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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bees & Beans Honey Bar

Bee's Beans Honey BarBees & Beans is a Portland, Oregon artisan candy bar maker. Faith Dionne says, “These are candy bars that you can feel great about eating.” I found the bar at BiRite Market in San Francisco’s Mission District, one of the best places I know to find artisan candy.

The Honey Bar is Honey caramel, salted filbert and honey nougat, hand dipped in dark chocolate with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Bees & Beans Honey Bar

Many of the ingredients are organic and, as much as possible, they are sourced locally in Oregon.

Sugar, honey, 70% chocolate (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, non-GMO soy lecithin, vanilla bean), organic cream, filberts, organic butter, egg whites, salt, vanilla extract, dried barley malt extract.

Based on the ingredients list, I believe this chocolate is sourced from Scharffen Berger. The Bees & Beans site says that they use both Theo Chocolate, which is fair trade, and Scharffen Berger, which is not, and is owned by Hershey’s. (Theo does not use soy lecithin.)

Bees & Beans Honey Bar

The construction of the bar is interesting, the caramel is on the bottom, the nougat on the top, then a coating of very dark chocolate sprinkled with sea salt. It looks just like a candy bar.

Bees & Beans Honey Bar

The nougat is almost marshmallowy. It’s soft and fluffy and has a bit of a pull when bitten, a silky sort of chew without any hint of sugary grain. The caramel is soft, not too chewy as to make the bar fall apart when bitten. There’s a sprinkling of salt on top, but also a fair amount of salt, as far as my tongue can detect, in both the caramel and the nougat. The filberts are only lightly toasted but have an excellent crunch, almost like a macadamia nut instead of like a hazelnut.

There is no perfect analogue to this in the mass-manufactured candy bar offerings in the United States. (Perhaps the European Nestle Nuts would be similar.) The textures are great and the ingredients are top notch. The prevalence of the honey flavors also sets this apart from so many other candies that might use honey but not enough to make it part of the texture and flavor profile to this degree. The short shelf life is an issue for folks like me who like to stock up (they sell the bars online in quad packs), but I was lucky to pick mine up a month ago and still eat it within its 2 month window of freshness. If I had to chose between this bar and the See’s Awesome Nut & Chew bar (which is all nougat and no caramel), it’d be hard. Bees & Beans makes several other bars that all sound fantastic, including a seasonal Malt Bar that I’ll have to order soon.

Related Candies

  1. Double Dutch Sweets: The Ramona Bar
  2. Rococo Bee Bars
  3. Loukoumi Artisan Confections
  4. Look! and Big Hunk
  5. Nutpatch Nougats
  6. Soubeyran Array
  7. See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar


Name: Honey Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Bees & Beans
Place Purchased: BiRite Market (San Francisco)
Price: $4.99
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Caramel, Chocolate, Nougat, Nuts, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:45 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewCaramelChocolateNougatNuts8-TastyUnited StatesComments (1)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ferrara Chocolate Candy Coated Chocolate Covered Almond Eggs

Ferrara Pan Candy Coated Chocolate Covered Almond EggsFerrara Pan which is known for Lemonheads and Atomic Fireballs got into the chocolate business a few years back making very good domestic versions of segmented chocolate oranges (with Belgian chocolate) and panned nut treats. This new Ferrara Chocolate group is also creating some new holiday items, I was excited to see these fun speckled eggs called Candy Coated Chocolate Covered Almond Eggs at Walgreen’s.

The bag is priced pretty well, at $2.49 for a half a pound, it’s about what I will pay for Almond M&Ms on sale.

Ferrara Pan Candy Coated Chocolate Covered Almond Eggs

The eggs are a nice size, indicating that they either have a lot of chocolate in there or start with very large almonds. They’re a milk chocolate product with a lot of milk in them. The first ingredient in the chocolate coating is sugar, the second is whole milk. So, that’s some milky chocolate. The coatings are attractive. They start with a pastel base and have little speckles on them. Some are quite speckled, others have barely a burnishing of color.

Ferrara Pan Candy Coated Chocolate Covered Almond Eggs

The ratios are great, the chocolate is thick and the almonds are nicely sized and well roasted to a crunch. The milky chocolate is sweet, but not that Easter-cloying sweetness. The level of milk in it gives it a cool melt on the tongue and a light toffee and dairy finish. The other notes are a bit of smoke, either from the chocolate itself or the almonds and maybe a hint of cinnamon (they are the makers of Red Hots). The shell is a little thinner than M&Ms so it has a lighter crunch.

