a little fibery grit to it, which I’m guessing is the flower. At times it was like fig seeds and seemed to intensify the soft florals if I chewed them.

As part of a drink, I think I’d enjoy them more than in a bar. It wasn’t just the texture but the strength of the very perfumey vanilla that seemed to overwhelm some of the deep chocolate notes. It really softened the profile overall of the intense Dominican beans.

This exploration into the flavors and influences of modern chocolate was fascinating. It provided a lot more than just the few lines in books and articles that talk about the more savory foamy chocolate drink that was first served to Westerners.

Like many of the new bean to bar artisan chocolate makers, Madre is interested in many of the historical and sociological aspects of chocolate, responsible sourcing as well as exploring and recreating the rich history of chocolate for modern humans. It’s more expensive than buying a history book to try them all, but I guarantee you won’t forget it. I got my bars because I sponsored the group’s initiative to source Mexican cacao on Kickstarter. You can buy them on their website and they list stores that also carry the bars there.

Related Candies

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  3. Amano Dos Rios 70% Chocolate
  4. Askinosie White Chocolate (Plain, Nibble & Pistachio)
  5. TCHO Fruity
  6. Amano Single Origin Bars: Madagascar & Ocumare
  7. Theo 3400 Phinney Bars


Name: Dominican Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Madre Chocolate
Place Purchased: Madre Chocolate (via Kickstarter)
Price: $8.00 retail
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Organic, 8-Tasty, United States


Name: Jaguar Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Madre Chocolate
Place Purchased: Madre Chocolate (via Kickstarter)
Price: $8.00 retail
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Organic, 7-Worth It, United States


Name: Rosita de Cacao Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Madre Chocolate
Place Purchased: Madre Chocolate (via Kickstarter)
Price: $8.00 retail
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Organic, 7-Worth It, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:46 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChocolateEthically SourcedOrganic7-Worth It8-TastyUnited StatesComments (3)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Divine Milk Chocolate Praline Mini Eggs

Divine Milk Chocolate Praline Mini EggsIn the past five years it’s gotten a little easier to find ethically sourced candies for the holidays.

Divine Chocolate makes Fair Trade certified chocolate using cocoa from the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana. For the most part in the United States we just get their bars, but for the past two or three years, I’ve seen some of their holiday items at stores like Whole Foods.

The Divine Milk Chocolate Praline Mini Eggs are described as milk chocolate eggs with hazelnut praline filling. The upright box comes in the palest pearl blue color with some very light icons in the background in the same style as their bars. The box only holds 3.5 ounces, which is about 8 foil wrapped praline filled eggs. At Whole Foods they cost $4.49 per package.

Divine Milk Chocolate Praline Mini Eggs

These remind me an awful lot of the fair trade Tony’s Chocolonely Easter Eggs available in Europe. So much that I’m wondering if there’s a common production facility in common.

The eggs are 1.5 inches long and about an inch at the widest. They come in two different foil colors: gold and pale blue. Inside the foil the eggs have an interesting shell pattern that reminds me of crocodile.

Divine Milk Chocolate Praline Mini Eggs

Each egg is about 13 grams or .46 ounces, so they’re quite a little morsel. The suggested serving is three eggs and I calculated that they’re about 70 calories each, which means 153 calories per ounce ... a rather fatty little chocolate egg. But there is one gram of protein per egg. The ingredients say that the chocolate is 27% cocoa solids and 20% milk solids. Also, the entire candy is 19% hazelnuts. The chocolate is fair trade certified, but that only makes up 67% of the ingredients.

The milk chocolate shell is filled with a thick and dense milk chocolately hazelnut cream. They smell deeply toasty and nutty. The milk chocolate is sweet and sticky and tastes pretty much the same as the filling. It’s soft and rib-sticking with a good mouthfeel and melt. It’s a little on the fudgy side, but barely grainy (the particles from the hazelnut). They’re really filling and though very sweet, it’s not to the point that it burns my throat.

