Tuesday, May 20, 2008
One of the more timely items I got from the All Candy Expo folks is this box of Crackheads candy. It’s been around for at least a year, but I haven’t seen it in stores.
I first saw them on ThinkGeek and reviewed on CandyAddict. I wasn’t terribly interested in them, after all, they’re just chocolate covered coffee beans, not exactly an innovative new product. The unique selling proposition in this case is that they’re in “single serve” boxes and come as a mix of both white chocolate and dark chocolate coatings.
The boxes look similar to Lemonheads or Boston Baked Beans. Easily portable and resealable.
They’re really nicely panned coffee beans. Though they’re not all consistent in size, the panning is excellent with shiny coats and well-tempered chocolate. The white chocolate is real white chocolate made with cocoa butter. The mellow malty milky flavors go really well with the coffee bean. This was the first time I’d had a white chocolate coated one, and it’s a natural match - the fatty sweetness with the dairy flavors are pretty much a dense version of a latte.
The dark verison are not nearly as sweet, but still provides a nice counterpoint to the dark and lightly bitter beans. The beans are crunchy without being fiberous or too burnt tasting. My box had a bit more white chocolate to it, but I was okay with that.
The “creator” of Crackheads, John Osmanski, was on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch last night on CNBC. The segment was One Minute to Millions where they featured a panel of three experts: Kevin Nealon (who was there promoting his book and probably provided the consumer point of view), Pam Macharola of Blair Candy and Brian Pipa of Candy Addict!
The product was introduced with a little pretaped segment. It made no mention of the fact that chocolate covered espresso beans have been around for at least 30 years. They’re pretty widely available, at least in specialty stores or at coffee locations like Starbucks (and of course the new Hershey’s Starbucks chocolates). While the back of the box has a breakdown of caffeine content of other beverages (cocoa, cola, tea, coffee & espresso), it doesn’t exactly spell out the caffeine content of the actual product. However, the Crackheads website pegs it at about 120 mgs (about half of a cup of coffee).
Osmanski introduced the product as a solution to those low caffeine moments, especially for students and academics.
The new tagline “because everyone’s addicted to something” works well with the name. The product packaging has been redesigned since my sample (you can see the new one here). But the general consensus from the panel was that the name would never have the wide appeal that would guarantee it placement on the shelves of stores like Walmart (which might be necessary to make millions off a single $2 product). Instead it would probably stay in places like Think Geek and coffee houses (where it’s currently found).
While I think it’s a good quality product, the packaging feels a bit downscale, not rising to the $2 per package price tag - which translates to over $24 per pound (the Starbucks version is about $12 a pound). The name, which tries to co-opt drug culture fails ... there may be other names that might fit the addiction tag better (but I’m not going to come up with it here, Osmanski has a blog if you want to give him feedback directly). Perhaps coming up with two lines, one under this name and another more mainstream version would be a success story worthy of follow up on Donny Deutsch.
(I suspect that Osmanium doesn’t actually manufacturer these, just repacks them, as they package says that they are made in a facility that processes peanuts & tree nuts. The website also says that they’re Kosher. My prime candidate as the maker of these is Koppers Chocolates.)
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I’ve been a little mad at Hershey’s and while it’s only partly because of this new Bliss line*, I haven’t been that eager to try it. Their website & advertisements for the candy are so bland and generic, they may as well substitute the shots of the computer animated candy with shampoo bottles.
I’m not the only one who wonders why Hershey’s is coming out with a Dove-style bite at this time. It’s not like Hershey’s doesn’t already have a premium creamy chocolate line, whatever happened to Symphony? That’s a great name ... why go off and invent a whole new line? It just seems so silly and useless. And why is it $4 for a bag ... the price is at least a third more than the standard miniatures? How good could it be? Seeing how they’re also pushing another new line of premium chocolates via their Starbucks tie in (stuff that’s actually, I dunno, premium), how is this going to cut through the clutter of choices?
Knowing myself and how my irritation can color my enjoyment of confections, I waited. (And while I waited, I read other reviews: CandyAddict & Chocolate-Snob plus Candy Critic’s special demonstration of why Canadians don’t lock their doors.)
