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:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I’ve had a few Hachez chocolate products over the years, though I haven’t written much about them (just this one review). They’re a German chocolate maker (though they have Belgian roots).
My boss was traveling in Europe recently and returned with a stack of candy, and this bar was definitely blog-worthy (all others were tummy-worthy).
The Edel Vollmilch Nuss is a dark milk chocolate bar studded with hazelnuts.
The wrapper is odd in that it doesn’t look like the other Hachez products I’ve seen, which are long narrow bars. However, the classic shield and seal that accompanies the logo is the same. The wrapper here is a heavy and glossy paper wrap with a light drawing of a squirrel holding a nut and some nuts growing on a limb. (And of course the little image of the chocolate bar itself.)
It’s a thick bar, and even so the nuts protrude from the bottom of it in a cobblestone look.
The bar smells smoky and woodsy with a strong grassy hazelnut scent and a slight hint of dairy.
The texture I’ve experience with Hachez before is extremely smooth with no grit and this was no exception. The melt is slick and silky and the twang of the dairy notes were spot on perfect. The notes have a toasted flavor to them that echoes some of the darker notes of the rather dark milk chocolate (37% ... but remember that 24% of the mass of this bar is just hazelnuts).
It’s a wonderful eating bar. The hazelnuts are a little small, but then again there were a lot of them. Every one was roasted to perfection so it was crunchy with just a slight sweet note to it. I enjoyed it simply as a hearty snack and a decadent little treat after dinner. And now it’s gone and I’m going to have to find a way to get them in the United States.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Their line of individually wrapped bites called Fioretto differs from the Lindor Truffles in that it contains no tropical oils (palm, palm kernel or coconut).
These little morsels are more of a cross between Perugina Baci and Ferrero Rocher.
I liked the little stand up bag, it’s simple and not too fussy. What I liked even more is that they sell the chocolates in single flavor bags plus this assortment of all three. To top it all off, Target had them on sale for $2.50 a bag (regularly $3.50). While that sounds like a good deal, it’s not like there’s a lot in the bag - it’s 4.1 ounces and holds 10 pieces.
The Nougat Hazelnut Praline is in a blue wrapper, which may be the universal color of hazelnut.
Inside the cellophane the little candy is further wrapped in paper-backed foil. The pieces are about 1.25” in diameter and barely 1” tall. They’re lumpy affairs with obvious cereal crunchies lurking below the milk chocolate coating.
They smell sweet and milky, and a little like malty rice crispies.
Biting into them is quite a journey of textures. The chocolate shell does have crisped rice bits in it. Then the center is a soft hazelnut cream with crushed hazelnuts in it. The hazelnut aroma comes out quite distinctly once the seal has been broken.
It’s sweet but with a good bit of hazelnut and milk flavor to it. It’s sticky and a bit cloying but the variety of nut & cereal crunches break that up.
Cappuccino was a bit of a mystery, as the package didn’t really have any description. So I was pleased to see it was a milk chocolate shell (not a white chocolate one). It does smell like rich dark espresso with a liberal helping of sugar.
Like the hazelnut, there were crisped rice bits in the shell. The center here, though, had no nuts. Instead it was a creamy coffee, milk & chocolate filling. It’s a bit crumbly but melts easily. It has a strong coffee flavor and even bits of coffee beans in there (not my favorite way to get coffee flavor).
I liked the flavors and the crisped rice covered up some of the bitterness associated with the little crunchy coffee bits.
As I mentioned at the top, there were 10 pieces in my package. As you might imagine there were at least three of each ... and the flavor that got four was Caramel.
The wrapper is a tantalizing burnt orange. It smells a bit buttery and like Stroopwaffles (if you’ve ever had those, you’ll know what I mean).
The consistent element in the Fioretto is the chocolate shell with a moderate amount of crisped rice in it. It’s creamy and sweet, but doesn’t have a super chocolate punch to it, allowing whatever center is there to be the dominant flavor.
The caramel center is smooth and almost like a pudding. There’s a faint cinnamon or mild spice in there, like this is a baked good instead of a chocolate. It’s a comforting sweet flavor and texture, but lacking that bunch of “caramel” that I would expect to have notes of butter, salt and burnt sugar.
I prefer these over the Lindor Truffle line, if only because they seem more chocolate-based than oily. I would love to see them in a dark chocolate version.
Friday, September 18, 2009
And they’re also licorice. Actually, the completely unattractive sticker on the front of the bag informs me in English (the rest of the package is in German) that it’s Licorice Foam Candy.
They’re shaped like panda faces and I have to say that they’re fraktacularlary cute. So cute I just wanted to eat them up. And the name? Tappsy! How could you not like something called Tappsy? (It reminded me of Stampy.)
