Tuesday, October 4, 2005
I know that the 5th Avenue is a lesser known bar, but it’s quite similar to the Butterfinger. Though they’re both a peanutbutter crunch center with a chocolate(y) coating, they do have some differences. I’m doing this head-to-head in part to introduce Butterfinger fans to what I think is an exceptional bar. But in order to do that, I had to see them side by side again:
Both are massive bars. The 5th Avenue rings in at exactly 2 ounces and the Butterfinger at 2.1 ounces. The main difference, as far as I can tell between the two is that the Butterfinger coating is not chocolate but a chocolate-like substance where the 5th Avenue has a creamy milk chocolate enrobement.
The 5th Avenue bar of my childhood was not a Hershey product but made by Ludens (yes, the cough drop people). Also made in Pennsylvania, the 5th Avenue bar may not have had the wide distribution of the more well-known Butterfinger. When I first got to college I was forced to eat Butterfingers and developed a taste for them, but now that I’m back in an area that offers both, I’m a 5th Avenue girl. Of course, I seem to have a vague recollection of there being a couple of almonds on top. Does anyone else remember that?
The center is a crispy, crunchy peanutbutter crisp. Kind of like a flaky toffee. It has some peanutbutter between the layers, as far as I can tell. It also has a distinct molasses flavor to it, which brings out the roasted flavors of the nuts.
The Butterfinger bar was also not originally made by its current owner, Nestle. It was invented by the Curtiss Candy Company based in Chicago (a great candy town) that also made the Baby Ruth (also made by Nestle now). It predates the 5th Avenue, and frankly, has a much better name. It’s buttery and resembles a big finger and of course the play on words of being a clumsy person is kind of fun. The Butterfinger was always known as a great candy buy when I was a kid. Because the bar was so huge, you were sure to be satisfied. The center has similar crunch peanutbutter toffee-like layers that seem a bit crumblier (in a good way) than the 5th Avenue. The overwhelming taste in this center is buttery. A good hit of peanuts and a smooth, sweet and salty buttery taste. I’ve always loved the inside of Butterfingers ... it’s the fake chocolate coating that’s always bugged me. It’s waxy, overly sweet and just not milk chocolate.
So, if the fake chocolate doesn’t bother you and you’re looking for flaky, crunch buttery experience, pick up a Butterfinger. If you like your crunchy peanut flakes with real chocolate and a good robust hit of molasses, 5th Avenue is for you.
UPDATE 2/21/2007: I just found out via the comments that 5th Avenue no longer uses real chocolate ... such a shame. It was such a good bar, it’s sad that Hershey’s has now taken away the unique position it had in the market as the only chocolate covered peanut crispy bar. They have, however, introduced the Reese’s Crispy Crunchy bar, which has peanut butter and crushed peanuts in it. Not the same, but at least real chocolate.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Both Hershey and Nestle recently introduced their standard chocolate bars now stuffed with a caramel center. If they could stuff two different candies into one, I can stuff two bars into one review.
Hershey seems to have changed their chocolate recipe. Maybe it’s like the New Coke. Many of their products, including their limited edition line are sporting something they call “Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate” but here it’s called simply “Creamy Milk Chocolate.” It’s definitely different than the chocolate I’m accustomed to in my Kisses.
This is a four segment bar with a little filling of soft, flowing caramel. The chocolate is very sweet and doesn’t really smell like much, but the caramel has a nice toasty scent to it. It’s rather runny, so instead of biting each segment in half, I’d recommend stuffing the whole thing in your mouth. It’s got a little salty tang to it, but mostly it’s a very sweet bar.
(After writing all of this I realized I should probably pick up some Rolos and find out how different this bar is from them.)
Since the Crunch bar is the centerpiece of the American Nestle brand, it only makes sense that they’d put caramel inside of it eventually. This bar has three beefy segments. The bottom layer of chocolate is very thick, about half the height of this bar and contains a good amount of crisped-rice crunchies. The rest of the chocolate coating does not have crisps in it.
This caramel center is less runny than the Hershey’s but is immediately saltier. I checked the label and it has twice the sodium content of the Hershey’s. The salt is actually a nice counterpoint to the exceptionally sweet Nestle chocolate. The crisps really aren’t as dense as you’d find in a regular Crunch bar, which is kind of disappointing. This bar had a bit more of a cardboard flavor to the chocolate and it was so sweet that it made my throat hurt. Though I love Nestle’s European chocolate, I really don’t care much for the American stuff because of the lack of chocolatey flavor to it.
If I could, I’d put the caramel from the Nestle version in the Hershey version and call it a great bar. As it is now, both are good bars but nothing mind-blowing for me. The Five Star bar holds my heart right now for caramel bars.
Ratings - Hershey with Caramel - 7 out of 10
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Yes, in the continuing quest to not only bring you the best and worst candies in the world, I’m going to educate you on the subtleties between our seemingly identical candy choices.
