I tried Das Caramels for the first time at the 2010 Sweets and Snacks Expo
. The Chicago-based company has been around for three years, but I hadn't had a chance to try their products until this spring. The company specializes in fleur de sel caramels and exotic salts, and they have a new line of gourmet lollipops. Although they have a number of different salts, all of the caramels use fleur de sel, a French variety often paired with caramels.
The Classic Caramel
was my first exposure to Das, and it's actually turned out to be my favorite variety. It has a wonderful buttery, melt-in-your mouth texture, but it avoids the classic caramel blunders of becoming grainy or sticky. The Classic caramels are flavored with lavender and honey, and I found the hint of lavender lovely. It's not overpowering, but it's just enough to add interest and another slight layer of flavor. I honestly didn't taste the honey specifically, but it did have a nice floral sweetness that wasn't too assertive. The website shows pictures of caramel squares dusted with fat flakes of salt, but none of my caramels had even a hint of salt on top, and the taste wasn't salty in the slightest. I didn't mind, since I thought the flavors were well-balanced, but someone looking for a bold fleur de sel caramel might be disappointed.
My second favorite caramel was the Ginger & Pistachio. Unlike the Classic, this one had a fairly firm chew, but it still softened and melted in the mouth after a few bites. I'm a ginger lover, so I found the bold ginger taste fantastic. Be warned that the flavor is strong, so if you're not a ginger fan it will probably be too much, but if you love the heat and spice of ginger this one is for you. There were also nice big chunks of pistachio studded throughout the caramel to balance out the ginger. I wished they were crunchier, but they still added a nice textural variation.
Classic Caramels(c) 2010 Elizabeth LaBau, licensed to About.com, Inc.
The Orange & Honey
caramels had a great fresh orange flavor. Unlike some other orange candies, it didn’t seem artificial, and it was a refreshing contrast to the sweetness of the honey. They also had what I call a "short bite"--since I made this up I'm pretty sure it's not a technical term. It means that, upon biting into it, it doesn't have any resistance, and doesn't show any of the typical caramel chewiness. I did wish the texture was a little closer to that of the Classic caramel, but I also wonder if it was just a slightly older sample, and the sugar began to caramelize? Regardless, the flavor was nice and I think these are lovely when paired with chocolate.
I was looking forward to the Chocolate Walnut caramel, but it didn't have quite enough chocolate flavor for me. In general I prefer my chocolate on the outside of my caramels, not mixed in, so it has more of a pure chocolate flavor. But as it is it's a nice texture and a more subtle chocolate taste that pairs well with the small bits of nuts. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Chili Pecan was incredibly flavorful. If you have a spice sensitivity this will be one to avoid, as it is quite hot, but if you love spicy foods and adventurous desserts, this might be a favorite.
Das has also introduced a new line of lollipops featuring four flavors: Maple Bacon, Lemon Ginger, Orange Pomegranate and Salty Caramel. I admit that I'm not a bacon eater so I skipped that one, but I enjoyed the other 3 quite a bit. They started off mild, but after a few minutes the flavor came through really well. The Lemon Ginger was my favorite. Like the ginger caramel, it had a strong ginger bite, and a nice tang from the lemon. By the end it had a lot of ginger "heat," and the flavor stayed with me for quite a while.