Sunday, 21 March 2010
As soon as I started reviewing all those cake bar products (Cadbury Mini Rolls etc) last year, I was immediately inundated with requests for me to review some other cake based products. One of the more popular requests was for me to take a look at some of the offerings from The Fabulous Bakin' Boys product range which boasts products such as flapjacks, brownies and of course these Chocolate Cupcakes. Described as 'moist vanilla sponge with a chocolate flavour topping' they seemed like a pretty simple proposition though obviously had quite the cult following given the amount of people asking for a ChocolateMission review. Given the demand I could hardly turn down the opportunity of a £1 a pack offer in my local OneStop.
The Cupcakes came in a 192.0g box that contained 6 individually wrapped cakes inside. To be honest I didn't really form an overall opinion on the presentation of the product as it neither struck me as being all that appealing or anything to the contrary. The cupcakes themselves were reasonably nice looking with the chocolate topping catching the eye with a noticeably glossy looking finish. As already mentioned each cupcake was contained within a plastic packet which kept each reasonably fresh and released a pleasant sweet cake smell when opened. One thing that was a slight annoyance though was that a large majority of the cake and outer chocolate topping rim stuck to paper cupcake wrapper when I tried removed it.
Before I ate these I have to hold my hands up and admit that I hadn't ever tried a Fabulous Bakin' Boys product so I wasn't quite know what to expecting. Like any normal person would (I use this term loosely) I decided to eat the Cupcakes in two parts - first eating the bottom layer of sponge and then the chocolate coating that lay on top. My initial impression of these thanks to the sponge was that they were pretty taste, and I really enjoyed the sweet cake that had a buttery taste that came off as being surprisingly fresh with a nice note of vanilla essence in the aftertaste. Where these cupcakes unfortunately fell down was in the quality of the chocolate topping ... or the 'chocolate flavoured topping' I should more correctly state. Quite frankly the chocolate element to these cupcakes was woeful - it was waxy and slow melting in texture and added hardly anything in regards to taste. Of course it did bring a mild chocolate influence to the mix but the flavours were predominantly sugar based and the texture just left an awful greasy feel in the mouth that pretty much spoilt the experience completely. Out of the six cupcakes I could only stomach two in total which left the rest resigned for the bin.
Overall these were an odd product in that in one way they were excellent, yet in another utterly awful. As you many have gathered from the above paragraph the cake element to these cupcakes was really well executed and I loved the sweet, light taste on the sponge. What I found so utterly incredible about these cupcakes was that the fact Bakin Boy had the cheek to stick the slogan 'contains no artificial colours or flavours' on the front of the cardboard packaging box! What this should actually say is 'contains no real chocolate'! Formed of the appetising concoction of 'sugar, vegetable oil and reduced fat cocoa powder' it was little surprise that the chocolate element to these cupcakes was carried off rather poorly. The topping lacked lacked a chocolate flavour hit and felt horrible in the mouth with an awkward wax like texture. I personally wont be having these again and unless you already a fan I wouldn't recommend them either.
5.9 out of 10
Saturday, 20 March 2010
The post today is a little rushed I am afraid as I heading off for a few days holiday.
For this reason I envisage I wont be able to answer any e-mails or posts until Thursday, but upon my arrival back into the country I will be sure to catch up with everything that has been sent my way. Despite me not being around there will be posts appearing on the site (wonders of technology eh!?), so you probably wont even notice my absence.
Sorry to keep things short this week, coming up in the next few days you will be seeing more Hotel Chocolat reviews, Cadbury Turkish Biscuits and some products sent my way all the way from Australia.
Have great weeks - catch up with you all soon.
**** COMPETITION WINNER ****
I had thousands (yes thousands!!) of entries for this latest competition, thanks to all who entered!
Congratulations to the winner of the Hotel Chocolat Easter Scrambled Egg winner .....
....... Emily Hutchinson
I have sent your address to the guys at Hotel Chocolat who kindly sponsored this competition. Your prize is on the way.
Posts from other blogs I enjoyed this week:
* Foodstufffinds - Cin did an investigation looking at the change of recipe for Cadbury Mini Eggs - I added my own two cents on my own review in the form of an update - See HERE
* GiGiReviews - GiGi stuck it to the Girl Scouts with a review of their Dulce de Leche cookies - See HERE
* ImpulsiveBuy - I love peanut butter ... but I have never tried almond butter before! Sounds awesome - See HERE
* FoodetteReviews - This post by Jess gave me a real hankering for some pretzels. Why do we no get those big fresh ones here in the UK? See HERE
* Snackspot - People are seemingly already hunting down the new Magnum Gold - Magnum coated in Caramac white chocolate ... must have!! See HERE
** Updated Reviews **
Same old reviews but new pictures ...
Fry's Chocolate Cream - See HERE
Cadbury Double Decker - See HERE
Cadbury Chomp - See HERE
Cadbury Mini Eggs - See HERE
Daim Bar - See HERE
Friday, 19 March 2010
Back last April Kraft brought Mikado to the UK market, at which point I was literally inundated with requests to give them a ChocolateMission review. Although they were new to most UK residents, I had actually had Mikado many times before during my holidays to Europe when I was younger. Just as I had experienced back in the day I found the original Mikado to be 'Utterly delicious' (See HERE), and seemingly the majority of the UK population must have agreed with me given that we now have some new variants gracing our supermarket shelves. Although they were released just a few weeks ago, I have already tried these Mikado White Chocolate several times as my work colleagues have gone mad for them. Take a look at my review below to see how they stacked up on the scoring system.
