Thursday, April 24, 2014

William Curley Sea Salt Caramel Mou Bar

Here we have another purchase I made at the Chocolate Festival - this time actual straight up chocolate. My review of the brownies includes a bit of a blurb about the festival itself, as well. There will be a couple more reviews coming, including stuff from Melt & 5th Dimension Chocolates.

I've had William Curley treats a few times - including a super fun experience at the dessert bar & a box of assorted chocolates. I was looking forward to trying this bar, as salted caramel is tops and I had no idea what 'mou' is...but I was interested. Why didn't I ever think to Google it?

Instead, I just bought one as soon as it was in front of me. Hey, like people in the olden days!

It's quite cool that it is split in two, that made sharing it with my husband very easy. I guess the implication is you shouldn't eat both of them at the same time. Pah!

It is a dark chocolate that it's covered in - I think it's the best partner to the filling as the caramel is sweet & salty, the little bit of bitterness makes the rest of the flavors really come out. It's a thin coating, so I can't really speak to the flavor of the chocolate too specifically except that it went very well with the caramel.

So, turns out mou seems to mean a caramel that is soft & chewy rather than runny or firm. Tough to call it 'chewy', though, as it does sort of melt in your mouth eventually - you wouldn't have to chew.

 William Curley does another salted caramel bar, that isn't specified as being mou - so I think that one is runny. It's really a matter of preference, and I think I'd go with the runnier one next time. Not that the mou wasn't good - I just prefer very runny caramel. As far as chewier ones go though, the taste was lovely & the texture was better than usual since it was very soft and chewing wasn't a complete necessity.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Paul A Young Golden Champagne Egg

Happy day-after-Easter, everyone! Have you all gone and gotten clearance Creme Eggs & giant novelty chocolate bunnies? Good!

I went with one very special egg this year, and I'm not ashamed to say I'm thinking about going to Paul A Young tomorrow to see if there are A) any left, and B) if they're on sale.

There were 2 fully filled eggs out this year from Paul A Young, a change from previous years which only saw one flavor released. Joining salted caramel in 2014 was this champagne egg. I've had the salted caramel one before, prior to my blog beginning, but the review would be like this: drooling noise, indistinguishable chewing

So, I had high hopes for the champagne egg. These chocolate eggs are like I always wanted as a kid, a large and fully filled egg - back then it was a Creme Egg I was dreaming of at this size, but nowadays I'm slightly more sophisticated. I would like any kind of filling, including a giant Creme Egg. With age comes wisdom, I say.

A nice feature of this egg was the porcelain egg cup & spoon being included, for ease of eating. Being a large & fully filled egg, it might've been kind of tough otherwise. The only downside with this is that since they're nice quality bits it probably upped the cost quite a bit. It was  a luxury at £20, but you do get some tableware along with your dessert! I'm no egg cup expert, this is the first I've ever owned if you can believe that, but it seems nice. Certainly kept the champagne egg in one place.

 It was a beautiful egg, too - nice gold shimmer across and a cool embossed effect. Eating it with the cute little set made it feel even more special.

My husband did the honors of the initial bite this time - see, I'm throwing the forensic teams off my scent by making use of a different set of choppers.

The inside ganache was very wet feeling, but thick - it was able to balance the spoon, and when held upside down it wouldn't spill out. It was also much more alcoholic tasting than say, a Charbonnel et Walker champagne truffle - which are of course quite nice, but they taste quite a bit more like a chocolate than champagne. I'm not sure how it was done, but I'm glad it was - it even tasted bubbly. I'm not a champagne connoisseur (oh really, you're asking, you who a few paragraphs ago wished for a giant Creme Egg aren't a champagne connoisseur? I would've thought such a refined palette  as yours would love champagne, I suppose next you'll be telling me that you had to look up how to spell connoisseur!) but this tasted like the stuff I've had before that was labeled 'champagne'. Fizzy, fruity, and with a boozy burn.

The outer milk chocolate shell was also very good - it had a cool, melting sort of sensation. I rarely get to try so much Paul A Young chocolate without any filling, but it's quality stuff. I'd say the milk chocolate was just as 'complex' as the dark, which might be controversial to dark chocolate lovers. Hey, I never said Creamy Steaks wouldn't take it there.

Since I've had both, I know that my preference would actually be for the salted caramel egg - it's just more my style. I like the dark chocolate's slight bitterness, the sweet of the caramel, and the saltiness of the...salt. My husband however prefers the champagne - he's more of a food appreciator than appraiser, so his reasoning is just that he likes champagne filling more.

I'm looking forward to more of these filled eggs, I hope in the coming years there are even more flavors!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Chocolate Festival, London: Bad Brownie, Batch Bakery

I know it doesn't seem like it from this blog, and if it does please don't tell me because I'll cry, but I'm kind of awkward! So when circumstances forced me to go to the Chocolate Festival alone if I wanted to go at all, I steeled myself up for some weirdness. I don't like to stand around by myself, silently buy things, and look surly.

One of the things I was most excited for was trying brownies from two of London's most recent and celebrated brownie-ers: Batch Bakery & Bad Brownie. Being me though, I wasn't able to contain myself to try similar flavors, or even easy to compare flavors from the two. At Batch Bakery I got the Peanut Butter Oreo Brownie "Bun", which was like a brownie cupcake with an Oreo inside, surrounded by peanut butter and topped with peanut butter frosting. At Bad Brownie I got the Maple & Bacon Brownie, which is apparently the second best seller.

