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Monday, August 6, 2012

Ghirardelli Squares Milk & Hazelnut Crisp

Ghirardelli Squares Milk & Hazelnut CrispI was browsing for new candy at Target and noticed these Ghirardelli Squares Milk & Hazelnut Crisp.

The stand up bag has a little banner across the top that says “now more chocolate in every bag.” I did a little research and it appears that the regular bags used to have 5.25 ounces and now they have 5.58 ounces. Not exactly noteworthy, especially when they don’t spell out the exact amount.

Milk Chocolate with Hazelnut Crisp Filling sounds pretty delicious to me. I wasn’t sure what a hazelnut crisp would actualy be, though the front of the package shows a little bowl of crisped rice and a few hazelnuts. So in my head it was going to be a mix of some sort of hazelnut paste and the crunchies inside the milk chocolate squares.

Ghirardelli Squares Milk & Hazelnut Crisp

The mylar sealed squares are actually aqua, one of those colors that doesn’t photograph well and turns out more like light blue. Even with the heat in Southern California, these were still looking fantastic right out of the package. The chocolate squares are glossy and perfectly molded with the Ghiradelli eagle on top.

The ingredients aren’t great. It’s not a simple hazelnut paste center, instead there are lots of extra ingredients I don’t much care for like palm and palm kernel oil, distilled monoglycerides (well, I ‘m not sure how I feel about those), partially hudrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed & soybean) plus TBHQ, a preservative. There’s no mention of gluten, other tree nuts or peanuts as possible allergens.

Ghirardelli Squares Milk & Hazelnut Crisp

The squares smell very buttery, less sweet than I expected with a light hint of hazelnuts. The bite is soft, but it’s summer and the chocolates were still tempered well enough that they hadn’t bloomed. The milk chocolate is sweet and sticky but has a good milk and toffee flavor to it. The creamy center is also sweet with more of a milky and malty flavor to it and only a hint of the promised toasted hazelnuts. The crisped rice is in the form of little ball, like bbs. It’s a nice texture, the whole this in very satisfying though doesn’t have quite enough of an intense or defined punch for me. Overall, I liked them, but not enough that I feel like finishing the bag. (I’ve eaten five though, just to be sure.) Something in a darker chocolate might be better suited to me, but if you’re into a sweet that has a bit of texture, this might be your thing.

Related Candies

  1. Dove Cookies and Creme + Ghirardelli Cookies Jubilee
  2. Choceur Dark Hazelnut Crisp
  3. Ferrero Eggs: Hazelnut & Cocoa
  4. Ghirardelli Holiday Squares
  5. Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Crisp
  6. Ferrero Rocher


Name: Milk & Hazelnut Crisp Squares
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ghiradelli
Place Purchased: Target (Eagle Rock)
Price: $3.49
Size: 5.58 ounces
Calories per ounce: 158
Categories: Candy, Ghirardelli, Chocolate, Cookie, Kosher, Nuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Target

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:54 pm     CandyReviewGhirardelliChocolateCookieKosherNuts7-Worth ItUnited StatesTargetComments (0)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Superior Nut & Candy Chocolate Covered Cashews

Superior Nut & Candy Chocolate Covered CashewsChocolate covered nuts are one of the simplest candies. They’re a hybrid of wholesome snack and decadence.

They’re also usually expensive for anything other than plain old peanuts. So the decadence comes with a pricetag that helps to moderate any overindulgence. But I saw this box of Superior Nut & Candy Chocolate Covered Cashews not in the candy aisle at RiteAid, but their “bargain” aisle. It was only a buck and looked to be of good quality.

The bargain price can be explained by the miniscule portion. I knew when I bought it that the box was only 2.75 ounces. The box is 6.5 inches long, 1 inch thick and 3.5 inches wide.

Superior Nut & Candy Chocolate Covered Cashews

The large volume of the box is wasted. There is no “product may have settled during shipping” notice. The little packet inside is little, was always little, was made little. It rolls around in the box, can stand up, turn around and perhaps even invite two friends over.

But amounts aside, they look good. The packet protected them well, they’re sealed and smell fresh and look glossy when opened.

Superior Nut & Candy Chocolate Covered Cashews

The cashews are good, they’re large and well chosen. Some are over one inch long, though most are slightly less. Some are whole, some are halves and a few are pieces.

The chocolate is sweet and has only the thinnest veneer of confectioners glaze to keep them from sticking together. It’s rather fudgy and though not grainy, I wouldn’t say it’s a silky smooth melt either. The nuts are good quality, fresh and only lightly toasted.

Overall, they’re good and it’s uncommon to find chocolate covered cashews at the drug store. The price is actually pretty good if you ignore the expectation of more candy because of the size of the box.