As I stated above my workplace has been been consuming 70.0g packets of these faster than you can say Mikado. In terms of presentation this white chocolate variant stays very closely aligned to the original milk chocolate which is obviously no bad thing whatsoever. Personally I think the outer cardboard box is cleanly branded and communicates the white chocolate flavour well, whilst most importantly keeping the fragile stick pieces in good condition. Inside a nice set of sweet, dairy smells emanated once the bright silver foil packet was pierced revealing the very cool looking white coated biscuit sticks.
When I wasn't fighting my work colleagues off the several packets I brought in to the office, I eventually got around to trying a fair number of these for myself. Starting off with the biscuit constituents much like I expected the sticks held up their end of the bargain, providing a wheaty, buttery, brown sugar noted taste which was delivered with a satisfying fresh crunchiness with every bite. The white chocolate that coated them, melted at a similar pace to the milk chocolate of the originals, and was enjoyable to suck on before crunching down on the inner biscuit centres. It must be said that I generally find that great quality white chocolate is very rare to come across and I can tell you now that it wasn't the best quality used here. Whilst I can say it wasn't fantastic, on the other hand it wasn't awful at all, and luckily the combination of the biscuit and the chocolate made it taste an heck of a lot better than it would of done had it been eaten solus. In terms of flavours the white chocolate was very sugary, but at the same time it did have a friendly well rounded whole milk undertone which was present throughout the duration in the mouth. Just as I found with the original Mikado these were incredibly moreish but I found as I consumed them they became less and less pleasurable as the overall taste was incredibly sweet, thus they quickly got a little sickly.
Overall I know these have a strong following already so I am sure there are going to be a lot of you that will be less than happy with them scoring less than the original Mikado milk chocolate. To those people I apologise, but I have to call it as I see it, and for me personally I just didn't enjoy them as much as the originals. Whilst I could still appreciate the combination of the sweet, creamy chocolate and the enjoyable biscuit bases, the taste was just a touch sugary for me. This made them not so pleasant to eat on mass and often left me feeling quite unsatisfied in terms of fulfilling my hunger. Many of the people I ate these with said the white chocolate reminds them of Nestle's Milkybar which I would somewhat agree with. For me personally it didn't evoke as many nostalgic feelings as the aforementioned does, but it is probably a fair description given the dominance of the sugar in the taste, which makes it a reasonable comparator. This may read like a none to positive review but I will willingly concede that the synergy the chocolate has with the biscuit bases makes these a product that I have no qualms recommending to white chocolate fans, however myself I would pick the milk chocolate variant every time. Let me know your views on these white chocolates ones it would be great to hear your views. Has anyone spotted the dark chocolate version that is supposed to be coming out yet?
7.8 out of 10
Thursday, 18 March 2010
If you think back about a month or so to the end of last year you may remember that the Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Tonka Bean bar won a lot of praise in the end of year ChocolateMission 2009 Awards, picking up 3rd place for overall product of the year. Well the folk over at Thorntons were obviously pretty happy about this so they sent me along another chocolate from their award winning range, this time their Milk Chocolate with Pistachio offering. As a recent pistachio nut convert I was looking forward to seeing what Thorntons could do with this combination - surely they couldn't go wrong with a recipe of 'milk chocolate with roasted, salted pistachio nuts'.
Like all of the 'award winning' bars from this range Thorntons felt it ok to strip away 10.0g leaving us with 80.0g of chocolate (not quite as cheeky as the Tonka where they only give you 70.0g!). A quick glance at the packaging tells you that Thorntons appear to be running out of colours to use when it comes to this Square Bars range and with branding aside the outer box looked ridiculously similar to both the Tonka and Mint chocolates ... perhaps Thorntons could have done a 'premiuim line' with different packaging for the award winners!? Inside the chocolate looked and smelt good with the green coloured pistachios bringing a lovely savoury nutty smell and bit of interest in terms of aesthetic appeal.
Unfortunately for Thorntons all milk chocolate I taste from them from now on will be compared to the Tonka Bean bar. This 32% recipe was still tasty but it noticeably lacked the strength in the taste of the aforementioned with a slightly less pronounced cocoa edginess and honey influence. In the effort of trying not to be completely condescending the vanilla undertones were still pretty prominent and the lack of strength of the chocolate was somewhat made up for by the added pistachios. Much as the packaging suggested the nuts themselves brought hints of salt and savoury nut to the experience, though I do have again have to somewhat question the decision to chop them in to smaller pieces rather than keeping them as wholenuts. They were not as clumsy or annoying as hazelnuts can be when chopped (no bits getting stuck in teeth etc!) but I still feel the crunchy effect and savoury nut flavours explosions would have been grander had had they been implemented whole. Together the combination of sweet and salt worked very nicely but I had that nagging feeling it could have been executed just a little better.
Overall I would rate this as another pretty high standard offering from Thorntons but at the same time I wouldn't say it was one of the finest they have produced. Pistachio nuts themselves are not the strongest tasting nuts so I think their chopped nature in this bar came at detriment to the overall product. Perhaps manufactures think that consumers are of the mindset that 'more small bits' look like more in totality than 'fewer bigger bits', but I for one would rather see the latter if given the option of either/or. Criticisms aside pistachio chocolates aren't one of the most common flavours around so if you fancy trying it out for yourself you can do very little wrong opting to give this Thorntons offering a try. I don't think 2010 will quite be the year of the pistachio, like 2008 was for Chili but it would be interesting to see a few more manufactures give this nut a crack.
