Friday, 11 June 2010
My tireless investigation of Zotter's Handscooped bars range continued today with me checking out their Scotch Whisky chocolate. You may recall that it was only few weeks ago that I reviewed Zotter's Muscat Wine with Grapes bar, and it managed to score pretty well on the ChocolateMission rating system (See HERE). As I stated in that last review, I am no big drinker but even I was curious to see what Zotter could do with a bar combining 'dark chocolate filled with whisky cream'. Looking at the ingredients list, the 6% whisky content came across as plentiful to me, so I was expecting it to really be brought to life in the filling.
Aligned with the rest of the Handscooped range this came in a 70.0g bar, and I shared it with my father who just to happens to enjoy the odd drop of fine whisky. In terms of the wrapper, the bar still looked like a premium proposition, but I don't think the artwork was the best looking I have ever seen. My main issue was that colours were all very similar, thus I wouldn't say the packaging stood out particularly strongly in any manner. When it came to the actual chocolate the usual lack of branding was again noteworthy, though the distinction between the outer layer of chocolate and smooth looking truffle filling did manage to ignite my excitement to a reasonable degree.
Taking in the smells on offer this was obviously going to be a very rich tasting chocolate as the cocoa scents emanated were very forthcoming. Biting into the chocolate the visual presentation of the chocolate was nicely indicative of the textures on offer, with the outer layer breaking with a nice crispness to reveal the softer truffle layer below. Just as promised from the aromas, the 70% chocolate was indeed very flavoursome and it straightaway brought strong unsweetened cocoa flavours to the party with it's smooth flowing taste. Having read about the plentiful contents of the scotch whisky in the ingredients, I was expecting the filling to bring a strong set of malty alcohol fueled flavours to the taste, and a pleasurable warming sensation to the mouth. As is often the case what I expected, and what was reality were two very different things. Whilst there was an undeniable alcohol element detectable it never came through with any great strength, and it more lingered in the background as an odd sweet, fruity tasting undercurrent. On the whole this added flavour dimension wasn't bad tasting, but it certainly wasn't what I expected, and thus it didn't particularly satisfy my expectations - neither my Father's.
Overall this Zotter Scotch Whisky bar was really saved by one thing, and that was the undeniable high quality Zotter dark chocolate. If this was a product just to be viewed in a light of being a dark chocolate bar, the scores would be a lot more favourable because the chocolate was both rich tasting and very flavoursome. Unfortunately though this came billed as a scotch whisky flavoured chocolate, and when looked upon in this regard it has to be said that it failed to deliver on what it promised. I'm no experienced whisky drinker, but even I could tell that the flavours on offer from the Whisky Cream centre were not what you would expect. One of the other glaring errors for me with this chocolate was that it was also lacked the warming heat feeling that you get from drinking whisky. It wasn't like I wanted a throat burning sensation, but I personally see it as a key part of the whisky experience and this was sadly lacking. Having tried so many really high quality Zotter products previously I would suggest you are best off looking at another one of their offerings. I can't imagine even the fondest of whisky drinkers would enjoy this all that much.
6.5 out of 10
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
As we all know in the US they don't shy away when it comes to releasing limited edition products. Snickers, M&M's, Reese's all tend to release at least a few a year, and more often than not they usually get linked in to the latest blockbuster movie releases. If you cast your minds back to the 2008 Batman film 'The Dark Knight', you may recall that it was the Reese's Dark Bats which were the candy to get tied in to the film. If you haven't ever seen my reviews of either the Reese's Dark Bats Minis, or later on the large sized Reese's Dark Bat you can see both HERE. One thing that we don't commonly see from these limited edition movie themed candy is them become a part of the original ranges, but this is where these Reese's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups bucked the trend. Released later in 2009 these Dark Cups emerged not long after the flow through of the Dark Bats, and it was my task today to see if they were just as good.
From the outset the Dark Cups immediately chalked up a victory over the previous Bats formats as they were larger in size and weighed in at 42.0g. In regards to packaging the dark chocolate theme was communicated well by the subtle on pack sub branding, but the wrapper still maintained the usual Reese's glory with the orange colour background prominent amongst some of the bolder looking black coloured fonts. The cups themselves were typically well crafted and were kept nicely protected by the inner cardboard sleeve that accompanied them. Aesthetically the chocolate was noticeably darker in tone, though it still had little say in the aromas on offer. To be honest I wouldn't want it any other way - I don't think there is anything quite like the tempting nutty smells you get from Reese's products.
At this point there were ticks in two very important boxes - Did they still look as good as the Dark Bats? ... Yep! Did they still smell just as good as the Dark Bats? ... Yep! The only question that remained was did they taste just as good? ... and I'm glad to report that Yep - they did! Just as I reported with the Dark Chocolate Bats the chocolate on offer was far more flavoursome than the standard milk chocolate we are all used to getting from Reese's. The nature of the 'dark chocolate' was as expected very mass consumer friendly (i.e. it didn't really ramp up the volume of the cocoa to a great extent), but the unsweetened chocolatey flavours it contributed to each bite far outstripped the passive, waxy taste and texture of original Reese's milk chocolate. The relaxed sugar emphasis in the taste of the dark chocolate, nicely contrasted with the peanut butter, which delivered all the usual Reese's pleasantries. It was buttery, creamy and delightfully finished with a lick of salt and sugar. What with the chocolate contributing more to the taste, the two cups felt like an extremely satisfying amount to eat in one sitting - there was no way I was going to able to eat one and leave the other.
