Friday, January 22, 2016
Moon Pies are a Tennessee treat, a little marshmallow sandwich featuring round graham crackers and then a thin mockolate coating. They’ve been around since 1917, though they’re a bit of a regional treat and sometimes hard to find. They’re something between a candy and a snack, because of the graham cracker element. They’re also pretty big, so I can see why it’s an appealing idea to morselize them.
Taste of Nature makes Cookie Dough Bites and a variety of other little morsel items sold in theater boxes. The Moon Pie Bites sound pretty good, “Delicious marshmallow & graham in a chocolatey coating.” Well, until you get to the coating part.
The pieces actually smell pretty good. They vary in size, but most are between the size of a pea and a garbanzo.
The the description says it’s marshmallow, it’s actually just marshmallow flavored and there’s no gelatin in the list of ingredients. So these are fine for vegetarians and they’re Kosher. However, it is a mockolate coating, which is made from sugar and palm oil and whey and some cocoa, among other ingredients. It looks decent, but doesn’t really add a chocolate component to this combination candy.
The overwhelming scent of the pieces is graham. It’s a pleasant cereal sort of smell, kind of like vanilla and digestive biscuits and maple syrup.
The pieces are a bit crumbly and dry inside. They’re grainy and have little crumbly graham cracker bits in them. The mockolate coating is neither waxy or greasy, so that’s kind of a blessing. It’s a little cool on the tongue but doesn’t really ruin the otherwise disappointing candy. All elements are equally bad. The center has little sugary bits, the vanilla flavor is overly fake, the graham bits have little of the crunch of real crackers and the chocolatey coating isn’t chocolatey.
Moon Pie Bites contain wheat, milk and soy. They area also made in a facility with peanuts, tree nuts and eggs.
Monday, January 4, 2016
Early last year at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, I tried a new line of chocolate cups from the confectioners at Vosges. These sets of mini peanut butter cups are from the Wild Ophelia line of chocolates and come in a few varieties. The first one I picked up at the store, when I finally found them last month at Whole Foods are the Wild Ophelia Caramelized Bananas Peanut Butter Cups.
The packages look like a regular twin set of chocolate cups (though they’re actually 2.1 ounces) but inside is actually a try that holds a set of six little cups.
I call them cups, but there’s actually no paper fluting on them, just the cups on a tray inside a wrapper.
The cups are made from 41% cacao milk chocolate, which is from fair trade certified beans (the sugar is also fair trade). The bananas are not the typical Cavendish most of us eat, but a varietal grown on Kauai known as Williams. The bananas are actually caramelized with some cream and sugar and sprinkled on top of the cups. The filling is peanut butter, and as far as I can tell, more chocolate.
They’re almost savory. The milk chocolate has a good dairy flavor without tasting like powdered milk. The melt is smooth and buttery with a little toffee note. Once I bit into the cups the peanut butter is pretty evident as a scent, but the texture of the peanut butter is barely there, it’s quite smooth and mixed in. The banana notes were hard to tease out sometimes, it wasn’t a lot of banana and often just a little fresh caramelized and honey note.
Some cups had more banana bits, and some of the banana bits were a little toothsticky.
I liked the cups better than the bar version that I tired a few years ago. Part of is that I like the format of cups, and the ability to have a teensy but full-featured portion. They’re expensive, but the package holds more than a Justin’s or Theo PB cup, though it’s still more per ounce. I liked the inventive combinations and I welcome more products that play with these formats.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
I’m a sucker for a nice bottle with a cork top, and even though this was $5.99, I figured it would be good for holding some freshly squeezed orange juice at home. Even with the large price tag, it is important to note that it’s a full pound of candy, not the skimpy 12 ounces like many candy bags have now.
The pieces are made in Spain, which is definitely not a country I think of when it comes to chocolate. (They do lovely gummis and nougats.)
The bottle itself looks like it holds more than a pint, less than a quart (but I’ll have to measure when it’s empty). It’s pretty thick glass and has the Trader Joe’s logo molded into it ... which makes me wonder if it will show up in the future for other packaged items. (Maybe we’ll see this again for Valentines with just white and red lentils with hearts and lips printed on them.)
