Monday, November 21, 2011
In the world of fair trade chocolate, it’s hard to find a balance between the ethical sourcing of the ingredients and the actual likeability of the finished product. One brand that has struck a good, mass appeal approach is Divine Chocolate. They’re based in the United Kingdom, but the chocolate is made in Germany.
Their product range in the United States is primarily 3.5 ounce tablet bars, with a few holiday items each year. The ingredients are Fair Trade certified as much as possible.
I picked up the Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger & Orange at Cost Plus World Market. I like the idea of a chocolate bar with a little bit of flavor and maybe even a candy-like flair to it.
I really like their new bar mold. The old one was simple and generic. The new one is the same format, but with little icons in each of the pieces. I like the thickness of the bar and the divisions - easy to snap apart and ideally sized for a bite.
The bar has an excellent and crisp snap. The scent is a bit woodsy, mostly from the ginger but with a well rounded cocoa note to it. The ingredients were not simply candied orange and candied ginger though. Instead it was something called Orange Granules which were made from orange juice, apples, sugar, rice flour, fructose, pectin, citric acid and orange flavor. Seems odd to make something that’s normally considered garbage (orange peels). The ginger is also just natural ginger flavor, no actual pieces.
The result are little sticky, slightly tacky orange bits. They’re good in the sense that they taste fruity, a little zesty and tangy with a lot more juice taste than orange peel. They’re not at all fibery, though they did get stuck in my teeth.
The dark chocolate is smooth with a silky melt and well rounded flavor. There’s a little hint of bitterness to it, but it’s tempered by the woodsy but slightly drying ginger. I was hoping for a little warm kick from the ginger, but that never really formed.
Overall, it’s a very good bar, it’s also a crowd pleaser, in the sense that most folks will go for a fruity bar over a straight 70%. I like the package design and the added design elements on the bar mold now. It would be nice to see fewer ingredients on the list, but at least they’re all real things.
Though the bar gets high marks for being fair trade, Kosher, non-GMO and vegan, it is made on shared equipment with wheat, milk, almonds and hazelnuts.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
I mentioned in an earlier Candy Tease that Lindt has some new holiday items. In addition to their new hollow chocolate figures of Teddy Bears, Snow Men and Santa they also have some holiday new Lindor Tuffles in Holiday Spice plus their usual holiday offering of Peppermint.
I also spotted this coppery bag of Lindt Holiday Spice Almonds.
It’s a tiny bag. It’s a cute bag, but it really is tin, especially when you consider that 1/3 of the height is just empty “flair.” But still, it’s dense. Jam packed with 3.5 ounces of roasted almonds in milk chocolate with holiday spices. Ah, the vague holiday spices. They’re so vague that on the ingredients list, they’re not even specified as holiday. They’re just spices.
The almonds vary widely in size, some as small as a Peanut M&M and some appear as large as a peach pit.
The candies are a little more complex that what was described. The almond at the center is lightly toasted. Then there is a little sugar shell on top of it. That is then dipped in milk chocolate and finally finished with a dusting of powdered sugar.
They smell a bit like amaretto and custard. The sugar on the outside is a little dusty, a little messy. The milk chocolate coating is smooth but quite sweet and with a strong dairy note. The spice flavor there is mostly the amaretto, but perhaps a little touch of cinnamon. The sugar shell on the inside is lightly crunchy but not thick at all. The almonds at the center were fresh and overall good quality. They work well either chewed for the combination of textures and flavors or slowly melted and dissolved through the layers.
I don’t usually care for amaretto, and in this case it wasn’t very strong. It’s a very sweet combination but also rather different from so many other chocolates and holiday items, I found it refreshing. I would have preferred a better, more specific description on the package though. Amaretto is not a spice and I don’t expect my real almonds to also be flavored with it unless we’re in the territory of marzipan.
While I may make fun of the packaging, I did like how efficient it was. There are two layers, an inner waxed paper and then the decorative metallic mylar. It had a sturdy, flat bottom and didn’t take up an excessive amount of space.
They’re made with wheat, dairy, almonds and soy plus they’re processed on shared equipment with peanuts and other tree nuts. Their cocoa is sourced responsibly and sustainably though not certified fair trade but also sourced from a wide range of locations (many not associated with slavery or brutal unrest). Read their statements here which specifically state that no supplier, anywhere in their chain can use forced labor.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Last year Ritter Sport sent me a one of their Europe-only bars, Ritter Sport Espresso. I even bought one when I was in Germany in February. Now they’re selling them in the United States, which only makes sense since we’re the largest coffee consuming country in the world (source).