Related Candies

  1. Hershey’s Whoppers
  2. Cupcake Bites
  3. Vosges Bombalinas - Black Pearl Cashews
  4. DeMet’s Turtles: Pecan & Cashew
  5. Marich Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews
  6. Meiji Gummy Choco
  7. Sanders Caramels & Titans


Name: Chocolate Covered Cashews
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand:
Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Echo Park)
Price: $1.00
Size: 2.75 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: Candy, Chocolate, Kosher, Nuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Rite Aid

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:11 pm     CandyReviewChocolateKosherNuts7-Worth ItUnited StatesRite AidComments (2)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Milka Bars, Milka Drops and some Li’l Milka

Milka Chopped HazelnutMilka is an old German chocolate candy brand that dates back to 1901. The Milka brand fell under Suchard, a popular chocolate bar maker which also made powdered cocoa. The bar was their milk chocolate and named by combining the German words milch (milk) and kakao (cocoa). The earliest chocolate bars sported the lavender wrapper that is still one of the distinguishing marks of their branding.

Milka is now owned by multinational conglomerate Kraft, which also makes Toblerone, Marabou, Cadbury, Cote d’Or, Freia and here in the United States, Baker’s Chocolate. Milka bars are known for their high milk content, soft and sweet melt and favoring of hazelnuts.

They’re far more available in the United States in the past 5 years than I think any other time in history. I’ve been seeing Milka products reliably at discounters like Target. This particular Milka Chopped Hazelnut bar was purchased at the 99 Cent Only Store. For only a buck, for a 3.5 ounce bar. Not a bad deal.

Now I must state that Milka is not chocolate by current American definitions, because it contains additional dairy whey. But the coolest additive they use is hazelnut paste, which more than makes up for it.

Milka with Crushed Hazelnuts

The bar is soft and extremely sweet. The only thing that moderates that sweetness are the crushed hazelnuts. They’re well distributed though I’d probably want more of them (but I understand that this is a bargain bar). The nuts are fresh and crunchy. The dairy flavors are on the toffee and toasted sugar side, instead of tasting like powdered milk Cadbury sometimes can.

Overall, this is one of the more satisfying bars I’ve had from Milka. I prefer the use of palpable nuts in addition to the hazelnut paste and of course the price can’t be beat. Though Kraft and Milka may have sustainability and ethical sourcing plans, they’re not noted on the package or their website.

Milka White Chocolate ConfectionThe Milka White Chocolate Confection was equally cheap, also a 99 Cent Only Store find.

I’m a fan of good quality white chocolate. I like cocoa butter a lot and this bar does use the real thing. Again, the only reason it’s not considered true white chocolate in the United States is the use of additional dairy whey.

The bar is nicely sized and the little domed pieces are easy to break off.

In the world of white chocolate, this is probably the best deal you’re going to find for a dollar that doesn’t include other fats besides cocoa butter and milk products. The use of whey doesn’t actually bother me that much. I understand it’s a filler but it allows things like chocolate to maintain their texture without becoming overly fatty or too sweet.Of course I would only endorse it for “candy” type applications, not fine chocolates.

Milka White

It’s a sweet bar, but not very complex. It’s a bit grainy and fudgy, not a lot of vanilla flavors and the even the fresh dairy taste isn’t that distinctive. I found this wasn’t very interesting eaten plain, but went well with other candy. It’s best with a good chocolate cookie (like an Oreo) or a salty item like nuts or pretzels. (Even tortilla chips.)

Milka Schoko Drops

While in Germany last December I also picked up a few other Milka items, because of their novelty. One of them was this box of Milka Schoko Drops. I know I’ll probably never see these again, which is too bad because they’re certainly a distinctive product. I think they were about one Euro but the little box only has 25 grams (.88 ounces). It’s a rather different price point for a brand that’s usually dirt cheap.

Milka Schoko Drops

The pieces are large, almost the size of a quarter in diameter and a beautiful purple or pearly white.

Milka Schoko Drops

The center is Milka’s hazelnut milk chocolate, the outer layer is white chocolate and then a crunchy shell. The box didn’t hold much, but I didn’t need much. I liked them quite a bit. They’re not better than M&Ms, just different. BTW - why doesn’t Mars make Hazelnut M&Ms?

Milka und Oreo

My favorite of the European Milka Bars was this one I picked up at a Kaufland grocery store (on a big sale display that I think was .59 Euro, or about 80 cents American) in Schmalkalden, Germany. It’s the Milka und Oreo which is a natural combination, since Kraft owns both brands.

Milka Oreo

If there was a disappointment with this bar, it was the use of that cream in the center instead of just more Oreo Cookies. The cream was okay, more on the yogurt side, though less sweet than the actual filling of Oreos. But without the filling, I suppose there’s nothing to distinguish it from regular Chocolate & Cookies bars.

Milka Oreo

I would buy this again, though I’m not sure if they’re sold in the United States.

Milka L'il Stars CrispeesI was pretty excited to see these Milka L’il Stars bags at the 99 Cent Only Store on a more recent visit. The reignited my interest in Milka, and spurred me to dig out these photos from earlier this year and finish this write up.

Again, for only a dollar, it’s a great deal for a chocolate hazelnut product. Think of them as giant, shell-less Crispy M&Ms.

