Saturday, July 28, 2012

Newman's Own Organics Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

1.2oz in three peanut butter cups
Ingredients: Organic sugar, o. chocolate liquor, o. cocoa butter, o, soy lecithin, o. vanilla, o. peanut butter, o. whole milk powder, o. palm kernel oil, palm kernel oil, peanut flour, salt
12g sugar/34g package (35.3% by wt.)

Corporate Info: Newman's Own was famously founded by beloved (seriously—can you find anyone who would disagree?) actor Paul Newman in 1982, and his daughter Nell founded Newman's Own Organics in 1993. They are truly separate companies, as while Newman's Own Organics started as a division of the parent company, it split off in 2001; even the websites are entirely different. The older company makes the salad dressing, microwave popcorn, and other products (some of which are organic), while the younger produces all the chocolate as well as other sweets, snacks, and assorted items. Newman's Own is well known for its philanthropic intent and follow through, while Newman's Own Organics seems to make organic sourcing its sole priority. So you shouldn't think your chocolate purchases are helping with Paul Newman's charitable causes, but you can still feel good about the whole thing.

Today's Confection: Newman's Own Organics produces five kinds of chocolate cups: Dark chocolate filled with caramel, peanut butter, or peppermint, and milk chocolate filled with caramel or peanut butter. Most ingredients are organic, the cacao is Rainforest Alliance Certified, and the cost they pay for the cacao is “tied to the Fair Trade market price of organic cocoa beans.” I found this package on sale for I think less than $1.50, not a major luxury price. I should also mention that the ingredients' milk powder and other elements were part of “organic yogurt coating,” which I suspect was combined with the chocolate rather than being a separate piece of the cup or mixed with the peanut butter, but I'm really not sure.

Appearance: Flattish, steep-walled cups in a milky, friendly-looking brown.

Smell: Like chocolate and peanut butter. The chocolate smells like real chocolate, a little beany and raw but not too much, and the peanut is subtle but present.

Taste: The chocolate is smooth, creamy, and rich, holding its own but not the deep, intense type of dark. The peanut butter is soft and flowy but not liquidy, so you'll get some on your lips but not drip it on the floor. It's mostly smooth but like natural peanut butter, which is to say mouth-fillingly oily rather than the greasy, thick consistency of common store brands containing hydrogenated oils. (I'm not saying those peanut butters don't have a sort of appeal, but you can't deny that they share a texture with Crisco.) What I really like is the balance between chocolate and peanut butter, both because of the quantities and because the chocolate is mild enough not to overwhelm the peanut butter, one solution to the problem I had with Justin's similar product. The flavors of both elements won't approximate a Reese's, if that's what you're looking for, but Newman's Own Organics does an admirable job with its own peanut butter cups.

Conclusion: Newman's Own Organics Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are well balanced in texture and flavor, a good choice for organic, not-too-sweet peanut butter cups.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ikea Choklad Mörk / Dark Chocolate

3.5oz (100g) bar
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, soy lecithin
13g sugar/33g serving (39.4% by wt.)

Corporate Info: It's Ikea, international home of cheap flat-pack furniture and Swedish meatballs. Their stock of groceries includes a few chocolate bars.

Today's Bar: Among Ikea's three chocolate bars (milk, milk with hazelnuts, and dark) is this 60% cacao option. Nothing special, just “dark chocolate,” and it costs 99¢.

Appearance: One of those big, thin bars, but with a pillowy top. Fairly matte, with a purply-grey cast.

Smell: Pretty nice, with a light, spiced nuttiness like nutmeg or almonds.

Taste: First sweet, followed by a whole flavor experience that doesn't work for me. It reminds me of cream that's gone sour: There's nothing wrong with cream, and we expect cacao to have tart elements, but the richness and sourness don't mesh here, and the sweet sits on top of the whole thing and lingers weirdly for a long while along with a thin, tinny sort of bitterness. The flavors here all make sense, but for some reason they just don't meld in this bar.

