Monday, December 14, 2015
Trader Joe’s often has the most wonderful seasonal confections. They’re often reasonably priced and unique items that are hard to find anywhere else. Many of the items at Trader Joe’s for 2015 are returning from previous years, including their cordials, passport chocolate stacks and Belgian chocolates. The newest item that caught my eye are the Trader Joe’s Chocolate Marbles.
There’s nothing particularly wintery or holiday about them. They’re just chocolate spheres filled with different pralines. There are six varieties, each sphere is then given a mottled color coating to distinguish it from the others. There are ten marbles in the package. It’s just shy of 5 ounces, so each piece is about 4/10 of an ounce. The flavors are: caramel, coconut, praline & almond, and chocolate mousse. The description on the Trader Joe’s website goes like this:
Almond Praline (Green), Hazelnut Praline (Orange), Chocolate Mousse (Blue), Coconut (White), Caramel (Brown), Crispy Cookie (Yellow)
They’re about the same size as a Lindt Lindor Truffle, but really the similarities end there.
The tray is wonderful for protecting the candies, but makes it devilishly hard to get them out, they’re tucked in there and I couldn’t quite grab a single. All I would end up doing is spinning it around in its little cup. However, once out, the slightly bumpy outside means that they’re not as rolly as some spherical chocolates. (Sixlets probably max out the scale at a 10 and these are probably about a 4 - they can sit on a flat surface but anything raked and they will go with gravity.)
The lovely medium blue marble is filled with Chocolate Mousse. The shell is dark chocolate with a milk chocolate filling. The filling is soft and creamy and definitely sweet. It’s light but I wouldn’t call it a mousse. The dark shell was different enough from the filling, but if I wasn’t told what this flavor was, I’m not sure I’d guess it. However, it’s quite different from the Lindor, it’s much more dense in flavor with less of that thin oily feel on the tongue.
The white marble is filled with a chocolate cream with Coconut. This was rather mainstream tasting, very pleasing for my American palette. This was the only one I was able to pick out by scent. The chocolate was sweet and the little crispy coconut bits did make it all pop a lot more than the more delicate praline pieces.
The brown marble is filled with two half domes of Caramel. It tastes like a lot more chocolate on this one, but the caramel holds its own. The caramel is a bit more of the saucy side than chew. The flavor is quite deep, with scorched and burnt sugar notes particularly strong. There were also a lot of milk flavors, more than the other pieces, so that may have been part of the caramel.
I think this was my favorite of the assortment, because it was so different from most American and British caramels. The only drawback I noticed after the third or fourth piece was that the colorful coating was a little waxy and though it seals in the flavors and keeps them from melting if you hold them in your hand for a few minutes ... it’s a shellac and rather tastes like it.
It’s a milk shell with a milk chocolate paste in the center and little cereal or cookie bits. It was a little malty and a little corny… when I say corny, I actually mean it tasted like corn nuts or polenta or something. It was not as sweet as some of the other milk chocolate pieces and definitely different.
Green - Almond Praline has a darker chocolate shell, though I’m not sure if it’s full dark chocolate. It balanced the almond praline pretty well. It’s not marzipan, it’s more of an almond butter mixed with a touch of cocoa and sugar. It’s sticky and satisfying, but doesn’t have a strong jolt of almond flavor.
The orange marble is filled with Hazelnut Praline. This is quite sweet but has a very good roasted hazelnut flavor. The filling is more paste with a definite crystallized sugar grain to it. It doesn’t have the smooth melt of the mousse, so it’s a bit sticky. I thought the milk chocolate shell made it all too sweet, but the lingering toasted nut flavors really kept it from being cloying afterwards.
I think these are a great hostess gift, excellent for using as an accent to a dessert plate of holiday cookies, or tossing in a little dish with some snacks. The price, for the quality and unique appearance, is quite good.
These are made in France, is suspect by the same confectioner that made the Magic Beans. The ingredients look good, all natural things, even natural colorings They contain milk, wheat, hazelnut, almond, soy, coconut. May also contain traces of chestnut, pistachio, walnut and/or eggs.
