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As with most UK treats under the Nestle name, they were originally made by Rowntree which was later swallowed up by the growing Nestle corporation.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
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I have it on good authority that the translation of this candy is, loosely, Kitten Tongues. I suppose they do kind of look like tongues. Having never eaten a real kitten tongue (or any part of a kitten for that matter), I can’t say that they do or don’t taste like them.
The little tray box slides open to reveal an array of these chocolate tongues in a piece of wax paper. Unfortunately they taste rather like wax paper. They could be stale (after all, they’ve been passed through at least two people before getting to me). But the expiration says they’re good until October ‘05. The chocolate is slightly stale and doesn’t melt quickly. It’s sweet and milky, like most European milk chocolate, but not terribly flavorful otherwise.
It’s too bad too, because the photos of the kittens are as cute as can be (I’ve seen other photos on the ‘net and it seems that there are different kittens for different varieties of the chocolates). I have to say that if I were ever in a position to buy these again, I probably will, if only for the novelty of it. I can’t fathom where I’d be where they’d carry them (besides Prague) but at least now I’ve had them and know what I’d be buying (not like that time I tried to buy saffron in Spain and ended up with a tea for air sickness).
Rating - 5 out of 10.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Name: Nestle Toll House Candy Bars
If you’ve got a jones for sugar and something a little more satisfying than a candy bar, this might be the thing. Inside is a dense, crumbly cookie bar topped with caramel then a few chocolate chips and all enrobed in sweet milk chocolate.
The cookie part of the treat was least impressive. Because it was so thick it lacked that cookie feel and tasted more like a blondie and had no strong flavor of its own besides sweet. The caramel was non-existent, as it’d been absorbed by the cookie part and had no distinct chewy-ness to it. The occassional chocolate chip was a nice addition as it provided some actual flavor. The milk chocolate coating is all sweet and milky, but no real chocolate taste. What makes a Toll House cookie is the balance of the sweet and bland cookie to the complex pop of the dark chips.
There’s none of that here.
However, I still enjoyed the bar and found it rather satisfying. If I had anything to say about it, I think I’d suggest leaving the caramel out and maybe making the cookie just a smidge saltier. I’ll give the brownie bar a try to see if the flavor balance on that one is bit better. I’ve also seen that Hershey started selling cookies a while back (I’ve had the York ones and enjoyed them quite a bit) so I’ll have to check those out.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.