The pieces, especially for a naturally colored product, are well made and lovely to look at. There are three colors: white, light red and muted green. Each piece also has a little printed icon. The white ones have Ts and Js and the green and red ones have a mixture of snowflakes, bells and stocking caps.
The lentils are a little larger and flatter than an M&M. They’re more like Nestle Smarties, though not quite that big.
The shells are very thick. Since they’re rather flat, there’s a sharper edge to the, which in this case with the bottle, means that they’re more easily broken and chipped. (Of course I also carried the bottle around for a full week back and forth to work while I was sampling them for review.)
The crunchy shell is very pleasant and has no flavor of its own, just a mildly sweet crunch. The chocolate centers have a very strong dairy milk flavor, a light hint of malt and honey and then some cocoa notes.
They’re inoffensive and pretty, certainly different from M&Ms with the packaging and natural colors. They don’t quite warrant the price tag on their own, but I wasn’t sorry I picked them up. Flavors might also be fun, especially if they could figure out a way to mix the flavors in the same package.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Dum-Dums are pretty basic, kind of small lollipops. They’ve always come in a wide variety of flavors that have changed based on popularity. Only recently has Spangler, who makes Dum-Dums, come out with holiday themed product packages of the pops.
The Dum-Dums Limited Edition Holiday Pops is a bag of eight different flavors of individually wrapped lollipops. I believe they were available in 2014, but I just picked them up this year.
Green Apple Grinch - there’s nothing grinchy about this flavor, it’s straight up fake green apple. The pop is bright green, the flavor is rather thin but definitely sour apple flavor and not actual apple.
Apple Cider is one of the amber colored pops. The flavor is similar to the Green Apple, but less bright, more muted and it has a more apple sauce or honey note to it.
Sugar Cookie is an opaque cream color. It’s pleasant but bland, as are sugar cookies. The flavor is creamy without a heavy dose of butter flavor. It’s a little vanilla, a little marshmallow. Pretty much a good lollipop. If they added a little nutmeg, I’d call it Egg Nog (and I’d be pretty happy).
Sugar Plum is purple and very pretty, like a little gem. I don’t actually know what a real sugar plum is but I can tell you that this one is vaguely grape.
Hot Cocoa looks like the Gingerbread or Apple Cider pop, but it’s a little more milky or opaque. I was expecting this to be horrible, but it’s actually a passable chocolate marshmallow flavor. The cocoa smells a little musty and thin, but the flavor has a creamy vanilla note, like a marshmallow that holds it together.
Gingerbread is one of the beige ones. It’s sweet and has a light note of spice that features a little ginger, a little cinnamon. One of the things about gingerbread-the-baked-good that I like is the molasses, and there’s no note of that here.
Polar Punch is very blue. It’s a tropical punch flavor with a distinct raspberry note to it. There’s a long-lingering aftertaste of the berry flavor that isn’t necessarily unpleasant, but I also had a blue tongue for a while.
Merry Cherry is red. I haven’t had a cherry Dum-Dums for a while, so I can’t say if this is any different. It’s sweet and don’t really have a tangy fruit note to it. It wasn’t like a wild cherry Life Saver, it was more like a cough drop. I find cherry to be rather medicinal, and this was especially so. But I know some folks like the flavor.
I love this idea, and I’d like to see it with a few more specialty flavors, like an Egg Nog, maybe something Cranberry, Peppermint Stick, Rum Raisin. If they’re making things that are bacon flavor, they can absolutely go way out there with Speculoos and Bailey’s Irish Creme.
Each pop is about 25 calories, so they’re a petite treat that should fit into most regular diets. They last a little longer than a traditional hard candy because it’s on a stick and is a bit more interactive. Dum-Dums are made in the USA in a facility free from major allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat and gluten.
Friday, December 18, 2015
I have a soft spot for Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies. Mostly the soft spot is in my memory, because I don’t find the current day item meets my pickier standards. It shouldn’t be that hard to make a chocolate cookie with a minted chocolate coating.
So, if I can’t get my itch scratched with Thin Mints, perhaps I should turn it on its end and have something chocolate with cookies, instead of cookies with chocolate. Mars’ new Target-exclusive Promises for Christmas are just that: Dove Milk Chocolate Holiday Mint Cookie Promises.