They’re good. Good enough that I ate the whole bag in three days. They’re different from M&Ms, the melt of the chocolate is less sweet and less fudgy and a little smoother, but the flavor isn’t quite as intense. I prefer the look of the Ferrera to M&Ms and the consistent shape of the candies.

The candies are Kosher and made in the United States with Belgian chocolate. No gluten statement. There’s also no statement about the sourcing of the cacao and ethical concerns on the package or their website.

Related Candies

  1. Hershey’s Pieces - Milk Chocolate with Almonds
  2. Marich All Natural Holland Mints & Chocolate Jordan Almonds
  3. Ferrara Belgian Milk Chocolate
  4. Brach’s Indulge Almonds: Coconut & Caramel
  5. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almonds
  6. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
  7. M&Ms Line


Name: Candy Coated Chocolate Covered Almond Eggs
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ferrara Pan
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $2.49
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140
Categories: Candy, Easter, Ferrara Pan, Chocolate, Nuts, 8-Tasty, United States, Walgreen's

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:21 pm     CandyReviewEasterFerrara PanChocolateKosherNuts8-TastyUnited StatesWalgreen'sComments (1)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Perugina Baci

Perugina Baci (Nestle)One of the seasonal imported candies I looked forward to as a kid were Perugina Baci. They were one of my earliest recollections of hazelnut candies. It’s a simple construction, a chocolate cream filling with crushed hazelnuts, topped with a whole hazelnut and then dipped in dark chocolate.

They’ve been made since 1922 and were very successful from the start. The hook with Baci though isn’t just the hazelnut textures and chocolate, it’s the packaging. Each little chocolate is individually wrapped, and inside the wrapper is a glassine paper that has quotes about love, now in multiple languages.

Perugina Baci (Nestle)

I ate plenty of these as a kid. They used to come in larger boxes, I think they had either three or four chocolates in them. Now they’re only available in this duo box or in the larger gift size versions (which change depending on the season). They were first introduced to American consumers in 1939 when Perugina opened their own shop on Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1939. But then they went away. Nestle bought Perugina in 1988 and the brand was less emphasized. Perugina concentrated their sales efforts on Italy and Europe. Baci weren’t as easy to find, though still turned up in Italian delis and import shops. When internet sales came along, it was a bit easier, but still, the impulse of buying a little tube of Perugina Baci was long gone.

That supposed to change now, as Nestle has an agreement with Colavita olive oil (not a Nestle product) to handle imports for Baci and other Perugina products. They made a big splash at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, so perhaps they’ll be easier to find now.

Perugina Baci (Nestle)

The pieces are about a half an ounce each and have about 75 calories in them. It’s a rich mix of dark chocolate on the outside, a filling of hazelnut paste and cream along with crushed hazelnuts. Then there’s a large, whole hazelnut on top.

The ingredients list for a complicated candy like this is very short: sugar, hazelnuts, chocolate processed with alkali, cocoa butter, milk, milkfat, soy lecithin and vanillin.

Where you find friends, there you find riches.
- Plato

Perugina Baci (Nestle)

Baci are only for chocolate eaters who love hazelnuts. There’s a lot of hazelnut in there. The filling is jam packed with crushed hazelnuts (the chocolate was invented to make use of excess crushed nuts in the chocolate factory) but the real appeal here is the fantastic whole hazelnut on top.

They smell sweet and nutty. Bite is easy, the center is soft enough to give easily, but not sticky or syrupy. It all melts well together, with a lot of woodsy and roasted nut flavors. Personally, I like biting off the bottom and consuming that first, leaving only the chocolate covered whole hazelnut at the end.

One is satisfying, two is downright indulgent. I think a box of three would be the perfect serving and put a fourth in to at least create the illusion of sharing.

While Caffarel are still my favorite Italian hazelnut chocolates, I do love Baci and I’m glad they’re going to be more available.

There’s no statement about the ethical sourcing of the chocolate on the package or Perugina Italian website. (The US website hasn’t launched fully yet.) The product contains hazelnuts and possibly traces of other tree nuts, plus soy and dairy. There is no statement about gluten on the package.