Hershey’s is wise to create these little packets above, I spotted them at Walgreen’s (though the ones I have are free samples) for 50 cents and they include a coupon good for a dollar off of a regular sized bag (so if you like them it’s a good deal). Of course you can also get a coupon on the Hershey’s website for a dollar off without the sample purchase.
Each little packet had three foil wrapped Bliss bites (.76 ounces). No, no package to sample all three varieties: Rich & Creamy Dark Chocolate, Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate and Milk Chocolate with a Meltaway Center.
(The names are actually all in lower case, because women dig that, it makes them think that these chocolates cry watching movies on AMC with them and they’re not into yoga but they’re into champagne.)
rich & creamy dark chocolate: comes in a dark maroon foil (the same shade that I love as nail polish but just can’t pull off because I’m so pale and freckly). The little square melts well, and certainly has a silky texture on the tongue. The flavor, well, it’s kind of like hot chocolate - all middle of the road. (There is milkfat in this dark chocolate.)
smooth & creamy milk chocolate: comes in a rather odd purple foil, one of those purples that looks blue under florescent lights but purple under sunlight. Just to compare, I go a hold of a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate miniature to remind myself of the taste and texture. The Bliss bite has a silky melt, it’s rather sweet, a little sticky and has a less nutty and tangy taste than the regular Hershey’s chocolate. If you’re hesitant to try this because you don’t like the taste of Hershey’s Chocolate, this is definitely a different process that doesn’t have that yogurt flavor.
milk chocolate with a meltaway center: comes in rich brown foil. It doesn’t smell like much, but true to its name it does meltaway. This is because instead of being filled with chocolate, it’s filled with chocolate with an added boost of palm kernel oil. And before you go thinking that I don’t like tropical oils, I actually love them when they’re used properly. Instead of being used for a firm center like Frangos or a super-soupy one like Lindt Lindor Truffles, this strikes a nice balance ... think hazelnut paste, but a bit smoother.
I was surprised at how well Hershey’s delivered on the creamy part of their pledge (and without PGPR). They don’t satisfy me, really, they might have a great texture but lack the chocolate punch that would really make them a rich indulgence. Three pieces of the dark chocolate are 100 calories, the other two varieties are 110 calories for three pieces.
* For the record, some of the other things that have Hershey’s in the dog house for me would be: closing the Canada & California factories & moving production to Mexico, changing the chocolate on 5th Avenue to mockolate, changing the Candy Cane Kisses so they no longer have cocoa butter in them and backing the FDA petition to downgrade chocolate definition and even though I didn’t mind them that much, for changing Good & Fruity.
Friday, May 9, 2008
It’s called MarieBelle Mayan Chocolate Bar 70% single origin Colombian cacao - unsweetened. That’s the extent of the description given. What I found interesting reading the back of the package is that this bar is made in Colombia. And it’s made by Eneh Compania Nacional de Chocolates, and only distributed by MarieBelle (in their bar format, of course). It’s certified Kosher.
Now, besides its origin, it has other tricks up its sleeve. Unlike the 99% & 100% cacao stuff that I’ve been eating for the past two days, this is more like Michel Cluizel’s Cacao Forte 99% truffle. While there’s no added sugar here, there is a lot of milk ... probably more milk than some chocolate bars have chocolate.
The bar may be 70% cacao, but the second ingredient is milk. The whole list of ingredients goes like this: Cocoa mass, skim milk powder, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, soy lecithin, PGPR-90 polyglicerol polyricinoleate (emulsifier) and natural vanilla.
From what I understand from reading the label, what MarieBelle (or Eneh) has done is take some intense, unsweetened chocolate and diluted it with some milk & emulsifiers. Much like coffee becomes much more drinkable to the majority of folks with a bit of milk to temper the bitterness but still allow the flavors to come through, that’s how this bar operates. Milk adds a bit of sweetness with its natural sugars (lactose) as well as simple bulk with its fats & protein. (This bar has about 20% more protein per ounce than straight chocolate but also has 16 grams of carb per ounce though none of them straight sugars.)
