Monday, September 20, 2010
Last week I reviewed the Werther’s Original CaraMelts which were a buttery flavored white confection. I found them confusing and disappointing. But I had hopes that Storck who makes the Merci Chocolates and Chocolate Riesen caramels could do chocolate well.
So I picked up these Werther’s Original Caramel Chocolates Dark Cream. They’re billed as Rich European Cream Chocolate Marbled with Smooth Creamy Caramel. That marbling of smooth creamy caramel had me worried, as I don’t think that you can mix caramel and chocolate together to make a chocolate-like product, it yields something more like a caramel product.
The ingredients sounded pretty good - there’s a lot of milk in there in various forms, but none of the weird tropical oils that I experienced in the CaraMelts.
The pieces are just like the CaraMelts and pretty much the same as the traditional Werther’s Original hard caramel pieces. They’re ovals about 1.25 inches long and a little under an inch wide. They have an attractive swirl of two kinds of chocolate, a dark milk chocolate and a white chocolate along with a hefty extra dose of cocoa. They’re wrapped in little twisted plastic with maroon color coded ends.
I loved the look of the swirly pattern, each piece was different and the swirls go all the way through the chocolate piece (not like some Hershey’s Kisses that just have stripes on the surface).
But let me back up a little bit here for a moment. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with candy. As I got older I found ways of getting money to buy it, but there was a certain lattitude in the house when I was growing up that sweets that you made were more permissible. So to ease a craving I would actually make candy or cookies. And sometimes I would make frosting. Just frosting and eat it. At first making frosting involved a recipe (and sometimes the smearing of the result on Ritz crackers, Saltines or bread). Later frosting was simply: butter, powdered sugar and cocoa. Cream until smooth and consume from the same dish. If there was no cocoa in the house, vanilla frosting would result. (Other variations of desperation would be brown sugar & butter, sometimes with peanut butter.)
The point of that story is that I’ve eaten a lot of butter mixed with cocoa. Pounds of it. I’m very familiar with the mouth feel, smell and the taste of it. The Dark Cream Caramel Chocolates are like chocolate butter. If that’s what you want, well, here it is. The melt is quick and smooth. There’s a buttery taste to it, but more of a clean dairy note than a powdered milk or yogurty tang. It’s certainly not at all fake tasting either. There’s a light salty note, like cocoa often has. They’re slick when melting, but not in a thin or greasy way.
In short, they’re very fatty. The cocoa flavors are well rounded, mostly woodsy, brownie-like with a little coffee note. But they’re cocoa flavors, I don’t quite get actual chocolate from it.
I liked them quite a bit, much more than I thought I would for a product that has, by my calculations, 170 calories per ounce. (Most chocolate is about 145 or so.) There’s also a lot of cholesterol in there for something called Dark Cream (I guess that’s the cream part) - 10 mg. But all that milk also gives the serving of 7 pieces (240 calories) 3 grams of protein, 10% of your RDA of Iron and 6% of your Calcium.
I like their packaging, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s spare and light but still protects the candy. It’s made in facility with all the major allergens: wheat, soy, milk, tree nuts, peanuts. (No eggs mentioned.)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I like the bag, it’s a little gusseted mylar/plastic bag that stands up easily. There’s not a lot of extra air or weight to it, so it seems efficient but still inviting and durable.
The package says that they’re Soft Creamy Caramel that Melts in Your Mouth. I didn’t know what that meant because the image on the front was just a drawing, not a photo of the actual product. The ingredients list didn’t actually sound that tasty: Sugar, Vegetable Fat (from one or more of the following: Sheanut Oil, Illipe Butter, Mango Oil, Sal Oil, Palm Oil), Cream Powder, Sweet Whey Powder, Butter Fat, Maltodextrin, Skim Milk Powder, Fat Reduced Cocoa, Soy Lecithin, Caramel Sugar Syrup, Artificial Flavor, Salt.
It sounds like some sort of artificial coffee creamer.
The pieces inside are individually wrapped and look a lot like other Werther’s Original Caramel products. Each was well protected and emerged looking in good condition.
The pieces are odd. They’re stocky oval swirls of solid “white confection” in some sort of butter toffee flavor. I was thinking they’d be like butterscotch baking chips. The color is kind of dead - it’s not yellow (or even artificially colored at all) but more of a that grayish color that some people turn before they faint. They’re shiny, but not slick looking. The color reminds me of support stockings.