Related Candies

  1. Pernigotti Gianduia: Piedmont Hazelnut Paste
  2. Milka L’il Scoops
  3. Die Besten von Ferrero: Mon Cheri, Kusschen & Rondnoir
  4. William diCarlo Perle di dolcezza
  5. Laica & Caffarel Chocolate Eggs
  6. Short & Sweet: Hazelnut Bites
  7. Baci Bar
  8. Caffarel Gianduia 1865


Name: baci
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: samples from Fancy Food Show
Price: $1.50
Size: 1 ounce
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: Candy, Nestle, Chocolate, Nuts, 8-Tasty, Italy

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:27 pm     CandyReviewNestleChocolateNuts8-TastyItalyComments (3)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hershey’s Pieces - Milk Chocolate with Almonds

DSC_9765rbHershey’s has been chugging along with their Pieces line, the long-overdue expansion of the Reese’s Pieces product into other pelletized versions of popular Hershey’s candy bars.

The new Hershey’s Pieces - Milk Chocolate with Almonds isn’t as innovative as some of the other candies, such as the Almond Joy Pieces or the initial Reese’s Pieces. But they fill a void in Hershey’s offerings and I was looking forward to them.

The first big stumbling block I had, though, was the price. 8 ounces for about four dollars. Other stores sell them for $4.50. I have a hard time paying 8 or 9 dollars a pound for Hershey’s candy in bulk quantities.

They also don’t reinvent the niche with some new quality. They’re not low in allergens, the list on the back says that they may contain soy, wheat, other tree nuts and peanuts. A great selling point would have been a nutty candy that is actually peanut and/or gluten free.

Hershey's Pieces - Milk Chocolate with Almonds

The Pieces look like the package illustrates. They come in three colors: dark brown, brown and cream. They vary widely in size, based on the core of almond. Some are as small as a Peanut M&M, others are huge, sometimes over an inch long.

They’re a standard construction of a well-roasted almond, a milk chocolate coating and then a colored candy shell. The colors are pleasing. I actually enjoyed their muted tones more than the loud and artificial M&Ms Almond. Of course these are also artificial, with Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 & 2 ... just less bang for the coloring.

The almonds are roasted to a very dark color, roasted in cocoa butter and/or sunflower oil). This is a good choice. I found them all crunchy and fresh tasting, not a single fibery or bitter one in the bag.

The shell is thin enough to crunch easily and provide only a modicum of sweetness. The milk chocolate is only marginally acceptable. It has the Hershey’s sour note to it, which I actually like sometimes, especially when mixed with more savory elements. Here it was such a back seat to the large almonds, it worked.

I prefer this, by far, to the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar. But I don’t like it better than M&Ms Almond, because of the difference in the chocolate flavor. What I’d really like to see is a Heath Pieces at this point, that’d really set the Pieces line apart from their current iteration as an M&Ms clone.

Related Candies

  1. Hershey’s Special Dark Pieces
  2. Hershey’s York Pieces
  3. Hershey’s Almond Joy Pieces
  4. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almonds
  5. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
  6. Reese’s Pieces
  7. M&Ms Line
  8. Reese’s Pieces with Peanuts


Name: Milk Chocolate with Almonds Pieces
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey’s
Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Sherman Oaks)
Price: $3.99
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 142
Categories: Candy, Hershey's, Chocolate, Kosher, Nuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Rite Aid

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:18 pm     CandyMorselizationReviewHershey'sChocolateKosherNuts7-Worth ItUnited StatesRite AidComments (5)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Joyva Sesame Crunch

In the history of candy, I’m pretty confident that some of the earliest boiled candy sweets created were nut and seed brittles. The genre of sesame brittles fit in nicely as one of those candies that I think has been around for a thousands of years. Early versions probably used date sugar and honey instead of refined sugar.

Joyva Sesame

The Joyva Sesame Crunch is a dead simple candy, made well and without much fuss or fanfare. It’s sold in two formats, the large single serving plank (1.125 ounces) and little individually wrapped snaps.

It has only four ingredients: sesame seed, sugar, corn syrup, honey. It’s packaged equally simply, a small paperboard card to keep the slab from breaking and then inserted into a cellophane sleeve. The logo may not be a thousand years old, but certainly looks like it could be from the 1970s.

Joyva Sesame

I’ve been eating these candies for years, and they seem to fall into the genre of healthy, judging by the number of natural food stores that carry them. They’re exceptionally durable too, since there’s no chocolate they don’t melt and the coating of sugary candy over the sesame seals them up so they don’t oxidize (get rancid).

