Monday, May 04, 2009
The Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have finally returned as a regular product (teased here in CandyForums.net).
Dark chocolate Reese’s come and go from Hershey’s. Last summer they were a limited edition product as a tie in with the Batman: The Dark Knight movie.
The new package design is different enough that I was able to spot them from the next checkout aisle at Target (though I definitely have candy-vision) on Saturday.
I have to say that the wrapper is rather spare, though bold. As someone who has to look at design pretty often in her day job, I wasn’t really pleased with the mix of fonts. (The script logo, the italic san serif “dark chocolate” and then the regular san serif of the “2 peanut butter cups” and weight info ... but then the use of black outline on white in a serif font for “dark” feels like an afterthought.)
But enough of this judging a book by its cover. It’s what’s inside that matters, right?
So what does the package say is inside?
Okay, so it’s not really dark chocolate, it’s dark chocolate with some milk fats ... not that big of a deal. It’s pretty common in mass-marketed semi sweet chocolate candies.
The encouraging part is that these cups are full sized. When Mars makes a limited edition or dark chocolate version of a milk chocolate product, they have a tendency to make it smaller. This package is 1.5 ounces, the standard these days for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup two packs.
Each 3/4 of an ounce cup is lovely to behold. Satiny smooth with lightly fluted sides. It may be that these were fresh (as it’s a new product) but there was no little oily pool on the top of the chocolate.
They smell very dark - like deeply roasted nuts and woodsy charcoal.
Like most other Reese’s products, the chocolate is a very soft bite. The dark chocolate, though it lists sugar as the first ingredient, is not at all sweet. The first impression I get is bitterness - a nutty toasted bitterness that goes well with the deep peanut flavors.
The salty hit from the crumbly & grainy peanut butter went well against the creamy chocolate. It has a nice melt without the fudgy grain that the classic milk chocolate has.
Overall, this is a winner. I can see craving these in the evening (I usually don’t want super-sweet after dinner) and keeping the Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups for daylight hours (afternoon pick-me-up).
They also come in the little foil-wrapped miniatures, but Target didn’t seem to have those in stock yet. If you’ve tried though (they were also available about three years ago), let me know how they are.
Friday, April 24, 2009
One of the most confounding stories from last year was not that Hershey’s degraded the recipe of some of their most favored & oldest chocolate bars including the Mr. Goodbar. No, it was the introduction of the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts.
Hershey’s spokesman insisted that consumers actually prefer the new formula of the Mr. Goodbar, which has a strong, salty & burnt peanut taste over the earlier Hershey’s tangy milk chocolate flavor combined with fresh roasted peanuts. So, why, if so many people like it would they introduce a new bar that is basically the old bar instead of keeping the old bar the way it was an introducing a new bar that tastes like the old bar’s new formula? (I told you it was confusing.)
The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts bar was introduced and sold exclusively at WalMart. I got mine at the 99 Cent Only Store. I don’t know if they’re supposed to be carrying it or these are just WalMart overruns.
So, what’s inside? First, the bar is 1.45 ounces. A standard Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces ... so this nutty Hershey’s is even smaller.
The ingredients are:
The bar has a soft snap, like most Hershey’s chocolate products. It smells like peanuts, but not quite the same soft scent of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. On the tongue the first flavor I get is not chocolate or peanuts but salt. The chocolate is a bit fudgy and grainy, but has a rather smooth dissolve on the tongue. The peanuts don’t taste as dark and charcoal-ish as the new Mr. Goodbar. But the saltiness made it taste like fake butter.
It’s not a bad bar ... and it’s not Mr. Goodbar. It’s just some other new bar that’s not distinct enough to warrant being more than a something in an assortment of miniatures. Which brings me to the fact that this Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts is not even, technically, a new confection from Hershey’s. I first had it when I bought at bag of Hershey’s Nut Lovers Miniatures in January of 2005. (Here’s a photo.)
