Monday, March 03, 2008
A couple of years ago I was pleasantly surprised by the Russell Stover Cream Easter Eggs. Though I’ve never been much of a fan of the Cadbury Creme Eggs, I wasn’t surprised to see that Russell Stover is now making a similar product and knowing that they did nice things with the other eggs, I thought I’d give this array a try.
There are some striking similarities between the CCE and the Russell Stover. First, they’re all 1.2 ounces (yes, the Cadbury’s used to be larger, back in 2007 they were changed from 1.35 to 1.2). The Cadbury’s currently come in the classic Creme Egg, Caramel Egg and the newest version is the Orange Creme Egg.
The Russell Stover Eggs do not duplicate any of these flavors. Instead they’ve gone with slightly different versions.
The most promising in my mind was the Russell Stover Dark Chocolate Creme Egg. One of my major complaints with the CCE is that it’s far too sweet and lacking in flavor. I figured a dark chocolate egg with a chocolate creme might provide some, I dunno, flavor to balance the sugar.
It looks good, I have to admit. The dark shell holds a thick and glossy creme. It doesn’t smell like much, but the textures are pretty good. The shell is crisp and easy to bite but doesn’t shatter into a gazillion bits. The creme center is rather like a gooey frosting, it’s not very deep in chocolate-ness, but still pleasant. When eating around the edges and getting more chocolate than creme, it was pretty good. But the proportions towards the center began to make my throat burn it was so sweet.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
Russell Stover Chocolate Creme is the same as the dark chocolate egg, only with a milk chocolate shell. It’s not an overwhelmingly milky chocolate, so it doesn’t really do much to add a different flavor to the whole thing.
I found it much sweeter overall than the dark chocolate version. Still pleasant if you’re the type who eats frosting by the spoonful (which I admit to doing at times). The fudgy-ness of the creme center is more noticeable in this one.
Rating: 5 out of 10
I know you’ve probably wondered how they make these. Here’s what I think they do (and I’m just guessing):
If anyone actually knows how this actually happens, please pipe up in the comments!
The Russell Stover Vanilla & Chocolate Creme was the egg that I least wanted to eat. Milk chocolate with a white creme and a dollop of chocolate cream in the center, the most similar to a Cadbury Creme Egg. I’ll admit that I only ate half of this. The creme did have a strong vanilla flavor (though it verged on coconut sometimes). The chocolate shell was pleasant, but I really couldn’t tell when the chocolate creme kicked in.
It was better than my previous experiences with the Cadbury Creme Egg, but still not something I’m interested in eating again (or even finish the last bite of).
I give this one a 5 out of 10.
The Russell Stover Marshmallow & Caramel egg is a milk chocolate shell with a marshmallow center with a little dollop of caramel for the yolk. This one is actually lighter than the others, as you might guess, and only clocks in at .9 ounces.
The marshmallow is very moist and has more of a “fresh pie” meringue texture to it. It wasn’t very sweet, instead it was just a little foamy. The caramel had a little salty and buttery taste to it that set off the marshmallow and very sweet milk chocolate well. It’s not at all like a Scotchmallow, but had it’s own wonderful qualities.
This was a very different sort of egg from all the others that I’ve had and the one I enjoyed the most.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Overall, they’re interesting, and certainly attractive and compact. But none of them fit the bill as something I’m interested in indulging in. I’ll stick to what I think they do best, their enrobed eggs. Alicia at The Girl Tastes also found the full line and split them open and displayed their gooey glory as well.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Russell Stover has often had a rather stale image as one of the drug store chocolate brands. They’re trying to push themselves a bit lately and I think it shows, at least it’s caused me to give them a second look and for the most part I’ve been pleased.
They’ll never replace upscale chocolatiers, but they’re dependable and consistent, especially for holiday specialties.
Their Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny’s appearance is a rather ghastly caricature. The yellow foil wrapper with its green bow, blue eyes and huge eyelashes are trying too hard. (But I really like the touch of the pink inner ear.)
If the outside is akin to a drag queen, the inside is a fresh and athletic 22-year-old with clear skin and shiny hair. No need for any pasted on eyelashes here or colored contacts. The smooth sheen of the medium color of the milk chocolate is lovely, with its little curls of fur every once in a while for a bit of verisimilitude.
The shell is rather thin, as I expected when I picked it up. The thing is very light at 1.5 ounces (and rather similar is volume to the Lindt bunnies). The easy-to-break shell doesn’t detract from the appeal though, it just makes it easier to pick off a piece of your own chosing. Honestly, I don’t mind hollow bunnies. I was always rather stymied by solid bunnies as a kid, as they required whacking them on a hard surface or going to the kitchen and taking a meat fork to them. Hollow bunnies are easy to crack and munch.
