Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Yesterday I reviewed the new Necco Clark Bar with real milk chocolate and the Necco Clark Dark Bar with real dark chocolate. At the time I also purchased and compared the two other nationally available chocolatey peanut butter crunch bars: Nestle Butterfinger and Hershey’s 5th Avenue.
The bars are all roughly the same size and barring any sales, the same price. All are nationally available, and though Clark used to be hard to find, all of the bars here were purchased at RiteAid, a national drug store chain. Honestly, there are probably two main reasons to chose one over the other: flavor preference and ingredients.
The ingredients and concepts are very similar. A crunchy layered peanut butter crunch log is enrobed with chocolate or mockolate.
Necco Clark Bar (introduced by D.L. Clark in 1916-1917)
Noticeable molasses flavor, fresh roasted nuts but not overly salty. The texture varies from bar to bar, some are more hard-candy-like and others have a more crumbly layering with stronger peanut butter notes.
Nestle Butterfinger (introduced by Curtiss in 1923)
The center, when compared to the others, is obviously artificially colored. The scent of the bar is overtly “buttery” but without any real source. The coating is chalky looking and matte, without any ripples or variations. The crunch of the center is dense, though there are layers it’s a tightly wrapped bar. This gives it a density and satisfying weight. The mockolate coating is dreadful and the worst part of the bar. Salty and butter-flavored center has a good peanut butter flavor that at least covers the watery cocoa flavors of the outside.
Hershey’s 5th Avenue (introduced by Luden’s in 1936)
In earlier versions of the bar it was real milk chocolate and there were several almonds on top of the peanut butter center under the chocolate coating. The change over to a high-quality mockolate was about 4 years ago. The center of the 5th Avenue is by far the one I prefer. It’s like a bundle of spiky peanut butter crunch needles. They melt in your mouth with a burst of molasses, peanut butter and salty flavors. The mockolate is actually pretty good, though often very soft and pasty. The chocolate flavor of it is well rounded and the texture, though fudgy, is smooth.
If it were still in its original formulation, the 5th Avenue might still be the #1 bar for me. But given Clark’s new all natural and real ingredients, I have to go with the Clark Bar Dark and then the Clark Bar. Butterfinger comes in a distant #3 (or #4 if we’re using both Clark bars).
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The cornerstone of an Easter Basket is the chocolate bunny. There are many to choose from and most often it’s about how it looks. I picked up three foil wrapped milk chocolate rabbits of similar size for a little comparison.
All were about the same price, between $3.99 and $4.49 (though prices vary from store to store, I picked all mine up at Target before the good sales started). All are American made, all are milk chocolate and all are Kosher. In the running are: Cadbury Dairy Milk Solid Milk Chocolate Bunny, Hershey’s Bliss Hollow Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate Bunny and Dove Fairy Bunny Silky Smooth Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny.
Each is similar in size, thought the Cadbury bunny is solid so weighs a little more. Though they come in boxes, I’m not sure they’d go into the Easter basket that way. So here they are out of their boxes. I found all of them to be overpackaged, especially considering how many chocolate rabbits (Lindt is most notable) that are sold simply wrapped in foil without a box or plastic form shield.
Side by side it’s easy to see how the different milk chocolates are vastly different colors. Cadbury is the lightest and has an orange hue. Hershey’s Bliss is the darkest and from my reading of the ingredients and nutrition label it has the least fat (more milk solids and sugar).
They’re all three dimensional bunnies with nice molds. They were all pretty much flawless out of their wrappers as well.
The Cadbury Dairy Milk Solid Milk Chocolate Bunny is made in the United States by Hershey’s from imported “chocolate crumb” from Cadbury’s facilities in the UK (at least that’s what I learned via the NYTimes in 2007).
The ingredients are different than the UK Cadbury Dairy Milk. There is no additional vegetable fat in there, but it does contain PGPR, an additional emulsifier often used in less expensive chocolate. (If you’re curious about the differences between the UK and US Dairy Milk, check out this head to head comparison.)