Monday, November 30, 2015
This Winter Edition of the classic square Ritter Sport is a cream filled chocolate bar with 16 little squares. I found mine at Cost Plus World Market, which has been a pretty reliable source for the winter versions (though less often the summer ones). They’re a smidge more expensive than the regular Ritter bars at $2.99, but they’re also placed with the Christmas candy, not the ordinary candy bars.
The bar is described as milk chocolate filled with hazelnut creme and hazelnut cookie pieces. I love the hazelnut bars that Ritter Sport makes, so this was a really enticing idea.
The bar, once broken, looks an awful lot like the chai one, no real perceptible nuts or nut paste or cookie bits, just off white cream.
The bar smells milky but with an actual hazelnut note to it. The cream center is a bit on the greasy side, but does actually have crunches of cookies and some small hazelnut bits. That roasted hazelnut smell, that Nutella scent, takes over the chocolate though. While the coating is milk chocolate, it definitely tastes more like gianduia.
The bar is decent, but not special enough for me. It’s a little on the bland side, and the greasy cream filling doesn’t have enough of the hazelnut punch I’d hoped for. The cookie bits are too few and of course the cream filling is really high in palm fat.
Friday, November 13, 2015
I have often desired a better version of the Almond Joy. I love the combination of chocolate and almonds and coconut, but the classic Almond Joy is just a little too sweet and well, has a lot of unnecessary ingredients.
Theo Chocolate of Seattle has been making organic and ethically sourced chocolate for quite a while, and even make one of my favorite bars, their Salted Almond Dark Chocolate. Their newest product expansion has been in the arena of traditional candy bars made with better ingredients (liked their peanut butter cups). The newest is Theo Coconut Salted Almond Bites. They’re part of a full line of coconut bites that come in milk or dark chocolate as well, but the twist here that combined an already well-loved bar was too enticing to resist, even at $2.39 for a scant 1.3 ounce package.
The ingredients are non-GMO, fair trade, palm oil free, soy free and organic. It’s also vegan (but made on shared equipment, so not necessarily for folks with dairy or egg allergies.)
The little squares do not look like Almond Joy. The almonds are actually little slivers and chips within the coconut filling, not a couple of whole almonds on top with the chocolate coating.
The smell is comforting, a clean coconut scent, but not quite as sweet and perfumey as suntan oil. The bite is soft, the filling is chewy but not at all sticky. The coconut is moist and distinct. The best part of the whole thing though is the dark touch of the chocolate shell. It’s deep and has a light sweetness that really isn’t found in the coconut. The salt really isn’t evident as a discrete element, but the whole thing isn’t sweet or cloying. The almond provide a different crunch over the chewy coconut.
It’s a very light treat, with really strong flavors and textures. This could become a regular habit ... actually, it has, this is the third bar I’ve purchased since they came out. It took me a while to control myself long enough to take photos.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Have you ever wished that you could get American-made Ferrero Rocher? You know, a whole hazelnut with some crispy crunch and milk chocolate? Well, keep wishing, because Hershey’s Kisses Deluxe do not fill that hazelnut-flavored hole in your heart.
The new Hershey’s Kisses Deluxe are definitely a step above the regular Milk Chocolate Hershey’s Kiss. They’re twice the size of a regular Kiss and feature a whole roasted hazelnut, creamy layers and delicate crisps. They’re just as expensive as Ferrero Rocher and come in little gold foil wrappers. This goofy plastic tray that I picked up at Walgreen’s holds four pieces, cost $1.59 but is only 1.2 ounces. That comes to $21 for a pound. And like many Hershey’s products, they’re also made in Mexico.
So, I went into this with very low expectations because of the price and the packaging and the reputation of the brand.
Out of the flimsy tray the bronzy gold foil is quite nice, and the grand size is actually very appealing. The chocolate shell is glossy and has a balanced sweet and nutty scent.
