I've spoken before about how there must be a think tank of sorts inside Nestle Japan in which they're sitting around trying to figure out what new gimmicks they can use to try and separate their product from the horde of consumer-grade confectionery. The person who decided that they should create a way for something that usually melts to be baked probably got a gold star, and possibly some fairly quizzical looks and disapproving frowns from those who doubted his ingenuity.
Speaking of said ingenuity, I'm not sure what had to be done to these to make them bake-able without making them turn into a puddle of white chocolate goo. The ingredients list includes chocolate, wheat flour (for the wafer, no doubt), vegetable oil, lactose, sugar caramel powder, whole milk powder, cocoa powder, yeast, cacao mass, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, artificial flavor, baking soda, and "yeast food". The final item appears to be "mineral yeast" which is used to alter the way dough works (not as sticky, softer), so I don't know if it is the magic ingredient. My lack of food chemistry knowledge means that I can't pinpoint what keeps them from becoming ooey messes, but someone did some alchemical homework.
At any rate, I'm on the late side to this party because it took awhile for this to reach my shores. I found this at Nijiya market in San Jose. Given the high novelty factor, and my husband's shared interest in trying these, I forked over the $5.99 without a second thought. How often do I get a chance to set my toaster oven on fire in the name of blogging?
The instructions on the back tell you to line the toaster oven tray with foil. It explicitly says that you should not use aluminium cups or foil pans. Apparently, the difference between sheets of aluminum foil and folded containers ostensibly made with the same stuff is another chemistry lesson I need to learn. At any rate, I wasn't going to argue with the people who made the product... at least not until I actually tried the product and had a reason to do so.
Once you have lined your tray with foil and lined up your KitKats - the illustration shows four bars being made at once, but I only wanted to make two so I may be violating the recipe in some fashion - you're supposed to bake them for about two minutes at 1000 W. In Japan, my toaster oven had wattage listed on the instructions. My oven here has temperatures (in both Celsius and Fahrenheit) and food types.
So, I did some research and got myself thoroughly confused about what the temperature should be. Answers ranged from complex formulas that I tried to use, but gave me ludicrous results like I should be using 1000 degrees F. to "watts measure something different and can't be converted to temperature settings". I decided to take the middle road and use 350 degrees because I'd rather it cooked too slowly then exploded in a burst of sugary molten madness. That temperature seemed to be a good one.
I had been warned to keep an eye on it by readers who commented on the product announcement and it is a warning I will repeat. This will go from uncooked to nicely browned in the blink of an eye. I didn't burn it, but I'm thinking it will burn fast. Do not walk away from it unless you want to risk it being ruined.
The plain, uncooked bar tastes like very sweet white chocolate and has the nuanced flavor of Japanese "purin" (pudding). It's the barest hint of caramel flavor. Since the bag touts the inclusion of .5% caramel powder, this is no surprise. When I gave it a sniff just after opening the package, caramel was the only thing I could detect aside from the white chocolate itself.
I think this is actually sweeter than other KitKats I've had recently, but that could be because many of my most recent tastings have been the "adult" versions which have tamped down sweetness levels. As an uncooked bar, it's probably a mediocre experience for someone who isn't an enormous fan of white chocolate and a bad one for someone who hates it or very sweet candy.
The sad-looking baked version.
The real question is whether or not it gains something in the baking and the answer is that it does. I sampled this slightly warm and my husband tried it cool. I wanted to try it both ways to see how the texture changed. In both states, baking it takes on a caramelized sugar flavor which reminded both of us of the sauce used in flan. It's not nearly as intense, but the bar is definitely better in its baked state.
This is what happens if you try to pick it up while warm.
In terms of whether you should eat the baked version warm or cold, I definitely say wait for it to cool. If you try to remove it from the sheet warm, it will separate and fall apart. The warm chocolate is an interesting sensation, but you loose the lacey edges which carry much of the intensified caramel flavor (and it sticks to the sheet).
A cooled half - much easier to handle and you don't lose any part of it.
The cooled version not only keeps all of the caramel edges intact, but comes off the sheet cleanly and is easier to handle. Clearly, this was never intended to be eaten warm off the sheet and, if you don't want to risk a burned tongue (I didn't get burned, but it is a risk) or a disintegrating bar, then be patient... not that I was impatient.
At the price I paid ($5.99 for a bag of 13 minis), these are 46 cents per bar. This actually is not an outrageous price per piece. It's not exactly cheap, but it's not incredibly expensive. In Tokyo, you'd probably pay closer to $3.50-$4.00 (350-400 yen), but it's not really fair to compare import prices to domestic ones. You will always pay between 50-100% more for rare or imported items. These are currently being offered on eBay for $8.54 by someone (including shipping).
A better bet if you want to try these and have no access to an Asian market that carries them is Candysan. They have them for the bargain price of 345 yen at present, but the shipping is 480 yen. However, if you make a larger order, you get a better per item deal on shipping as it scales more slowly (or not at all) after the first item. They also carry other somewhat exotic items which may be worth trying like purple sweet potato KitKats and "big little" orange KitKats. Of course, they have other interesting items as well. At present, I'd say that Candsan offers the best prices on Japanese snacks by mail order in terms of a place that allows you to choose what you receive (as opposed to the services that send you monthly or bi-weekly surprise packages).
In terms of whether or not you should try this, I'd say that it is for people who have curiosity or desire novelty in their food rather than as a "must have" treat. It's a different sort of experience. It's fun and it tastes pretty good as well, but it's not fine quality stuff. I think it'd be a great thing to do with your friends if they're the sort that enjoy unique things and are open-minded. I imagine kids would go crazy for it as a general concept. I have to imagine that since I don't have kids. ;-) At any rate, I'm happy that I tried it, but I'm not sure that I'd go for it again. Once is a good experience, and it's enough.