I feel like the victim of an elaborate shell game where actually finding the ball under the right shell doesn’t actually mean that you get anything satisfying ... like your money’s worth. This new bar is nice enough, but why is it 1.45 ounces (same as the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds) instead of the 1.55 of the Milk Chocolate bar. Did peanuts suddenly become more expensive than chocolate?
Just for the record, here are the iterations of Mr. Goodbar:
Ingredients (as of 2008): Sugar, peanuts, vegetable oil (palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil) chocolate, whey (milk), nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, soy lecithin, salt, vanillin. (60 mg of sodium 1.75 ounces)
In this new mockolate version the bar tastes like it has more peanuts, the peanuts have a darker roast that gives it a slight bitterness that’s moderated by heaps more salt than before and what tastes like some sugary fudge/wax with very little cocoa taste.
Ingredients (circa 2006): Milk Chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, lactose, milk, milk fat, soya lecithin and PGPR as emulsifiers and vanillin, an artificial flavoring) and Peanuts. (20 mg of sodium 1.75 ounces)
If you really missed the classic Mr. Goodbar, the new Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts will probably make you happier than buying the current mockolate Mr. Goodbar. (Unless you’re on a sodium restricted diet.) I’d like to say that there’s an alternative, but peanuts & chocolate are kind of the domain of Hershey’s & Reese’s ... it’s sad that they don’t have something to offer that’s better.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I have been waiting nearly a year to find these! I first read about them last year on Candy Addict’s list of new products coming out from Hershey’s. The release date of December 2008 came and went and I kept my eyes open but still didn’t see them in the stores ... not even on the internet. I thought maybe Hershey’s decided not to put them out.
Then last week I wandered down to the 99 Cent Only Store about a mile from my office to see what was new. I found a box. One box. Just sitting there, mixed in with the Sugar Babies and Care Bears Gummi Bears. I would have bought more, but this was all they had (and this one was a little dinged).
The front of the package was no help. It describes these only as Sweet and Spicy chewy candy. The side of the package pushed me in the direction of Good & Fruity when I looked at the ingredients. The first three are dextrose, sugar & corn syrup. Good & Plenty has wheat flour as part of the licorice.
So now I knew that I was expecting: Lemon, Orange, Apple & Cinnamon jelly rods.
All that confusion aside ... the box design is fabulous. I love the bold colors & graphic style (which is why there are so many photos in this review).
Lemon (Yellow) - bright and translucent, I was more than curious what the combination of lemon and cinnamon would hold. The candy shells on these is rather thin & crunchy. Now, the flavor ... at first it’s a little bitter. The shell is sweet, but the little sweet veneer wears off and I got a slight bitter hit, an organic type of woodsy bitter. I got lemon zest too ... and then cinnamon. At the very end there was a little twang of tartness.
It’s downright bizarre. It’s like eating a candle. Not in a bad way.
Orange (orange) - also starts with a slight bitterness but that moved into a very strong sweetness quickly. The cinnamon here is like an actual cinnamon stick - woodsy with notes of cedar and pine and then a strong snap of tartness then some more bitter at the end. There’s a warm feeling from the cinnamon but not a strong lingering one.
Apple (red) - I had trouble telling the reds apart when I didn’t have another to compare it to (though usually the cinnamon ones were a bit fatter). This apple is sweet and tangy and has that nice combination of apple juice flavor mixed with that made-in-the-lab note of “green apple flavoring”. The cinnamon is a bit of a background here but makes it taste a bit like a McDonald’s Hot Apple Pie. (Without the “caution filling is hot” label.)
Cinnamon (dark red) - I was expecting the plain cinnamon to be like a Hot Tamale or Sizzling Cinnamon Jelly Belly. Instead this one went in a wholly different direction. The shell on these seemed crispier. The cinnamon flavor on the outside was soft. Then at the edge of the shell and the jelly center there was a burst of flavor - like an all cinnamon chai - it had a burning warmth and some really authentic notes of real cinnamon, not just the cinnamon oils.
