Blog Archives

Recipe for Ikea’s chocolate oat ball

One product I’ve reviewed on this blog that seems to be quite popular is Ikea’s chocolate oat ball. This is a wonderful delicious sweet and easily worthy of a candidate for my top 10 sweets.

I’ve received a comment asking for the recipe of a similar treat which was distributed at Ikea. I haven’t been to Ikea recently and didn’t pick it up when I was there, but when I sent an email to them I got a response with a PDF scan of the original recipe.

You can read the PDF here:

Chocolate balls recipe

Comparing the ingredients it’s clear it won’t taste exactly the same, but someday I hope to try it out. One great thing about homemade sweets is you can adjust the amount of sweetness to your taste.

If anyone makes this, please give me a picture and full report on the test!

 

References

https://sweetsreporter.com/2013/10/15/ikea-chocolate-oat-ball-with-coconut-sprinkles-sotsak-kakaoboll-product-review/

 

 

Taza Coffee Chocolate Mexicano

For those of you following Sweet’s Reporter, you may have realized that I haven’t posted in quite some time. Truly, it’s been over 4 months since my last post, since I’ve been busy with another blog project and other things.

I’ve also been having mostly the same old sweets, so I didn’t have much to report – excepting the products I tried that weren’t really report-worthy.

Until now.

I recently got my hands on Taza’ Organic Coffee Chocolate Mexicano, and to be honest it’s almost like a new class of chocolate to me.

The ingredients are suspiciously simple, containing the trio of cacao beans, cane sugar, and coffee beans (all organic). There is 55% cocoa content.

The disc shape of the chocolate caught my eye, but whats really great about this product is the texture. The package declares it is “stone ground”, and normally I’d write off such marketing speak as a desperate attempt to sell a product in a hyper-competive market.  The discs texture seems pretty typical from the outside, but after breaking off a piece you can see it’s not quite as solid as other chocolates.  Once you sink your teeth into it, you experience something which I can only call decidedly gritty and unlike anything I’ve had before. Letting the it melt on your tongue (my typical way of enjoying chocolate products) enhances the sensation such that I’d like to call up the grounding stones and thank them. What was initially a “strange but unique” texture quickly became an addiction to me.

The price of this chocolate is usually around $8.00, a bit on the expensive side for this weight of organic chocolate, but I managed to pick it up for around $5.00 on a sale at Whole Foods a week or two ago.

Even if the product is not on sale, I highly recommend chocolate lovers to try this out once.

Overall Rating: 8.5

 

References

http://www.tazachocolate.com/store/Products/CoffMexDisc

Store Review: Le Macaron French Pastries (Tampa, Florida)

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I stumbled upon the “le macaron” store in Tampa’s International Plaza mall on a recent family trip. In addition to various flavors of french macarons, there are also fine chocolates sold here. I don’t remember the exact prices, but each of these sells for roughly $2 dollars a piece. We purchased 6 macaroons and 4 chocolates (shown in the below pictures) for around $22.

I have only tried macarons once or twice in my life, but the ones at “le macaron” were pretty typical. The rose and raspberry flavors really tasted and smelled like the real thing, but it’s hard to say if that taste is made from “natural ingredients” or the real thing. The coffee-flavored macaron really didn’t taste too much like coffee, so I doubt there much, if any, real coffee present.

My biggest issue with macarons in general is that there is always some slightly odd flavor I can’t put my finger on, and that applies to these sweets as well. But if you like macarons I’m sure you’ll enjoy the one’s sold here.

The chocolates were very impressive visually, with everything from patterns in the likeness of leopard spots to shiny metallic balls. There was a variety of fillings, including caramel- and fruit-like. While I have to admit they were all tasty, I know a load of sugar when I taste it. Macarons are relatively rare in the world of sweets but chocolates are a dime a dozen, so they have to hold up to more scrutiny. The pretty designs and (typical) good flavor don’t win over the high price and high sugar content.

As for the ingredients, I wasn’t able to find anywhere the full ingredient list was published for either product. However, the company’s website (which is a franchise, interestingly enough) states all macarons are gluten free with no artificial flavors or preservatives. This puts them in the mid range of ingredient quality, but I wish they published the entire list. I couldn’t find any information about the fine chocolates.