Sugar, milk chocolate, cocoa butter, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR, natural and artificial flavor
They all came with a crazy amount of packaging, the Cadbury bunny’s box was more than two inches taller than the rabbit inside. But it’s a generous size, a full six ounces which at the selling price of $4.49 it was the best value of the bunch.
The rabbit is a rather realistic representation, no anthropomorphism by the designers. It’s a classic sitting rabbit with high ears. The foil is great, the only one of the bunch that has a design on both sides. (The wrapping style is kind of like a chocolate coin, the two sides are a heavy printed foil and have a seam all the way around.) The fact that he could be seated facing either way was a great feature, especially if you’re designing an Easter basket for a particular tableau.
My Cadbury bunny was soft, even though my house was a cool 68 degrees. Biting off the ears was pretty easy, but after that I had to take a knife to him and give him a few quick jabs to break him up.
The chocolate has strong caramelized sugar and yogurty dairy notes. The texture is sticky as it melts though not as sweet as I expected at first. The cocoa is mild and woodsy ... it’s the classic dairy milk chocolate I think most people are familiar with. It’s a little grainy and gritty.
I was a little irritated at how hard it was to eat, requiring a knife or the unsanitary gnawing. But he was lovely. Here are some more shots I took if you want to see some other views:
The Hershey’s Bliss Hollow Smooth & Creamy Milk Chocolate Bunny was a little confusing. There were two products on the shelves at Target from Hershey’s (here’s where I picked all of these up). There was this Bliss bunny, which I thought was a good comparison to the Dove one, and then an identically molded one that was just “Hershey’s” but with a blue bow instead of a lavender one (I photographed the back of the package for later comparison).
The Hershey’s Bliss one has no PGPR like the Cadbury or classic Hershey’s recipe, but of course a price tag to match (in this case a dollar more).
The Bliss bunny wins for the least amount of packaging, if you can call this winning. Inside the box was a formed plastic piece that went over the front-facing side of the bunny but like the others, there was a lot of empty space in that box.
Bliss is a relatively new chocolate line from Hershey’s, it was introduced barely two years ago with a parallel line of products and pricing structure to the Dove line. The packaging and foil wrapping doesn’t quite rise to the level of elegance or chic sophistication that Lindt, Godiva and Dove have been perfecting for so long. But it’s what’s inside that matters ... well, in the case of hollow chocolate bunnies, it’s what’s inside the foil that matters, the really inside is nothingness.
Bliss was the lightest bunny in the bunch at only 4 ounces.
The shape is of a bunny on its hind legs, front legs kind of up in a begging position. She’s not carrying a basket or anything. The molding is nice, the details are pretty good, especially on the ears. I don’t care much for the design of it but the shape is good. It feels substantial, which is important to kids. It’s not easy to put a thumb through the side or anything.
The Bliss bunny had an excellent sheen. It broke nicely and wasn’t too soft. The bunny itself had thick sides, but not too thick that breaking it was difficult. (I actually like hollow bunnies more as I get older - I like the illusion or size but the ease of portioning.)
The chocolate was smooth and creamy, with a rich milky flavor with a little Hershey’s twang, but not too much. It’s sweet but not throat-searing and not at all gritty or grainy. I liked it much better than the Hershey’s rabbit I had last year and better than the Bliss foil wrapped pieces.
Here are more photos to give you a sense of the scale, wrapping and molding:
The final rabbit is the Dove Fairy Bunny Silky Smooth Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunny. This one diverges from the classic rabbit shape and goes a little into the weird territory. This bunny has fat, fat butterfly wings (I don’t know how some conservative folks feel about mixing fairies with Easter).
The box has the most packaging, a clamshell formed clear plastic piece that protects the bunny and holds it in place. It did its job well, as my bunny looked great in and out of the foil. The back of the box has a poem about the Fairy Bunny, a poem that tells the story of this magical Easter bunny who has a product placement deal with Dove.
This ingredients looked okay, there’s PGPR in there but it comes after the flavorings. (I’ve been told that PGPR is great for manufacturers because it makes molding easier.)
The Dove bunny is by far the best looking one in and out of the foil, but definitely on the feminine side with its lavender wing accents and luscious eyelashes. (Even the whiskers look feline-sexy.)
