Monday, November 28, 2011
Their new Trader Joe’s Minty Melts sound a bit on the classic side. Dark chocolate squares with a festive minty stripe.
The box holds 7.5 ounces and was $4.99. They’re Kosher and gluten free. There is no ethical statement about the origin of the chocolate.
The box is long (11.5 inches) but opens easily to serve. The inner box bottom is actually fully printed so you can pull it out and put it on the table or buffet if you don’t want to put them on a plate. The pieces are stacked, two high and two wide.
I was pleased with the ingredients, it’s real dark chocolate at the semi-sweet level of 56% cacao. The mint stripe is made of real white chocolate as well, with cocoa butter and real peppermint oil. There’s a touch of coconut oil in there, but it’s very low on the list, falling into the less than 2% area.
They’re almost perfect cubes, about 3/4 of an inch all around, though just a little shy on the height. The stripes aren’t equal. The base layer is thicker than the top and mint white chocolate middle. The appearance is a little rustic. They’re a bit scuffed on the edges and the sides aren’t always straight/square/plumb.
The dark chocolate is rich and has a good cocoa flavor. There are little gritty moments every once in a while. The white chocolate center is a little dry and chalky feeling, just not quite a fully chocolate smoothness that I was hoping for. The flavor is very well balanced, milky sweet but not throat searing, with an appropriate touch of peppermint that doesn’t overwhelm the dark chocolate.
The texture doesn’t quite hit it for me, but perhaps that’s because I was hoping for something a little creamier. However, I like the fact that it’s a Peppermint Bark without the crushed peppermint candies. While that’s a nice candy, too, I wanted to taste the smooth textures together. The name Minty Melts led me to believe that these were meltaways, but they’re not, they’re a solid chocolate product. Nothing wrong with that ...
These are sure to go over well in social settings, just the right size portion for guests or for snacking.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
The package is easy on the eyes, a soft robin’s egg blue and mellow orange-brown. The package shows the product, which is exactly what you’d think from the name: potato chips covered in milk chocolate. The reality of the candy once out of the bag was a bit different, as you’ll see with my pictures.
The ingredients list is short (milk chocolate and potato chips, basically) but sadly enough their list of allergens is long: milk and soy are ingredients but also may contain traces of wheat, egg, peanuts and tree nuts. So this crunchy confection may be off limits to gluten free friends. They are Kosher.
I’ll let Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer do the description here, since they went through so many drafts and have an approval process:
My chocolate covered potato chips were rarely flat and even more rarely single. Most were big, fused lumps of chips. Some were easy to pull apart but sometimes that meant that the chocolate went with the other piece and I ended up with an open faced chocolate covered chip.
By far the biggest proportion of my bag was made up of folded chips covered in chocolate. This was an interesting predicament, because it meant less chocolate and more chip. They were also messier, as they were more likely to flake off chip bits (or sometimes have other chips within the fold).
The milk chocolate is soft and sweet, very milky and sometimes a little greasy feeling. The chips are thick and have a very strong potato taste to them, they’re crunchy for the most part. There’s a lot of salt taste to the candy, though in reality it’s not that bad at 140 mg per serving. The chocolate is sweet in comparison to the chips, more sweet than it needs to be.
I really wanted to like this, as I’m a huge fan of savory and sweet combinations like chocolate covered pretzels. It could be that the potato chips are just a little too greasy for me along with the fat content of the chocolate itself. I might give them another try, when I think that a different lot is available at my store - maybe I just got the dregs - little pieces that got coated and then stuck together. Or maybe I’ll just stick with chocolate covered pretzels, they’re a tried and true favorite. It’s a real shame that these aren’t gluten free.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Before I started Candy Blog there was a rather short but significant list of candies that I had never tried before. One of them was Licorice Allosrts. This is mystifying for regular readers, I’m sure, who already know that I love licorice. But I didn’t quite understand what it was and as Allsorts are often sold in bulk bins, there was no package (or blog) to explain it to me.
Allsorts are various shapes and combinations of licorice mixed together. The most common items within a variety bag would be rockies (cream filled tubes), twists, nibs, sandwiches (layers of licorice with layers of either fondant cream or coconut fondant), buttons (jellies or gummies covered in colorful nonpareils) and possibly licorice flavored mellocreams.
Trader Joe’s Allsorts -a- Licorice is a very conservative and safe assortment of little licorice shapes, perfect for those who are shy of strong licorice and want to dip their toes into the anise waters.
