Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tony’s Chocolonely is a rather funny name for a chocolate company. They make fair trade chocolate in the Netherlands and can be found in much of Western Europe. (I saw them in department stores in both Amsterdam and Cologne.)
The packaging is eye catching with its bold use of primary colors and large friendly typefaces.
The issue of slavery, particularly child slavery, in cacao growing regions of Africa has been well documented. You can read more on Tony’s website. The aim of Tony’s Chocolonely is to source their cacao directly in Ivory Coast and Ghana from fair trade plantations in order to create a more responsible supply chain model and provide living wages for farmers. But really, it can’t happen overnight and this sort of widespread change needs more than just niche producers, it requires the involvement of the price-conscious, major chocolate buyers like Hershey’s, ADM, Mars, Kraft, Nestle and Cargill.
The packaging of Tony’s Chocolonely is friendly and casual, and probably a lot more attractive to children than many other fair trade options out there. So it’s a great choice around a holiday when you want to give kids a treat that might include a lesson but also include, well, the actual goodness of the treat they expect. The chocolate levels are not as intense, I’d say we’re close to the family chocolate range instead of the gourmet intense end of things.
The Easter Egg range that they gave me as a sample comes in this cute little egg carton that holds a full dozen eggs, which are about 1.5” inches high - a little larger than the size of a quail’s egg.
The Milk Chocolate Eggs are quite decadent. The chocolate is definitely kid friendly, but not without its appeal to candy lovers of all ages. The bite is soft, like a Cadbury though the cacao density is much higher at 30%. The milky flavors are in the Belgian style, clean but rather thick and sticky.
The Dark Chocolate Egg has a great snap, though in this size it’s a little hard to bite. (So just let the whole thing melt in your mouth.)
The flavor profile is very mild. There are light fruity and woodsy notes, but it’s overall a very sweet chocolate. It’s a dark chocolate for children who can’t have milk products or perhaps vegans.
The Milk Chocolate Praline Eggs are probably the most luxurious of the bunch, perhaps it’s just me because this style is not as common in the United States. The milk chocolate shell looks the same but is easier to bite. They’re filled with a hazelnut paste, which is sweet and nutty ... there’s a light and fresh floral note, a little like the fresh feeling from jasmine tea. I like them, though they were really very sweet and I couldn’t eat more than one at a sitting.
For every day consumption Tony’s Chocolonely also makes milk chocolate and dark chocolate bars. It will be a wonderful day when there are more holiday and special occasion options available and this set is a good start. I’m still a little more inclined towards Green & Black’s for my ordinary chocolate needs, but for folks who want something a little sweeter or kid friendly, this might be the stuff.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Milka is a chocolate confection brand that originated in Switzerland and is now made by Kraft at several factories in Europe. Since Kraft is a global food giant, it makes sense that they’re going to make as many of their brands global as well.
You might notice that I said chocolate confection brand. The reason Milka doesn’t qualify as actual chocolate is a little complicated. In the United States (and many other countries), chocolate can only contain cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar and milk (the standards of identity). If there are any other vegetable oils or solids in there (aside from inclusions like almonds or crisped rice), then it has to be called chocolate flavored or a confection. Milka contains both hazelnut paste (that’s certainly not a bad thing, but there’s not enough to kick it into giauduia territory) and whey, which is a milk protein. I like Milka. As a confection alternative to pure chocolate, I prefer the addition of nut paste and a milk sugar/protein elixir instead of partially hydrogenated palm oil.
Kraft doesn’t seem at all concerned about the technicalities of Milka, it’s spreading the bars and candies worldwide on the strength of the milk part of the product, not the cocoa. In the past five years I’ve seen them in stores in the United States quite a bit more, not just at import themed stores like Cost Plus World Market, but also at big box retailers like Target. I found this little Easter treat called Milka L’il Scoops at my local grocery store, Ralph’s.
The candies are described as Milk chocolate confections with creamy mousse filling.