Yes, it has PGPR in it too, which I was a little concerned about, as I associate it with cheap chocolate ... it’s a simple filler in most cases, it maintains the texture & mouthfeel of chocolate but of course is far cheaper than actually have chocolate content. In this case, I’m guessing with such high milk content the extra emulsifiers are handy to keep the bar properly integrated.
But all that technical stuff aside, it’s a nice looking bar. It reminds me of a rye crisp, with the little divets in it or maybe a game board that should have little pegs.
The thick plank of chocolate has a nice stiff snap to it. I was concerned with all the extra milk & emulsifiers it’d be fudgy or soft, but it has a texture consistent with a 70% dark bar.
On the tongue it has a very slow and viscous melt. It reminds me of peanut butter. It actually tastes a bit like dark roasted peanuts. It also has those toasted burnt sugar notes, like the crust of a creme brullee.
It’s quite sticky in the mouth, but that makes it feel substantial and long-lasting if savored. The other way to go is to chew it up, but I have to say that makes a big mess in the mouth. Once it melts, it’s clingy. Chocolate with sugar in it wants to fall apart, kind of like fudge. Instead, this is almost like a caramel, it wants to stay together.
I have to say that even though this bar is jarringly different than many chocolate bars, the way they’ve solved the problem of leaving out sugar without being chalky or blazingly bitter is quite pleasing. (Kudos for not going to the sugar alcohols that mess with the texture and of course have those unwanted side effects.) If you’re a fan of peanut butter flavors and textures, this bar won’t feel too unfamiliar.
I don’t know if I’d buy it again for myself, but if you’re on a low carb or no sugar diet (but have no problem with the immense amount of fat) this could be the indulgence you’re looking for. I don’t think this bar is that easy to find. I got mine at Chocolate Covered in San Francisco, you can also order online directly from MarieBelle.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Before I took on this challenge of the all-chocolate chocolate bars, I did take a test to find out if I’m a “supertaster”. People are divided into three categories: nontasters, regular tasters and supertasters.
Our tongues can detect five tastes: sweet, salt, bitter, sour & umami (savory). Nontasters (about 25% of the population) tend to enjoy more intensely flavor things such as super sours and liberally salted products, enjoy fatty & sweet foods while regular tasters (50%) shy away from intensity but sample liberally from all the major tastes & textures equally. Supertasters (25%) dislike stronger bitter & sour things and even high fat content foods. There are all sorts of scientific studies about evolution and how each of these types can be beneficial or detrimental to your ultimate longevity ... or enjoyment of that long life.
Although I have a very keen sense of smell, I am a regular taster. (I like coffee, super sours, broccoli & used to drink pickle juice - though I really like chocolate & cheese, I’m not that keen on other types of fatty foods.) So I figured I might be a good candidate for appreciating the more authentic tastes of the purest chocolate.
Dagoba makes one of the few 100% chocolate bars and the only one that I could find that was organic. It’s called Prima Materia which means, literally, prime matter. It’s usually used to refer to alchemical ideas about the base matter that makes up the universe, that all matter can be changed back into and then reformed. Kind of like stem cells are for living creatures.
In this case, this is the essential chocolate - just beans from Madagascar, ground up and made into a bar.
At only $2.75 retail, it was about the same price as a baking bar (though smaller of course). I got this one as a sample at the Fancy Food Show in January.
The Prima Materia is a dark looking bar, nicely glossy with a solid snap.
The melt on this was a little sticky, I can’t really explain it. Whatever it is, it’s not terribly dry. The melt lets the flavors come out slowly. I taste a bit of cherries and raspberry at the very start, but once it melts a bit more it’s all about the dark mulch of the forest floor.
There’s a light yeasty note in there that reminds me of dark beer. The bitterness is noticeable, but not enough to keep me from eating more pieces. By far this is the most edible of the bars I tried. I wouldn’t say that I’ll be eating a lot of it, but with some almonds or cashews nearby, it’s an acceptable form of entertainment for a while.
