Monday, December 11, 2017

Ho Ho Ho Holiday Bark

I've made bark and we've tested numerous barks here on The Chocolate Cult but today I want to introduce you to the Ho Ho Ho Holiday Bark from Sugar Plum Chocolates. You met from Sugar Plum a few days ago in this interview but today I'm going to take your senses into this tin gift box and show you a treat you may still have time to get for your winter holiday celebrations or even a seasonal birthday for the chocolate and peppermint lovers in your life. I think the tin, bow, and gift tag on it are wintery but not  any particularly holiday so that gives this wider appeal and great potential gift-giving use. Sugar Plum Chocolates sent us this tin in exchange for our testing it out and writing about it; no other form of compensation was received for this article.

The bark is three slabs of bark each individually wrapped. Only one small section of one slab broke in transit. Other barks I've received to test and write about have been broken into pieces. You can see the unbroken bark as your chance to control how much you eat at any given time or your chance to have fun breaking it up. If you know you want to share this with a small group, portion control might appeal, if you sharing with a large group then you may need a lot of pieces. Each slab's wrapper has the product name on the label but the nutritional and ingredient information is on the bottom of the tin itself. The three slabs nutritionally have 16 servings. Using a knife to cut it doesn't work very well as is the case in general for barks and solid chocolates. The "White Chocolate" does not meet the FDA definition of that product but the "Dark Chocolate" for the drizzle is basic sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and vanilla.

Note: I pointed out this problem with "white chocolate" to the folks at Sugar Plum Chocolates and they are working on fixing their labels. Hopefully they will also fix the information on their website. This is how responsible companies react you point out problems so I applaud them for doing so.

We used scissors to cut open the wrappers and the first fragrance was peppermint though not as much as you might expect. The bark broke into pieces easily with a snapping sound. the amount of dark chocolate drizzle and peppermint candies varied from slab to slab and piece to piece. The intensity of the peppermint was the strongest flavor followed by sweetness. Only letting the drizzled side melt against my tongue allowed that flavor to come out. The peppermint pieces and the cookies provided chunch without stickiness while the peppermint was a tingling coolness in our mouths. One tester described it as a "a bit too rich to eat much" but the others just thought it was the level of richness you expect from such a treat.

For us on The Chocolate Cult, earning Sacramental status is based in part upon the quality of chocolate and how well it stands up against other flavors. The chocolate in this Ho Ho Ho Holiday Bark is dark chocolate drizzle but it's flavor just could not power through the white candy, peppermint, and cookies. All three testers I had help me with this evaluation agreed on the dark chocolate flavor absence. However, we did all really like this product. We all love peppermint and this bark is really for the peppermint lovers in your life for Christmas, another winter holiday, or a birthday. Heck, I wouldn't offended to get this for Valentine's Day either.

Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Gingerbread Dark Chocolate? Yes!

Gingerbread Dark Chocolate from Askinosie
Askinosie sent us another bar to test out and let you all know about, another of their limited holiday collection. This one is truly made for winter: the Gingerbread Dark Chocolate bar! When I think winter holidays and flavors/fragrances, gingerbread is high on the list. This bar is made with single origin dark chocolate, cocoa butter, 5 savory spices (ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and clove), and unrefined cane sugar. This could either be a delight or the spices could over power it. I'm looking forward to trying this out and sharing the results with you all, but first, the legalities. We got this bar for free in exchange for a fair and honest review; no other form of compensation was received.

Gingerbread Dark Chocolate Askinosie, Unwrapped
The bar itself looks like most of the Askinosie bars we've tested and written about. It comes in a simple brown wrapper but with a tag that I'm going to highlight in the next paragraph. I cut open the clear plastic wrapper and as soon as I did my nose was hit by the delightful scent that reminded me of gingerbread. It really does! The scent made me want to gobble it down but I restrained myself and followed our testing procedures. I break the bar into the hashed squares and with each break it makes a sharp sound. I place one on my tongue and let it slowly melt. The first flavor is dark chocolate. It melts very slowly, almost two minutes just letting it melt on the top of my tongue. The five flavors can be tasted individually but also blend together as with gingerbread but without the bread component. The next square I chew and it makes only a soft sound. The initial flavor is still dark chocolate but the spices very quickly follow. The blend here is more spicy than letting it melt but the chocolate is always there. I think I preferred to let the chocolate melt for the most intense chocolate flavor but either way is excellent.

