Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chocolate Covered Cookies, Pretzels and Potato Chips, Oh My!

Asher's Chocolates wants you to look at some of their products now and think about adding them to your holidays, as gifts, or as treats you can have every day or week regardless of the time of year.  As you can see, Sisters and Brothers, they submitted four items as potential Sacraments to your Chocolate Priestess to try and reveal to you all in full five-sensory glory.  These included two types of chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered potato chips (which I've never had before), and milk chocolate covered sandwich cookies.

I'll start with the cookie, since for me they're the most familiar treat.  The cookie, as I hope you can see in the photograph, is covered in chocolate that even rises to little peaks on the top to give it an interesting look that is quite unlike the perfectly smooth cookies you get off of grocery shelves.  It has a strong milk chocolate scent and a cool but not waxy texture. Inside, according to the ingredients, is a Nabisco Oreo cookie, but the coating is made of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor with both natural and artificial flavors.  Milk and Soya are highlighted for allergy concerns.

Each of these 2 × 0.6 inch cookies has 150 calories and contains 4 grams of saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, less than a gram of fiber, 14 g sugars, 2 g protein, plus 4% and 6% of the daily calcium and iron I should get.  Taking a bite I can see the Oreo inside but I can also see that the coating has filled in any gaps in the cookie, suggesting this was a good dunking into the milk chocolate and not simply a spray to get a layer.  This layer is thick and very cocoa-intense, which I don't normally expect with a milk chocolate.  Of course, the cookie inside is crunchy with each bite and blends well with the coating.  Each bite increases both a cocoa and a sugar buzz, so just one is more than enough per indulgence.  The per-cookie cost is approximately 55¢ on the website, which I think is a very fair price for this.

We'll move on to the milk chocolate smothered pretzels — note the wording; "smothered" and not merely "covered."  I think "smothered" would have been a better description for the above cookie sandwich as well, given how much coating there was and how it got into the cookie's cracks, but now I'll see whether it is fitting for these pretzels.  These are fairly large pretzels, measuring 3.25 inches at their widest and 2.5 inches long, with a depth of half an inch.  They have a lighter, creamier chocolate scent than the cookies but the same texture and feel in my fingers.  In total, this 6.5 oz. "coffee bag" contains 8 pretzels, or 4 servings of 2 pretzels each.  One serving has 230 calories, 6 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 19 g sugars, 4 g protein and between 2-6% of Vitamins A and C, Calcium, and Iron.

In terms of allergens, watch out for wheat, milk and soya.  The first ingredient is sugar, but these also have cocoa butter and chocolate liquor, as well as natural and artificial ingredients.  The Milk Chocolate Acolyte likes to make chocolate covered pretzels for our Christmas party each year, but he uses smaller, unsalted pretzels; these are the nice big hard versions, complete with some salt that starts to overwhelm the milk chocolate with each chew.  Parts of the coating break off as I bite into it with a big snap, though the crunchiness does not last as long as with the cookie.  Compared to other chocolate pretzel treats this is an excellent variation that costs about 88¢ apiece, about 10¢ less than I've seen for this same size offering in other stores.

Now let's turn our attention to the dark chocolate smothered pretzels that came in a another "coffee bag."  These are the same size and price as their milk chocolate version, so I won't repeat that information here.  The "coffee bags" all three of these bagged treats come in are recyclable, since they are mostly paper bags with flip-over tabs to hold them shut, but the plastic trays for the pretzels and the plastic bag for the chips below are not recyclable.  The dark pretzels have a slightly different nutritional makeup than their milk chocolate counterparts, with 220 calories, 7 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 130 mg sodium, 3 g fiber (I expect more fiber in darker chocolates because of how they are made), 16 g sugars, and 3 g protein, with only 2% of the calcium but 10% of the iron I need daily.  The second ingredient here is chocolate liquor, but this also contains cocoa butter plus more natural than artificial flavorings.  These should taste different.

They have a much deeper cocoa essence when I take a breath of one and hold it in my fingers for a few seconds.  This is just as smooth to my touch as the milk version and darker in coloration.  As you may notice in the photo, these also got bumped around a bit in transit, so they have rubbed areas on the surface, and one even broke, but the rest remained intact.  These are also crunchy when I bite, but oddly they crunch longer.  The coating also clings more tightly to the pretzel, not breaking off as easily and making fewer crumbs.  I'm not sure why this is, because the amount of coating appears to be the same.  The darker chocolate competes much better with the saltiness of the pretzels, so if you have to choose between these two varieties, I'd personally go with the darker for the greater cocoa pleasure, Sisters and Brothers.  Excellent buzz potential for these dark chocolate smothered pretzels, and well worth the price.

Finally, I'm going to try milk chocolate covered potato chips for the first time ever.  Initially it sounded a bit odd, but then I stopped and thought about it logically.  Potatoes can be used in a wide variety of ways: as side dishes, to make bread and pasta, etc.  So if they can serve the same function as wheat and other grains, why not cover them in chocolate, and we know, Sisters and Brothers, that chocolate covered pretzels tend to be excellent treats.  Before I can try them, however, I have to cleanse my mouth from the intensity of the previous treat.

The chips are in a larger bag for the same price as the pretzels, but since their shapes vary greatly, as you can see in this picture, it is more difficult to determine a serving size; each bag has about 6.5 servings, the nutritional label says.  Each serving has 150 calories with 5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium (surprisingly low for potato chips), 1 g fiber, 15 g sugars, and 1 g protein, with 4% calcium and iron.  These are made with cocoa butter, real fresh potatoes, chocolate liquor and one artificial flavor.    Unless you are allergic to chocolate itself or potatoes, these are allergen free.

These look like ridged potato chips and have a strong potato smell that momentary sets me back.  Trying new things can be a bit intimidating, but I've tried several new things since I began this journey, so I will certainly try this.  It makes a very slight crunch when I bite into it, and the crunch stays with each chew.  The principal taste is potato, but with less salt than the normal chips I buy.  The creamy milk chocolate flavor follows very quickly and blends nicely, turning sweeter with each bite.  I'm happy to be shown a new type of chocolate treat, pleased that human ingenuity has created some new twist with the Sacred Substance.  Are these my favorite among the four offerings from Asher?  No, the dark pretzels would have to take that place, but these are certainly good, and I'm so glad my mind, mouth, and soul have been rewarded with a new food.

These four treats from Asher's Chocolates offer both new twists on older types of treats as well as a first-time adventure for me.  The chocolate's quality is solid, and the ingredients are all natural except for minor artificial flavorings that never dominate the treat.  Given the quality and quantity, I think that Asher's Chocolates, at least these varieties, are well worth your consideration as gifts or simply treats to have at your house.  Asher's Chocolate is also offering all of you, Sisters and Brothers, 10% discount on your order if you enter this promo code: CULT09

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

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