8.2 out of 10
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
In and amongst all the Easter goodies Hotel Chocolat sent my way this year they were also nice enough to include this Less Sweet Selection Box. Described as a collection of 'less sweet recipes so that the authentic flavours of cocoa and praline shine through' it sounded like a decent enough proposition to me, and I eagerly read the handy menu included inside which handily identified the chocolates inside.
The collection comprised of 21 pieces - milk and dark batons, gianduja cubes, mellow caramel truffles, hazelnut praline truffles and lastly some orange praline truffles. The presentation was was pretty familiar looking in style, and combined sleek and sophisticated outer packaging with several protective inner layers that ensured the freshness and high maintenance of each of the different pieces. As you will see from the chocolates below all of them looked pretty appetising, but it was the caramel piece that really stood out with some intricate swirls on the surface of each chocolate.
Below are my thoughts on each of the different chocolates rated from Awful-to-Superb ...
Milk & Dark Chocolate Batons - These were both excellent as I expected, with the milk chocolate batons formed of the 50% house recipe and the dark chocolate batons formed of the 74% house recipe. The milk chocolate was noticeably a little less sweet than the normal 40% cocoa recipe used across the majority of Hotel Chocolat products, though the dark batons really stood out taking the depth of flavour that stage further and had a richer, longer lasting taste. Both chocolates melted with infinite ease into their liquor states and provided an experience that was not only luxurious in taste but also wonderful feeling in the mouth. They were a real joy to eat. Superb.
Mellow Caramel - This pieces was the best looking in the selection and was the one that I was really looking forward to trying. Much like the dark chocolate batons the outer chocolate was superb and had a nice long, rich taste that grew in flavour volume as it melted. The inner caramel praline centre did bring a small notes of sweet toffee and butter to the party, however I was expecting more and would have really welcomed a minor hint of salt to play off the sweetness of the caramel flavours which would have made it truly outstanding. Good.
Hazelnut Praline - The outer 50% chocolate was super smooth in melt and established a creamy, rich cocoa taste as soon as it was placed on the tongue. Sitting below this glorious outer chocolate layer a drier filling of hazelnut praline provided strong woody hazelnuts which further reaffirmed the fresh tasting, crunchy whole hazelnut pieces that lined the top of each truffle. As hazelnut chocolates go this was absolutely fantastic, so much so I made a point of swagging all three before my family could nab them :D Superb.
Orange Praline - out of everything in the selection this piece appealed to me the least, however I am glad to say it wasn't out of place amongst the other fantastic chocolates. The outer 74% dark chocolate brought strong, unsweetened cocoa flavours to the party straight away and melted with a pleasant smoothness to reveal the soft, smooth filling below. Conversely to the outer chocolate the orange filling was sweet tasting, with some zingy citrus flavours that contrasted well with the dark chocolate. Orange chocolates are never my first choice but this was up there with the best of them. Very Good.
Gianduja Cubes - Well I have reviewed these on their own before (See HERE) so I need say very little apart from refer you that previous review. These are among the very best of all the great things that Hotel Chocolat make, if you haven't tried these already and love praline you really need to do yourself a favour and buy some. Superb.
Overall this Less Sweet Selection provides a good insight into some of Hotel Chocolat's capabilities, however I wouldn't rank it alongside some of their other finer selection boxes. The quality of the chocolate involved here is unquestionable - the 50% milk chocolate and 74% dark chocolate are amongst the best out there and I think it is a very safe bet to say you will get undoubtedly get a lot of pleasure out of the plain chocolate batons. The Gianduja Cubes are quite simply in a league of their own - I can't say anything more positive about them than that, you simply need to try them for yourself to really understand how good they are. Personally I think the truffles are what hold this selection back somewhat. Although I have classified all of them as Good or above, you have to consider the fact that if someone doesn't like orange, nuts or caramel the options are a little limited. This collection isn't the most varied that Hotel Chocolat offer but if you are looking for a small selection of fine chocolates you do well looking at this Less Sweet Selection.
8.3 out of 10
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Rewind a few days and you will remember that it wasn't long ago that I was revelling in the gloriousness of L'Artisan du Chocolat's No.1 Salted Caramels (HERE). What I failed to mention in that review then was that L'Artisan had also sent me three of their latest Limited Edition dark chocolates, all of which I have been sampling with some fellow dark chocolate lovers.
These Jamaica, Bali and Congo are were all 72% cocoa recipes, and were formed using cocoa that were farmed and and fermented from these locations (more info on the website).
Looking at the net weight of the bars on the packaging I was surprised to see that each of the bars only weighed 45.0g, despite being packaged in boxes big enough to fit your average 100.0g chocolate bar. Given the premium nature of the brand and the chocolate, the size wasn't so much a surprise to me, and that said I did appreciate the clean graphics on the outer cardboard and liked it for it's simplicity. Unfortunately what I didn't think was so great was the style of the inner wrapping and design work on all three of the variants. I thought the plastic packets didn't really carry through the sophisticated brand positioning, and I felt that it cheapened the presentation considerably. Similarly the lack of branding and pattern work on the chocolate was something that was sorely missed and I felt this was also a missed opportunity to add some uniqueness to each bar.
Below are some collective tasting notes on each variant that I sampled with a group of friends. Apologies if the terminology comes across as pretentious, trust me I think I am no expert. It has been written in this manner to try and give you the best understanding of how each tasted.
