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.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Ritter Sport makes a bar for everyone. I don’t know how many different varieties they’ve actually make and I know I haven’t tried more than half of them. They have an awesome website that does everything I want a candy maker’s website to do: inform, entice and engage.
This new bar isn’t even listed on the website yet: Ritter Sport Neapolitan Wafers. The burnt orange wrapper stands out in the rainbow of bars, different enough from the saffron yellow Cornflakes bar (my favorite). I know, my photo makes it look orange-red, but it’s just one of those colors that computer monitors just don’t like to display without a lot of tinkering.
The package describes it as milk chocolate with chocolate cream filled wafers and praline. In Ritter-speak, praline is a hazelnut cream.
The bar is beautiful. All Ritter Sport bars are beautiful. A bulky square, four by four, with thick sections. In this case it’s thick enough to hold the layers inside so it’s more bitable. (Other solid varieties are a little harder to bite, there’s more gnawing involved or I suppose I just snap off the pieces.)
The bar is not quite what I expected. I thought the praline would be between the wafer layers.
Instead there are wafer layers, a kind of bland and crispy wafer like a rice cake, but between them is a thin bit of mild and sweet chocolate cream. So far so good. Then on top of that is a rather generous hazelnut paste. It’s sweet and nutty and a little rib-sticking thick. The crunch of the wafers gets a little lost, as there’s just not enough to offset the thick praline. I’m not saying it’s bad, I had no trouble finishing the bar, but I kind of wanted the ratios to be a little bit different.
As usual the Ritter Sport milk chocolate was excellent. Milky with little caramel and smoke notes, it’s a bit on the sweet side. Overall it was a little on the sweet side for me (a dark chocolate version, please!) and I’m wondering if the mini version might be a little better on the ratios of crunch to sticky thickness. The crunch sensation isn’t quite the same as a KitKat, if you were wondering. It’s simply not grainy enough and too nuanced. They also use hydrogenated palm kernel oil and palm kernel oil in the fillings, so it’s not all pure nutty, milky & cocoa ingredients in there.
Friday, December 25, 2009
I hope all my Candy Blog readers are experiencing a happy holiday season. Candy Holidays, of course, are among the best so I hope you’re getting your fill of the best the season has to offer and the opportunity to share it with those you care about.
What sort of wonderful sweets did you get for Christmas this year? (Or did you make or give something particularly wonderful?)
Pictured above is a Choceur Chocolate Santa, which I’d rate about a 7 out of 10. It’s quite milky in the European style but also has a nice malty note. He’s a full 8 inches tall and 7.05 ounces. The dark and white chocolate accents and the molding design was wonderfully detailed.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Marzipan Bites are elegantly simple little marzipan blocks covered in dark chocolate. The ingredients are simple and encouraging: Sugar, almonds, chocolate liquor, water, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and invertase. So it looks like it may be a fun candy for vegans. (The package does say that it’s processed on equipment with other tree nuts, milk and wheat though, so might not be good for those with milk allergies or gluten issues.)
The long box has a gold plastic tray inside with two compartments holding five pieces each.
The gold and red foil wrapper is simple but elegant and thankfully has a clear label that says what’s inside. (I can see buying several of these Choceur items and then taking them out of the package and putting them in a bowl or on a serving plate with cookies.)
L?becker Edel Marzipan means marzipan from L?beck, a city in Northern Germany. The style there has some strict requirements such as the sugar content should not exceed 30% (making the product at least 70% almonds). L?beck is best known for the Niederegger confectionery (whose marzipan is among my favorites).
The pieces are a stylish two bites. They’re long and narrow - about 1.75 inches long, .75 inches wide and .5 inches high. The dark chocolate enrobing is thin but shiny and well tempered. The scent of dark chocolate is most forward upon opening the wrapper. When I bit into it, that’s when the almond flavors emerged, a bit like almond extract. Happily they dissipated quickly and the pure almond paste was left behind.
I liked the texture of it quite a bit, it’s not the smooth and doughy paste the shapes are usually made from, instead it’s a bit grainier than that. It’s moist and has a good authentic nutty almond flavor that includes those sort of toasted notes that are often drowned out by flavorings. It was very fresh and clean tasting and for someone who doesn’t usually enjoy marzipan, especially when it’s not flavored by things like orange, ginger, coffee or lemon this was quite a revelation.