Overall these Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are up there amongst my all time favourite Reese's products and were every bit as good as the limited edition Dark Chocolate Bats I tasted a few years ago. In fact if you look at the scoring chart below they have even managed to notch up a few more points on the scores I gave those Batman limited editions a few years ago, as they were bigger in size and thus more satisfying when it came to fulfilling my hunger. What is slightly annoying is that we aren't likely to see these Dark Chocolate Cups appear in the UK anytime soon, which means that whenever I have an impulse desire to buy a Reese's chocolate I will have to settle for a milk chocolate product that I know is inferior. These Dark Chocolate Cups don't deliver the grandest of dark chocolate experiences, but in comparison to the quality of the pretty rubbish milk chocolate you get from Reese's normally, they are no doubt in my mind suprior. If you then factor in to the equation the deliciousness that is Reese's peanut butter you hopefully start to understand where I am coming from with my high rating. It would be great to hear some opinions from my US readership as to which they prefer.
8.9 out of 10
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
As you may have guessed from the title I have a two-for-one Thorntons review for you today, with both the Thorntons Continental Cappucino Truffles and the Thorntons Classic Coffee Creams facing the ChocolateMission rating system. If you have been reading the site for any time whatsoever you will be well aware that coffee and chocolate is one of my favourite combinations - lets see which I rated better out of the two.
Thorntons Continental Cappuccino Truffles:
Kcal 68 Fat 4.5g Carbs 6.4g (per chocolate)
'white chocolate with a coffee mousse centre finished with a sprinkle of chocolate powder'
Who remembers me reviewing the Thorntons Continental Cappuccino Bar before?? If you do ... get out more :D ... See HERE! These truffles came in a 95.0g bag that I purchased for a mere £1.69. The plastic packet packaging was nothing too spectacular, but the truffles themselves certainly looked the more appetising out of the two of view today.
It isn't often you find that a chocolate that's description doesn't do it justice, but these truffles were a little more intricate than I was first led to believe. As expected the outer white chocolate was of a good standard and had a pleasant vanilla hinted taste that made for a creamy experience from the outset. Inside the mousse filling was soft in texture and had a fine coffee hinted taste that led nicely onwards from the white chocolate exterior. What the on-pack description failed to state, and what I was talking about earlier, was the fact that each truffle had a small disc of dark chocolate that sat under the mousse filling - it is just visible in the photo above! What this did nicely was ensure a pleasant unsweetened cocoa flavour hit to the latter stages of the melt of each truffle. It perhaps did overshadow the coffee flavours a little, but it was a nice touch to finish off each piece.
8.1 out of 10
Thorntons Classic Coffee Creams:
Kcal 61 Fat 2.9g Carbs 8.3g (per chocolate)
'Milk chocolates with white chocolate decoration and a creamy coffee centre'
If someone had presented me with both these packets of chocolates without telling me the price, I don't think I would have been alone in thinking that the above Continental truffles would have been the more expensive. Well I would have been wrong!! Seemingly we all have to pay a little extra for the 'Classics' as these Coffee Creams set me back £2.49 for a 109.0g bag.
My experience of Coffee Cream chocolates in the past have been limited to the coffee chocolates we used to get in Cadbury Roses tins, though now even they have been cruelly taken away from all us coffee lovers. If I had to describe the taste I would say that these were a lot less complicated in terms of flavours than the Continental Cappuccino truffles, and were certainly less progressive. Despite being made with 'real double cream' (as the packaging cared to tell me), the taste was a whole sweeter and more sugar routed than the creamier Continental chocolates. The outer milk chocolate was nice tasting with it's sweet cocoa taste, and it let nicely into a drier, whipped fondant like centre. The filling was very sugary, but the coffee note was detectable and made for a decent enough experience.
7.0 out of 10
Monday, 7 June 2010
Sunday, 6 June 2010
I guess one of the reasons I was never drawn to the Blue Riband brand as youngster was because of the packaging. If you look below at the photos of both the variants you will see that both have pretty generic looking wrappers, and it can't really be said that either stand out in the visual stakes. Don't get me wrong I don't think there is anything wrong with either variety aesthetically, but lets face it they hardly inspire any great excitement.
Nestle Blue Riband Milk
Kcal 99 Fat 4.9g Fat(sats) 3.1g Carbs 12.9g (per bar)
'Crisp wafer biscuits covered in real milk chocolate'
This was the first of the two I tried, and I ate it like I did the dark with an afternoon cup of coffee. When handled the chocolate was noticeably quicker to melt my fingers and not surprisingly this was the case when it was in the mouth. In terms of taste both the chocolate and wafer offered exactly the experience I was expecting. The milk chocolate was thin in nature, but quickly established a sound typical Nestle, sugary, milky cocoa taste. Below, the wafer was crisp in texture and mild in terms of it's wheaty, brown sugar flavours. The layers of creme between the wafer didn't offer much in relation to the taste, however they provided a much needed moistness to the dry wafer constituents. The 99 calorie bar was reasonably satisfying for what it was.
7.0 out of 10
Nestle Blue Riband Dark
Kcal 99 Fat 5.2g Fat(sats) 2.9g Carbs 11.8g (per bar)
'Crisp wafer biscuits covered in dark chocolate'
To honest I could pretty much cut and paste a lot of what I wrote above to cover off the majority of what this bar offered. Focusing more on that actual differences, like I aforementioned the dark chocolate was slower paced in melt, which I personally preferred as it added a touch of longevity to the flavours in the mouth. The flavours themselves were again pretty much like I expected them to be for a mass produced 'dark chocolate' offering. The chocolate wasn't particularly ramped up in terms of it's cocoa emphasis, but it was noticeably less sweet. The lesser emphasis placed on the sugar from the chocolate was actually beneficial to wafer and inner creme constituents, as it allowed them to have more of an impact on the taste as they came through more strongly. On balance I felt the dark chocolate came across as cleaner and fresher, and just offered something a little different to the more generic tasting milk variant.