L'Artisan du Chocolat 72% Bali
This flavour had pretty neutral, yet strong cocoa smell which was nicely indicative of the taste. This variant in particular broke with a wonderful snap sound which suggested that it was as fresh as they come. The taste was very smooth and had strong hints of fruit and banana which gave the cocoa flavours a consistent sweetness. The aftertaste had a little element of spice to it and generated a minor note of chilli in the mouth which further added interest to the overall experience. It was unanimously voted the favourite amongst the group with the main reason cited being it's non-bitterness and moreish sweetened cocoa stance.
8.4 out of 10
L'Artisan du Chocolat 72% Jamaica
Again here the smell was very indicative of the taste, and the bar emanated a smokey set of cocoa scents. The chocolate was similarly fresh to break apart but this chocolate seemed to melt at a slower rate to the others. As the smells suggested the taste was dominated by an undercurrent of tobacco like influences, with hints of woodiness and red fruits also coming through in the latter stages. The aftertaste was noticeably stronger than the other two variants and was the most bitter out of all three. The taste of this chocolate didn't suit everyone in the group and it did really divide opinion more so than the others.
7.2 out of 10
L'Artisan du Chocolat 72% Congo
This smelt similar to the Bali variant, though on balance was just slightly less pungent. In terms of taste this chocolate was screaming out Lindt 72% as soon as I placed the first piece on my tongue. The cocoa taste was less distinctive than the other two variants and maintained a familiar milky undertone throughout the entire experience. Whilst it wasn't quite as sweet or as variable as the Bali, it wasn't as harsh as the Jamaica and had a relatively nice, fresh cocoa taste. Both the feel and the flavours were smooth, whilst the melt was well paced. In all it was a solid, but safe dark chocolate.
7.8 out of 10
Overall these were some good quality dark chocolates, and me and fellow taste testers really enjoyed tasting the different experiences that all three offered. A look at the scores would suggest that probably only the Bali could be deemed as 'better than average' but if you look closely all three were hampered by the average score of 7 for presentation. The reason I gave them that score was because I didn't get the same feel of classiness from these bars as I did from the wonderful presented No.1 Salted Caramels a few days ago. If you compare them like-for-like I think you will agree that those Caramels look a class above these bars, though granted that is more about the quality of presentation of the Caramels. Presentation aside the quality of the chocolate here on the whole pretty good and it was really interesting the way that each offered up a different sort of taste. There was a clear favourite amongst the group in the form of the sweeter Bali variant, though this could be down to our personal preference and it is likely your own opinion would differ. To sum up I think L'Artisan du Chocolat could work a little on the packaging to align themselves in terms of quality with some of their other brand offerings. As far as chocolate quality goes though, they need do very little work there.
On a unrelated note what really surprised about reviewing these chocolates was how fun it was to do it amongst a group. Three of us enjoyed these over a few drinks and it was great comparing thoughts on how we thought the flavours developed. I would seriously suggest you guys grab a few of friends and try something similar in the near future - it is a lot of fun.
Monday, 15 March 2010
Just in case you haven't seen my hundreds of tweets, posts or facebook messages in the last week or so I would briefly like to draw your attention to the ChocolateMission Easter 2010 competition (See HERE) - the prize being a Hotel Chocolat Milk Chocolate Scrambled Egg.
To whet your appetite for the competition I today bring you my review of one of the other eggs in the Scrambled range, the Alcoholics Anonymous favourite 'Tipsy' variant.
This Tipsy package weighed in at 220.0g and constituted of one 'milk chocolate egg, decorated with dark and white chocolate swirls', which was served alongside a 'selection of boozy chocolates'. Packaging wise aside from being a pain in the backside to photograph (reflections grr!), it looked fantastic. The egg looked suitably creative with the three different tones of chocolate, whilst the ingot pieces were similarly awesome to look at.
Taking the egg in isolation first I was pleased to see a little change up from the 40% house recipe and thought the 50% milk chocolate suited the more mature theme of the product. Whilst the 50% milk chocolate wasn't noticeably stronger in it's cocoa flavours than the aforementioned 40%, it was definitely a touch less sweet which made it richer. This just so happened to be to the preference of my father who was more than eager to help me out with this particular review :D As you can imagine the decorative dark and white chocolate patterns had very little cut through in the taste and seemed more there for aesthetic purposes.
Of course to go alongside the egg we were also treated to a wide selection of ingot shaped boozy truffles, some of which are in the photo above. Like I have found with many of the Hotel Chocolat liqueur truffles before I found the taste of the alcohol overwhelming in a few of the flavours - most notably in the martini, gin and cognac ingots where I felt the chocolate was overpowered. According to my old man I was just being a bit of pansy, as he really enjoyed all of them. I guess on reflection the milder amaretto, caramel & whisky and rum ingots were more to my liking and whilst I might not choose them out of personal preference (over say a praline or something) I would have them again if offered.
Overall this was a nice way to kick off my look at Hotel Chocolat's Scrambled Egg range, but like many of their boozy chocolates that have gone before I at times felt that the chocolatier had been a little over generous with his 'splashes' of alcohol. Taking the egg in isolation there are no two ways about it - it was perhaps a little no frills but it was really high quality milk chocolate and the swirled patterns on the exterior certainly made it look impressive. Now speaking of the ingot truffles my own feelings were a bit mixed as I didn't like the chocolate taking a back seat in the taste with some of the flavours on offer (named and shamed above). What is probably more relevant for you boozy chocolate fans to bare in mind though is that my father who enjoys spirits more than I do (not hard admittedly!) thought a lot more of them so I guess on that basis these are worthy of a recommendation for like minded people. If you are gifting to an older consumer this Easter I would say this Tipsy variant is a good option.
