Friday, January 08, 2016

Carman's Muesli, Australia

If you ever visit Australia, and enter the cereal aisle of a grocery store, you will undoubtedly discover Carman's.  Carman's is, well, everywhere.  The company specializes in muesli, and a large variety of related products (muesli bars, nut bars, muesli rounds, muesli clusters, porridge, and oat bars).

Carman's specializes in muesli, and, products made from muesli, like breakfast rounds and bars.  Many are gluten-free.  I've tried some of the muesli and many of the bars.  Most were all fine, but not really something I'd seek out.  The exception though? The muesli rounds.  Those were winners.

Muesli

Starting with the basics, the muesli.

Carman's makes 5 varieties of muesli, including one bircher muesli, one without fruit, and a gluten-free option.  Something for everyone. 

If you stay at a hotel with a breakfast buffet, chances are high that you'll see Carman's muesli among the lineup, which is where I had it.   I know I tried most of the varieties over the years, but, for some reason, I only have notes on one variety.  Ooops!
Deluxe Gluten-Free Muesli.
Carman's Muesli is the base of all of their other products, like the Deluxe Gluten-Free Muesli Bar that you'll soon read about.

Interestingly, the primary ingredient is actually dried fruit, which makes up 24% of the muesli, a mix of sultanas, raisins, and dates.  Then there are seeds, making up another 20%, a mix of sunflower seeds and pepitas.  Next comes rice flakes at 19%, and puffed rice (only 8%), and last, but not least, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans), only 3%.  Not exactly the distribution I was expecting, and it explains why they offer a variety that boasts to be fruit free, if their standard offering is so fruit forward!

I didn't like this muesli.  I really didn't like the rice crisps nor puffed rice.  Sorry gluten-free folks, but, I like my oats!  I also never like sultanas nor raisins, and these were hard little pellets, my least favorite way to eat them.  I actually never really found nuts, they must have been ground up in the mix?  Really, the only thing I liked was the pepitas.

The mix was also strangely bitter.  I guess healthier this way, but, well, turns out, I like my sugar.

Bars

"Our nutrient-rich bars provide a unique balance of carbohydrates and protein. Did we mention that they’re also yummy? We have 7 different varieties of muesli bar and 2 gourmet protein bars - All soft, chewy and completely snack‘a’licious!"

Moving on to snack bars, made using many of their mueslis as the bases.   For varieties, they produce a bar for each of the base mueslis, plus two featuring dark chocolate (trying to be enticing!), one with greek yogurt (trendy!), and two with added protein (get the athletes!).

As you know, I don't love snack bars, but, I end up trying them all the time anyway, they really are so convenient to carry around.
Original Fruit-Free Muesli Bar.
The base to this bar is Carman's Muesli Blend (oats, sunflower seeds, pepitas, and sesame seeds) plus some nuts (almonds and pecans).  Most of the other bars have puffed rice also, but this one doesn't.

It was really quite boring.  Slightly sweetened, slight spicing from some cinnamon, but really, not much going on here at all.  It also had a bitterness that I couldn't identify, like it had flax, except, I know it didn't ...

Fruit free seems to mostly mean flavor free?
Deluxe Gluten-Free Muesli Bar.
So I moved on to a far more exciting sounding "Deluxe" bar, made from the base of Carman's Gluten-Free Deluxe Muesli (rice flakes, puffed rice, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and cranberries) that I reviewed above.  In addition to the muesli base, it had currants, sultanas, raisins, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans.  If "deluxe" implies a TON of ingredients, then yes, deluxe it was. Also notable, is that it doesn't have oats like the original bar, since it was gluten-free.
It was a soft, chewy style.  It reminded me of a rice crispy treat, except a healthier tasting one.  Except ... I don't like rice crispy treats, so I didn't actually enjoy this.
Dark Choc Cranberry & Almond Bar.
I moved on to the more enticing offering, with dark chocolate.  Add some chocolate in, and then things get tastier, right?  I tried the dark chocolate, cranberry, and almond bar.