Overall, I feel both product lines are mediocre, but they are tasty enough to try once, and the fine chocolates are novel enough to buy for a friend or family member as a gift. The Internal Plaza is a great shopping center with many stores and restaurants, so if you happen to be traveling in Tampa be sure to check it out, and maybe stop by “le macaron” while you are there.

References

http://lemacaron-us.com/

http://www.shopinternationalplaza.com/

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Product Review: Chox chocolate red wine

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On a recent family trip to Tampa I was looking for something sweet to drink, but without mysterious artificial flavors. I ended up trying Chox: “Fine Red Wine Infused with the natural essence of chocolate”.

Flavor

Fortunately this product had only a very slight taste of red wine, which is a big plus for me since I am not a big red wine fan. The sweet chocolate flavor really dominates the experience, although the texture is probably somewhat close to a red wine.

If you like Kahlua or other sweet chocolate beverages then you will likely love this, and the overall experience is quite similar.

Nutrition/Ingredients

I was attracted by the label which stated there are no artificial flavors, and think this the strongest point of this drink, especially when comparing to other sweet drinks like Kahlua which have who-knows-what in them. On the other hand, although everything in this product is ‘natural’, as with other instances of ‘natural flavors’, you really don’t know what is in the product. If this product actually listed everything used to make it I’d feel much better about it.

This product also contains sulfites, but from what I have researched they are present in a majority of wines, and have little effect on the body, so they are not much of a concern to me.

This product is imported from Holland. I’m not sure what type of impact this has on the taste or ingredients used, but it gives it somewhat of “exotic” feel from a marketing perspective.

Ingredients (as listed on package): Grape wine with molasses neutral spirits, dairy cream, natural flavors, and natural carmine color.

Alcohol content: 13.9%

Price/Availability

I bought this 750 ml bottle for $12.99 at a Publix in Tampa, Florida.

Ratings:   Flavor:  8.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:  6.0  Price: 8.0   Overall: 7.3

Summary

I was searching for a sweet alcoholic drink with no artificial flavors and some of the health benefits of wine. Turns out this fits the bill perfectly. I can’t speak whether a wine expert would enjoy this or not, but anyone with a sweet tooth who is looking for a little alcohol buzz should definitely try this product out.

References

http://www.thekitchn.com/sulfites-in-wine-necessary-or-100878

Product Review: Talenti Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip

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This is my fifth review of a Talenti ice cream, with two of my favorites reviewed here and here. This brand’s chic packaging is what initially caught my eye, but with my first bite I was hooked with each of the sweet, creamy, and natural flavors.

Flavor

This ice cream has all you could ever want – a strong, natural raspberry flavor backed by a creamy, sweet milk texture, and tiny chocolate chips to complete the picture.

I’ve mentioned this with many other ice creams as well, but this one especially tastes *really* good when eaten in a half-melted state, like when you scoop your spoon around the perimeter of the container, picking up only the most melted stuff. Focusing on eating the half-melted parts not only maximizes your enjoyment per bite, it also lengthens the time to eat a given amount of volume.

Nutrition/Ingredients

A single serving (1/2 cup, 104 grams) contains 230 calories and 24 grams of sugars. These are both somewhat higher than the average ice cream, but typical within Talenti’s lineup of milk-based ice creams.

This dessert has very natural and healthy ingredients, and is also gluten free, hfcs free, hormone free, vegetatian, and kosher. There are also no artificial flavors or colorings, or even “natural” flavors, the latter of which are present in a few other Talenti poducts.

Because of the calorie and sugar content I wouldn’t consider this a diet product, but the ingredient quality is top class. Some might point out that “sugar” (typical white refined sugar) is used instead of agave or some other popular sweetner, but based on my research there is not sufficient evidence to prove any of these sugars is significantly more healthier than any other.

Full ingredient list: milk, cream, sugar, black raspberries, chocolate, oil (coconut, soybean), dextrose, vanilla, carob gum, and soy lecithin.