8.5 out of 10
Sunday, 14 March 2010
Coming right off the back of my flirtation with The Chocolate Truffle Co.'s Lait Collection (See HERE) I am going to kick start things this week with a review of one of their dark chocolate bars. Similarly to the Lait Collection offering from last Wednesday, this was a bar that was produced using cocoa beans sourced from a Rainforest Alliance certified farm, which the on-pack label tells me will help protect the environment and improve the lives of cocoa growers. The cocoa here was again from Costa Rica and had been handmade in to a bar here in the UK. Having shared my feelings about the Rainforest Alliance certification last week I can only reiterate my views that it is all well and good having a chocolate that is ethically moral, but it also has to pass the taste test to make that all worthwhile.
Just like the milk chocolate bar this came in a 48.0g size which lasted me a course of three separate sittings. As you can see above in the photo the packaging was consistent from the other bar, and despite being more clued up with the knowledge that The Chocolate Truffle Co. are somewhat limited financially in this area, I still think this is an issue that need to address going forward. Inside the chocolate bar itself was again lacking personality visually but not so much aroma wise. The scents being emanated from the plastic packet were unsurprisingly very cocoa heavy but they were fresh and had a subtle red fruitiness that added a good degree of intrigue.
I always like to eat my dark chocolate with a fresh black coffee and I have to start off by saying that a few squares of this went down extremely well as an accompaniment. Letting each block slowly melt on the tongue the taste that developed wasn't anything I would describe as unique or differentiated from what I have consumed previously, but that is not to say it wasn't of a good quality. Much like the smells indicated the taste was very cocoa rooted and the unsweetened cocoa flavours were immediately established from the outset. The cocoa volume increased with the progression of the melt, though the aftertaste was somewhat of a tipping point and there was slightly sweeter milkier note left in the mouth with each block. If I was being fussy (like I am) I would say that I would have liked to have some other type of flavour influence to come to the party, like say a a minor hint of coffee, nut or tobacco etc. In reality the taste was perhaps what you would describe as slightly one dimensional, but luckily that one dimension of really fresh tasting, raw cocoa was very nice.
Overall this dark chocolate wasn't as unique tasting as the vanilla noted milk chocolate I tried last week, but it was still a good quality dark chocolate that I would was noticeably of a better quality than an average mass produced dark chocolate. Personally speaking I would have welcomed an additional depth to the taste and would possibly have liked it a touch stronger. However I think the 67% recipe will probably be about spot on for most dark chocolate fans sp I wouldn't advise them to make ammendments to their recipe there. Putting aside my usual grumbles about the packaging and claims etc, I think that The Chocolate Truffle Co. have really solid foundation of dark chocolate on which to build something special. What I would love to see is this chocolate used in some form of truffles and/or a few flavoured dark chocolates etc. I think with the added enhancement of say something like macadamia nuts or fruits sourced from these rainforests they could build a more compelling proposition, and one that might excite the average consumer more than just with the plain dark and milk chocolate bars they have currently. My own view is that this is a line of products to keep an eye on, as I can imagine special things might be round the corner.
7.7 out of 10
Saturday, 13 March 2010
The sneaky people at Cadbury didn't even seem it appropriate to announce these new biscuits to the trade, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw these Caramel & Crunchie biscuits gracing the shelves of my local Sainsbury's.
On an introductory offer of £1, these 130.0g packs contained eight biscuits in each (roughly 12.5p each a biscuit if you're wondering!!) and came in foil packets that looked none to dissimilar to the actual bars their concepts originated from. Aesthetically speaking I thought that both the wrappers looked awesome, but it was the Crunchie variant that looked the more interesting comparing the inner contents ... the Crunchie took the biscuit so to speak.
With the Crunchie variant catching the eye it was now down to the taste test - below are my thoughts on the two variants ...
Cadbury Caramel Biscuits:
Kcal 70 Fat 3.8g Fat(sats) 2.2g Carbs 6.2g
'Cadbury milk chocolate biscuits with a caramel centre'.
Out of the two these were the ones I was most looking forward to trying. Now although the outer milk chocolate wasn't the Dairy Milk recipe I was hoping for, it still established a very Cadbury like sweet, milky taste as soon as soon as the biscuit entered the mouth. The shortcake biscuit base melted with ease on the tongue and displayed a fine degree of butter and brown sugar flavours. As disappointing as it was to find that this wasn't standard Cadbury chocolate per se, it was very encouraging to see that Cadbury implemented their usual caramel, and it brought all the delicious sweet toffee flavour elements that you get with the standard bar. Importantly the salt kick of the caramel was still present, and nicely contrasted the sweetness of both the sugary chocolate and biscuit base, making for a incredibly moreish overall taste.
8.5 out of 10
Cadbury Crunchie Biscuits:
Kcal 80 Fat 4.1g Fat(sats) 2.5g Carbs 7.4g
'Cadbury chocolate biscuits with Crunchie bits'
Despite the Cadbury Caramel being a long time favourite of mine I also have a great fondness of the Crunchie so I was expecting similarly good things here. As you may have ascertained from the above the chocolate was again disappointingly not Dairy Milk but on a positive side the thickness of the chocolate was much greater here. The chocolate once again established the same milk rooted sweet chocolatey taste which lead nicely into the crisp biscuit inside. The biscuit initially had a more savoury wheaty taste, though it was soon nicely built upon by some bursts of honey and syrup which came about as a result of the honeycomb pieces when crunched. Out of the two I felt that the Crunchie biscuits were the more satisfying in regards to hunger fulfilment, as the meatier chocolate layer made each biscuit last longer in the mouth.