The bar is Fine Quality European Chocolate made with Natural Ingredients. The bar isn’t explained or teased much on the front, just with robust Arabica coffee and the back just gives the description as Milk chocolate with a coffee cream filling. It also has snowflakes on it, which leads me to believe that it’s a limited edition winter bar and might not be available year round.
The ingredients list is short, but not as pure as I’d like it to be when it’s advertised as being made with natural ingredients. (Just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean I want it in my chocolate bar.)
There’s a caution about shared equipment for peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, other nuts and wheat. (Plus it contains soy and dairy ingredients.)
It’s real milk chocolate for the bar part, but the filling is primarily a sugar and oil paste. Palm kernel oil doesn’t have quite the same political reputation that palm oil does, nor the trans fatty content that partially hydrogenated oils. Still, I do not consider that to be a cream, even if cream is added to it. But let me set aside my ingredient rantings for a little tasting. Because I was really looking forward to this bar.
I don’t know what it is about the way that Ritter Sport bars are packaged or handled, but they’re always pristine when I open the package. (Sometimes the bars are broken, but not scuffed.)
The scent is dreamy. There’s a milky dairy note (a little caramel and butter) but the perfect level of coffee to it - rich and woodsy.
The chocolate is a little soft, and the center is even softer. The chocolate melt is cool and smooth, the center is a little grittier because of the coffee powder. The milk chocolate is quite sweet and the filling is less so, with a light salty note to it though there’s not actually any salt in it.
The espresso flavors are not quite ... because of all of the milk notes. It’s more like a dry cappuccino than an espresso, which would be made with a dark chocolate (dairy free would have been great for vegans). I expect there’s a bit of caffeine in here, since there’s real espresso powder, I made sure to eat mine early in the day.
It’s not the perfect coffee chocolate bar, but for about $2.00 or so, it’s achingly close I had to give it a 9 out of 10. The coffee flavors are pure, not flavored, and it’s not junked up with other caramel or hazelnut flavors. I wish it was really a ganache cream made with butterfat in there, but then it wouldn’t be $2 and probably wouldn’t be a shelf stable. Next step would be fair trade (but they do have a pretty good track record for ethical sourcing).
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Haribo Maoam have been around for a long time. The early history is a bit murky, but according to Haribo, Edmund Munster (not this one), who ran the Düsseldorfer Lakritzenwerk (Dusseldorf Licorice Works) bought the license for the chewy, fruity candy Maoam and began making it in Germany.
It was packaged as a penny candy, an impulse item with bold, colorful wax paper wrappings in popular flavors like Lemon, Strawberry, Pineapple, Orange and Raspberry. In 1986 Haribo bought the Edmund Münster company and began making the already iconic Maoam fruit chews.
After 80 years on the market, Maoam sweets are found in a variety of formats and features packaging designed to appeal to children (though plenty of adults are fans). They’re sold around the world. The most common packages are probably the Maoam Minis which is a long package that looks like a bar but is actually five different packets of individual flavors. The current flavor set includes: Cola, Orange, Lemon, Apple, Cherry and Raspberry.
There’s a lot of packaging in a Maoam packet. Each piece is individually wrapped, then packaged together in a little stack of five for each flavor, then another cellophane over-wrap. This leaves plenty of evidence that you’ve been eating candy (though the wax papers are mercifully quieter than the cellophane).
Orange They are small, about the same mass as a Starburst. Though the packages are colored, the candies themselves are only lightly tinted. The chew is soft and bouncy. I’d call it a cross between Starburst and HiCHEW. They’re even a little creamy. The orange is a bit like a Creamsicle. It’s a soft orange flavor, not overly zesty, more on the juice side of flavor with a nice zap of tang to it.
Cola is glorious. I would marry these. It’s kind of weird once they’re unwrapped because the candies are white (remember Pepsi Clear?). The flavor is great, it’s a little nutty, creamy but with a snap of lime and that cola flavor. There’s tartness to it and even a feeling of effervescence since there are little tangy spots that give a little jolt of flavor while chewing.
Lemon is tart and smooth without much lemon peel essence to it. They’re quite tasty and have just a hint of a yogurt note to them.