It really doesn’t take much to satisfy my chocolate craving either. (Of course then I start craving something else, like a glass of water & some sweet caramels.)
2 ounces - 185 calories per ounce - Kosher
After Christmas this bar, Ghirardelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate, was on sale for only $1.25, and found in with the baking products, I thought I’d throw it into the mix as a way to see if I was just being overly picky about what eating chocolate is in the first place (besides a fancy way to charge two or three times as much as chocolate chips).
The wrapper is very simple, but still quite compelling. The bar is large and flat, a little larger than the regular bars in the candy aisle, in this case it’s 4 ounces instead of 3.17 of the current Intense Dark line.
To their credit, Ghirardelli is clear that this is a baking bar. So this is an off-label application of the confection.
As lovely as it was, and it is a lovely bar, nicely tempered, perhaps a bit stiff but a deep red-brown, they are correct in not promoting this as an eating bar.
The smell was quite woodsy, like cedar and a bit grassy. It tastes like olives and asparagus. Bitter, moisture-sucking, mulchy and green.
Looking at the nutrition label it’s easy to see why this is so chalky, it has less fat than the Prima Materia, a whopping 40 calories per ounce less fat. (Have i mentioned lately that I love cacao fat ... sometimes I wonder what it’d be like if donuts were made by frying them in cocoa butter.)
4 ounces - 145 calories per ounce - Kosher
Meiji is a good consumer brand in Japan. They make all sorts of candy, not just chocolate products. (My favorites are their Gummy Choco and Chelsea.)
It’s a pretty bar with 15 nicely shaped scored pieces. The package is also good, an easy to open paperboard box that fits back together pretty well to hold the leftovers (and there’s gonna be leftovers, who eats the whole thing?). I was encouraged that it had a pretty high fat content, too.
The bar wasn’t expensive ($1.99), which is probably a pretty good indication of what I should expect for a chocolate without any sugar. The scent is of the dark roasted cocoa flavors, a bit of charcoal. There’s a very abrupt high-note of the vanilla flavoring in there as well.
On the tongue it melts pretty nicely, but it’s quite bitter and dry. Keeping it further back on the tongue seems to help to recognize the other flavors that included a bit of a yeasty note of baking bread, wood smoke and burnt sugar.
I should note, in case you haven’t noticed so far, these are not low-calorie bars. In fact, this “sugarless chocolate” is some of the highest caloric density reviews I’ve ever done. (It’s the cocoa butter.)
But note that chocolate has a good amount of iron (10%), and about 3 grams of protein per ounce and 4 grams of fiber per ounce. That doesn’t even go into the positive effects that all those antioxidants have for your heart and circulatory system.
1.58 ounces - 161 calories per ounce (contains soy lecithin & artificial flavors)
I was so excited when I bought the Chocolat Bonnat 100% Cacao. I’ve never had Bonnat before, the only experience I have with it is reading this exhaustive series at DallasFood.org about Noka and seeing the bars at several upscale stores. At $8 a bar (granted it is a big bar at 100 grams), I was hoping for some sort of miracle. I’ve come to realize there’s a reason that chocolate with sugar is so widely available ... it’s just better that way.
The wrapper, I admit, is lovely. The regular Bonnat bars have white wrappers with similar lettering, but the 100% gets the special brick red treatment, which should be a good indication that you should stop and think about it. 100% Cacao. No sugar, not even lecithin or vanilla. Stop. Hazard. Danger.
The bar was wonderfully tempered. (As wonderfully tempered as I was ill tempered when I was done.)
When I first unwrapped it, it smelled strongly of green olives. Later when I tasted it, I kept getting the strong, puckering flavor of green olives, grassy matcha and artichokes. These are all good things as far as vegetables go, but I don’t like them together and I don’t like them as the primary notes in my chocolate.
Here’s the thing, I hear my flavors. Well, not quite hear ... they have wavelengths in my head (and kind of colors that go along with them). Flavors create vibrations. And different kinds of flavor combinations create different combinations of these vibrations & wavelengths. It’s called synesthesia and many people have it to some degree.
