Sunday, February 1, 2015

Recall: Streit's Dark Chocolate Coins

I don't know how many of you who got chocolate coins for various holidays back in December will still have any -- as much as we might preach Moderation here on The Chocolate Cult, I'm still a realistic priestess and I know you probably ate them.  But just in case you still have some, take a look at this recall.

Aron Streit, Inc. Issues Allergy Alert On Undeclared Milk Allergens In "Streit's Dark Chocolate Coins"

Consumer Contact: 212-475-7000

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 16, 2015 – New York, NY – Aron Streit, Inc. of New York, NY is recalling its .5 ounce packages of "Streit's Dark Chocolate Coins" because they may contain undeclared milk allergens. Consumers who are allergic to milk allergens may run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reactions if they consume this product.

The product comes in .5 ounce mesh bags marked with Code:1814 on the label. The recalled "Streit's Dark Chocolate Coins" were imported by Streit's and distributed nationwide in retail stores.

The recall was initiated after a consumer complained of an allergic reaction. Sampling by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Food Inspectors and subsequent analysis by Food Laboratory personnel revealed the presence of undeclared milk allergens in the .5 ounce mesh bags of "Streit's Dark Chocolate Coins", which did not declare a milk ingredient on the label.

Consumers who have purchased .5 ounce mesh bags of "Streit's Dark Chocolate Coins" are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 212-475-7000.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Equal Exchange Sweet Additions to Chocolate Bars

Another Equal Exchange review before Valentine's Day because giving this chocolate to your loved one is giving him/her so much more than heart-shaped candy; it is giving them concern for the world.  The wrappers, both the outside and the silver inside ones, are made from recycled and recyclable materials for example. Over the course of a week and with some assistance, I tried four of their 3.5oz bars that have something extra added them that gives them extra texture or an extra kick of flavor. Three of these are dark bars ranging from 55-67% cacao and one is a 41% milk chocolate bar. None of the bars use any soy so for those of you with those allergy concerns, these might be a good idea for you. Let's look at these one by one, Sisters and Brothers, in order of increasing darkness.

We start with the Caramel Crunch in a 41% cacao milk chocolate bar that has a periwinkle blue on reddish tan design on the wrapper.  Just opened, this bars has signs of crunchy pieces inside that I don't know how well you can see in the photo.  Before any of the pieces are broken off it has a creamy cocoa with a sweetness fragrance; once broken into pieces the sweetness becomes more buttery like caramel should be. It breaks easily into the marked off sections, each break releasing more caramel and milk chocolate scent.Taking a bite and then each chew is crunchy but we also found the little pieces inside were chewy and liked to stick to our teeth.  The first flavor was sweet caramel then a milk chocolate faded in until we were left with a wonderful blend of the flavors as we chewed. Letting a piece melt in our mouth urged a more creamy milk chocolate first then an increasing caramel flavor until we were left with just chewy, sticky pieces that seemed saltier than expected. We recommend eating this bar by chewing it and you won't be disappointed.

We stay with Caramel Crunch but this time in a 55% cacao dark chocolate bar with the color scheme inverted -- tan on a deep purple background on the wrapper. The darker nature of this bar is evident from the moment it is unwrapped because the scent is much darker with almost no hint of the buttery sweetness from the previous milk chocolate version.  Breaking off the pieces is a touch more difficult but it releases more of the caramel fragrance along with the darker cocoa. You can see the pieces but the bar is much darker; I wish I had saved the previous bar to lay side by side but you all get enough photos on our posts, right?  Back to this bar.  The first bite makes a crunch and that continues with each bite, the tiny bits of caramel crunch making the most sound. These tiny bits are chewy but not as much as with the milk chocolate for some reason but they do still stick to the tops of some of our teeth.  The initial flavor is salt then dark chocolate quickly followed by butter and sweet tanginess that turns back to a blend of flavors with a darker edge. As you know, Sisters and Brothers, your Chocolate Priestess loves darker chocolate 55% is barely dark but in this case it makes a huge difference. Both bars are excellent but I personally preferred this one; my co-tester preferred the milk chocolate one -- complimentary versus similar flavors. For those of you who need to avoid dairy this is the bar you want of the caramel crunch version, because there is no dairy at all.

