Nestle Crunch Girl Scouts – Caramel & Coconut

Monday I reviewed two of the three limited edition Nestle Crunch Girl Scout cookie inspired candy bars that I found at my local Dollar store. Today, I’m covering the third, Caramel & Coconut, inspired by Samoas/Caramel deLites.

This was described as “cookie wafers, coconut caramel creme and chewy caramel, topped with toasted coconut.” Like the other two bars, this one was made with palm oil instead of cocoa butter, so no actual chocolate.

For some reason, the mockolate coating here held up much better instead of melting all over the place. Perhaps because it was lacking the other two’s airy crispies, this also got an additional adornment of caramel colored stripes on top.

The wafer layers were quite crisp and tasted of toasty cookie and sweetened coconut flakes. They were topped with a noticeable layer of squishy and sweet caramel with bits of coconut in it that squeaked between my teeth.

I thought this bar did a great job of capturing the flavor of Samoas in chocolate bar form – sweet, amber caramel and light chocolate flavor plus coconut nuttiness. It was a little overly sweet for my taste, but I feel the same about Samoas. I think the mockolate is less of an issue here since its problem texture and flavor gets lost when mixed with the caramel.

These are the only one of the three bars I’d want to eat again, but it skews a little too sweet and artificial to gain a boost in rating. Another O.


Sun Cups – Milk Chocolate Caramel Cup

Today, I’m finally wrapping up my coverage of the Sun Cups line. I was introduced to them at Sweets and Snacks and sent home with a bunch of free samples.

On Monday, I covered their sunflower butter cups. Wednesday was the mint cup, and today I’ve saved my favorite for last: the caramel cup.

The caramel cup was the most fragile of my quartet. By the time I got it home, the thin top shell had cracked, letting some of the caramel filling seep out.

That caramel filling was a thin amber golden liquid with a great flow. It had a great texture on my tongue – it felt almost suspended on my taste buds as it melted with a great complex burnt sugar sweetness.

The milk chocolate component was thick and creamy. It tasted darker than I expected. It had a nice cocoa depth and minimal sweetness, making it a good foil for the just-sweet-enough caramel center.

I thought it funny that my favorite candy from a brand built around sunflower butter was actually a chocolate and caramel number. An OMG for this well-balanced oozy-goey-chocolatey number.

Zeke’s Butterscotch + Giveaway

I received this box of Uncle Zeke’s Old Fashioned Cracked Butterscotch, or Zeke’s Butterscotch, for short, as a free sample from the manufacturer. My only experience with butterscotch has been with the little gold Brach’s discs, and I didn’t know what to expect from the Old Fashioned moniker.

The butterscotch came in shards of various sizes dusted in powdered sugar to keep it from sticking to itself. It smelled liked buttery caramel with scorchy notes that were almost sour in their intensity.

The texture was really interesting – there was both a button and a sticker on the packaging with the instructions, “Suck, don’t chew!” I’m still deciding what I can do with my button for maximum humor impact.

The pieces were hard and, if broken sharply, would cleave with a smooth break. Once it warmed up in my mouth, however, it took on a stiffly pliable texture that increasingly softened as it warmed and melted.

It was just like a Now and Later in texture. If I had tried to chew it, it definitely would’ve gotten cemented in my teeth.

It had a round, buttery sweetness to it, with scorchy undertones in the finish. The flavor is reminiscent of Werther’s Originals but with a bit more complexity thanks to the high quality of the ingredients (real butter, pure cane sugar, and molasses) that went in it. It was definitely a far cry above the disc version.

This was an unusual and tasty treat to be slowly enjoyed in small doses. I sprinkled some in a recent batch of brownies that I made – SO GOOD! An OM.

If you’d like to try these for yourself, Zeke’s is letting me give away a box to one lucky reader. Leave a comment on this post about what I should do with my “Suck, don’t chew” button by June 13, 11:59 PM EST (let’s keep it PG-13, please). Make sure you put a working email address in the email field. Only I’ll be able to see it, and I’ll only use it to contact the randomly select a winner. U.S. readers only please.

And if you don’t win this giveaway, keep an eye on their Facebook page. It looks like they do giveaways through different blogs on a fairly regular basis.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Bar – Caramel with Black Sea Salt

This Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Bar comes with fun old-timey art on the front and a lengthy narrative on the back of the box. Ready?

“Exotic Hawaiian Black Sea Salt hails from the Pacific seawater that surrounds the Hawaiian islands. This stunning black salt is evaporated in above ground pools that form naturally from lava flows. Together, its smoky aroma and intense caramel complement this sophisticated dark chocolate experience.”

