Friday, August 26, 2005
Before I had a candy blog I had trouble getting people to bring me gifts from their travels. Maybe I was too embarrassed to actually ask for candy from other countries, but now it’s a given that if any of my friends (hell, friend’s friends) goes anywhere interesting, they are tasked with bringing something back.
At first the name was kind of scary. Krachnuss sounds like “knuckle cracker” to me. And that hazelnut on the package? It’s bigger than a chestnut. However, open up the wrapper and it’s pure delight.
Those are whole hazelnuts in there. It makes for a rather lumpy bar and the hazelnuts are poorly distributed, but man are they good! Not roasted too long, they have an excellent snap and slightly sweet tinge to their nuttiness. The milk chocolate is sweet and smooth and doesn’t try to upstage the delicate hazelnuts. I love hazelnuts, by the way (or filberts as they’re called in the Pacific Northwest) and love how they’re the peanuts of Europe. Even the packages, which give information about possible allergens only mention soy and almonds - there’s no note about any peanuts.
Over the past few weeks the topic of Ice Cubes has come up a few times. At a party, in my interview on Radio Open Source and when Jay gave me this candy bar. For those of you not familiar with Ice Cubes, they’re a little chocolate cubes made with hazelnut paste. However, the pernicious part about them is that the first ingredient is hydrogenated coconut oil. I’m lucky my arteries are still open. My first year in the dorms in college there was a little store on campus that let you use your meal card to buy food - I bought a tub of 100 of these (probably cost me the equivalent of 10 meals). Though I love them, I’ve been trying to resist them ever since then.
Well, along comes a Ragusa bar, and thank goodness the Swiss have made a more wholesome version. You can’t tell from the photo, but the bar is about 5 inches long, 1 inch wide and 3/4” high, and pretty dense for its volume. This little bar is filled with a smooth and cool truffley filling and studded with whole hazelnuts. (If this sounds good, you might also want to try Perugina’s Baci.) Man, this is a good breakfast. The nuts give it just enough of a protein balance to keep the sugar charged filling from causing glycemic overload.
The bar is a bit messy to eat. It’s wrapped in a thick aluminum foil and the chocolate coating only covers the top and bottom, so the sides get kind of sticky. I still haven’t managed to get to the end of the bar and master popping the last of it out of the wrapper. It’s also been a bit warm here in Southern California the past few days and I wasn’t keeping this in the fridge, so on top of its natural softness, it’s downright limp. I might just go get a spoon.
Ratings - Krachnuss - 8 out of 10
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Thanks goodness Ikea’s proclivity for sassy names does not extend to their treats at the food section. I have enough trouble buying candy shaped like rats that looks like the felt pulled out from a highlighter pen that I don’t need it to be further called Bjarf, Puke or Funkis.
Name: Licorice Boats
I gave these to Russ to try the other night and he agreed that, “The licorice in my licorice boat had already set sail.” These are definitely sweet - you just open the bag and the sugary smell permeates the air. But there’s no there there. The jelly center has a bit of a licorice perfume to it, but no bite. I think I’ve come to expect molasses with my licorice as it’s a good anchor for the flavor.
Name: Jelly Rats
They’re rather scary looking, and I’m telling you that’s the actual color - some sort of slightly translucent-neon hazard color. They also have a strong sweet smell infused with violet which didn’t thrill me, but biting into them I found a nice, tart and fruity jelly candy. The flavors aren’t complex or strong, but just nice. If I am planning on having a Swedish jelly candy though, I really want some Swedish fish.
Name: Marabou Milk Chocolate with Nuts
This was the positive find in the whole experience. They’re little chunks of milk chocolate with crushed hazelnuts. Really creamy, very sweet with good nuts. The chocolate is smooth and the toasty taste of the nuts infuses it well.
It’s simple and satisfying. The roll is easy to share and I might make a point to pick these up at the start of my shopping experience at Ikea as a little boost. I ate them all before I finished typing this review.
Ratings: Licorice Boats - 4 out of 10
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Name: Tadelle Wafer
There’s a cookie that’s practically a candy that I really enjoy called Chocolatiers, made by Lu. They’re little wafer sticks with chocolate cream coated in sweet dark chocolate.
This is like that, only instead of just being a chocolate cream, it’s hazelnut cream. Yummy. The description on the package says “compound chocolate coated wafer with crocant filling.” Not as appetizing as it tastes. In fact, the label is in a multitude of languages. The bar itself is made in Turkey, but the ingredients are translated for the entire United Nations: English, German, Russian, Czech, French, Arabic and I think Romanian. They must send this bar everywhere.
