Sunday, August 14, 2011
Crunky Ball Nude (Gianduja)
Despite the highly provocative naming of this particular line of confections, I have been resisting the allure of the Crunky balls. This is mainly because, while I love the malty crisped rice nature of the basic Crunky, I have been disappointed in at least half of the variations that have been on offer. Those that I did like tended to get by based on format alone. That is, a chocolate covered Crunky almond couldn't lose because it's an almond and a wafer bar won me over because it was a wafer and I love those. The addition of Crunky wasn't much of a merit.
The thing that "got" me to buy these balls was the fact that they are gianduja, or made with hazelnut paste. No, it wasn't the fact that I could make enough verbal hay out of the "nude balls" name that I could metaphorically line all of the stables at the Kentucky Derby, though that certainly would have been a reasonable motivation. Frankly, I would like to know why these are called "nude", but short of having a conversation with someone at Lotte, I'll probably never know for sure. Let's just assume that it's the filthiest possible explanation we can imagine and move on.
I found these for 100 yen ($1.30) at Lawson 100 convenience store, but you can find them pretty much anywhere these days. Note that with the yen growing oddly more powerful, the prices when translated into dollars continue to see inflated, but things are pretty much the same in Japan. One box is 57 grams (2 oz.) and has 27 balls about the size of a largish malted milk ball. Each morsel is about 11 calories and the entire box is 292 calories.
When you pop open the foil package and give it a whiff, it smells like regulation consumer chocolate. If they're cool, the outside is dull looking. Mine melted at room temperature in the Tokyo summer and then looked good and shiny, but also created a big mess all over my hands. I suggest storing them in the refrigerator if you're an anal retentive type and don't want them to melt and reform into a large mutant mass of malt puff and gianduja.
The first bite provides some potent hazelnut chocolate flavor. The bulk of the candy is made up by a giant malt puff inside which is light and crunchy and seems fairly flavorless at first. The second bite brings across a sense of coconut, though I think this was my taste buds fooling me about a mix of nutty and malt flavors. I enjoyed the first bite, but was less a fan of the second.
These are not bad at all, but I set the bar pretty high on gianduja. Nutella and anything made by Ferrero. In fact, I wonder if these are to some extent inspired by Ferrero Rocher, a ball-shaped candy which is made up of a thin wafer shell filled with hazelnut paste and coated in milk chocolate and nuts. This is like a low-rent version of that in which the delicious wad of hazelnut paste is replace with puff and used sparingly on the outside coating and malt puffs replace the more expensive nuts. Maybe they have nothing to do with each other, but I think there's more "crunk" and too little gianduja for my tastes. I'll finish this box, but I'll keep buying Crunky mini bars instead of this latest variation.