Archive for October, 2008

Happy Halloween!

October 31st, 2008 by Rosa

I wish I was still young enough to go Trick-or-Treating. But I am old enough to hit up day-after-Halloween sales, at least!

And for those who are going out, bring a pillowcase to maximize your candy haulability.

Category: news | No Comments »

Fox Echo Mint

October 31st, 2008 by Rosa

I picked this up at Sainsbury’s in Cambridge after I read Terry’s review of it on The Chocolate Review, and I wasn’t sorry. I bought them in a pack of six and brought them home to give out as “I remembered you while I was abroad!” gifts. The big six-pack contained six individually wrapped bars, all in posh matte wrappers with an eye-catching black, green, and silver design.

They are billed as “temptingly smooth mint chocolate with a crunchy biscuit base.” Basically, they’re a chocolate cookie base topped with aerated mint chocolate, all covered with milk chocolate. Each bar is imprinted with Fox’s Echo on the top.

The bar has a super strong mint smell, but it doesn’t taste as piercingly minty as its scent would suggest. Think more muted mint chocolate chip ice cream than Altoids or toothpaste. The chocolate cookie base was super crisp, almost a little too crunchy for my taste. The aerated mint chocolate melted creamily and mingled well with the chocolate coating and cookie base. Overall, I felt the bar was a little too sweet. It’s pretty small, and I only ate it about a third at a time. An OM if I were still in England and could buy more.

Category: aerated, chocolate, cookie, European, mint, OM, review | 1 Comment »

A new blog!

October 30th, 2008 by Rosa

From the National Confectioners’ Association, a Candy Dish Blog. I’ve had it in my RSS for a week or so, and it’s been fun and informative. Sadly, I added them after they ended their win 10 lbs of candy contest.

Category: news | 2 Comments »

Sweet! A cookbook review

October 29th, 2008 by Rosa

When I got the chance to review a free copy of Sweet!: From Agave to Turbino, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener by Mani Niall, I took it because the interest email I got from their PR said that the book contains candy recipes. And it did, including recipe for meringues, caramels, brittles, lollipops, truffles, fudge, and dulce du leche. What caught my eye, however, was the recipe for Apple-Oatmeal Triangles (Flapjacks). I fell in love with British flapjacks, a sweet, delicious, and buttery oat desert, while in Britain, and I jumped at the chance to make them again.

They came out deliciously, if a bit loosely. I think I underbaked mine, as they didn’t quite set up as sturdily as they should have. But they were still addictive. With butter and sugar and oats as your core ingredients, how could you go wrong? I got permission to reprint the recipe, which is below the cut.

I know flapjacks aren’t candy, though Snickers and Cadbury sells chocolate-covered versions of them in the U.K., but logistics prevented me from trying any of the candy recipes from the Sweet! book before deadline. I’m limited to what can be bought at the only grocery store within walking distance of my apartment, and it doesn’t carry some of the fancier sweeteners (like Sucanat) or ingredients (like cardamom pods) mentioned in the book. Nor do they carry candy thermometers.

When I go home for the holidays, however, I’ll take this book with me and use our better stocked and outfitted home kitchen to try my hand at some of the candies and other recipes from the book. Because at home, Mom and Dad will drive me to fancy food stores and pay for fancy food ingredients. Hooray!

As for the book itself, what did I think? I wish it had more pictures. In my opinion, pictures are the best part of any cookbook, and this one only has 8-pages of color photos in the middle (which are gorgeous, by the way). The recipes themselves are well described, each with its own little personal introduction from the author, list of ingredients, and bulleted steps, but seeing the finished product would make me more want to try to bake it myself.

I like the list of recipes in the front and the organization of the book into chapters based on desert types (breakfast treats, cakes, candy, savory and sweet main courses, etc.). The index in the back was great. I found the apple flapjack recipe when I looked up “apple” after I’d gone apple picking and was on a hunt for ways to bake my apples into delicious treats. And I like how the first chapter details and describes the many different sugars and sweeteners there are in the world while the second chapter gives a helpful guide to common baking ingredients. Did you know that you can make your own cake flour by sifting a tablespoon of cornstarch into 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of unbleached all-purpose flour?

