Fancy chocolate versions of your favorite candy bar
Plus, thoughts on s’mores. (If you watch “The Great British Baking Show,” you know why.)
All about inclusions
"But you still like Snickers and Reese's, right?"
I get questions like this once I tell people that I'm a chocolate snob. And my very snobby answer is, "Sometimes, but it's not chocolate, it's candy."
Well, today we're talking about fancy, snobby candy in honor of Halloween.
Inclusion bars have additional ingredients in addition to the five that make up bean-to-bar chocolate (cacao mass, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, soy lecithin). Think of it kind of like mix-ins at Coldstone.
Inclusions are popular and I think a lot of that comes from not having to read the back for tasting notes or be familiar with what chocolate from a particular origin tastes like. It's less risky: you know if you like coconut or mango or chili or popped rice or caramel.
If you love:
Snickers or Twix or Milky Way or Take Five: Mayana Chocolate candy bars are something to behold. They are chunky and glorious, with thick layers of caramel and nougat or shortbread or coconut or any other number of fillings. They have names like Space Bar and Fix Bar so you have an idea of which mainstream candy bar glow up you’re getting. The candy bar that is most like a Snickers is the Pride Bar. It’s tasty, although I don’t love sprinkles so I usually opt for a different flavor even though Snickers were my favorite in a different chocolate-eating life. There are also some more off-beat flavors, like the Kitchen Sink Bar (pretty much a Take Five, another former favorite of mine) or the tortilla crunch in the Mayan Spice Bar or the Monkey Bar (which I haven’t tried because I’m too skeptical of the bananas!)
Reese's: Lots of chocolate companies do their own take on peanut butter cups and they are delicious, but I love Naive’s Peanut Butter bar. The peanut butter is ground into the bar and it is so smooth and the peanuts are really the star of the show. Naive always has the most amusing stories on their packaging and the story on this one might be my favorite (and is very fitting for Halloween!)
Almond Joy: (Maybe this one is a little bit of a stretch because there’s no coconut and they’re not really an inclusion but another one of my favorite things.) Dick Taylor’s chocolate covered almonds are magnificent. They’re made with 65% Belize, which is my favorite origin from them. There’s a faint fruity hint that pairs with the almonds so nicely.
Dandelion Chocolate also has amazing caramelized chocolate covered almonds made in collaboration with Feve. They’re a little pricier, but the toffee adds a little extra crunch and the chocolate is fudgier (Ecuador).
Either would make a great stocking stuffer. (Is it too soon to start planning those things?)
Crunch: This is maybe a more unconventional pick for a candy bar swap, but Ranger’s Thai Chocolate Bar is exceptional. The rice bring a delightful crunchy texture, coconut milk adds depth and there’s the barest hint of heat with the white pepper.
For a slightly more traditional twist on a Crunch Bar, pick Marou’s Coconut Milk 53% and Popped Rice. This one is quite a bit thicker and is Marou’s take on a candy bar.
Hi-Chew or Starburst: Manoa’s Taste of Hawaii bars are so incredibly fruity, you’ll almost forget you’re eating a chocolate bar. The Liliko’i x Passion Fruit bar in particular has a zing that will remind you of the citric acid in your favorite fruit chew candy.
Chocolate covered orange sticks: (Okay, this is definitely more of a Christmas treat rather than a Halloween treat, but humor me anyway.) Amano’s Citrus Mélange Á Trois has three different kinds of citrus plus tiny pieces of fruit leather that give you that juicy feeling of chocolate covered orange sticks. It’s a lot of fun and very tasty.
Hershey’s Cookies and Cream: Cookies and Cream bars were the coveted trick-or-treating haul when I was a kid and Omnom Chocolate has a grown up version with their Cookies + Cream. This one is a white chocolate bar (which is still chocolate and a topic for another newsletter!) with two big chocolate cookies on the back. (The cookies are made with Tanzania chocolate! We love to see it!) Omnom has made me feel nostalgic with this masterpiece — and I was the kid willing to swap all my cookies and cream candy bars. Bonus: This packaging is so cute, one of my friends used it as inspiration for a tattoo!
There are a lot of amazing inclusions that I wasn’t able to include here (including some spicy options if chocolate and chili is your thing). Caputo’s has an inclusion category with hundreds of options for you to peruse.
Chocolate bar of the week
A favorite inclusion that is always in my desk chocolate stash is the Pump Street Rye Crumb, Milk and Sea Salt bar. Pump Street is a brand from Suffolk, England and they started as a bakery, so they have some delightful bread bars.
Bread might be an unusual inclusion for chocolate, but the way they incorporate it adds this delightful crunchy texture. They also have a beloved sourdough bar and I really enjoy the seasonal Panettone bar, but the rye bar is my favorite. The rye pairs so nicely with the chocolate and adds an unexpected, nutty dimension. The saltiness caps it all off. When I’m having my 3 p.m. chocolate fix, I’m usually happy to just have a square here or there, but this is one bar I could easily finish off in an afternoon while I work.
If, like I, you have loved ones in your life who aren’t able to partake in gluten (my husband and his whole family have Celiac Disease), rest assured that the single origins from Pump Street are also delicious.
Chocolate pop culture moment
Speaking of the United Kingdom, if you watch “The Great British Baking Show,” you might have feelings about the s’mores technical from last week’s episode. I’ve long planned talking about s’mores and fine chocolate, because I’m here to tell you that things only get better with good chocolate, as my camera roll can attest.
Here’s the thing: digestive biscuits are actually a really great s’more vehicle, especially the more oaty ones (pictured is a McVitie’s Hobnobs “The Oaty One,” photographed on Summer Solstice 2021). Marshmallows are wonderful, but they are so sweet and that can really overwhelm all the other flavors. When you add digestive biscuits, you help cut some of that sugar so it’s less one note. Add a nice dark chocolate bar that is thick enough that it doesn’t completely melt and then you’re especially golden. (I can’t make any excuses for the ganache they used on “Bake Off.” But it’s hard to get homemade marshmallows hot enough to adequately melt a chocolate bar so I guess I get it. I guess.)
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of using your broiler to make a s’more (although I implore you, do it!!!), Ritual Chocolate has a s’more bar just for you! (They have some other fun inclusions including a limited edition holiday bar, juniper lavender, pine nut and my favorite, honeycomb.)
Chocolate read of the week
Last month I was a chocolate sensitivity reader for this sweet romance novel that just came out last week: "Palisades Point: A Christmas Romance."
It's by my aunt Jennifer Griffith, who writes "cotton candy for the soul." (And who is a subscriber to this newsletter!) One of the main characters is a chocolate maker and it was just the kind of light romance that I needed to get out of my reading funk. Also I got to talk with her a lot about chocolate, which is always a lot of fun for me, obviously.
Thanks for joining me in my chocolate passion!
Did I totally forget a sub for your favorite candy bar? Did I miss your favorite inclusion? Or did you find a new favorite? I’d love to hear your feedback! Reply back or DM me on Twitter (@GinnyRomney).