Gingerbread Dark Chocolate Gift Label
Let's talk about the label that is tied with a ribbon onto the brown wrapper. Normally I don't spend much time on packaging unless it is related to recyclable or organic matters or if it was particularly poorly packaged. But this label not only identifies the bar but also serves as a gift label. Do you see that in this photo? "To:" and "From" so you don't have to wrap the bar, you just write on the label itself. The back of this label has the nutritional information, true, but inside is a bit about the history of the bar and Askinosie itself. You might think the price is high when you check on this but really it isn't because of the quality of the ingredients and the treatment of the farmers and workers by the company. Plus with this label you save on wrapping and labeling it yourself.

Askinosie's Limited Holiday Collection Gingerbread Dark Chocolate Bar is Sacrament worthy! I think it would be a wonderful gift for any gingerbread and chocolate lover. So, are you going to order yours before they disappear?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Meet the Son behind Sugar Plum Chocolates

Neil Edley at Sugar Plum Chocolates Store
Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, today I want to introduce you to Neil Edley, Chief Innovation Manager for Sugar Plum Chocolates whose holiday bark we'll be examining in a few days.  Neil, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions for us.

Thank you. I’m always happy to get a chance to talk about chocolate.     

First, your mother, Frann Edley, is the candy maker and founder of Sugar Plum Chocolates but has she passed along her candy making and chocolate working secrets to you?

Absolutely. She taught me a lot about the craft. She always emphasized using integrity in everything you do. To us that means always using the finest ingredients. Our products are only as good as what we put into them so we utilize quality all around.    

Would you tell us what a Chief Innovation Manager does?

I do a little of everything. As Chief Innovation Manager I create new ideas for different types of confections we can make but I'm also open to ideas from my kitchen staff. We want to think of things that are a little bit different but that are just delicious. We want to combine other flavors with chocolate like we’ve done with our chocolate bar collections.     

Sugar Plum Chocolates Christmas Display
How often does Sugar Plum Chocolates come out with new products?

We come out with new products all the time! We have a bunch of new seasonal products which are just incredible. For the fall we came out with a pumpkin bark box that contains pumpkin peanut butter, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin spice latte bark. For the winter we have a white chocolate peppermint cookie bark and a gingerbread latte bark that are both new this year. We're currently planning some fun new goodies for Valentine’s Day and the spring.     

Without giving away trade secrets, is there a standard process Sugar Plum Chocolates follows when creating new products and how involved in that process are you personally?

Sometimes I get an idea or sometimes a member of our kitchen staff thinks it’d be fun to try something. We usually discuss it then we’ll make a prototype. We sample it then make any changes as needed. If it’s something we really like, we think how we can package and sell it. Basically, what product do I wish existed? What do I think the customer might want? I try to answer these questions with a uniquely flavored chocolate treat.     

For all the different products that Sugar Plum makes, what are your best sellers? Does that change from season to season?

Seasonal gifts are becoming more and more popular. Our pumpkin-inspired options are popular in the fall and our gift trays and our peppermint items are more popular around the holidays. It’s tough to ship chocolate in the summer months so we try to focus more on our flavor-infused nuts during the warmer months.      

What is your favorite candy or chocolate that Sugar Plum makes?

My personal favorite is our bourbon toffee bark. The taste of boozy chocolate is something we’ve been playing around with for a while and I really feel we hit this one out of the park. I like how the smoothness of the chocolate mixes with the nutty taste of the toffee bits with the overall oakiness of the bourbon flavor. It’s a really well-blended group of flavors and textures that all complement each other.    

Sugar Plum Chocolates Ribbon Cutting
Sugar Plum not only sells online but also has a retail store. Do you sell items in the physical store that you do not offer via online orders?

Everything we sell online we also have in our store. Sometimes shipping chocolate is tricky in the summertime though because of the heat.      
Sugar Plum has been in business for over 20. What is the secret to your success?

We offer a premium product. People will always flock toward quality. We make something you'd want to buy. We’re also always innovating and thinking of fun new things we can do with chocolate. Our chocolate bar collections on our website really exemplify how creative we can be.     

Finally, is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Sugar Plum Chocolates?

We’ve been around for over 22 years. Our product is outstanding and we ship worldwide. If you want really good chocolate, we’ve got you covered.     

Thank you, Neil, for speaking with us today.

Thank you. It was my pleasure.     

Readers, if you have follow-up questions or comments please do leave them for us and Neil to check out.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

No Plastic in Chocolate Products, Please

I tried a more eye-catching article title this time because I want you all to be safe.