At $18.95, Sweet! is a good deal as far as cookbooks go. Then again, that lowered price is probably a direct result of it not having many photos. It’s a good buy or gift for the experimental cook who wants to try out and learn about a variety of sweetener or anyone who loves baking.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category: not candy, review | No Comments »

Wash Post Candy-Related Road Trips

October 28th, 2008 by Rosa

Fun fact: I was born and lived in Maryland until I was nearly 8. After reading about Maryland’s chocolate goodness in a Washington Post Sunday Source piece, I think I’m overdue for a visit to my birthplace/state.

And from another Sunday Source Road Trip piece, chocolate brewing demonstrations in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

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Michel Cluizel – Noir Infini and Mangaro

October 27th, 2008 by Rosa

When I visited London last year, I made sure to do the standard touristy things, including visiting Harrod’s department store. My second favorite part about Harrod’s was trying on uber-expensive designer shoes – I had no hopes of actually affording them (paying rent, just a tad more important), but hey, they were out in the open (think Macy’s sales racks of shoes), so why not pull on an $800 pair of Jimmy Choos, just for fun?

But my favorite part of Harrod’s was their basement – full of food! Full deli, restaurants, grocery store, ice cream parlor, candy store, and a ginormous chocolatierie with many different brands, each with their own counters. I picked up an assortment of Neuhaus bars and a couple of Michel Cluizel bars: the Noir Infini 99% and a premiere Cru Mangaro. The Cluizel section had beautiful chocolate displays, as seen above.

As best I can tell, the Mangaro (left above; right below) is a single-plantation bar, which is single-origin to the extreme. The beans don’t just come from the same area; they come from the same plantation. From the wrapper: “Located in the north east of the island of Madagascar, in the rich valley of the river Sambirano, this plantation flourishes on the land of a former mango tree forest. Cocoa beans express exotic fruit flavours with gingerbread and acidulated citrus fruit notes.”

I read the bar’s description after I tasted. From my notes: the melt on this 65% bar was smooth without being thick, and it was extremely fruity from start to finish.

I bought the 99% Noir Infini because it’s the base of one of my favorite truffles, Cluizel’s Cacaoforte (I also bought one of those in Harrod’s). Because the bar is so dark, I knew it wouldn’t be a casual chomping bar. It was quite dry, of course, as it’s nearly pure cacao, and it was initially quite bitter. The bitterness gave way to a slightly fruity sweetness as the bar’s super thick melt progressed. The finish lingers for a long time. It was quite intense and super-cocoa-y. Not a starter bar, but quite the experience.

From its wrapper: “This chocolate, with its long kneading process and extremely high content of cocoas, reveals deep and dense strains for the connoisseurs’ palate.”

I wouldn’t buy the Noir Infini bar again, so it gets an O. I think the extremely high percentage bars are more for the novelty of tasting them and aren’t bars for revisiting. The Mangaro bar was tasty, but Cluizel bars are quite expensive – each 1.05 oz bar was 1.75 pounds, about $3.50 when I was there – so it gets an OM. If I ever come across more Cluizel 1re Cru de Plantation bars, I’d like to try them.

If you want to see the rest of my Harrod’s candy pictures, they can be found at my flickr page.

Category: chocolate, Michel Cluizel, O, OM, review | 2 Comments »

Sainsbury’s Brand Chocolates – Part II, Basics

October 24th, 2008 by Rosa

Next up in Sainsbury’s store brand reviews, we go back to Basics. These bars were found in the baking aisle. If I remember correctly, they were super cheap by British standards – something around 30 pence (50 cents)? I don’t remember exactly how much the Taste the Difference bars were, but I’m pretty sure those were closer to a pound ($1.60 these days; closer to $2 while I was overseas).

As the packaging says, “No fancy packaging. Just a good bar of chocolate.” And they’re right. The cellophane/plastic wrappers aren’t fancy, and the chocolate within isn’t fancily decorated either. I do appreciate the segmentation, but I think I could do without the random horizontal lines that don’t add much. As for the chocolate inside, it’s good. Not great, but good.

