Sunday, 26 February 2017

ChokABlok Caramel Yolkie (Tesco)

Tesco is my go-to for commercial chocolate bars. Their 3 for £1.20 deal is pretty damn good, particularly because I find it too hard to commit to buying a multipack of one bar (unless it's Reese's). At the moment they've got a deal on individual Easter chocolates too (as well as half price Oreo Egg 'n' Spoons and Milkybar Mini Eggs, hell yes!) which means you can mix and match any three items for £1. It was whilst perusing this offer* that I spotted their Caramel Yolkies. The Caramel Yolkies first came out last year, but neither of my local branches stocked them and so I missed out. My chocolate self-restraint failed me once again, and I simply couldn't miss out on the deal (they're 50p each) so the Yolkie was soon joined by Cadbury's mini eggs and a Milkybar bunny. Oops.

"Milk and white chocolate bar with a caramel filled inclusion."

The attractive 25g mini slab was branded on the back under Tesco's ChokABlock label.

I haven't had any of their bars in a couple years, so I wasn't sure what to expect from the quality. In terms of the cocoa content, their milk chocolate is respectably high with a minimum of 33.5% cocoa solids and 20.5% milk solids (compared to Cadbury's Dairy Milk containing a 23% and 20% respectively).


Despite its credentials, the flavour of Tesco's milk chocolate just didn't quite hit the spot. I mean it was edible, but lacked the silkiness of a high quality chocolate. The flavour was rich, there was just something else missing that I still can't quite put my finger on. As for the Caramel yolk, it was gooey and sticky but alarmingly sweet. Perhaps it's because it was surrounded by white chocolate (which I couldn't taste whatsoever) but the flavour jarred against the milk chocolate base and I can't say that I enjoyed it too much.


I'm glad I tried the Yolkie but I won't buy another, especially when there are far better tasting chocolates in the same deal.

5/10

*despite trying to stop myself from buying more, honestly I'm like an alcoholic in a pub.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

NEW! Savoury Cheese Hot Cross Buns (M&S)

Marks & Sparks' savoury hot cross buns have been gnawing away in the back of my mind since I spotted them six weeks ago.

What were M&S thinking? Had they created the new salted caramel and produced something so odd sounding that actually we'll all be living off in a few years time? Or were they just a disaster lying in wait for the poor sucker who dared to try them? Oh and how do you even serve them anyway? It's never a good sign to be thinking about something that much and not buy it, so I patiently waited to find one with the yellow reduced sticker at the end of the day.

Except that day never came, and so whilst my faith in the buns grew in line with their lack of clearance time rejection, my curiosity also surged. That was until I was perused Instagram on the train home yesterday and spotted a well-timed post from Marks & Spencer about their cheesy buns:

"M&S has launched the UK's first savoury hot cross bun. The Savoury Cheese Bun is made with a blend of two cheeses, just Turkish sultanas, onion, chives and of course traditional hot cross bun spice. It's said to be the perfect pairing of fruit and cheese and delicious stuffed with bacon for a gourmet bacon butty!  #hotcross17"

 I was hungry. I detoured. Oops. They were £1.70 each (I think) or 2 for £2.50.

 "4 savoury hot cross buns: a blend of 2 cheeses with Turkish sultanas, onions and chives with spices and a brewers yeast flavoured cross."

As someone who can't bear the sultanas in coronation chicken (or ham and pineapple for that matter) I wasn't sure how well I'd get on with these buns. Still I shouldn't moan considering I was only recently complaining about the lack of fruit in others.

I contemplated serving it with melted cheese (but I thought it might mask the cheesiness of the bun) then considered toasting it with butter and marmite, before deciding to roll with the serving idea suggested below the very instagram post that prompted my purchase in the first place. Bacon butty time it was!


The non-toasted bun was remarkably soft, with a strong cheesy chive scent. I couldn't help but nibble the corner whilst waiting for my bacon to cook and was oddly surprised at how odd the combination of the flavours was but also how much I enjoyed it.

The decision to fill it with smoked bacon and ketchup was genius. My tastebuds enjoyed the complexity of flavours; with the spices, sultanas, cheddar and chives prevalent in every bite. I thought that perhaps one element would fight for dominance, but instead they seemed to work in harmony. The added salinity from the bacon was welcome, and I'm not sure if the bun would have have tasted too sweet without it. As for the texture of the bun, it was denser and moister than your normal cheese topped bap, but I found the soft chewiness to be extraordinarily comforting.


I think I may have found a new favourite lunch time treat, bravo M&S! Stay tuned for a review of their mini chocolate orange hot cross buns...