Cherry is a really interesting flavor. It’s different from American black cherry (like Life Savers). It’s dark and woodsy, but also quite tangy and has a little bit of a caustic medicinal flavor to me. There’s no coloring in it, so I can’t complain about that weird aftertaste I get so often.
Raspberry is very fragrant and nuanced. All the notes are there: the perfume, the seeds and the boiled jam.
I picked up this bag of Haribo Maoam Mixx which features a variety of little individually wrapped items. The main character on the front of the package is the Maoam mascot, a big green blob with a hat and riding a bicycle. (He’s the one who cavorts with the fruits on the packages. His character was introduced in 2002.
This bag cost 2 Euros and holds 400 grams (a little over 14 ounces). There’s a lot of variety.
Stripes are little flat taffy, 7 gram pieces. In this package I got a Green Apple version which wasn’t in the little block pack. The flavor is quite American at first, rather artificial, but after the tartness fades away, there’s a realistic apple peel/juice flavor that dominates. I also found a few Strawberry in this shape. They even had little pink flecks in them which tasted just like little bits of dried strawberry. A very realistic flavor and long lasting, smooth chew.
ChewTwo was another version of the Stripes that’s packaged in clear plastic to see that there are two flavors side by side. In this instance they were colored (or else it wouldn’t be very impressive looking to have two slightly different versions of not white).
Joystixx are long pieces, kind of like the Tootsie Roll Sticks. They’re probably double the mass of the little squares. In this form, they’re easy to bite, or take two different flavors and twist them together for a combo.
Pinballs are more than just a shape change. These are slightly fluffier balls of the chewy then coated in a candy shell. Think of them like an easier-to-chew fruit Mentos or giant fluffy Skittle. The flavor was interesting also because the candy shell had little crystals inside, mostly sugar but occasionally a zap of tart flavor. I could have sworn a few of the yellow ones were pineapple, not Lemon. In some cases the candy shell made them sweeter, and of course grainier. I enjoyed the variation in the texture with the shell, but not the graininess.
There were also individually twist wrapped pieces, I think they’re called Happy Fruttis.
I had no idea that Maoam were so good. I’ve seen them a few times before, and tried a few Pinballs but didn’t realize that the regular chews were so flavorful. They are different from other candies in this category too. They’re a softer chew than Starburst or Mamba and not quite as bouncy or smooth as HiCHEW. Also, if you’re a parent looking for a candy without artificial colors, this is a good kid-friendly option. (Though they’re not exactly all natural.) They do contain gelatin, so they’re not appropriate for vegetarians and those who keep Kosher/Halal.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Ritter Sport makes dozens of different chocolate bars. A few are seasonal varieties, such as their new Milk Chocolate with Strawberry Creme which debuted last fall in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Some packages feature the pink ribbon, others do not.)
The picture on the front of the package along with the name of the bar gave me most of what I needed to know: Milk chocolate filled with a cream of low fat yogurt, strawberry and crispy rice.
The ingredients don’t quite match up with that description. The first ingredient is sugar, which is fine with me as I fully expect my candy to be mostly sugar. The second ingredient is palm kernel oil. Nowhere in my chocolate, low fat yogurt or crispy rice do I ever expect to find palm kernel oil. So, its dominating presence here is unwelcome but the bar is at least redeemed with its third ingredient, cocoa butter, one of my favorite butters.
The bar is a familiar format for Ritter Sport. It’s 100 grams and comes in a square bar made up of 16 sections (four by four). The recommended portion is six pieces, which of course doesn’t create a whole number of portions. (I found for this review one bar was a portion, which means that it replaced my breakfast calories and all my snack calories for the day.)
The cream inside the bar is a faint pink with spots of actual dried strawberries. In addition, there are little bits of crisped rice. The chocolate outside is sweet and milky, like the Alpine Milk variety (though I’m not certain which version of the many Ritter Sport chocolates they used for this bar). The cream inside is sweet and mostly smooth without being greasy. The crunchies in the cream were interesting, sometimes they were the crisped rice, so they were a little salty and a little malty. But other times they were freeze dried strawberry bits so they were tangy and would soften into a slick reconstituted fruit mush. I liked the different pops of tartness or saltiness to go with the cream and milky chocolate background.
It’s a good quality bar (though not great, since a large portion is palm kernel oil) and is different from other American chocolate offerings. I found it on sale at Target for $1.66 over the weekend. For a 3.5 ounce bar of this it’s a good deal. Other bars are a bit lower in fat and have no palm kernel oil, but this is a limited edition item so it’s not as if I’m going to eat them all year round.