It’s a squat bunny, so it doesn’t feel quite as decadent as the Bliss one, even though it weighs a half an ounce more at 4.5 ounces.
The walls of the chocolate were inconsistent. Some spots were thick and beefy, others, like the sides and bottom away from the edges were quite thin.
The bunny has a soft milky and woodsy scent, not too sweet. The texture of the chocolate is creamy and smooth. As I had my bunny open for tasting for a couple of weeks, I noticed that the flavor profile changed. I’ve noticed this with molded items that have a lot of surface area, and especially with chocolate that has PGPR. The flavor gets a little rancid ... not full on “my goodness, this is spoiled” but a subtle “this was better last week”. So I found myself gravitating, much to my surprise, to the Bliss bunny.
This bunny still wins for its looks, here are some more glamor shots:
On the whole, all three are good quality. They’re expensive by the ounce when you compare it to other chocolate like little foil wrapped pieces or big bars. But they’re also a special item for an Easter basket, gifting or just using as a decorative item. I suggest going for the chocolate you like ... but sometimes aesthetics trumps taste. Don’t forget to check out your local chocolate shop though - there’s something special about buying local from a company that molds their bunnies on site.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Long before Hershey’s came out with Kissables, they had a product called Hershey-ets. They were introduced in 1954 and were pretty much direct competitors to M&Ms. They never quite took off so by 1978 the machinery for Hershey-ets was turned over to the Reese’s Pieces project and Hershey-ets were only made seasonally.
My personal memories of these candy covered chocolate lentils are pretty vague. I know that I could get them at Hershey Park in little vending machines for a dime or quarter for a handful. (Not to be confused with the machines that dispensed duck food.) The only reliable time, for many years, to find Hershey-ets was around the holidays when they were sold in Christmas colors and found in bags in the baking aisle or in these cute little clear plastic canes.
Then the disappeared in 2006 with the introduction of Kissables (2005)... then Kissables were reformulated from their original candy-coated milk chocolate drops formula into candy-coating mockolate in 2008... then they were quietly discontinued in 2009. Earlier this year Hershey’s announced a new product line called Pieces, which would add to the existing Reese’s Pieces line three new products: York Peppermint Pattie Pieces, Almond Joy Pieces and Hershey’s Special Dark Pieces. One item missing from that list was a classic milk chocolate version ... the Hershey-ets.
So I can’t say I was surprised when I stumbled on a display of Hershey’s Canes at Target a few weeks ago. They featured the Hershey’s Canes I remembered from my childhood - a clear plastic tube filled with Hershey-ets (green & red) or Reese’s Pieces (in white, green & red). They were only 99 cents so I picked up a few.
There’s not much to say about the construction of them, as most Earthlings are familiar with this candy construction. Milk chocolate ovoid covered with a brightly colored sugar shell.
Are they just smashed Kissables or are they mini Hershey’s Easter Milk Chocolate Eggs?
Kissables Original (2006) Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, milk fat, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR & artificial flavors), sugar, red #40, yellow #5, yellow #6, blue #1 & carnauba wax.
Hershey-ets (2009) Ingredients: Sugar, milk, cocoa butter, chocolate, contains 2% or less of artificial colors (yellow #5, red #40, blue #1), corn syrup, corn starch, modified food starch, resinous glaze, soy lecithin, carnauba wax, vanillin. (Manufactured on shared equipment with peanuts).
I don’t have a wrapper for the classic Hershey’s Eggs, but just by tasting these I’m going with a mini version of the Hershey’s Eggs. What’s weird is that there’s no PGPR in there.
Finally, since they look and act like M&Ms, I also did a little one-to-one comparison. Hershey-ets are little bulkier, a little less tapered at the edges. The shell is also thicker, so there’s more crunch.
M&Ms milk chocolate is sweet and tastes a bit like cocoa with a light peanut touch and milk. Not intense and the shell is like a light crust. They’re very easy to eat, and keep eating though they never quite fill me up.