This has to be one of the strangest ventures I’ve seen Hersheys’ take in quite a while. It’s like they subcontracted the folks who developed the Dots: Elements (Earth, Wind, Fire & Water) to come up with a brand extension for Good & Fruity. I’m completely puzzled by these though, because I think Hershey’s created a great new product with their Cinnamon Twizzlers Fire. Why couldn’t they have taken those and made a version of that like the true Good & Plenty?
Those who are disappointed by the soulless rebirth of Good & Fruity aren’t going to find any comfort here. Those who enjoy cinnamon with all the variations of the flavor might find some solace.
Joann from Sugar Hi reviewed them a few months ago, at least helping to disambiguate their candy category but didn’t dissuade me from trying them.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Hershey’s Whatchamacallit was introduced in 1978. I remember the launch, the commercials and buying the candy bar quite a bit in the first few years when it came out.
It was a peanut butter & crisped rice bar covered in milk chocolate. It was simple, crunchy, looked really big and was satisfying.
Hershey’s has never seemed particularly proud or supportive of the Whatchamacallit. Their advertising for it waned after the eighties; maybe they wanted to go out on a bang with this classic commercial:
The Hershey’s website lists only four notable moments in Whatchamacallit history: introduction (1978), reformulation (1987), package redesign & king size release (2002). You can see the earlier, less “blasty” package design on Brad Kent’s wrapper archive and Mike’s Candy Wrappers (2002 & 2003)
The page mentions nothing about the second reformulation where the bar lost its milk chocolate and gained its rich chocolatey coating (circa 2006).
This bar is made with chocolate, cocoa crisps and peanut butter. At first glance it sounds like it might be the original Whatchamacallit, the one without the caramel (well, that also had real chocolate).
Instead it’s a block of cocoa flavored crisped rice covered with a strip of peanut butter and then covered in Hershey’s inimitable imitation chocolate.
As with many limited edition products, this bar is slightly smaller than the original. It’s 1.5 ounces versus the 1.6 ounces of the Whatchamacallit.
Whatchamacallit on the left and Thingamajig on the right
It’s hard to review the Thingamajig in a vacuum, so naturally I’m comparing it to the Whatchamacallit. I’m also prone to wondering if, when Hershey’s was developing the Whatchamacallit, that they didn’t go through this bar as part of the evolution of the new product, obviously rejecting it.
The Thingamajig has a nice cocoa scent along with a whiff or roasted peanuts. It’s not quite a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup smell, but pretty close.
The bit into the bar is a quick snap, biting through the cocoa crispies is easy, they’re crunchy but have plenty of give since they don’t seem to be held together by marshmallow or peanut butter like the Whatchamacallit.
The mockolate coating is rather good ... I have to give Hershey’s credit, their fake chocolate can often be better than some other companies’ real chocolate. The cocoa flavors from the crispy center probably help.
The peanut butter is a bit salty, creamy and smooth (smoother than a peanut butter cup center).
Overall, it’s a nice experience ... probably not something I’d want again. I’m not sure why Hershey’s did it, but they’re not really taking any credit for it (they never emailed me about it, it doesn’t appear on their website) and it will probably disappear without any fanfare as well.
Rating: 6 out of 10
As a little side note, since I’ve never done an official review of the Whatchamacallit (which by now I’m rather dreading typing), I thought I’d add that here:
The bar smells like cocoa and toffee. The peanut butter crisped rice center is great. It’s buttery, salty, crunchy and has a good roasted nut flavor and a strong butter/dairy note to it. The caramel, though only a very thin layer, gives it a bit of a chew that holds it together in the mouth. The mockolate coating is creamy and melts well but offers no chocolate flavors here ... just a sealant for the crispy bar.
Rating: 6 out of 10
But most of all, I have to wonder why the Whatchamacallit isn’t a Reese’s branded product, getting the full benefit of the peanut butter branding.
Monday, April 13, 2009
When I first tried Scharffen Berger, years before I started Candy Blog, I didn’t like it much. Granted, all I’d tried was their Semisweet, but I found it rather bitter and acrid, a strong sourness that just didn’t have those qualities that I love about chocolate.