The brittle base is just boiled sugar and some honey, the flavor is mostly from the sesame seeds themselves, which are nicely toasted and have a good oily, nutty balance with a light grassy and bitter note. The sweetness is mild, and the overall crunch and chew is long lasting. I find that when I buy these, I have a hard time not eating whatever quantity I have in one sitting. Still, my ideal version would probably have a little more candy to it, and a little more honey flavor.

Since sesame seeds are the main ingredient, there’s a fair amount of fat in the bar, though I’ve read that sesame oil is quite healthy as far as vegetable oils go. The bar is filling, but not too sweet, so it straddles the line of snack and candy very nicely. It’s filling and even has a little bit of protein, so it will probably keep blood sugar levels from spiking like other pure sugar candies might. The calories on the label say 180 for the bar, but I think that’s steep for a sesame candy that’s only 1.125 ounces. (Tahini is about 160 calories per ounce and has no sugar in it, which is lower in calories per ounce than sesame oil.)

The bar is Kosher, naturally, as well as being marked as gluten free. It may contain traces of almonds or pistachios. The package doesn’t say anything about peanuts. It’s not vegan, unless you’re the kind of vegan who’s okay with honey.

Related Candies

  1. El Almendro Turron Selection
  2. The 110 Essential Candies for Candivores
  3. Fard’s Persian Pistachio Nougat
  4. De la Rosa Mazapan
  5. Joyva Joys
  6. Halvah and Turkish Delight
  7. Pocky Kurogoma (Black Sesame)


Name: Sesame Crunch
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Joyva
Place Purchased: 99 Cent Only (Miracle Mile)
Price: $.50
Size: 1.125 ounces
Calories per ounce: 169
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Kosher, Nuts, United States, 99 Cent Only Store

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:13 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewNuts7-Worth ItUnited States99 Cent Only StoreComments (7)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Limited Edition Ritter Sport Winter Kreation + Factory Store

P1060141You may notice a lot more about German candies on the blog in the coming weeks. I went there for a week of candy factory tours earlier this month and have lots of fascinating adventures to share. (I’ll try to focus on candies you can either get in the United States or are worth seeking out.)

Ritter-Sport is a large German chocolate brand with a unique selling proposition, its chocolate bars are square. Their standard 100 gram (3.5 ounce) bar comes in 23 varieties with another 3-9 promotional and seasonal variations throughout the year. In the United States there are about six core varieties on shelves, but some stores like Target will sell about eight. Even in Germany, I still only found about 14-16 of the versions at the stores (which included the Bio and Winter Kreation varieties). The best place in Germany to find everything Ritter Sport sells, naturally, is at their factory store.

The Ritter family started making chocolate in 1912, but didn’t introduce the Ritter Sport square bars until 1930. They’re becoming better known around the world as 35% of their total sales (over 20,000 tons of the 60,000 they produce) are now for export. (Russia is their number one customer, then Italy, then the United States.) The quality for a consumer bar (sold for less than one Euro) is excellent and the company prides itself on its innovation, ethical sourcing of their raw materials and quality of their products.

Ritter Sport Minis - Winter Kreations

For the past two seasons in the United States I’ve actually been able to find the Ritter Sport Winter Kreations in stores. (Mel and Rose Wine and Liquors and a really good 76 gas station in Glendale on Glendale Blvd & Glen Oaks.) Last year the Winter Kreations limited edition set was Orangen-Marzipan (orange marzipan), Nuss in Nougatcreme (hazelnuts in gianduia) and Vanillekipferl (vanilla cookie cream). This year the Nougatcreme did not return but was replaced by Gebrannte Mandel (burnt sugar almonds).

Ritter Sport Orange Marzipan

The Ritter Sport Orangen-Marzipan bar is pretty special. When I got to Germany back in February of this year, this was one of the first bars I sought out and bought. After eating some of it, I bought the little assortment above plus an additional full size bar. Then when I was there earlier this month, I again bought a full size bar, since I think it’s the right proportion of chocolate and marzipan.

The bar is a little different from the classic Ritter Sport Marzipan bar in that it has a milk chocolate shell (sorry, it’s not vegan). It smells like fresh orange juice, almost like an orangesicle, actually, because of the sweet and milky chocolate. The chocolate is quite sweet and so is the marzipan center, but it all works swimmingly together. The orange flavors are both juicy and zesty, without being bitter. The marzipan is moist and sticks together like a cookie dough instead of being dry and crumbly. There’s a light hint of amaretto to it as well.