The Dark Chocolate Orange bar has a bright yellow on orange wrapper headline and 65% cacao content.  It is made with primarily organic ingredients and natural orange oil; no dairy. There is a strong cocoa and orange fragrance; the orange isn't sweet but more intense than the typical orange scent you get from orange flavored candies and most chocolates. The is very dark brown in color, nearly black. It makes a louder snap when I break off the pieces and breaking it requires more force, common in high cacao chocolate.  More dark chocolate scent is released but not more orange when I bring it and my hands have a bit of orange and cocoa scent to them. Since there are no pieces of anything in this bar, let's start with one section simply allowed to melt first -- the first flavor is a slightly dark chocolate followed by a slight orange that is not sweet, just as the fragrance suggested, over the passing minute it takes it to melt in my mouth the bitter and orange build up to an chocolate orange brownie that's been baked until well-done flavor... I like it but I moved on to try it just by chewing. Oddly this one doesn't really much a sound when I bite and the initial dark chocolate is sharp but blends well into the intense orange very quickly. The two flavors stay blended but there is a strong almost acidic aftertaste that I didn't get from letting it melt in my mouth; it makes my tongue tingle! Just a note: this is real orange flavor, no sugar added oils, so it is a bit on the sour and acidic side if you are used to mass produced juice or orange flavored candy. We both liked it but you may be surprised by the intensity of the flavors.

Finally the Mint Chocolate with a delicate crunch is in 67% cacao chocolate and has a two-tone green scheme to the wrapper. Dark chocolate and intense peppermint hit my nose as soon as I tear open the silver foil wrapper. This is a very dark color and it looks smooth until you see it it from the broken apart pieces where the inside looks rough but I don't see the "peppermint crisps" listed on the ingredients; they must be very tiny. The bar is very hard to break apart, releasing more dark chocolate and peppermint when I do so but also melting already on my fingers and palms. Taking a bite I note the roughness of the chocolate, it makes soft crunches but also has a rustic sort of feeling to it that reminds me of Mayan or Aztec "made" chocolates.  The flavor is initially very dark then the peppermint oils kick in to blend well but leave my tongue cooled and tingling much like the orange oil did. If you don't like the rougher texture you can let a piece melt in your mouth but it only separates the two flavors a bit more and you ultimately still get the graininess on your tongue. We both really loved it but highly recommend chewing this bar.

There you have it, Sisters and Brothers, more wonderful, big chocolate bars from Equal Exchange. Not a bad flavor combination among the four though we each had favorites as you may have teased out in the above paragraphs. For Equal Exchange commitment to social causes, organic foods, and simple chocolate products that taste great, these four bars earn Sacrament Status.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Two Twix Topped Donut Brands Recalls

Two recalls related to the Twix candy bar which does use chocolate but in the of a topping sold for two different brands of donuts.  I've never heard of these donut brands, they aren't sold in my area, but I want to protect you all, Sisters and Brothers, so please read below. The donuts look like the one in the image to the right even though they are different brands.

Northern Tier Bakery Issues Allergy Alert on Potential Undeclared Peanut in Product

Consumers Contact: 1-855-468-6972

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — January 16, 2015 — Northern Tier Bakery LLC of St. Paul Park, MN is voluntarily recalling Twix Bismarck doughnuts due to the possibility of an undeclared peanut allergen in the Twix topping sourced from a third party. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts may run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

The Twix Bismarck was distributed and sold between January 1, 2015, and January 14, 2015, at retail convenience stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Twix Bismarck is a white frosted doughnut with a chopped Twix topping.

The recall was initiated after peanut allergen was discovered in the chopped Twix product distributed to Northern Tier Bakery by a third party in packaging that did not reveal the presence of peanuts. Production of the Twix Bismarck has been suspended.

No illnesses have been reported to date, and there currently is no evidence that any Twix Bismarck distributed for sale contains a peanut allergen. Nonetheless, this recall has been issued by Northern Tier Bakery in an abundance of caution, to ensure the safety of consumers. Northern Tier Bakery takes every precaution necessary to ensure the integrity and quality of its products.

Consumers who have purchased a Twix Bismarck are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers may call 1-855-468-6972 with any questions.

