Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Late last year I got these preview versions of the new Vote For Your Favorite Peanut varieties. The idea is that during the US Presidential Primary season, Mars would introduce a trio of flavors to choose from, and the public would vote. The three versions are Chili Nut, Honey Nut, Coffee Nut.
The Honey Nut M&Ms are a milk chocolate coating with a whole peanut in the center and a crisp shell. Somewhere in there is also a honey flavor ... in the shell, is it a honey roasted nut? I have no idea.
I pulled a few apart and didn’t find any evidence of honey roasting, but they do smell a little bit like maple syrup and vanilla. The shell on this variety also seems crisper. The whole effect is a rather clean, sweet flavor but basically a regular old Peanut M&M.
(Note that the packages I got were not final and the M&Ms were all the same color in each bag, in the final versions released to the public there are actually three colors for each variety.)
The Chili Nut M&Ms are probably the most daring of the bunch. Sure, spicy things are trendy, but the major candy companies have stayed far away from the chili heat, sticking to the pumpkin, ginger and cinnamon spices.
The combination of the peanuts, milky chocolate and mild cayenne pepper is very nice. The heat varies from time to time, but generally has a throat warming appeal that builds the more you eat. But it never gets too hot, which makes for a different experience without alienating folks who can’t tolerate a lot of pepper. (I’m afraid I’m one of those, I’m not great with capsaicin, the heat in red peppers, but I love all other spices like mustards, curries, black pepper and ginger).
Coffee Nut M&Ms is such a promising flavor. The roasted flavors of peanuts, coffee and chocolate should be an ideal combination. Added to that, I absolutely loved the winter 2015 Cafe Mocha M&Ms.
The shell is great, the peanuts are large and crunchy ... but the overwhelming flavor isn’t necessarily coffee, but it’s more of a buttery, woodsy flavor. I wanted to give the candy the benefit of doubt, so I bought a full 10.2 ounce bag at CVS just to be sure. Still, I’m getting this weird buttery coconut note.
I think it’s fantastic that Mars is paying a little more attention to the Peanut M&Ms, since most of the flavors we see are for the Milk Chocolate or white varieties. None of these varieties is something I plan to buy again before they disappear.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Mars has a few seasonal varieties of M&Ms available this year, including the White Strawberry Shortcake and Easter Sundae M&Ms (which are Target and Walmart exclusives, respectively). For the masses who can’t shop at those stores or don’t want a which chocolate product, there’s one other Easter version that’s new this year: Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs.
I was very excited about these by the name, since Mars already has a great line of malt products available in Europe under the Malteser name. This is not that, in any way.
The new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs are Crispy M&Ms in their format and ingredients. The only difference is not the addition of malt in the center, but butter flavor.
I picked up both the regular M&Ms Crispy in their Easter colors and the Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs for comparison, when a reader alerted me that they were no different.
There are some small format differences. As noted in the name, the Malts are mini, and they are slightly smaller than the regular Crispy M&Ms, but not something that you’d notice right away. But then again, the Malts aren’t really egg shaped at all, they’re just inconsistent so that some of them are kind of egg shaped and others are spherical.
The candies on the left are the Easter colors for the regular Crispy M&Ms and the handful on the right are the new Malt M&Ms Mini Eggs. Slightly different colors, but similar irregular shapes.
The difference isn’t inside, either. The ingredients and the structure are the same. The crispy rice center is light and airy, but basically flavorless, it’s a little like cereal, a little malty. Outside there’s a little hint of chocolate, not much but with a bit of a milky note. The candy shell is crisp. But as I mentioned earlier, this Malt version is not malty, the outside has a butter flavor to it, and I have to emphasize that it’s just a flavor.
I’ve had these two bags for almost a month, I’ve finished the regular Easter crispy M&Ms but I can’t bear to even have the Malt bag open near me. The smell is disgustingly artificial. It’s not malt at all. I don’t know what Mars was thinking with this product version, but they should definitely consult with other parts of the company that actually make malted items in the future.
Monday, February 22, 2016
Easter is a special time in the candy cycle, because it’s really the only time of year that white chocolate is embraced. Fortunately there are some products that are actually good, not just a white confection but actually made with real cocoa butter and lots of milk. (Many white confections are just sugar and tropical oils.)
The new White Strawberry Shortcake M&Ms are a Target exclusive this year, and if you’re a fan of the other white chocolate holiday versions like the Candy Corn M&Ms and the White Peppermint M&Ms, these may be just for you.