It seems like Trader Joe’s was trying to emulate a classier/more expensive chocolate bar with this one. The Vosges Black Salt Caramel Bar (black Hawaiian sea salt, burnt sugar caramel, 70% dark chocolate), perhaps?

It succeeded on emulating Vosges in one annoying sense: this bar was incredibly messy. I didn’t get a shot of the whole bar because it was all crushed and sticky and oozing when I unwrapped it.

The dark chocolate shell was segmented into squares, but it was so thin that it broke anywhere that it pleased, releasing its amber liquid caramel all over the place. It did, at least, have with a nice snap and crunch when chewed.

I thought the flavor of the 70% dark chocolate was a bit one-dimensional and muddy in its finish. The caramel was so intensely sweet that it was almost sour. Alas, I found it to have no burnt complexity, though the salty finish was quite nice.

When eaten altogether, the combination of sweet, sour, and salty was nice enough, but I found that it lacked oomph. It just felt flat.

Part of me wonders if it is just a rebranded version of the Vosges Black Salt Caramel. I’m 90% sure it’s not – the Trader Joe’s chocolate didn’t have a nice melt or duskiness – but I could just be falling prey to marketing and cost cues of quality and enjoyableness.

At any rate, I’d give this an O. Nice try but something’s missing here.

French Broad Chocolate Redux – Part 1

After my last two part review of French Broad Chocolates (part 1 and part 2) that I had purchased at A Southern Season, Logan from French Broad left a nice comment addressing some of my criticisms.

He agreed with my assessment that there were some freshness issues because I’d purchased them through a reseller and offered to send me a fresh batch of free samples. I’ll review three today and three on Wednesday.

First up, a redo on the vanilla bourbon that I’d already tried. I enjoyed it enough the first time, but it was even better fresh.

It started off sweetly, then took on an increasingly intense level of bourbon booziness. Again, it was all the flavor of bourbon without any of the alcohol’s burn, but it was so much more deliciously intense when the truffle was fresh.

The little pecan topper added a nice, fresh crunch, but the boozy ganache was the star here. It gets upgraded to an OM.

Vanilla bourbon caramel was a caramel version of the above, described as “organic vanilla bean and Knob Creek bourbon in a liquid caramel.” It was a pretty molded dark chocolate pinwheel filled with a smooth, liquid caramel.

That caramel melted in my mouth. It started with a light, fruity sweetness before yielding any boozy notes.

The presence of the bourbon came through, but it wasn’t as strong as that of the vanilla bourbon truffle, and I really loved the buttery scorch to the end of the caramel melt.

The dark chocolate shell finished it all off with a nice degree of cocoa depth. An OMG.

And last for today, their salted honey caramel, described as “local wildflower honey, organic cream and butter, and grey salt. Dipped in dark chocolate.”

There was a hefty dose of fine grained salt. In addition to the slash the cut across the diagonal, lots of salt was stuck to the bottom as well. On sight I worried that it was too much, but on taste, the salt balance was spot on.

The caramel was chewy with a bearably small amount of stickiness. It was sweet with the golden tones of honey – smooth and light rather than the burnt depth that I’m used to in salted caramels – and well highlighted by the added salt.

The honey flavor really came through in the finish, more floral than sugar’s comparatively bland sweetness. Finally, the dark chocolate shell added a nice cocoa flavor.

I like my caramels just shy of burnt, but this lighter version was quite enjoyable as well. An OM.

Stay tuned for Wednesday when I cover the canela picante, pomegranate ginger, and maple.

Guest Post: Nestle Kit Kat Chunky Caramel Duo

Globe-trotting Neil (it’s so unfair how easy it is to travel between European countries!) has another across the pond review for you. ~Rosa

As promised, I have some posts up my sleeve. While waiting for dinner to cook tonight, I thought I’d simultaneously have a snack and feel productive by writing this. I pulled out a Nestle Kit Kat I picked up on a recent trip to London: Kit Kat Chunky Caramel Duo.

The package promised “Crisp wafer pieces with a caramel creamy topping (20%), covered in milk chocolate (60%).” Well, that’s sort of what I got.

The milk chocolate looked fairly standard – a bit beat up from my travel, for sure. The bars themselves are fairly thick. The two side by side are about the width of my wrist, which, let’s be honest, is not that impressive.