Many fair trade sweets are more for adults, this one would definitely please children. It’s attractive, filling and well made. The price is a bit dear, but that’s what happens when you pay everyone involved a decent wage.

Related Candies

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  2. Tony’s Chocolonely Chocolate Easter Eggs
  3. Milka NAPS Mix (Assortment)
  4. Real Eggshell filled with Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle
  5. Choceur Nougat Bites & Marzipan Bites
  6. Caffarel Gianduias
  7. Lake Champlain Hazelnut Eggs


Name: Milk Chocolate Praline Mini Eggs
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Divine Chocolate
Place Purchased: Whole Foods (Park LaBrea)
Price: $4.49
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Easter, Divine Chocolate, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Nuts, 7-Worth It, Belgium, Whole Foods

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:26 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewEasterDivine ChocolateChocolateEthically SourcedNuts7-Worth ItBelgiumWhole FoodsComments (3)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Justin’s Peanut and Almond Candy Bars

Justin's All Natural Milk Chocolate Peanut BarLately as the artisanal, slow and local food movement has taken hold I’ve been seeing more wholesome candy bars coming to the market. It’s an interesting idea, to take the fantastic flavor and texture combinations made famous and delicious by the mass-manufacture candy companies and tweak them with better ingredients.

But what actually makes a candy bar great. After you get past the concept and the basics of the ratios, what sets a good candy bar apart from a great candy bar? Is it the quality of the ingredients? The freshness? Can the ethical repercussions of your purchase effect your enjoyment?

When I found out that Justin Gold of Justin’s Nut Butter was releasing a version of the classic Snickers bar, I figured if anyone was going to top Mars, it might be a guy who knew and loved peanuts. The new line of bars are called, simply, Milk Chocolate Peanut, Dark Chocolate Peanut and Milk Chocolate Almond.

Justin's All Natural Peanut Bars

The press release said “Justin’s All-Natural Candy Bars contain 25% less sugar, 50% more protein and 100% more fiber than the leading conventional candy bar, Snickers.” So I was prompted to take a look at what a Snickers actually had in it and what I’d get out of it nutritionally.

Snickers Ingredients (2012): milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, lactose, skim milk, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, skim milk, butter, milkfat, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, lactose, salt, egg whites, artificial flavor.

Snickers Stats: 2.07 ounces - 57 grams - 280 calories 130 calories from fat

Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar Ingredients: organic milk chocolate (organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic milk power, organic chocolate liquor, organic soy lecithin, organic vanilla), caramel (brown rice syrup, cane sugar, sweetened condensed milk (whole milk & sugar), whey powder, palm oil, salt, sunflower lecithin, natural vanilla flavor), marshmallow creme (brow rice syrup, sugar, water, egg whites, arabic gum, vanilla), dry roasted peanuts, Justin’s classic peanut butter (dry roasted peanuts, organic palm fruit oil), peanut flour, organic palm fruit oil, sea salt.

Justin’s All Natural Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar Stats: 2 ounces - 57 grams - 270 calories - 130 calories from fat

So the ingredient list may look longer on Justin’s, but that’s just because they have to qualify so many of those items with organic. A Snickers bar isn’t really made with horrible things (no high fructose corn sweetener, no palm oil, real milk products and real milk chocolate). But a big selling point is that Justin’s attempts to use sustainable ingredients. But don’t go in thinking that there are fewer calories in Justin’s, just because there’s more protein and fiber, the calories are pretty darn close and the fat is identical.

Justin's Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar

The bars look great. The wrapper’s not bad either; it doesn’t look like some sort of dog-eared hippie candy bar. So no compromises there. The milk chocolate is quite sweet but the whole bar is about the peanuts and peanut butter. The caramel is chewy and has a nice pull to it, the nougat tastes like roasted peanut butter with a little note of salt. I was missing the crunch of big peanuts though. There were some, but not quite the same thing as a Snickers, which seems to have more distinction between the layers.

