Friday, March 10, 2006
I’ve ignored these bars for years. Well, they’re not really bars, they’re lumps. Maybe that’s why I avoided them, they’re just plops, like something you’d make at home.
I can’t say that I see them very often, but after the pleasant Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll experience, I thought I would give these a try. So what is a Bun? It’s a nut and milk chocolate patty filled with a white fudge/fondant (vanilla or maple) or caramel. The Bun bar was originally made by Wayne Bun Candy Company back in the 1920s, which was based, oddly enough in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Later the bar was bought by Clark of Pittsburgh (the Clark bar) but when Clark was ailing they sold the Bun rights off to Pearson’s in 1998, which only makes sense as Pearson’s was already known for their high protein Salted Nut Roll.
The version that appealed to me most was the caramel, so I’ll start with it. The nuts are whole (or halves, actually) so they provide a huge boost of texture to the sweet milk chocolate. The center is a thick and soft caramel. The whole bar doesn’t smell like peanuts or caramelized sugar, instead it smells like coconut. It also has a tangy quality to it that I can’t quite put my finger on that kind of ruined the experience. It’s salty, but not quite in the right balance.
The chocolate on this one was glossier and I have to say, when it’s fresh, it’s a rather handsome looking candy plop. This one has the requisite nut and chocolate smell. The vanilla center is sweet and has a nice vanilla flavor (part artificial and part natural). The peanuts keep the whole thing from being too sweet. It’s not a bar I would buy again, but I appreciate that when it first came out, as a combination bar it’s filling and interesting.
What kind of confuses me about the whole history of the Bun and Pearson’s is that they already have a candy similar to this, called the Nut Goodie. The Nut Goodie came on the market a good ten years earlier than the Bun Maple, yet Pearson’s still continues to make this regional favorite. (I’ll need to get a hold of one and do a comparison.) Anyway, this is definitely the highlight of the Bun line. The center on this is a maple fudge. It’s smooth and soft and has a microfine crystalline structure that melts quickly in the mouth and mingles well with the nuts and milk chocolate. It’s quite a bit saltier tasting than the Vanilla one, but I think that’s what makes the flavors pop. Of the three, this is the one that was consumed first. I suspect that these are the hardest to find of the three varieties, so I can’t bump up the whole rating for the line.
If you’re looking for Pearson’s candy, look no further than their affiliate website. You have to buy in whole boxes, but their prices are excellent (less than $.65 a bar) and they offer assortments of Pearson’s and even retro candy boxes that include Rocky Road, GooGoo Clusters and Moon Pies.
(click on any photo for a bigger version)
Thursday, March 9, 2006
Our friend Matt (the one who brought back the Olympics candy) also picked up a great assortment of mass-market candy bars and I’m going to try to sprinkle those into the CandyBlog.net repertoire in the next few weeks.
This Milky Way bar is nothing like any Mars product here in the States. Each little stick is a tube ala Pirouline but instead of being hollow, these have a wonderful buttercream filling. Then the whole thing is dipped in chocolate. They smell sweet and milky, like walking into an ice cream parlor.
The chocolate is very sweet, but smooth, with that European milk taste. The cookie shell is crispy and flaky with lots of micro thin layers. It tastes like a fantastic ice cream cone. The cream center is firm but still soft. It’s buttery smooth without any graininess to the sugar. There was no English ingredients list, but my German and my tongue is good enough to recognize hydrogenated oils.
Again, here’s a tasty little morsel that you just can’t get in the States and sometimes I wonder why. The package is a scant 25 grams, so even though it’s very high in calories per ounce, the package only has 130 total calories for the two fingers (about 150 per ounce, much less than a pure chocolate bar). Even though they look delicate, I got them in perfect condition, unbroken and unsmashed.
Note: Milky Way in Europe is actually what we know of as Three Musketeers in the United States - it’s a fluffy nougat covered in milk chocolate.
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
See’s recently moved into the “candy bar” arena with their Awesome collection. They’re candy bars you can buy singly at their stores or in boxes of eight bars. They’re a buck a piece and prepackaged and a pretty good deal for a premium candy bar (unlike Lake Champlain’s 5 Star line).
See’s packaged an old favorite, peanut brittle into a compact bar and covered it with chocolate. It’s less of a nut brittle and more of a toffee though, in my opinion, but the recipe is absolutey for brittle (baking soda being the operative ingredient).