I think this is the first time I’ve simply eaten Russell Stover’s milk chocolate. According to an article in Candy Industry magazine, they age their milk chocolate for 90 days (and dark for 150 days). I’m not sure who makes Russell Stover’s chocolate, an article mentioned that they’re using Callebaut for their Private Reserve line. No PGPR or milk solids in here, just real milk chocolate and fake vanilla.
The chocolate smells rather, well, sweet. More like fake vanilla and a little malty.
It has a nice quick and silky melt. It’s a little sticky and very sweet but has a lot of flavor packed into that.
The foil wrapping could be updated a bit without losing the appeal to children, but the product is rather good and an admirable value at 66 cents an ounce (probably less if you find them on sale).
They also come in 3 ounce and 6 ounce versions (and the website shows dark chocolate as well, but I had no luck in the stores).
Thursday, February 14, 2008
IIt has a simple name, Marshmallow Lollipop. t’s a pig shaped marshmallow pop, and it’s pretty big at 3.2 ounces of fluffed sugar and gelatin. They’re made by Confectionery Lane and actually come in some much more attractive versions such as decorated hearts. (Serious Eats has the Winnie the Pooh.)
While the idea of a pig shaped creature holding a little heart that says love may only be compelling to the Cute Overload fanatics, I can see that there may be a niche of people out there that perhaps enjoy food shaped like the ingredients (what is gelatin made of, after all?) or perhaps someone has a nickname of Piglet ... maybe they raise pigs or had one as a 4H project ... oh, maybe they have pink skin!
This sizeable puff has, well, its size going for it. The lettering on it is rather clumsy. The pig’s face is cute enough but the body is kind of hard to understand and of course it’s not really a three dimensional candy, the back side is simply flat.
It smells kind of like Fruity Pebbles. It tastes like, well, tangy latex.
The texture is actually rather nice, very moist and consistent. But the flavor is just awful.
So I thought I’d toast it. It’s already on a stick, so why not?
Since the marshmallow was so moist it became really runny on the inside rather quickly, but the outside toasted up nicely.
But a tart and flavored marshmallow is not the same as a regular marshmallow (certainly not like the lovely marshmallows from earlier this week). Really disappointing. I ate about three bites and threw the rest of it out.
Oddly enough the nutrition label says that a single serving is the whole pop and is 260 calories. (I guess you can’t really cut off pieces and save the rest for later.)
Confectionery Lane sounds like a quaint company, but really they’re just a brand name used by East-West Distributing Co., which is owned and operated by Walgreen’s. There are lots of other cute and thoughtful Valentines gifts you can pick up, even on February 15th. This isn’t even worth free.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
In general, it’s a great idea. Why not have pretty foil confections?
Hershey’s has a few heart-shaped chocolates this year, but they’ve also created a special mix called Heart’s Desire. It features Hershey’s Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate Hearts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Filled Hearts and Hershey’s Special Dark Hearts (natural source of flavinol antioxidants (tm))
I was actually kind of pleased that they weren’t completely pink and red and pink. Instead the color coding is a little more intuitive. The Special Dark employs the global-standard purple, the milk chocolate is in the typical pink and the Reese’s is in gold.
They’re about 1.25” wide and 1.5” tall and weigh about .29 ounces each. (A Hershey’s Kiss weighs about .16 ounces.)
Special Dark - I used to think that the Special bar was just that. Mostly because I thought that it was my mother’s favorite chocolate bar. Back when it first came out in the 70s there simply weren’t any mass-produced dark chocolate bars available at the corner store. (To get a dark chocolate fix I had to eat chocolate chips.) I didn’t care much for it as a child, I found it a bit waxy and bitter. As an adult I find it chalky, grainy, too sweet and lacking in real chocolate oomph. It contains 45% cocoa solids, which you would think would make it extra chocolatey, but it is simply middle or the road fare. It’s not true dark chocolate as it contains milkfat. They are pretty though.
Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate - this version is, I guess, Hershey’s answer to critics who said that their chocolate tastes weird. The “extra creamy” kick may come from extra emulsifiers, this one sports both soy lecithin and PGPR. This version of Hershey’s chocolate actually tastes quite a bit different than the typical Hershey’s bar or Kiss. It is sweeter and lacks those deep musky dairy notes. Instead this has a bit of a toasted marshmallow taste ... and very little chocolate-ness. (I did some calculations ... standard Hershey’s chocolate is 27% carbs, the extra creamy variety is 29% carbs. So there you go, it is actually made up of more sugar.)
Reese’s Peanut Butter Filled Hearts - this was the one that I bought the bag for. In fact, I looked around at all the bags and picked the one with the most gold wrappers visible. The outside was a little greasy but still smelled over wonderfully roasted nuts (I love a fresh Reese’s!). The inside wasn’t quite the soft crumbly version of Reese’s peanut butter, instead it still had the same “crumb” to it, but it was slicker, maybe a little sweeter or a little oilier. It didn’t quite satisfy me the same way that a peanut butter cup does, but still, it’s a Reese’s!
