Blog Archives

Product Review – Financier Patisserie Brownie

b1

On the last night of my recent business trip to New York, I went searching again for a delicious, unique dessert to enjoy before I called it a night. After a long time searching through Grand Central Station, I finally settled on a brownie from Financier Patisserie, a company which sells traditional and signature French pastries since 2002. I have a soft spot for powdered cocoa on sweets which is one of the reasons this product caught my eye.

Flavor

This brownie has the flavor of typical soft, chewy brownie with a few nice additions. Fresh, crunchy walnuts give a mouth-pleasing texture, and the top layer of the brownie is covered with a sweet chocolate ganache. A third of the bar has an additional layer of cocoa powder on top, quite pure from its bitter taste. Finally, one corner is nicely ornamented with two small green things which seem like caramelized pistachios from their appearance and flavor.

Financier hasn’t exactly invented a new form of dessert, but they’ve made incremental improvements on a classic to make it that much better. Fans of traditional brownies will surely love this decadent item.

Nutrition/Ingredients

This product is sold alone without packaging and the ingredients and nutritional information is not made public, to my knowledge. Their website doesn’t say anything particular about ingredients (organic, natural, no colorings, etc.) so you can’t make any assumptions about what is used.

I’d guess there is a good amount of sugar in one brownie, maybe at least 20 grams.

Price/Availability

I got this medium sized brownie for $3.50 at Financier Patisserie in New York’s Grand Central Station, but there are several other locations of this patisserie around the city.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.0   Nutrition/Ingredients: N/A   Price: 7.0   Overall:7.5 

Summary

I highly recommend this supercharged, stylish brownie to everyone but those extremely picky about nutrition or ingredients, who might want to think twice before eating this.

References

http://www.financierpastries.com

Product Review: Ben & Jerry’s Frozen Yogurt Chocolate Fudge Brownie

froyo

This ice cream is from the “FroYo” series which takes popular Ben & Jerry’s flavors and turns them into frozen yogurt with reduced calories and fat. I had reviewed the ice cream (non lowfat) version of Chocolate Fudge Brownie here, and this time I thought I would review the lowfat one. It’s great when you want a deep, rich flavor without quite as many calories.

Flavor

This dessert tastes very similar to the ice cream version. Spongy brownie pieces float in a sea of rich, gooey chocolate, saturated with sugary goodness throughout.

I’m sure if did a direct taste comparison where I alternated between spoonfuls of these two products I would be able to taste the difference more clearly, but eating it normally the FroYo doesn’t taste anything like “low-calorie” or “low-fat” – which is a good thing. The main difference is that the texture is more icey and less creamy. It’s midway in between eating normal ice cream and Italian ice (the latter of which has no milk and only water as its base).

The first time I tried this I didn’t taste any of the yogurt flavor. I tried it again, paying close attention, and was able to detect yogurt very subtly, more as an aftertaste than anything else. More on this below.

Nutrition/Ingredients

For a single 104 gram serving there is 180 calories, slightly below average for an ice cream of this type. Consistent with the “lowfat” branding, there is only 2.5 grams of fat. Compare these figures to the normal Chocolate Fudge Brownie – 270 calories and 12 grams of fat – and you’ll see a huge difference.

For those of you who are more concerned about sugar intake than calories (which I sometimes am), this product isn’t too great. There is a whopping 25 grams of sugar, only 2 grams less than the standard less-healthy version. I’d wish they would have reduced it a bit more, but I guess the characteristic flavor would be ruined if they took out any more sugar.

Protein amount is typical at 5 grams, and fiber is 2 grams a serving.

As I mentioned above, this product has only a tiny hint of yogurt taste. I checked on what “frozen yogurt” really means, and it looks like besides containing yogurt, it is also typically more tart, and lower in fat due to milk used in place of cream. Comparing ingredients against the normal ice cream version, we can see that both contain skim milk and cream. However the FroYo version contains more skim milk than cream (order on label 2nd and 9th, compared to 3rd and 1st on the ice cream version). So this frozen yogurt does contain less fat, although it is not particularly tart.