I'm not quite sure why they chose to name it "cranberry & almond", as there were seemingly more sultanas than cranberries, and as many hazelnuts as almonds.  Anyway, the base was oats and puffed rice, and it was loaded with assorted goodies: almonds and hazelnuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, cranberries and sultanas.

This was more like a classic granola bar, a bit sweet, with decent size chunks of fruit and nuts in it, but meh, it was just granola bar, with an ok chocolate coating on the bottom.  Nothing very interesting.
Yoghurt, Apricot, and Almond Bar.
 Ok, if chocolate coating didn't do it, maybe yoghurt would?

The base of this was again oats and puffed rice, with almonds and hazelnuts, plus pepitas, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds, and apples, currants, and apricots.  And the yoghurt coating of course.
Yoghurt, Apricot, and Almond Bar: Sideways.
It was another hard style bar, generously loaded with the assorted goodies. The bar itself had a strange bitterness to it, like many of the others, and I'm still not sure which ingredient caused this, I don't see any obvious culprits in the ingredients line up.

The yoghurt coating however was incredibly sweet.  It seemed more like white chocolate than yoghurt.  As you can see, it was applied in a generous layer.  I like sweet, but, I was still not a fan of this one.

Nut Bars

"If you're nuts about nuts like us, then these gluten free roasted nut bars are going to make the perfect companion for you.  They're satisfyingly chewy and contain a delicious blend of wholesome nuts and seeds.  We take pride in being able to offer you even more products with natural, simple and honest ingredients.  Enjoy!"

Moving on from meusli bars, I found the nut bars.  These sounded better, since I really do love nuts.  They make 4 varieties of these, including one with chocolate and one with Greek yoghurt.

I liked these more than the granola bars, as expected.
Macadamia & Coconut Roasted Nut Bar.
I actually quite liked this one, which surprised me, since, it was still sorta a granola bar.  I clearly like the bars that are mostly nuts just bound together with sweetness better than standard granola bars (although this did have little rice puffs in it).

There was a good crunch from all the nuts, and no soft flakes of oat to distract from the nutty deliciousness.  It was nicely sweet.  The only thing I didn't care for was the fruit, I'd rather just leave it out.

Sadly, this variety was discontinued.
Almond, Cashew, and Cranberry Roasted Nut Bar.
I also tried one of the classic nut bars.  Nuts were the star, 41% of the bar is made of a mix of peanuts, almonds, and cashews.  Throw in some seeds (pepitas, sunflower, sesame) to get the next 14%, and then, sadly, the next 13% is cranberries.  However, it DID have cranberry in the name, so, what should I expect?

The bar is rounded out with a little bit of puffed rice, and sweetened with glucose, honey, and rice syrup.

It had a nice crunch from the plentiful nuts, and it was sticky sweet from all the sweeteners, in a good way.  Really not bad for a bar, but, like I've said, bars are never something I actually crave.

Muesli Rounds

"Rounds are deliciously soft and delightful muesli bakes. Filled with all the natural goodness of wholegrain oats, honey, cinnamon, fruit and nuts they’re perfect for breakfast on the go, as a lunchtime treat or with afternoon tea. A source of fibre and 100% preservative free, you’ll savour every last crumb of these moreish muesli morsels."

These are also described as "A perfect after-school snack for kids who love their bikkies."

Ah yes, their ... bikkies?

Let me translate some of this for you.  Bikkies are what go in the bikkie tin.  Duh.

Still not helping?  Here is a hint: Australians like to shorten and cutesify words, thus, "bikkie" is just slang for "biscuit".

Still not clearing it up?  This clearly isn't a Southern United States style "biscuit", which is the first type of biscuit I think of.  Slathering this in gravy?  Um, no.  Remember the "bikkie tin"?  What if I told you that was a "cookie jar"?

