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Posts Tagged ‘milk chocolate’

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I don’t tend to go in for mass-market candy-esque chocolates. Sure, I once bought supermarket-brand Mars Bars to make bonza bubble truffles, but that was the exception, not the rule.

Picnics? Meh. The wafer always seems stale.

Snickers? At least they have peanuts.

Bounty bars? Too much coconut.

Boost bars? Ick.

Cherry Ripes? Only if I’m buying them for my dad.

Violet Crumbles? Keep those styrofoam logs of terror away from me.

There is, however, one candy-style chocolate bar that I willingly buy once every, oh, say, three years.

The Crunchie Bar. Sometimes its tooth-aching sweetness, honey notes, and melts-upon-contact honeycomb filling is just what the doctor ordered. (My doctor has, in fact, told me to eat chocolate, find a job I like, and go to parties and kiss boys. Seriously, she said that. It all had something to do with her decreeing that I should have fun occasionally. She’s a pretty awesome doctor, really, even if she does make me buy ugg boots.)

I can’t remember the last time I bought a Crunchie Bar, but I can tell you the last time I bought a Crunchie-branded product.

That would be three days ago.

Cadbury Crunchie Rocks

Cadbury Crunchie Rocks

According to the packaging/marketing blurb, “Crunchie Rocks™ bitesize pieces are the ideal way to rock-out in your own special way and get that Crunchie™ feeling”.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds suspiciously euphemistic to me. Perhaps because I’ve grown up in an era when “getting your rocks off” doesn’t mean brushing quartz crystals off your lap? Being told to “rock-out” in my “special way” to “get that … feeling” makes me want to cover my ears and think of a more innocent time when chocolate was simply associated with birthday parties and teddy bears’ picnics.

Oh, and a time when I didn’t have to feel guilty about spending my grocery money on non-artisan chocolate instead of, say, potatoes*.

Cadbury Crunchie Rocks

These Crunchie Rocks are made with Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, crunchie bits, and cornflakes. In other words, these chocolate clusters are comprised of Sweet plus Sweet plus Slightly Malty and Salty. Surprisingly, that all equals Not Too Bad.

Sure, these “rocks” are crazy sweet, but I’ve honestly had worse. There were discernible caramel notes in the milk chocolate that were quite pleasant, and the cornflakes did, on occasion, cut through the chocolate’s sweetness with a hint of savoury malt, corn, and salt.

Cadbury Crunchie Rocks

The Crunchie bits in this chocolate did provide the familiar honey sweetness of a full-size Crunchie bar, but they lacked the mystical dissolving property that real Crunchie bars have. You know, the way the honeycomb melts away into nothingness once you’ve placed it in your mouth? Those of you who have eaten Crunchies might recall that one side of honeycomb plank never dissolves like the rest of it does, and instead stays brutally hard. That’s what the Crunchie bits in these rocks were like. Brutally hard, as if waging war on your teeth.

In all honesty, I was expecting these Crunchie Rocks to taste far worse than they did. That said, I wouldn’t buy them again unless I was suffering from a serious sugar deficiency (unlikely, taking into consideration the aforementioned doctor’s orders). I’m far more likely, in the future, to walk past these chocolates in the confectionary aisle whilst sniffing dismissively and muttering “keep it in your pants, fellas”.

Take that, “special feeling”.

 * Who am I kidding? I’ll always choose chocolate over potatoes. Except when I’m planning to make shepherd’s pie, of course, because even I know that chocolate doesn’t make a good topping for savoury pie.

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When you were a child, were you ever taken to a store that sold expensive items yet didn’t bother to protect them behind, say, glass? Perhaps it was a music shop where guitars and flutes and bongos stood out like playmates in the schoolyard, beckoning you to touch them with your Chupa Chups-holding hands?

Or maybe it was lighting store where glittering chandeliers dangled just above your pig-tail-adorned head, time but begging to be swung from like the Tarzan you think you could be, if only you tried talking to monkeys.