10/10

Friday, 24 February 2017

Fresh Bakery Jam Filled Doughnut (LIDL)

It's that time of year. You know the one, when you only have to get within 100 metres of a supermarket before the sweet hunger-pang-inducing scent of hot cross buns assails your nostrils and suddenly you're making an unexpected detour into the bakery aisle. It drives me crazy, especially as I cycle down the side of Morrisons (and straight under their vents) on the way to the train station every day. In the same vein whilst I don't directly pass LIDL on the same stretch, I often pop in to replenish my Skyr supplies on the way home and more or less have to shut my eyes and nostrils when unavoidably passing their in-store bakery. It's not so much the scent of it, but the impressive array of both sweet and savoury treats that look undeniably tempting. Yesterday though my yogurt mission was unsuccessful -they sell like hot cakes, excuse the pun- which meant that I had enough room in my backpack for a treat or two. Oops.



Just look at that jam doughnut though! Even better, the basket was being refilled just as I picked up the tongs so I knew they were the freshest they could be. At 25p each they're a veritable bargain too, and LIDL even provide individual little plastic boxes to keep your treats safe (it seems that Krispy Kreme and Greggs could learn a thing or two from the German supermarket) .

Are you a powdered sugar or caster sugar jam doughnut fan? For me it's the former all the way, and it's part of the reason that I prefer Morrisons' bakery doughnuts over any of the other supermarkets' versions. This LIDL doughnut looked like it might trump Morrisons though because it was much bigger and so very light!

I couldn't help but feel hugely disappointed when I sliced the doughnut in two. Where was the huge dollop of sticky jam filling hiding? It then occurred to me why the doughnut was so light. It was devoid of jam.



Fortunately the dough was the saving grace. I mean it was everything that I want from a doughnut; unbelievably fluffy with a good sweet flavour and lacking that horrible greasy aftertaste that often lingers after eating one of Tesco or ASDA's. In fact the quality far surpassed both Greggs and Krispy Kreme!

The teaspoonful of jam was pretty good, gooey and sweet with a decent fruity flavour. Goddammit LIDL, if you'd doubled the jam content you'd have nailed the perfect doughnut!

I'm convinced I just bought a dodgy one, so next time I'm in store I'll ensure I leave enough room in my bag for another doughnut, you know, just in case! I'll keep you updated...

8/10

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Multipower 40% Protein Bars: Peach Yogurt, Chocolate Almond, & Blueberry Vanilla (Online)

Last week Multipower's PR company got in touch with me to ask if I'd like to try the new 40% Protein Fit Bars. To be honest, Multipower is a company that I hadn't come across before, but I was informed that their new bars are 'low in sugar, a great source of fibre and come in three amazing flavours'. As you know I'm always keen to try new bars and supplements, so I gladly accepted the offer.


By Monday a parcel arrived containing a selection of bars in all three flavours: peach yogurt, blueberry vanilla and chocolate almond. The protein bar market is already exceedingly saturated and so I was pleased to see that not only have Multipower brought out slightly more unusual flavours -no cookie dough in sight- but also that they're a completely different size to most of the bars currently available. At 35g, each bar contains less than 135kcal whilst delivering 14g of protein -not bad! For info they're also aspartame free (they're sweetened with sucralose instead). 

Peach Yogurt


Well it's not the most appealing looking bar I've ever seen, I don't buy protein bars for their aesthetics. I did give it a little squidge though, and instantly appreciated just how soft this bar was -there's nothing worse than a jaw-breaker. 


Just as I hoped: what the bar lacked in looks, it made up for in taste. It's hard to spot the freeze dried peach pieces in the photo but they packed a delicious punch (surprising considering they only constitute 3% of the bar). The nougat-like texture was remarkably soft too, which made it very easy to eat -sheer relief for my clicky jaw. Perhaps the biggest surprise came from the bar's casing though, which was in fact white chocolate and not yogurt. Lord knows why Multipower doesn't shout about this, white chocolate is always a winner in my book, and would certainly make me much more likely to pick a bar up from the shelf!

Macros: Kcal: 129 P: 14/C: 9.4 F: 4.7

9/10

Chocolate Almond


Having enjoyed the peach yogurt bar so much, I decided to try the chocolate almond bar for dessert last night, warmed up in the microwave with a good helping of Salted Caramel Oppo and sugar-free caramel syrup. Once again I appreciated how soft the bar was, and the addition of real almond pieces was evident once I sliced into it.