Hershey-ets milk chocolate is classic Hershey’s tang. Honestly, sticking my nose in the little tube, it smelled like chevre, or at the very least, chocolate cheesecake. The tangy yogurt note cuts through the sweetness a bit, and the extra crunchy shell provides more than just melting protection. Still, they’re every sweet and after a handful they gave me a sore throat. I enjoy the fact that they’re so different from M&Ms, but they’re not quite the jumbo pop of the Easter version that I prefer which has more shell and more of an uninterrupted fudgy chocolate flavor and texture. I easily ate both tubes I had over two days.
Lately I’ve found that Hershey’s chocolate has tasted a little rancid, a little more like burps than is considered polite for candy. I’ve been blaming it on PGPR, which I think either adds some sort of off flavor or allows the flavors to oxidize quicker. These don’t seem to have that problem. The flavor, though tangy with that slightly caramelized milk note is still there, but either sealing them in the little airtight candy shell or the lack of PGPR gives me back my classic Hershey’s chocolate.
Though I don’t remember them, they were once available in single serve packages just like M&Ms, Candy Wrapper Archive has an image of them from the 60s. Retro Commercials remembers when Hershey-ets were sold by the bucket.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I love it when the Candy Blog community points me to something new. We have a little conversation going on in the Candy Blog Forums about the 2009 holiday candy offerings. One that ruffy mentioned was Hershey’s Kisses Filled with Irish Creme. I found them at Target as well and I suspect since no one else has seen them anywhere else that they may be a Target exclusive this year.
Irish Cream is a combination of flavors and textures; it’s usually heavy cream, whiskey and coffee. Kisses filled with Irish Creme are less of that. There’s no actual whiskey in there, for starters. It’s a molded chocolate shell filled with a sugar and oil paste with some milk products (nonfat milk and whey) and artificial flavoring. So maybe a more accurate name would be Kisses filled with Sweet Flavored Whey Paste.
While my confidence level in them was low, I was also plenty curious. The dark green bag and gold wrappers with green fireworks on them were certainly appealing.
The smell, when I pushed my face into the bag, is actually mildly alcoholic. I don’t know how they did that, but it definitely has a bit of a whiskey note.
Out of the foil it’s even more noticeable - more than just bourbon vanilla, this smells like strong stuff. The chocolate flavors of the molded shell aren’t much. It’s smooth enough, with a slight fudgy grain that’s definitely candy-like. The center is a bit of a paste, thicker than the cordial creme in some of the Kisses. It’s not quite grainy and rather like a fondant. The center is a little bit salty so it has an immediate difference from the chocolate shell. The whiskey flavors of woodsy alcohol are there along with a slightly warm and cozy background note.
The liquor flavor though has an odd medicinal quality, especially later on. It’s like the after effects of Cepacol or some other throat anesthetic. Eating another one kind of gets rid of the benzocaine & menthol aftertaste by introducing the primary tastes of sugar, milk and whiskey flavored cheesecake.
I’m not blown away, but they are different than the last few flavors. But a true coffee flavored Kiss might be a nice change one of these days or an Egg Nog for the holidays.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Go big or go home is kind of a mantra in the snack world. Bigger, bolder, stronger, faster, louder, saltier, fattier, sweeter, higher, longer, brassier, sourer and crunchier all grab market share. They draw our attention because we seek novelty and claiming to be the mostest of something is, well, at least some kind of claim. Things like taste, satisfaction or quality are irrelevant.
So that brings me to the World’s Largest Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It looks like an amped up version of the regular package. Same proportions, just bigger.
Hershey’s has been making variations on the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for over 50 years. Big Cups, Miniatures ... shapes for different holidays like the Eggs, Trees and Pumpkins. (And of course all the other flavors, chocolate coatings & inclusions.) But this, is obviously different.
The package is 10.5 inches long and 5 inches wide. Inside are two peanut butter cups, each is 8 ounces. So for $9.99 at CVS I was able to buy a pound of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. (Actually, a careful shopper would just buy the 40 ounce “Club Size” bag of miniatures for about $8.99.)
Inside the wrapper is a white paperboard tray that holds the two cups. The cups themselves differ from their un-endowed originals in that they are not contained by a brown fluted paper cup. These are structurally coherent enough to need no containers. (Though they still have the classic fluted sides.)
