The first time I looked into the aptly named Hedonist Artisan Chocolates, my comments were generally favorable. This time they got in touch to send me some of their holiday offerings, Candy Cane Bark and Salted Caramels.
Let me first get out of the way what is essentially my only complaint. It’s the packaging. While the bark’s clear bag works as a basic, I’m not as happy with the caramels in another brown box. I have no problem with a plain box and no problem with brown; perhaps it is the not quite matte, not quite shiny finish of the material that I’m not liking.
And while raffia can be a handmade finish, I would like to see ribbon take its place at some point in the future to create more of a hedonist’s packaging, something more sumptuous. But these are the areas for improvement, like every company has.
A base of dark chocolate with generous swirls of white chocolate forms the Candy Cane Bark. Topping this base is a field of shredded candy cane–shredded quite effectively, too. The pieces are small and thin enough to crunch on along with the chocolate but not so small that the pop of their flavor and texture disappears.
While most of the bark has a generous coating of candy cane, a couple of the pieces (which seem to be from the edges of the bark) have been left too bare. But on the whole, this bark is sweet and lightly dark, casual and minty in flavor. It’s holiday bark – for sharing or gifting.
My box of Salted Caramels had five each of milk and dark chocolate varieties, happily rimmed in gleaming gold where they sat. Two things you’ll want to note from the ingredients here: pasteurized cream and natural vanilla. Good. Now, I’m not sure if I prefer the milk-coated caramel or the dark. They’re both very different.
The caramel itself is the chewy kind, but done effectively in an old-fashioned kind of style. It tastes like vanilla, not stiff goo. The sweeter milk chocolate blends right in with the caramel, whereas the dark chocolate enhances the caramel’s stiff side rather than its sweet side. It’s like a Riesen turned handmade. In both cases, the flaky sea salt adds just the right amount of interest to the pairing.
Both of these products are at comfortable levels right now, and you won’t be getting complaints if you choose to gift either one. Personally, I’m wondering if Hedonist is aiming more for the handmade side or the artisan side – or the level where the two intersect. But while I ponder the philosophy of chocolate branding, I’ll just finish off the second half of those caramels and another piece or two of Candy Cane Bark.