The Milka L’il Stars Crispees look completely different than anything else on the American market and fill that hole I often have for a cereal and chocolate combination. The bag is a decent deal for a buck, it holds 3.88 ounces of little spheres of wheat crisps covered in Milka chocolate coating.

Milka L'il Stars Crispees

The pieces are a bit rugged and uneven. The good part about that is that they don’t roll around as well as a Malted Milk Ball would.

Milka L'il Stars Crispees

The crispy center is airy and light. It’s a little crunchier and less honeycomb/foamy than a malted milk ball. The flavor is also delicate and cereal-like. It’s a rice puff, made with rice malt and malted barley syrup. It’s not very malty, not like a malted milk, but has the hints like Corn Flakes do.

Of course there’s gluten in there and hazelnuts, dairy and soy. They’re made in Slovakia.

Milka L'il Stars HazelnutsThe Milka L’il Stars Hazelnuts are a simpler product, and kind of loop me back to the first one in this list.

They’re just single, whole roasted hazelnuts covered in the Milka chocolate which has hazelnut paste in it.

This bag (also made in Slovakia) also has 3.88 ounces in it, though not as much volume as the Crispees because of the density of the nuts.

Milka L'il Stars Hazelnuts

They’re crazily simple, but really well done. The nuts are well chosen, good quality and lightly roasted. The coating is soft and sweet, a little on the fudgy side but the dairy flavors come out more than I noticed them in the bar. The roasted hazelnuts are crunchy and satisfying.

Since chocolate covered hazelnuts are so hard to find, I can see myself picking these up again, especially if I wanted to combine them with the Crispees and some other savory items for a little bit of trail mix to create the perfect movie snack.

The touch of hazelnut paste in Milka products distinguished them from other dairy milk chocolate products like Cadbury. Though it’s not great quality chocolate, it is satisfying candy.

Related Candies

  1. Ferrero Eggs: Hazelnut & Cocoa
  2. Oreo Bitter Bar (Japan)
  3. Crispy M&Ms
  4. Milka L’il Scoops
  5. Milka NAPS Mix (Assortment)
  6. Trader Joe’s Mint Joe Joe’s versus Mint Oreos
  7. Ritter Sport White Chocolate with Hazelnuts
  8. Milka Alpenmilch

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:18 pm     CandyReviewKraftCookieMockolateNuts7-Worth It8-TastyGermany99 Cent Only StoreComments (12)

Friday, June 1, 2012

M&Ms Sweet & Salty Snack Mix

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet Milk ChocolateLate last year Mars introduced a new line of snack mixes incorporating M&Ms with nuts, dried fruits, cookies and pretzels. There are currently three varieties available, I picked up one of each.

All share the use of M&Ms chocolate candies and pretzels, but then have slightly different elements from there. The basic mix, based on the Milk Chocolate M&Ms is Milk Chocolate M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet.

The bags are eight ounces and I got mine on sale for $3 each at Walgreen’s, but I have to believe that they’re going to be priced less than that on a regular basis for them to catch on.

First I have to say that the packaging is well done. The stand up bag does stand up and the zip lock closes easily and securely enough to both keep contents from spilling and protect from moisture. The bag also will sit “open” well enough to serve from.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet

The items within the Milk Chocolate mix are: Roasted Peanuts and Crunchy Pretzels from the salty side and mini Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk Chocolate M&Ms from the sweet side.

In the case of my bag, things appeared to be packaged in tiers, so all my peanuts were at the bottom and all my pretzels were at the top. So when I first dumped it out for photographing, I missed the peanuts entirely. (See below.)

The pretzels are barely an inch across and just lightly salted, which I thought was perfect. They’re not so big that they took up a whole bite, allowing me to combine elements for a customized flavor/texture profile.

The little chocolate chip cookies are like Chips Ahoy!. A bland vanilla cookie with teensy little chocolate chips. They’re about .8 inches around and reminded me of Cookie Crisp Cereal in shape, but actual chocolate chip cookies in flavor. They’re a little salty, very sweet and nicely crunchy.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet

The M&Ms are, well, Milk Chocolate M&Ms. They’re a bit dusty with crumbs or salt, but otherwise fresh and crunchy, the sweetest thing in the bag.

The peanuts, well, this is where things took a bad turn. I didn’t like the peanuts at all. I thought they were roasted too dark, they were bitter and sometimes chalky. Since everything else in the bag was perfectly fresh, it made very little sense to me why they were consistently so unappealing. (One or two bad peanuts are understandable, but they were all the same color, uniformly small in size and rather lifeless.) I have to wonder if they were a bit on the over-roasted side as a way to stabilize them, especially the fats in peanuts that can make everything greasy.

As long as I ate the peanuts in the same bite as something else, I didn’t mind the. But on the whole, I prefer a snack mix with a strong protein component (usually from nuts).

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet PeanutPeanut M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet is in a bright yellow bag featuring the yellow Peanut M&M as its mascot.