Each piece is about 60 calories and being mostly almonds, it’s not as bad a treat as many others that you can indulge in over the winter holidays and is quite filling. (There are 4 grams of protein per serving of three pieces.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
In this case the tray holds to columns of the little bricks of praline chocolate bites, 14 in all.
I had these all wrong, all wrong. I thought from the description and the kind of vague illustration that they were a little hazelnut praline (toasted nut paste with caramelized sugar) covered in milk chocolate. When I first opened them I thought, these are really light in color. I thought there’s no way they can be chocolatey.
And it’s true. They aren’t chocolate, it’s a single block of just the nougat. The ingredients go like this: Hazelnut paste, sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, nonfat milk powder, chocolate liquor, malt extract and soy lecithin. See, there’s barely any chocolate in there at all.
Then I realized I was thinking these were going to be gianduia, in the sense that they’d be a chocolate and hazelnut block. Instead they’re a hazelnut and milk block. Quite different. Once I adjusted my thinking, once I adjusted my expectations I realized that these are ingenious little cubes.
They’re only 1 inch long and .75 inches square. The color is like a milky coffee. They smell extremely sweet, a little like toasted hazelnuts and milk. It’s quite soft and melts easily (thank goodness we’re at the time of year when the unheated parts of my house hover around 60 degrees).
At first on the tongue it’s milky and melts into a cool and slick puddle. Then the hazelnut flavors emerge. It’s not as intensely hazelnut as many other gianduia candies that I prefer. Instead this is just a much better version of Ice Cubes, using the native hazelnut oils and cocoa butter for the rich fats instead of other tropical oils.
I didn’t find them terribly substantial in the end and found myself preferring the marzipan (which is kind of a shock after all of these years of proclaiming I don’t like marzipan). But the demonstration of a confection with so much cocoa butter that’s not specifically “white chocolate” is charming and worthy. I’d probably prefer it if it accompanied something a bit stronger, maybe had a dark chocolate coating or if I just at it with some salty shortbread or strong coffee.
The calorie count on these is much higher due to the fat. Each is only 55 calories, but they’re smaller than the Marzipan bites so they clock in at 178 calories per ounce.
Rating: 6 out of 10
These are two decent finds from Choceur that would be fun additions to a holiday candy bowl.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
So far I’ve enjoyed my latest bundle of Aldi confections that my mother sent to me from Ohio. Two of the heftier items in the package are the long boxes of Choceur After Dinner Mints. I quite liked the Choceur items I’ve picked up before, especially since they’re nicely packaged into individual servings. (Each mint is 45 calories.)
The “mints” come in two flavors: Orange and Peppermint with the boxes handily color-coded in orange and green respectively.
I liked the orange box because it captures the holiday vibe without resorting to red and green. It’s just an orange box with brown accents and a variety of white & brown snowflakes around the edges.
Inside the box it’s rather like every other box of after dinner mints I’ve had, such as After Eight and the Divine After Dinner Mints (which was fair trade and also had a nice design). The Orange After Dinner Mnits box weighs a hefty 10.5 ounces, kind of like a narrow brick. Each piece is tucked into an open brown glassine sleeve. Each sleeve reminds me that it is the Finest Quality, as if there could be some little folders that didn’t have that notation that contained sub-standard quality candies.
They’re two inches long and one and a quarter inches wide. They’re have a nicely rippled top and a decent chocolate scent with a touch of orange. However, once I bit into it the orange flavor is overwhelming. The dark chocolate has a thin layer of soft & smooth fondant inside. It’s a “whole orange” flavor with both juice and zest notes and reminds me more of the Jaffa orange candies I’ve had from the United Kingdom. The chocolate texture is creamy has a touch of cocoa bittersweetness, but mostly the flavor here is orange and a pure blast of sugar.
It’s a welcome change from the traditional mint and the orange does leave a clean and refreshed feeling. I liked them better in memory, not in practice though. I felt better about them after I was done while the zest was still kind of lingering, not while I was eating them.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The ingredients are pretty clean: Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Glucose Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Invertase, Soy Lecithin and Peppermint Oil. (However, this is also exactly what the Orange ones say, right down to the peppermint oil.) They’re made in Germany and feature the Aldi “Double Quality Guarantee” which means that if you don’t like it, they’ll give you your money back and another of the item. (You know, just so you can make sure you didn’t like it.) Honestly I had no issues with the quality of any of their items ... it’s often that they’re just not to my tastes.