Still, a very satisfying experience. Sweet, crunchy, salty and toasty with a light creamy chocolate finish. Is it better than a Snickers? It’s hard to say, I’ve been raised on the ratios of the Snickers (just like I had the same problem with Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups not quite arriving at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup experience).

Justin's All Natural Dark Chocolate Peanut BarDark Chocolate Peanut Bar has a lot to offer. It’s not an innovative bar, after all, there’s been a Snickers Dark on and off for many years.

The package looks remarkably like the Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar, except the small print that says Dark Chocolate and the coloring of the illustration of the bar is a little darker. If I had one piece of advice about this bar it would be to make it easier to tell them apart.

Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Bar

The dark chocolate that Justin’s uses is quite dark, though has a smooth buttery melt and bitter, slightly astringent finish. Part of the time I actually got a green olive note from it. The peanut and caramel and nougat ratios are otherwise the same but seem a bit brighter by the bitter chocolate counterpoint. Of the two bars, I actually preferred the Milk Chocolate, which is a bit unusual for me. The dark chocolate is just too pronounced.

Justin's All Natural Milk Chocolate Almond BarMilk Chocolate Almond Bar is the analogue to the classic American Mars Bar, now known as Snickers Almond.

It features an almond butter nougat, caramel with almonds all covered in milk chocolate. The bar, like the others, is two ounces.

All of the bars are gluten free but contain eggs, soy, dairy and either peanuts or almonds plus may have traces of other nuts.

Justin's Milk Chocolate Almond Bar

My experience with the Snickers Almond didn’t prepare me for this bar, but it’s quite different. It tastes like almonds. The roasted flavors of almonds, not amaretto, are throughout the bar. The nougat is lightly salted and chewy as is the caramel. The nougat has fantastic toasted flavors of almonds and the caramel holds the whole almonds and almond pieces. So there’s a great deal of crunch here along with the smoother chewy textures. The milk chocolate is silky smooth, sweet and has a strong powdered dairy note to it that ties the whole thing in a bow. Of the three, this one tastes like it beats the original in texture and flavor.

Justin's Peanut & Almond Bars

The only production note I had for all of the bars was that they had voids in them. Not huge, but enough in each one that I had to wonder about what might cause them during production and how they could avoid it. The other small issue I saw was that the bottom chocolate coating was thin. On the almond bar it was thin enough that I could see the nougat through it. This can let the nougat dry out and of course messes with the flavor ratios.

On the whole, these are great bars. They don’t taste like there’s a single compromise in there. Though the press release boasted about the improved nutrition, I’d say an extra gram of protein is not why you’d choose these bars. The bars are priced at about twice what you’d pay for Snickers. But for that you get ethically sourced, organic chocolate and other organic ingredients. Some of the other hand made bars are five times the price, so when compared to that, I was pleased. The preference between them without that would come down to personal taste. I think the Snickers are more consistent, but the Justin’s bars are new and I’ve only eaten four (two of the Milk Chocolate Peanut) plus the samples I had at the ExpoWest trade show so all were extremely fresh.

Update 9/17/2012: Either I misread something earlier this year or something change, but the Justin’s Candy Bars do not use fair-trade certified chocolate. The Peanut Butter Cups in both Dark and Milk do, but the Candy Bars do not at this time. I have edited the above review to reflect that information. I apologize if that was confusing to anyone in the interim (but please, always read the packages and/or websites of the candy companies, as they are more likely to have up-to-date information).

