I never really thought about flavored caramels. I always thought caramel was just sugar heated up with butter and maybe some cream and hardened into either a gooey sauce or chewy sweet candy that sticks to your teeth. Cover those badboys in chocolatte and you got yourself a Milk Dud. Put it in ice cream and you got Marble fudge.
So when the good people at Artisan Cocoa sent us some Amella Caramels, I expected little brown suck machines. Sweet gooey fun, and since they were au natural, just fresh-as-hell-tasting chews. But uh uh. We got ourselves three FLAvors of caramel. Crazy ones like Passion Fruit, Black Forest and IMHO the best: Carrot Cake. These weren’t simply molasses-y caramel either, the candies had chocolate undertones. Probably because they are made with cocoa butter. Tres audacious.
I’ll start with my clear fave – Carrot Cake. Primarily because it tastes so much like it. In fact, while I eat these I’m thinking, “why am I not just eating carrot cake?” Whatever they did to this one – it’s a keeper. The ingredients are pretty simple: corn syrup, sugar, white chocolate, milk butter, cocao butter, carrots, vanilla et al. No chemicals except Soy Lecithin, which is a natural fat emulsifier which basically means, I think, that it keeps the various ingredients apart while also keeping them together. Anyhoo – the carrot cake caramel from Amella is good and I’d eat more. I wanted the piece to be bigger. I wanted more.
Then on the other hand, as I started in on another, I wasn’t sure whether I liked the idea of the Passion Fruit Caramel or whether I was horrified by it. First off – I’m a bit of a Passion Fruit bigot like Adam Carolla, just not sure if it has such a wonderful taste that I need to go out of my way for. Best to keep that flavor for the kids’ juice boxes. The actual caramel was decent, but the fruit taste just general fruity. There was more of a milk chocolate taste to this one though. Not sure that made it any better.
The Black Forest was interesting. It looked and felt like an old school caramel, and had some chocolate on the top like the Passion Fruit (though the PF had only sprinkles of it – while this one was covered). It was chewy and melty and not too sweet but the cherries were there. This was my second favorite. The Cranberries (remember that band?) and me are like two peas in a pod when it comes to after taste – You have to let it linger. And the Black Forest caramels do. They stayed with me for a good 5 minutes after I finished. I give these a solid 7. And I’m not a caramel and chocolate kinda guy. So that’s sayin a lot.
Buy them here: http://shop.amellacaramels.com
OK, so that was Matty. I’ll (this is Jonny) make my opinion short, as that dude has diarreah of the keyboard sometimes (I kid!). I am a caramel freak. Remember, I’m also not into chocolate, so for me, if it aint gummy/sour/chewy, it’s gonna likely be caramel. Milk Duds, Rollo, even Brach’s caramels, I love them all. And these high falootin’ gourmet caramels didn’t disappoint. To be clear though, they’re not really caramels as much as they are confections with a caramel edge. And that’s OK. But if you’re expecting a lightly flavored chewy, hard caramel, just stop it right now. Cut it out.
Cause these are hella gourmand. My fave? the Black Forest. Deep, dark cherry, rich, velvety. It mixed perfectly with the sweet salty caramel, and I mean perfectly. Delicious. Second best for me was the Carrot Cake. Like Matty, I love carrot cake, but I was expecting a disaster. Not even close-these really taste like you’re eating a tricked up Iron Chef version of the classic American cake. Very authentic, but then again…not really something I’d choose to eat again. If I’m gonna commit the calories, and the Black Forest is sitting there as an option, well…the decision wouldn’t be tough.
As for the Passion Fruit, that one was kind of a miss for me, but in an interesting way. There’s a woodsy quality to it that (at the time) just didn’t feel right. I was expecting sweet, fruity tartness mixed with the caramel, but something deeper unfolded, a nutty, earthy flavor that just clashed with the fruit taste for me. To be fair, I only had one, so it could have been an anomaly. Doesn’t matter though-these caramel confections are clearly winners, and have done something totally original-stepped up the bar in the caramel world. This doesn’t mean that Caramello and sad little Rollo are tossed to the curb– au contraire, in fact. They simply now have some grown up cousins who buy them cheap beer on occasion. In other words, a happy family.