The bar feels very light, as it’s mostly air. The wafers are crisp and light and bring a lot of air into the tasting of the bar, which help the hazelnut aroma penetrate the chocolate and sugar. The chocolate is not a highlight here, as it’s not even real, but the crispy wafers are delicate and star in this bar. I’m a sucker for wafers and hazelnuts ... if only it were better chocolate, I would follow this candy to the ends of the earth.
From the wrapper: “none of our products contain pork fat”
Rating - 7 out of 10
Friday, July 01, 2005
Name: Almond Joy Chocolate Chocolate
I wholeheartedly support making Almond Joys with dark chocolate. Because the difference between an Almond Joy and a Mounds bar is not just the nut ... it’s the milk chocolate/dark chocolate respectively. In fact, I think the dark chocolate/almond/coconut combo is even better.
This is not that bar though. Because they threw something else in the mix (literally), some chocolate into the coconut center.
You’d hardly know it though. At least I don’t. I’m not sure I can tell that there is anything different with this filling. Maybe it’s a ruse to get me to now buy a regular Almond Joy to do a side-by-side comparison.
Here’s a fun fact though ... this Almond Joy bar has 12% of your daily recommended intake of fiber.
Though they messed around with the perfect simplicity of a classic, this is still a very good bar. I’ve always found the coconut center of the Mounds/Almond Joy family to be sweeter and moister than the Bounty bars (do they still make those).
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Name: Nestle’s Original Swiss Chocolate
Nestle is known for their milk chocolate and for good reason, the original Swiss chocolate that made them famous is a great chocolate bar. It’s consistently good with a strong milky flavor, smooth and sweet. It’s not easy to find in the states, and if I’m feeling like a European-style milk chocolate bar I usually pick up a Cadbury.
I found this assortmet at Target. (I actually saw it a few months ago but waited until last weekend to pick it up.) The little box says that it’s the perfect gift to share a perfect expression of authentic Swiss chocolate taste. I’m prone to agree that this is a nice hostess gift for someone that likes milk chocolate. Easy to share, and a good assortment.
Inside are seven different varieties, with what seemed like a majority of them being lavender-wrapped lait-milch. There are also milk with almonds, milk with hazelnuts, extrafine dark chocolate and white chocolate. The other curiosities within were one called Dessert which was milk chocolate with hazelnut creme (kind of like a nutella bar if they made them). I really love the combo of hazelnuts and chocolate (Nestle also owns Baci/Perugina now). The nutty, roasted notes of hazenuts go so well with chocolate. If I had my druthers I’d put more of them in the package than the plain milk bars. The other bar that I loved was the one called Chocmel which had chopped almonds and honey. Well, I don’t think it was just honey, I think it was some sort of honey nougat chips. It was very similar to a Toblerone bar, but the honey notes in the nougat chips was much more pronounced. Very good, in fact much smoother and less waxy than a Toblerone. I might pick up a bigger bar if I see this sometime.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Name: Wha Guru Chew
Reading over the ingredients list, I’m wondering what this has to do with the Yogi Bhajan. But I suppose even the most enlightened among us wants a sweet now and then. While there’s nothing bad about these caramel nut bars, they contain no trans fat and use brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice instead of corn syrup, I’m struggling with the health food aspects of this. Aw hell, let’s just call it candy and be done with it.
These are fab. I can’t tell you how fab these are. The caramel is flavorful and soft, the nuts are fresh and crunchy and the smell is pure buttery sweetness. The only problem I have with them is that they’re very soft, so you taking them out of the package is nearly impossible and even getting the package open without scissors ended up too much of a challenge for me.
Cashew Vanilla - the right sweet notes of vanilla blended with buttery cashews. There are also sunflower seeds in here, which add an extra crunch and earthy taste to the bar to balance the sweetness of the caramel. A little touch of salt balances it all out.
Almond Ginger - it doesn’t smell quite as inviting as the cashew vanilla bar (I don’t think ginger smells that good inherently, as it has a rooty/earthy smell). But biting into this bar wipes away any hesitation that this bar will be as good as the former. The ginger pops out as a spicy base for the sugary caramel and the mild almonds. A slight trace of lemon zest links all the flavors together well.