But over the years the Scharffen Berger product line has grown and I have found some superb products among their line that I really enjoy, such as their Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs.
For years I’ve spent time trying to love what other people love. But most of it is just not for me. Until the Nibby bars came along.
First it was the Nibby Dark Chocolate with Roasted Cacao Nibs (62%). I never reviewed it. The 62% base was rather sweet and melted a bit thin but the nibs are crunchy and have a great nutty and buttery crunch. I still prefer the panned nibs, which are much less sweet by proportion (they also use the 62%) and of course so spectacularly shiny and cute.
Then in 2007 I met the Milk Nibby Bar. This was a chocolate bar that was also food. Malty, mellow, caramel notes, a smooth and sticky chocolate background with the crunchy nibs. It was the perfect lunch.
I didn’t think anything ever needed to replace it, top it, or even compete with it.
Then at the Fancy Food Show in January I was walking by the Scharffen Berger booth. I’ve had mixed experiences there and usually just glance over things and move along to other booths. Instead I got a warm welcome and was urged to try their new Dark Milk 68% Cacao.
Oddly enough, it’s not a bar I would have been interested in if I were buying. I already liked the Milk Nibby. What I didn’t know was that the Dark Milk actually has nibs in it too! (Why that’s not really mentioned on the package is beyond me.)
Shown above is the Milk Nibby (41%) on the left and the Dark Milk (68%) on the right.
I wanted to compare it to the Milk Nibby and the Dark Milk. One of the things that the wrapper tells me is that the Dark Milk has more fat - 19 grams per serving over the 15 grams per serving from the Milk Nibby (that means 10 more calories per ounce). Sounds like a good start!
As you can see from the photo above, there’s very little difference in the appearance of the bars. The Milk Nibby is only slightly lighter, but if you just handed me one without the other to compare, I doubt I could tell on sight alone.
It doesn’t smell like a milk chocolate bar. It smells woodsy, dark and slightly tangy, a little bit of coffee and a little bit of toffee.
On the tongue though, the milk notes come out pretty quickly. The Scharffen Berger tangy is there, but the milk moderates it. There are some strong bitter elements, they’re dark roasted bitter flavors, like coffee and a sharp cheddar cheese. But there are other nice notes in there too, a sweet toffee, strong vanilla and oak. The malt is not as pronounced as the Milk Nibby bar, but it still makes an appearance.
This is not a morning bar, I think it’s an evening bar. Even though the bitterness lingered, I liked the complex notes and of course the texture. I found myself reaching for pieces of it until it was gone. Every once in a while I do get some bad crunching nibs, ones that seem more like shells than beans (but I find that with most nib products).
I’m still going to stick with the Milk Nibby bar (and just decided to , but this is an excellent high cacao bar for people who probably don’t like high cacao content. But if I can’t find the Milk Nibby, this one will be a more than adequate substitute. I had no trouble finishing the bar.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Just a quick post to say Happy Easter to my Christian readers (and anyone who loves Easter candy).
The Monday after Easter marks the slow close of Candy Season until stuff starts appearing on the shelves for Halloween.
I hope you find some good deals! Here’s a mini-review of this Hershey’s Hoppy Egg Filler hollow rabbit.
This tall treat is from Hershey’s and made in the US. (The giant Hershey’s Kisses are now made in Mexico.)
The box makes him look formidable at 18 inches high. But the actual bunny inside is only 13 inches tall. I took his photo yesterday and ate his ear this morning for breakfast.
As far as solidness goes, he is technically hollow, but the shell is quite thick. This rabbit is 20 ounces, so there’s a lot of chocolate there. I had to take two bites of his ear ... and still didn’t hit air. (Instead I ended up poking him with a knife to find out how far the ear mass went.)
The chocolate was mediocre. It’s sweet, a bit grainy. It has only a hint of the distinctive Hershey’s tangy bite to it. I’m wondering if part of it is that he’s not really “sealed” in that box. He’s surrounded by an absurd amount of packaging, but none of it is airtight and the box is just closed with a little piece of tape. For $20 or so, which is what this guy is supposed to retail for, I think I want smaller but better.