They’re a pretty assortment, rather traditional and in a rare, large bag (16.5 ounces.). I don’t think I’d buy them again for myself, but everyone at the office seemed pretty jazzed when I popped the remainder in the communal candy jar (but then again, all that’s been in the jar for the past week is Tootsie Rolls).
I don’t know how far in advance Hershey’s makes these, but the expiration date is June 2008 ... that doesn’t seem like a very long shelf life to me.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
There have been a lot of variations on the Hershey’s Kiss. Some of them good (I loved the original Candy Cane Kisses when they were made with cocoa butter) and some of them dreadful (Candy Corn Kisses). But through all of this, like the many variations of Pocky & KitKats, I’ve realized that the original was fine and I’d much rather have that. Except now when I look at the little foil wrapped friend I have a mix of associations. (If this were a movie this is where there’d be a montage of happy moments and then scary or unpleasant bits where I ate a Candy Corn Kiss or the horror of opening a drawer and finding a stinky bag of Candy Corn Kisses.)
I couldn’t bring myself to buy the big bag, so I was happy to see this pack of 5 mega Kisses.
The construction is as you’d assume. A milk chocolate shell and a “artificially vanilla-flavored creme” center.
Because they are packaged differently than the foil wrapped brethren, these are exceptionally shiny and pristine, which is an appealing aspect. They smell sweet and a little cheesy.
They’re a little smaller than the foil wrapped kind as well, but also come unwrapped ... so no little flags or bits of foil to roll into tiny spheres.
It was sweet and less chocolaty. The “creme” center was really creamy, more like smooth fudge.
It just didn’t excite me. I had them sitting around for a while and couldn’t be bothered to eat them. (I found the Bee Mine more compelling, at least with its overt badness.)
I think Hershey’s should just do what they do well and stop mucking around. Yeah, I know it’s hard after making Kisses for 100 years, they want to mix it up. But really, you don’t last 100 years when you go too far off the rails. (However, I know there’s a Cheesecake version out there that I’m still curious about.) These do not say that they’re a limited edition item, but they also have little tulips on the package (a spring thing?) and aren’t listed on the Hershey’s Kiss page.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
One of the items that I’ve gotten several notes with recommendations to review is the new line called Cocoa Deli out of the United Kingdom. One of the things that I think some folks will find exciting about these little upscale treats is that they’re made in a “no nuts” facility. It’s pretty unusual to find anything other than a plain chocolate bar that can claim that.
The unique selling proposition with the Cocoa Deli Chocolate Heaven collection is that they look like little ice cream pops.
It took me a few months to track down a place that sells them, it turned out to be Walgreen’s. But I really lucked out because this variety package with all four varieties in little tins turned out to be half off. So the original price was $6.99 for 5.1 ounces and I got it for $3.50.
I’ve heard that the variety in the little tubs that they sell year round can vary, but in this case each flavor came in its own color-coded tin with a clear lid. They’re really cute and useful tins that have no actual branding on them, so I could probably re-gift them with other little sweets in them if I felt like it.
While the package says that each tin is “filled with indulgent mini popsicle shaped chocolates” there were three inside each package.
Each chocolate is individually wrapped and clearly marked with the flavor. Each package boasts that the chocolate comes from Belgium and in smaller print on the back of the box it says that the whole thing was packaged in China. So, let’s see ... the cocoa beans are grown in the tropics, shipped to Belgium where it’s made into chocolate, which is then shipped to England where it’s made into the little candies, which are then shipped to China to be put into tins and boxes and then shipped to the United States. No wonder they want $7 for twelve little chocolates (about $22 a pound at regular price).
The little nuggets look like tiny popsicles, though in this version there’s no wooden stick (they do other confections on sticks that are a bit larger ... this one is all edible).
The first flavor, Vanilla Caramel was a lovely little piece. The milk chocolate (30%) is very sweet but seems to be offset very well by the caramel filling. It’s a saucy caramel that feels more like it’s about the texture, which is smooth with only the slightest hint of grain. There’s not much of a burnt sugar flavor but a nice saltiness that keeps the whole thing from being cloyingly sticky.
Citrus Chocolate smelled very orangy right out of the package. The milk chocolate is quite smooth, though also very sweet and a little sticky feeling. It’s a pretty dense milk chocolate, boasting 30% cacao content. But in this case it’s all about the orange flavor. The orange center is a soft, truffle-like thing, though not quite as buttery. The orange notes are all zest and quite strong. It reminded me of what a Terry’s Chocolate Orange should taste like (instead of being grainy and too sweet).