When you were a child in a store like that, were you ever told to “Look But Don’t Touch”? Because I certainly was.

And now I find myself, several years down the track, writing a chocolate review with a similar phrase in mind: “Look But Don’t Judge”.

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

One of The Curious Chocolatier's seasonal creations.

You might be wondering why I can’t judge and discuss the pros and cons of this chocolate with you, the way I have with almost every chocolate to have passed my lips lately. The long answer is that as a sociologist, I know I have to be upfront about any personal biases that could impede my perception of phenomena/events/people/beliefs/experiences/and now chocolate. I know that, sometimes, these biases may entangle me in their webs and affect my Sense Of The World.

That’s the long answer. The short answer is: orange oil.

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

From appearances alone, I'd be more than happy to find this in my Christmas stocking.

In the post about my disastrous peppermint rice pudding attempt, I mentioned that I can’t stomach orange flavours. That’s why you’ve never, nor will you ever, see me reviewing orange chocolate on this blog. I normally check the ingredients of flavoured chocolates before purchase and yet, because this bar was given me by the lovely L-Izzle, I did not.

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

Showcasing cranberries!

I must be absolutely clear about one thing: this is really nice creation, both aesthetically and, insofar as I can tell, flavour-wise. The chocolate itself is a lovely caramel colour and looks gorgeous offset with plump, ruby cranberries and light-brown roasted pecans.

The aroma is lovely and Christmassy, reminding me of pine needles and spiced cookies. The pecans are fresh-tasting and not at all stale, providing the soft buttery crunch that pecans are known for. The cranberries are soft, not desiccated, and pleasantly sweet with just a slight tinge of tart*.

The Curious Chocolatier Holiday Spice Milk Chocolate with Pecans and Cranberries

And now pecans.

But, friends, I couldn’t eat more than three squares of this. I tried, really I did, but I’m simply hyper-ridiculously-terribly-hyper-hyper-aware of even the slightest hint of orange in chocolate. Think of how Hugh Hefner is hyper-aware of all big-bosomed blondes in his vicinity, or how the hosts of The View are hyper-aware of possible silence in their conversation and endeavour to fill it with high-pitched shrieks.

That’s me with orange. I’ve given tastes of this chocolate to other people and not only have they found it lovely, they can barely tell the orange from the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla also found in the bar. Sadly, for me, the orange is omnipresent. All I can say is that this bar is aesthetically gorgeous, that I’m almost certain it’s delicious if you don’t mind orange flavour, and that I hope you don’t think less of me for bringing Hugh Hefner and his droopy skin into your mind.

* I wonder if that’s an apt description for my socks-n-stocks combination?

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See? My head isn’t an entirely loopy place to be. Sure, I like to keep things interesting by adding Tabasco to my peanut butter cookies and, when given the chance, designing a customised chocolate bar topped with edamame, curry powder and granola. But sometimes I do tend towards the tried-and-true. Sometimes, I aim for overall harmony – my years in a clarinet ensemble certainly showed me the value of being in tune with one’s surroundings.

And so I present to you the second of my personalised Chocomize creations. The creation intended to be less-crazy and more harmonious…

Chocomize Dark Chocolate with Mini Pretzels, Cinnamon Toast Cereal, and Poppy Seeds

Chocomize Dark Chocolate with Mini Pretzels, Cinnamon Toast Cereal and Poppy Seeds

What say you: do the pretzels look more like clovers or the warning sign for nuclear power?

After admiring the burnished pretzels, sugar-coated cereal, and little bitty blue-black poppy seeds embedded in the chocolate, I attempted to break off a few rows. I say “attempted” because the pretzels, in crossing over the bar’s demarcated squares, made it impossible to break the chocolate evenly. Is this a bad thing? Not for me. I see no issue in getting a larger chunk of chocolate than I intended. I figure it’s just the universe telling me that abstemiousness in the face of chocolate is ridiculous.