The pieces are larger than standard M&Ms, they’re puffier and a little less regular. They’re delicate pastel colors in pleasing creamy pink, eggshell and white, kind of like a strawberry shortcake with a whipped cream dollop. That’s about as far as the shortcake theme goes, which is fine with me. (The Dove Strawberry Shortcake Crisp things were weird.)
The package this year holds 8 ounces. Years ago the limited edition flavors came in a 9.9 ounce bag, they’re reliably shrinking over time.
The pieces are uncolored in the center and not layered like some. The white chocolate is creamy and sweet and has the floral flavor of fresh strawberries. There are no dried strawberry bits in there, like some previous products have included.
The shell is crunchy and the center is sweet but balanced with the more milky flavors. There’s a lot of fat in there, from the cocoa butter, but they didn’t have a greasy texture. (But that could be that it’s kind of chilly, the Candy Corn version they make in the fall comes along when things are still warm in my area, and the cocoa butter can migrate through the shell in the heat. The flavor in this case reminds me quite a bit of the old Nestle Qwik strawberry milk.
I’m keen on these, but they push all my buttons. They’re pretty and not overly colored, they have a good flavor that’s not too artificial and the ingredients (though there are artificial colors and flavors) are petty decent. I hope they return next year with a wider release.
Monday, January 25, 2016
The new Dove Milk Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Crisp Promises are for Valentine’s Day. I picked mine up at Target (and they may be a Target-Exclusive item).
The shortcake part is a little odd, conceptually. For a real strawberry shortcake, berries (often in a sweetened syrup) are ladled over a biscuit type baked good. Some folks prefer a spongecake or poundcake but the key here is that they’re all soft and cakey. The cookie pieces in this case are made from tapioca starch, rice flour, sugar, palm oil, baking soda and some salt.
The other odd part of this is that there’s milk chocolate ... so if anything, this is an imitation of a chocolate covered strawberry with a few gluten free cookie bits (this is not, however, a gluten free product as it’s made in a facility that also uses wheat and peanuts and tree nuts).
The pieces are not a swirl of milk & white chocolate, like some other recent versions. Instead this is a solid milk chocolate piece, flavored with some strawberry and dotted with little cookie inclusions.
The strawberry flavor is very strong, but the milk chocolate holds its own with a creamy dairy note and a little toasty cocoa flavor. The strawberry is floral sweetness, no dried berry bits in this version. The cookie bits are odd, since they’re made with starch and not actual wheat flour, they are actually rather starchy, though they don’t get sticky-pasty like some gluten free cookies I’ve had. The overall effect of the crunchy cookie bit is really nice, it aerates the experience because you kind of have to chew it instead of just letting the chocolate melt away, which I think boosts the strawberry notes.
They’re pleasant. The strawberry isn’t too artificial or plastic (it does say natural flavor on the package, though it’s kind of vague). I don’t know if I would buy these again, but I appreciated the effort and novelty.
Friday, December 18, 2015
I have a soft spot for Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies. Mostly the soft spot is in my memory, because I don’t find the current day item meets my pickier standards. It shouldn’t be that hard to make a chocolate cookie with a minted chocolate coating.
So, if I can’t get my itch scratched with Thin Mints, perhaps I should turn it on its end and have something chocolate with cookies, instead of cookies with chocolate. Mars’ new Target-exclusive Promises for Christmas are just that: Dove Milk Chocolate Holiday Mint Cookie Promises.
The idea is simple, and certainly not original. They’re milk chocolate, lightly flavored with peppermint along with some crunched up chocolate cookie pieces.
The milk chocolate is fudgy and sweet, but definitely smoother than many other brands like Hershey’s and Nestle that are on the shelves at the moment. The little cookie bits are sandy and crunchy with a bitter note of charcoal and cocoa. Mostly they just sit in the crevices of my molars. The effect is a nice textural change from the smooth melt of the chocolate and a slight note of salt.
The ratio of chocolate to cookie is very good, definitely more chocolate, but they weren’t stingy with the cookie bits, they were in every bite. They were a little on the sweet side, which is really the profile of the Dove Milk Chocolate. Still, I’d love it if someone would do these in dark chocolate.
I hope Target brings these back next year and hopefully they’ll get wider distribution so everyone can enjoy them. But now I’d like someone to explain why I can’t have them all year, like the long gone Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Mint bar.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Target’s newest seasonal edition of M&Ms is a rather nonseasonal but welcome classic: M&Ms Milk Chocolate Cafe Mocha.