Ok, so, bikkies are biscuits, biscuits are cookies.  Now, you can take Carman's second tag line: "Carman's Rounds are what we call biscuits upgraded to first class."

Ok, so ... a "muesli bake" is a biscuit which is a cookie, but this one is upgraded to first class, and, I'm allowed to eat it for breakfast?  While I may not love cookies as a dessert item, a cookie for breakfast had me intrigued.

Available in two varieties, again with Carman's muesli as the bases.  I tried both and was very surprised by how much I liked them.  They do work great for a quick breakfast item alongside a cup of coffee, and I think they'd be equally good as a mid-afternoon treat with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea.  You can pretend they are breakfast, or you can pretend they are a cookie, both with equal success.  I'll continue to get these whenever I'm back in Australia.
Classic Fruit & Nut Muesli Bake.
I started with the Classic Fruit & Nut Muesli bake, made from a mix of dried fruit (sultanas, apricots, raisins), nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pecans), seeds (sesame, sunflower), and oats, in a basic baked goods base (flour, butter, sugar, eggs).  Hmm, this sure sounds like a cookie, with their granola as the central component.

I opened my package, happy to see that it looked like a cookie too.  Round, not bar shaped.  It was fairly soft.  In fact, if I hadn't seen it labelled differently, I would have thought it was just an oatmeal raisin cookie, although perhaps a slightly thick one.

I tried a bite, expecting to pass it on to Ojan quickly.  But hmm ... it was pretty good!  Nice and soft, absolutely loaded up with the assorted fruit, nuts, and seeds.  There was plenty of flavor, lots of textures from the crunchy bits of nuts and the soft bits of fruit.  It had a pleasant subtle sweetness from brown sugar, treacle, and honey.  Not much additional spicing, just cinnamon and vanilla, but that was all it needed.

The oatmeal cookie base really reminded me of a regular oatmeal cookie.  I felt a bit scandalous eating it for breakfast. (Ok, who am I kidding, this was no way less appropriate for breakfast than any danish or donut.  And, um, I'm known to eat all sorts of actual desserts like fruit crisps and cobblers, rice pudding, etc for breakfast on a regular basis).  But still.  It was a cookie!  A breakfast cookie!

The size was just right too, perfect for a light breakfast on the go.  It really would work as an afternoon snack too.  Or even a mid-morning treat alongside your second (or third ... ) cup of coffee.

I was pretty impressed, and for an easy breakfast item, I'd certainly grab another.

Update:
On my next visit to Sydney, I grabbed a few more of these over the course of my stay.  I continued to really enjoy them.  The texture of the bar is great, just slightly crumbly.  I love the crunch of the nuts and seeds, and the sweetness of the bits of dried fruit.  I'll continue to enjoy these, whenever I need a quick easy breakfast to go.
Apricot & Almond Muesli Bake.
Next I went for the apricot and almond bake.

It is made from the same ingredients as the first one, just in different amounts, highlighting the apricot and almond bits a bit more.  It uses Carman's Natural Bircher Muesli (oats, sultanas, apricots, raisins, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans) as the base.  It also has the same seeds (sunflower, sesame), and more spicing including ginger and orange oil.  It is again sweetened with treacle and brown sugar, but replaces the honey with grape juice.

So, slightly different recipes, but very similar results.

Just like the classic round, I really liked how soft it was, and adored the crunch from the chopped up bits of nuts.  The fruit was also perfectly sized, just little pops of sweetness.  A very balanced, well crafted treat.  It too had a slight crumble, and broke apart easily.

I'd gladly get another, and can't say that I could pick between the two varieties.

Update:
After having a few more of each type of round, I decided I liked the classic a bit more.  I'm not quite sure why, as I do like apricots more than raisins or sultanas.  I think perhaps the almond was a bit too strong?  I still like this one, but if I have to pick one, I pick the classic.
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