Rasberry Truffle is the only dark chocolate piece in the set. Wow, the center of this was a pretty intense fuschia, but the ingredients only list dried rasperries as an ingredient, so that’s all natural. The raspberry scent is nice, floral and little grassy. The creaminess of the center is interrupted by the actual bits of raspberry. For the most part it’s little tangy bits surrounding seeds. The flavor is nice, but I’m not terribly keen on seeds like this in my chocolate. The dark chocolate is sweet, not terribly complex but stands up well to the berry.
When I got to the Peppermint Crunch Truffle, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a milk chocolate truffle center or a white cream. It ended up being the milky former, which was a nice surprise. The crunch part, as you might imagine, is crushed candy pieces (not polenta or nonpariels). I was glad these were not only individually wrapped but also in their own tins, as this one smelled strongly of mint before even opening the wrapper. It’s nice to avoid that cross-contamination of strong flavors. It was pleasant, super creamy smooth with a light and cool touch of peppermint. The crispy crunch of the bitty mint bits brought some nice texture to it.
I’m curious to try some of their other items in their line but there’s nothing in particular that sets these apart from other comparably priced chocolates (See’s, for one) except for the no nuts part. For someone looking for some help with portion control, each piece has 60 calories (so one of these single-flavor tins has only 180 ... less than most candy bars). As a Valentine’s treat purchased at the drug store, it’s certainly far better than most of the other choices (I’d much rather have these than the Dove Jewels, but at regular price these cost twice as much). The packaging is cute and I’m glad I have a few tins to put other candies in later on for snacking. I’m just glad I didn’t pay full price for them.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The box is very tasteful and appealing with a tiny cellophane window that shows that they’re nice looking glossy dark chocolate covered almonds. While they’re not the largest almonds in the world (I think Trader Joe’s consistently has the largest chocolate covered almonds I’ve ever seen) I was hoping that they were fresh.
The box is interesting, larger at the top than the bottom, which was kind of odd when I opened it because it means that the opening for spilling out the almonds from the top is pretty wide (and that means easy to fumble).
My experience with World’s Finest Chocolate is limited to the fundraising bars, and since I don’t have any neighbors or co-workers with kids in band, I haven’t had one in about a year (and that was a milk chocolate crisp bar). I never much cared for their chocolate, I always found it a bit sweet and waxy. (Our band in high school sold mostly those boxes of M&Ms ... or at least that’s what I bought.)
Some of the pieces looked about the size of a Peanut M&M and others were the larger almond size you’d expect. They smell very sweet, though not much like chocolate or almonds, more like a vanilla candle.
The chocolate coating is passably creamy, a little on the dry/chalky side with a very strong sweet and fake-vanilla finish. The almonds inside are pretty consistently crunchy, but not very fresh tasting. There wasn’t a bad nut in the bunch, but they just didn’t have a strong nutty taste ... it seemed to be all about the chocolate.
Dark chocolate covered almonds are one of my favorite foods. In fact, I think a handful with some pretzels and coffee are an ideal breakfast. I’ve had these sitting on my desk for a little over a week and I ate less than half the box. They look great, the spare packaging is elegant and the price, even when not on sale, is pretty decent. But the taste just didn’t wow me. These taste more like the box than those two great elements: dark chocolate and fresh almonds. Instead I find myself eating my plain old raw almonds instead.
I may give World’s Finest Chocolate another try at some point, though according to the WFC website, the Continental Almonds are their top seller.
Note: the bittersweet chocolate World’s Finest Chocolate uses contains milk, so is not suitable for vegans. Their website says their Kosher, but the package doesn’t indicate that.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
You know what makes a candy satisfying? Sweet fat and protein. It’s a delicate balance, but I find that peanuts are usually up for the job. Mars pretty much knows that and designed the Snickers bar to take full advantage.
When I first heard about the Limited Edition Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch I was wondering if it was going to be a Butterfinger knockoff, as the Butter Crunch portion of the name might indicate. Then I wondered if it was a remix of the Snickers Cruncher. But it turns out it’s something altogether different.
Instead of nougat, peanuts, caramel and milk chocolate in the regular Snickers, this new Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch is peanuts and some sort of peanut butter mass (something they call “peanut butter taste” on the wrapper) in milk chocolate. I’d characterize this stuff as a chewy peanut butter fudge or maybe a chewy peanut butter nougat. I think it falls into the nougat camp since there are egg whites in there.
The bar is a little smaller at 1.71 ounces, but still rivals the fat content of the regular Snickers which is 2.07 ounces.
It’s odd, because the texture of the bar makes me think that there’s some caramel in there, it is definitely chewy. But look at that cross section ... it’s jammed full of that “peanut butter taste.”
I like it, I really really like it. I actually like that it’s smaller than a regular Snickers bar, which is always just one bite too much for me. I like the solidness, I like that it’s less sweet and I actually like that it has 5 grams of protein. I’ll be curious to see if this becomes a regular item like the Snickers Dark did.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.