8.7 out of 10
Friday, 12 March 2010
I simply can't get enough of my Japanese chocolates at the moment, and I just love trying all the odd flavour combinations that manufacturers out there are willing to try on their consumers. The latest product sent my way by the fellas at J-List was this Lotte Crunky Crunch Chocolate Strawberry Tart (try saying that fast!), and it came described on the J-List website as 'strawberry flavoured white chocolate with crunchy malt puffs'. Looking across the web it seems that up until Nestle brought the Kit Kat to the Japanese market it was Lotte's Crunky brand of chocolates that were the 'in-thing' in the Far East, along with the timeless Pocky range of course. Today I had my own first flirtation with Crunky Crunch Chocolate, and this is what went down.
This Crunky variant came in a 48.0g size that was split into a 4x10 long thin bar. Like most Japanese products an outer cardboard sleeve protected the inner foil wrapped chocolate and I liked the style presentation with clear, colourful branding and on-pack pictures. Inside the chocolate was filled to the brim full of crispy cereal pieces and held a nice clean cut look with it's bright pink colour and enscribed Lotte branding. Like most fruit flavoured offerings from Japan this was not a chocolate that needed to be anywhere near the nose for the full effects of the aromas to be experienced. The strawberry scents were strong but a little on the artificial side to describe as truley alluring.
If you have similar previous experiences in mind like the Kit Kat Sparkling Strawberry I reviewed a few days ago I bet you are expecting me to say this was 'too sweet for my taste' right!? ... Well you're wrong, and believe me I was as surprised as anyone! Placing the first block my tongue I was expecting a strong explosion of sugary flavour influences but in contrast I was met with a laid back milky taste that a slightly cheesecake edge to it. Within seconds of being in the mouth the inevitable fruit flavours followed but the strawberry element in the taste was not the fake tasting kind I was expecting and it was far more juicy and pure in it's sweetness. As good as the chocolate was the main reason I thought this offering worked so well was because of the crunchy malt pieces which levelled out the sweetness of the chocolate bringing a more savoury, biscuit like influence to the party. This all combined made for a taste that was delicious as it was moreish, and I ended up eating far more of this bar in a single sitting than I thought I would want to before tasting it.
Overall I wouldn't say this is one of my favourite chocolates or products I have tried from Japan ever, but it was probably one of the ones that has surprised me the most. There was a very obvious pitfall that I expected this chocolate to fall in to and I really was expecting it to be horribly sugary in taste which you will all know is not something that I tend to enjoy. Reality though was quite contrary, with both the white chocolate and strawberry tasting far more subtle than expected and this really helped the resulting final taste. The cheesey edge to the chocolate (nicer than it sounds trust me!) and tart strawberry flavours were very well implemented and far exceeded everything I took for granted before actually tasting it. This was never going to be a combination that I personally was going to fall in love with, but it was certainly good for what it was and I would strongly suggest it to strawberry chocolate fans.
7.8 out of 10
Thursday, 11 March 2010
Last weekend I showed you all the contents of the Hotel Chocolat Taste Of Spring chocolate box, which you get free if you place an order in excess of £35 with Hotel Chocolat this Easter. Within that picture I am sure a lot of you noticed the chocolate that was decorated with a sunny-side up fried egg. I can reveal today that this was a piece taken from Hotel Chocolat's Easter Eggs & Soldiers. Indeed, egg and soldiers but not as we know as they came described as 'solid milk chocolate praline eggs with white chocolate soldiers'. Obviously Hotel Chocolat are no fans of Marmite - everyone knows that soldiers are best served with plenty butter and a heavy coating Marmite but before we open up that can of worms lets first consider how good these were.
This Easter Eggs & Soldiers collection contained ten chocolate pieces - five half eggs and five soldiers. Cast your minds back to the Valentines Day period and you may remember me getting rather disgruntled at a fellow British manufacturers decision to take a more humorous approach to their seasonal offering (See HERE). To be honest I think Hotel Chocolat struck a good balance here - the chocolates weren't half as goofy as the aforementioned and I thought they still maintained a decent amount of classiness despite being a more playful concept. It wasn't like I particularly stood around looking at them for that long anyway, because as soon as I had peeled away the copious layers of intricate packaging I was greeted by some dairy heavy, nut scents that certainly did their job seducting me in to getting stuck in.
Starting off with the eggs I straight away felt very at home with the 40% milk chocolate recipe that formed their main constituents. The chocolate was flavoursome from the very first minute it was in the mouth and double cream like base tones were as usual complimented by a friendly volume of sweetened cocoa flavours making for a moreish, yet rich taste. What was slightly different from normal was the additional minor hazelnut note that became apparent as the melt developed leaving a very welcome wooden hazelnut hint in the aftertaste - Yum! Although I thought the white fried egg decorations looked cool on the milk chocolate eggs I couldn't really pick the flavours out from the stronger milk chocolate, so it was up to the soldiers to bring the white chocolate to the party. As you may all well know I am no great fan of white chocolate but I can still appreciate a good one when I taste it - the soldiers were nothing short of superb. They melted with infinite ease in to a soft liquor state and the taste was majority led by dairy cream that had a delightful vanilla edge. Combined one egg and one soldier made for a good snack but I think there was scope for more soldiers to be included considering they were only half the size.