Monday, August 29, 2011
In my recent travels abroad I picked up a lot of chocolate bars. Here’s a brief little run down of three of them:
As a little reminder, I went to Amsterdam and Cologne earlier this year. There are flavors there that just aren’t very well known in North America. One of the new flavor trends that I noticed was Absinthe (I’ve seen a little of it in the United States but its influence in The Netherlands was a lot more ubiquitous).
So when I spotted this bar from the Chocolatier Marc Antoine called Edelbitter Absinth Truffle, I though it would be a perfect item to pick up as it would probably travel very well.
The box was stiff and nicely designed with the sickly green swirls of anise & wormwood liqueur. Inside the bar was in a simple cellophane sleeve but remarkably unscathed by its journey.
The bar was big and the pieces were chunky. The dark chocolate was glossy with large reservoirs of the dark chocolate truffle filling inside. The truffle was smooth and creamy and very soft, almost like a caramel sauce. The scent was definitely on the grassy fennel side of things, even before I bit into it. The dark chocolate was smooth and bitter though had a lot of cocoa notes mixed with a sharp and tangy anise. The truffle center had a lot of licorice flavors, very soft and fluffy notes that were sweet along with a little hint of eucalyptus and some other botanicals.
I wouldn’t call it a hallucinogenic experience, but it was a wonderful, strong herbal bar that I enjoy quite a bit. There as a little alcoholic burn to it but it was more like tequila.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The package was a big, flat square, about 4.5 inches. The box was pretty and featured raised and gold embossed lettering for the logo and the image on the front of a clay oven. The chocolate is described on the front a little more puro ciccolato fondente con fichi affumicati or “pure dark chocolate with smoked figs” - so it’s the figs in it that are smoked, not the chocolate itself.
The back of the package is in a bunch of different languages and featured notices about recycling but most importantly that Cuorenero does not use any dairy products other other major allergens, that means no gluten, no eggs, no soy, no peanuts, no nuts with hard shell (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.), no celery, no mustard, no sesame seeds, no sulfur dioxide, no lupines, no shellfish and no fish. On top of that, all their ingredients are GMO-free.
The ingredients were: cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, smoked fig pieces, sunflower lecithin and flavours.
The bar is beautiful, a thick circular slab sectioned into 16 wedges. The bar smelled like molasses, deep and sweet with a lot of notes of smoke, leather and pipe tobacco. The chocolate flavors were tangy and had notes of coffee and charcoal. The figs were little bits with the occasional seed. There were notes of dark rum, raisins and the grassy fresh notes of figs. The smoke flavors were like cognac and fine whiskey.
If you’re a chocolatier and looking for a new flavor combination, please try smoked, dried fruit in dark chocolate. Then let me know how I can buy some from you.
The bar was 60 grams (2.1 ounces) and I think I paid about $6 for it at the Cologne Chocolate Museum Gift Shop (I think it was 4 Euros). Cuorenero Website.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Zotter is a popular maker of fair trade candy bars in Austria. They’re crazy. If you think smoked figs are off the beaten path, you have not explored the uncharted wilderness of Zotter. I’ve had two of their bars before, Banana Curry and Zitrone Polenta. They’re fair trade and organic.
This was another bar that I picked up at the Cologne Chocolate Museums Gift Store (which was a phenomenal chocolate store, if you hadn’t figured that out). It’s Zotter Mandel - Rosen which is almond and rose. (I passed up the Peanuts & Chocolate bar.)
The bar is about 4.5 inches long and about 2 inches wide and weighs 70 grams (2.47 ounces). It’s thin, for a filled bar but rather dense.
Inside there are two fillings layers. The base is a creamy but rather solid almond paste and sandwiched in between two layers of that is a rose petal jelly (which seemed to have a touch of raspberry in it). This was a great flavor combination, classic and sure, a bit Victorian in sensibilities. I liked the delicate almond flavor (no screaming Amaretto here) and even the rose was light and had less of a soapy taste than some other floral flavors I’ve tried. It was fragrant and sweet with that light touch of berry to it.