Overall the feeling I got from the people that requested I review these bars was that the new dark variant was superior to the original - having now tasted both I would sign up to this consensus. As you will have gathered from my thoughts above the mains reasons I preferred the dark chocolate variant was because the wafer and dark chocolate complimented each other a little bit more, and the unsweetened chocolate flavours seemed to have better longevity than the milk chocolate did. To be totally straight with you, neither of these bars are going to be lighting up anyone's world, but for the price you pay they are pretty good for what they actually are. If you offered me either one of these or a Kit Kat, I would still pick the latter based on the fact the Kit Kat is visually more appealing, more exciting and plays the chocolate to wafer ratio a little better. If you do love your Blue Riband bars though and you haven't tried the dark chocolate variety yet, you should check it out - I would love to hear what you all think!
Saturday, 5 June 2010
Kcal 531 Fat 28.2g Fat(sats) 12.1g Carbs 60.3g (per 100.0g)
Looking back through all of my previous Whittaker's reviews, the brand has to be seen as one of the unsung heroes on ChocolateMission. Whittaker's products have averaged around 9.0 out of 10 on the scoring system, so it wont surprise you to hear that I requested more of their bars when Lesley at ShopenZed asked me what products I wanted sending from New Zealand. Fulfilling my request, Lesley sent me along this Whittaker's Macadamia Block, which I opened with great excitement given the 'macadamia nuts in creamy milk chocolate' billing. For those of you wanting to 'swot-up' on your knowledge of the Whittaker's brand, I suggest you head HERE.
Whittaker's make their chocolates in several sizes, from their smaller 40.0g blocks, to the larger 250.0g bars that Lesley so kindly provided me with today. In terms of the presentation of the wrapper I can't really say anything more than I have said on previous reviews, as it once again impressed with me with it's classical design and nice, clear branding. One thing that was slightly disappointing with this chocolate however, was the unrealistic on pack pictures, which gave the impression that the inner macadamias were going to be a whole lot bigger than they actually were. This was of course first noticeable when taking the chocolate out of the inner foil wrapper, and even my father who was assisting me with the photography exclaimed 'that wasn't quite what I was expecting'.
Given the wealth of success I had experienced with Whittaker's previously I didn't let this perturb to me to any great extent, and thankfully the nutty hints detectable in the chocolatey aromas did somewhat raise my expectations again. Once I had broken the chocolate in to smaller blocks, it was noticeable that in some pieces the macadamia nuts were larger in size, though in general the nuts were mostly quite small and finely chopped. In regards to block size, each piece was just about right to eat in a single mouthful, and a sideways strip of five made for a decent sized serving which was quite handy. The milk chocolate was was of the same recipe used in my previous review of the Whittaker's Peanut Block, and it once again proved to be very fine in taste. It was majoritly dominated by sweet, double cream like dairy flavours, though there was a pleasant undercurrent of cocoa that grew in stature as the tick, soft melt progressed. My own preferred method of eating this, was to let the chocolate first melt away before then crunching down on the macadamia remnants. More often that not the leftover macadamia bits were substantial enough to generate the desired buttery savoury nut flavours, however at times the smallness at which they were chopped hampered their ability to do so. Generally this did seem like quite a rich and satisfying chocolate, but at times it did let itself down by the randomness at which the nut pieces were sized and dispersed.
Overall this was a very hard product to rate as at times it was a totally delicious, but at others it was more disappointing and not completely satisfactory. Again if I refer back to my Whittaker's Peanut Block review I remember that peanuts took up a very large constituency in the ingredients at 25%. Looking at the macadamia content of this bar it was only 13% would probably explain why the macadamias at times failed create the desired impact on the taste. Luckily for Whittaker's they had a very good milk chocolate at heart of this product, so it was hardly lacking in taste department even when the nuts failed to cut through. Thinking about it now, this chocolate was always going to have a hard time living up to the Hotel Chocolat Macadamias that I covered a few weeks back, so it is worth bearing in mind that this bar came up against a pretty hard comparator. This was a chocolate of a better than reasonable quality, but in my mind Whittaker's do some better ones so I would suggest you try some of them out first.
7.4 out of 10
Friday, 4 June 2010
Kcal 559 Fat 36.0g Carbs 52.0g (per 100.0g)
This new milk chocolate bar was sent to me in the standard 100.0g size from my contacts at Ritter in Germany and I ate it across a few sittings over the last week. On the face of things the wrapper wasn't that different to previous Ritter milk chocolate variants, with the only obvious differences being the minor changes in the blue colouring and picture placement. On closer inspection, there was some additional communication around the reformulation of the chocolate, which I will go in to in more detail later. Opening the wrapper up, the chocolate inside cut a very clean cut look, and it must be said the surface looked sharper and more shiny compared to other Ritter bars I have tried previously. In relation to aromas, the dairy scents on offer weren't anything I would say were a step change from the norm, though they did a pleasant job nonetheless of setting the mood.
I really hope Google translate is going to do me justice here, but from what I can tell the new 35% cocoa recipe combines Ritter's traditionally sourced West African cocoa with a new type of cocoa hailing from Ecuador. I'm no cocoa buff, but from the on-pack blurb and Ritter's website this was supposed to be really high quality produce, so it was always going to be interesting if this translated through to the taste. As soon as I placed the first piece in my mouth there some immediate noticeable differences from the standard milk chocolate experience that Ritter Sport deliver. The most apparent difference was the quality and pacing of the melt, which was a touch slower and thicker in viscosity, which resultingly helped the development of the flavours in the mouth. In terms of the taste the strength of both the cocoa and cream flavours seemed dialled up and most importantly increased in volume as the melt progressed. In terms of sweetness, compared to what I was used to from Ritter Sport there was less of a generic sugar emphasis, with more room given for the development of both the cocoa and cream elements. What I especially liked about this chocolate was that at the real latter stages of the melt development, the taste ended with a strong note of natural tasting vanilla, which importantly gave the chocolate a very distinctive finish.