Still, it might make sharing tricky. Perhaps slightly smaller pretzels would work better? But that’s enough about boring old functionality. We all know that the important thing is the taste.

Chocomize Dark Chocolate with Mini Pretzels, Cinnamon Toast Cereal and Poppy Seeds

See the sugar on the cereal? Gotta love America.

For the sake of continuity, I’ll stay with the pretzels. They worked magnificently here. Not only were they as crisp and fresh as they day they were born (erm, baked), their malty, toasted wheat, and indubitably “pretzel-y” flavours played off the sweet dark chocolate wonderfully. As we know, I’m a fan of using flavours on the savoury spectrum (salt, chilli, curry, roasted edamame/nuts) to counteract the sweet side of chocolate. These pretzels did exactly that. Bravo, Chocomize.

The Cinnamon Toast Cereal was a little bit disappointing. The positives were the cereal’s light and crispy texture and the jolt of sweetness from its white sugar-coating, but sadly the cinnamon flavour was lacking. For a true cinnamon hit in your Chocomize bar, I’d recommend choosing the cinnamon powder instead of this cereal.

Chocomize Dark Chocolate with Mini Pretzels, Cinnamon Toast Cereal and Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are odd-looking close up, aren't they?

Poppy seeds have a nostalgic place in my heart, as my mum makes a poppy seed cake that, well, has a nostalgic place in my heart. Yep. (I may just have to blog it one day.) These poppy seeds provided a nice little textural crunch, but their flavour was a bit hit and miss. Sometimes the slightly-spicy, slighty-nutty poppy taste came through well, and other times… nothing. I’m not going to fault Chocomize for this, though, as poppy seeds aren’t the most striking seed in the birdfeeder, so to speak. Also, there’s a chance my senses were clouded by all the opium.

Last but not least, let’s chat about the chocolate. Surprisingly, if we’re talking about the straight-up chocolate, I far preferred Chocomize’s milk chocolate to its dark. And I’m a die-hard dark lover. In my experience, the milk chocolate had a lovely caramel complexity, whereas the dark chocolate was one-dimensional and a bit flat in its sweetness.

Don’t get me wrong, the chocolate wasn’t terrible by any means. Just very sweet, and definitely best when paired with strong, not-sweet flavours like pretzels. In fact, I’d very happily order another bar of Chocomize’s dark chocolate with only pretzels in it. That combination was brilliant.

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It’s the return of the gorgeous Theo designs! The last time I showcased a chocolate from Theo’s 3400 Phinney range, I was in raptures. The Hazelnut Crunch remains one of the best milk chocolates I’ve had, although admittedly the scrumptiousness was more about the salty-toffee-roasted-nuts than the chocolate itself…

I’ve allowed this particular Theo chocolate to jump the review queue (I ate it only days ago, whereas I still have chocolates from my travels to talk about) because of a certain Broadway-and-butter-loving New Zealand lass: the ever-creative Laura of Hungry and Frozen. In her response to my self-designed chocolate with curry powder, edamame, and pomegranate granola, She Of Little Faith expressed a desire – nay, a need – to be convinced of the harmonious nature of curry and chocolate.

Laura, this is for you.

Theo Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate

Theo Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate

People, not cats, this time!

From the moment I freed this chocolate from its paper cage, I knew the “curry” of the title was not going to be a subtle flavour softly pulling at my mind like near-forgotten song lyrics hiding at the edges of consciousness. No, this curry flavour was going to be more like a six-year-old tugging at his/her mother’s shirt while she talks to a fellow parent in the carpark after school. (“Mum. Mum. Mum. MUM. Mum. Mu-u-u-mmmm. Mum. Mum.”*)

How did I know the curry was going to be whizz-pow, not softly-softly? Two things. First, the aroma burst forth with strong and heady notes of toasted curry – turmeric and fenugreek were the first to emerge. Second, the chocolate’s use of yellow curry powder was physically apparent, not only in a slight tinge to the chocolate itself but on the paper in which it was encased. Wherever the chocolate had touched the paper, the paper was yellow. Like magic. See Exhibit Below:

Theo Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate

It was all yellow...

