SFBA veteran chocolatier, Charles Chocolates, has added some fun treats to their large line of bars, bonbons, and chocolate confections. We recently tried all the items on their Treats page and have some recommendations.
We first spotted these at our local grocery store, and you might have seen them around town too: 3 small, chubby bars wrapped in pastel colors with names that sound like riffs on classic candy bars.
Bigger than fun size candy bars, they each weigh 1.3 oz. and are approximately 2-1/2″ x 1-7/8″. I think they are too big to eat in one sitting; but split between 2 people, they were a good snacking size with 3-4 bites in each half piece.
These are definitely candy bars, as opposed to the chocolate bars we usually cover here. They are sweeter and have a ratio of filling to solid chocolate more in tune with a candy bar than a chocolate bar with inclusions.
This is not a bad thing, especially if you like candy bars: These are more upscale and better tasting in my opinion with higher end/better quality ingredients and small-scale manufacturing.
They also cost more, like maybe 4x more, than a traditional candy bar. If like me, you stopped eating candy bars years ago because of additives, lower quality ingredients, changed tastes, etc., you might find the cost worth it for a decent, enjoyable bar.
Coffee & nuts
The Mac Daddy was a little bigger than the other bars, although it weighs and costs the same. I assume it’s because it has some lighter weight, more voluminous ingredients, or maybe it was just a quirk of its handmade assembly. The “Mac” in the name comes from the roasted macadamia nuts that lined the bottom of the bar. The nuts were in soft chewy fleur de sel caramel, topped with a layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache. And the bar was enrobed in 65% bittersweet chocolate.
Since this was the first Charles Chocolates snack bar I tried, I was immediately struck by its candy bar-ish sweetness. Based on my experiences with other Charles Chocolates bar, I was not expecting that, but once I recalibrated my expectations, I liked it.
It had a good chocolate flavor, the caramel was very soft, and it had big pieces of crunchy, caramelized macadamia nuts. It also had a nice coffee flavor, not bitter, just enhancing the bar’s chocolaty-ness.
Peanuts & caramel
On each bar’s label is a description that begins, ”Childhood favorites made better,” and the Don’t Make Me Snicker was the most obvious riff on one of those, the Snickers bar. While Snickers bars have peanuts, caramel, and nougat in milk chocolate, the Don’t Make Me Snicker has roasted peanuts, fleur de sel caramel, and bittersweet chocolate ganache, in 65% bittersweet chocolate. The ingredients list alone sounds way more delicious to me.
While the caramel was described the same as the Mac Daddy caramel, it was chewier. Maybe because there was more proportionately; it was a thick piece of caramel holding the peanuts together on the bottom of the bar with more caramel on top. Like the Mac Daddy, the caramel was topped with a bittersweet ganache (although this time, no espresso), and covered in 65% bittersweet chocolate.
With real ingredients, no fillers, and darker chocolate, Don’t Make Me Snicker is a superior bar to Snickers. I don’t have the budget to upgrade my Halloween candy giving, but this is definitely the treat I would share with grownup friends who think Snickers is a good candy bar.
Not coconut, not that there’s anything wrong with that
The name of the last bar, Ode to Joy, was totally misleading to me. I expected a riff on Almond Joy, the milk chocolate, coconut, and almond bar of my youth. This one had 2 of the 3 ingredients, but not the coconut. What?
Instead, Ode to Joy had roasted almonds, fleur de sel caramel, and milk chocolate ganache in 65% bittersweet chocolate. It had an immediate savory almond flavor from big chunks of crunchy California almonds in the soft chewy caramel layer, and it was less sweet than the other bars, even though it’s got a milk chocolate ganache. I think it’s because it had less caramel and more nuts. I liked these proportions better. The hint of salt at end probably also toned down the sweetness.
I liked everything about this bar, once I got past my coconut expectations. It had 3 distinct textures — crunchy, chewy, and smooth — and the flavors were distinct too, yet worked together really well. It was my favorite of the 3 bars.
Perfect single-size treats
The other 2 treats in the Charles Chocolates treat line are not bars and come in more recognizable Charles Chocolates packaging. Unlike the bars, which are too much for one sitting, both of these treats, Caramel Almond Sticks and Gianduja Blocks, are just the right size for a satisfying chocolate snack.
The 10-piece package of Caramel Almond Sticks showcases the liberally-studded-with-almond-bits snacks packed so tightly together you can’t tell by looking if they are all connected or how many there are. And when you pull one out, be prepared for a mini-shower of nuts falling off. Charles is not skimping on ingredients; there are more nuts on these sticks than places they can stick to.
Each piece of chocolate-and-nut-covered fleur de sel caramel is approximately 2″ long and almost 1/2″ in diameter. It’s a soft chewy caramel, but a little harder than the caramel in the bars. The combo with bittersweet chocolate, roasted almonds, and just the right touch of salt makes for a delicious, crunchy, chocolaty, caramel treat.
Better than peanut butter cups?
I didn’t know what to expect from the last treat, Gianduja Blocks, except chocolate and hazelnut flavors. It turned out to be so much more.
The package of Gianduja Blocks is similar to the Caramel Almond Sticks, but contains a surprise. Glancing at the pack, you’d think there were only 9 blocks per pack, but there is another row nestled at the bottom, so there are 12 (!) blocks total. I think they should mention the total in their product description because at $16 per package, I think people might pass over this great treat if they think there are only 9 pieces.
And this is a great treat, with finely ground caramelized hazelnuts blended with crispy, crunchy flakes of feuilletine cookies in a dark milk chocolate ganache coated in bittersweet chocolate. It’s funny that the blocks look like chocolate covered caramels, but this is the one treat in the line that contains zero caramel.
The taste experience is superb with first the crunch and a hazelnut-forward flavor profile in really good chocolate. It has a wonderful mouthfeel, and the hazelnut and dark chocolate flavors linger.
At 1″ x 1-3/4″ and 2-3 bites, it is just the right size for a satisfying snack. And its crunchy texture mimicked a coarse ground peanut or other nut butter giving me some peanut butter cup vibes. With its refined crunchy texture, upscale nut selection, dark chocolate, and more chocolate flavor than a traditional peanut butter cup, this could be the upgrade for peanut butter cups. And overall, it was my favorite Charles Chocolates treat.
You can buy the entire line of Charles Chocolate treats — as well as their other wonderful chocolate — in their online store. Their factory shop is currently closed, but you can find some of their treats in grocery stores around the country, including some Whole Foods, plus at some Starbucks coffee shops. Check their website for locations, or just keep your eyes peeled when shopping around town.
A writer/designer, Nancy lives in Oakland with Ronnie (AKA cacaopod), her husband of many years & fellow chocolate enthusiast.
Date posted: September 15, 2020. This entry was posted in Featured, Front page, Listed chocolatier, Local chocolate, Review, San Francisco chocolate and tagged almond, caramel, Charles Chocolates, espresso, feuilletine, gianduja, hazelnut, macadamia nuts, peanuts. Bookmark the permalink.