What was also fun was the fact that they’re a European candy, so they don’t use any artificial colorings and seem to have all natural flavorings. (I don’t know if ammonium chloride is consider natural or not ... I mean, it’s a mineral.)
The light & flexible disk are shaped like cartoon panda faces. They’re about 1.5 inches across at the ears. They come in two varieties - licorice faced and foam faced. (Panda’s don’t actually look like that, they have white faces with black eyes and ears.) The white faced ones had little noses made of a berry flavored jelly. (Real pandas also have berry flavored noses, but couldn’t find any verification of this, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and of course make mention of it in conversation until someone starts sending around emails and Snopes investigates.)
The little faces have a kind of cock-eyed smile that reminded me of Wybie from Coraline.
The licorice parts are quite mellow - a light anise flavor and not overtly sweet and a good caramel & molasses undertone. The texture is more like a chewy licorice than the foamy stuff - not the wheat based chew of the US/Australia and not quite a jelly or gummi. The foam white part is rather like a marshmallow - but smashed, just a bit more dense and not at all sticky.
I loved the licorice parts and ate the licorice-faced ones first (sadly they didn’t make up half the bag). Licorice-eared ones were just a little bland, so towards the end, I just ate their ears and tossed the face ... it’s the candy equivalent of shark finning.
I would definitely buy them again, though I would like to find them in bulk bins so I can pull out a better proportion of licorice. (They also come in a fruity version.) I looked on the Katje’s website and think there may be some other products that are more balanced to my liking like the Domino Delicious (which appears to be the first same-sex-marriage-marketed candy I’ve seen - well, besides the Rainbow Mentos).
Finally, here’s a commercial for Tappsy starring Heidi Klum:
I don’t know what’s going on in that commercial except that it’s a pretty accurate depiction of my Saturday mornings in my breezy white-clad bed, rolling around with my candy.
Finally, just a note about the calories: each piece has only 28 calories. And a whole ounce clocks in at 97 calories. So this is definitely a candy you can use a a little low-calorie treat that looks like a high calorie one.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
In 1973 Toffifee was introduced in [then West] Germany. The candy was unlike anything else on the mass-produced market and capitalized on Germany’s fondness for hazelnut and chocolate. The candy was such a huge success in Europe, it was introduced in North America as Toffifay in the late 1970s with a large marketing campaign that still sticks in my head.
The tagline “Toffifay, it’s too good for kids” is gone but the rest of their description of the candy and marketing line of All Your Favorites in One are still used.
Though I doubt this is actually how they make them, this is what they say: We spin chewy caramel into a little cup, drop in a whole hazelnut, cover it in chocolate hazelnut filling and top it with a drop of delicious chocolate.
The international Toffifee website lists the components with precision:
I loved Toffifay when it was first introduced, though in my penny pinching days of college/grad school I could scarcely afford oatmeal & eggs and wasn’t about to pay candy bar prices for something half the weight.
Then when I did start working regularly I found the partially hydrogenated oil content to be a little disturbing. So I was happy to see that the ingredients have now shifted to naturally bad for you tropical oils like palm. The individual serving four-pack is pretty hard to find, but I picked up the 15 piece tray at the local KMart. Even though the expiry was nigh (August 31, 2009) they looked pristine & glossy.
There are a few ways to eat the candy: I usually bite it in half, as I have a well-documented fascination with what bisected confections look like and of course my own tooth prints.
But sometimes I like to scrape the chocolate disk off and then attempt to peel the caramel cup apart to have a really intense hazelnut & buttery choco experience.
They smell quite divine - a little buttery and a lot hazelnutty. The little chocolate disc is mediocre chocolate. It’s very sweet and a little grainy, but holds its own against the even sweeter hazelnut paste inside the cup. Of course what gives the candy its true punch is the whole hazelnut at the core. The caramel cup is a cross between the flavor of a good caramel (nice salty mix of toasted sugar and butter) and the soft & yielding chew of a Kraft caramel.
The combination of textures, sugar & fat work extremely well for me. I think the packaging is excessive (a plastic tray inside a paperboard tray sealed in cellophane inside a paperboard sleeve) but then again it was fresh and unmarred. Sometimes the little cups satisfy me in a way that few other candies can. But I’m always hesitant to pick them up simply because they’re over $25 a pound and when I think about what sort of candy I can get for that price, I usually hold out for the higher quality stuff.
I’ve always found it a bit odd that no other versions of Toffifay ever emerged. No Marzipan, no Peanut Butter, No Caramel Macchiato, no Rum Raisin.