Their dark chocolate bar (above) is a 41%, so it’s not actually that dark. It has a semi-sharp snap to it. The melt is rather thin and doesn’t coat the tongue at all. It has a fruity, sweet finish with just a hint of malt. And that’s about it.

The milk chocolate bar was a pale 31%. Only a 10% difference in cacao, but a huge difference in color. This bar was super soft and creamy with strong dairy and caramel notes. The finish was also on the sweet, fruity side.

I’d give these guys a O for snacking, but they’re definitely a great buy for baking chocolate. I wouldn’t use them to make truffles or couverture, but the Basics bars would be just fine in recipes where other elements would outcompete any chocolate nuance.

Category: chocolate, European, O, review | 1 Comment »

Toffee versus Caramel

October 23rd, 2008 by Rosa

I often confuse myself trying to keep toffee and caramel straight. In the U.S. toffee is brittle and caramel is sticky. In the U.K., what we call caramel they call toffee. And what we call toffee… that I don’t have an answer for.

At any rate, Chow.com has a nice description of the differences between toffee and caramel, at least in the U.S. sense of the word. As I write this post (Oct. 8), my question on the site (What about what the Brits call toffee?) remains unanswered.

Category: news | 2 Comments »

Sainbury’s Brand Chocolates – Part I, Taste the Difference

October 22nd, 2008 by Rosa

Now that I’m living off campus, I’m no longer on a meal plan, which means I buy my own groceries and, presumably, cook for myself. Because I’m a po’ college student, shopping for my own food has meant buying extra when things are on sale, clipping coupons, and getting acquainted with store brand products (many of whom are secretly identical or virtually to name brand things; much of the savings comes from not spending heavily on advertising) to save money. When I spent last summer in England, all that was doubly true since everything there costs twice as much. And so, without further ado, I present to you part I of a round-up of Sainsbury’s brand chocolates. Today, we Taste the Difference.

Sao Tome

I was tickled to find that Sainbury’s store brand was hoity-toity enough to jump on the single-origin bandwagon. It’s the only generic single-origin bar I’ve seen so far. I also appreciated the pretty appearance of the bar, which was scored into sections for easy portioning and stamped with a pretty fleur-de-lis design offset by diagonal etches.

In addition to its pretty design, the chocolate itself was lovely to look at, with an admirable sheen and color. At 72% cacao, this bar had the expected sharp snap. It’s flavor profile was on the sweet side for a dark bar, and it had a sour/sweet finish, somewhat reminiscent of cherries.

Belgian Dark

In my mind, Belgium is famous for a few things: sabots (wooden clogs; in introductory French, we sang a song about them, the only line of which I can still remember is “avec mes sabots” and which is now on lopp in my head), getting trampled in WWII, and chocolate. Slap the word Belgian in front of chocolate, and you get all kinds of happy, high-end associations. Sainsbury’s Belgian bar was a 72%, like its Sao Tome, but the two had significant taste differences. So yay! Sainsbury’s wasn’t sneakily making one type of chocolate and packaging it as two!

The Belgian dark was quite creamy for its high cacao percentage. Unlike the fruitier Sao Tome, this bar had more of a dusky cocoa-ness to its flavor. And it wasn’t nearly as pretty as its single-origin counterpart, though it also came in a flimsier wrapper, making me think that I caught the two bars in between a production/packaging switch.

I’d give these two bars an OM. As far as flavor complexity goes, they’re not astoundingly intriguing, but they’re nice enough for snacking or even a low-key chocolate tasting. I’m not lamenting the fact that I can’t easily get them in the States, but if I ever get to go back to England, I’d buy them again.

Category: chocolate, European, OM, review, single origin | No Comments »

Free Swedish Fish Shirt

October 21st, 2008 by Rosa

From the Swedish Fish website, you can watch a weird ad and request a free shirt!

Update: Looks like the link to the shirt is down, which means you missed out on “while supplies last.”

Category: news | 2 Comments »