The aroma was ridiculously enticing. I felt bubbly with happiness even before I broke off a square and placed it between my lips. When I did so break and place, my pleasure only increased. The spices are not backwards in coming forwards and, unlike the more common chilli in chocolate, are hot rather than spicy. For anyone tentative around curry-heat, beware. This chocolate creates a definite burn at the back of the throat, a burn that lingers and tantalises and makes you (or at least me) go back for more.

I noted cumin, then decided that turmeric, fenugreek, and cardamom were the leaders of the spice pack. I thought of tikka masala, ground coriander, deliciousness… I peeked at the packaging to read that the bar’s yellow curry powder incorporates coriander, turmeric, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, paprika, red pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Yep, this ain’t no wallflower curry.

Theo Coconut Curry

Lots and lots of coconut.

The coconut contributes to the curry flavour (you know, as in a curry with coconut in it…), but it also adds to and highlights the chocolate’s sweetness. This is a milk chocolate, after all, even if at 40% it’s at the darker edge of the milk spectrum. The coconut makes the chocolate very “bitsy”, texture-wise, so if you don’t like crunch, you may not like this.

I, personally, love Theo’s Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate. I can imagine that the strength of the curry powder could be a turn-off for many people – it’s an odd combination to get your head around, the first time you try it, but I came around so quickly that I think I’ve got whiplash.

I really wish I could get this in Australia.

* Do you remember doing that? I do. The only part I can’t remember is whether I truly thought she couldn’t hear me, or whether I knew she was ignoring me and that this attention-tug-of-war was a battle of wills.

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Some people get excited by sports. Others, by spotting birds in the bush. Then you’ve got your death metal devotees, your Gleeks, and your pansy gardeners (I am, of course, referring to the flowers). For me, one of the best feelings in the world is spending the first night in Smurf Kitchen snuggled up in blankets, eating delicious food, and laughing and talking with your new housemate – but more on that another day.

I couldn’t discuss chocolate in this context without first acknowledging that friendship does trump food – in most cases, at least. And while the glories of both can certainly be heightened by the addition of the other, it’s probably time for me to focus on the chocolate-at-hand. Otherwise we’ll end up in a quicksand of rhapsodising, and right now I can’t see any Wesley on the horizon willing to jump in and save us all. Anyway, point is, interesting chocolate makes me happy and excited.

Chocomize Milk Chocolate with Roasted Edamame, Hot Curry Powder, and Pomegranate Granola

Chocomize Milk Chocolate, Roasted Edamame, Hot Curry Powder, Pomegranate Granola

Yep. Giddy.

Darn tootin’ you read (and saw) that right. Milk chocolate, edamame, curry powder, granola. In other words: crazy-awesome. Who, you might ask, came up with this ingenious combination?

*Takes a bow*

Chocomize is a U.S. company that allows you to make a custom chocolate bar by picking a chocolate base (dark, milk, or white) and then adding up to five ingredients from over 100 different options (including gummy bears, 23 karat gold flakes, bacon bits, and parsley).

You know the expression “like a kid in a candy shop”? I learnt the meaning of that when Nick from Chocomize offered to send me several bars of my choosing, free of charge. (As with TCHO, I had to use my lovely American friend as go-between in order to get the chocolate delivered to Australia.)

Chocomize Milk Chocolate, Roasted Edamame, Hot Curry Powder, Pomegranate Granola

As you can see, the additions are sprinkled on top of the bar rather than embedded in the chocolate. Luckily the chocolate is divided into 24 squares underneath, which helps with breaking bits off.