So when I talk about things being harmonious, it’s not just a metaphor, it’s an actual description of my experience. In this case the bar was screechy. It was unripe, unrehearsed, stuttery, weak and tinny.
I’ve had the bar for a couple of months and have unwrapped it a few times to see if it was just that I’d had the flu, the lights in the house were at the wrong level, the moon was in the wrong phase or was in a bad mood. No, this is like Phillip Glass & Stephen Sondheim collaborating on some sort of atonal opera about database programmers performed by deaf alley cats in a poorly ventilated auditorium with squeaky chairs that pinch. It’s probably a wonderful intellectual experiment, but it’s not an enjoyable physical one. (But again, this may be an experience colored by the way that my brain processed certain things and might be just glorious to folks who don’t get the cacophony of wavelengths.)
3.53 ounces - unknown calories
The best news is that I have a deeper appreciation of my blended chocolates now and single origins even more so. As far as pure chocolate as being a “sugarless” alternative to regular sweetened chocolate, I think a very small quantity of sweetened chocolate will be more satisfying than a larger portion of one of these. But your mileage may vary. I definitely recommend the Dagoba if you’re itching to try just one. (The fact that it has a reasonable price is also a selling point.)
All of the remaining bits of these bars will be taken next door to the neighbors this evening where I will donate them to Amy in the hopes that she’ll create some awesome and rich brownies out of them so that I may love this chocolate again.
Casey at Chocolate Note has far more appreciation for the most concentrated chocolate bars. For other deeper appreciations for these bars try the Seventy Percent for: Michel Cluizel Noir Infini & forum discussion about Bonnat & Cluizel.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Hershey’s has a line of sugar free candies, while they’re not a low calorie snack, they do have a lower glycemic index because they’ve substitute sugar for sugar alcohols. I gave their version of the Hershey’s Chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and York Peppermint Pattie a try.
As is always the case, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. While sugar alcohols may lower the calorie count, they’re also not as sweet as sugar and sometimes have unwanted side effects. Here’s what the packages say:
Sugar alcohols have another benefit, they do not promote tooth decay, as they cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria.
Say what? Polyglycitol? That’s a new one on me, so I looked it up:
I’m well aware the many of these sugar alcohols can cause intestinal upset (and other euphemisms to erupt). For this reason I was exceptionally careful not to eat too much. I only ate two a day, even though a serving as determined by the package was 3-5 pieces.
Hershey’s Sugar Free Chocolates
Well, they look really good. Each one was a pristine little chocolatey block.
But there was something amiss. It has the same slightly fudgy, slightly grainy texture. But it’s cool on the tongue and the chocolate flavors are a little too much on the high range, lacking depth. The milkyness was missing completely.
It doesn’t taste like Hershey’s chocolate. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really taste like chocolate ... it’s too sweet.
Here’s what I know about sugar alcohols: they don’t have as many calories as sugar, but they also don’t taste as sweet. In the case of maltitol it’s 90% as sweet as sucrose, which basically means that when they add it to something and they want an equivalent delivery of sweetness, they put more in. Putting in more sweetener means something else has to be reduced by proportion. My guess in this case is that they reduced the cocoa solids ... which are already pretty low in Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. (Or they reduced the milk, which may also reduce the flavor profile.)
As a low calorie treat, these do definitely have a lower caloric density:
139 calories per ounce for regular Hershey’s Chocolate
If you like R.M. Palmer chocolate, you might find this acceptable.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Sugar Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Like the Hershey’s bars, these were lovely little cups of perfection at first glance. They’re wrapped in orange foil, not gold, so it’s easy for trained candy eaters to tell them apart. They seem a little smaller than regular Reese’s Minis (just shorter) but otherwise are glossy and pretty.
They smell of sweet peanut butter.
The chocolate shell is similar to the Hershey’s bar ... the same cooling effect on the tongue, decent melt but lack of chocolate kick. No matter, the peanut butter center seems to overwhelm that in a satisfactory manner. The peanut butter is crumbly and sweet and creamy all at the same time. A little salty kick seals the simulation as being pretty close to the original.