The bite is quite nice, the milk chocolate is much creamier than the standard Hershey’s Kiss and the whole hazelnut in the center was perfect. The light crispies are not a huge flavor component, but a very good addition to the texture. The sweetness is a little strong, but because the pieces aren’t very big, it didn’t seem too cloying. The overwhelming note afterwards was the roasted hazelnut.
The package says there’s only 170 calories, which is easy to explain when it’s only 1.2 ounces, but they’re still only 142 calories per ounce ... or 43 calories for each deluxe Kiss.
I didn’t think I was going to like these, I was prepared to mock them, but they turned out to be pretty good candy. However, as far as hazelnut candies wrapped in foil goes? I’m still going to pick up Perugina Baci if it’s an option (and it seems they’re similarly priced). I’m most curious to see if Hershey’s will introduce a dark chocolate version, or perhaps expand with some other varieties, such as marzipan or pistachio.
These are made with milk, soy and hazelnuts and also may contain pecans and almonds. The package states that Kisses Deluxe are gluten-free.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Last year about this time Toblerone introduced a new version of their classic milk chocolate mountain bar: Toblerone Toasted Corn Crunch. Oddly enough, they were available exclusively at that time at duty free shops in Europe. I never thought I’d run across a bar. But I was strolling the candy section at Cost Plus World Market and not only did they have a stack of them, they were also on sale for 99 cents for a 3.52 ounce bar.
The bar features Toblerone’s Swiss milk chocolate with toasted crushed corn, honey and almond nougat.
The bar format is exactly like all the other Toblerones. This comes in the classic cardboard prism box. Inside there’s a foil wrapped bar made of 12 triangular segments.
The bar looks like any other milk chocolate Toblerone from the sides, but the bottom reveals there’s lots of bumpy stuff inside. The scent is sweet and milky along with a really strong corn note. The corn doesn’t smell quite like popcorn, more like, well, corn or maybe polenta. The chocolate is quite sweet, though smooth, it’s very sugary. The corn bits are like corn nuts, very crunchy though not quite hard enough to break any teeth. (Sometimes I feel like I’m chewing on teeth when I eat corn nuts.)
The combination of the lightly malty, cereal flavor and the very mild chocolate is pretty good. There’s a nice boost of salt in there, which also offset the sugary chocolate. But I never really got the nougat and honey flavors that I enjoy so much in a Toblerone. The only good thing is that I felt like it keep me busy a long time, as I was working those corn bits out of my teeth for about 20 minutes.
It’s an interesting bar but I see no need to consider it as a replacement for a Ritter Sport Knusperflakes (Corn Flakes). It’s hard to be harsh on the bar when it’s so much better than a Nestle Crunch Bar which is half the size and the same price. As far as their new bars, I think the Toblerone Salted Almond is worth seeking out.
Toblerone still does not provide consumers with any information about their cacao sourcing with regards to ethics or sustainability. The bar contains eggs, soy, milk, corn and almonds. It’s made in facility that also handles other tree nuts. There’s no gluten statement on the package.
Friday, October 2, 2015
This nondescript little bag showed up in the Trader Joe’s new products showcase last week. The simple flat bottomed cellophane bag holds tricolor chocolate morsels called Magic Beans. They’re described as chocolate covered nougat beans.
I’ve come to understand that the word nougat really doesn’t mean much as a description. Here in the United States, depending on the initial inspiration of the confection, nougat can be a hazelnut paste, a nut toffee or a whipped sugar, honey and egg bar. In this case, the nougat is a very dark nut brittle.
These Magic Beans come from France, which also makes some stunning whipped egg nougat as well. So, I can see that some folks might be more confused than bewitched by these.
The beans are about the size of Trader Joe’s chocolate covered almonds, though actually kidney bean shaped. They come in three colors, a mottled white, a mottled green and a stand milk chocolate. The coating is a little bumpy on all of them.