Overall I know I say this a lot, but this really was a product that pleasantly surprised me as to how good it was. You will have seen across my many Ritter Sport reviews in the past that I have always labelled their milk chocolate as being generic tasting, and good at doing a no frills standard job. This chocolate here is evidence that the brand is really moving away from this, and are really moving in the right direction in regards to taking their milk chocolate to a new level. The better quality delivery of both flavours and textures of this new recipe, far superseeded any milk chocolate offering I have tried from them before, and I can only hope that they take this chocolate and apply it across the rest of the milk chocolate bars in their range. Being a guy that has tried hundreds (yes hundreds!) of different milk chocolates, what I always look for are ones that stand out and are distinctive in taste. Cadbury, Milka, Galaxy, Hershey, Hotel Chocolat, Zotter etc all meet that criteria (with varying success admittedly!) whereas Ritter isn't a brand I would previously have included in that category. This new recipe has opened that door for Ritter, and they deserve credit for not just settling at being average in class.
8.5 out of 10
Thursday, 3 June 2010
Rounding off my summer sesaon of Hotel Chocolat reviews this year, I bring you my thoughts and photos of their 'The H-Box Just Desserts' selection. Hotel Chocolat describe this box of chocolates as a 'heavenly collection of classic summer desserts - perfect for a touch of summer hedonism' .... riiiight!
This selection box comprised of 8 different varieties, which you can see in my top-down photograph above. What you will also notice is that some of the pieces were portioned three times, whilst others only once - it didn't make much sense to me either!? That aside the packaging and presentation was first class as ever. The outer box was bright and vibrant, which was in keeping with the summer theme, whilst the inner menu was accurate and described each of the chocolate accurately.
The chocolate pieces on the whole looked very well crafted - I hope my cross-sections do them justice. On that note lets get down to business ... same scale as usual from Terrible to Superb.
Eton Mess - Need I say anything more about this chocolate than what I have done already HERE? No probably not. Yet again it was a deliciously creamy, fruity chocolate that was bursting with genuine red berry flavours. It is probably Hotel Chocolat's finest individual chocolate that they make - for that reason I can excuse it for being the piece portioned three times. Superb.
Key Lime Pie - The lime fruit delivery wasn't quite as strong as some of the other fruit influences in the other chocolates, however it was still very flavoursome and the the combination of the crunchy base and creamy ganache topping was delightful texture wise. If the citrus flavours were dialled up a bit more this could be a really special chocolate. Good.
Summer Pudding - This piece looked beautiful when bitten in to, and it was very nice to see all the different wildberry bits amongst the inner cream filling. With the outer white chocolate being as thick as it was, the main stay of the taste was cream based, but as the filling melted on the tongue there were strong red fruit influences in the form of some very refreshing raspberry, strawberry and blueberry notes. Very Good.
Mango & Peach Cheesecake - If the Eton Mess chocolate is the best individual chocolate Hotel Chocolat do, then this piece seriously isn't far off. This was an absolutely delicious chocolate, which dealt out lashings of peach and cream flavours as soon as it was bit in to. The crunchy caramel base provided a delightful sweetness with its delicate crisp crunchiness, whilst the dried mango on top provided a fitting sweet fruity finish ... very, very good ... Superb even :D
Banana Creme Caramel - I have reviewed this piece in previous reviews, and my thoughts were very similar in regards to it's plus points and it's limitations. The milk chocolate and inner sticky toffee were nothing less than first class. The sticky toffee filling was especially delicious with its buttery, burnt sugar flavours. Unfortunately the strength of the banana influence still wasn't as strong as I desired it to be, which just stops it being in the same league as the likes of the Eton Mess. Very Good.
Orange Torte - This piece comprised of a classic combination, with orange hinted praline coated with a dark chocolate shell. As I was expecting the dark chocolate was fuller flavoured and richer than some of the white chocolates, and set the tone nicely for the sweeter innards which was similarly full of flavour. The praline filling was lacking in nutty flavours, however the grittier texture meant the orange flavours had greater longevity in the mouth, which made for a very refreshing finish. Very Good.
8.1 out of 10
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
If we are talking about newly discovered brands making an impression on ChocolateMission this year, Galler (See website HERE) have to be considered as standing out from the crowd when it comes to the higher end of the chocolate market. Previous reviews of chocolates like their Piemontais bar have proven that sometimes quality really is worth paying that little bit extra for, so you can imagine my excitement when they my contact at Galler informed me that she was sending me a Ballotin of Pralines.
Of course the first thing I did when I read that was Google the word 'Ballontin', at which point I learnt that it meant 'traditional packaging for fresh chocolate assortments. The concept and the name are Belgian in origin'. When my special delivery arrived the name sure lived up to it's Ballontin description, and the outer box was beautifully decorated with bows and classy looking branded material.
Upon opening the box and discarding of the copious amounts of inner padding, a delightful array of fresh cocoa and nut scents emerged. Inside a wonderful assortment of thirteen different chocolates were included - all of which were easily identifiable by a very neat looking inner menu. Below are some brief thoughts on each of the chocolates, ratings are given from Terrible to Superb, working from left to right in the pictures.