While I found the Orange ones far too orangey, the mint ones were just right. I felt like I could taste the chocolate, which was dark and roasty as well as the clear peppermint flavor. The texture of the fondant was light and crisp. It was like they were flattened Junior Mints. With more chocolate by proportion than a Junior Mint but packing all the minty power.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Though I liked the design of the box from a graphics standpoint, it wasn’t actually substantial enough for something that holds so much candy. When the package is full and the stabilizing force of the shrink-wrap is gone, it was clear that the paperboard wasn’t built well enough. The single flap of the top and the simple folded over edges meant that the box had to be picked up carefully, best with two hands when full, or else the top would fold open and the candies spill out. Serving from it is good but putting them out in a large quantity inside their little sleeves is kind of problematic as they’re slippery.
Both are great hostess gifts and a really inexpensive item to include in a coffee when having friends over or easy thing to bring to an office to-do. (Note, I say they’re inexpensive but I don’t have the price info, so I can only guess that these are less than $4.00 for a box.)
These are not Kosher but are vegetarian and should be considered vegan (invertase is listed on the ingredients, which is an enzyme produced by bees, but for industrial food purposes is almost always made via yeast for cost savings).
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I like to cruise the aisles and look at all the great new and returning items. This year my eyes lit on the Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Delights.
The box describes them as a crunchy hazelnut treat surrounded with praline, crispy wafer and milk chocolate. While I assumed that they are like Ferrero Rocher, the image on the box didn’t quite show whether they were flat or round (maybe the wafer is just that, a little disc). The box is also rather deep, and though it holds 7.05 ounces, I wasn’t sure how the items were packaged. Were they individually wrapped and just tossed in there? How many came in a box? Were they in a tray or just stacked up?
When I got the box home and opened it, most of my questions were answered.
Inside the trapezoidal box are two trays. Each tray is sealed in cellophane and has eight sections. (16 candies total in the box.) Each little spot holds a Hazelnut Delight. At this point I confirmed that there were a heck of a lot like a Ferrero Rocher. They’re also made in Germany, which is one of the locations that Ferrero has manufacturing facilities.
The ingredients are impressive at first. The first item on the list is hazelnuts. After that it gets a little less enchanting. Ingredient #2 is sugar, which is absolutely expected in candy. #3 is vegetable oil (palm, rapeeseed and sunflower) and only after that do we get to the cocoa butter, wheat flour, chocolate liquor, whole milk powder, nonfat dry milk and cocoa ... then a bunch more stuff including more oils.
The pieces are slightly larger than one bite. It’s a lumpy, bumpy ball and most had a little drizzle of white chocolate across them. What’s nice is that they’re not individually wrapped in foil, so it smells amazing, like roasted hazelnuts and hot chocolate.
Biting into one, the construction will seem similar. It’s a milk chocolate shell covering crushed hazelnuts stuck to a hollow wafer sphere. Inside is a chocolate and hazelnut paste ... somewhere in there is a whole hazelnut.
The amazing part though is the hazenuttiness. It’s just packed with them. It’s a sweet treat, but there’s both the whole hazelnut at the center plus the crushed hazelnuts then that hazelnut paste in the middle. There must be the equivalent of three or four hazelnuts in there.
The chocolate coating is sweet and melts easily. The paste in the center is, well, pasty. It’s sticky and has a good cocoa flavor but not much on the hazelnut side, not a problem there, because the whole hazelnut pretty much takes care of that at some point. (In the photo cross-section I obviously hadn’t found it yet.) The wafer is crunchy and has a light caramelized sugar note to it, like good ice cream cones do. The crushed hazelnuts steal the show though, so crunchy and with such a distinctive roasted nut flavor I was quite enamored of these little delights.
The price is a bit steeper than Ferrero Rocher (which I’ve seen on sale at drug stores for less than 1/2 the price from time to time). But there are far more hazelnuts here and of course they were extremely fresh. I might buy them again as a hostess gift for someone I was certain is a hazel-nut. I think I’d prefer a dark chocolate version for myself.
Other items returning for 2009:
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