In America – the land of Baby Ruth and Milky Way – we all know that Eastern European chocolate tends to taste like, well, chalk. Is this us, or is this them? Well, we are certainly over-sugared here, and the candy you grow up with tends to remain your sweet of choice into adulthood. At the same time, the urge to use European chocolate in our baking is mighty strong.
Well, Poland, it turns out may have just had some bad luck. In the early 80s, under martial law, sugar became rationed and other ingredients – mostly ones that added flavor – couldn’t be imported. Ration cards actually restricted chocolate consumption to kids – go figure that rule. Anyway, the result over the past couple decades has been – let’s be frank here – terrible tasting chocolate from Poland.
Turns out a couple years ago, with Poland’s entry into the European Union, all those bad-for-you sugary ingredients came pouring in like so much melted chocolate. According to a recent Washington Post article, Poland’s candy industry is undergoing something of a renaissance. We’ll see about that.
This week’s snack comes from Krakow where Wawel is the Hershey’s of chocolates. Actually, more like Lindt or Godiva as Wawel has candy stores around the country. The company traces its history back to the late 1800s, but really it’s a post-WW II incarnation that was state-owned until 1992. When they went public, they went big, and sweet. Here’s a screen capture of an early advertisement from the company, this one from 1928.
By the way, Wawel has a really fascinating website, full of old pictures and candy wrappers and a well written history. It’s fun reading if you’re into branding history. Check it out here: http://www.wawel.com.pl
So, we tried two of Wawel products, a praline filled Tiramisu candy and a pineapple chocolate jelly.
Meena and Dan are constantly vigilant for good Tiramisu, it’s a weakness they both share. So they jumped at the chance to try it.
Sorry to say, though, it’s not a winner. While the chocolate shell was tasty enough, the praline filling tasted like sand – crumbly and course in your mouth. Sort of like a Three Musketeers bar but filled with, um, sand. Meena suggested this was due to the sugar not being properly refined. Meanwhile, while there was a hint of alcohol flavoring, the coffee taste suggested by “Tiramisu” was AWOL.
The pineapple jelly, however, was super! The chocolate shell was sweet and sticky, and the jelly itself was delicious. First it actually tasted like pineapple – something rare in European candy. But it was just the right amount of sweetness as well. Unlike a lot of over the shelf American chocolate, the sugar was here to add flavor, not overwhelm the pineapple. Good stuff!
Sadly, due to the soft chocolate shells neither of these treats would work well for summer trail food. But as a winter treat or, if stored properly, a great addition to eat at the hut with a cup of tea.