Mazagran (Dark Chocolate Heart) - This chocolate combined an outer shell of dark chocolate with a disappointingly weak flavoured coffee caramel centre. The piece was hardly lacking flavour due to the richness of the cocoa heavy chocolate, but the filling was disappointingly lacking depth in terms of it's coffee delivery. Standard.
Palet Blanc (White Chocolate Square) - This was one of the finest tasting white chocolates I have ever had in my life. The outer white chocolate shell was delightfully cream based in taste and left a strong note of vanilla on the tongue when melting. The inner milk chocolate ganache was similarly creamy and soft melting. Superb.
Gianduja (Gold Foil Wrapped) - This was the only piece in the collection that came in a wrapper and the reason why became evident as soon as it entered the mouth. The chocolate melted with the softest of melts very rapidly, and released a sudden burst of buttery almond flavours which were a nice change up from the traditional hazelnut Gianduja experience. Very Good.
Nappe (Milk Chocolate Rectangle) - This piece combined a milk chocolate exterior with a caramel flavoured ganache. The outer milk chocolate created a high level of cream based cocoa flavours in the mouth, though the caramel element didn't come through quite as powerfully in the quick melting ganache as I would have hoped. Good.
Chiba (Dark Chocolate Diamond) - This was a very fine tasting dark chocolate almond praline. The outer dark chocolate created great impact with it's unsweetened cocoa taste, though it didn't upset the delivery of the inner buttery nut flavours of the slightly rough inner praline. One of my favourites from this selection. Superb.
Oasienne (Milk Chocolate Cube) - Again this was another scintillating chocolate that combined a milk chocolate exterior with an orange flavoured almond praline centre. The milk chocolate was swift in it's creamy flavour delivery, but led nicely into the stronger tasting almond nut centre. The orange element didn't come through until the very last few seconds of the melt, but it created a lovely fruity impression. Very Good.
Secret (Milk Chocolate Heart) - This piece looked like it was going to be an innocently soft flavoured ganache due to it's shape, but inside the milk chocolate shell there was a rough layer of delicious hazelnut praline. The hazelnut filling stayed with me a long time after the melt - nothing short of divine. Superb.
Extreme (Dark Chocolate Square) - This was the richest tasting chocolate in the selection which was surprising given that it's rapid melt didn't last all that long. Combining an outer shell of 70% dark chocolate with an inner dark chocolate ganache the unsweetened roasted cocoa flavour delivery was sharp, yet long lasting. Very Good.
The Noir (Dark Chocolate Rectanlge) - This was the first chocolate I picked out from the box, and it admittedly wasn't one of my favourites. This piece constituted of an outer layer of tasty dark chocolate with a very floral noted Earl Grey tea ganache. The herby nature of the filling just didn't work with the dark chocolate for me. Poor.
Balazane (White Chocolate Rectangle) - I really wish they had put more white chocolates in this box because this was another delicious chocolate. The exterior white chocolate layer created a delicious cream flavour base and it's soft melt wonderfully revealed a finely grounded almond praline centre. The textures were really something to savour. Very Good.
Cote D'Ivoire (Dark Chocolate Cube Front) - This was yet another stand out piece which constituted of a hazelnut praline centre, coated with a layer of dark chocolate made from Ivory Coast beans. In relation to the other dark chocolate pieces the cocoa had a noticeable fruity hint amongst it's flavour generation. The hazelnut praline centre was wonderfully forthcoming bringing woody nut influence to the taste. Superb.
Carre (Milk Chocolate Cube Back) - This was a very dark looking milk chocolate that held a praline flavoured ganache at it's centre. In comparison to the pure praline pieces in the selection, the nut flavours were very short lasting in longevity and didn't cut through the creaminess of the outer chocolate as well. Standard.
Amazone (Milk Chocolate Diamond) - This was a very well crafted piece that had a dual layer of praline at it's centre. The creamy chocolate flavours provided a pleasant starting point for the taste, though it soon became all about the praline. The nut flavours had great cut through, whilst the distinction between the two layers with one being soft and the other slightly rougher, was a great playful touch. Very Good.
Overall this was a delicious collection of chocolates with some really stand out pieces. Getting the only minor negatives out the way first, you will see from my ratings above I wasn't all that enamoured by some of the flavoured ganache pieces because of their short flavour longevity, and the Earl Grey tea chocolate just wasn't to my taste. Putting those to one side, the rest of the chocolates were very fine indeed, and I would go as far saying that some were amongst the best chocolates I have ever tasted. Picking my favourites amongst each chocolate type - for the white chocolate I would say the Palet Blanc, milk chocolate I would go for the Secret and finally the dark chocolate I would pick the Chiba. If you know someone that is mad about pralines I would strongly suggest this as a great gift if you are willing to part with a pretty reasonable sounding £8.50. By my reckoning both the taste and the presentation more than account for the expense.
8.4 out of 10
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
It seems like years ago that I read this press release statement in The Grocer magazine (See HERE) announcing the arrival of these McVitie's Jaffa Cakes Lemon Cake Bars, but I finally managed to track them down after months of looking. Whilst I am not a big lover of the whole cake bar format, I am partial to the odd Jaffa (aren't we all!), and they are one of the more common products that make an appearance in our office tea area. Usually I don't like seeing manufacturers trying to fix something that isn't broken, but I thought it was going to be interesting to see how these lemon jam centres measured up to the iconic orange flavoured ones.
After a much prolonged period of searching, I finally found these in my local Tesco at an introductory price of £1 for 5 individually wrapped bars. In terms of packaging and presentation everything largely remained consistent from the original Jaffa Cake Bars, though there was of course the inevitable changing of the branding and lemon fruit pictures placed on the front both the inner and outer wrappers. In similar fashion the actual cake bars looked no different in size or composition to the originals, though on closer inspection the lemon jelly layer was noticeably more yellow tinted in colour.