They’re 4” around on the top and 3” around at the base. As you can already imagine there are some strange proportions at work here when dealing with gigantism. In order to structurally contain the peanut butter I found that they’d fortified the chocolate. I tried biting one but found that the sides and corners were quite thick milk chocolate. Almost a half an inch thick in some places.
It’s really not a product for nibbling on. (Mostly because I simply don’t just munch on pieces of candy that weigh a half a pound. Like giant chocolate Easter rabbits, there’s a sanitary issue.)
This violates one of my primary rules of candy, which is that it requires some sort of tool. In this case it’s a knife to portion it. Most large chocolate bars are scored and can be broken into pieces. There is no other way to eat this other than huge bites ... which pretty much means you’re not sharing or you’re intimate enough with the other folks or so wasted you don’t care.
When sliced though, I have to say it’s rather charming. The triangles are like little slices of pie. Since each cup is 8 ounces, it’s easy to score it into 1 ounce slices ... or just quarter it for hefty 2 ounce pieces. Technically the nutritional panel suggests that a single serving is 1/6th of a cup, but I’ve always found cutting things into sixths harder than quarters/eighths.
The chocolate tastes much sweeter and slightly cool on the tongue than I get from a regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The center peanut butter filling is dry and crumbly with a good salty note and only slightly sweet component.
My issue ultimately that there’s a lot of chocolate surrounding a large bulk of peanut butter. In the end I ate the top & bottom of the slice as well as the dense and grainy peanut butter filling but couldn’t bring myself to eat the super-sweet edge crust of chocolate.
I admit it’s a fun novelty and kind of a no-brainer inexpensive gift for a Reese’s Peanut Butter lover. I see it as a great option for social events, but hard to present as a “real” Reese’s peanut butter cup, since there’s no branding on it. (Maybe a disk to serve it on.)
In the end though it’s no replacement for the tried and true classic. So all it really does in the end is prove that the regular cups are ideal.
From the reports from the dear readers who alerted me to this monstrosity, they seem to be exclusive to CVS ... anyone else see them? (I’m hoping they’ll stick around for Christmas, as I think they’re a fun gag gift that’s actually functional.)
UPDATE December 2010: These are now in much wider distribution. I’ve seen them at 7-11 (for $12.99, I think) plus Target has them along with one pound Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars.
Monday, October 12, 2009
At the Walgreen’s I noticed a new set of bars far down on the bottom shelf in the candy aisle. They’re simply called 3 for $1 Buck (which seems redundant, three for one dollar buck bar?). They’re Proudly manufactured in the USA by R.M. Palmer. I picked out one of each and today I thought I’d do a head to head comparison between one of them, called Cookies ‘n’ Creme.
Of course the best known Cookies ‘n’ Creme bar is made by Hershey’s. It was introduced in 1994 and for a long time was made with real cocoa butter so it was a white chocolate product. Now it’s made with a white confection so a good item to do a match up with the Palmer version.
Each bar is a white confection (a mix of vegetable oils, milk & sugar) studded with chocolate cookie bits ... the whole effect is like Oreos in ice cream at room temperature.
Ingredients for Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme (1.55 ounce)
Ingredients for R.M. Palmer 3 for $1 Buck Bar Cookies ‘n’ Creme (1.45 ounce)
The Hershey’s bar is formatted just like the regular Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. 12 rectangles make it easy to snap & share. The ingredients aren’t quite as good as the pure white chocolate they used to use, but this is still a distinctive bar of decent quality.
It smells quite a bit like ice cream. The melt is rather smooth and cloyingly sweet. The cookie bits are jam packed in there, you can see from the flipside view that they’re little cookie pellets so there aren’t a lot of little crumbs, just real crunch & toasty chocolate flavor. It has a good bit of salt to it (110mg) so it helps the vanilla and chocolate flavors pop.
The Palmer version is a nice long, domed format. It’s a little lighter in color compared to the Hershey’s version. Even though it weights a tenth of an ounce less it has the same number of calories (220) and one more gram of fat (12 g).
It’s immediately sweet, but has a good, cool melt on the tongue. I didn’t get as much in the way of milky flavors from it but a fun fake vanilla that reminded me of taffy. There really weren’t that many cookie bits, which was disappointing, especially since I figured those were the cheapest ingredient in the whole thing.