Lorraine, do you remember this conversation about jerky and chocolate? Well, Chocomize offers jerky as an ingredient, but I feared Customs would swoop in with its confiscating mitts if I chose it. I had to rule out many options for this reason, but I still managed to come up with two bars of plausibly-flavour-complimentary chocolates, and one bar of pure crazy.

This bar is the pure crazy. I threw caution to the wind and didn’t try to match the flavours, which means I’ll talk about how the flavours worked with the chocolate and on their own, but not about the bar in its entirety. Can’t really blame Chocomize for its customers’ gleeful craziness.

Chocomize Milk Chocolate, Roasted Edamame, Hot Curry Powder, Pomegranate Granola

Pretty. Pretty pretty.

Enough jibber-jabber. How did this taste? Pretty darn wonderful, actually. You know me – I’m not usually a big fan of milk chocolate, but this version was surprisingly superb. It had strong caramel tones that lingered on the palate long after the chocolate itself had disappeared, and the flavour was (thankfully) never throat-searing in its sweetness. It also had a lovely silky melt.

I’ll get the low point out of the way first. The hot curry powder, whilst seemingly liberally sprinkled over the chocolate, had almost no flavour. I’ve had some stellar chocolate and curry combinations, so I was quite disappointed by the lack of flavour here.

Aww, lookee the granola hugging the edamame...

Thankfully, the roasted edamame and pomegranate granola elements tasted fan-diddly-tastic. The edamame was crisp and fresh, and contributed a nutty-ish flavour that played off the caramel sweetness of the milk chocolate perfectly. The granola had no pomegranate flavour that I could detect, but no worries – the sweet, coconut-edged toasted oats was equally as brilliant with the chocolate, in their own way, as was the edamame.

I really enjoyed the novelty and flavours of this chocolate, and was mighty saddened to find I’d finished three-quarters of the bar in one sitting. I could easily have eaten the lot, but I decided to save a little for a rainy day.

Also, I wanted to be able to bring this chocolate out in Smurf Kitchen, so that I could see my housemate make the funny face she makes when I pull things like millet and nutritional yeast from my side of the pantry. Oh, what fun we shall have together.

P.S. Chocomize is generously offering all (U.S.-based) readers a 10% discount on any order of its personalised chocolate bars. Simply enter “hannah” into the coupon code section at the checkout, and Bob’s your chocolate uncle.

P.P.S. I’ll be reviewing my other two Chocomize chocolates in the future too – don’t you worry about that.

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Do you know what makes me sad? When an overseas chocolate company sends the majority of its products to Australia but withholds the best (well, my favourite) flavours from our girt-by-sea shores.

Case in point? Green & Black’s, which despite selling almost its entire range of chocolate bars in mainstream supermarkets in Australia, has refused to send us its Espresso Dark Chocolate or the flavour I am about to review.

That makes me a Sad Panda.

Green & Black’s Milk Chocolate with Caramelised Peanuts and a Hint of Sea Salt

Green & Black's Milk Chocolate Peanut

Um, yep. This is the packaging.

Before I’d gone so far as to unwrap this chocolate, I felt pretty sure that it was going to be a fun, if not fantastic, afternoon nibble. I say this not because I was overcome by the product’s marketing speak, but because a heady aroma of praline, toffee, and freshly-roasted peanuts emanated from the bar even through its layers of foil and paper wrapping.

Upon pulling the chocolate from its coverings, this aroma only intensified, thus ensuring that I could only stand to take a few photos before popping a square in my mouth.

Green & Black's Milk Chocolate Peanut

I wish all chocolate was as never-ending as this one appears to be in the photo.

My first taste of this brought the brightness of salt and the deep earthiness of well-roasted peanuts to the fore. Soon afterwards, the caramel tones of Green & Black’s milk chocolate slipped in, with this flavour progression ensuring that the sweetness was never cloying. I’ve had Green & Black’s Milk Chocolate with Almond before and found it nothing but dull, dull, dull; I’m now putting that down to its almonds being plain, whereas the peanuts here are encased in a crispy toffee and salt-flecked shell.

