Candy Gift Recipes – Edition

Hi readers! I’m taking the next two weeks off for the holidays. Be back in 2011. And here’s one last news post to tide y’all over: more homemade candy recipes, this time via chocolate-dipped salted caramels (YUM!) and orange marmalade truffles. If you’d like to expand your range to more than just candy, they came from a larger set of DIY food gift ideas. Perfect for last-minute gift prep, when all the good stuff is sold out.

Bees and Beans Winter Line

I got a lovely assortment of Bees and Beans’s candy bars as a free sample. They’re “handmade from whole ingredients in small batches” using local ingredients from Portland, Oregon.

There are three bars in the winter line: the Coffee bar, the ‘Bert bar, and the Honey bar.

The Coffee bar was “coffee caramel with toasted walnuts hand-dipped in 70% dark chocolate. It smelled dark and roasty, just on the delicious side of nearly-burnt.

It tasted dark and deep upon first bite. The caramel had a light pull to it and tasted of roasted coffee with a light bitterness.

The walnuts were mixed throughout the caramel. They added a serious crunch and a nutty, oily aroma. Finally, the chocolate added a layer of deep cocoa. An OM.

The ‘Bert bar was “milk chocolate, filberts, peanut butter, and crispy rice hand-dipped in 70% dark chocolate.” Its filling was a mix of milk chocolate embedded with large chunks of filbert nuts and crunchy, crispy rice.

There was a hint of peanut butteriness to the flavor as a light undertone. It mostly tasted of toasty crisped rice and the nuttiness of the filberts. There was noticeable sea salt sprinkled throughout that added a nice sparkle. An OMG.

The honey bar was my favorite of the bunch. It was “honey caramel with filbert nougat hand-dipped in 70% dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt.”

The bar was comprised of a thick layer of a soft, not-at-all sticky caramel topped with a filbert-studded layer of sweet and soft nougat, all covered in dark chocolate with a sprinkle of sea salt crystals.

Holy cow was it delicious! The nougat had a wonderfully light roasty nuttiness from the filberts, but it was the honey caramel that set this bar apart. It was absolutely limpid, with a pure honey tinge and a light hint of deep butterscotch to the finish.

The chocolate took a nice supporting role here, while the sprinkles of salt highlighted the caramel and chocolate. It was a perfectly balanced mix of flavors and textures. A ZOMG!

If you don’t live near Portland, Oregon, where these bars can be found in stores, you can get them from Etsy. They don’t come cheap, at $20 + shipping for a set of 4 bars, but those Honey bars are totally worth it!

Fearless Chocolate – Super Seeds and Sweet & Hot

On Monday, I reviewed two of my four free sample bars of Fearless Chocolate. Today, I’ll wrap things up with my review of their Super Seeds Hemp Chia Flax and their Sweet & Hot Hibiscus Ginger.

It really doesn’t sound any health fad crunchier than “Hemp Chia Flax.” This 70% raw organic bar was studded with the three seeds.

The seeds added a textural crunch to the sharp snap of the bar. They bring a light mild nuttiness to the bar and tamp down the fruitier side of the chocolate. Here it mostly of deep cocoa with light hints of sweetness.

I enjoyed the flavors and texture of this bar. Like the others in the line-up, there’s a bit more astringency to the finish, but I think that comes with the raw territory. An OM.

Sweet & Hot smelled overwhemingly of ground ginger with an undertone of sweetness. It tasted just like it smelled, with a few brightly sweet and sour flashes, and had a slight grit to its texture.

It had the most astringent finish of them all, which lingered so long that it needed a chaser to displace it.

I enjoy gingerbread, and ginger is a star of the Asian cuisine I grew up eating, but this was too much ginger spice for me. An O.

Fearless Chocolate has a lot going for it. The packaging is smart, and it fills a niche with tasty, well-made chocolate, with the plain Dark as Midnight bar being my favorite. They’re definitely one to watch for the future.