Overall it was far too sweet, even statistically I can tell: Hershey’s has 19 g of sugars & Palmer has 24 g ... and remember, Palmer’s is smaller.
There’s really no comparison, the Hershey’s is a well rounded white confection with a dark chocolate cookie crunch. The Palmer is just a cheap sweet and fatty imitation. If the Palmer price tag is too much of a temptation, wait until the Hershey’s come on sale.
They’re both Kosher and both made in the USA.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Every once in a while a limited edition comes back. This one, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Lovers Cups, came out in 2005 along with its companion, the Reese’s Chocolate Lovers Cups. I spotted them again in stores a few weeks ago and picked them up on sale at Walgreen’s over the weekend.
The package is more peanutty looking than the traditional bright orange wrappers. It was easy to spot on the shelves as a different variety. Unlike some limited edition varieties that other candy companies make, this is a full sized version of the original - the same 1.5 ounces (.75 ounces per cup). Yes, it’s true that Reese’s Cups have gotten smaller over the years. Brad Kent has the 1.6 ounce wrapper from 1997 and the change made sometime circa 2003 based on Mike’s Candy Wrappers.
I don’t think I tried these the first time they came around, as I think that the regular ratios of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are ideal. When I opened the package I was wondering if there was any chocolate at all ... even though it said Milk Chocolate right at the top.
Once I pulled the brown fluted paper off the cup I understood the construction. There is a milk chocolate container which is filled with the Reese’s peanut butter center and that’s capped with a peanut butter candy coating.
The cup has a soft bite, slightly crumbly. It’s definitely all about the peanut butter. The chocolate base provides a little cool & creamy sweetness but very little in the way of cocoa notes. The dry and salty peanut butter center has that inimitable texture and roasted peanut flavor. I found it to be much saltier, so I looked around for sodium content for the original and found that has 130 mg per package and this limited edition version has 170 mg. (Just a note, I think everything is salty these days ... my otherwise healthy diet is rather low in sodium.) However, it does have 6 grams of protein versus 4 grams in the classic. More peanut butter means more protein and actual less fat & fewer calories ... a whole 10 fewer calories.
I enjoyed these, and certainly had no trouble finishing the package. But given the choice I’m either going to go for the regular cups or the minis (I don’t think I’m going to touch the once perfect eggs now that they’ve gone mockolate).
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Earlier this year Hershey’s provided me with a peek at some new products. I’ve been hanging onto the new Bliss White Chocolate Meltaway until it was closer to arriving on store shelves.
This addition to the Hershey’s line will set it apart from many other chocolate morsels such as the Dove line because instead of going super dark, they went all white.
The good news is that Hershey’s is using real white chocolate made with cocoa butter for their meltaway. Though it’s not a real gourmet product it’s still an excellent option for white chocolate lovers for a less-expensive treat. The ingredients list white chocolate as the first ingredient (sugar, cocoa butter, nonfat milk, milk, lactose, milk fat, soy lecithin, tocopherols, vanillin & salt). The meltaway center is made with a mix of the white chocolate and palm kernel oil. As you can imagine the saturated fat content is through the roof, with 6 pieces completing 45% of your daily recommended allowance of saturated fat but also 10% of your calcium.
The pieces are a creamy pale color with a little squiggle design across the rounded dome of the square. The smell sweet and milky and pretty much taste the same. The salt give them a little pop that makes the vanilla flavors come out more strongly than I would have expected. It’s like a vanilla pudding. A little bland but also a bit unchallenging in comforting way.
The difference between the white chocolate shell and the meltaway filling is rather marginal, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It felt like a piece of soft and creamy, sweet fat.
I liked the packaging - I thought the light blue, creamy white and gold were elegant and evocative of the product itself. I have a bit of trouble eating too many, so added to a mix of other levels of chocolate would be nicer. My only hesitation with them is that the Bliss line seems a bit expensive (regular price $4.99) for what you get. I’d prefer something without palm oil and with real vanilla. My go to white chocolate is still Green & Black’s.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.