Technically this product can be placed in the “frozen yogurt” category because of the presence of yogurt powder (11th place) and yogurt cultures (20th and last place). However, because of  the small amount of these ingredients, which is reflected in the taste, I wouldn’t really consider this a true “frozen yogurt”. It looks like Ben & Jerry’s is just using the “yogurt” nomenclature to associate nutrition and health, and as a result sell better. I can’t say whether the yogurt cultures have any nutritional benefit or not, but they in are such small proportion I doubt that is much an effect, if at all. I’d prefer B&J’s either drop the yogurt branding and remove the little yogurt that is present, or increase it so this dessert can honestly be called a “frozen yogurt”.

Another trick they use to make this product lighter is using water as a filler – it’s listed as the #1 ingredient and is the main reason for the texture change I discussed previously. I think this is generally a great idea for health-conscious frozen desserts, and when done in moderation doesn’t destroy the flavor.

I’ve listed both versions’ ingredient list below. If you compare you’ll see that except for the yogurt, milk/cream, and water differences, they are very similar.

FroYo version (this product):

Water, Skim Milk, Liquid Sugar (Sugar, Water), Corn Syrup, Sugar, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Wheat Flour, Corn Syrup Solids, Cream, Cocoa, Nonfat Yogurt Powder, Egg Yolks, Butter (Cream, Salt), Eggs, Egg Whites, Locust Bean Gum, Salt, Vanilla Extract, Sodium Bicarbonate, Yogurt Cultures

ice cream version:

CREAM, LIQUID SUGAR (SUGAR, WATER), SKIM MILK, WATER, SUGAR, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), WHEAT FLOUR, COCOA POWDER, EGG YOLKS, BUTTER (CREAM, SALT), INVERT SUGAR SYRUP, WHOLE EGGS, EGG WHITES, GUAR GUM, SALT, CARRAGEENAN, VANILLA EXTRACT, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, SODIUM BICARBONATE.

One final difference is that the FroYo version does not contain carrageenan, a substance used as a thickener/stabilizer. It turns out there is some research that indicates carrageenan may be involved in tumor promotion, though I don’t think there is any definitive proof for this yet, and currently it is considered as a safe food additive by the FDA. Nevertheless I’d rather do without it if I have a choice.

Price/Availability

This product is available all over the place. I purchased it for $4.69 at Publix supermarket.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:7.0    Price:8.0    Overall: 7.6

Summary

This doesn’t stand out as a particularly healthy choice, but when compared against the less healthy non-yogurt version it’s much lower in calories and fat, and still boasts a rich, sweet taste. Once you switch to FroYo I doubt you’ll find the need to return to more fattening ice cream.

References

http://www.benjerry.com/flavors/our-flavors#product_id=650

http://www.benjerry.com/flavors/our-flavors#product_id=611

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frozen_yogurt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrageenan

Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Chocolate Walnut Brownie (non-dairy ice cream)

Coconut Bliss Chocolate Walnut Brownie

Introduction

For my first review I’ve decided on a frozen dessert which is one of my recent favorites. This is something that I’ve savored several times in the last month and plan to continue on doing for the foreseeable future.

When I think back on the ice cream I used to eat in high school and compare that to what I have been enjoying the last few years, its amazing how different they are – especially regarding the ingredients used. But this is only a natural consequence of putting more consideration into what I eat. For ice cream I typically use three types of information when deciding on the healthiness of the product: calories, sugar, and the ingredients themselves, as well as a few others which I give less weight to (protein, container size, etc.). Though everyone has their own opinions on what is really ‘healthy’, I subscribe to the theory that generally ‘natural is better’.

Enough of the historical aside. Let’s move on to the juiciest, most mouthwatering part of any of my reviews, the discussion of flavor.