Overall if there were ever any rumours that chocolate can't be presented in a less serious manner without hampering on the quality then Hotel Chocolat did a great job dispelling that myth compltely. On the face of things these were presented in a playful way, but from what I tasted this didn't impact at all on the usual phenomenal standards that this manufacture set themselves. The 40% milk chocolate was simply delicious and the additional praline influence arguably made it better than it ever has been. Had the only white chocolate influence of been the fried egg decorations it could have been argued that it was mere token gesture, however the soldiers held up their end of the bargain completely and the creamy taste is something that I would suggest all white chocolate fans would die for. If you are looking to gift something a little different to the usual chocolates eggs this Easter I would seriously consider these as a great option.
8.7 out of 10
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
With the likes of Mars, Nestle and Cadbury all recently blowing their own trumpets about their chocolates now being Fairtrade or Rainforest certified etc I am starting to get a little a sick of hearing how eating chocolate will help save the planet. What ever happened to chocolate being solely about enjoyment, and indulgence!? ... Those were my first thoughts anyway when I opened up a package sent to me by The Chocolate Truffle Company (website - See HERE) which included some samples of their Rainforest Alliance Certified Lait Collection range. This was to be my first experience trying anything from this company and I was damn sure hoping that this was going to be a chocolate that I would more remember for it's taste rather than the token green emblem on the front.
As you will see from the picture above the chocolate came in a pretty undignified fashion and I wasn't all that impressed with it being solely kept in a plastic packet that was only sealed by the on-pack label. The 48.0g bar was divided into 15 block pieces which disappointingly were not branded or decorated in any manner giving them a somewhat understated appearance. Despite the plastic wrapper being the only layer of packaging the smells that emanated once the seal was disturbed were really very pleasant. Strong hints of cocoa, earth and even coffee beans wafted from the chocolate and gave good insight in to the taste that was to follow.
If you had read the first paragraph and a half you probably would have guessed that this was going to turn out to be a none to positive review but I gladly say that I only have good things to say from now on. Breaking the chocolate apart I was instantly met with a sound that all chocolate fans like to hear and a wonderful 'SNAP' immediately confirmed that this was a very fresh chocolate. As you may have gathered from the name this was a 38% cocoa recipe with the cocoa beans sourced from a RA certified farm in Costa Rica. As much as that was good to know, it was really the taste I was interested in and it thankfully fantastic. Placing a piece on my tongue I was straight away met with a full bodied taste with the cocoa establishing a really chocolatey rich flavour base under the creamy undercurrent that had a honey like sweetness to it. As the chocolate softly melted into it's liqour form a delightful note of vanilla rounded the cocoa edge on the taste, leaving a longing bourbon note in the mouth. For a milk chocolate this was a very flavoursome experience and although I would of happily eaten more, half a bar at a time made for a decent serving size.
Overall this was one of the nicest milk chocolates I have had in a long in time, and in terms of taste I would put it up there with the likes of the Thorntons Tonka bean bar which remains of my favourites to this very day. To be honest I couldn't have cared less where the ingredients came from, and had the cocoa been farmed in Bognor Regis I wouldn't have thought anything more, or anything less of it before tasting it. I understand sticking the product in a cardboard box would of been a bit self defeating given the Rainforest Alliance connection, though I would have liked to have seen more effort made with the presentation of the product, as the actual chocolate deserved a lot more given how outstanding it tasted. Given the volume of milk chocolates that I try you guys will probably understand that for something to get a mark as high as 9 on the taste test it has to be something special. This chocolate was exactly that, and the long vanilla and cocoa flavours made a big impression on me and left me wanting more - definitely worth trying.
7.8 out of 10
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Sons and daughters I hope you all haven't forgotten that it is Mothering Sunday this weekend! Indeed, it has come around early this year with the 14th of March being the date to mark in your diaries. To be honest up until a few weeks ago the day had slipped my mind completely (sorry Mum!), but thankfully a timely reminder and some samples later from the guys at Hotel Chocolat and I now look like son of the year as I gave my gifts a few weeks early :D score! One of the box of chocolates my Mum was treated to this year were these Hotel Chocolat Rose & Violet Cremes which came billed as 'fondant centres with natural essence of rose & violet in dark chocolate shells.'
I guess it is a bit cheeky that I have managed to review something I have gifted but given that there were twenty pieces (net weight 200.0g) there were plenty to go around. As you can see above the style of packaging was pretty similar to a lot of other Hotel Chocolat products I have reviewed in the past, and it was once again agreed all round that the glossy outer box and several layers of inner padding created a sense of sophistication and premiumness. As good as the outer packaging was the chocolates also managed to catch the eye, with the whiteness of the inner fondant really sparkling against the dark coloured chocolate.