145 calories per ounce for regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
I didn’t realize until after eating two of these that there was Sucralose in there too (this is the only one of the three that uses an artificial sweetener - though I could hear arguments that polyglycitol is also not natural at this point). I didn’t notice any of the ill effects that I get from Aspartame (headache, shakes & nausea) but there was a light lingering sweet and ever so slight aluminum-like metallic aftertaste.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (if it didn’t have the aftertaste, it’d be a 7).
Sugar Free York Peppermint Patties
They look exactly like the full-sugar York Peppermint Patties, smell a little chocolatey and very minty. The mini size is my favorite, so this was an easy one for me to wrap my head around.
The chocolate shell is only slightly sweet, which is pretty much the way the regular York is. If anything, this one had a better, less chalky melt to it.
The fondant center is a little different. First, it’s rather cool on the tongue. It’s a little grainy, which is fine with me, but then there were some other lighter grainy bits in there . But they weren’t sweet little grains, I’m wondering if the sugar alcohols create a different crystalline matrix. Even so, they’re tasty. Fresh, a bit chocolatey and of course melty and smooth.
102 calories per ounce for regular York Peppermint Patties
As a lower calorie alternative, these are real winners. There are 30 calories in each piece.
Rating: 7 out of 10
In general Hershey’s has done a nice job of approximating the experience of their full-sugar candies. They look great, which is part of the appeal of candy. The packaging doesn’t even feel like a compromise (though the price does).
But these are only good if you can tolerate the sweeteners. If you’re one of the unlucky majority (it seems to be a majority) of the public who experiences the side effects, it’s pointless to eat this stuff. (I had a full box of each of these from a photo shoot and passed some along to a friend of a friend who is diabetic ... who did not react well to them.)
If you want to know if you can eat them, please, start slow unless you have no plans for the next day or so. I seemed to tolerate it pretty well, but again, only two pieces a day, not really the way you want to eat candy you can otherwise eat because of dietary restrictions.
(Package images at top compiled from Hershey’s website.)
Friday, April 18, 2008
I reckon one of the best things about traveling is finding new candies that reflect the local flavor. I’ve collected quite a few of them over the years from friends & relatives who travel and have presented quite a few of them.
Some of them are kind of hokey, but some truly reflect the local ingredients that the region is known for. (Just look at all the wonderful things the South does with pecans, molasses and peaches.)
My neighbor & friend, Robin, just brought these goodies back from Key Largo, Florida last week. They’re two different kinds of chocolate dipped coconut patties made by Anastasia Confections. (Robin & Amy are the same friends that sparked the idea for Candy Blog via their seating arrangement at their wedding reception seating plan ... and have also graced Candy Blog with other confections like the big old mess of Peruvian goodies, Charleston Pralines, Cowgirl Chocolates Hot Caramels & Rocky Mountain Huckleberry Gummi Bears.)
The first one I tried was the Key Lime Coconut Patties.
It has a lovely scent of lime, that unmistakable smell of key limes. Key Limes are softer on the tongue, I think. But they’re also more bitter but slightly less acidic. There’s something a bit chalky about key lime juice and the resulting key lime pies. This doesn’t quite capture all of that (as it’s not a custard), but it gets many of the notes.
It’s all sweet with an overtone of the lime essences and of course a lot of sickly sweet coconut. The coconut is moist and flaky and the chocolate coating is a nice counterpoint.
It’s not a treat I’d buy often or eat a lot of in one sitting, but it’s a fun item to have one of, maybe with some tea or a glass of milk.
Anastasia Confections are Kosher.
While Key Limes may sport a tart flavor as part of their profile, you can get by with just the essence of it and people will buy it. But in this case the pineapple here is only a faint waft. There are a light and creamy yellow color, still the same sweetness and crumbly flaky coconut. I liked it better than an actual pina colada (but no one’s quite figured out how to dip those in chocolate, have they?).