Green & Black's Milk Chocolate Peanut

I shouldn't say this, but I can't help myself: that peanut looks like a brain.

See? That ain’t no ordinary peanut. The peanuts are ridiculously crispy with nary a hint of staleness, and their caramelisation means that both panned sugar flavours and the savoury edge of nuts shine through.

I mightily enjoyed this chocolate, as the layering of flavours saved it from overwhelming sweetness (which is a definite issue with Green & Black’s Butterscotch bar). If only Lenotre’s disappointing creation had tasted more like this…

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My intention had been to intersperse the Thorntons’ reviews with my backlog of other chocolates, but after two lovely ladies cleverly pre-empted one of my just-eaten Thorntons in the last chocolate review, I decided to instead keep at this UK chocolate company… 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Tonka Bean

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Tonka Bean

For some reason, the word tonka makes me giggle. And think of Oompa Loompas.

I had never heard of tonka beans before coming across this chocolate, but after a little investigating I can safely say that Thorntons is trying to kill us all. 

Or maybe just Americans, as it’s only in the United States that the tonka bean is prohibited by the FDA on account of being lethal in large doses. For the rest of us, the tonka bean is merely a receptacle of vanilla and almond flavours. Who knew nationality affected susceptibility to poison? 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate With Tonka Bean

Venezuela - for you, M.HeartsofPalm.

Apparently, this tonka chocolate won a silver award from the Academy of Chocolate in 2009. Good for it, I say. (I’d like to win an award from the Academy of Chocolate Eating, if that’s at all possible.) Described as having “delicate flavours reminiscent of almond and vanilla”, I must admit that Thornton’s marketing blurb hit the nail on the head this time. 

The aroma reminds me of almond extract, butter caramel, and something a little floral, like jasmine. From the first bite, the flavour is like a magnified well-executed milk chocolate, in the sense that the honey, caramel, and vanilla flavours of a good milk chocolate are all there, but amplified. 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Tonka Bean

Honka honka tonka. That is all.

The tonka bean’s vanilla and almond flavours, combined with the sweetness and dairy emphasis of the milk chocolate itself, combines to create a taste not unlike toffee almonds mixed with clotted cream. HCarryOn noted that along with strong vanilla notes, this also has a bit of cinnamon spice, and I agree. It’s not quite interesting enough to make me buy it again, but I think it would be wonderful for those who are milk chocolate-inclined to begin with. 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Lightly Salted Pistachio

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Lightly Salted Pistachio

More awards, but gold this time.

So, pistachio and chocolate, we meet again. Snapping at the heels of Vestri’s pistachio chocolate, Thorntons has a lot to live up to. Thorntons opts for halved, rather than whole, pistachios, and surrounds these with plain milk chocolate rather than the white chocolate blended with pistachio paste used by Vestri. However, I will state without qualms that Thorntons’ pistachio chocolate is brilliant and, without a doubt, the best of the Thorntons’ bunch so far. 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Lightly Salted Pistachio

Never have bumpy bits been so welcome.

I don’t know whether its technically correct to describe pistachios as having a umami flavour, but I do feel that they contributed a delicious savouriness to the sweet chocolate that rendered the bar extremely satisfying. The nuts were fresh, crunchy, salty, and buttery, and toned down the sweet milk chocolate without overpowering it. There’s something of marscapone and cream cheese in the chocolate’s aroma, and something of golden syrup in the taste, while the “lightly salted pistachios” remind me a little bit of melted butter on toast. In a good way. 

Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Lightly Salted Pistachio

It seems my flash had its way with this chocolate.

This is one of the few milk chocolates I have tried on my travels that I really want to buy again. Anything that makes me think of pistachio brittle and deliciousness is a winner in my books, and this chocolate, dear readers of mine, made me so think.

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