The bar is a little tiny, at only one ounce, it’s a little less of a candy bar than I’m used to. But the whole peanuts and salty brittle is a really great combination. It tastes really salty, but when I checked the sodium content, it’s not really any different than any other standard nut candy bar like a Reese’s or Snickers. The milk chocolate coating is sweet and smooth. The bar crunches and flakes easily with a slight foamy texture (that’s brittle for you). I liked the bar, but it’s not going to knock the Awesome Nut & Chew bar from that top spot in my mind.
I’m glad See’s created some more portable versions of their best candies. I’m just waiting for a Scotchmallow version in dark chocolate. I read in Los Angeles Magazine that the candy bars were actually created by the workers at the factory, who had been making them with short ends for themselves and as gifts when the corporate folks decided it was a really good idea. I know it sounds odd, but for dieters, these could be a good option. The bars are smaller than standard candy bars (this one is an ounce, the Nut & Chew and Walnut Brittle are 1.5 ounces) so you can feel indulgent without being tempted by a full box of mixed chocolates. I’m a firm believer in giving yourself what you crave, in moderation. Because there are a lot of nuts in all versions they’re very filling (the protein and all).
Tuesday, March 7, 2006
I don’t know what came over me. I bought a bar of white chocolate. I know there are purists out there who don’t think that white chocolate is chocolate at all. But if the stuff that is called mockolate (cocoa solids and hydrogenated or palm oils) can’t be called chocolate because it’s lacking cocoa butter, then this stuff that has cocoa butter but not the cocoa solids can at least be called white chocolate.
Each year, as Easter gets closer, against my better judgment I want white chocolate. I don’t actually like white chocolate, it’s usually so sweet it makes my throat hurt and has some sort of electrical effect on my fillings so as to give me a jolt. But there it is, I get to craving it.
I know it has to do with those molded chocolates that my paternal grandmother used to put out on display at Easter. Little bunnies and molded white chocolate baskets filled with different colored white chocolate lollipops. It always smelled of vanilla, sugar and jelly beans ... far sweeter than anything had a right to be. It was like it was some sort of super-dense sugar confection. I’ve mentioned candy season before, and it’s important to note that Easter is the final holiday in Candy Season - so it’s probably the reason that I felt the need to gorge on the highest sugar content products available to me.
But I’d heard that the Green & Black’s Creamy Vanilla White Chocolate Bar was different. So, I bought one at Whole Foods. Rationalizing the whole time that I was doing it for you, dear readers. I was taking the white chocolate bullet for you, so that you might avoid it.
I opened the wrapper and instead of being greeted by something that looked like paraffin, it was creamy colored and flecked with real bits of vanilla. It smelled milky and sweet, but not sticky. A mix of cognac, butter and honey.
The first ingredient is still sugar (well, organic raw cane sugar), but it boasts 30% cocoa content and 28% milk. If you like the dairy milk flavor of European milk chocolates, like Cadbury, then I think you’ll like this bar. It’s sweet, but flavorful, with a good hit of bourbon notes in the vanilla. The bar melts smoothly and velvety on the tongue and leaves me wanting more.
I ate the whole bar yesterday at work, which is saying a lot. I don’t usually consume something this big in one sitting. (Even an eight hour sitting.) Something about a rainy day makes me want to snuggle up with a nice bar of sugar, dairy and fat. Mmmm.
This bar has done something dangerous, it’s changed my mind about white chocolate. Luckily, I’ve only come to the conclusion that I like Green & Black’s White Chocolate. I can’t give it a ten ... let’s face it, I’m prejudiced ... I just can’t do it. If I cave in and buy another one, I’ll come back here and update the rating. The true test is whether I want it after Easter is over.
Note: Though Green & Black’s is a UK company, the bar was made in Italy. Green & Black’s is now owned by Cadbury Schweppes. This bar is organic, but not fair trade certified.
Monday, March 6, 2006
As part of this year’s Independent Food Festival and Awards sponsored by tasteEverything, I’ve been tapped as a jurist to give out an award for excellence in food. (You know it’s gonna be candy.) I decided after my mind-blowing experience touring candy factories in the Bay Area last December that it had to be something that really helped me to immerse myself in the true source of chocolate.
My 2006 Winner of the Independent Food Awards is The Best Things to Stick to your Marshmallow: Scharffen Berger Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs.