This bag features a mix of salted roasted almonds and pretzels along with mini shortbread cookies and Peanut M&Ms.

The little shortbread cookies are similar to the chocolate chip ones in size, but actually more successful in this application. The flavor is quite good, I got a great sense of the toasted shortbread cookie with its vanilla flavor. But what was really interesting was that the salt from the almonds had rubbed off on the, so there was an excellent contrast going on. They’re dense and crunchy and not too sweet.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet

The pretzels were again nicely layered in, a good crunch with a mild flavor.

The almonds were tiny, but roasted perfectly thought slightly over-salted for my tastes. (The overall sodium level for the snack mix is 125mg for a 1/3 of a cup portion which is about 190 calories.

The Peanut M&Ms were, well, exactly like Peanut M&Ms. They were big and had a lot of crackle going on and added a buttery element to the whole mix.

All of the items went with each other. An almond with a Peanut M&M was great. A cookie with a pretzel was also really satisfying. I was surprised at how much I liked this mix, though it does combine some of my favorite items. It was the cookies I was hesitant about, but they really did add to the satisfaction level.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet Dark ChocolateDark Chocolate M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet is the only mix in the set that doesn’t have little cookies.

The mix contains salted, roasted almonds and pretzels along with raisins and Dark Chocolate M&Ms.

This is the “healthiest” of the mixes, if you go by calorie load. There are 132 calories per ounce, slightly less than the milk chocolate mix with a half a gram less saturated fat but still 16 grams of sugars. But it does have a bit of iron at 6% of your daily recommended allowance and two grams of fiber.

Of course all of that relies on eating the exact proportions of each element in the mix. If you pick out the M&Ms and almonds, well, all bets are off.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & Sweet

The mix is attractive and has a good salty note to it from the pretzels and the almonds. The raisins were pretty big, soft and juicy without being sticky. The Dark Chocolate M&Ms pair well with any of the elements. Part of me would like to see a more interesting dried fruit in the mix, like dried cherries or cranberries (which do suffer from being sweetened) but this version does fit the bill by adding in a little tangy chew.

These are not candy. There’s very little candy in there, by most accounts, about 25% of it is actually M&Ms, the rest of snack foods. Mars has made a nice mix and chosen each element pretty well and balanced them expertly.

It’s a good mix for a lot of different purposes. Easy to share you can take it on an airplane, a car trip or a movie theater (of course you’d pay concession prices ... probably about $8 a bag). I prefer to make my own mixes, but if I have to grab something already made a store, this is a fair value.

Related Candies

  1. Glico Pocky Cookie Crush
  2. Snyder’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Sandwich Dips
  3. Pretzel M&Ms
  4. Candy on the Trail
  5. Limited Edition M&Ms Coconut
  6. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Pretzel Bites


Name: M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet: Milk Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 138
Categories: Candy, Mars, Chocolate, Cookie, Kosher, M&Ms, Peanuts, 5-Pleasant, United States, Walgreen's


Name: M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet: Peanut
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 142
Categories: Candy, Mars, Chocolate, Cookie, Kosher, M&Ms, Nuts, Peanuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Walgreen's


Name: M&Ms Snack Mix Salty & Sweet: Dark Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 132
Categories: Candy, Mars, Chocolate, Cookie, Kosher, M&Ms, Nuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Walgreen's

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:24 pm     CandyReviewMarsChocolateCookieKosherM&MsNutsPeanuts5-Pleasant7-Worth ItUnited StatesWalgreen's

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Choceur Dark Hazelnut Crisp

Choceur Dark Hazelnut CrispWhile at Aldi last month I picked up a few tried and true favorites as well as a few new things. The candy selection at Aldi, a German grocery chain with locations in the east and mid-west of the US, is a bit lighter during the non-candy-season months.

I picked up this slim box that holds 11 small candy bar sticks. They package describes them this way, Dark chocolate bars with hazelnuts and rice crisps in a chocolate creme filling,

For only $1.99, it’s a pretty good deal and I like the little portions inside.

Choceur Dark Hazelnut Crisp

Inside the light, paperboard box are 11 small candy bar sticks. They’re wrapped in a matted printed foil and individually marked (in case you wanted to put them in a bowl or candy dish but still be able to identify them). Each is a little shy of 2/3 of an ounce and about 105 calories. Two is a very nicely portioned treat.

They smell lightly sweet with a note of toasted nuts and cereal.

Choceur Dark Hazelnut Crisp

The little bars have a hazelnut cream filling studded with little crisped rice spheres. That’s all inside a molded dark chocolate shell. The dark chocolate isn’t terribly dark, I’d say about 55%. The flavor is woodsy, overshadowed by the hazelnut flavors from the chocolate hazelnut cream center. The crisped rice provides only a slight crispy texture that mostly keeps the center from being too sickly sweet or sticky. Still, I found it all a bit sweet after the second little bar.