Related Candies

  1. Bees & Beans Honey Bar
  2. Double Dutch Sweets: The Ramona Bar
  3. Snickers Slice n’ Share (1 Pound)
  4. Go Max Go Jokerz Candy Bar
  5. Zingerman’s Zzang! Candy Bars
  6. Snickers Dark
  7. More Satisfying Snickers Almond?
  8. Snickers Xtreme


Name: Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $1.99 retail
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 135
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Nougat, Nuts, Organic, Peanuts, 8-Tasty, United States


Name: Dark Chocolate Peanut Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $1.99 retail
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 130
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Nougat, Nuts, Organic, Peanuts, 8-Tasty, United States


Name: Milk Chocolate Almond Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $1.99 retail
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Nougat, Nuts, Organic, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:54 am     All NaturalCandyReviewJustin's Nut ButterCaramelChocolateEthically SourcedNougatNutsOrganicPeanuts8-TastyUnited StatesComments (3)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Poco Dolce Popcorn Toffee

Poco Dolce Bittersweet Toffee TilesOver the past seven years or so I’ve been very hesitant to do reviews of toffees. I’m not certain why, because I love the stuff. But when it’s offered as a sample, I usually decline. Perhaps I know that I can’t be even slightly objective because it’s pretty hard to make bad toffee. And if you like toffee like I do, you probably don’t need a review. (It’s also possible that all toffee is actually good.)

So that brings me to Poco Dolce, an artisan style toffee maker in San Francisco. I’ve bought their toffee quite a few times. (The photo at the right here is from a package I picked up in 2008. I’m pretty sure I also picked up a similar box in 2009, and have certainly sampled their products at every Fancy Food Show they’ve exhibited at. Other mentions on the site here with a photo, here in 2010 and here in 2008.)


Poco Dolce Popcorn Toffee

While in San Francisco at the Fancy Food Show last month, I sampled Poco Dolce’s Popcorn Toffee. There’s no better place to pick it up than at their store, which is in an area known as Dogpatch. (Also home to Recchiutti’s candy kitchen and Dandelion Chocolate.) I popped in and they had exactly what I wanted, a beefy tin jam packed with little toffee squares covered in dark chocolate.

Their Toffee Tile products are molded pieces with little toffee centers. They’re gorgeous and usually individually wrapped in glassine sleeves or tucked into boxes. Their regular toffee square are a bit more rough and tumbled, enrobed and maybe a little more scuffed.

Inside the tin the toffee was protected in a cellophane sleeve. But it was completely full, not like some packages. Yes, it’s expensive stuff, too. It was $16 for the tin which holds a half a pound. So $32 a pound.

Poco Dolce Popcorn Toffee

The toffee construction is simple. A light toffee, with a good buttery cleave to it, with a few pieces of popcorn in each piece. The pieces are each about one inch square, though some aren’t completely square. The toffee pieces are a little lofted in the center, especially if there’s a big piece of popcorn in there. But most of the popcorn is smaller bits. The flavor is really popcorny, though still there’s not a l of the actual stuff in there. It’s quite amazing how the buttery, salty notes of the toffee combine so well with the toasted corn flavors of the popcorn. The chocolate is dark and silky and does a great job of sealing in all the crunchy toffee goodness so that it doesn’t get soft and tacky.

This is a brilliant idea, wonderfully executed. I love the size of the pieces, the chocolate is excellent quality. Their toffee tiles are also great, but feature a much darker toffee and more chocolate by proportion. I like the more rustic style like this, but still with plenty of chocolate. The tin is great for serving, I would be happy to serve this to friends over to watch either Downton Abbey or a football game.

They also make a sampler package of their different varieties, so you can find your favorite. (The Double Shot Espresso is great but too strong for me to eat in the evening, the Burnt Caramel Toffee are sure to please everyone in a crowd.) Poco Dolce uses Guittard’s fair trade and sustainably grown chocolate in their products and all natural, locally sourced ingredients (wherever possible).