Cacao nibs are roasted cocoa beans, what all chocolate is made from. Scharffen Berger then pan coats them with 62% cacao semisweet chocolate. They’re complexly flavored little buggers, about the size of rice crispies - they’re crunchy, sometimes fibery, sometimes buttery and nutty ... always a surprise. Some flavors are like wine, raisins, coconut, coffee, oak, banana, apricot, sweet almond, grapefruit, cherry, cinnamon, clove ... I could go on and on. They’re like a blank canvas and a symphony all at once. They take over the senses and make you forget your train of thought. The coolest part is that each little morsel is independent of the others - it might have come from a different tree, might have been harvested weeks before or after its buddies in the tube. Eat one and get a sense of the particular, eat a palmful and travel the world.
So, what do you do with these besides just eat them like candy? You can bake with them, as I saw at Tartine in San Francisco, where you can get Rochers (like soft meringues) made with cacao nibs.
But I’m not really a baker. You can’t just serve an olive boat of these morsels to guests. Then oddly enough the answer came to me in the mail the same week. I was reviewing Plush Puffs, flavored, handmade marshmallows. With proximity being the mother of invetion, I tried putting things on my marshmallow. Actually, I tried mashing my marshmallow into things.
Now, given that I have the title of jurist, it was incumbent upon me to evaluate at least several other marsh-mashables. So I ordered up more Scharffen Berger Cacao Nibs and a full array of Plush Puffs (Orange-Honey, Sam’s Sour Lemon, Maple Pecan and Vanilla Bean) and scoured my kitchen and a few stores for some options.
In the interests of trying to find the perfect thing to mash into my marshmallows, I pulled a few things out of the cupboard and ordered some others off of Chocosphere. Here are the results:
The definition of pure confection heaven has to be Orange-Honey Plush Puffs with Scharffen Berger Chocolate Covered Cacao Beans. This is the standard by which all other mashmallow-ables will be judged. (Really, why did I go on, how much better could I expect things to get?)
My second favorite thing to mash into my marshmallows has to be these Valrhona Chocolate Covered Orange Peels (Equinoxe Noir des d’ecorces d’oranges confites). They’re tiny pieces of lightly candied orange peel pan coated with 66% cacao dark chocolate. Smooth, sweet, crisp and with a great zesty orange taste. At $4.00 for 1.8 ounces, they’re even more expensive than the Scharffen Berger Cacao Nibs, but as a little dash mixed in with the Cacao Nibs, it’s a welcome little burst of citrus energy. They go really well with both the Vanilla Bean and Maple Pecan ones but unlike the cacao nibs, they don’t work with everything.
It wouldn’t be fair of me to evaluate chocolate covered cacao nibs without trying out the naked ones. So I selected the Dagoba Cacao Nibs, which are also organic. The pieces are less consistent in size and shape than the chocolate covered brethren. They have a wild, alcoholic aroma. Smoky and woodsy to the nose, they provide a huge burst of flavor when eaten on their own but they’re also incredibly acidic and sometimes acrid, astringent and puckeringly dry. When pressed into the Vanilla Bean marshmallow, the sweetness and blankness allows the subtle cacao notes to shine while moderating the overt acidity.
With the success of the malted rice krispies squares, I thought I’d just go with the source materials. This wasn’t as pleasant. The malted milk powder is a bit salty and of course dry. The milk powder, I think, is part of the issue. Milk doesn’t really belong with marshmallow. In fact, it turns out that I don’t really care for the flavor of powdered milk.
I love molasses and my favorite sugar is Billington’s Muscovado. It’s got a sort of whiskey aroma to it, a complexity that you won’t find in refined sugars. I like to let it dry out in chunk and eat it that way. It doesn’t really stick to the marshmallows very well, and frankly, it makes it too sweet.
As a final confirmation about the Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs, I brought the array of my top contenders to an Oscars (tm) viewing party Sunday night. At the end of the night the marshmallows were nearly gone and so were the CCCN while the plain nibs were largely untouched. On top of that, people were pleased with the fun combination of flavors. (And as a capper we got to taste some new regionally-sourced chocolate ice creams. Yum!)
There is one other company that I know of that makes chocolate covered cacao beans, called SweetRiot. I haven’t tried them yet, but I imagine they too are awesome.
If you’ve stumbled across this posting without first visiting the tasteEverything, have a look at all the other incredible finds from around the globe.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.