They’re far more expensive than regular M&Ms. At Target they were on sale 2 bags for $6, but the regular varieties were larger bags. Milk Chocolate M&Ms come in an 11.4 ounce bags. For Halloween picked up the Pumpkin Spice Latte in a 9.9 ounce bag. The same is true for the returning Peppermint White Chocolate M&Ms, they’re now in an 8 ounce bag.
They’re larger than standard M&Ms, basically puffier. If you eat them carefully by cleaving them in half you can tell that the milk chocolate center is created in two layers. It’s like they took a regular M&M and then gave it another chocolate coating and then a candy shell. I’m not sure why the Limited Edition flavors are all this shape, but they are. It’s interesting to note that the Walmart exclusive flavor of Hot Chocolate M&Ms does have a different center. I have to wonder if this is because the manufacturing process is re-purposed from the failed M&Ms Premiums line from 2008.
The shells are green or red. My bag contained mostly green, it was tough to find reds to populate the photos, they’re less than a third of the package. There’s no actual coffee listed in the ingredients.
They don’t smell like much in the bag, a little less like chocolate but not fully like coffee. The bite is not at all soft, the chocolate is a little chalky and fudgy. The melt gives off a lot of sweetness and a little note of bitterness at first as well as a good whiff of coffee. The chocolate is okay, not great but the bitterness of the coffee notes, the roasted and woodsy aspects kind of cover for the milk flavors. It’s not really a latte flavor, its more of a coffee with milk and cocoa. It might have been fun to see them try this with a dark chocolate, but I’m patient. This is their first try at coffee M&Ms since the Premiums line. (And there will be another version of coffee and peanuts next spring.)
Mars does a great job with their coffee flavors, it’s well rounded without too much of a fake flavor note to it (like some other buttery things they’ve done). I’d love to see these come back as a seasonal tradition, but at all stores. I’ll pick up more bags soon, just in case they don’t.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Next month Mars is introducing a new Snickers variant, the Snickers Crisper. The new bar boasts multiple textures and “delivers on [Snickers] satisfaction pledge with the chew of caramel and the crunchy crispiness of rice and peanuts.”
Like the recent Snickers Peanut Butter Squared that came out five years ago, these are actually two squares in one package instead of a single bar.
The new bar is supposed to be in response to consumers wanting healthier options. I’m not sure what would make this bar healthier than a regular Snickers, though this one has crisped rice in it, instead of nougat and is actually 12 grams lighter, which means fewer calories per serving.
Each square is about 1.25 inches on each side. They’re about two or three bites.
The bar smells well roasted and a bit like toffee. The bite is very soft, the caramel on top has a lot of give to it, but not much pull. The chew has a nice texture, with the peanut butter coated crisped rice as a highlight. It’s quite sweet though there’s also a hint of salt. I don’t get much more peanut butter or sort of thick satisfaction that I find in a regular Snickers. I do enjoy the malty notes of the rice though as well as the few peanut scattered about. I think I just wanted more peanut butter and less sweetness.
About ten years ago there was another bar called the Snickers Cruncher, which was similar: it was a peanut butter coated crisped rice bar with caramel coated in chocolate. It was all one bar and actually really good. When they disappeared in the United States, I was still able to find them in Europe (and a few sellers on eBay would import them).
Thursday, September 3, 2015
I picked up the Pumpkin Spice Latte, though I admit I was a little confused about how different this was from the Pumpkin Spice Milk Chocolate M&Ms from 2013.
It’s always a little odd to pick up “seasonal” items when I live in Los Angeles. The package here shows the brown M&M all bundled up with steamy drink. It was 96 degrees in the shade when I got back to my car with the purchase (it’s also hot in a lot of other places around the country, it was still August when these hit the shelves).
The pieces are large, as all of the specialty flavors lately have turned out to be. They come in orange, cream and dark brown. (The earlier 2013 Pumpkin Spice were orange, green and dark brown.)
The ingredients list no specifics about the flavors, there are no lists of spices and definitely no actual pumpkin or coffee. What I expected to be different about this variety is more of the latte beverage experience. So, I’m hoping for creamy milk notes, maybe some espresso and of course the spice mix known as pumpkin.
The flavor combination here is immediately cinnamon with a touch of coffee and chocolate. The spices are warm, but not very evenly balanced, it’s almost all cinnamon and not much in the way of nutmeg or ginger. The coffee notes keep it from being as sweet as some others, though it’s a little inconsistent. The chocolate itself is grainy and not terribly creamy. In general the chocolate quality on M&Ms is disappointing as a chocolate item, but fine as a candy.
I’m a little confused how this whole coffee craze can come about and there are no coffee M&Ms, but some how a beverage that includes coffee can actually get the M&M treatment.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.