It’s terribly sweet, which is usually a turn off for me, but I enjoyed the decadent sticky quality, probably because it’s cold out and I usually want more sugar when I’m chilly.

I do wish that it was the dark chocolate shell though, but since this is the only other marzipan bar that they make regularly, I can understand wanting to hit the milk/marzipan market at least seasonally.

Ritter Sport Gebrannte MandelI don’t think I would have appreciated this flavor in the same way without my visits to the Christmas Markets in various cities. The Gebrannte Mandel stalls were ubiquitous (photo), sealing this confection as a definite seasonal fixture. It only makes sense that Ritter Sport would create a Winter Kreation that includes some toasted almonds with a caramelized sugar coating.

The base of the Ritter Sport Gebrannte Mandel is milk chocolate. Ritter Sport makes eleven different chocolate bases for its different bars, including several varieties of milk chocolate. This version has a cacao content of 30%, so a richer milk chocolate than most American consumer brands.

Ritter Sport Gebrannte Mandel

The bar is light in color, silky and smells much like the stalls at the Christmas Market, like toasted nuts and sugar. The nuts in this case are crushed (I’m not sure they’d fit well in the bar otherwise and might end up a little too crunchy). It’s sweet and the sugar coating on the nuts gives it more of a grainy crunch, but also adds more toasted flavor. There might be a hint of cinnamon in there as well.

Ritter Sport Vanilla

Ritter Sport Vanillekipferl is based on the classic Austrian cookie called the Vanillekipferl or vanilla crescent. They’re rather like a Russian Teacake or shortbread cookie with nutmeal in it. (There are no eggs in the traditional recipe.)

The bar is like many of Ritter Sport’s, a milk chocolate shell with a cream filling. In this case the cream filling was slightly sandy with a very sweet vanilla flavor. I can’t say that I got much of the shortbread or nutty qualities out of it. It was decent, but not really different enough from Ritter Sport’s non-seasonal offerings.

Ritter Sport Nougatcreme

The Ritter Sport Nuss in Nougatcreme was a 2010 flavor and was nicely done. It was a milk chocolate bar with a milky hazelnut paste center with a bit of a crunchy, crushed nuts. I didn’t think much of it one way or the other. Again, like the Vanillekipferl, it wasn’t that different from the regular nougatcreme bar.

P1060120

All of the above bars, oddly enough, I bought at the grocery stores (Rewe and Aldi for the bars in February and Kaufhof for the most recent marzipan and candied almonds). Our tour group visited the Ritter Sport factory campus on our last full day in Germany on our way to Stuttgart. The factory is in the small town of Waldenbuch, which has less than 10,000. But it’s about a half an hour outside of Stuttgart (which has about 600,000 people and over 5 million in the metro area) which is the center of Germany’s auto industry.

The Ritter family created a museum on the factory campus. Not just a chocolate museum that shows how cocoa is grown, harvested and processed into chocolate, there’s actually an art museum there. The building houses four areas: an interactive chocolate museum (upstairs to the right), a cafe (in the back left), a factory store for chocolate (on the lower right) and the front half to the left is the art museum.

P1060181

The exhibit while I was there fits well with the aesthetic of the square chocolate bars. They were selections from the Marli Hoppe-Ritter Collection in a variety of media. Most were paintings but a few sculptures as well.

All of the pieces had geometric elements and either bold use of color (in primary and secondary palettes) and rarely representational.

The space isn’t large, but is well laid out in four areas with tall ceilings and awash in light.

P1060193  P1060196  P1060187 P1060170  P1060166

P1060155

The Ritter Sport Factory Store is exactly what I want from a factory store. First, the prices are excellent. They are below the standard price for the bars (except for what you may find on sale) and they carry everything. There were no varieties or shapes that they make that I could not find on the shelves. The standard price for all 100 gram bars was .69 Euro (about 90 cents US). They were all fresh and in pristine condition and a pleasure to browse.

P1060146

In the back corner was the spot that I love factory stores for. It was where the seconds and over-runs were for sale. If I lived in the area, I’d be sure to visit often to see what turned up. There were plenty of bulk items, such as the Schokowurfel in bags. Far off there in the corner were piles on the shelves of plain white wrapped bars. They were test bars of new flavors, so I picked up a few of those for later investigation and indulgence. They were only a half a Euro each.