Price/Availability

I bought this for around $2.99 at a Publix grocery store, half of its normal price due a weekly sale. For some reason I never see this flavor at my local Whole Foods Market, though it may be at others.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5   Nutrition/Ingredients: 9.0   Price:  8.0  Overall: 8.5

Summary

Natural ingredients, great taste, and a reasonable price (even when its not on sale) make this a must try for any ice cream lover.

References

http://talentigelato.com/our-products/

Product Review: Japanese Candy Bar “Choco Indulge Crunch” (チョコにがっつけパキッツ)

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I happened to find this product at the Morikami Japanse Museum & Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida, and decided to pick it up.

“Choco Indulge Crunch” is my own translation. Literally translated, the title is closer to “Indulge in Chocolate! Crunch”. The translated English packaging calls the product “Pakitz<Nuts & Crunch>”, but I like my translation better. For those curious, “Pakitz” comes from the Japanese  “パキッツ” which refers to the sound of something like a cracker crunching when bitten into.

This product is made by Glico, a Japanese company, and imported by JFC International Inc.

I want to take this opportunity to mention my other blog, “Self Taught Japanese”, where I have a series of articles aimed at Japanese learners of various skill levels. For those who are interested you check it out here: http://selftaughtjapanese.com/

Flavor

The two halves of this bar are each wrapped separately in sealed packs, which is a nice trend I’ve seen in other Japanese candies. One disadvantage of this, however, is that there is less actual candy that you would expect from the size of the package.

Like many typical chocolate bars, this product is separated into little rectangular nuggets which are connected together in a 3×4 array in each serving. The top half of each nugget is a ‘gaufrette’ wafer (see ingredients section below for details), with a mild taste and crunchy texture not unlike that used in many typical American cookies.

The bottom part is made from pretty typical sweet chocolate, which tastes as if it has a low cocoa count (around 50-60%). It has some small peanut slivers in it that give it a mild crunch. The picture on the front of the wrapper, shown in the picture at the top of this post, gives a good idea of what both parts look like.

This bar does an excellent job of fulfilling my requirement of two or more contrasting flavors and textures, and the end result is quite different than anything I’ve had before. If I had to compare, I’d say that it’s a distant cousin of the classic KitKat bar.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One serving is 25.5 grams and there are two servings per package. In one serving there are 140 calories (60 from fat), and 9 sugars. This is definitely below average for this type of product.

Unfortunately the ingredient list is quite long and contains a few suspect items, such as high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, acelsulfame potassium, ammonium bicarbonate, and artificial flavors. This product is clearly not marketed at those concerned with natural and safe ingredients. Ironically, the text above the manufacturer’s name says “taste and health” in Japanese.

The first ingredient is sugar and the second is ‘gaufrette’, which is defined online as “a wafer of crisply fried potato cut to resemble a small waffle”. However, if you look at the original untranslated ingredient list (in Japanese), it contains flour, starch, sugar, chocolate, vegetable oil, and salt as sub-ingredients of this item. The term “wheat cracker” is also used in the translated English text though it doesn’t taste like a typical wheat cracker to me.

This product also contains several types of nuts – peanuts, hazelnuts, and almonds, but they contribute more to texture than taste.

For the entire list (in English), see the image at the bottom of this post.

Price/Availability

I bought this at the Morikami Museum’s gift shop for only $3.00. Since this is an imported product I consider it a pretty good price, equal if not cheaper to something domestically produced. One reason for the low price is that the wafer portion is very light (filled with air) and so there is a bit of filler.

For those who want to learn more about the Morikami museum you can check out my review of it here.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.0 Nutrition/Ingredients:  5.0 Price: 9.0  Overall: 7.0

Summary

This Japanese import candy has a unique texture and flavor, but several debatable ingredients make it hard to recommend to those who are concerned about the safety of the ingredients they consume.

References

http://www.morikami.org/

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gaufrette

http://www.glico.co.jp/pakitz/

http://selftaughtjapanese.com/

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Product Review – Whole Foods Coffee Ice Cream

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Flavor

I’ve eaten most of a carton of this product in several sittings, but each time I just can’t get past the odd texture. If you’ve read my other ice cream reviews, you’ll know I am a big fan of creamy texture (heck, who isn’t?). Unfortunately, eating this ice cream right out of the freezer, or even 5-10 minute later, gives an unappetizing rough, icy texture. I even tried to break up the cream into tiny pieces with my spoon to facilitate the melting process, but that was only partially effective. After around ~20 minutes of waiting for it to melt, I finally got one spoonful of something I’d consider partially creamy.