The first thing I noticed was an odd, synthetic taste, but this soon abated and fortunately only a moment later I was revelling in one of my favourite combinations of chocolate and almond. In fact, the softness and flavour of this bar reminded me of the utterly delicious Côte-d'Or FudgeNut -high praise indeed. Of course, it's low sugar and high protein so therefore not a chocolate bar, but it's a scrummy alternative. 

Macros: 134kcal P:14/C:8.4/F: 5.9

8/10

Blueberry Vanilla


I'm not sure why, but I expected a white chocolate covering to compliment the blueberry. Again, this was super soft, and I decided to enjoy this one just this morning with a cup of coffee.


Just look at those freeze-dried blueberries! Unfortunately the primary flavour of this bar was the chocolate. The artificialness of it couldn't be escaped without the ice cream and caramel sauce, and I simply wasn't keen. Luckily the inner filling was pretty good -although nowhere near as tasty as the peach bar. It's the only bar of the three that I probably wouldn't buy again.

Macros: 126kcal/ P:14/ C: 8.5/F: 5

5/10

Summary
On the whole I'm impressed with these Multipower 40% Protein Fit bars. They're soft enough to serve as the perfect on-the-go protein hit, or as part of a healthy low-sugar dessert. You can find more information on the bars and order your own from Multipower's website, simply click here

I'd like to say a huge thank you to Multipower/their PR agency for sending me the samples to review. 




Wednesday, 22 February 2017

NEW! Extra Special Black Forest & Amaretto Desserts Review (ASDA)

I've recently outed my addiction to buying chocolate and ice cream on instagram in an attempt to remind myself that I really need to stop buying more and instead work through my admittedly impressive collection. The trouble is, whilst I love both chocolate AND ice cream, occasionally I'm just not in the mood for either, or I spot something different that I'd rather have. This is especially true when it comes to ice cream, and since promising myself that I'd not purchase any more, my non-frozen dessert cravings have fully kicked in. BAM! All of a sudden I just needed to have the Black Forest & Amaretto Pots that I've been contemplating for weeks.

Even my price conscious nature gave way to the compulsions to try these little desserts. In ASDA Gü are currently on offer for £1.50, yet I still chose their own brand desserts. I must be mad. In my defence, previous experiences with ASDA's Extra Special desserts* have thus far been remarkably positive.

"Amaretto-infused sponge layered with black cherry compote and Belgian dark chocolate ganache."

C'mon ASDA, you seem to have fallen foul of Cadbury's usual trick here and only half filled the pots! The Peanut Butter Millionaire's Dessert was full to the brim, and had much more distinctive layers too.


Digging in to the top I first tasted the dark chocolate ganache, which was as silky and as delicious as expected -there just wasn't very much of it. The little that there was had kind of sunk into the custard below. Talking of which, the custard was a bit of a let down. The flavour was weak against the ganache and so I wished that ASDA had just done away with it and filled the tub with more of the good stuff.


Fortunately the black cherry compote was delicious, offering a sweet tartness against all the chocolate, but again the pot could have done with more. Boo.

The final layer was the main reason why I wanted to try these desserts so badly - the amaretto soaked sponge. The cake was in keeping with the Black Forest theme and was therefore chocolate flavoured. It was a good sponge with a decent amount of cocoa -but I just couldn't taste the amaretto or even almond. Now this might be partly because I was drinking a glass of red wine alongside it, but nonetheless I was disappointed.

I'm aware that I've done a lot of complaining in this review, and perhaps it's not entirely necessary considering I scraped the sides of the tub and really enjoyed it. The trouble is, I know that ASDA sell a much better version of this, and it's cheaper too: their Black Forest Velvets.

7/10

*such as their White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake which was one of my first reviews, and remains my favourite supermarket cheesecake!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

NEW! Nature Valley Crunchy Peanut Butter Bars (Sainsbury's)

Every now and then a supermarket will bring out an own brand product that surpasses every comparative product currently on the market. Take Tesco's Banana Bliss Bars for example, or ALDI's Domio yogurts and HIKE bars. ASDA has produced corkers too, two of which were fabulous peanut butter products. Whilst I was disappointed when the supermarket stopped selling their ingenious chocolate chip peanut butter, I was devastated when they stopped selling their peanut butter granola bars. They were absolutely wonderful little packs, and I even wrote a review on them over a year ago, claiming that they were 'ASDA's best kept secret'. Of course I stocked up on the remaining boxes as soon as I saw that they were reduced to clear, but knew that my stash wouldn't last. I'd already emailed Nature Valley and requested that they produce a peanut butter granola bar, so I was at a loss as to what to do next.