First, a little background (some of this I only know vaguely so feel free to correct me). M&Ms were originally developed as a candy for soldiers to give them quick energy in combat situations and be easy to carry. Some people wonder what M&M stands for, and many think it’s for the Mars brothers, but in reality it’s Forrest Mars, Sr. and Bruce Murrie. Murrie’s father was one of Hershey’s trusted partners at the company and provided the chocolate inside M&Ms until the 70s.
As with most UK treats under the Nestle name, they were originally made by Rowntree which was later swallowed up by the growing Nestle corporation. Developed several years before the M&M, Smarties are still one of the most popular candies in the UK. The UK version are purported to have orange chocolate flavored orange Smarties (and back when there was a brown Smartie it was mocha flavored) but I am using Canadian Smarties for this head to head.
First, Smarties are slightly bigger than M&Ms. An M&M is approximately 1 cm in diameter while the Smartie is 1.5 cms.
However, the Smartie is slightly flatter than the M&M. I didn’t weigh them.
The most noticeable difference between the two is the candy shell. The Smartie shell is much thicker and has a very pronounced crunch to it. It also seems to have a flavor. When I looked at the ingredients for the Smarties, I saw that there is wheat flour (and cornstarch & sugar) in the shell whereas the M&M shell is made only of sugar, cornstarch and color. The Smartie has a slightly graham cracker taste to it. It’s pleasant and perhaps a little cinnamonny (I know there’s no cinnamon in it). The M&M provides more chocolate punch. I guess geometry would tell me that even if the mass of the Smartie is the same as an M&M it still has more shell by virtue of being less spherical.
As appearances go, they’re both exceptionally pretty candies. Given a choice between the two, I prefer less shell and more chocolate. In reality I usually buy Almond M&Ms more often than the plain ones, but if someone puts a bowl in front of me, I can hardly resist. But I can see that there would be times that I’d crave the cookie-like taste of the Smarties.
Friday, September 9, 2005
I know it seems strange to do a head-to-head tasting of the same candy bar, but there are rather interesting differences between the KitKat sold in the United States and the one sold in the rest of the world.
A little history: KitKat was first introduced in 1935 by London candymaker Rowntree under the name Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. A couple of years later they settled on the name KitKat Chocolate Crisp. The bar has always been the familiar four finger design and was an immediate big-seller for the company. It was briefly produced as a dark chocolate bar during the war because of dairy shortages, but returned to its familiar sweet milk chocolate recipe in 1947. In 1969 the American owned Hershey Corp bought the rights to manufacture and sell KitKat bars in the United States. I don’t think you will find American KitKats sold anywhere else in the world, probably part of the agreement. Rowntree was later purchased by Nestle in 1988 but the KitKat remains the same. The KitKat bar is pretty much the best-selling bar in the world.
Just as most folks have a preference for one chocolate brand over another, the differences between the Canadian KitKat (CKK) and the American KitKat (AKK) are pretty noticeable. First, the CKK is larger. Weighing in at a hefty 50 grams (1.75 oz), it beats the AKK which is a dinky 42 grams (1.5 oz). The CKK packs those extra grams into a longer bar. The AKK has a more pyramid shaped finger, with more of an angle to the sides, which means, oddly enough, less crisp because there’s less room for them though it is slightly higher. You can see that in this photo:
The color of the bars is virtually the same, with the CKK slightly darker. As I opened the package, the AKK smelled sweet and chocolatey with a little tint of vanilla. The CKK had an overwhelmingly graham cracker smell, kind of like the Wonka Bar (also made by Nestle). After the graham smell dissipates, there’s far more chocolate smell to the CKK.
It’s been a few months since I’ve had a KitKat, so I tried to experience it fresh. The first one I tried was the AKK. It was immediately sweet but had a good crisp. My usual way of eating a KitKat is to eat off both ends of a finger, then pry off the top layer of crisp & chocolate with my teeth in a single plank, then continue eating the finger from the top down. For this experiment, I’m eating them straight on in order to fully experience the crisp to chocolate ratio (okay, after two fingers of each, I ended up eating the rest of them after the tasting in my normal manner). The AKK was crispy and solid, with perhaps a little more chocolate than I’d like, but it’s the most popular bar in the world, so who am I to tinker with perfection?
The CKK has a lighter crisp. A little foamier, a little airier. It dissipates quickly so that the melting chocolate takes over. The chocolate on the CKK is not quite like a European Nestle nor like the AKK. It’s milky, like a Cadbury, with a very distinct powdered milk taste to it. It’s a taste that took me some years to get used to, but now I rather enjoy it as a contrast to the slightly yogurt notes of a Hershey’s Kiss.
Though the Trolli vs Haribo head-to-head had a winner, I can’t quite say that one of these bars is better than the other. I like the heft and vanilla notes to the CKK, but I also enjoy the dense crunch of the AKK.