The bright and moderne fifties style design on the packaging does a decent job of demystifying its contents. It says that it includes a fun and colorful variety of licorice shapes and sizes including sandwiches, tubes and swirls. The ingredients boast that there are no artificial flavors or colors, though as is the case with most licorice, it’s not gluten free and also contains milk and gelatin ingredients. Though there is no coconut in the sandwich creams, there is coconut oil.
The assortment consists of: tubes filled with pink, orange or yellow cream; sandwiches with pink, orange or yellow cream; twisted nibs and licorice wheels.
The cream element is very soft and though it’s not sticky it does like to stick to the other pieces and gets dented and malformed easily.
They’re made in France, so they’ve had a long trip (but they’re well within their expiry date - good until July 2013).
The texture is soft and chewy without being doughy like some Australian styles can be. It’s also not crumbly or waxy like Twizzlers can get. The addition of gelatin gives it a good bounce and helps it keep its moisture. The licorice flavors are mild. There are some nice bitter molasses notes, it’s sweet and lightly salty and only lightly anise-y. The cream is sweet and only slightly grainy, it’s soft and dissolves quickly, almost like frosting. The flavors are what you’d expect: yellow is sweet lemon, orange is a little bit like orange and pink has a floral strawberry sweetness.
I enjoyed the different shapes, though the sandwich pieces were the least successful because they were so malformed. It was interesting to have a cream licorice sandwich that didn’t have coconut, as so many do. I missed the chocolate flavored cream though, that would have been fun.
I found the mix very munchable. It didn’t really satisfy any deep cravings for licorice, but it was a great snack. As a die hard licorice fan I don’t think I’ll be picking this up, but if you’re looking for something that kids and adults can enjoy together, this has some features that both will appreciate.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Trader Joe’s has been stepping up their introduction of classic candies lately. They have their gourmet versions of Milk Duds and Dutch Mints. I was quite shocked and delighted to see these Trader Joe’s Candy Coated Licorice a couple of weeks ago.
The box has a great, comforting design on it that conveyed everything I needed to know about the product. It’s licorice, it comes in pastel colors and it’s candy coated. But the really appealing part of this product for many people will be that it’s made without artificial colors or preservatives and contains no animal products. (It is missing the Trader Joe’s vegan symbol though I can’t find anything on the list of ingredients that would be considered non-vegan, except perhaps titanium dioxide, which is neither animal or vegetable, it’s mineral.)
If you were afraid that natural colors would be muted and bland, let me allay that fear. These are bright - a deep purple, bright yellow, brilliant orange and a clean white.
The candies are short little pieces, squat and with all the candy coating, rather rounded. They reminded me a bit of the Wiley Wallaby Outback Beans, made by Kenny’s Licorice. However, these have a few key differences. First, they’re made in Mexico and Kenny’s is made in the USA. Second, the Kenny’s had a rather soft shell to it. The Trader Joe’s Candy Coated Licorice is quite crisp.
The shell is thick and very crunchy. As with many natural or artificial colors, some taste different from others. The purple and orange candies have a light violet floral note to them. Otherwise the candy is all about sweetness, licorice and molasses. The candy shell provides a long, sustained sugar zap while the center is quite soft and has a slightly doughy chew. The molasses is a little bitter, smoky and woodsy. The licorice is light and sweet with a hit of anise as well as a grassy note of fresh fennel.
They’re a lot more affordable than the new Panda Candy Coated Licorice, which is also slightly different as the shells are flavored.
As much as these have going for them, first they’re dirt cheap at 99 cents for a 6 ounce box, I can’t say that they’re my absolute favorite candy coated licorice of all time. For me there’s too much shell and not enough intense licorice flavor. But the texture mixes are balanced very well. I’ve eaten three boxes so far, so these are definitely my go-to munching licorice. But I’d like an Extra Licorice version, maybe that has a little hint of anise in the shell itself.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Trader Joe’s has some great summertime themed candies in their tubbed goodies. The Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Smashing S’Mores with graham cracker and marshmallow have been around for at least a year. I looked for them a few times and couldn’t find them and assumed that they were another one of those transient Trader Joe’s products. On my visit over Independence Day weekend though, there were stacks so I grabbed one immediately.
My tub held 12 Smashing S’mores and the label said that it was 7 ounces. (The nutrition panel said that a serving was 2 pieces and there were 8 servings in the package - I can understand there being one or so plus or minus in the average package, but I can’t understand how they could even cram 16 of these little S’mores into the tub at all.)