-------------------- Recalls --------------------

Fit and Active Chocolatey Chip Protein Meal Bars Recalled

Leclerc Foods has initiated a limited voluntary recall of a single lot of Fit and Active Chocolatey Chip Protein Meal Bars packages with UPC Code 41498-18695 and only affected products with a “best by” date of May 24, 2018.

The recall was initiated as a precautionary measure after a small piece of yellow plastic was discovered by a consumer. No illness or injury has been reported.

The product is available in 9.5 oz. boxes containing 6 bars per box. The date code can be found printed in white on the top of the box. The “best by” date of May 24, 2018 is the only date code affected by the recall.

This product was distributed in ALDI stores in 21 states (Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, District of Columbia (DC), New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia).

No other ALDI product is involved in this recall.

All stores that sell Fit andActive Chocolatey Chip Protein Meal Bars packages immediately removed the affected product (UPC Code 41498-18695) with a “best by” date of May 24, 2018 from their shelves.

Consumers with additional questions on the recall may contact Leclerc Foods Customer Service at 1-800-463-6144 between the hours of 8:30am and 4:30pm EST.
Farrell Farms Dark Chocolate Nuts
Farrell Farms Recall

Farrell Farms, Inc. of Goldsboro, NC is recalling 7 oz Dark Chocolate Almonds, 7 oz Dark Chocolate Cashews, and 7 oz Dark Chocolate Pecans, because these products may contain undeclared milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

The Dark Chocolate Almonds, Cashews, and Pecans were distributed in NC. Product was sold at fairs and festivals and via our website from October 16th, 2017 until November 17th, 2017.

The individual retail units are in a clear cellophane heat sealed package. The product is labeled as Farrell Farms with the address 200 Gin Road, Goldsboro, NC 27530 on the label. Format of labels on retail units are similar for almonds, cashews, and pecan products.

No reports of illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was initiated after the supplier, Dutch Valley Food Distributors, Inc. of Myerstown, PA notified Farrell farms on November 18th, 2017 that the product was being recalled due to undeclared milk in the chocolate raw material used to coat the various nut products.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-919-583-4366, Mon-Sat, 8am to 5pm EST.
Virginia Diner Issues Recall

Virginia Diner, Inc. is voluntarily issuing a recall of 10 oz. cans of Plow & Hearth Chocolate Covered Cashews at Plow & Hearth’s locations and nationwide (Mail Order) as a precaution because they may contain peanuts and peanut allergens. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.  A label mix up was discovered by a consumer who received and opened a Cashew Tower Set (3 individual cashew cans) of which one can, the 10 oz. Chocolate Covered Cashews, were found to have Salted Peanuts.

The Virginia Diner, Inc. is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in administering this voluntary recall.  The Virginia Diner has not received any reports of illness or injury to date regarding this product.

Only the following PRODUCT and LOT CODE is affected, found on the bottom of each can:

UPC Code:  085582089193
Weight: 10 oz
Package Type:  Can
Label:  Plow and Hearth Chocolate Covered Cashews
Lot Code:  100917 XLSP
BEST BY:  10 04 18

This recall does not apply to any other Virginia Diner or Plow and Hearth branded products.

The Chocolate Covered Cashews, used in Cashew Towers (item #89291) were sold to and distributed from Plow and Hearth catalogs, website, and Plow and Hearth Retail Stores between October 25, 2017 and November 17, 2017.  Customers purchased Cashew Towers, from the Plow and Hearth Catalog, or purchased the Cashew Tower from a Plow and Hearth Store.  Virginia Diner and Plow and Hearth are requesting return of cans with the Lot Code of 100917 XLSP to a Plow and Hearth store, or to Plow and Hearth’s corporate office in Madison, VA for a replacement.

Consumers who have questions or concerns should contact the Virginia Diner at 866-296-6887, Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm EDT.

Within the Cashew Tower is a can of Plow and Hearth Chocolate Covered Cashews (UPC Code: 0 85582 0919 3).  This one product may contain salted peanuts instead of chocolate cashews (the other two items in the tower are correct).

If the can of chocolate cashews has the following information printed on the bottom of the can, it is subject to this recall (see photo).

If the can does not contain this information but instead has a CCC printed at the end of the second line of the lot information, then it is not subject to this recall and is fine for sale in the store.  This is the only item within the tower that may be mislabeled, therefore a (CCC) on the bottom of the chocolate covered cashews verifies that the item is correct.

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