Lance at Candy Addict declared them Awesomely Addictive and Esquire magazine actually gives them an endorsement (though the text indicates it’s against their better judgment), Candy Monster pronounces them Freakin’ Adorable and Rosa of ZOMG Candy eats hers by placing the chocolate side on her tongue.
Monday, July 6, 2009
The Werther’s Original line has really expanded over the past few years. Known best for their classic toffee/hard caramel candies they’ve expanded into caramels and chocolate. Their newest product, Caramel Dreams combines the two.
The package says: Rich Creamy Caramel Covered in Smooth European Chocolate.
The bag is an interesting soft matte mylar. My bag was puffed up from a lot of air, which I assumed was to like the air in a bag of potato chips - meant to protect the contents from getting smashed. And it did its job well. Each little piece I picked out looked pretty close to perfect.
Each little molded chocolate is wrapped in the classic golden folk/cellophane wrapper that Werther’s is known for.
They smell a little milky, a bit like Cadbury chocolate. The caramel center is quite liquid and gooey, so I don’t recommend biting into them expecting a chewy caramel. They’re best enjoyed popping the whole thing in the mouth.
The caramel center is smooth, a bit thick & sticky with a slight salty note to it. It’s more on the milky side of caramel than toasted sugar flavors.
They’re very pretty, well crafted and decently priced. If you’re a fan of Rolos, Cadbury Caramello or Dove Promises Caramels you might also find these to your liking. I think I’ll stick to See’s or perhaps something a little more nutty like Snickers for my caramel needs or just some Sugar Babies.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I picked them up at the Fancy Food Show in the final hour, which is usually a chaotic grab as the vendors tear down their booths and opportunists & vultures grab at anything and everything that isn’t hot-glued down. Some companies also abandon their booths and leave piles and piles of merchandise for whomever wants it. I wanted these. I took three boxes: two of the Cointreau and one of the Teacher’s Scotch Whisky.
I rarely see these kinds of chocolate except around the holidays at stores like Trader Joe’s (which has a “brandy bean” each year) and Cost Plus World Market.
The box isn’t upscale or fancy, it reminds me of the kind of box you might get a pair of gloves in or a new tie. Inside is a plastic tray that holds the little beans. Four beans wide and six beans long, they’re an impressive sight.
The ingredients aren’t fancy, in fact, some are downright cheap. It goes like this: glucose-fructose syrup, cocoa liquor, sugar, lactose, Cointreau, cocoa butter (contains milk), rectified spirit, milky, soy lecithin & polyglycerol polyricinoleat [PGPR], flavouring.
I started with the Cointreau Liqueur Chocolates because I think that orange and chocolate are a great combination. Cointreau is made by Remy Cointreau in France. The spirit is made from sugar beets and flavored with a proprietary blend of sweet & bitter orange peels.
The little beans are cute, maybe a bit banana shaped.
The insides are quite syrupy. I liked biting off an end and then sipping the liquor, but eating the thing whole was fun, too.
The chocolate isn’t quite dark, not quite milk. It’s sweet and a little grainy. Though Cointreau has a substantial orange flavor by itself, it was a bit lost in the sweetness and chocolate flavors. Still, there was a little orange essence that lingered after it was all gone.
The second variety (not photographed) is Teacher’s Scotch Whisky. My experience with whisky is a bit more limited than my experience with aperitifs. Whisky is a dark and mysterious liquid, usually very strong with charcoal, tobacco, oak and peat and has a companion flavor called throat searing.
This particular variety, Teacher’s Highland Cream Scotch Whisky, is completely new to me.
The chocolate is rather unappealing, bland and sweet. The liquor center is sweet but definitely alcoholic. There’s a mild burn and some woodsy dark flavors do accompany it, a highlight in the flavor department here, because the chocolate itself wasn’t doing much.
I liked this combination, but the novelty wore off after about three of them, so then the package sat around for a few weeks before I polished them off for this review. I prefer them to the wine ones that I reviewed yesterday, but didn’t really care for the packaging or the ingredients, though they’re a much better value.
A cautionary note to anyone who buys any kind of alcohol infused chocolate - eat it quickly after opening. Alcohol evaporates, even through the chocolate shell and any plastic wrap. They’re best consumed fresh. As the weeks went by, these weren’t nearly as potent as when I opened them.
I haven’t seen this particular brand for sale (though I suspect that the same manufacturer may produce house brands. I believe these retail for about $3 to $4 a box. So they’re not that expensive and kind of a kick in the mouth. They come in other varieties as well: Irish Whiskey & Cream and Grappa. They do have some alcohol in them, so consuming the whole box may give you a buzz (they’re probably 3-5% alcohol).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.