The Oreo Brownie Bun was incredibly good - which is unsurprising considering the ingredients. There was a lot of peanut butter in the center, and the peanut butter frosting was perfectly smooth - a difficult one with peanut butter frosting, as I've often had it/made it and watched it turn out a bit grainy.

The Oreos had gone a bit softer from baking, but that just makes them integrate better into the batter. The brownie itself was well done, more cake-y than fudge-y but it made sense since it was filled with richness anyway. The chocolate flavor itself was light - but again, it's full of peanut butter & Oreos, it probably shouldn't be a heavy dark chocolate brownie on top of all that.

Batch Bakery had a lot of other interesting flavor combinations, so I'd be happy to give them another go sometime. They're mostly in markets - I actually remember seeing them in R3d Market a few times, but I had always been rushing back to the office after getting my Burger Bear, haha.

The Maple & Bacon Brownie from Bad Brownie was a risk, I accept that. However I've had some bacon & ____ sweets before that ended up just right. A special 'American Brunch' style cupcake from Hummingbird ages ago turned out super. Maple-y flavored frosting, a buttery cake & with tiny bits of soft salty, bacon, and a single crispy, salty slice of bacon on top. Worked very well. I even had a Denny's 'Baconalia' salted caramel & bacon brownie sundae, which was also nice! I have, however, also had a chocolate bar with bacon in it that tasted dreadful. It can go either way.

Unfortunately for Bad Brownie, this one was in the same camp as that nameless, random chocolate bar.

I'm absolutely sure that there other flavors are great - they looked good, and the brownie itself was tasty. All the bits that were absent bacon, that is. That bacon was dreadful, just the chewiest, jerkiest, and not even that salted. Just like crunchy, chewy bits of jerky inside a brownie. I don't know how it could've been done better, but it could have. There was also a lot of it, you certainly couldn't complain if you were a fan of jerky & chocolate. I think the problem was the chewiness and the lack of salt - the other bacon & sweet combos I've had have had quite soft bits of bacon in the batter, and maybe one crispy bit on top. Never anything half as chewy as this, though. I mean, bacon stuck in my teeth - bacon that would've been bad with eggs, just not good bacon. The maple was also pretty much a non-participant, so my guess is that real maple syrup was used to flavor it.

Good effort, but my experience as a maple loving baker myself tells me that the only way to really get a maple taste to come through, especially when paired with chocolate, is to use artificial extract.

 It's a shame, because the brownie itself was very well done - dense, fudge-y, squishy, very strong chocolate taste. Did everything right, I just wasn't a fan of the bacon element. I'd be excited to try another flavor, it was my own fault for going risky. I do wonder though, how much of this brownie's buyers are second-timers? It sounds fun & tasty, but it comes out a bit tough to love...and tough in general. I bet most people give this one a go, find out it doesn't work that well but the brownie is good, and come back to try salted caramel or something. For my readers I suggest you just skip the initial curiosity, and drown that nagging voice saying "but salty & sweet is great, right? eccentric flavor combinations like this are always worth it!" with some classic brownies.

I'll be honest, these were very tasty - but none of them beat the Paul A. Young brownie for me. I like fudgy, very densely chocolate, and nearly just goo in the middle. Brownies really are divisive - some people will probably appreciate the more cakey texture of these two, but for me it's all about the fudge and squish - as much as I can get. Still very tasty stuff, and if you see either of these sellers in markets, grab one!

I got lots of other interesting things at the Chocolate Festival to be reviewed later, so...stay tuned!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Choc Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns to me are basically just that song I had to learn on the recorder before I was allowed to graduate elementary school.

That sentence probably only made sense to about 40 percent of my readership. This video should explain it all and warm your heart at the same time. When I was in school we all had to learn that song and perform it. No explanation given as to what hot cross buns were, and why they were so cheap. So, they're not a food with a lot of cache in America, and I'm not even sure they have an association with Easter. At least in my neck of the woods, it's exclusively a song.

So no, I didn't know what they had in them and I certainly had no idea what a chocolate one would taste like. Even after living here for about 4 years I don't think I've eaten one. Not that I'm opposed to the idea, it's just not a traditional food where I come from, nor does it seem to have that compelling of a flavor. Same thing as some American foods - for instance, I certainly wouldn't be pushing a king cake on any English people. A little boring, but nostalgic.

These Choc Cross Buns by Hotel Chocolat did intrigue me, however. Limited edition? Interested. Cinnamon spiced praline and apple ganache? Sold. 

They're nice & thick, substantial pieces of chocolate so the serving suggestion of 3 seems appropriate for a snack. I had them with a milky tea, and it really brought out some spice & sweetness.

The first one I ate was without tea accompaniment - this was tasty, but unfortunately just seemed like an enrobed truffle. Not even nutty from the praline, and I certainly didn't pick up any apple or cinnamon.

However, once they warmed up a bit by being near my tea (or dipped in my tea, or eaten alongside it) the flavors really came through. The apple was tart, and the cinnamon was spicy & sweet, very warming.

I was a bit surprised when I bit through that there was no kind of gushy apple sauce or syrup like I had expected - silly me though, it did say apple ganache. I feel like a stronger flavor would've been developed had it been an apple puree or something rather than just apple flavor mixed in with a chocolate ganache. Would that have been better, though? Maybe not, the subtlety wasn't really a problem after chasing it with tea. Anything stronger might've been overpowering!

 I wonder if the stronger flavor profile I seemed to get after warming them up a bit has to do with the fact that the flavor of spiced apple is usually a part of something that has been toasted. Whatever the case, these went from plain chocolate to nice mix of flavors with just a little bit of warmth. I'd therefore suggest trying these with a cup of tea, warm milk or some hot chocolate.