P1060157

The branded merchandise was nice. I liked the continuity of the themes, the colors and use of either the cross sections of the bars or the square shapes. However, the prices on these items were definitely premium retail. A little back backpack was 85 Euro. There were also large tins with the chocolate cross-section design - quite large and useful for only 7.50 Euro, but that largeness thing would have been an issue for getting them home. (But what a great gift idea to buy one of those tins, then one of the bulk bags of the minis and fill it up- the whole gag would be less than 20 Euro.) I picked up the coffee mug for my husband and filled it with minis for Christmas.

P1060135  P1060136  P1060154  P1060122 P1060123

So, if you’re in Stuttgart and tired of looking around at the cars or just swinging through the area, it’s a worthy diversion to Waldenbuch. There’s also a Ritter Sport shop in Berlin (which I doubt carries the factory over-runs) that has its own merits for it’s interior design.

P1060113Maybe you’ll also catch sight of their company cars in the area: these were parked in front of one of the factory buildings. When we first arrived in our tour bus, there was a third. It was canary and said Knusperflakes on it.

Full Disclosure: My trip to Germany was sponsored by German Sweets, a government funded trade organization. While this provided me with excellent access to people in positions at the candy companies, in this case all of the products featured here were bought and paid for by me. Of course being at the factory store with its excellent prices which were a fraction of what I pay for the products in the United States probably prompted me to buy things I might not ordinarily. The Ritter Sport factory was not actually on the tour set up by German Sweets (though they’re members), but since it only took our tour bus 15 km out of our way on the last day of our travels, they agreed to stop at my request.

Related Candies

  1. Ritter Sport Fruhlingsspezialitaten 2010
  2. Choceur Nougat Bites & Marzipan Bites
  3. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
  4. Niederegger Marzipan Orange
  5. Caffarel Gianduia 1865
  6. Treat Trip: Jelly Belly Factory
  7. Ritter Sport Assortment


Name: Orangen-Marzipan, Vanillekipferl, Gebrannte Mandel & Nuss in Nougatcreme
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ritter Sport
Place Purchased: Rewe, Aldi & Kaufhof
Price: $.90 (price varies depending on size)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Ritter Sport, Chocolate, Nuts, 7-Worth It, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:06 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasRitter SportChocolateNuts7-Worth ItGermanyShoppingComments (4)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Bars: Hershey’s, Niederegger, Ghirardelli & Hachez

Here’s a small selection of what I’d call Christmas chocolate bars. I’ve got to eat them up before the holidays - it may be too late for you to get them by Christmas, but there are some special ones that are worth picking up at the after-Christmas sales.

Hershey's Golden AlmondHershey’s introduced their Golden Almond Bar in 1977. It’s a thick bar and clocks in at 2.8 ounces. The bar design and packaging has changed little over the past thirty five years. It’s still wrapped in gold foil with a gold sleeve. Bars are sold either singly or in gold gift boxes of five bars (see a 1984 ad here). They’re not that easy to find, I usually see them at the official Hershey’s stores at Chocolate World or the Times Square shop.

The bar is simple, it’s just milk chocolate with lots of whole roasted almonds in it. It differs from the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar as it’s supposed to be better quality chocolate. The ingredients do not differ from the Hershey’s standard milk chocolate which includes PGPR but is at least made in the United States and not Mexico as the other supposedly upscale Pot of Gold line is.

Hershey's Golden Almond

The bar is wonderful looking, it’s thick and has a great snap. It’s about 1.7 inches wide, 4.75 inches long and a beefy half inch high. There are some almonds in there though not as many as I feel are promised but they look like they’re fresh and of good quality. The chocolate looks a little darker than the standard Hershey’s but smells like I’d expect. It’s sweet with a slight yogurty tang to it.

The texture is smooth and fudgy, with a sticky melt and a light caramel and woodsy chocolate flavor. It’s not complex and it’s not extraordinary. But if you like Hershey’s chocolate and enjoy the decadence of a thicker piece, this is a good bar to choose. I liked the nostalgia of an actual foil wrapped bar, which is so rare these days. If there’s someone on your list that loves Hershey’s, this is a little bit more elegant way to give them what they desire.

Size: 2.8 ounces
Price: about $2.00
Rating: 5 out of 10

Niederegger Marzipan WeihnachtsschokoladeI’ll have more about my German adventures, including a tour of the Niederegger Factory in Lubeck in the coming weeks.