I’ve had quite a few of these Choceur bars over the years and they’re always quite good and extremely well priced. This particular one is note quite on the level of a Perugina Baci, but still a nice little treat especially in the afternoon when you want something more sophisticated than a Twix or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

There’s no statement about the ethical sourcing of the ingredients on the package. The product contains soy, dairy, nuts and gluten and may also contain traces of peanuts.

Related Candies

  1. Perugina Baci
  2. KitKat Hazelnut Cream
  3. Choceur Chocolate Crisp Bars
  4. Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Delights
  5. Choceur Luxury Mini Chocolate Bars


Name: Dark Hazelnut Crisp
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Aldi
Place Purchased: Aldi (Camp Hill, PA)
Price: $1.99
Size: 7.05 ounces
Calories per ounce: 165
Categories: Candy, Aldi, Chocolate, Cookie, Nuts, 7-Worth It, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:06 pm     CandyReviewAldiChocolateCookieNuts7-Worth ItGermanyComments (0)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Trader Joe’s Almondictive Bits

Trader Joe's Almondictive BitsI’m always scouring Trader Joe’s for new candy and was rewarded with this little tub of Trader Joe’s Almondictive Bits. It’s the familiar stackable clear plastic bin, this time with a name and design worthy of the Fearless Flyer.

A compulsively, compelling candy, caramelized almond morsels covered in dark chocolate

I often complain that Trader Joe’s doesn’t take the time to name their products beyond a description of what it actually is. So kudos to them for coming up with something original (so original that all google searches lead back to Trader Joe’s references). But most of all, I appreciate that Trader Joe’s used the slightly more proper addictive as their source instead of addicting. Of course since it’s a made up word, it also reminds me of the vindictive, and I don’t like mean almonds.

Trader Joe's Almondictive Bits

The pieces vary in size, some as large as a peanut but most about the size of a garden pea. The 45% dark chocolate coating is quite deep looking and glossy. There’s a slight coating of glaze on it, but it melts very quickly. The chocolate is a bit on the bitter side with lots of brownie batter and coffee notes to it. The centers are crispy caramelized chunks of almonds. Some pieces were pretty much all toffee while others were very nicely roasted almonds with a hint of crunchy toasted sugar.

The nuttiness made these just a little different from their chocolate covered toffee bits they also sell in the small bags by the register. It’s a satisfying combination of sweet, salty and bitter along with a creamy chocolate coating and different textures of crunch in the center. I wish the pieces were just slightly larger or more consistently large. The little bits at the bottom, which were like ball bearings and mostly chocolate weren’t doing much for me. These would be a great ice cream topping or added to a nuts & pretzel trail mix.

As with many of Trader Joe’s products, I don’t know where these were made or the ethical sourcing of the chocolate within. They are Kosher, contain dairy, almonds, soy and might have traces of wheat, peanuts and other tree nuts

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Covered Joe’s O’s
  2. Trader Joe’s Eggnog Almonds
  3. Trader Joe’s 70% Dark with Caramel and Black Sea Salt
  4. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee
  5. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Powerberries
  6. Recchiuti Asphalt Jungle Mix
  7. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds


Name: Almondictive Bits
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silver Lake)
Price: $3.99
Size: 11 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Trader Joe's, Chocolate, Kosher, Nuts, Toffee, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:55 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewTrader Joe'sChocolateKosherNutsToffee8-TastyUnited StatesComments (1)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Niederegger Marzipan Classics

Niederegger Marzipan FactoryIn December I went on a grand tour of Germany. It was a junket sponsored by German Sweets, an export organization. Their goal was to improve awareness of German confectionery in North America.

One of the places that sealed the deal to get me to attend was Lubeck, home to Niederegger Marzipan. If there was a candy that I was introduced to through the blog that changed my mind about a long held prejudice, it was Niederegger’s Cappuccino Marzipan bar.

Lubeck is actually home to many marzipan makers. At one time there were dozens, now there are a handful, but enough of them that there is a strict standard they must follow if they wish to be called Lubecker Marzipan. Kind of like sparkling wine can’t be called Champagne unless it’s from Champagne. How Lubeck became a center of marzipan creation when they don’t actually grow the sugar or almonds necessary for its creation is kind of an odd tale.

Lubeck is a Hanseatic City, which means it was a member Dudesche Hanse, an economic alliance of cities and merchant guilds in Northern Europe starting in 1358 until the 1860s when it was one of the last remaining members. As a center of trade Lubeck had access to the almonds and sugar it needed to make marzipan and the shipping routes to export it.

Niederegger Cafe in Lubeck (across from the market)

In 1806 Johann Georg Niederegger purchased Maret Confectioner, where the current Niederegger Cafe stands to this day. The company is still family owned, in its seventh generation.

Niederegger is widely regarded as one of the best marzipans from Germany. It’s characterized by its consistent texture and high quality. The marzipan is made in one facility, just outside of town in the traditional style of open copper pots.

image
Hand checking of blanched almonds - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

The almonds sourced for Niederegger are from Spanish, mostly Marcona almonds though at times they also source from Italy. To start the almonds are cleaned and then blanched and then the fibrous peels are removed. There’s a lot of hand work involved in the entire process, as workers pick over the almonds after the blanching process to keep the quality high.