The packaging is precious. It’s a real egg carton, in the sense that it’s made from recycled pulp though it’s bright purple instead of a muted color. The carton has four little sections that hold the foil wrapped egg confections. At the center of the package is a little stack of two purple spoons for eating the filling. Yes, it’s a lot of purple. (Kind of confusing, as many Cadbury items are also identified with purple which is also owned by Kraft.)
The eggs themselves are actually egg sized. I threw a Grade A Large Egg in there for comparison. I’d call these medium eggs, they’re about 2.3 inches high and 1.2 ounces though a little lighter than an actual chicken egg which are about 1.5 ounces.
The foil is thin but not wrapped so tight that it’s hard to get off, like I sometimes find with Cadbury Creme Eggs. The egg inside the wrapper is scored with a thinner shell at the top.
The eggs are to be eaten like a soft boiled egg. The top of the egg shell (chocolate confection) is removed and the little spoon is used to scoop out the filling. This actually works just as advertised. It was easy for me to either bite it off cleanly, or pinch the top gently and pull it off. (I suppose the spoon may be a useful tool as well, since the shell is quite soft and who cares if you get a little chocolate in the filling like you would with a real egg.)
The Milka chocolate confection is sweet and a little nutty, it’s soft and has a good fudgy melt. The cream center is frothy and buttery, almost like a buttercream frosting or whipped topping. It’s made of sugar and fractionated palm kernel oil so it’s a little oily on the tongue.
Overall, I preferred breaking the chocolate up and eating it with the creamy center instead of eating the center straight. Maybe if it was flavored, like a frothy hazelnut paste cream I’d be happier to eat it straight.
I liked this far better than I thought. I was fully expecting them to be another version of Cadbury Creme Eggs. Instead I found that the quality of the shell was better and the creme was actually not so sweet.
These are super calorie & fat bombs. Each one has 190 calories (158 per ounce) which is far more than a CCE. They’re really overpackaged, but at least everything is recyclable. (Well, maybe not the spoons, but I plan on reusing those for quite some time.) They’re expensive, at least twice the price of most other holiday eggs, so make it special. These are also called Milka Loeffel Chocolate Filled Eggs and sell for about $8.00 online, so I was fortunate to get mine for only $4.99. For that price I’d prefer something with a little bit better quality ingredients. However, if this is a favorite of someone you love, then it’s all worth it.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
See’s has really been increasing their seasonal Lollypops over the past few years. I quite like their Root Beer and Cinnamon offerings. The newest is See’s Orange Cream Lollypops for Easter.
They’re not sold individually like the regular flavors, so I had to buy a package of 8 pops for $5.35. The woman at the shop in Sherman Oaks said that they were selling well, and they only had the few packages that were on the counter left.
They’re Kosher though not all natural as they have artificial flavors and even some artificial colors. They are a rather low calorie treat, considering how long it takes to eat one. They’re .71 ounces and 50 calories.
The pops are the same format as the classic versions - a big 1.25 inch tall block on a stick. The hard candy is like a toffee with plenty of cream but uncrunchable. The color is a light, peachy orange. They smell like a milky orange and reminded me immediately of orange sherbet.
They’re smooth and slightly milky. The orange is light and fresh but ultimately just sweet. There was no really intense flavor to it at all. It’s not bad, but perhaps a little disappointing, though I’m sure it will be a great flavor for children who often prefer more mild flavors. Is a big switch from the more intense flavors lately like Cinnamon.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
See’s makes a fair number of classic Easter Eggs. I prefer the smaller versions, mostly because they’re a lot of small bites. But there’s something luxurious and decadent about the huge, decorated chocolate eggs they make. Thankfully they come in a wide variety of sizes. The largest are around 12-14 ounces, the middle are 7-8 and the small one I chose is 4.2 ounces. The Mayfair with Cherries & Pecans comes in a little box, tucked into a fluted paper cup. It’s less decorated than it’s larger pals, just a little sugar frosting rose on top.