Eating it was sadly also not that impressive. The caramel just didn’t come through at ALL. It’s like the “creamy topping” had at some point just dried up to match the consistency of the wafer. No caramel flavor or contrasting texture.

Though it’s been in my cupboard since January, the label says it’s good through July, so it shouldn’t have gone stale in that time. I’m inclined to think it just wasn’t that caramelly to start with.

I set aside the second chunk for another time. It will probably be after dinner, sure, but I don’t see myself tracking this down in future travel. An O for the Duo.

Starbucks Milk Chocolate Caramel Brulee

I’m not a regular coffee drinker, so when I got a Starbucks gift card for the holidays, I spent it on smoothies and candy, including this bag that was labeled “milk chocolate caramel brulee.” They were shiny and spherical chocolate-covered caramels.

Their size and composition was exceedingly similar to Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Caramels. Fortunately, I had half a bag of the TJ’s version handy for a direct comparison.

The Starbucks version was covered in milk chocolate instead of dark, making for a sweeter treat. The caramel center had a distinct rummy butterscotch note and just a hint of salt to the end.

The Trader Joe’s dark chocolate ones tasted sweeter and fruitier by comparison. The TJ’s also had a stiffer chew; Starbucks’ version was softer, chewier, and stickier.

I enjoyed the butterscotch note in the Starbucks caramels, but I found that the milk chocolate coating made it too sweet altogether. A mashup of the Trader Joe’s chocolate and Starbucks’s caramel center would be great.

As is, it’s not a bad treat; just too sweet. Also the bag was annoying to open and reclose in a way to save the rest for later. An O.

I think Gigi reviewed an earlier incarnation of these, when they were called milk chocolate burnt caramels.

Vosges Smoke and Stout Caramel Bar

I’m slowly tasting my way through Vosges’s many different bars – slowly because they run about $10 for each 3 oz bar. The Smoke & Stout Caramel Bar was comprised of “Rogue Ale’s chocolate stout beer, alderwood smoked salt, burnt sugar caramel” and 70% dark chocolate.

Like all of Vosges’s full-sized bars (at least the one’s that I’ve had), this was segmented into 8 squares, each etched with either “Vosges Haut Chocolat” or a cartoon girl. And like all of their caramel bars that I’ve had, each of those squares was filled with an oozy caramel.

Unfortunately, the bar didn’t easily split along its segments. More often, it broke open across the squares, releasing an oil slick of caramel. It was pretty to look at but left a sticky mess to deal with.

The caramel here was really unusual looking. It was completely opaque and so dark it was nearly black. It was liquid and flowy with no chew or pull.

It tasted sweet and smoky with a wheaty beery note from the ale. There was a salty hit to the end. There were no burnt sugar notes that I could detect – they all got swallowed up in the caramel’s sugary sweetness.

The dark chocolate was sweet and softer/less snappy than I would’ve expected for a 70%. It was thick and dark with a nice cocoa depth.

As a whole, the bar was too sweet for me. After a few bites, my throat began to burn.

I took more bites than I normally would have because of the messiness factor – I wanted to leave only sealed squares without exposed caramel, but as I nibbled, it kept splitting open and spilling more caramel.

The bar was nice enough, but at its price point, I expected more toffee notes and less mess. It had so much mess! An O.

Hedonist Spring Collection

I went back to Rochester over spring “break” to work on some brain data I left there. Grad students don’t get vacation! Fortunately, my visit was timed so that I was able to pick up a free sample of Hedonist Artisan Chocolates’s new Spring Collection (full description and “artist’s notes” here).

While in the shop, I got a chance to chat with head chocolatier Nathaniel Mich about his creative process in developing the collection. He was inspired by spring gardens and put together a collection that utilized a variety of flavors, textures, and techniques.

Strawberry Rhubarb is Hedonist’s first layered truffle. It was gorgeous to behold, with a bottom layer comprised of a creamy pink strawberry ganache and a top layer that was a translucent rhubarb fruit pate.

The strawberry ganache reminded me of super flavor-concentrated strawberry yogurt, a great mix of fruity sweetness mixed with dairy creaminess and just a tinge of tartness. The rhubarb layer was a soft gel that was bright and sweet. Apparently it’s made with a local rhubarb wine – who knew there was such a thing?

I loved the berry brightness of this treat, and its dusky chocolate chaser was a great ending note. It was like a perfectly ripe chocolate-covered strawberry distilled into one creamy bite. Easily my favorite of the collection.