The smell is, well, buttery. It’s fake but not like the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly. It’s pleasant and not overwhelming. There’s a lot of milky dairy notes to it, and guessing from the ingredients that’s an authentic scent. The bite is like a white chocolate confection. It’s quite smooth but lacks a good melt - it’s like the melting point is a little too high for the human mouth. So it’s vaguely waxy and greasy at the same time. The flavor is lightly salted and buttery with a toffee and caramel note.
I just can’t figure out why I’d want to eat these, unless I was looking to put on weight and perhaps get some calcium (8% of your RDA in 7 pieces). They’re not too sweet, but also just not very satisfying for any of the cravings I get on a regular basis.
I like the classic Werther’s products, but their diversion into chocolate products (I don’t know what to even call this) is hugely disappointing. I think the best caramel product Storck makes is Reisen.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
As if Ritter Sport doesn’t have a large enough repertoire of bars, they have been introducing seasonally-themed limited editions. I tried the Fruhlingsspezialitaten 2010 that I found at a local import shop earlier this year. They included Haselnuss Krokant, Cashew in Alpenmilch and Bourbon Vanille. The summer versions were not so easy to find in the States but some Ritter Sport folks were happy to help me out with some samples. The summer flavors were: Stracciatella, Pfirsich-Maracuja Joghurt and Waldbeer Joghurt.
The Stracciatella features 37% cacao milk chocolate and a bourbon vanilla cream filling with chocolate bits.
It’s been many years since I’ve had real Stracciatella, which is a gelato (Italian ice cream) with stripes of chocolate that form little crunchy flakes or chips. In my experience it was usually dark chocolate.
I recall being excited by the spring version of Bourbon Vanille, but then disappointed by the lack of rum-laden vanilla notes. Here too I thought that the kind of fudgy vanilla cream center was a little bland. It’s not fatty and doesn’t quite melt in my mouth. It also isn’t very flavorful ... but also not very sweet or sticky. The little chips in it are small and don’t really add much flavor to it. I think I would have been really happy if this was a dark chocolate bar, I think that’s the kick it needs - some really rich dark chocolate. However, plain vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips has never been a favorite flavor of mine, so this might be the perfect bar for folks who do like that.
Ritter Sport is also big on yogurt. I’ve tried their Yogurt, Strawberry Yogurt and Olympia bars before. The only other country that I’ve noticed with such a fanaticism for yogurt flavored candy is Japan.
The Pfirsich-Maracuja Joghurt is a white chocolate shell with a peach and passion fruit yogurt cream center. There are also little rice flakes thrown in there for texture and crunch.
The bar is simple and plain, a soft and creamy yellow/white chocolate bar.
When I saw the reviews of this bar, I really wasn’t interested. I like real peaches and I find passion fruit okay but not my favorite. So a white chocolate bar flavored with these ... along with yogurt (which is good stuff but not exactly a candy flavoring), well, I just didn’t think they could pull it off.
But they did! It’s utterly surprising. It smells like passion fruit - a tangy and sharp floral and tropical scent that goes well with the dairy yogurt note. The peach is a faint pine and pear whiff in the background. The white chocolate is sweet but rather smooth. The rice flakes give it a little crunch, like there are freeze dried fruit bits in there. It’s milky but mostly fruity.
I wouldn’t buy this often, but I do see its appeal and I’m glad that Ritter Sport is taking a few risks with outside the box flavors in their limited editions.
The Ritter Sport Waldbeer Joghurt seemed positively the tamest and safest flavor of the bunch. Waldbeer is forest fruits, or basically mixed berries. The package shows blackberries, blueberries and strawberries.
The format is similar to the Pfirsich-Maracuja Jogurt in that it’s a yogurt cream center flavored with fruit and studded with little crisped rice flakes. The chocolate on this bar is milk. At first glance it didn’t seem that different from the classic Strawberry Yogurt bar that Ritter Sport is already known for.
It smells nice, exactly like berry yogurt - there’s the floral notes of the berries and the dairy twang of the yogurt.
The flavors are pleasant and the yogurt takes a back seat as the berry flavors come forward. The milk chocolate is smooth and give a slight dairy contribution, but also keeps the whole thing from getting too sweet. The rice flakes have a little crunch, but there are also little bits of freeze dried berry in here too, so sometimes they’re tangy and sometimes they’re more of a light malty cereal flavor.
Overall it’s decent. Munchable and satisfying, but not quite what I’d find myself craving. These may be available online at shops like GermanDeli.com and eBay.com.