Years ago one of my favorite pieces in the box of See’s Nuts & Chews was the Rum Nougat. It featured English walnuts, rum, cherries, and raisins in a chewy nougat, all covered in milk chocolate. I had to give it up about 10 years ago when my walnut allergy became apparent. Oh, how I would love it if they made it with pecans. (But there’s still a dark chocolate covered nougat that has almonds in it, though no rum and is the basis of the Awesome Nut & Chew Bar.) The Mayfair is pretty close to that rum nougat, in that it has that rum note to the buttercream center along with the cherries and for Easter, it comes in a walnut or pecan variety.
The egg is about three inches long and has a thick dark chocolate shell (made by Guittard, which is also based in California).
The Mayfair egg center is thick and moist. I was actually shocked at how pink it was, I thought the coloring would be limited to the cherries, but the fondant is also quite a vibrant shade of pink. The cherries give the center mixture a rum, vanilla and cherry flavor to it with less of a maraschino note than I’d anticipated.
The cherries are firm and moist, but don’t have much character otherwise. They’re not crisp, they’re not tart and they don’t really taste that different from the fondant since they’re more glace at this point than just syrupped. The pecans are crunchy and give a little bit of a woodsy note to the center, though the pieces were generally small and not quite as numerous as I would have preferred.
Generally, I don’t care much for candy that requires utensils. Normal folks can’t just take a bite of this, it’s intended to be sliced and served. The thick chocolate cracks when I cut it, the proportions of chocolate aren’t consistent. It’s sticky when you eat the slices. The small versions are simply better - they’re pretty from beginning to end.
Rating: 7 out of 10.
The Butterscotch Square is not square and isn’t actually what I’d consider butterscotch either ... but that doesn’t stop it from being a fatty, melt in your mouth delight. The center of the square is a crumbly, slightly grainy brown sugar fudge. It has a deep salty and light molasses flavor with some hints of toffee. The milk chocolate gives it a creamy quality that serves as a counterpoint to the quick melting grain of the sugar.
I had no idea there was a See’s Butterscotch Pecan Bar, which is a pre-wrapped 1.6 ounce bar that combines a chocolate base, butterscotch layer and then a healthy heaping of pecan pieces. (I think it might be overshadowed by the Scotchmallow Bar.)
The bar is an excellent portion, a little lighter than a standard candy bar but the satiety level of the nuts more than makes up for it (210 calories but not as much fat as some other chocolate combo bars). The maple and woodsy notes of the nuts and their crunch combine well with the buttery toffee flavor of the crumbly butterscotch. The chocolate holds it all together, though provides far less of a flavor contribution on this iteration. This may be a new go-to See’s product for me.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
One of the most popular chocolate brands in Europe is Milka. It’s currently distributed by the international food conglomerate Kraft but began its existence as a family chocolate brand made by Suchard back in the early 20th century. I tried the version that’s available in the States about four years ago.
Milka is, of course, known as milky chocolate, very similar in profile and price to Cadbury. However, instead of putting vegetable oil in the chocolate, Milka uses just a touch of hazelnut paste.
Milka is now widely available in the United States but I wanted to pick up some while I was in Europe, just in case it was a little different. I did find this assortment called Milka NAPS Mix in Germany. It features four different varieties of tiny bars: Alpenmilch, Crunchy Caramel, Erdbeer & Creme au Cacao.
The little bars are about 4.25 grams, individually wrapped and easy to identify your favorite. The bars are about 1.5 inches long.
The traditional Milka is just as I remember it. Milky, sweet, smooth and not very chocolatey. They’re a good candy and at this size, and excellent little tough-covering pick me up. The hazelnut is just a light hint of roasted nuts, not like a thick gianduia. It’s much creamier than I recall the American packaged bar I tried, though as someone who likes a lot of either chocolate in my chocolate or hazelnuts in my gianduia, this didn’t quite fit my personal profile.
The Milka Crunchy Caramel is the same little bar with some toffee chips in it. (Not Daim chips, for some reason.) I liked the crunchy texture and light salty hint, though sometimes they tasted a bit like butterscotch and not quite like toffee. This was my favorite of the mix, now I’m sorry I didn’t pick up the Daim version of Milka.