The Earl Grey Caramel was a dark chocolate dipped caramel that was infused and topped with organic tea leaves. The dark chocolate coating cracked and flaked off when I bit into it, revealing a speckled caramel center.

The caramel was chewy and slightly sticky with just a bit of grit and grain to the texture.

I usually like chewing caramels, but I preferred to let this one melt into my mouth so that I could savor its depth of flavor – a deep burnt sugar caramel with woodsy tea notes that had a hit of salt and a slight bitterness at the end.

Porcini Thyme was a rolled truffle coated in chocolate and dusted with cocoa. It was deep and woodsy and earthy with a dash of smokiness. The thyme brought a mild herbal grassiness to the finish.

Mushroom and chocolate is a unique flavor combination that I’ve only had once before. The bittersweet and savory blend was well-balanced here. It’s definitely an unusual surprise for the tastebuds and harkens back to chocolate truffles’ original namesake.

Tarragon Carrot was a dipped truffle topped with a tiny piece of chewy dried carrot. It started off sweet from the chocolate, then turned earthy with a vegetal rootiness, and finished with carrot’s sweetness.

The tarragon added an herbal undertone that was hinted at throughout the flavor profile. The sizeable dried carrot bit on my pieces added a chewiness that distracted from the truffle. From the looks of the website, they’ve replaced it with a sprinkle of smaller dried carrot bits, so that’s probably no longer an issue.

Cardamom Rosewater was a pink striped dipped truffle that started off chocolatey sweet, then became full-on gingery (cardamom is a member of the ginger family!). The ginger flavor was more like what I associate with powdered ginger spice rather than fresh ginger – it had a light edge of dry bitterness to the finish.

This truffle was sweeter than the others, either because of its milk chocolate base or the addition of honey. I wonder if the honey was what also gave the ganache an unusually smooth look?

Nathaniel said the cardamom rosewater was his favorite of the collection. I feel bad for admitting that it was my least favorite – I liked it, but something has to be on the relative bottom! I just don’t like ginger enough to embrace the intensity of the gingery cardamom flavor here.

Cardamom rosewater gets an O, the tarragon carrot and porcini thyme get OMs, earl grey caramel gets an OMG, and the strawberry rhubarb earned a ZOMG! for its combination of flavor, texture, and sheer beauty in construction.

As a whole, this collection is a truly unique assortment with inventive flavor combinations that really set them apart. Compare that to Godiva’s more conventional (i.e. boring) and more expensive spring collection – there’s no question where your money should be going!


French Broad Chocolates – Part 2

Here’s part 2 of my review of some French Broad Chocolates purchased at A Southern Season. On Monday, I reviewed the vanilla bourbon and mole negro. Today, we’ll cover the fig and port and the sorghum caramel.

Fig and port was “55% cacao Hawaiian dark chocolate, coconut cream, a puree of local figs from an old man’s back yard, and port, coated in 91% extra-dark chocolate and rolled in toasted almonds.”

This truffle had a sticky ganache with a thin chocolate shell that was then rolled in almond bits. Those almonds brought some nuttiness, which was nice, but also some astringency, which was less nice. They didn’t taste toasted to me; I think they’d gone a bit stale in A Southern Season’s chocolate case.

The ganache, on the other hand, was great. It had a lightly jammy scent and tasted of a sweet, figgy fruitiness that became noticeable brighter as the chocolate melted.

There was a lightly sweet grapey boozy note to the finish. Like the vanilla bourbon, it captured all of the alcoholic flavor of the port without any of the burn. I enjoyed the ganache to this one, but the less-than-fresh almonds were a bust.

The sorghum molasses was the only molded truffle that I purchased. Its milk chocolate shell melted thickly with dairy caramel notes to reveal a prettily oozy, thick liquid caramel center.

The texture of that caramel was gorgeous, a velvety smooth pool that lay on my tongue and melted into my taste buds without any sticky chewiness. It started off sugary sweet with buttery, scorched notes.

Then, the flavor took on maple syrup’s amber edge. Finally, it finished with a flash of fruitiness and just the right slight bitterness. The chocolate was maybe a tad too sweet, but I forgave it because man, that caramel was divine!

The fig and port gets an O because of the almond detraction. Without those nuts, it would’ve earned an OM.

I suspect that had I purchased them at French Broad Chocolates’ actual store, they’d be fresher and tastier. Who knows how long they’d been hanging out at A Southern Season?

The sorghum molasses gets an OMG. It haunts my dreams, and I’d happily spring for another one when my wallet has recovered enough to return to A Southern Season.