Tarrier Foods Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Peanuts and Egg in Chopped Twix

Consumers Contact: (614) 876-8595

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 16, 2015 – Columbus, OH – Tarrier Foods of Columbus, OH is recalling 316 cases of Chopped Twix item 0807, because it may contain undeclared peanuts and eggs. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts and eggs run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

The Chopped Twix product was distributed to wholesale warehouses in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Florida where it was distributed to foodservices.

The product can be identified by the item number 0870 on the outside of the case. The inside contains two bags in white film marked "CHOPPED TWIX Lot 087034314."

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that product containing peanuts and eggs was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of peanuts and egg on the ingredient statement. Subsequent investigations are being performed to determine the temporary breakdown in the company's production and packaging processes."

Consumers who have purchased Chopped Twix lot code 080734314 are urged to return it to the distributor for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Tarrier Food's Customer Service at (614) 876-8595.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bake Some Love for Valentine's Day 2015

Let's say that you don't want to buy your love something for Valentine's Day but instead bake them something. We were recently sent a five pound bag of morningpep xylitol made from Birch alcohol. The bag claims that the product is made in the USA, free of pesticides,and claims to have no aftertaste and be 40% fewer calories than cane or beet sugar. However like most sugar alcohols, I have a concern about it affecting our digestive system so I tried it single serving size in the form of cookies.

How to test ingredients is always a challenge because I want to use what I have on hand.  As you may recall, I also try to test 2-4 recipes with an ingredient if I have enough of it -- 5 pounds of xylitol is more than enough for many recipes. So I looked through my pantry and decided to try three types of cookies based on baking chips I had on hand: cinnamon, mini chocolate chip, and Reeses chips.

I'll share the chocolate chip cookie recipe with you today, Sisters and Brothers, then later I'll share what I did with the Reeses chips and chocolate so keep looking back if you want to learn that recipe later in 2015.

Oatmeal Mini Chocolate Chips Cookies

1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup egg whites
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup xylitol
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole grain flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 385°F and lightly grease or spray large cookie sheet.

2. Beat all of the wet ingredients plus the sugars together until spead.

3. Add in the dry ingredients and blend well until the flour is thoroughly moist.

4. Stir in the mini chocolate chips though incorporated throughout.

5. Spoon by normal eating spoon onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes (9 worked best for my oven).

6. Once baked, remove to cook on parchment or other paper lined surface to cool.
Made 47 cookies for me with 67 calories a piece!

The Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies were great, too. No aftertaste from the xylitol, nothing that set them apart from the standard recipes results other than a touch fewer calories.

The Cocoa Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies were wonderful as well but I'll share that recipe in a later post so come back to learn more about them.

Results of using morningpep xylitol:

     Reduction of calories, amount depended on how much beet or cane sugar you'd normally use. Don't too excited because if you are using butter, oils, brown sugar, eggs, anything like that, the calorie reduction isn't a lot and you still shouldn't eat more than you normally would.

     No initial negative flavor. I wish I had an excellent camera so I could take a close up of the crystals for xylitol and cane sugar for you all to see but I simply don't. While they look different they don't taste very different and not in any nasty way.

     No aftertaste at all. Even my best sugar substitute has a slight aftertaste, not unpleasant but it is still there, an added level of sweetness. but with this the cookies I tried tasted no different at all.

     Had no unusual or unwanted effects on the flavor or texture of the cookies. When you are making ingredient substitutes for health or appearance reasons you need to create foods and drinks you want to eat as much as the originals otherwise you simply will not maintain the dietary regime. xylitol had no effect on the texture or flavor so unless I told someone, they had no clue.
In other words, this product performed as I would expect beet or cane sugar to perform and as well as my favorite zero calorie sugar substitute but much better than most other sugar substitutes. One general complaint I have about morningpep xylitol is the same I have for all sugar and sugar substitutes -- the nutrition label isn't very helpful if you use the product to bake or cook with. Who uses a teaspoon of these ingredient to make candy or cookies or cake? Hey, companies, do us a favorite and another listing for 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup nutrition information please.

Would I use morningpep xylitol in the future? While the product performed great and I think it would be a good choice if you are cutting calories or worried about sugar, I'm very happy with my sugar substitutes which have zero calories. Given the price differences as well I wouldn't switch.  Anyone else out there use this product? What did you think?