The Milka Erdbeer is the milk chocolate with dried strawberry bits in it. The strawberry bits taste real, but have a grainy quality to them that kind of ruins the texture of the chocolate at time. Still, the milk and strawberry flavor was great, it reminded me of neapolitan ice cream.
This was the only filled bar in the mix. The center was a thin little strip of chocolate creme. It really didn’t taste that much different than the standard Milka Bar, mostly because of the proportions. It had more of a chocolate frosting flavor to it though. It was my least favorite of the mix.
I like that Milka comes in so many different varieties and that the European versions also come in different sizes and seasonal variations. This box of chocolate though was a bit on the expensive side, compared to the large 100 gram (3.5 ounce) tablet bars at 3 Euros (about $4). Basically, I could have bought one of each of these varieties as a full sized bar for about the same amount of money, but had more than 3 times as much candy.
I have a dark chocolate version of a Milka bar at home, I’m hoping that’s a bit more to my personal liking, but mixes like this always have something to please most folks. (And I did finish most of the box without any help from anyone else.)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
According to Wikipedia, the development tale is rather curious. Marabou, the preeminent Swedish chocolate company, approached Heath Bar back in the early 1950s for permission to license the Heath name and recipe to be produced for the Swedish/Norwegian marketplace. Heath said they couldn’t but did furnish the basic recipe so Marabou created the Daim Bar. The Daim went on to become quite a sensation, so much so that Hershey’s decided it needed its own crunchy toffee bar and copied the Daim in the US and called it Skor (along with the tag line of “The Taste of Sweden” in their launch advertising). The funniest part of the whole thing about Hershey’s marketing a copy of a Swedish candy that was a copy of an American candy was that Hershey’s ended up buying Heath Bar when they acquired Leaf Candy Company in 1996.
Marabou, in turn, was bought out by Kraft back in 1993 which distributes the Marabou chocolate products around the world. The easiest place to find Daim bars is at IKEA.
The bar does look a lot like the American Skor. It’s a smallish bar, flat and with a crisp buttery toffee center with a few bits of almonds in there. The milk chocolate coating is a little thicker on top with some attractive swirls and waves.
At only 28 grams (about .99 ounces) it’s a small bar but provides a lot of crunch.
I’ve bought this bar at least three different times for review on Candy Blog and each time I’ve managed to eat it before reviewing. (The photos here are from a 2008 episode where at least the bar made it into the studio for documentation.)
While I was in Europe I was pleased to see Daim widely available. Not only does it come in the familiar bar format, the toffee chips are also used in other co-branded confections, like a version of the Milka Bar (Jim’s Chocolate Mission has a review)
Since I knew I could find another bar in the States if I wanted it, I picked up this 100 gram (3.5 ounce) bag of Daim. The package says nothing else on the front - no description, no brand name ... just Daim. Not even the fact that this is not a bar but little chocolate covered nuggets. I guess the picture on the front says it all. My guess is since Daim is available in so many countries, it’s just confusing to say things, why not show them? The back of the package features micro-printing to accommodate at least 8 different language versions of the ingredients and still no actual name of the product. So I’m going to call these Daim Nuggets.
The little pieces are actually better, in my opinion, than the bar. I loved them. The chocolate is certainly not of excellent quality but good enough for this purpose. It’s milky and sweet and just creamy enough. It seals in the crunchy pieces of toffee to keep them from getting sticky and syrupy.
The toffee has a light burnt taste to it, plenty of milk and a touch of salt. It’s crunchy and every once in a while I think I got a little bit of an almond. The toffee is cooked to perfection - it’s crunchy but not too hard (having small pieces helps) and also doesn’t get tacky or stick to my teeth in large clumps.
