Monday, January 25, 2016
The new Dove Milk Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Crisp Promises are for Valentine’s Day. I picked mine up at Target (and they may be a Target-Exclusive item).
The shortcake part is a little odd, conceptually. For a real strawberry shortcake, berries (often in a sweetened syrup) are ladled over a biscuit type baked good. Some folks prefer a spongecake or poundcake but the key here is that they’re all soft and cakey. The cookie pieces in this case are made from tapioca starch, rice flour, sugar, palm oil, baking soda and some salt.
The other odd part of this is that there’s milk chocolate ... so if anything, this is an imitation of a chocolate covered strawberry with a few gluten free cookie bits (this is not, however, a gluten free product as it’s made in a facility that also uses wheat and peanuts and tree nuts).
The pieces are not a swirl of milk & white chocolate, like some other recent versions. Instead this is a solid milk chocolate piece, flavored with some strawberry and dotted with little cookie inclusions.
The strawberry flavor is very strong, but the milk chocolate holds its own with a creamy dairy note and a little toasty cocoa flavor. The strawberry is floral sweetness, no dried berry bits in this version. The cookie bits are odd, since they’re made with starch and not actual wheat flour, they are actually rather starchy, though they don’t get sticky-pasty like some gluten free cookies I’ve had. The overall effect of the crunchy cookie bit is really nice, it aerates the experience because you kind of have to chew it instead of just letting the chocolate melt away, which I think boosts the strawberry notes.
They’re pleasant. The strawberry isn’t too artificial or plastic (it does say natural flavor on the package, though it’s kind of vague). I don’t know if I would buy these again, but I appreciated the effort and novelty.
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.
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 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.
Friday, November 13, 2015
I have often desired a better version of the Almond Joy. I love the combination of chocolate and almonds and coconut, but the classic Almond Joy is just a little too sweet and well, has a lot of unnecessary ingredients.
Theo Chocolate of Seattle has been making organic and ethically sourced chocolate for quite a while, and even make one of my favorite bars, their Salted Almond Dark Chocolate. Their newest product expansion has been in the arena of traditional candy bars made with better ingredients (liked their peanut butter cups). The newest is Theo Coconut Salted Almond Bites. They’re part of a full line of coconut bites that come in milk or dark chocolate as well, but the twist here that combined an already well-loved bar was too enticing to resist, even at $2.39 for a scant 1.3 ounce package.
The ingredients are non-GMO, fair trade, palm oil free, soy free and organic. It’s also vegan (but made on shared equipment, so not necessarily for folks with dairy or egg allergies.)
The little squares do not look like Almond Joy. The almonds are actually little slivers and chips within the coconut filling, not a couple of whole almonds on top with the chocolate coating.
The smell is comforting, a clean coconut scent, but not quite as sweet and perfumey as suntan oil. The bite is soft, the filling is chewy but not at all sticky. The coconut is moist and distinct. The best part of the whole thing though is the dark touch of the chocolate shell. It’s deep and has a light sweetness that really isn’t found in the coconut. The salt really isn’t evident as a discrete element, but the whole thing isn’t sweet or cloying. The almond provide a different crunch over the chewy coconut.
It’s a very light treat, with really strong flavors and textures. This could become a regular habit ... actually, it has, this is the third bar I’ve purchased since they came out. It took me a while to control myself long enough to take photos.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
The package for Nestle Toll House DelightFulls - Dark Chocolate Morsels with Mint Filling says that they’re a baking product. But we all know that chocolate chips are just candy you put in baked goods.
Nestle’s new twist, introduced last year, are filled morsels that come in a variety of combinations for baking. The pieces are just slightly larger than a standard Toll House Dark Chocolate Morsel, so they easy to add to cookies or just eat as candy. The current varieties are dark chocolate with cherry flavored filling, milk chocolate with caramel or peanut butter filling. And then of course, the version I picked up.
The pieces are actually better looking than regular morsels, they were less scuffed up, some were downright glossy. The package only holds 9 ounces, not the usual 12, but for 3.29, I thought they were a pretty good price. The chocolate is real, but the mint filling is made with palm oil, milk, sugar, peppermint oil and food coloring. I was hoping they’d be a better version of Andes Mints, which I love but really aren’t very good quality.
The dark chocolate outside isn’t very complex or even very dark. The cacao content isn’t listed, but it’s pretty sweet. The filling is a little fudgier, a little grainier but also lightly salty. The mint flavor is clean and I didn’t get any notes from the artificial coloring.
The difference between these and any old mint flavored dark chocolate morsel is that the filling makes these a softer bite. It’s not really obvious when I eat them that they’re filled, per se, but there’s definitely a change in the intensity of the flavors based on melting them on the tongue (lots of chocolate, then lots of mint) versus chewing them to get a balance of chocolate and soft mint.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.