Inside the milk chocolate coating is a nugget of almond toffee, or maybe it’s nut brittle, it’s hard to tell from the ingredients label. (They candies may contain traces of hazelnuts, chestnuts, pistachios and walnuts. They’re made with coconut, almonds, milk, soy and wheat.) The nuts themselves are little bits, not whole nuts, and the sugar crust holding them together is very toasted, almost burnt.
The milk chocolate coating is very milky, it has some decent cocoa notes, but for the most part it’s just creamy and sweet. This is a nice counterpoint to the roasted and slightly bitter note of the crunchy center. They reminded me a little bit of the sesame snaps that I pick up at the health food stores.
If you go into these expecting something more like Nutella bites or Charleston Chews, you’re going to be disappointed. These are quite different from other nutty items, so that unique selling proposition is what got me. They’re not magic, but quite enjoyable.
As a side note, I bought something very similar earlier this year in New York City at Eataly. The food mall has an amazing selection of Italian chocolates and sweets, including one of the largest selections of Venchi I think I’ve ever seen outside of Europe.
This is called Venchi Nougatine and are pretty much the same thing as the Trader Joe’s Magic Beans, except they’re made in Italy and covered in 60% dark chocolate. This package of less than 2 ounces was actually the same price as the Magic Beans (7.2 ounces).
Monday, June 29, 2015
Summer is citrusy, a time for lemonade and key lime pies. It’s nice to see some creamy citrus candies out there, too. Sconza Candy introduced their Lemoncello Almonds a few years ago, but this is the first year I’ve seen them in stores in their own branded packaging.
Limoncello is a citrus liqueur that’s extremely popular in Italy. It’s made by steeping lemon zest (preferably Sorrento lemons) in a neutral spirit then adding some simple syrup. It’s naturally yellow and very lemony but not at all tart, since there’s no juice in there.
Sconza is known for their beautiful array of Jordan almonds. So, this confection, made in the heart of prime almond growing country, seems like a natural.
The ingredients are almost all natural, just a touch of artificial color in there.
The white chocolate coating is touched with a bit of lemon zest and coloring. It’s delicate, not overpowering or bitter. It’s not too sweet either while the almonds are generously large and crunchy.
There’s sometimes a disconnect for me when reviewing. There are my expectations and there are the realities. The reality is that this candy delivers on its description. The expectation, however, was that they’d be a nutty version of the Citrus Shortbread Bites I had earlier this year ...which had a bit more of a salty/sweet note along with sweet/sour and creamy/crunchy. Those were just my hopes, and I can’t fault Sconza for not meeting that.
Overall, it’s a good candy combination but very mild and safe. They’re a nice alternative to Jordan almonds, especially since there’s no hard shell, but also a delicate pastel color.
The candies contain milk, soy and almonds and are also made on shared equipment with other tree nuts, sesame seeds and wheat.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Russell Stover is probably best known for the inexpensive boxed chocolates sold at drug stores. I happen to like them for their holiday novelty candies, but more recently they’ve tried to get into everyday snacking with their Big Bite pieces. At first these were just larger versions of the seasonal favorites, but more recent items are completely original to the format. The opposite spectrum of this trend is morselization ... and Russell Stover has introduced some teensy versions of their more popular items. I picked up their Russell Stover Pecan Delight Minis, which are nugget-sized pecan turtles.
These candies that have the word pecan as the first word in their name and they need more pecans. A lot more pecans. Currently they’re little pecan bits, where are nice, they’re a good textural element, but they’re not dense enough ... I need some crunch in my chewy caramel and creamy milk chocolate.
The size is good, they’re poppable. The vague sprinkling of pecans does give a woodsy maple note to the whole thing, the tough of salty is just about right. The caramel is a little too flavored and not authentically caramelized sugar and cream.
As a candy, they about as good as other morsel things at the same price. They’re certainly better than Brach’s. I can’t say that I liked these better than the Demet’s Minis, which also suffer from too few pecans, but I do think the chocolate is of better quality here. (And less expensive.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.