If this was my first taste of a coffee ice cream I might be OK with this, but I’ve had at least two others that are much, much tastier and creamier (Talenti’s Coffee Chocolate Chip and Three Sister’s Milk Coffee). The taste itself in Whole Foods coffee ice cream is only so-so, with a strong element of coffee and milk, and a weak sweetness.

I think the problems with texture, as well as taste, stem from not enough sugar being used. Though I appreciate the effort to try and reduce sugar for health reasons, this reminds me of some experimental batches of ice cream I’ve made in my time.

Nutrition/Ingredients

This ice cream has only 180 calories in a single serving (1/2 cup, 90 grams). That’s near the low end of ice creams of this type.

Sugars are only 13 grams. This is very low compared to Three Twins milk coffee, which has 17 grams. Its also lower than most other ice creams out there, by a large margin.

With only six ingredients, and no artificial flavorings or colorings, it does get much more natural and simple than this. Two differences between the Three Twin’s product and this are the order of the coffee and egg yolks (they are reversed), and the lack of vanilla extract in Whole Food’s product.Full Ingredient List: Pasteurized milk, pasteurized cream, cane sugar, egg yolks, and carob bean gum.

Price/Availability

I got this for around $4.99 at Whole Foods Market.

Ratings:   Flavor: 5.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:  8.0  Price: 7.0   Overall:  6.67

Summary

Any points this product gets for healthiness and natural ingredients are cancelled out by a completely non-creamy texture and mediocre taste.

References

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/whole-foods-market-coffee-ice-cream

Product review: Royce Chocolate “Black” (Imported Japanese Chocolate)

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This is the last review of a product I purchased in New York on a recent business trip there. I’ve reviewed one of the Royce stores, and also a green-tea flavored white chocolate of theirs.

The reason I bought this is because I felt like trying their dark chocolate, and many of their other products were much more expensive. This has only 63% cocoa content, but their products with higher percentage were either not in bar form or required refrigeration which was a no-go for a traveller like me.

The product name “Black” is actually not listed in English on the front of the package, though the black font does convey this image. It is listed at the bottom in Japanese (ブラック /  burak-ku).

The descriptive text for this product on their website says “Authentic dark chocolate with a superb balance of bitter”.

Flavor

The chocolate bar is contained in a airtight, plastic bag inside of the external wrapper. Many other chocolatiers make similar efforts, but this is the best job I’ve seen in terms of keeping the chocolate in perfect shape right up until you take your first bite.

The little square nuggets this chocolate is segmented into (32 total) are a little thicker than I usually prefer, but I quickly got over this minor issue as I placed one gently into my mouth. Just like the marketing material, the bitterness of cocoa was balanced with a succulent chocolaty sweetness that was out of this world.

I usually eat higher concentration chocolate so this tasted extra sweet to me, but in my memory of eating bars in the 60-70% range this was the best tasting. Having said that, I hope to review another chocolate bar in the near future with the same cocoa content and see how it stacks up in a side-by-side taste test.

There isn’t much else to say about this bar – there isn’t any special texture or add-ins. But for semi-sweet chocolate lovers there is little to complain about and lots to love!

Nutrition/Ingredients

A 130g package contains 4.5 servings, each composed of 7 blocks (30 g) of chocolate. One serving has 180, with 120 of those from fat.

The 63% of cocoa in this product is really at the low end of what is considered “dark” (60-70% is the typical minimum). As a lover of chocolate in the range 75-90%, I wish they would put out a bar with higher concentration. However, as I mentioned in another of my reviews on Lindt chocolates, the strong bitterness of hardcore dark chocolate is an acquired taste, so it makes sense for producers to pick a mixture that everyone can enjoy.

There is 11 grams of sugar per serving, typical for semi-sweet chocolate.  There is also 2 grams of protein, and 2 of fiber.