Don’t take my opinion as gospel, see: Gigi Reviews Waldbeer Yogurt, Cinabar reviews Waldbeer Yogurt, Candyholic (German) reviews Waldbeer Yogurt and Stracciatella, ZOMGCandy reviews Stracciatella, It’s All About Limited Edition reviews Stracciatella and Jim’s Chocolate Mission reviews Stracciatella and Summer Limited Editions in Mini form.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I enjoy following candy companies on Twitter and visiting their Facebook pages; they often point out interesting information about products and manufacturing that I wouldn’t have known about on their websites.
Last week Ritter Sport mentioned an article about the nine different kinds of chocolate. That’s not different bars, that’s nine different kinds of chocolate used for different purposes in their wide variety of bars, including four different milk chocolates.
Last week I also got a package from the Ritter Sport representatives in the United States of some of their new bars and even a few Europe-only varieties. The Ritter Sport Olympia is one of those bars not available in the United States. It was first introduced in the 1980 to coincide with the Olympics. Then it was brought back last year. It’s an interesting description for a bar: Joghurt - Honig - Nuss - Traubenzucker which is Yogurt - Honey - Hazelnuts - Grape Sugar.
The bar looks like most other Ritter Sport bars. 100 grams in a 4x4 array of pieces. Easy to portion and nicely sized bites.
The bar simply smells sweet and a little like cocoa breakfast cereal. There’s no hint of the honey or hazelnuts within.
Biting it, I was immediately struck with the taste of tangy goat cheese. It wasn’t a great initial flavor, it was like it was a little salty and gamey. But I kept at it, you know, because this is my job.
The milk chocolate is completely dominated by the dairy notes of the yogurt cream center. The cream is soft and fudgy, but pretty creamy overall. There’s a tangy note to it, like, well yogurt or buttermilk/sour cream. There are two kinds of crunches studded within - little bits of hazelnut and then little honeycomb crunches. There’s a light hint of honey from time to time that lingers at the end.
It’s vastly different from anything I’ve had in the United States but it reminds me of some of the dairy heavy Kinder products (though they’re rarely yogurty). It was hearty and satisfying and not too sweet. I liked the idea that it was like a Greek yogurt candy bar, but then I remembered, I like the idea of the Greek yogurt lifestyle more than the actuality. I can see why this isn’t sold in the US, but it might be fun for them to release it as a Limited Edition during Olympics years.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
On my recent trip to Ohio I was delighted to visit the local Aldi twice. I was worried there wouldn’t be much candy in the summertime, as I know that Christmas and Easter are the best time to visit Aldi’s candy section. I wasn’t disappointed with the variety of candy. I’ll have coverage in the coming weeks of many of my finds, but first the one that I was most excited about: Choceur Chocolate Crisp Bars.
This cute box holds a compact stack of little chocolate covered wafers with hazelnut creme. There are 10 little bars in there, each portion is two bars, but each finger is only 95 calories for those watching their tally.
The package describes them as crisp wafers and hazelnut creme covered in fine milk chocolate. What that amounts to is a hazelnut KitKat knock-off.
The little fingers are nicely wrapped in a stiff paper-backed foil. They’re 4.5 inches long and about .75 inches wide. They pieces are in three distinct segments though each of those is more than a bite.
I admit that I had a little trouble with keeping these from the heat. (No air conditioning for the first five days of my trip.) My other goods did fine, but for some reason the way I packed these wasn’t insulated enough. However, the texture and consistency is unmarred.
They smell slightly toasty and sweet with a little milky note. The bite is soft and very crispy. The hazelnut cream is a lot more forward than the cream filling in KitKats. The cream is in between the wafer layers (looks like only two layers instead of KitKat’s three) but also heaped under the domed top, too. The milk chocolate coating is sweet and has that European dairy twang to it. The crispy wafers are light and flavorless which allows the hazelnut cream to be the most recognizable note. There’s also a slight malty flavor to it all. The crisp and airy wafers along with the slightly sticky-sweet chocolate actually makes a good combination. A single bar isn’t quite enough to satisfy on its own, but again, two are the recommended dosage.
The price is great, they’re $1.79 for the box of 10, which means that each bar is about 18 cents. That’s a crazy good deal for a real chocolate product. (It also says on the package that there are no preservatives or artificial colors - but it’s not like it’s all natural or a particularly great list of ingredients which include fake vanilla and palm oil, albeit low on the list.)