I have to say that he was impressive looking and I’m sure any child will be thrilled to find one today ... or even on Tuesday.
What was your Easter breakfast?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
It’s not often that I’ll stop my fast forward through commercials to watch something. I definitely did when I saw the Reese’s: Perfectly Easter advertisement.
I’m not only a huge critic of candy (because I love it so), I’m also rather fond of breaking down advertising, but I’ll save that for another time.
The important takeaway I got on that advert was that Spring is in the Air and Reese’s Eggs are a chocolate covered peanut butter product.
Candy Blog reader, Peloria, has been wonderfully helpful in helping me track down these two versions by leaving comments on my original review of the perfect Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (2006 version). I got a hold of eggs for 2009 from three stores with two different wrappers. For the most part single Reese’s Eggs are sold with the package that doesn’t say that they’re milk chocolate. But I also found the six pack that says Milk Chocolate above the Reese’s logo.
The classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg ingredients were (2005 source):
The current 2009 ingredients:
For reference, the standard Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ingredients are (in 2009):
There are a few changes there, but nothing that definitively says that these aren’t a real chocolate product any longer. But they’re different enough to change the nutritional profile. There’s more salt (they’ve gone from 140mg to 150mg), and 11 grams of fat now instead of 10.
So I tasted them (after all, at this point I had 9 of them). The chocolate coating looked a bit chalky, not glossy (and some looked a little swirly and uneven in color). They’re soft and the peanut butter overwhelms any chocolate flavor anyway. The peanut butter center is crumbly and nutty, not completely smooth but not crunchy, just a little more rustic than the stuff in a jar. Salty, sweet and satisfying. The chocolate coating feels cool on the tongue and seems to melt pretty well, but it also melts in my fingers pretty quickly too. It’s a good time these come along in the spring because they’d never make it in a Los Angeles summer.
I’m not sure why Hershey’s has removed the Milk Chocolate part from some wrappers, I fear it’s because they’re planning something for next year ... kind of easing us into crappy candy instead of a sharp shift that causes an uproar like the true & mockolate Kissables being on the shelves at the same time. I still consider them a winner. The prices appear to have gone up. I got the six pack for $2 on sale, but buying the individual ones, the best sale I could find was 75 cents each.
Hershey’s has a bunch of other candies for Easter in the Reese’s line, too. There are Fudge Covered Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and Reester Bunnies, which are just a molded version of the RPBC in various sizes. They’re more chocolate than peanut butter. Then there are the Foil Eggs, the Reese’s Pieces Eggs (in beautiful pastels),
Then there’s this strange monstrosity which is also called Milk Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg but unlike the 1.2 ounce version, this one is molded. It’s also 6 ounces (so five times as big but twice the price per ounce).
The box is ridiculously oversized for the product - it’s 6.5 inches long. The egg itself is 4.5 inches long, 1.5 inches high and 3 inches wide at the broadest part. That means one inch of space on all sides ... feels like more than just protection, feels like a bit of fakery. (Though it’s easy to see the entirety of the product through the cellophane window.)
The ingredients are pretty much the same as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup - erring on the chocolate as the first ingredient, not peanuts.
I get the sense that these are supposed to be like those deluxe slicing candy eggs that have always puzzled me. Candy, in my opinion, doesn’t need any serving implements. It’s meant to be eaten with the fingers and needs no preparation or tools. Either I bite into this one and eat it all by myself, of I slice it up. Which I did.
Looking at the slices there, I think you can tell that this is not the same center as the 1.2 ounce egg ... it looks and feels a bit oilier (which is not a bad thing, just a different thing).
The interesting experience with these slices is that the amount of chocolate shell varies so much depending on where the slice comes from. The ends, of course, are mostly chocolate. But even in a center slice, the chocolate shell is especially thick, much thicker than any cup I’ve ever had from Reese’s, as thick as a regular Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.