Flavor

First of all, I’d like to give a heads up to all the ice cream addicts who have eaten only milk-based ice cream (like me until recently). This is unabashedly a coconut milk based product, with some other important ingredients I’ll talk about in the ingredients section below. So of course there will be differences between this and dairy-based ice creams. For those willing to take a step out of their limited world of dairy ice cream, a little open mindedness will go along way to quickly accustoming to these differences.

One of the key differences is the texture when frozen. When compared to standard ice cream it seems finer and crumbles/flakes quite easily. But once it is in a half-melted state, the creaminess factor goes up a notch, though not quite reaching that of milk-based creams. All things being considered, the creaminess and overall mouthfeel of the base, crafted by a delicate balance of coconut, water, and guar gum, is quite impressive.

But the real killer here is the flavor – a deep, complex taste that lingers on the palate long afterwards. The base cream, it’s richness derived from a good helping of cocoa, is complimented nicely by a generous helping of crunchy walnuts and sweet chocolate brownie chunks. I can’t put it any better than the marketing quip on the front of the package: “A Devine Treat for Chocolate Lovers“.

The only issue I have with the flavor is that there is a mild chalky aftertaste. Its the same I get after eating walnuts by themselves, which marks them as the culprit here. Their crunchy contribution to the overall texture is nice but I wouldn’t mind sampling a version of this product without the nuts.

Ingredients and Nutrition

This dessert does an excellent job of satisfying those choosy about ingredient quality. Most ingredients are organic, with a subset declared as Fair Trade. Apart from the walnuts and the brownie morsels, the base is made from only six ingredients.  There are other products on the market with less ingredients (ex: Haagen-Dazs “Five”), but their ingredients are generally not Organic nor this rich. It is vegan friendly with no dairy, soy, or gluten, so the number of people who can safely enjoy this ice cream goes far above any typical milk-based cream.

The ingredients are also very natural, with no artificial flavors or colorings. Thankfully, my personal pet-peeve “natural flavors” is not present either. “Natural flavors”  is a general category for any flavoring which is derived from natural (animal or plant) sources. “natural” is great and all, but I’m turned off by the lack of details about what was used (could be tree bark for all you know) and that it may be heavily processed. I avoid products with this usually, though if the taste is right I can make an exception. 

The sweeteners employed are both natural and well known – agave syrup and coconut sugar. The debate on which sugars are truly healthier is far from settled but I think it’s safe to have a mixed diet of typical powdered white sugar and other variations like these which are more natural with less processing. The Vanilla extract used is also natural, with no artificial “Vanillin” used.

Calories (per 95 g serving, ¼ of container) are 250, par for the course here. Sugar is 15 g per serving and happens to be one of the reasons I decided to try this out. Compared to other products which can have approximately twice the sugar, this is surprisingly low, especially considering the rich flavor. This can be attributed to the fact agave syrup has a higher sweetness per gram than normal table sugar. Agave syrup is generally valued for its relatively low glycemic index, and less processing compared to some artificial sweeteners.

As with most ice creams salt content is low (2% of recommended daily intake). A nice bonus is a per-serving iron amount of 15% of daily intake, compared to a much lower percentage in many other products (many have 0%).

Price and Availability

Price is $6.49 with tax (bought around 9/15/13). This a bit pricey for those on a budget, but not unexpected, considering this is a non-dairy specialty product.

There a only a few places that I know of in South Florida that sell this, one is Whole Foods Market which is where I picked it up.

Ratings (out of 10)

  • Flavor: 7.5
  • Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.5
  • Price: 6.0
  • Overall: 7.3

Summary

Great organic coconut ice cream with an excellent taste, average calorie count, but less sugar content than many other similar products. Not cheap but an exotic item definitely worth trying.

References

http://coconutbliss.com/coconut-bliss-products/chocolatewalnutbrownie