Peanut Cashew - this one diverges from the recipe of the above two which are sweetened primarily with brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice. This is sweetened with clover honey (and barley malt syrup). This honey base makes for a less viscous caramel but really amps up the flavor. The first tone you get upon biting into it is a strong orange essence. In addition to the peanuts and cashews are sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Of the three this was my least favorite, though still worthy of trying.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Name: Caffarel (Finissimo cioccolato fondente con croccante gentile)
This adorable square bar is from Italy with 57% cocoa content. Unfortunately somewhere along the way it was not stored properly and got a bit of a bloom. In fact, this is a good time to talk about chocolate bloom.
Chocolate is make up for cocoa solids and cocoa butter (and sugar). Sometimes if the chocolate is not tempered properly, or stored improperly (variations in heat) the chocolate will become unstable. This will cause some of the cocoa butter to separate from the cocoa solids and migrate to the surface of the chocolate as “bloom”. It looks like some sort of chalky powder or something, but it’s just the fat. It’s not dangerous, chocolate that’s bloomed is edible, though it will probably end up tasting a bit chalky because the cocoa butter is no longer emulsified with the cocoa solids and sugar. Most importantly, it’s not mold, though it often looks like it.
The best way to prevent this is to buy fresh chocolate that’s been stored properly (stable climate conditions) and then treat it right. When you bring you chocolate home, this gets to be a bit of a tougher proposition. I don’t like storing chocolate in the fridge or the freezer because the variations in temperature and humidity when you take it out can be just as bad. So, if you have a cool spot in your kitchen (usually in a lower cupboard or the back of the closet), it should be okay. In my case, I don’t have air conditioning and live in Los Angeles, so you can see how even in a protected location, some of my chocolate is going to get melty on the hottest of days. In that case, stick it in the fridge, inside it’s packaging and inside a plastic bag of some sort. This will keep the fridge odors from being absorbed and keep it from drying out. Even better, devote a plastic container (good) or glass container (better) with a tight fitting lid for keeping your chocolate. You also might consider throwing a plain old charcoal briquet in there (not one that has added lighter fluid) to absorb odors and any excess moisture). Allow the chocolate to come to room temp before opening and consuming. Otherwise if you open it and there’s any humidity around the chocolate will sweat.
The other (best) option is to get a wine fridge. I know, this seems like a large expenditure, but wine fridges are good for more than just wine. You can keep chocolate in there, some cheeses and vegetables. A dorm sized one won’t set you back more than a couple hundred. This is where I’ve taken to keeping my best chocolate. A wine fridge is usually set at about 58 degrees and of course is climate controlled for humidity. A little humidity is okay for chocolate. Really dry air, especially if you have nuts in there will make the chocolate taste chalky, too.
But now, onto the review of the Caffarel bar.
I ate around the bloomed pieces (which was about half the bar). The bar had a very strong vanilla scent to it and though billed as bitter chocolate, I found it much sweeter than many other bars I’ve tried lately. There are hazelnuts and nougat bits, which gave it a nice crackly component and infused the whole bar with a pleasant toasty tone.
The chocolate was smooth, without a trace of grittiness. Overall, a good bar and a nice portion. Not as waxy as other Italian bars I’ve had in the past, and I’m eager to try other Caffarel chocolates when I come across them. I’m a fan of the Italian tradition of pairing hazelnuts and chocolate (Perugina’s Baci).
Rating: 5 out of 10 (hard call because of the bloom, I’m willing to re-review it if I come across a fresh bar).
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Name: Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops
These were a huge surprise. I was in Trader Joe’s over the weekend, enjoying the fabulous views of candy in the frozen foods aisle and these little fellows just screamed “buy me!” and I did. They’re just so adorably cute, with their sunny colors and perfect sunflower seed shapes.
First, I’m a little curious about the actual production of these guys. I mean, it seems like a lot of engineering went into these. The sunflower seeds have a consistent, thin coating of sweet milk chocolate on them and then over that is the thinnest sheath of candy shells. They’re all glossy and still have the little point at one end like a bare seed does.
Because the shell is so thin, they crunch immediately and release that familiar sunflower seed taste along with the sweet balance of the light chocolate. The snackability of these is amazing - I could just shovel them into my mouth all day. Whoops, I think I have!
If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, these, available from Candy Warehouse may be similar. I’m not keen to find out on my own, as the last thing I need is FOUR POUNDS. But I’ll keep my eye out for the little packages.
As candy goes, they are a bit more wholesome than some other choices. A single serving (about an ounce) boasts 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and 4% of your daily value of calcium and iron. No trans fats at all.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.