The idea is simple, and certainly not original. They’re milk chocolate, lightly flavored with peppermint along with some crunched up chocolate cookie pieces.
The milk chocolate is fudgy and sweet, but definitely smoother than many other brands like Hershey’s and Nestle that are on the shelves at the moment. The little cookie bits are sandy and crunchy with a bitter note of charcoal and cocoa. Mostly they just sit in the crevices of my molars. The effect is a nice textural change from the smooth melt of the chocolate and a slight note of salt.
The ratio of chocolate to cookie is very good, definitely more chocolate, but they weren’t stingy with the cookie bits, they were in every bite. They were a little on the sweet side, which is really the profile of the Dove Milk Chocolate. Still, I’d love it if someone would do these in dark chocolate.
I hope Target brings these back next year and hopefully they’ll get wider distribution so everyone can enjoy them. But now I’d like someone to explain why I can’t have them all year, like the long gone Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Mint bar.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Trader Joe’s often has the most wonderful seasonal confections. They’re often reasonably priced and unique items that are hard to find anywhere else. Many of the items at Trader Joe’s for 2015 are returning from previous years, including their cordials, passport chocolate stacks and Belgian chocolates. The newest item that caught my eye are the Trader Joe’s Chocolate Marbles.
There’s nothing particularly wintery or holiday about them. They’re just chocolate spheres filled with different pralines. There are six varieties, each sphere is then given a mottled color coating to distinguish it from the others. There are ten marbles in the package. It’s just shy of 5 ounces, so each piece is about 4/10 of an ounce. The flavors are: caramel, coconut, praline & almond, and chocolate mousse. The description on the Trader Joe’s website goes like this:
Almond Praline (Green), Hazelnut Praline (Orange), Chocolate Mousse (Blue), Coconut (White), Caramel (Brown), Crispy Cookie (Yellow)
They’re about the same size as a Lindt Lindor Truffle, but really the similarities end there.
The tray is wonderful for protecting the candies, but makes it devilishly hard to get them out, they’re tucked in there and I couldn’t quite grab a single. All I would end up doing is spinning it around in its little cup. However, once out, the slightly bumpy outside means that they’re not as rolly as some spherical chocolates. (Sixlets probably max out the scale at a 10 and these are probably about a 4 - they can sit on a flat surface but anything raked and they will go with gravity.)
The lovely medium blue marble is filled with Chocolate Mousse. The shell is dark chocolate with a milk chocolate filling. The filling is soft and creamy and definitely sweet. It’s light but I wouldn’t call it a mousse. The dark shell was different enough from the filling, but if I wasn’t told what this flavor was, I’m not sure I’d guess it. However, it’s quite different from the Lindor, it’s much more dense in flavor with less of that thin oily feel on the tongue.
The white marble is filled with a chocolate cream with Coconut. This was rather mainstream tasting, very pleasing for my American palette. This was the only one I was able to pick out by scent. The chocolate was sweet and the little crispy coconut bits did make it all pop a lot more than the more delicate praline pieces.
The brown marble is filled with two half domes of Caramel. It tastes like a lot more chocolate on this one, but the caramel holds its own. The caramel is a bit more of the saucy side than chew. The flavor is quite deep, with scorched and burnt sugar notes particularly strong. There were also a lot of milk flavors, more than the other pieces, so that may have been part of the caramel.
I think this was my favorite of the assortment, because it was so different from most American and British caramels. The only drawback I noticed after the third or fourth piece was that the colorful coating was a little waxy and though it seals in the flavors and keeps them from melting if you hold them in your hand for a few minutes ... it’s a shellac and rather tastes like it.
It’s a milk shell with a milk chocolate paste in the center and little cereal or cookie bits. It was a little malty and a little corny… when I say corny, I actually mean it tasted like corn nuts or polenta or something. It was not as sweet as some of the other milk chocolate pieces and definitely different.
Green - Almond Praline has a darker chocolate shell, though I’m not sure if it’s full dark chocolate. It balanced the almond praline pretty well. It’s not marzipan, it’s more of an almond butter mixed with a touch of cocoa and sugar. It’s sticky and satisfying, but doesn’t have a strong jolt of almond flavor.