Another interesting thing I noted here is the resemblance of these to the Disney Mickey Coconut Patties I got last summer at Disneyland. I’m certain they’re made by Anastasia Confections (which is based in Orlando, Florida ... as is DisneyWorld). So if you enjoyed those at the park, you can get squared off versions via their website.
Amy went to Spokane, Washington on a separate trip over a month ago and brought this unique item back. It’s made by Spokandy a chocolatier that’s been around since 1913. At first I thought that’s what the actual product was called. Turns out it’s just the name of the company.
The box is simple and elegant and says that it holds some Huckleberry Almond Bark.
The picture shows something that’s an indescribable shade of lavender. It’s not pale, it’s shockingly bright, yet still a pastel.
The picture is actually accurate. It really looks like that. It looks just like that.
They call it a creamy bright, flavorful huckleberry chocolate coating with slivered almonds blended for the perfect balance of flavor and texture. THis mouth-watering treat is not complete until we top it with real dried huckleberries..
It smells like blueberries and has a nice glossy appearance. The berries were not actually distributed evenly. Some pieces had no bits and others had huge clumps. However, the bark itself had a nice integration of slivered almonds.
It has a nice smooth and milky melt. It’s very sweet. It tastes a bit like BooBerry Cereal smelled. I enjoyed the almonds and the berries when I got them. But it’s not a real white chocolate confection there, there’s no actual cocoa butter, just an array of tropical oils and partially hydrogenated palm oils.
The color I couldn’t quite peg? That’s FD&C colors Red #3, #40 & Blue #1.
What it really needs is some salt, so maybe their Huckleberry Pretzels have a better balance. If this is one of your wedding or baby shower colors, though, this might be the candy for you.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
It’s often puzzled me why there aren’t more organic candy bars out there. For the most part candy bars are made (or can be made) with all natural/organic ingredients pretty easily. Why no one does this is beyond me, so for the most part candy fiends with an eco bent have to eat just chocolate (sometimes flavored) or hard candies or pay for bars to be flown from far away places and pay ridiculous prices for kinky combinations ... in reality all I want is the tried and true candy bar, only made with pure ingredients.
Crispy Cat has a nice line of candy bars that seem to defy that notion that candy bars have to be made with sub-par ingredients. Their bars are also dairy free, gluten free, non GMO and use a large proportion of organic ingredients (70-90% organic, depending on the bar). In fact, their ingredients list only looks long because they put things like “organic” or “made with gmo” all over it.
They come in three varieties: Toasted Almond, Roasted Peanut and Mint Coconut ... all with dark chocolate.
Here’s what Joel, the founder of Crispy Cat has to say:
The Toasted Almond features dark chocolate, crispy rice & toasted almonds.
It has a wonderful dark, woodsy and chocolatey aroma. The bite is a bit stiff, it’s not quite crunchy and certainly not chewy. It’s just lumpy.
Once I got used to the complex center, I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures. It’s part crisped rice, a little bit of a caramel-like chew to hold it together, a toasted sugar flavor and some pieces of almonds for an added crunch. I would have preferred a lighter crunch to it, something easier to chew (either crispier or softer).
This bar also has a crisped rice center. In this case it’s a bit fluffier and softer than the others, with a light peppermint scent.
Instead of the firm and chewy center, this one was a bit crumblier and has big pieces of naturally sweet coconut in it. It’s an interesting flavor combo, very tropical and fresh, a bit of a grassy note to the whole thing.
I can’t say that I loved this one, in fact it was my least favorite of the three. But I can’t help but be pleased that someone is paying attention to coconut these days. I love the stuff.
The center felt fattier though had the same number of calories as the Toasted Almond at 220 it has 10 grams of fat (TA has only 9).
The dark chocolate is rather bitter but has a decent melty texture. The crunchy rice, peanut butter and peanut chunk center is tasty. It’s dark and nutty, a bit salty and only lightly sweet. This one hits it out of the park as far as a peanut candy bar can go.
It definitely tasted like a candy bar, not one of those nutrition bars.