All I know is that after eating two KitKat bars for breakfast, I need a cup of coffee.
Ratings - Canadian KitKat - 8 out of 10
Wednesday, September 7, 2005
I reviewed the regular Milk Chocolate Aero bar a few months ago and while I found it pleasant and rather novel, it didn’t really compel me to buy another. However, many folks urged me to try the Aero Mint so when my husband called from the drug store in Canada and listed all the candies he could see (we have free mobile-to-mobile minutes), this was one I was curious about trying.
The first thing that surprised me was that the center was green! I thought it was a milk chocolate bar that had a touch of mint flavor to it and that famous fluffy Aero bubblyness. Instead it’s a white (well, green) mint bar covered in milk chocolate. Because of the lighter color the bubbles were much easier to photograph for you. Yes, it looks like some sort of styrofoam but melts quickly in the mouth and is very minty. Like one of those pastel smooth & melty mints ... or maybe like an Andes Mint.
Oddly enough the label advertises that the bar is a source of calcium. The nutrition information lists that it provides 7% of the daily recommendation. Hurray, I only need to eat 13 more for my full day’s supply!
As there are few minted chocolate bars out there, this one is right up there at the top (well just about everything is above that Cup-O-Gold Peppermint). I liked it a bit more than the regular milk chocolate bar but not as much as the Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Mint.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Friday, September 2, 2005
Name: KitKat Orange
I saw these on a blog a few months ago (StellaBites) ago and I was immediately entranced with the idea. Why aren’t there more essence flavored chocolate bars? (Well, while we’re at it, why isn’t there a coffee bar in the States?)
This is pretty much a regular old KitKat bar with orange in the chocolate covering the crispy wafers. (I was afraid it was going to be white chocolate.) The scent is wonderfully orangey with a lot of vanilla tones that give it a creamy aroma.
The crisp is the same as you’d expect from a KitKat but perhaps a little sweeter. The orange combines will with the chocolate - though I thought it overpowered it slightly. There was an odd tangyness to it as well, but that may be the KitKat chocolate (I haven’t tried the plain one lately).
If you’re a fan of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, this is a really good everyday bar for you. This is a great treat to have with either tea or coffee.
The interesting thing about KitKat is that it was originally a Rowntree product (the predecessor to Nestle) in the UK. The KitKat bar sold in the United States is produced by Hershey’s. Since it’s produced in the states, it tastes slightly different. Next week I’ll do my second head-to-head taste-off of the Hershey KitKat and the UK KitKat. (Holy Moly! I just looked on the Hershey site and they mention a KitKat Coffee Lt. Edition!)
Rating - 7 out of 10
Thursday, September 1, 2005
The first time I ever saw (or even heard of) a Wonka bar was in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (I read the book a few years later). In the movie Charlie wolfs down a husky bar that costs nearly nothing. While this bar might look bulky in the photo, it’s the size of a standard playing card. I think it’s a petite version, as I’ve seen others advertised for sale that are larger than 1.3 ounces. But I couldn’t beat the price of 3 for a dollar at the 99 cent Only Store. Even so, it looks like a Wonka bar should - substantial and slick. I bought two and both came out of the package looking so dang edible.
The bar isn’t even all chocolate. There are graham cracker bits in there and it reminds me of a poor man’s version of those Le Petite Ecolier cookies that are a graham cracker cookie with a molded chocolate top (embossed with a little schoolboy) The cookies smell like graham crackers (vanilla & cinnamon) and chocolate. The graham adds a nice crunch to the bar without too much additional sweetness.
Overall the bar is a little sweet, a little waxy. But cheap and satisfying. There’s something really compelling about the ‘nilla Wafer-like graham.
Interesting fact from package: bar was made in Brazil.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Name: Toffee Crisp
I have to say that I think I am always bound to like candy that comes in orange wrappers. Perhaps it’s that I already associate it with Reese’s which is a fine brand. The package describes it as “toffee and crisped cereal filled milk chocolate” which I’d probably reverse and call it chocolate covered toffee and crisped cereal, but really, they’ve got all the bases filled.
This combo might sound familiar to those who have had a Nestle 100 Grand, which is milk chocolate and crisped rice covering caramel. In this incarnation the crisped rice is mixed in some sort of toffee flavored cream (and not in with the chocolate covering) and then has a stripe of caramel on the top and is then covered in crumbly milk chocolate (it could be that my bar was beaten up).
It’s sweet and really satisfying because it’s so big. (I don’t think the photo conveys the size, think of a fat Snickers bar.) The toffee part of is a bit lost on me, as far as I can tell there is no actual toffee in here. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. This bar would fit into my list of bars to eat when I’m hankering for a crunchy bar. Much better than a Crunch or Krackle because of the added creamy crisped rice and you know I never argue with good chewy caramel. It’s kind of like the Whatchamacallit, except it doesn’t have a peanut butter component (but if they made one, I’d be down with that).
Rating - 7 out of 10
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