Containing two of ingredients I dislike for health reasons, “natural flavor” and “artificial flavor”, I can’t recommend this to anyone who is picky about whats in the food you eat. But for those who don’t care (or those that do but can make an exception time to time), the extra flavor resulting from these mysterious ingredients is well worth it.

Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavor.

Price/Availability

This sells for $7.99 and is only available by going directly to the Royce stores in New York, which were recently established in 2012.

Doing a quick price comparison against Lindt’s 50% bar, we see the price for Royce “Dark” is about 1.5 times higher. I feel the price is worth it for a rare, imported product.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5  Nutrition/Ingredients: 6.0   Price: 6.5   Overall: 7.0

Summary

Though a little pricy, this refined chocolate imported from Japan packs a savory taste that’s top class. Just be aware that the ingredients contained are not fully disclosed and are certainly not natural.

References

http://royceconfectusa.com/portfolio/black-chocolate-bar/

http://royceconfectusa.com/about-royce/

Product Review – Financier Patisserie Brownie

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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 : Royce Prafeuille Chocolat “Maccha”

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This is the first of two products I will be reviewing from the Japanese chocolatier Royce, whose store I discussed here.

I purchased this because its’ one of the few products sold in the US which is flavored with real green tea powder.

Flavor / Appearance

Each of the 30 chocolate wafers is individually wrapped and stacked in 6 bins. I’ve noticed this type of packaging is pretty common in Japanese candies, and has the advantages of maintaining freshness and cleanliness, in addition to adding to the ‘gourmet chocolate’ feeling. On the other hand, it contributes to extra waste and adds time to the process of eating each one.

Opening one of these little packs reveals a light green candy in the shape of a perfect square. It’s slightly larger than a quarter and has  name ‘Royce’ printed across several times diagonally. It’s also extremely thin, surely the thinnest chocolate I have seen in my life, roughly three or four times  shorter than your average chocolate bar.

Before you take a bite, you may notice a buttery smell reminiscent of white chocolate, with a definite note of green tea. The flavor and texture are also very similar to white chocolate, again with a subtle taste of green tea powder, almost what I would call an aftertaste but nevertheless the real thing.

Inside each thin wafer there is an even smaller portion of “maccha sauce” (translated directly from the Japanese text inside the package), which is basically like a maccha-flavored jelly with an extra touch of sweetness. The practically microscopic size of this jelly makes it difficult to appreciate, however.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In one serving (7 pieces / 30 grams), there is 180 calories, half from fat, and 11 grams of sugars. This amount of sugar roughly corresponds to a chocolate with 60% cocoa.

This product is essentially a white chocolate, and therefore does not contain cocoa solids, only cocoa butter. Unfortunately this means it also lacks many of the antioxidant properties of dark or semi-sweet chocolate.

The ingredients are fairly commonplace, and not particularly unhealthy, except for “artificial flavor” which is even worse than my pet peeve “natural flavor”. I generally try to avoid any artificial flavors, which are basically chemicals cooked up in a lab which try to simulate the taste of real, organic substances. The composition of these compounds could technically be the same as their organic counterparts, however they were created via some form of chemistry magic, so cannot be considered “natural”.

While Royce does a good job putting out a high class chocolate image, its clear they are not catering to the health-seeking crowd, with artificial flavorings and no other special qualifications (organic,vegan, etc.).

Ingredients: cocoa butter, sugar, glucose syrup, skim milk powder, whole milk powder, lactose, powdered green tea, soy lechitin, artificial flavor

Price/Availability

In America, this is only officially available via one of their two (soon to be three) New York stores, where it sells for $18. You may be able to find third parties importing it from Japan, but there is usually a very high mark-up, on the order of 200%-300%.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7   Nutrition/Ingredients: 7   Price: 6.0   Overall: 6.66

Summary

Royce has put great effort into the appearance and packaging of this product, but the taste itself is basically white chocolate with some green tea powder added in. Artificial flavors, plus a high price, makes it hard to recommend it for most people except green tea fans who are more likely to appreciate the flavor.

References

http://royceconfectusa.com/portfolio/maccha-prafeuille-chocolat/