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Ground almonds & sugar added to copper kettle - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

The almonds are then mixed with sugar and ground and cooked in open copper pots. The staff were hesitant to give us exact times for how long these processes take, but it’s probably more than an hour and less than a day.

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Paste cooked in open kettle & mixed constantly - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

The cooking and mixing is carefully supervised by the cooks. The day we were there it was cold and rainy and it’s pretty much assured that the room was probably not heated and it was quite balmy. I can’t imagine what it’s like in there even with air conditioning in the summer. The pots generate quite a bit of steam and moisture.

Once the marzipan is finished multiple pots are dumped into a large one and quickly cooled with dry ice. The last step is the addition of rosewater, which I believe has a touch of alcohol in it. The marzipan is then molded into blocks and sent along to other parts of the factory for different purposes.

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Marzipan molded into hearts are enrobed in chocolate - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

Though Valentine’s Day isn’t as big of a deal in Europe as North America, the Niederegger Hearts are extremely popular year round but do show up in American stores for special holidays.

Niederegger Marzipan

All enrobed chocolates had the Niederegger name embossed on the bottom.

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Foil wrapped marzipan hearts are hand sorted into trays - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

Because the company makes such a huge variety of shapes, sizes, varieties and packaging styles, much of the work is done by humans, who are far more adaptable. This also helps to account for the higher price of Niederegger products.

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Eyes of marzipan pigs are applied by hand - Photo Courtesy of Niederegger

In addition to the machine made products, some are molded by hand and then hand decorated. Though no photos were provided, we visited one room where they did custom molded pieces, especially for corporate clients as well as favors for weddings that can be personalized for the couple.

Niederegger Marzipan Mini Loaves

Though many of the Niederegger products are expensive when priced out by the pound, there are plenty of items available for less than a buck. They have stick or log versions of their bars which are usually about one Euro and their little loaves are about 35 cents or so. The box above is their Klassiker which featured pistachio, orange, pineapple and espresso. I think this assortment is about 6 Euros. It’s one of the products I see for sale in the United States around Christmas but often for somewhere more in the neighborhood of $9 or $10.

Neideregger Marzipan

The loaves are enrobed, like the hearts in the factory photos above. I generally prefer enrobed chocolates, I like the way the coating adheres to the fillings better than molded products.

Niederegger Marzipan Collection

At the end of our tour, the Niederegger folks gave us a sampler tray of their most popular current products. (Later we also went to their cafe and shop where I bought about 40 Euros more of stuff.)

Niederegger Pineapple Marzipan

I think the little loaves are my favorite. The chocolate is quite thin and the foil is always cute. They’re barely an inch long, so it’s not even two full bites. Since there’s little chocolate, it’s very much about the marzipan. There’s not as much sugar in the Niederegger marzipan as in some other varieties. Also, it has a more rustic grind to it, it’s not a smooth dough or paste like some. Think of it like peanut butter cookie dough - it holds its shape but has a slight grain. The sugar is completely integrated though. There’s a toasty flavor throughout.

The trick with the little loaves though is that they get dried out quickly. I found that there’s no point in hoarding them, they should be eaten within 3 months if possible, and be sure to keep them in a sealed tin or zippered bag.

Niederegger Espresso Marzipan

The long bars solve that dryness problem with a thicker chocolate coating and a fully sealed plastic wrapper. Those seem to seal the moisture in much better. The Espresso Marzipan is by far my favorite of their standard flavors. So much so that I pick them up whenever I see them at a trade show, gourmet shop or when in Europe.

The marzipan is generally sweet, but the dark toffee flavors of the espresso really balance it out and even give it a little bitter edge that pairs well with some of the bitter note of the almonds.

Niederegger Liqueur Marzipan Collection

In that big assortment from the Niederegger folks I got to try something new, their liqueur marzipans:

Rum Truffel - this was the most traditional and perhaps the most boring of the set. The reservoir center had a little slab of rum infused chocolate truffle. It was sweeter than the others, but had a nice little kick to it.

Orangen Liqueur is moister than most of the other Niederegger marzipans I’ve had. It’s hard to tell if there was a liquored up center, which was a little darker than the rest of the marzipan, or that was just where the stuff concentrated itself. The scent has a light touch of orange zest to it. The flavor of the marzipan is delicate, the chocolate creamy and only a very thin shell of it to seal in the marzipan and cut the sweetness. The bite of the liquor isn’t intense or harsh, just a light warming. I liked this one quite a bit, and tasted it compared to the classic Orangen piece as well. The liqueur does add a little more zest and less juice flavor to it, and the alcohol’s ability to make me blush probably gives me the impression that it’s said something flattering.