I was kind of surprised to see that they weighed only 1.75 ounces, it’s actually bigger than a Snickers bar, which gives the perception of a much larger mass of satisfaction.
Overall, these are fun and have very few compromises. And what’s the biggest one? Price. These retail for $2.50 ... that’s three times the price you’d pay for a non-organic bar. Pretty startling. But compared to other premium meal replacement bars, they can hold their own. The two nut varieties have 4 grams of protein (not from soy, though they do use soy lecithin so they’re not soy free) and 2 grams of fiber. They also clock in at 220 calories, which is a decent snack. I’d probably prefer these in a smaller variety though ... they’d make an awesome Halloween Treat if they came in snack size.
The Roasted Peanut bar is the one most likely to appeal to kids but none are too mature to miss with a true candy bar fiend.
I’d also recommend a bit of a change in the design of the package. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to appeal to, but it’s not grabbing me. They call themselves “tree huggin’ treats” and have the image of a couple of arms around a tree on the left size of each wrapper. (I’m not sure where the cat comes in.) The website looks completely different and inconsistent from this (but I’m not keen on the web’s cartoon designs either).
I’m not quite sure about them, they’re definitely on the right track and I’d be most inclined to eat the Roasted Peanut again, but if I were faced with eating one of these or a Lara Bar, I’d probably go for the Lara Bar.
Want to win some? Check out Crispy Cat Chronicles, if you can guess Ann’s new baby’s height, weight & birthdate you can win three cases of the bars of your very own.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Ghirardelli has really expanded their line of chocolate bars over the past five years. Not only that, I see their products everywhere now thanks to the expansion of higher end chocolate into grocery stores and drug chains. They even have a charming chain of ice cream stores.
But I’ve ignored them on the blog for a long time. Probably because my initial impression of them has been that the chocolate bars is waxy and bland. But they’re wildly popular and have been making chocolate since 1852 in the Bay Area, one of my favorite candy destinations, so I needed to put those impressions to the test.
That’s not to say that I don’t use their chocolate chips, I prefer them to Nestle’s Toll House Morsels or Hershey’s Baking Chips and they’re often on sale for a decent price.
So I picked up this assortment of tasting squares after Christmas when they were on sale. They feature the new line of Intense Dark in three different flavors.
The Espresso Escape wrapper says: dark chocolate with finely ground espresso beans in 60% cacao. As usual I was worried about the bits of coffee beans, but in thsi case they really were so finely ground as they matched the particle size of the cocoa solids.
Roasted brewed coffee flavors mixed with the woodsy taste of real beans. Very little chocolate flavor here, it’s all coffee but with a smooth chocolate texture. Good cocoa butter melt, very silky. Light vanilla overtones. But the cedar and smoke is quite tangy.
While I enjoyed the texture quite a bit, the flavor was just a little too, well, Intense (tm).
The Mint Bliss package says: dark chocolate with natural mint in 60% cacao. What the front of the package doesn’t mention is that there’s also some unidentified “artificial flavor” in this as well.
Nice buttery texture, but an incongruous tangy and musty taste along with the peppermint. It’s more of a fresh peppermint leaf taste, not a pure peppermint oil, which is a nice change of pace from their Peppermint Bark that I had over the holidays. But the combination of flavors still doesn’t quite jive for me.
It has a nice buttery melt with a light cool feeling but the flavor is a little thin. It’s a little fruity, on the raisin side of things.
It’s sweet, only the lightest trace of bitterness. Light dry finish.
Ghirardelli has some other versions in their Intense Dark line, including the Midnight Reverie that has 86% cacao, Evening Dream with only 60% cacao and two other flavored 60% called Citrus Sunset & Toffee Interlude. They also have some filled bars that I haven’t tried yet.
Overall, it’s nice stuff, certainly worth the price and a fun little pickup for coffee or after dinner, maybe a mid-day munch. I like the 10.6 gram squares, it’s a good size for a little taste of chocolate.
Note: the Mint Bliss & Espresso Escape have milk fat in them, so are unsuitable for vegans, but the Twilight Delight is milk-free (though made on equipment that processes dairy).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.