Conclusion: Ikea Choklad Mörk / Dark Chocolate has all the right flavors, but they don't mesh well.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Leysieffer Les Extra Fins Bittersweet (Edelbitter)

100g bar
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla

Corporate Info: (Copied from 6/9/12; see that post for more) Leysieffer was founded in 1909 and began making chocolate truffles in 1936. The company is still family-operated, but it now includes 19 confectionary shops throughout Germany as well as a half dozen “bistros” serving cake and whatnot. And if you're really curious, you can order its products online.

Today's Bar: In addition to all the flavored bars (and other products), Leysieffer does have an assortment of plain chocolate in various cacao percentages and origins. Today's Les Extra Fins Bittersweet is a fairly plain choice: It's not single origin and, at 61% cacao, it's only slightly darker than the 55% base of its semisweet flavored bars, which I thought might make for an interesting comparison.

Appearance: A rich, reddish brown not much different from the 55%, though I do think it has more red-orange in it. It's actually a rather lovely color.

Smell: Warm, beany but with rounded edges, nothing sharp there. Comfortable.

Taste: Texture is waxy, smooth, just a tiny bit chalky. Flavor is indeed deeper than the 55%, though the sweetness hits me first, which isn't my favorite experience in general. However, once the chocolateyness catches up, it's quite nice in an accessible way, like a bittersweet chocolate chip: a touch sour, enough bitter to taste like real chocolate, nowhere near raw but still within sight of the tree—as opposed to, say, those super-smooth, creamy chocolates that taste like they sprang up on their own in a Parisian chocolaterie. This isn't anything special, but it might satisfy some people's everyday cravings.

Conclusion: Leysieffer Les Extra Fins Bittersweet (Edelbitter) fits the label of bittersweet chocolate.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Leysieffer Berry (Beeren)

100g bar
Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, dried berries (cranberries, sour cherries, blueberries), cocoa butter, soy lecithin

Corporate Info: (Copied from 6/9/12; see that post for more) Leysieffer was founded in 1909 and began making chocolate truffles in 1936. The company is still family-operated, but it now includes 19 confectionary shops throughout Germany as well as a half dozen “bistros” serving cake and whatnot. And if you're really curious, you can order its products online.

Today's Bar: Berry. Ordinarily I wouldn't have selected this from Leysieffer's more intriguing choices, because we in the U.S. see so many “mixed berry” drinks, yogurts, candies, and so on. The difference is that this bar isn't our lovely but common strawberry-raspberry-blackberry; instead, it's blueberry, which is popular here but not in chocolate; cranberry, which we mostly associate with Thanksgiving and plain “craisins”; and sour cherries, which we usually see only in pies but are very common in German jams and desserts. That hit my “novelty” button, so I went with it.

Appearance: Unlike the other Leysieffer bars I brought home, this one has large, irregular chunks visible under the chocolate on the back and revealed in cross-section.

Smell: Basically just plain chocolate, which makes sense given that the berries are intact.

Taste: Flavor is sweet chocolate plus sweet, just slightly tart berries, and texture is Leysieffer's smooth, slightly waxy base with chewy, moist chunks of whole berry; individual bites are likely to be mostly chocolate with a little fruit for additional texture and flavor. As I've said before, I think Leysieffer's 55% cacao base is a fairly ideal match for more ethereal flavors like elderflower and lavender, but here it doesn't work for me, and there's a lot of it. The dominant, sweet chocolate and rather sweet berries prevent me from appreciating the three particular fruits included here, reminding me of why I love Green & Black's cherry bar, with its darker chocolate and plentiful, sweet-sour fruit. I'd like more fruit here, but mostly this is an issue of what the eater considers “balanced”: For me, the sugar here is getting in the way of the rest of the experience, though for others it may be exactly right, making this a satisfying bar they want to return to again and again. So it goes.

Cranberry + sour cherry + blueberry + chocolate conclusion: Inconclusive, since I couldn't get past the sweetness to really appreciate the fruit.