Friday, June 07, 2013
I’ve visited the Eclat Chocolate shop in West Chester, PA a couple of times when I’ve been in the area. I’ve tried a wide variety of their truffles and a few of their hot chocolate sticks and other items. However, I’d never picked up their chocolate bars before.
When I placed an order with the PA Country Store back before Easter, I decided to rectify that omission by selecting the Eclat Chocolate Caramelized Hazelnuts 65% bar. The packaging is simple, a slim black paperboard box holding a mylar wrapped bar. Sadly it didn’t protect the bar from getting broken (but I was going to break it anyway).
Eclat Chocolate may be best known as the creator of one of the most expensive bars on the market filled with celebrity names, the Good & Evil Bar made from Peruvian Pure Nacional cocoa beans and retails for about $18 for 2.8 ounces. I’m not terribly interested in things that are notable for being expensive though I enjoy a good origin story. So I’ll stick with the Caramelized Hazelnuts for now. Here’s what the online description said:
The bar is attractive, a nice mold with well portioned segments. I prefer a thicker bar, especially when there are inclusions, but there’s something particularly stunning about such a large field of molded dark chocolate.
The scent is sweet, woodsy and a little buttery. The chocolate has a smooth and rather quick melt and an immediate sweetness. I don’t eat a lot of 65% chocolate, so I forgot how sweet it is. The inclusions are crispy and have a great deep toasted toffee and hazelnut flavor. I don’t know if I got the subtle difference of the Spanish hazelnut, but I liked what I was tasting.
I would have preferred slightly larger pieces, I found the ratios a little off, but then again, I think I would have preferred a bit darker chocolate, too. However, if you’re a milk person, this is a great munchable dark bar that doesn’t feel too dense or difficult. I had no trouble at all eating my way through it, especially because of the excellent melt of the chocolate and lack of overall bitterness.
I mentioned I’d been to the shop before. I’ve picked up bonbons there on two occasions, though they weren’t for review, just for eating. They’re well priced for an artisan confection. The boxes are well put together to highlight the chocolates and it traveled very well (first by car around Central Pennsylvania for several days and then flying back to Los Angeles).
I picked out varieties such as Beer, Star Anise and Single Malt as well as the classic 73% Dark Ganache and Dark Caramel. The flavor infusions were not overwhelming to the chocolate and the piece size, though on the small size, meant that I could eat quite a few pieces for maximum variety.
I believe my box was $25.00 in the store. I’ve also bought their hot chocolate sticks, which I find exceptional though expensive. I like making my own hot chocolate, because then I get to control the milk (lactose free, please) and these sorts of “melt it at home” products make for a far richer experience than the powders. At $4.50 each, it’s more than you’d spend at a Starbucks. But sometimes it’s nice for a splurge.
If I’m in the area, it’s a stop I’ll continue to make. It’s a great little pick me up before I get on the Turnpike and is a great place to pick up a few hostess gifts. I posted a few photos of the shop as well.
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
The newest flavor addition, which I mentioned in a roundup last month, is Bubble Gum Flavored Peeps. As you might expect, they’re pink. They’re also Peep shaped, not bunny shaped or bubble shaped. Even though they’re little baby chicks, they’re considered a year-round flavor.
Just Born bills them as having that “classic bubble gum taste.” Which of course leads me to examine what that flavor actually is. Well, since there’s no natural item, like a vanilla bean to consult, the recipe varies, but generally bubble gum is very mild wintergreen, sometimes with a little fruity banana and vanilla flavors thrown in.
The Peeps come in a row of five conjoined chicks. They’re pink, which isn’t surprising at all, except for the fact that they’re colored all the way through. This ruins it completely for me.
The flavor is mild and actually goes really well with the sweet, aerated gelatin. But the artificial coloring (Red 40) has a bitter, metallic aftertaste for me. So the first bite is great, but shortly after it begins to dissolve, I have a bunch of bitter goo in my mouth.
I’m really disappointed they had to use so much coloring for these, most of the other Peeps they sell are uncolored in the middle (except for the chocolate coated ones). I’m sure that folks who don’t react poorly to Red 40 and also enjoy the slightly medicinal flavor of bubble gum will go wild for these.
Monday, June 03, 2013
Dove is again expanding their line of foil wrapped pieces with Dove Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl Promises.
Dove has done some wonderful things with white chocolate lately, the best thing is that they’re using cocoa butter instead of substitute oils. This is expecially noticeable in products like this one where chocolate and white chocolate are together. Dove did a great job with their Peppermint Bark for the holidays, it’s a great layered combination of chocolate, white chocolate and mint candy pieces.