Related Candies

  1. Fresh & Easy Milk Chocolate Covered Toffee Pieces
  2. Kraft Daim
  3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee
  4. Toffee Flavored Chocolate Covered Candy Corn
  5. Recchiuti Asphalt Jungle Mix
  6. Valerie Toffees & Nougats
  7. Enstrom’s Toffee


Name: Popcorn Toffee
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Poco Dolce
Place Purchased: Poco Dolce (San Francisco)
Price: $16.00
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Poco Dolce, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Toffee, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:41 pm     All NaturalBay AreaCandyReviewChocolateEthically SourcedToffee8-TastyUnited StatesComments (0)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Zotter Scotch Whisky

Zotter Scotch WhiskyThis Zotter Scotch Whisky bar has everything that I would want in the perfect decadent candy bar. It’s made by Zotter in Austria from fair trade, bean to bar chocolate. The ingredient list is mercifully short and virtually all organic with more than a smidge of Scotch Whisky (9%).

The things that make it hard to give the bar my fullest recommendation would be how difficult it is to actually buy it (I picked mine up while in Germany) and when purchased in the US, it’s rather expensive at about $6 to $8 for the 2.47 bar. (There’s also a little bit of a question about one ingredient, fructose-glucose syrup, which sounds like high fructose corn syrup, though since it’s organic it’s not from GMO sources.)

I’ve had a few Zotter bars over the years and have read plenty more reviews of their products as well. They have a weird twist to a lot of their flavors, some that I think work well in unexpected ways, and others that seem strange simply for the sake of it. I’m talking about combinations like Coffee-Plum with Caramelized Bacon or Cheese-Walnuts-Grapes to just a little unorthodox like Pear Cardamom to the downright unthinkable like Cornelian Cherries and Pig’s Blood. Think of them as the Jones Soda of fair trade candy bars.

Zotter Whisky

The bar is the same format as all the others I’ve ever had. It’s about 5 inches long and about 2.3 inches wide. It’s not a thick bar but it is filled. They call them hand-scooped bars but they’re rather angular and always rectangular. This bar is enrobed, which is my preferred construction method. (My second favorite is panned, third is molded - that’s the kind of lists Candy Bloggers keep.)

The full name of the bar on the front is Scotch Whisky “Highland Harvest”. There’s no other information on what kind of Whisky it is. The bar is glossy and has the slightest ripples across the top. The chocolate is 70% for the shell, the center uses the same but with he addition of the whiskey, milk, cream and fructose-glucose syrup.

It smells a lot like Scotch, leathery and smoky with notes of vanilla, tobacco and of course the deep cocoa flavors.

Zotter Whisky

The coating is thin, but still has a bold flavor, a smooth melt and woodsy flavor profile with a touch of coffee notes. The center is like a truffle, soft and with a silky melt. It’s barely sweet, with more than a touch of salt to it as well. The whiskey is quite evident, with a light burn on the tongue and throat. There’s a dryness and sort of acidity to the filling that’s unlike the profile of the chocolate in the coating. The leathery and smoky notes are strong and for some, probably, repulsive. I enjoy the pipe tobacco flavors to it, the mix of vanilla, red berries, oak and a touch of black walnut.

I loved the bar. It’s completely decadent and I found it difficult to eat more than a third in one sitting. The 9%alcohol is pretty intense, too. I would buy this bar again, most definitely. I think I prefer Zotter’s more traditional formulations. I like their spirit though I don’t care much for the pork products in my chocolate, even if they’re not in this particular bar. (I know, I’m a hypocrite since I eat gummis, which also contain gelatin.) I haven’t been able to find Zotter bars in Los Angeles, so there’s little hope of these becoming my weekly habit.

For other thoughts, check out Chocablog, who liked it overall, and Jim’s Chocolate Mission, who didn’t care for it much.



Name: Scotch Whisky Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Zotter
Place Purchased: Kaufhof (Berlin, Germany)
Price: 4.25 Euro ($5.62)
Size: 2.47 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Zotter, Alcohol, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Organic, 9-Yummy, Austria

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:40 am     All NaturalCandyReviewZotterAlcoholChocolateEthically SourcedOrganic9-YummyAustriaComments (3)

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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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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• 10 Candies that Shouldn’t Be So Disappointing

• Orgran Molasses Licorice

• Rogue Chocolatier

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• Trader Joe’s Holiday Roundup 2014

 

 

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