The orange marble is filled with Hazelnut Praline. This is quite sweet but has a very good roasted hazelnut flavor. The filling is more paste with a definite crystallized sugar grain to it. It doesn’t have the smooth melt of the mousse, so it’s a bit sticky. I thought the milk chocolate shell made it all too sweet, but the lingering toasted nut flavors really kept it from being cloying afterwards.
I think these are a great hostess gift, excellent for using as an accent to a dessert plate of holiday cookies, or tossing in a little dish with some snacks. The price, for the quality and unique appearance, is quite good.
These are made in France, is suspect by the same confectioner that made the Magic Beans. The ingredients look good, all natural things, even natural colorings They contain milk, wheat, hazelnut, almond, soy, coconut. May also contain traces of chestnut, pistachio, walnut and/or eggs.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Target’s newest seasonal edition of M&Ms is a rather nonseasonal but welcome classic: M&Ms Milk Chocolate Cafe Mocha.
They’re far more expensive than regular M&Ms. At Target they were on sale 2 bags for $6, but the regular varieties were larger bags. Milk Chocolate M&Ms come in an 11.4 ounce bags. For Halloween picked up the Pumpkin Spice Latte in a 9.9 ounce bag. The same is true for the returning Peppermint White Chocolate M&Ms, they’re now in an 8 ounce bag.
They’re larger than standard M&Ms, basically puffier. If you eat them carefully by cleaving them in half you can tell that the milk chocolate center is created in two layers. It’s like they took a regular M&M and then gave it another chocolate coating and then a candy shell. I’m not sure why the Limited Edition flavors are all this shape, but they are. It’s interesting to note that the Walmart exclusive flavor of Hot Chocolate M&Ms does have a different center. I have to wonder if this is because the manufacturing process is re-purposed from the failed M&Ms Premiums line from 2008.
The shells are green or red. My bag contained mostly green, it was tough to find reds to populate the photos, they’re less than a third of the package. There’s no actual coffee listed in the ingredients.
They don’t smell like much in the bag, a little less like chocolate but not fully like coffee. The bite is not at all soft, the chocolate is a little chalky and fudgy. The melt gives off a lot of sweetness and a little note of bitterness at first as well as a good whiff of coffee. The chocolate is okay, not great but the bitterness of the coffee notes, the roasted and woodsy aspects kind of cover for the milk flavors. It’s not really a latte flavor, its more of a coffee with milk and cocoa. It might have been fun to see them try this with a dark chocolate, but I’m patient. This is their first try at coffee M&Ms since the Premiums line. (And there will be another version of coffee and peanuts next spring.)
Mars does a great job with their coffee flavors, it’s well rounded without too much of a fake flavor note to it (like some other buttery things they’ve done). I’d love to see these come back as a seasonal tradition, but at all stores. I’ll pick up more bags soon, just in case they don’t.
Monday, November 30, 2015
This Winter Edition of the classic square Ritter Sport is a cream filled chocolate bar with 16 little squares. I found mine at Cost Plus World Market, which has been a pretty reliable source for the winter versions (though less often the summer ones). They’re a smidge more expensive than the regular Ritter bars at $2.99, but they’re also placed with the Christmas candy, not the ordinary candy bars.
The bar is described as milk chocolate filled with hazelnut creme and hazelnut cookie pieces. I love the hazelnut bars that Ritter Sport makes, so this was a really enticing idea.
The bar, once broken, looks an awful lot like the chai one, no real perceptible nuts or nut paste or cookie bits, just off white cream.
The bar smells milky but with an actual hazelnut note to it. The cream center is a bit on the greasy side, but does actually have crunches of cookies and some small hazelnut bits. That roasted hazelnut smell, that Nutella scent, takes over the chocolate though. While the coating is milk chocolate, it definitely tastes more like gianduia.
The bar is decent, but not special enough for me. It’s a little on the bland side, and the greasy cream filling doesn’t have enough of the hazelnut punch I’d hoped for. The cookie bits are too few and of course the cream filling is really high in palm fat.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.