Amongst all these minor differences, the first thing that really stood out to me about these cakes were extra citrusy smells that were released once the wrappers were undone. The lemon scents really set expectations of the taste nicely - I always like it when things taste as they smell, its always reassuring. In my review of the original Jaffa Cake bars you will read about my discontent at the chocolate to cake ratio i.e. the chocolate being too thin, leading to the cake being over dominant in the taste. This very issue was of course still present with these due to them fundamentally being the same product at the base of things, however there was better news in regards to the lemon filling. In comparison to the orange originals I thought the lemon cut through the over portioned cake element better, and the zesty, citric flavours created a greater and longer lasting impression on the taste in comparison. As the bars were the same size I didn't find them any more satisfying - as an afternoon snack they still did a more than competent job.
Overall I wouldn't ever advise the original orange Jaffa Cake filling be replaced by a lemon based alternative, but in regards to these cake bars the lemon flavour actually worked better. What with the proportions of the format (man this is sounding geekier than it needs to be!!) being more heavily weighted on the cake side of things, the filling benefited from being edgier in terms of taste, and the lemon flavours had a greater impact on the overall experience. Conversely, if this lemon filling was to be placed in the normal sized Jaffas I'm not sure it would work as well, as the acidity of lemon might just be a bit too much for the normal Jaffa size. As far these Cake Bars go though the lemon filling is spot on, and I think it is a real shame that these will only be around for a limited time. If you are after a second opinion I suggest you take a look at the Foodstufffinds review (See HERE), they similarly thought these were a nice addition to the Jaffa Cake range. You Jaffa nutters should give these a try!
7.7 out of 10
Monday, 31 May 2010
Not only is it the last day of the month, but it is also the last of my reviews from Hotel Chocolat's Summer Peepster Selection. Having covered off the Tutti Fruitti last year (See HERE), and Cookie Creme and Eton Mess slabs over the last few weeks, the last remaining slab left to try was this Banoffee one. Having heard good things from other review sites and my readers (namely Lottie and Richard) I was really looking forward to seeing how this 'milk and caramel chocolate, with crushed cookies and banana slices' would fair on the rating system. What with my mother being a bit of a chocolate banana connoisseur there was no way I was going to be able to sneak a review up on the site without her noticing - watch out for here candid opinions.
Quelle surprise this slab also came in 100.0g form and it lasted around a day in our household with us all snapping bits off to eat every now and then. In fitting with the rest of the varieties from this summer selection box, the slab looked very appetising and the dried banana pieces were a nice decorative touch to the already grand looking two tone chocolate swirl pattern. Something that is probably worth mentioning about these 100.0g slabs is the difficulty that I had breaking them apart. As I have written about previously, its not often that I can fault Hotel Chocolat slabs aesthetically, but they can sometimes prove a little hard to break up into smaller bits. This minor observation was immediately put to to one side up as I broke the plastic packet seal. Upon doing so a plethora of sweet smelling fruit and toffee scents invaded my senses - this had all the hallmarks of a great chocolate.
Reading the spiel on the wrapper it was comforting to know that a good proportion of this slab constituted of Hotel Chocolat's 40% milk chocolate recipe, and it proved to be just as good as ever but with an additional banana twist. Indeed, the chocolate maintained all of it's standard cream based cocoa flavours, but had a lovely note of very real tasting banana which came through strongly in latter stages of the thick melt. Although my mother was especially loving the banana chocolate, I personally thought that the bites where both the caramel chocolate and the banana flavoured milk chocolate were swirled together were the best. In these mouthfuls the buttery, salted toffee influences of the caramel further enhanced the depth of the flavours making the resulting taste even more varied and enjoyable. The cookie pieces that lined the bottom of the slab failed to create much of an impact on the taste, however the same can't be said of the banana chips which further went to reinforce the banana flavours. Although in the context of the taste the cookie bits didn't add much, they did at least bring a a decent crunchyness texture wise, which contrasted nicely from the soft melting chocolate.
Overall this was another very well executed flavour combination from Hotel Chocolat and it certainly met all my expectations. It would have been easy to have forgotten about the caramel element to Banoffee Pie and just focused on the banana flavours, but it was great to see Hotel Chocolat recognise the importance of both and combine them to such great effect. Being the big banana chocolate fan that is she is, I knew that this chocolate was going to be good when my Mother did the honours eating the first bit and then exclaiming it was 'the best ever'. Personally I don't think this is the best chocolate I have ever tasted, but believe me when I say that is very good indeed. If you have little interest in bananas then I don't think this will be your sort of chocolate, but on the other hand if you have just the smallest urge to try this chocolate I very much recommend you do so. This is definitely one for you banana lovers and has proved to be a fitting end to my reviews from this delicious Summer Peepster Selection.
8.7 out of 10
Sunday, 30 May 2010
Following on from my Oreo Brownie review last week, I have great pleasure in bringing you another American product review courtesy of my pals at Yankee Soda & Candy. One of the first ever American products I reviewed on this site was Mars' 3 Musketeers bar, which I wrote about way back in Fenruary 2008. To this day it still remains at number three on the ChocolateMission leaderboard, and is a bar that I sometimes go out of my way to import in to the UK from time-to-time. This long winded introduction leads me nicely on to the focus of todays review - the 3 Musketeers Truffle Crisp. Available in the US and Canada, this bar is positioned as a lighter option to the nougat heavy original, and comes described as 'whipped-up chocolate truffle on a crisp layer enrobed in milk chocolate'.