I found this seasonal bar called Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade at the Niederegger cafe at Marktplatz in Lubeck. The front of the package says Saftiges gewurz marzipan mit vollmilch-schokolade. So it’s a spiced marzipan in milk chocolate. The image shows almonds, cinnamon sticks and star anise. The ingredients don’t specifically list anise, just “spices” though cinnamon is a separate item.

Inside the paper wrapper there’s a stiff card (advertising the company and their website) and the foil wrapped bar.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade

The packaging did a great job of protecting the bar. It was glossy and unscuffed.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtschokolade

The milk chocolate is very light in color (33% cocoa solids and 14% milk solids). The bar smells like milky chai, a little spicy and very sweet. The marzipan is moist and a bit like eating Snickerdoodle cookie dough. The chocolate is smooth, but doesn’t contribute much in the way of cocoa to this, it just nicely encases the marzipan. The texture of the marzipan is a little more rustic than the French style fondant type that’s used for creating figures and shapes. Niederegger is meant for eating and enjoying.

The ratios on the 100 gram bars from Niederegger favor the chocolate more than the enrobed little classic loaves. (I’ll get into that more in my master post.) If you’re looking for a starter marzipan that’s more about the texture and celebrates almonds as the source ingredient, Niederegger really can’t be beat. It’s not too sweet and doesn’t have any fake amaretto flavors to it.

I would prefer a version of this with dark chocolate, but I can’t argue with the traditional recipe they have. It’s a great balance of subtle spice, sweetness, milk and almonds.

Size: 3.5 ounces
Price: 1.95 Euro (about $2.50)
Rating: 8 out of 10

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark BarsI’m no stranger to the Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark. They’ve been making it for years and it comes in a clever little square that’s perfect for some afternoon tea or coffee.

I found this set of bars at Target last month on sale for $2 each. They’re heralded as limited edition and come in milk chocolate and dark chocolate.

I’m not actually a fan of barks. I like my inclusions fully immersed in the chocolate. So the bar version of Peppermint Bark is perfect for my strange fondness for things being hidden in the chocolate.

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Bars

Unlike most Peppermint Barks, which combine white chocolate with crushed peppermint candies (like candy canes or starlight mints), the Ghiradelli version uses minty, artificially colored corn flakes. I haven’t the foggiest why they did it that way, but honestly, they created something unique enough to be a new genre.

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Bars

The milk and dark vary a little bit in their coloring. The milk version is sweet and has a lot of dairy notes to it from both the milk chocolate base and the white chocolate top (made with real cocoa butter). The mint is clean and bright, the little cereal bits are crunchy and a little salty and keep it all from being too cloying.

The dark version has two kinds of bits, the red bits and some little dark brown bits, which I think are little chocolate cookie pieces. The dark chocolate has a little smoky note to it which overshadowed the minty layer a bit, which I enjoyed. There’s a definite difference between the Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark and the Dove Peppermint Bark, which can also be found for comparable prices at similar stores. Personally, I prefer the Dove version, because it’s a bit butterier. This one is about the crunch, a grown up sort of crunch.

Size: 3 ounces
Price: $2.00 (on sale at Target)
Rating: 7 out of 10

Hachez Weihnachts Knusper BarThe last item I have is not quite a full review. The Hachez Weihnachts Knusper Bar (Christmas Crunchy Bar) is a darling looking bar. The soft white paper wrapper has a classically illustrated scene of a child ice skating on a pond.

Feine Vollmilch-Chocolade mit Zimt, Mandeln und Nussen

My German was getting pretty good, even though I’d only been listening to German podcasts for a week and was only there for a day. The front of the package said Fine milk chocolate with cinnamon, almonds and nuts. The little image also showed all of the above -cinnamon sticks, milk chocolate blocks, almonds and a hazelnut in its shell.

So I was very excited when I got it home and put at the top of my list to photograph and review before Christmas. I took it out of the wrapper, snapped it in half ... it looked and smelled so good:

Hachez Weihnacht Knusper Bar

The bar was glossy and showed no ill effects from the long journey (about 750 more miles on a bus at that point then the 5,700 mile plane ride).

I broke off a little piece of it to try after the photo, I was greeted by wonderfully smooth and milky chocolate and amazingly fresh, crunchy and crushed nuts and a hint of cinnamon. I could taste the hazelnuts and something else ... it wasn’t pecans, it was walnuts. What I didn’t realize was that while Nussen might be a generic word for nuts, it usually meant walnuts. (Walnusse is the more specific word.) So technically, I didn’t eat any of the bar. I had to spit it out and rinse out my mouth (I still ended up itchy and with a sore throat all evening - my allergy has not developed beyond this irritation stage). But I’m going to go out on a limb after eating many of the other Hachez products in the past week (which I’ll have reviews for) and say that this really is a good bar.