Moving on to more important matters it would be no understatement saying that these Rose & Violet Cremes really divided opinion and this all started with the smell chocolates. Had this been a blindfold test I would have struggled to tell you these were chocolates at all as the flowery, sweet smells these emanated would have thrown me straight off course. On one hand I will admit that these aromas were indicative of the taste, though I personally didn't find them appealing in the slightest. For me the excellence of the outer chocolate was upset by the rose and violet fondants which completely dominated things as soon as they were encountered. Conversely (and luckily!!) my Mother loved how they smelt and tasted, and said that both filled her with warm nostalgic feelings of sweets that she used to have as a child. Out of the two I thought the flowery taste of the rose fondant was superior to the perfume like taste of the violet centres, but my Mum said both were as good as each other. After revealing that they weren't to my taste I was quickly banished from wasting anymore ... she liked them so much I had to sneak some from the box for the photos :D
Overall it was hard scoring these today because if was up to me I would probably have given them a 3 for both taste and smell, yet my Mum said I should give them a 10 ... 7 it is then!! I think it is very much a case of either understanding or expecting the taste, or simply just not (like me!!) Looking at the back of the box this probably shouldn't come as any surprise given that Hotel Chocolat proclaim that these are a 'British recipe that dates back to the early 1900s'. On reflection I guess they are pitched at a very targeted audience that isn't anywhere near myself. If my parents are anything to go by Hotel Chocolat did a very good job as they absolutely loved them, and said they would to have them again in the future. What I am being very careful trying to say here is that these Hotel Chocolat Rose & Violet Creme are probably more for a 'mature' consumer than they are for a young guy like myself, and if it is on that basis that these get scored on it looks like they are a very good product. If you are struggling to think of a gift for Mothers Day this year then I think these are good option for you to consider ... just don't be gifting them to me anytime soon thanks :D
7.2 out of 10
Monday, 8 March 2010
Saturday, 6 March 2010
My chums at Hotel Chocolat have given me the opportunity to offer my lucky UK readers the chance of winning a Hotel Chocolate Milk Chocolate Scrambled Easter Egg (See HERE).
To enter all you have to do is send an e-mail to Jim@Chocolatemission.net with the answer to the following question ...
'Approximately how much does a Hotel Chocolat Large Dark Chocolate Ostrich Egg weigh?'
The winner will be drawn/announced on March 20th. Usual small print rules apply.
1. Only UK entrants 2. One entry per person 3. Whatever I rule goes.
Offer #1 - 10% off Hotel Chocolat orders for ChocolateMission readers ...
Reading this site was going to pay off eventually wasn't it!? :D :D
If you are looking to slash the prices on your Hotel Chocolat Easter Egg Extravaganza this year then input the code JIMEGG10 at the checkout to get 10% when you spend £20. Offer ends 4th April.
Offer #2 - Spend £35 and get a free Hotel Chocolat Taste of Spring gift ....
The guys at Hotel Chocolat sent me a long a sample of the free gift that you receive and I can confirm it includes 2 x milk chocolate batons, 1 x milk chocolate chocolate, 1 x billionaires shortbread truffle (amazing!!), 1 x sticky toffee flavoured dark chocolate egg, 1 x milk chocolate praline egg, 1 x key lime flavoured dark chocolate truffle and 1 x orange praline milk chocolate. I have saved doing a proper review on the selection as many of the pieces fall in to reviews that will coming up on the site in the next few weeks. What I can say though is that it is a wonderful little collection, take a look at the pictures below.
Good luck in the competition - if you have any questions don't hesitate to drop me a comment.
Remember you can do all your Hotel Chocolat Easter shopping HERE
Friday, 5 March 2010
'Bits n Bobs' posts will feature on the site every months and will be full of mini 'reviews' of products that I have accumulated over the course of time. These 'reviews' wont always include score charts (only as and where appropriate!) and will be light on words ... the idea for these posts are that they are more picture based. Let me know what you think about the new style ... don't worry they won't be replacing the traditional product reviews.
This first 'Bits n Bobs' review will focus on products from Japan that I have been sent by both J-List and ChocolateMission reader Rachel (Thanks again!!)
Meiji Mini Chocolate & Sweet Assortment:
These were a cute little gift sent to me by J-List and were included in one of their last chocolate packages. These five little boxes included all different kinds of small candy sweets, ranging from mini popping candy pieces (yuck!) , fruit jelly beans, lemon flavoured candies, grape flavoured candies and lastly some strawberry chocolates (the dome shaped things!). If you ever looking to bolster the size of your J-List order with a small little addition I would suggest these as a nice snapshot of traditional Japanese sweets.
Meito Air in Banana Fish:
This was yet another curious item sent to me by J-List. This Meito Air in Banana Fish constituted of fish shaped ice cream wafers filled with a sweet banana mousse type substance. To be honest I didn't think that much of it - the wafers were pretty bland and the banana flavoured mousse filling tasted more artificial than fruity. I wouldn't go out of my way to have another ... it did look intriguingly bizarre though :D
Glico Caplico Cones:
These were sent my way by ChocolateMission reader Rachel who acquired these Glico Caplico Cones at a Japanese market in Central London. These were formed of wafer cones, with different flavoured mousse fillings which had '99 chocolate flake' bits running down the centre. Rachel was kind enough to send me three different flavours - vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Out of all of them by far my favourite was the chocolate as it was the strongest tasting. The vanilla was also pretty fair, but unfortunately the strawberry was similarly artifical tasting like the fruit flavoured Meito product above.
Fujiya Milky Chocolate:This one does get a rating because it was a pure chocolate product :D This Fujiya Milky Chocolate was another item picked up for me by Rachel in the Japanese market in London.
This product was presented fantastically and came in a mini envelope style cardboard packet that flipped open at the front. Inside a film packet contained several mini chocolate blocks which smelt strongly of sweet condensed milk. Taste wise the smell was very indicative, and the outer chocolate had a very distinct milk rooted taste that was only further reaffirmed by the white coloured milky centres. The aftertaste of each piece left a nice note of vanilla in the mouth and the melt was relatively pleasant smooth experience.
Overall I wouldn't say this was the best chocoalte in the world by any means but if you are after a sweet tasting Japanese milk chocolate that isn't far fetched from Kinder you might want to give it a try.
7.4 out of 10