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Here in the United States we have as many as 16 different Ritter Sport chocolate bars to choose from. In the United Kingdom the regular offerings number 19 and in Germany, the home of Ritter there are 23. But what Germany has in addition to their wide variety are the seasonal editions.
I picked up the three Spring Specialties, called Frühlingsspezialitäten 2010, at Mel & Rose Wine and Spirits last week on a lark. (In Europe the Summer Specialties are already available.) The three limited editions are Haselnuss Krokant, Cashew in Alpenmilch and Bourbon Vanille. They’re all milk chocolate bars.
The 100 gram (3.5 ounces) bars are the same square format made of a grid of 16 blocks of chocolate. The Haselnuss Krokant or Hazelnut Brittle isn’t exactly a brittle (a crunchy caramelized sugar).
The package, being an import, is all in German: Gefuillte Vollmilchschokolade mit einer Haselnuss-Creme (36%), Haselnuss- und Mandel-Krokant (6%) und Reis-Flakes (3%). A little online translation help and I think it’s: Milk chocolate filled with a hazelnut cream (36%), hazelnut and almond crunch (6%) and rice flakes (3%).
It’s a stunning bar with a sweet and nutty scent. It’s less about the milk chocolate and more about the textures and flavors of the center. It’s creamy and sweet with a milky hazelnut paste. Dotted in that are little rice flakes, kind of like the cornflake bar, but a little crunchier with less of a malty-corn note. Though it mentions hazelnut and almond crunch, I never quite got that specifically, but maybe I was confusing that crunch with the cereal.
It’s sweet and decadent, really fatty and creamy but with enough of a flavor punch from the nuts that I was satisfied with a row of four blocks. It’s too bad that this is a seasonal variety and most readers are unlikely to come across it. There was a similar piece in the Ritter Schokowurfel assortment called Crocant, which was just a hazelnut paste with crispies.
The next bar has a great spring flair. The Cashew in Alpenmilkch is a simple alpine milk chocolate (30% cacao) with cashews (14%). It’s not quite as nutty as the dark chocolate hazelnut bar that I’m accustomed to; the cashews here are crushed instead of whole.
Even the underside of the bar didn’t display much when it came to the nutty contents. (The hazelnut bars are distinct with their nubbly bottoms showing off the large, whole hazelnuts.)
I’ve noticed alpenmilch bars often have a softer texture and bend more than break because of all the milk. This one wasn’t soft or fudgy, it had the same satisfying snap to it.
It smells sweet and nutty and a little like yellow cake. The chocolate notes are just a hint of caramel and a lot of dairy milk. The cashews give it a fresh crunch, a little soft and grassy without the floral notes that pistachios often bring. The overall flavor notes I get though are much more on the bakery side of things than chocolate - honey and fresh angel food cake.
A touch of salt might add a little more dimension to this, but then again this bar stands out as different from the other nutty Ritter Sport bars I’ve had. They hit on something that’s not just a different set of ingredients but a different taste profile that might just win some different fans.
This bar uses the full milk chocolate as does the Haselnuss Krokant instead of the alpine milk of the Cashew in Alpenmilch.
I was hoping this bar would be a straight vanilla cream version of the Yogurt bar or perhaps if that center is too tangy, maybe like the Cappuccino bar. The scent was a bit more like the former than the latter. The format is the same, a firm cream center inside a molded milk chocolate bar. I was hoping for something that approached the vanilla experience of the Green & Black White Chocolate bar but a ganache.
I can’t say that the smell gave me much hope for the bar, and it went downhill from there. It was sweet and it did have some deep oaky and tobacco notes that I like when I stuff my nose into a bundle of whole vanilla beans. But the milky/yogurt notes also gave it a spoiled vibe, it reminded me of Gouda, actually more like Play Doh. Completely non-toxic but not exactly mouth watering. The texture is good, the center is soft and though not silky smooth, it’s not too grainy either. It’s a bit like a super-smooth fudge but not fatty enough to be a ganache. The chocolate is overpowered by the cheese and vanilla to the point where all I got was the sweetness and melt.
It’s like someone made a vanilla flavor from reading about what it’s supposed to taste like instead of the actual stuff. Maybe if someone gave this to me and didn’t say it was supposed to be bourbon vanilla I’d say, “Wow, this is the best Ritter Sport maple syrup and chevre bar I’ve ever had.” But it didn’t go down like that. It just turned me off. This was the one bar in the assortment that I didn’t finish.