Armagnac Pflaume - is a plum brandy. The idea didn’t really sound that appealing to me, but I know that I’ve enjoyed many of the things that the Japanese have done with plums and confectionery, so I thought I’d give it a chance. This piece has a little ribbon of plum jam of some sort in the center. The flavor is a little like brandied prunes, tangy and with deep cherry and raisin notes. The alcohol was quite distinctive and hit me high in my chest, between my collar bones. 

Williams Christ is a Pear William brandy puree in the center of the marzipan. Though it looked rather like the Armagnac one, it definitely tasted distinctly of pear and a little like ripe bananas.

Niederegger Eier Liqueuer Marzipan

Eier Liqueur - is made with an egg liqueur. This is one of those drinks that I’ve never actually had except in confections (all German) so it’s hard for me to compare it to anything else. It’s like a creamy vanilla pudding center, with a slight rum buzz to it. I liked it, though the idea of egg cream in a candy is a little strange at first, and then I remember my love of nougat and custards.

Niederegger Vodka Fig Marzipan

One of the newer flavors I was really excited to pick up in Germany was their Niederegger Vodka Fig Marzipan. They’re wrapped in bright purple foil and came in a long package like the sticks, but really just a strip of the loaves.

Again, freshness was the key here. The center had a definite grain alcohol blast to it. The figs were well supported by the delicate flavors of the almond paste and the vodka did a good job of helping disperse that flavor throughout.

On the whole, I’m not sure I needed the vodka, just a fig marzipan would be fine with me. And when I say fine, I mean, I wish there were fig marzipans available easily. I might have to make my own.

Niederegger Marzipan WeihnachtskofektThe last box I bought was called Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtskofekt and I think I paid 6 Euros for it. It was a combination of three different winter flavors for Christmas. (Remember, I was there in December.)

The box was very simple, as are most of their packages. It was a paperboard box with a metallic gold plastic tray with little sections for each piece of candy. It protected the pieces extremely well (this was early in my trip and had to go on and off the bus every day for nearly 1,000 kilometers plus the flights home). So the inside did well, but the exterior got quite dinged up.

Since it was a seasonal product it was extremely fresh, the centers were soft and moist.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtskofekt

Arabisch-Mocca - toasty flavors of coffee and a little hint of chocolate in the center. The marzipan has more of a toffee and coffee flavor than anything almond. The dark chocolate shell seals it all up and has a nice bittersweet component that also gives it a creamy start.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtskofekt

Dattel-Honig is the only milk chocolate piece of the set. It smells like ripe bananas. In fact, it tastes like ripe bananas. Like actual fermented bananas, with a light alcoholic and tangy note towards the top. The milk chocolate and the dates keep it all rather sweet. I didn’t catch much on the honey side of things.

Ingwer is one of my favorite bars from Niederegger. The little pattie version is a gem as well. The ginger is soft and glace style, the dark chocolate keeps it all from being to sweet or sticky. There’s less chocolate in this version than the bar, and more of an alcoholic bite as well.

Kaufhof Candy Section in BerlinI know I have oodles more photos of the store, the cafe and the products I bought. But it’s more of the same. The ingredients are simple and great and I think Niederegger has very high standards for what they’ll produce. They make some other nougat (gianduia) products which I haven’t sampled extensively. They do great marzipan, one of the other marzipans that I’ve ever tried that I truly love, so I’m always eager to try more of those. I’ve noticed that no matter what kind of store I was shopping in, a department store like Kaufhof or a grocery store like Rewe, the prices were always the same. So no sense in going bargain shopping, the trick for me when traveling was finding a store that carried the size and format of the flavors that I liked.

(Disclosure Note: The trip to Germany was sponsored, so I did not pay for my airfare, ground transportation, accommodations or food while I was there. At the factory tours we were given generous samples to consume on site as well as some to bring home. Any reviews of those products will be noted as to that fact. But I also brought a couple hundred Euros with me and spent them liberally and almost exclusively on candy both from the companies we were introduced to as well as many other Germany/European products that I found in my prowlings of grocery stores, department stores and the factory outlets.)

Related Candies

  1. 2012 Fancy Food Show Notes - Day 2
  2. Limited Edition Ritter Sport Winter Kreation + Factory Store
  3. Haribo Ingwer-Zitrone Gummis
  4. Krauterbonbons from Lubeck Christmas Market
  5. 12 European Licorices
  6. Niederegger Ginger Marzipan
  7. Soubeyran Array

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:37 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasNiedereggerChocolateCoffeeGingerNuts8-TastyGermanyShoppingComments (9)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ritter Sport 100th Anniversary Edel-Nuss Mix + Bonus Previews

Ritter Sport 100 Jahre RitterThe Ritter Sport chocolate company celebrates their 100th year with the introduction of their limited edition 100 Jahre bar. It’s the same 100 gram square we’ve come to know and love.

Though the company is celebrating their 100th year, the Ritter Sport square bar, as we’ve come to know it, is not quite as old as that. The Sport bars were introduced in 1932 ... so in 20 years you can look forward to another centennial.