The chocolate flavor was completely lost on this product, it tasted like peanut butter fudge, though it was pretty smooth and sweet with a slight milky flavor to it. The peanut butter center was stellar. It was relatively solid, had the crumbly texture and didn’t taste as sweet as the regular eggs. I liked the clear distinction between the chocolate shell here and the peanut butter filling, instead of the unclear margins in the smaller egg. But sometimes the chocolate had a coconut flavor to it that I can’t quite explain nor say that I cared much for.
However, the silly over-packaging and price tag would certainly keep me from buying these ever again. But if you’re looking for something for a peanut butter obsessed person’s Easter basket instead of a pile of the small eggs or the standby bunny, it might be fun. Portion control was a lot easier than I thought, I sliced up rather logically into five pieces, though I can’t be sure that they were actually the same weight. The package says that it serves four (which means each serving is more than a single regular egg).
I feel like downgrading the 1.2 ounce Reese’s Eggs to a 9 out of 10, but maybe that’s an emotional response, a response out of fear, not one based on my actual tasting (though there was some throat burning from the sweetness I don’t remember from the past). As for the giganto one, it’s not something I appreciate, though I guess it’s okay. I give it a 7 out of 10.
UPDATE 3/30/2009: Thanks to Peloria’s continued documentation, I kept looking for these other non-milk chocolate labeled eggs. I finally found them at the 99 Cent Only Store near my house. The packages were 2 for a dollar.
Sure enough the ingredients indicated that they’re really not chocolate (I know, the photo looks like all the other photos, but trust me, this is what the reverse says):
Peanuts, sugar, dextrose, vegetable oil (cocoa butter, palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), chocolate, nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, lactose, salt, whey, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, corn syrup, soy lecithin, cornstarch, glycerin, TGHQ & PGPR, vanillin.
They look a little flatter than the milk chocolate eggs (labeled or not). As for the taste, well, this one seemed really salty to me, but maybe that’s what happens when I have peanut butter eggs for breakfast. (Hey, eggs are a breakfast food!)
The mockolate coating wasn’t bad, it wasn’t any worse looking than the current eggs. It has a similar melt and cool feeling on the tongue, it’s sweet but I didn’t taste any milky component to it.
I still don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why they’ve have both on the market at the same time, why they’d make two versions and ruin something that was perfectly good and perfect. As for the ruining part, well, they’re not that bad but I’m not fond of eating palm oil when I could be eating cocoa butter.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I faithfully photographed the first package, but then ate them.
The second one, well, that was a King Sized version that I didn’t photograph, but then ate and realized that the proportions were different.
Then yesterday I was browsing my local 99 Cent Stores (yes, two of them, as they are less than a block apart and carry different stuff), I saw boxes and boxes of these. Since the expiration says 9K (November 2009), I figured they were well worth the 39 cents just so I could get these off my chest.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups made with crunchy peanut butter are not new. I remember them from the 90s and found this wrapper on Brad Kent’s site. Apparently they were also available in Canada, according to this wrapper on Mike’s Candy Bar Wrappers. This version is not to be confused with the Limited Edition Reese’s Big Cup with Nuts, which had whole nuts, not crushed ones.
They look, pretty much, like regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Fresh and nutty smelling, the tops were pristine on my most recent purchase (no oily puddles).
The chocolate is sweet and cool on the tongue, the peanut butter is immediately salty. The texture is the same as the regular cups except there are some big chunks of peanuts mixed in.
Most peanut butters are offered as either smooth or chunky, so it’s a natural evolution that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would come that way as well.
I liked these, I think they should be a regular item, but at the moment, if you have a 99 Cent Only Store the price is pretty darn good for fresh product. When those are gone, we can just wait for yet another limited edition or seasonal introduction. (I am kind of curious to try this crunchy style with the Easter favorite, the Egg.)
Side note: I saw a oodles of the now hard-to-find Reese’s Bars at the Fairfax & 6th 99 Cent Store.
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