I bet this is great on ice cream or added to cookies, of course it would need to come in larger bags, because this one is empty.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
While in Germany a couple of weeks ago I scoured the store candy aisle for products that were either unique or perhaps just like ones we get in the United States. I was excited to find this boxed selection in an Aldi Süd market in Cologne called Die Besten von Ferrero. It’s a dark chocolate mix of the best of Ferrero, makers of the famous Ferrero Rocher. This mix contains a luxurious sampling of their dark chocolate items: Dunkel Kusschen (10x), Mon Cheri (10x) and Rondnoir (6x).
The exciting part for me was twofold. First, I’ve never had the European version of Mon Cheri (more on that later) and second, that I found the Küsschen in the new dark chocolate version.
The box was nicely organized and though it felt like a bit of over-packaging from the viewpoint of someone who had to lug everything back to the States on the train/plane, it did the job very well. Each little compartment held its pieces in place. The whole box was shrink-wrapped, each piece was individually wrapped and the Mon Cheri has an additional sealed, plastic sleeve. All emerged un-scuffed and shiny. The package says that it’s a limited edition item, but it’s just this assortment and format, each of the items are available independently.
A few years ago I reviewed the American version of the Mon Cheri. It was a little nugget of milk chocolate filled with crushed hazelnuts and a hazelnut paste. People loved it, but it was confusing because in Europe the Mon Cheri is actually a liquored up cherry in dark chocolate. Slowly the hazelnut Mon Cheri disappeared from American stores. However, I noticed overseas that there was a product that was like the American version, the Küsschen. The Küsschen was introduced in 1968 but this dark chocolate version is a little more recent.
The Küsschen wrapper is a light paper foil with the name clearly marked (though hard to tell from the milk version) and a little image of the candy on the front with some hazelnuts.
The Küsschen is a little piece, about the same size as the Mon Cheri or Pocket Coffee. It’s a hard chocolate shell filled with a thick, nutty chocolate cream filled with crushed hazelnuts and a whole nut at the center. It’s exactly one inch wide at the base and about 2/3 of an inch high.
The piece smells much sweeter than it actually is. The scent is a combination of hot cocoa and dark roasted hazelnuts. The bite is crisp; there are a lot of crunchy nut pieces in the filling. The filling, however, is not like I would have expected. I thought it would be a bit of a Perugina Baci clone. Instead the center isn’t sticky or sweet, just a bit of a firm ganache type filling. The nuts take front and center, and by center I mean the middle of the piece is one large, perfectly roasted hazelnut. It’s crunchy and has wonderful toffee and pecan notes with no fibery chew that I get sometimes with the Oregon variety. The filling is airy, which promotes the hazelnut flavors mixing with the dark chocolate shell. The chocolate is smooth with a light bitter trace to it.
Overall, a not-too-sweet and satisfying little nugget.
The Mon Cheri was a bit of a mystery to me. As far as I knew, it was a cherry centered chocolate candy. There was no need for me to try it, because I knew what it was, something that by its very conception and design was not something I could like.
Each piece is a similar format to the Ferrero Pocket Coffee (in fact, I think they use the same mold). It’s a whole cherry and some liqueur encased in a dark chocolate shell. They’re wrapped in foil and an extra piece of clear cellophane. (I bought them once before last year and was disappointed to find them either oozing a grainy syrup or looking a bit hollow so I never even bothered to photograph them.)
The pieces are messy if you’re the type who likes to bite things open, then place them on a table to shoot with a camera. In fact, I recommend not biting them unless the whole thing is in your mouth.
The cherry is firm and crunchy, with an authentic Bing or Rainier cherry flavor. It’s tart and sweet with some deep raisin or fig notes. But the part that sells it is the liquor. This isn’t just a dash of the stuff or something within a sticky fondant. This liquor syrup is, well, all liquored up. There’s a slight alcoholic burn with some light rum notes to it. (The package and Ferrero website don’t specify the alcohol type.)
I loved the combination, the cherry brings a fruity sweetness, the chocolate has a creamy and slightly dry finish while the liquor syrup give it a decadent appeal of a cocktail. I’m not a big fan of harsh spirits (though I love a really herby Gin and Tonic sometimes) but there’s something about what a liquor does when it infuses a piece of real fruit.