Fortunately, a good 18 months after that email, Nature Valley came up trumps and released a Crunchy Peanut Butter Bar in the UK (the brand has been selling them in the USA for years). The only place I've spotted the boxes thus far is Sainsbury's, although I've patiently waited for them to come on offer (currently £1.50 per box).


"Packed with natural wholegrain oats, real peanuts, and a luscious peanut butter drizzle, Nature Valley Crunchy Peanut Butter Bars are the perfect on-the-go snack, which are there for you, whenever you need it most."

As always, each individually wrapped pack contains two biscuits. For info, the peanut butter flavour is lactose free and contains no colours or preservatives.

They looked prettier than the ASDA version with their topping drizzled on -as opposed to a slathering. Given the quality of Nature Valley's other flavours, I was looking forward to tucking in.


The beauty of Nature Valley's Crunchy bars is that whilst they're crispy like a biscuit, they're not hard enough to require the dentist's telephone number close to hand -as perhaps one would with Jordan's or NutriGrain's Oat bars. In fact they're like a lower fat Hobnob really aren't they?

I prepared myself for the incoming salty-sweet hit from my favourite spread, but it never really came. Whilst the bar promises of 'real peanuts', it actually only delivers a measly 2% within its ingredients. As for the peanut butter, it was unfortunately just too sweet. The primary flavour of the biscuits was the honey, which knocked the nutty balance off kilter so much that I was tempted to get my salt grinder from the cupboard to help matters.

The main reason why I love Reese's so much is that they've utterly mastered the harmony of salinity and manage to counteract the sweetness within their products wonderfully. Nature Valley haven't been quite so clever, and although they're new Crunchy Bars are admittedly delicious and moreish, they're not quite as good as ASDA's delisted versions. Boo.

7/10

Monday, 20 February 2017

Double Choc Brownie R Bar Review (Reflex Nutrition)

It's been a while since I reviewed any of Reflex's protein bars The last one I tried was the white chocolate and raspberry ripple R Bar, which I was impressed with primarily due to its softness. I've continued to munch the bars on a regular basis and find them to be just the ticket on the train home from uni.

I was fortunate to receive a package of treats from Reflex just before I went away which included the double Choc Brownie R Bar as well as their Banana & Custard Casein (review coming soon). I wanted to make the most of our trip and knew I'd be up to all sorts of energetic activities (get your mind out of the gutter now please) so packed a few for those "just in case I get hungry" moments.

For those of you who aren't au fait with Reflex or their philosophy, then you need to know that their sole objective is to create quality sports nutrition products. Whilst taste is important, they aim to deliver the very best supplements and as such the bars are made in their very own factory here in Blighty using the "highest quality whey protein", almond or peanut butter and natural sweetener gluco-fibre (as opposed to IMO, dextrose or glucose syrups which cause spikes in blood sugar levels).

I found the RBar to be more enjoyable than their flapjack based bars and so was looking forward to trying their double chocolate brownie flavour.



It turned out that taking a few bars with me was a cracking idea. On only our second day we visited Batu Caves -home to the gold statue of Lord Morugun, the largest religious statue in the world- and hiked the 272 steps in the heat to visit the monkey ridden temple cave at the top. Breakfast suddenly felt like a long time away and we weren't sure how long it would take to get back to Kuala Lumpur, so out came my first R Bar of the trip.


*


I regularly eat Quest's chocolate brownie bar so it was easy to draw comparison between the two. The first thing I noticed was the softness of the bar, which could be easily bent. The second I noticed was the cubes of chocolate that were embedded throughout. Quest's chocolate brownie is one of their non-chunky bars and so I found Reflex's addition to be a welcome treat.

Biting into the bar rendered a pleasant surprised. Whilst it didn't taste exactly like a non-protein, full fat brownie, I didn't expect it to. The chocolate fused with the undertones of almond well to provide a well balanced flavour that was sweet despite containing only 1g of sugar. It tasted less of whey than I thought it would too, and the sweetener was also less apparent. Even my protein supplement avoiding other half asked to try a bite and then promptly asked if he could nab a bar. 


*

As with the white chocolate & raspberry R Bar, the malleability is remarkable. There's nothing worse than chewing a bar until it makes your jaw or having to retrieve bits of one from between your teeth - and that's thankfully never going to be an issue with these bars.

If you want a high quality, chocolatey, soft protein bar with excellent macros then you can't go far wrong with a Double Choc Brownie R Bar. For me, it's far superior to Quest's version. 

Macros per bar: Kcal: 209 P20/C9/F9

R Bars are available to buy from Reflex's website. As always, a huge thank you to Reflex for the samples. 

8/10

*Can you tell the rest of the photos taken in my garden instead?