The ingredients are interesting. It’s real milk chocolate for the coating, the marshmallow uses Kosher gelatin (basically non-pork derived) and the graham cracker part is almost all organic (except for the vanilla and arrow root flour).
The little squares are about an inch to an inch and a half cubed.
The base is a rustic and thick graham cracker coated with a little milk chocolate then a square of marshmallow on top of that. The whole thing is then enrobed in milk chocolate with a decorative drizzle of dark chocolate.
The bite is soft, the marshmallow, which occupies most of the volume is soft, spongy and moist. It’s not that flavorful and not that sweet, so it offsets the other levels of sweetness well. The milk chocolate coating is creamy and better than average though very sweet on its own. The graham cracker was thick and more rough, like a digestive than the sort of grocery store graham cracker I’m accustomed to. The flavor was wheaty with a little touch of honey. The effect of all of it together is great, the pieces are not too big that an adventurous person couldn’t pop it all in their mouth at once, and the marshmallow grabs the chocolate well enough that it doesn’t all crumble apart when bitten in half.
The tub advises popping it into the microwave for 4 to 6 seconds for the traditional S’more treat. The effect of this is to create a completely gooey and soupy interior though the chocolate amazingly doesn’t melt completely. The thing I like best about toasted marshmallows is the toasted part. I could probably just eat the toasted outsides and leave the gooey stuff for someone else, so the microwave option doesn’t really do much for me, but I certainly can see others really digging it.
The big bonus here is that these are Kosher. It’s pretty rare to find Kosher marshmallows, and even harder to find Kosher marshmallow candy products.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Trader Joe’s is usually right on target when it jumps on a trend. They seem to know when it’s too early to hop on (and customers will be too scared) or too late (customers will be weary of over saturation). Salt and caramel, salt and chocolate and of course, the combination of all three is right up there on the trend meter. Artisans and high end chocolatiers started the international push about eight years ago, and Trader Joe’s has introduced some fine salted caramels along the way.
Today I have one of their new bars, a 70% Dark Chocolate Bar - Caramel with Black Sea Salt. The design of the box is reminiscent of the Fearless Flyer’s clip art designs with fanciful sailing ships and airships and seaweed. The package mentions that the bar is gluten free.
The package describes the bar thusly:
Inside the box the bar is sealed in a tough silver mylar package. There’s no design flair to it, but something much more practical. There’s a little stamp that says not only when the bar was made, but also the best by date. (It’s pretty rare for a product to give you both pieces of information.)
I had two of these bars. The first, pictured here, I bought myself. The second was one my husband picked up, not realizing that I’d already procured one. This one was in good shape, glossy and unbroken. The color of the chocolate was a little dead - a little on the coffee ground brown side. The bottom of the bar is studded with sea salt crystals. They weren’t black, they were white and translucent. Some grains were small and well spaced, but others were clumped together or just downright large - like something you’d toss on an icy sidewalk.
The center of the bar is a gooey, near liquid caramel. It’s creamy and silky smooth with a light milky flavor with a strong salty note. The combination of salt from the dusting and the center was sometimes pretty intense. (The package says that there’s only 95 mg of salt here, but I think that’s a little off.)
The chocolate is a little bitter but strong with a fruity and woodsy note to it, kind of like smoked raisins. It’s quite decadent all together, sweet, salty, creamy and a little crunchy if you hit a salt patch.
My big complaint about this bar is the filling at times. The second bar was broken in one place, which unleashed the caramel into the package. Also, if you start the bar, you’re kind of obligated to finish it right away, because the caramel will escape within a half an hour of placing it horizontal. (I guess propping it upright might help.)
Trader Joe’s always makes a good quality product. The packaging was good, the label gave me all the info I wanted to know and the quality was excellent for the price. I don’t think this is my favorite bar, mostly because of the overly-salty spots and the mess factor.
There’s another bar in this set that I saw on the shelf, Trader Joe’s 70% Dark Chocolate - Toffee with Walnuts and Pecans - has anyone tried that as well?
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
One of the new introductions that I saw on the shelves isn’t seasonal. It’s called Trader Joe’s Soft Peanut Brittle. At first I didn’t even know what that meant. Soft peanut brittle? Is it more like toffee, which means more butter than the traditionally less fatty brittle? The package simply says covered in milk chocolate, a flaky, crispy peanutty treat. The image looks like little mini bars of peanut brittle, but it looks like the peanuts are crushed instead of whole. So maybe that’s what makes it soft.
After opening the package and biting into one, I know what this is, and it isn’t “soft peanut brittle.”