Friday, March 19, 2010
The name isn’t so enticing but at least it’s accurate: Real Eggshell filled with Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle. I found mine at Cost Plus World Market, which has a great selection of Easter candy this year. They were a bit expensive at $3.99, so for some folks this might replace the chocolate rabbit if they’re on a budget.
It’s a real eggshell that’s been emptied and filled with a gianduia. The shell is then resealed with a little sticker dot over the hole, painted up and sold. The chocolate resolidifies and when the shell is peeled off, it’s like hard boiled egg made of chocolate.
I thought it might be cute to serve them as a dessert like a soft boiled egg. I didn’t try it myself, but I’m guessing instead of sticking them in the fridge before opening you could pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds or a pan of hot water for a minute to make them soupy. Then it’d be like a rich hazelnut pudding that you’d eat with a spoon.
Even though it’s what I’d consider a novelty product, the ingredients are gourmet: sugar, hazelnuts, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk powder, soy lecithin and vanillin. I didn’t refrigerate either of mine before opening them, so I think as long as it’s not too warm (over 75 degrees) they remain solid enough to peel.
I opened mine two different ways. For the green one above I peeled off the sticker at the bottom. This showed that the painting is added after the filling is added, as the sticker is also painted and the margin under it is still a white chicken egg shell. For the second egg, the yellow one, I just smacked it against the edge of a table and pulled off bits.
Both eggs I had contained a void inside - so thought this one looks like it’s a hollow egg, the vacant space isn’t really that large. It’s kind of like the real air pocket in chicken eggs.
The truffle inside is soft, smooth and creamy. The hazelnut flavors are the best part - grassy, roasted and nutty. The dairy and cocoa butter keep it ultra smooth and the cocoa touch mellows it all out. It’s on the sweet side, not as sweet as Nutella or a Milka bar, but sweeter than the dark chocolate versions of gianduia I’ve had from Caffarel.
The confection is a novelty that lives up to the promise. It’s beautiful, unique and charming though a bit problematic to consume. I thought the best way to eat it was to expose enough truffle filling and then bite it off. Then I misjudged and got a little eggshell ... eating eggshell makes me think I’m eating my own teeth (I know, weird phobia). Finally I ended up taking off all the shell and muddling through with melty fingers.
$3.99 for 1.75 ounces actually isn’t that bad for true European gianduia, but still it seemed expensive because of the effort involved in getting the shell off. My favorite style of egg decoration is the laborious Ukranian style. That would be inappropriate for these because the shell is destroyed to get to the candy (Ukranian Egg Decoration or Pysanka application would also destroy the filling, which is added first). The point is that I didn’t care much for this airbrushed 80s reminiscent dayglo abstract.
Though the package says that the 1.75 ounces are a single portion, I found it too much to eat in one sitting. It’s 290 calories.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
The packaging is another iteration of their West African iconography in gold and red on a black background. The bars is 3.5 ounces (not available in a single serve size at this time) and is wrapped well inside the paper overwrap with a textured medium grade foil.
Divine bills itself as Heavenly Chocolate with a heart. They use mostly fair trade ingredients (in this case it was the sugar, vanilla and the cacao), are all natural and use non-GMO soy lecithin. Their dark bars do not use any dairy products and are considered vegan though are produced on shared equipment with milk, wheat and tree nuts.
The construction of the bar is simple. Dark chocolate with a layer of freeze dried raspberries sprinkled on the bottom.
Flipped over, the bar is quite beautiful, like all the Divine bars I’ve had. Nice gloss and snap, a rather red hue to it; I wasn’t sure if it was from the raspberry inclusions or just the natural state of the chocolate. It’s a moderately thick bar, thicker than a Lindt Excellence bar, but not as thick as something like Ritter Sport. The sections are 4 by 6 and pretty easy to snap apart.
It absolutely smells like raspberries with some woodsy and seed notes. The dark chocolate is strong, dark and slightly bitter. I was expecting a fruity chocolate, instead it had strong coffee and charcoal notes. The texture is silky with a dry finish and of course the raspberry bits created some texture. The raspberries are freeze dried bits, with lots of seeds. Chewing the seeds gives off grassy and sesame flavors while the pulp part is quite tangy and has great natural raspberry flavors.
Overall I liked the bold combination of flavors - this was not a timid bar. It was not a bar that I could munch on forever though. I had two pieces, then needed to rest for a while until I was interested in having some more. It wasn’t something I was craving at any point though. If they could do the same bar without the seeds, I think I’d prefer it.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.