I assumed that these new Promises would be similar to the Peppermint Bark but without the crunch. These feature a combination of the classic Dove semisweet chocolate swirled together with artificially-colored white chocolate flavored with peppermint.
Other than finding the color of them a bit unappetizing, I think these are great. They’re minty, but it doesn’t overwhelm the chocolate. They have an incredibly silky melt and just two or three are a satisfying treat. I don’t think they needed the coloring, in fact, I think it detracts from them. The foil does enough to denote the flavor inside, a white or off-white would have been just fine for most people.
I prefer them in the pieces, I don’t think I’d be up for eating a whole bar of this. I’m fond of Andes Mints, but these are much better ... better ingredients, better melt on the tongue, real chocolate ... and pretty much the same price.
Mars is moving towards using all ethically and sustainably sourced chocolate through Rainforest Alliance for their Dove line.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Small and plentiful is the trend these days. Most of the top candy makers are creating unwrapped bites of your favorite candies if they don’t already exist. This isn’t new, they’ve come and gone as brand extensions through the years, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not a good idea.
The Mars Milky Way Unwrapped Bites are similar to the Snickers Unwrapped Bites I already reviewed. They’re little cubes, super tiny versions of the popular Milky Way bar. The base is a fluffy nougat, topped with caramel and coated in milk chocolate.
The little nuggets are 2/3 of an inch cubed. A serving is eight pieces, which comes to about 1.34 ounces. They clock in a bit lighter on the calories than the Snickers, mostly because they don’t contain peanuts, which are a bit fattier (but also contain 50% more protein).
They’re easy to eat, sweet smelling and have a soft bite and easy, aerated chew. There was a bit of a cereal note to the smell, but overall they were just sweet and tasty.
This is another interesting example of how ratios of different element can change a candy. I know that some die hard Milky Way fans will probably detest this, but I happen to like it much more than the bar. The bar was always too big, too filling and too sweet but also lacking in any distinct flavor element. In this version the malt of the fluffed nougat is the most forward; it also combines well with the slightly salty caramel to create a great balance.
My only complaint with the bites is that the thinner chocolate shell makes them more delicate. There were several clumps in my bag where one spilled its caramel and they got stuck together. I don’t see myself buying these regularly, but I can see them being great for recipes, especially as an ice cream topper perhaps inside cookies.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The new trend is reducing packaging. Well, maybe that’s what the food companies want you to believe. The new line of Unwrapped Bites from Mars means you get lots of little miniature minis without all the wrappers that become evidence of how much you’ve eaten.
Hershey’s launched something similar a couple of years ago, so it’s no wonder that Mars is in on it as well.
The package, with a zipper closure, holds a half pound of teensy Snickers cubes. Easy to dump into a bowl, or just eat out of the bag. They’ll also be available in smaller single serving bags.
Mars is utilizing this new icon system on the front of the package for serving size and calorie counts. The serving here is 8 bites or 41 grams, which comes to 190 calories. (3 grams of protein from the peanuts.) Stacked up, the little cubes are cute and hold their shape pretty well. They do get scuffed up in the bag, so they’re not that glossy, swirled perfection found in the individual wrappers.
I can see these being very useful for recipes ... though kind of expensive at 2.99 for 8 ounces, but no worse than premium chocolate chips.
What they got right here is the ratios. Even though they’re not perfect large Snickers ratios, these strike an extremely pleasing balance of nougat, nuts and chocolate. By far the nuts take center stage. Instead of omitting the nuts or putting teensy crushed ones in there, they’re still big peanut pieces. (Though I did get on that had no nuts.) There’s a hint of salt in the nougat which balances the sweet chocolate and caramel. The caramel really doesn’t do much here, maybe it adds a little chew.
What I really enjoy though is the portioning. I like that I can eat only three or four at a time, then maybe three or four later. A full portion is eight pieces, which is less than a regular Snickers, but feels like a lot. Of course the bag is 8 ounces ... nothing keeping you from eating the whole thing in one sitting. These are pretty much the antithesis of the Snickers Slice n’ Share 1 Pound bar ... and actually a better value since a full pound of the Bites retails for $6 instead of $10.
Snickers are made with peanuts, dairy, soy and eggs. They’re also processed in a facility with almonds and I cannot find anything that says that they’re gluten free. Mars has not rolled over to sustainable, ethical sourcing for their ingredients, though they’re on track for 2020.
Friday, May 10, 2013
M&Ms are ranked as the #1 candy by companies who track such things. But that popularity has always been limited to the lentil type candies, not other candies branded under M&Ms. As an example, Mars launched the M-Azing bar, a chocolate bar with M&Ms in 2004 but it was discontinued in 2008.