Fearless Chocolate – Dark as Midnight and Matcha Green Tea Peppermynt

I got an assortment of free sample bars from Fearless Chocolate Co., a bean-to-bar chocolate maker. They’re about as health food faddy as it gets. Their chocolate is raw, organic, kosher, gluten/soy/dairy-free, and stocked with superfoods.

These Fearless bars are my first foray into raw chocolate. Should be interesting!

I love the rustic cardboard look of their packaging – quite the wholesome and eco-friendly feel.

My assortment contained a 75% Dark as Midnight plain bar, and three 70% bars: Matcha Green Tea Peppermynt, Super Seeds Hemp Chia Flax, and Sweet & Hot Hibiscus Ginger. I’ll review the first two today and hit the other two on Wednesday.

Each bar has a little corner bite missing from it, representing the 1% of their profits that’s donated to charity. I’d say that the bar is the size of about 2 of the full bar’s 18 segments, which makes it more like 11% – that would be a nicely hefty charitable contribution!

The 75% Dark as Midnight bar was about as pure as dark chocolate gets. The only two ingredients were organic raw cacao and organic unrefined cane sugar.

It smelled like cacao beans with a bit of chalkiness. The break was sharp and snappy, with a velvety, matte melt.

It tasted sweet and deep, starting with hints of spice before yielding to a light fruitiness and a cocoa finish. There’s a light astringency to the finish that I normally associate with bars of a much higher cacao content, perhaps due to the rawness of the chocolate. An OM.

Matcha Green Tea Peppermynt sounded like a dubious flavor combination. It smelled minty and sweet.

It first tasted like a peppermint candy with an undertone of bright sweetness. Then the grassy, herbal, slightly bitter flavors of tea came through, before giving way to sweetly fruity notes. It finally ended on a tea-ful, slightly astringent finish that lingered.

While I found it nicely complex, it wasn’t for me. An O.

Stay tuned til Wednesday, when I cover the Super Seeds and Sweet & Hot bars. In the meantime, if you want to pick some up for yourself, they’re available online.

Jolly Rancher Awesome Twosome Chews

Could it be? Could Jolly Rancher have made an American version of the European filled licorice that I love so much with their Awesome Twosome Chews (received as free samples via the National Confectioners Association)?

Not exactly. But they were still pretty good!

They came in two flavor combinations: watermelon/green apple and cherry/orange. All of them had a fine granulated sugar on the surface, a chewy, soft licorice-textured shell, and a soft, smooth paste filling.

Watermelon /green apple had a pink watermelon shell with a green apple filling.

It tasted mostly of watermelon, with a bit of a plasticky finish. The watermelon shell was sweet and floral, while the green apple was like a mild green apple Jolly Rancher.

Cherry/orange had a red cherry shell with an orange filling. Here, the filling was the overwhelming flavor. The cherry part tasted like a red popsicle, while the orange tasted like my ideal candy citrus flavor – sweet and slightly tart.

These aren’t perfect, but I’ll still give them an OM. They’re a little too sweet, but they’re a nice change of pace and reminiscent of my beloved filled licorice.

Annie B’s Caramels

I bought these Annie B’s Caramels at a very fancy design/decor shop. So fancy, in fact, that the caramels were all that I could afford in there.

These caramels came in long rods, each about the size of my index finger, rather than in what I consider to be the traditional cube shape. I got one in original (blonde) and one in chocolate (dark brown).

I think Annie B’s was shooting for an old-timey look with their crinkly cellophane wrappers. I wasn’t such a big fan of the packaging – while it did a nice job not sticking to the caramel, it tore awkwardly in places when I tried to unwrap it, leaving me with random bits of cellophane.

The original caramel was far too sweet for my taste. There was a bit of butteriness to it, along with some bright fruity flavors that verged on sourness. The texture was also not what I expected – grainy and chewy rather than sticky and pulling.

I liked the chocolate one far more. In fact, before I looked it up, I thought it was treacle. It’s not as sweet as the original but manages to retain some of that bright fruitiness. There are notes of molasses and a depth to the flavor that’s reminiscent of bitter chocolate.

I enjoyed the chocolate one, which gets an OM, but the original was too sweet to be appealing for me, so that gets just an O.