It wasn’t as crazy bar but like the others I’ve profiled here, it’s unusual for American tastes. It’s not the kind of candy you can get addicted to, it’s hard to find and the flavors come in and out of production. Check out their website.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Storck is a German candy company that makes some fantastically chewy stuff, such as Reisen Chocolate Caramels, Toffifay, Werther Caramels and Mamba fruit chews. While Germany is the homeland of gummis, it’s strange to see such a large, established candy company suddenly get into the crowded gummi market.
I found a fun new, and unlikely place to shop for candy. It’s a gas station convenience store simply called Food Mart near my mother’s house in Glendale, CA. I’d filled up with gas there many times before (because it was one of the least expensive places in the area, clean, well maintained and had soapy windshield cleaner). One day when I actually went into the store I was shocked to see a huge selection of international candies. They carry German products including the most popular items in the Kinder line, Ritter Sport bars (including the seasonal varieties), British bars (Mars, Cadbury, Maltesers) and a really wide selection of American candies.
So I picked up this little package of Storck Mamba Gummies which are called funny fruity gummies and feature banana, orange, raspberry, pineapple, watermelon and cherry flavors. They feature real fruit juice in the ingredients and no artificial colors.
What I thought was interesting about this flavor assortment was the fact that it included banana, not a common gummi flavor. After I got the little package home (it’s only 1.5 ounces) I noticed that I didn’t have the full assortment of flavors. Above is everything inside the packet, four different flavors.
The texture is soft and pliable, they don’t stick together though they do have a little touch of oil on them. The shapes are tropical, little palm trees, snakes, a chameleon, sharks and something that’s either a raspberry or a puffer fish.
Banana (yellow) is tangy but with that creamy banana flavor. It was less artificial tasting than some other banana candies that have more of a caustic flavor. This was pleasant and soothing.
Pineapple (clear) is tangy, floral and jammy all at once. It’s an excellent rendition of pineapple.
Raspberry (deep red) was by far the most common flavor in my package, which is just fine with me because these are well done. The flavor is a mix of the boiled sweetness of raspberry puree with a light touch of the woodsy seeds and a note of iced tea in there. It wasn’t overly tart like some “blue raspberry” versions of the fruit.
Watermelon (pink) was quite authentic, at least as far as watermelon candies I’ve had this summer. It had a sort of rind taste to it, not just the sweetness of the flesh. Watermelon really isn’t much of a flavor as an actual melon, it’s more of a texture.
So, I missed out on Orange and Cherry in my package. I think I scored overall, as these were all nicely done. The fact that it’s a small package (only 130 calories) with no artificial colors makes it a pretty light treat for kids.
Monday, July 11, 2011
My sense of adventure with licorice from around the world is starting to ruin my appreciation of licorice. I’ve found that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to appreciate other versions, especially the salted styles from Northern Europe, that I’m spending less of my time just eating the products I’ve already found I love.
After my earlier experiments with German licorice, more specifically, licorice from Haribo (Lakritz Parade, Goliath Lakritz-Stangen and Sali-Kritz) , you’d think I would have learned something. I found most of the licorice I bought there downright inedible by my preferences. Yet when I was at Mel & Rose Wine and Liquors last month, I bought yet another Haribo licorice product. At the very least while I was in Germany I could rationalize that the candy was cheap, most under one Euro per package, here it was over $3.00.
They’re called Haribo Pearlico. The ingredients seemed to indicate that they were a children’s licorice, with no ammonia salts. My mouth may say otherwise.
I admit that I was attracted by the look of them. Each is a large mounded gumdrop shape. They’re soft enough to be squished with firm pressure. The ingredients are all natural, so the muted tones of the little candy spheres coating the licorice center is made from vegetable dyes.
At the center of each is a soft licorice gumdrop made with treacle flavor and licorice. It’s earthy, soft and relatively smooth. The candy sphere are soft and crunchy, not dense like the American version that might be found on SnoCaps. If you’ve ever had the Haribo Raspberries, you’ll know what I mean.
The licorice center has a lot of molasses flavor, some deep ginger and beet notes, burnt sugar and soft anise. But every once in a while I was getting a real whiff of ammonia. At first I thought that certain colors were ammonia (yellow in particular) but it turned out that they were all the same, just very mildly “salted” licorice.
As a first introduction to the world of salted licorice, they’re good. The textures are fun, though the colors remind me of something that’s been left in the sun to be bleached, like old plastic toys found washed up in October on the beach.
The center contains a combination of gelatin and agar-agar so it’s not quite suitable for vegetarians.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.