This bar came in a 31.2g size that was split in to two separate fingers. On the packaging the bar brought attention to that fact that it contained only 85 calories per finger, but made little reference to it containing 6.0g of saturated fat within it's light-weight constituents. I'm not complaining that this was overly high, however I was surprised to see that it was more than the original 3 Musketeers given that it gives the impression it is a lighter alternative. Boring nutritional details aside, I was still very impressed by the quality of the packaging, and I liked the standout of the silver foil and non-cluttered nature of the branding and on-pack visuals. Inside the finger pieces were similarly impressive, with the bottom crisp and upper truffle layers very pronounced in their distinction.
Having been kept in a nice foil packet the malty chocolate smells that emerged were pleasantly forthcoming and reminded me of hot cocoa powder. Snapping one of the fingers in half I was a little surprised at the consistency of the lower crisp layer, which appeared to break apart like a cross breed between a wafer and rice cereal base. When bit into the base broke with a satisfying crunch, whilst the upper truffle layer conversely yielded far more easily providing a nice bit of variance texture wise. In regards to the taste test the outer milk chocolate did the fair standard job I was expecting it to, with the taste heavily rooted in sweet condensed milk like flavours. Out of the truffle and base crisp layers the truffle element was the first to contribute flavour wise, and it added a further raft of cream and minor vanilla fudge like hints to the taste. The lower crisp layer provided a fitting end to each bite, and brought strong notes of malt and honeycomb, which went nicely with the creamier chocolate and truffle components. For such a light weight bar the satisfaction it delivered was brilliant, and it was a fantastic size and amount for an afternoon snack.
Overall my love affair with the 3 Musketeers brand continues to roll on - this was a product that I savoured from beginning to end. What I really appreciated about this bar, was that despite it being an altogether different proposition to the standard 3 Musketeers bar, it still managed to remain some of the originals qualities. Just like the normal 3 Musketeers offering, the variance in textures from outer milk chocolate, inner filling and crisp base were nicely differentiated, whilst the taste still played off the decent combination of cream based chocolate and malt. Here in the UK I think this bar would be tremendously successful, and would appeal to Malteser and MaltEaster lovers especially. Looking across other review sites it appears I'm not the only blogger to rate this bar - take a look at GiGi's review HERE and Jess's review from Foodette Reviews HERE. I really wish that Mars UK would get off their backsides and treat us to the 3 Musketeers bar here in the UK - I'm sure it would go down a storm.
8.7 out of 10
Saturday, 29 May 2010
As I told you guys all last Saturday, the reviews are really starting to mount up in terms of my backlog, so this week you are getting another bonus Saturday review. Over the past month or so packages have been flying in from all corners of the globe: from the US, Canada, Germany and most recently from New Zealand. It has been a while since I last reviewed something sent to me by friends from ShopenZed (a Southern Hemisphere sourcing food exporter - Website HERE), but since last year a number of new products have appeared on their market. The main contributor to all this new product development is Cadbury, and today I bring you the first of many upcoming reviews - the Cadbury Old Gold Toffee Crunch.
This bar came in a 200.0g format and came described as 'Old Gold Dark chocolate with toffee crunch pieces'. Given the large size of the bar, I shared it along with some work colleagues who were very excited to try an exotic Cadbury chocolate they had never seen before. I think one of the main drivers of the excitement was the outer cardboard box, which got many complimentary mentions for it's very premium look. The gold colours and sophisticated looking fonts struck a note with a number of my colleagues, and brought about comments like 'this looks very posh for a Cadburys product' etc. Maintaining the high quality from the exterior packaging, the inner chocolate was similarly pleasant on the eye, with the toffee pieces visually dispersed well throughout the very dark looking chocolate.
Up until breaking the chocolate in to pieces I can't say that I detected any forthcoming aromas, though upon doing so an enticing array of chocolate and sweet caramel scents overcame my senses. In terms of foretelling the taste these smells did a pretty decent job, and thankfully I can say that the Australian Old Gold dark chocolate was superior to our UK Cadbury Bournville. Long time ChocolateMission readers will be aware that I am no fan of Bournville chocolate, as I think it is bland in taste and has a poor lazy melt. in comparison I found the Old Gold to be more forthcoming with it's cocoa flavours, and I thought it had more depth with a pleasant coffee like note in it's aftertaste. Just as many mass produced dark chocolates are, this was more of a mass consumer friendly unsweetened chocolate as opposed to a full bodied dark chocolate experience. What with this being the case, I have to say it wasn't the finest of dark chocolates I have ever tasted, but it nicely complimented the toffee crunch element. Speaking of the toffee pieces, I waited until the chocolate had melted away before crunching down on them once they were left on my tongue. As soon as they were chewed on, a plethora of sweet caramel flavours were detectable, and they contrasted very nicely with the more bitter notes left by the melted chocolate. On the whole this was a richer flavour experience than your average milk chocolate, and I would say a decent sized serving (30-40g) was a more than satisfying amount.
Overall I wouldn't like to give the impression that this Old Gold is high quality dark chocolate (it isn't!), but compared to some other mass produced dark chocolates it certainly puts up a good case as being one of the better I have tried. If I was to eat this Old Gold chocolate in isolation from any flavour enhancing ingredient, I'm not sure I would have been quite so complimentary, but paired with this Toffee Crunch element it was certainly a good combination. The contrast of the unsweetened chocolate and the very sweet tasting toffee pieces worked very well, and the balance it created was probably far superior to what would have been had the toffee been paired with a sweeter chocolate like Dairy Milk. As I said in my opening paragraph this is only one of the many new Cadbury products to hit the market in Australia and New Zealand, and thanks to Shopenzed you will see many of them appearing here on the site in the near future. This Cadbury Old Gold Toffee Crunch was a great start - I hope the rest are just as good.