Size: 3.5 ounces
Price: 2.20 Euro ($2.89 purchased at Hachez factory store)
Rating: 8 out of 10

Do you have a favorite winter flavor combination? Anything regional or something from long ago that they don’t make any longer?

Related Candies

  1. Lindt Holiday Almonds
  2. Choceur Nougat Bites & Marzipan Bites
  3. Dove Peppermint Bark
  4. Al Nassma Camel Milk Chocolate
  5. Hershey’s Special Dark with Almonds
  6. Niederegger Ginger Marzipan
  7. Dove Caramels & Chocolate Covered Almonds


Name: Golden Almond
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey’s
Place Purchased: gift
Price: $2.00 retail
Size: 2.8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: Candy, Hershey's, Chocolate, Kosher, Nuts, 5-Pleasant, United States


Name: Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Niederegger
Place Purchased: Niederegger Cafe (Lubeck, Germany)
Price: 1.95 Euro (about $2.50)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 143
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Niederegger, Chocolate, Nuts, 8-Tasty, Germany


Name: Peppermint Bark with Milk Chocolate & with Dark Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ghiradelli
Place Purchased: Target
Price: $2.00
Size: 3.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: Candy, Christmas, Ghirardelli, Chocolate, Cookie, Limited Edition, Mints, White Chocolate, 7-Worth It, United States, Target


Name: Weihnachts-Knusper
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Hachez Chocolade
Place Purchased: Hachez factory store (Bremen, Germany)
Price: 1.90 Euros ($2.89)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 161
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Hachez, Chocolate, Nuts, 8-Tasty, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:49 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasGhirardelliHachezHershey'sNiedereggerChocolateCookieKosherLimited EditionMintsNutsWhite Chocolate5-Pleasant7-Worth It8-TastyGermanyUnited StatesTargetComments (2)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trader Joe’s Eggnog Almonds

Trader Joe's Eggnog Flavored Almonds covered with Creamy White ChocolateBack around Halloween when Mars introduced their Candy Corn flavored White Chocolate M&Ms, I mused what it would be like if they made Egg Nog M&Ms.

Well, Trader Joe’s has gone over the top with their iteration of white chocolate with nutmeg with their Trader Joe’s Eggnog Flavored Almonds covered with Creamy White Chocolate

They’re sold in a very simple plastic tub that holds 11 ounces and sells for $3.99 ... about the same price as Almond M&Ms ... but they’re all natural (but have no candy shell, unless you count confectioners glaze as a shell).

Trader Joe's Eggnog Flavored Almonds covered with Creamy White Chocolate

Trader Joe’s starts with premium almonds. I’ve noticed that a lot of other almond candies (Almond M&Ms) use the smaller almonds about the size of peanuts, but these are big, fresh nonpareil almonds at the center. The coating is real white chocolate with oodles of nutmeg. The combination is convincingly like egg nog. It’s sweet but tempered with strong vanilla and earthy/balmy nutmeg. The almonds are crisp and keep the whole thing from being too sweet (like actual egg nog tends to be). The white chocolate has an excellent melt, not quite silky but quite creamy without being sticky.

I love them, but I fully understand that they’re not for everyone. If you don’t love nutmeg, you’re not going to like these. However, if you do, the combination with the almonds is stellar. I can only hope they’ll have these year round, but I know that they’ll disappear in a few weeks.

It’s all natural and there’s not even any food coloring in there. There is dairy, soy and almonds in the ingredients plus it’s made on shared equipment with wheat, tree nuts and peanuts.

Related Candies

  1. Amsterdam on Foot: Three Chocolate Shops
  2. Ghirardelli Holiday Squares
  3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almonds
  4. See’s Pumpkin Spice & Root Beer Lollypops
  5. Naked Chocolate Maltballs
  6. Chuao ChocoPods
  7. Ethel Holiday Assortment


Name: Eggnog Flavored Almonds covered with Creamy White Chocolate
    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: 153
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Trader Joe's, Kosher, Nuts, White Chocolate, 9-Yummy, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:39 am     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasTrader Joe'sKosherNutsWhite Chocolate9-YummyUnited StatesComments (10)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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