I reviewed the Ferrero Rondnoir when it was first introduced in the United States in 2007.
At its heart is a small dark chocolate pearl floating in a mass of chocolate paste inside a crunchy wafer shell. That is covered in a crispy chocolate sprinkling. They’re wrapped in an elegant, textured brown foil and packaged in a little fluted cup.
I see them sold in the US, unlike the other two components to this box, at drug stores and discount chains like Target or KMart. They come in a little single serve package of three or in full boxes and sometimes in mixes, especially around the holidays.
As I’ve already reviewed them, this is just a little review for myself to confirm that they’re not only a unique product, they’re also quite tasty. In fact, I think my original review pegged them as tasty (8 out of 10) but I’m upgrading them to yummy (9 out of 10). That could just be the liquor talking though.
I feel like Ferrero is preparing to release the Küsschen in the United States, though I have nothing more to go on than the fact that they discontinued the hazelnut Mon Cheri. The big issue would be to find a name for it that doesn’t require an umlaut or resonates more with Americans. The fact that it means little kiss might be a trademark issue because of both the Hershey’s Kiss and possibly the Italian Perugina Baci (also means kiss).
This was the perfect sort of box of chocolates for me. It contained adventure (I tried something new), tried and true comfort and a conclusion to the search for a replacement for a discontinued product. The fact that they’re also all dark chocolate and less sweet than some other Ferrero products was a bonus for me. Some of these assortments can be purchased online as well as in Duty Free shops at airports around the world - the family of Ferrero Rocher products are quite popular in Asia.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Hawaiian Host is familiar to most folks who have either visited Hawaii or been lucky enough to be on the gift list of someone who has. Their confectionery product line emphasized locally grown items like macadamia nuts and Kona coffee.
Their Hawaiian Host MacNut Crunch is described as Chocolate covered macadamias & crisp rice. As you’ll see, the term “macadamias” is kind of loose, as they’re not whole nuts as in the dark chocolate covered version.
The pieces are in fluted cups, the base is one inch and the top is 1.25 inches.
It’s a mix of crisped rice and crushed macadamia nuts in milk chocolate. It’s a thick piece that has a good, solid bite to it. The crispy rice is the first texture I got from it, which was pleasant mostly because it offset the very sweet milk chocolate. The macadamia bits were tiny and provided a different sort of texture and that vague fresh tropical flavor, but not much else. I would have liked more macadamia playing around in there.
It’s certainly an unusual product and I enjoyed the fact that Hawaiian Host is providing all their popular candies in these single serving packages. This one might be more fun as a bar, Hawaiian Crunch Bar of sorts. None are quite to my taste as ideal iterations of macadamias and chocolate, but it’s still a good quality product at a fair price.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I reviewed the Hawaiian Host Dark Chocolate Macadamias last week, this week I have one of their more unique items, the Hawaiian Host Caramacs. They also come in a similar single serve package, which contains two pieces. This one has a bit more candy in it, .94 ounces which is more of a preferred portion size than the .74 ounce dark chocolate covered whole nuts.
The package is fun, it reminds me of so many touristy items in Hawaii. But then again, that’s what the sunsets look like there, so why not capitalize on something familiar? The golds and amber of the setting sun do theme well with the caramel theme of the candy.
The little pieces are about an inch and a half across and nearly an inch high in spots.
The milk chocolate smells sweet and has a good dairy component to it. The bite is soft and the chocolate is thick enough that it adheres well to the caramel/nut center. The caramel has an excellent chewy pull to it. It’s a medium sweetness that kind of gets more mellow and malty as the chew goes on. It’s not terribly salty and doesn’t have that butter note to it, just a chewy sugar sort of vibe. The bits of macadamia give it some good texture. It’s kind of like flavorless coconut.
They’re basically macadamia turtles, though turtles usually have whole or large nut pieces. I liked them quite a bit, though I wanted them to have more nuts and maybe be a little less sweet. But if a friend returned from Hawaii and plopped these down next to me while they showed me their photos on a laptop, it’d probably be the perfect accompaniment.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.