Mars is trying again trying to flatten and solidify the candies with the new Milk Chocolate M&Ms Chocolate Bar. The tagline is chocolate bars are better with M.
The bar, as you can imagine, is a milk chocolate base studded with M&Ms (candy coated milk chocolate pieces). I was curious if the chocolate of the bar was the same as the chocolate inside the M&Ms. Looking at the ingredients list, it appears they are slightly different.
The embedded candies are the mini sized M&Ms, not the full sized. (As you can imagine, the bar would need to be pretty thick to full encapsulate them.) The minis have a much thinner shell, so less of a sharp crispness.
The bar is cute to look at. It’s nicely segmented and molded and breaks apart easily with a good snap. The scent is sweet and a little on the sugary side; it didn’t smell rich and reminded me of R.M. Palmer. The melt is pretty smooth overall, but there’s a slight cereal flavor to it, which I’m guessing is from the candy shells. It’s also has a slight sharpness to it, almost verging on a Hershey’s taste. On the whole, I was unimpressed.
The candy pieces inside gave a little crisp crunch to it and added sweetness. There was little difference in the flavor when it came to the centers of the M&Ms when eaten in the context of the bar. Overall ... the chocolate itself was never the strong suit of M&Ms, it’s always been the munchable, colorful portability of them.
If you’ve been looking for a milk chocolate bar with more artificial ingredients, this might be just the thing. Not only do you get the artificial colors on the actual M&Ms, there’s also the added bonus of PGPR,
Monday, May 06, 2013
Lillie Belle Farms of Oregon has introduced the Lillie Belle Stella Blue Milk Chocolate which is a dark milk chocolate base of 50% cocoa solids mixed with Rogue Creamery’s Powdered Blue Heaven Cheese. Lillie Belle has been making a Smokey Blue Cheese truffle for some years, so the idea of a solid bar should not be a shock to anyone.
The bar’s packaging and name is a full homage to the Grateful Dead. The ingredients include organic chocolate, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter, powdered buttermilk, powdered nonfat milk, blue cheese (made from raw milk, salt and penicillin bacteria).
The bar is beautifully molded. It has an ideal set of ratios, though the bar is not segmented (which I usually prefer) - it’s thick but not difficult to snap apart, but it also has a small footprint so the bar doesn’t take up much space in my bag.
The bar is less smoky smelling than I expected, it really just smells like a chocolate bar with a strong woodsy and less sweet/milky note. The melt is excellent, the texture is smooth with only the slightest grain to the cocoa solids. After the immediate chocolate notes, there is a hit of sharpness ... I can’t quite say that it’s salty so perhaps it’s umami.
There’s no cheesy component to it, it doesn’t have that sort of moldy smell or sort of metallic note that some blue cheese have. Overall, it’s just a less sweet, slightly savory and dark milk chocolate bar.
I enjoyed it, especially since it was both a milk chocolate bar and pretty dark. I don’t know if I would reach for this regularly but I do have to say that it mixes well with nuts but not with other sorts of candy that has more berry notes to it.
Since the ingredients list is so small and it’s all bean to bar, I feel pretty good about the ethical sourcing. The bar is made in a facility that also processes nuts, soy and of course it contains milk.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
The Skinny Cow line of candy from Nestle gives consumers the option of buying candy that has fewer calories than most other single servings.
The Skinny Cow Divine Filled Chocolates with Caramel is a slight offering, only 130 calories packed into only 1 ounce. As far as that making it a lighter version of candy, its caloric density is great than York Peppermint Patties (113 calories/ounce) or 3 Musketeers (122 calories/ounce). However, compared to other nuttier offerings like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (147 calories/ounce) or Snickers (134 calories/ounce), it sounds like a better choice. But the biggest issue becomes the satisfaction, because there’s no point in the empty calories of a treat if they’re not full of pleasure.
Line up the cute little medallion shaped pieces and you’ll be impressed. They’re adorable and because they’re so flat, even at about a third of an ounces they look like a lot of candy. They’re about 1.5 inches across. They smell like, well, sweet.
The pieces have a little stripe of sticky caramel inside. It’s not so much caramel as salty buttery flavored syrup. The milk chocolate is passable; it’s at least real but lacking in an satisfying chocolate flavor. The caramel’s salty kick balances out the overly sweet chocolate.
They’re disappointing, especially since I’ve had the Dove Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Promises, which are only 135 calories per ounce and about half the price per ounce. (Of course it’s up to you to control yourself and not eat a half pound in one sitting.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.