8.3 out of 10
Friday, 28 May 2010
Hiding amongst all the seasonal summer chocolates sent to me in my last sampling package, Hotel Chocolat were also kind enough to include a pack of these Chocolate Macadamias. If you have read any of my reviews of macadamia chocolates before, you will have seen that I more often than not end my write ups by pondering the question 'why don't manufactures use macadamias more often?'. I wouldn't in any way want to infer that I had anything to do with the creation of this product, but Hotel Chocolat seem to have answered my call with these 'whole roasted macadamia nuts panned in milk chocolate'. For those unaware the 'panned' bit refers to a process where the nuts are rolled around in large heated copper pans to apply the chocolate coating.
These nuts came in a 125.0g packet that I ate intermittently over the course of a week. As you will see from the photograph above the outer packaging was straight out the book of the rest of Hotel Chocolat 'little bits' range - think the Gemstones and Puddles products etc. Like I have said in the past, the combination of the sticker and the transparent packaging isn't the classiest thing ever, however the chocolates tend to do the talking for themselves. Indeed, both the size of the nuts and the gorgeous nutty smells that were offered were more than impressive enough to detract attention - I hope my photo above has done enough to give you some sort of idea how giant the nuts were.
Before I started this rather extensive mission to find the best chocolate bar in the world I wasn't the biggest fans of nuts, but as time has passed I have really grown to appreciate the better quality offerings that some brands have to offer. Despite what some sceptics may think - nuts aren't just nuts, they can really vary in quality depending largely on their age and freshness. If Hotel Chocolat were aiming to deliver fresh, flavoursome macadamias like I think they most probably were, then they were really on the money here. Like I foretold above the nuts were huge in size, so they needed biting in to as they weren't edible in a single mouthful. Upon doing so the outer chocolate shell broke with a lovely fresh cracking, and the combination of the outer cocoa powder and creamy tasting 40% milk chocolate did a fine job of quickly establishing a rich, sweet cocoa flavour hit. The nuts that sat below similarly yielded with a clean breaking snap sound, which along with the flavoursome salted butter flavours were a strong indicator that these nuts were as fresh as they come. Personally I found they were most enjoyable eating a few at a time alongside a coffee, and were perfect as just a little chocolate treat.
Overall I don't think it was ever really in any doubt, but having tasted these I can 100% assure you that macadamia and chocolate combinations don't get much better than this. As soon as I read that these nuts were coated in the Hotel Chocolat's 40% milk chocolate I knew there was never going to any doubt whether the chocolate was high quality - I think the hundred or so other Hotel Chocolat milk chocolates reviews were assurance enough. Indeed, the real determinant of this product was always going to be the nuts and as you can tell from my previous paragraph they were very classy. Just as I wished they were packed full of delicious savoury butter flavours and they cracked in the mouth with infinite ease. If you are nuts about macadamias (groan!!!), then I can't suggest these enough to you. These are chocolate macadamias at their finest.
8.8 out of 10
Thursday, 27 May 2010
If you look to the photo above you will see that one year on, the line-up for 2010 isn't much different, apart from the substitution of the Raspberry variety for a new Stracciatella variant. Below are photographs (courtesy of my father - great work old man!!) of the updated 2010 wrappers for both the Passionfruit and Wildberry variants. These aesthetic touch-ups aside, I can confirm that they didn't change from last year, and were still every bit as tasty - check out the links below the photographs for the reviews.
Ritter Sport Stracciatella
After some of the shortcomings that I experienced with some of the 2010 spring limited editions I was hoping Ritter Sport weren't going to let us down with this flavour, as Lindt had previously proven how tasty Stracciatella could be when done right. From the very first piece it became evident that this chocolate was pretty much everything I had hoped for from the Spring Vanilla Bourbon flavour, and was perhaps just a little bit better. The milk chocolate as always did a sterling job of carrying the inner filling, and provided the standard no frills chocolate flavour hit for each block. The nature of the chocolate allowed plenty of room for the expression of flavours from the milk cream centre, which melted with a slightly softer texture than the outer chocolate. The flavours were predominantly sweet and creamy, almost like condensed milk and finished with a delicious real tasting vanilla note. The difference between the quality of the vanilla influence from this bar and the Vanilla Bourbon spring bar was night and day - the vanilla in this Stracciatella chocolate tasted far more genuine and fresh. Whilst the vanilla flavours were the ones left lingering in the mouth at the latter stages of the melt, the small remnants of crunchy cocoa pieces further compounded the chocolatey flavours established by the outer coating. On reflection this wasn't the richest chocolate I have ever tasted due to the quickness at which it melted, but it was as satisfying as your average chocolate bar when eaten in a 50.0g portion.
Overall Ritter deserve a pat on the back for not only making a very fine Stracciatela chocolate, but also making a good decision when it came to their range. Considering I scored the Raspberry bar the lowest out of the three summer offerings last year, it was great to see Ritter chose that flavour as the one to make way for the new variant for 2010. I guess that shows that the average consumer must have also thought it was the weakest ... aren't I just brilliant :D Somewhat more importantly I guess, having picked the right one to replace, it was also going to be of up most importance that the new bar coming in was going to have to be even better. Those at Ritter Sport HQ can now take another bow, as this Stracciatella chocolate was one of the better bars I have had from them for a while. Just as the wrapper suggested, the filling delivered a chocolate chip, vanilla ice cream experience that was far superior to the disappointing Vanilla Bourbon of the season before. This summer 2010 range is one very much worth looking at and there is no better place to start than with this Stracciatella bar.