They’re like Butterfinger or Clark Bars. Flaky layers of peanut butter crunch. It’s all covered in chocolate and striped with some darker chocolate.
I have nothing against Clark Bars (I love the new ones) but that’s not what I was expecting here.
The milk chocolate coating is a bit scuffed on all of them. The stand up pouch is economical, it holds a half a pound, but the bars aren’t well protected. Each little bar is about an inch and a quarter long and three quarters of an inch wide. It’s one big bite or two small ones.
The crispy layers are soft and have an kind of melt that’s like halva and a bit like cotton candy, with spindly & spiky shards of hard candy infused with the flavor of peanut butter. It’s a little sweet, a little salty and a lot nutty. There’s no molasses in there, which often helps to support the deep roasted flavors of the nuts and the woodsy notes of the chocolate. They’re quite munchable, definitely something I’d like to have while watching a movie.
The price is decent, especially because this version uses no artificial colors or flavors and has a real chocolate coating (unlike Butterfinger or Fifth Avenue). But Clark Bars are now all natural and come in milk or dark chocolate ... so I’m kind of torn. The back of the package suggests using it in desserts, like chopping it up and crumbling it on top of a cake or ice cream. No wrappers makes that infinitely simpler. But no wrappers also encourages endless munching. So just remember, you’ll have to control yourself once you open the bag (which has a zipper top).
The package says that they’re gluten free and Kosher.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
For years I’ve seen references to La Higuera Rabitos Royale. They’re a decadent creation, a whole fig is dried and then stuffed with a brandy infused chocolate ganache, then the whole thing is dipped in another layer of chocolate.
The box is big though weighs very little. It’s an elegant 7 inch square with an appealing photo of the freshly dipped figs against a black background and then a sparely designed front that describes the product.
We select the best mediterranean [sic] figs, we stuff them with our truffle cream, we cover then with a thin layer of chocolate and then ... you get the most delightful experience..
I’ve seen them in cheese shops from time to time, but I’m hesitant to buy fresh chocolate products there as I’ve had a few bad experiences in the past and these are often very expensive (about $10 for a box of 9 figs). So when I saw them at Trader Joe’s for only $7, I figured this was the time to try them.
Inside the sleeve of the box is a tray that holds each individually wrapped bonbon. It’s a lot of packaging, but I understand the impulse to seal each one up, as the alcohol in infused chocolates can easily evaporate on store shelves. The package also warns that the nature of the real fig means that there might be some bloom on the product but that it would still be tasty and edible.
The little matte silver mylar protects the candies well, all were uncracked, though all had a few little moisture bloom speckles. (It looks more like sugary moisture is migrating from the filling instead of the cocoa butter moving out of the chocolate itself.) One of the things I noticed on the ingredients list is that the chocolate coating has a little fractionated vegetable oil in it, so it’s not a true chocolate shell. I didn’t notice that it affected the flavor profile or the texture. They smell sweet and woodsy with a definite brandy note to them. The pieces are firm but give way to a bite very easily. If they’re cold then the shell can crack a little, but at warmer room temperatures (in the 70s) they’re soft and the chocolate coating sticks. I like to bite mine in half.
The ganache center is strongly alcoholic - brandy liquor is the third ingredient in the filling after cream and glucose syrup. The brandy mixes well with the deep leathery and raisin flavors of the fig. The ganache is smooth and melts easily in the mouth. The chocolate shell is a thin veneer, so all it’s really doing is holding it all together, so I mostly forgive the splash of oil in there.
These are quite good and I found one or two to be more than satisfying. But it helps that the packaging is a little daunting, so I didn’t find myself eating the whole box at once like I might if they were just in fluted cups.
I don’t think you have to like figs to enjoy these, but it certainly helps. The seedy part of the figs aren’t a textural element, just the deep berry flavors of the dried fruit, which is pretty soft after being stuffed with liquor & cream. I liked that it wasn’t honey-sweet like some glace fig products can be. The chocolate is good quality and the rest of the ingredients are top notch - the chocolate flavors are well matched with good berry, woodsy and a little smoky note to them.
They’re a nice hostess gift though may present an etiquette problem as she may not want to share them with everyone. I don’t see myself picking these up often, but for an intimate cheese course or small treat after a meal with coffee they’re just the thing to replace a heavy dessert. I don’t begrudge the price, I imagine there’s a lot of labor involved in stuffing actual real figs, but they’re still expensive and hard to rationalize for more than the most special occasion or recipient.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.