The bar is a simple one, just milk chocolate with a blend of crushed nuts: almonds, cashews & macadamia nuts.

Ritter Sport 100th Anniversary

I picked up my bar in Germany at Kaufhof in December, but they may be available at import shops in North America and airports during the year.

The bar is lovely and really quite tasty. It’s odd, the milk chocolate is sweet and smooth, as usual. The nuts are crunch and plentiful. But the flavor is quite interesting. For a while after munching on the bar I was convinced there was honey in it, it has that same sort of toasted almond and honey flavor that Toblerone has. But there was none in the ingredients, so I can only credit the toasting of the nuts that give it that soft, sweet and nutty flavor.

I would buy this bar regularly. It doesn’t quite dethrone my favorite, the Knusperflakes (Corn Flakes) bar, but it’s terrific in its own right.

Ritter Sport Dunkle PfefferminzWhen I was at the Ritter Sport factory store I was excited to pick up some of their “not quite ready” test bars. Some of these are out on the market now, or will be later this year. But when I was in the store, they were offering the 100 gram bars in their generic white wrappers for half a Euro.

Ritter Sport Dunkle Pfefferminz is a dark chocolate bar with a peppermint flavored dark chocolate cream center. It also features a dash of alcohol, giving it a creme de menthe sort of blast.

Ritter Sport Dunkel Pfefferminz

The bar looked great.

Ritter Sport Dunkel Pfefferminz

The cream center was smooth and had a strong peppermint flavor, but not so strong as to overpower the dark chocolate notes, which were slightly acidic and woodsy. It’s pretty decadent and silky, I didn’t feel the need to eat more than two or three sections at a sitting.

I hope this comes to the United States at some point, it’s a keeper and unlike anything else we have on the market.

Ritter Sport Pfefferminz

One other item I picked up in the back room was a bag of these little bon bons. They were simply called Pfefferminz and in a clear plastic bag. Each individual piece was wrapped in an unmarked aqua wrapper. I have no idea what their purpose was, but the center was not quite the same as the Dunkle bar. They were good, but milk chocolate and a little more fudgy and firm.

Ritter Sport KakaosplitterThe test version of Ritter Sport Kakaosplitter must have gone well, because I saw this one on World in Chocolate as a spring limited edition.

I believe kakaosplitter (kakaokernstuckchen) is the German word for cacao nib. The bar is milk chocolate and features a firm chocolate cream filling studded with crispy cacao nibs.

Ritter Sport Kakaosplitter

The bar is quite milky and has a good nutty flavor overall. The nibs are toasted in a way that seems to have caramelized them. So instead of being chewy or dense, they’re quite light and crispy, but with a sort of uneven chocolate flavor, depending on the bite.

I liked the treatment of the nibs, but I didn’t care for the overall sweetness of the bar. It makes me wish I’d found this hazelnut and nib solid bar.

Ritter Sport

The last bar I picked up looked just like the others on the outside, a generic white with the simple name of Ritter Sport Kokosmakrone. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was picking up because I didn’t know what Kokosmakrone was, I thought it was another cocoa nib confection.

Instead it’s a coconut cream. How fun! Aside from the Mounds and Almond Joy bars, there’s not much in the real coconut realm in candy bars in the United States.

Ritter Sport

The bar is milk chocolate again with a white cream filling with both toasted coconut and rice flakes for crunch.

It smells an awful lot like coconut, the chocolate is infused with it to the point that the chocolate flavors are lost. I had to sequester the bar in its own ziploc bag before I finished it because I was afraid it was going to make my 100 Jahre bar taste weird. The filling is sweet and milky with a little salty hint. The coconut is more of a flavor than a texture, the crispies add a new dimension of texture that you don’t really get in American coconut candies.

Mostly I like this because it’s not like anything else you can get for less than $2. But, if I want coconut, I’m probably going to go for a Mounds bar.

In all, I love Ritter Sport’s sense of adventure.

The bars are made in a factory that processes a lot of different nuts, soy, dairy and products that may contain gluten. The Ritter Sport company sources much of their cacao from South and Central American and says it’s committed to ethical sourcing.

Related Candies

  1. Limited Edition Ritter Sport Winter Kreation + Factory Store
  2. Ritter Sport Espresso
  3. Ritter Sport Sommer-Genuss 2010 Limited Editions
  4. Ritter Sport Olympia
  5. Ritter Sport Fruhlingsspezialitaten 2010
  6. Ritter Sport Peppermint
  7. Toblerone Single Peaks
  8. Kisses Coconut Creme


Name: 100 Jahre Ritter Edel-Nuss Mix
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ritter Sport
Place Purchased: Kaufhof (Berlin, Germany)
Price: .89 Euro ($1.25)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 160
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Ritter Sport, Chocolate, Limited Edition, Nuts, 8-Tasty, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:00 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewRitter SportChocolateCoconutLimited EditionMintsNibsNuts8-TastyGermanyComments (4)

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