Thursday, March 16, 2006
The traditional icon for Easter candy has always been Jelly Beans. I’m not sure when they were invented, but they’re a great candy because they are their own wrapper. You can hold them in your hand and unless you’re exceptionally sweaty, they don’t melt. Back in the day jelly beans were like gumdrops and came in spice flavors. Sometime late in the last century this changed and spice beans fell out of favor and now just about all jelly beans are fruit flavored.
The Starburst Jelly Beans are really fruity flavored jelly beans. A little smaller than the old fashioned spice ones but not as small as a Jelly Belly. They come in Cherry, Strawberry, Green Apple, Orange, Lemon and Grape. Like Jelly Belly, the Starburst beans use both a flavored center and flavored shell to maximize the taste. The Starburst beans are zesty and fruity, with a nice ring of tart. The shell, though a little grainy at first when you chew it, dissolves nicely. The whole candy dissolves very well instead of sticking like the Jelly Belly tend to do. (Note: Starburst Jelly Beans are made in Mexico.)
Here’s the array to match up the flavors of (Jelly Belly) and Starbursts for my taste test. From top left to lower right it goes: (Green Apple) Green Apple, (Blueberry) Grape, (Orange) Orange, (Strawberry Daquiri) Strawberry, (Lemon) Lemon, (Very Cherry) Cherry.
I’ve already said lots about the Jelly Belly. I think they’re fantastic jelly beans. I don’t really care for the flavor mix boxes, I prefer to pick out my own jelly bean flavors. I usually go with a citrus mix of the various lemons, orange, tangerine and grapefruit and maybe a little pina colada.
What I prefer about the Starburst is that there’s just fewer flavors, and the colors are pretty easy to distinguish so there are no surprises. I found the cherry flavor okay and if I had to drop a flavor, it’d be the grape.
When I was at the store it was obvious that there’s been an explosion of jelly bean brands. Everyone is making them now. You can get Lifesaver branded ones, Ferrara Pan, SweeTarts, Starburst has several other flavor mixes ... I could go on and on. If you’re looking for value, well, the Starburst are FAR less expensive and with Easter candy half the fun is the insane quantity. Really, you can’t go wrong with jelly beans. What I always liked about jelly beans is that they were a candy you could leave out, unwrapped, in a bowl or in the grass of your Easter basket and as long as they didn’t get wet, they seemed to stay fresh forever. Well, I’ve never tested forever ... a jelly bean never lasted long in my house.
If you’ve tried these or one of the other brands of jelly beans, like SweeTarts or Lifesavers, what did you think?
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
One of the best things about the Cadbury Creme eggs is the commercial campaign they used to have. It was a white bunny that would cluck like a chicken and leave behind the eggs. The voice over, I believe, was done by Mason Adams who also did the Smuckers commercials. Of course, I loved bunnies (I even had two as a child) so it gave me a special fondness for the idea of the Cadbury Creme Eggs.
For those of you who are new to Planet Earth, a Cadbury Creme Egg is a milk chocolate shell in the shape of an egg filled with a fondant creme of two different colors - the outer layer is white and the inner glob is yellow (so they say).
The reality of Cadbury Creme Eggs is radically different. First, they never look like the commercials or ads. I’ve pulled apart a lot of Cadbury Creme Eggs in my life, and I’ve never found a glossy yellow yolk in the center. What I find is a dark patch in the white fondant. So all nostalgia and effective advertising aside, I have never been pleased by eating one. They’re too sweet. I’ve tried eating just the chocolate, but what’s the point in that? It’s just really sticky, the fondant doesn’t have enough flavor to it, or fat to give it a buttery consistency that I might enjoy. I’m not saying that these aren’t spectacular candies, but I really detest them.
While the Creme Egg has no non-Easter counterpart, the Caramel Egg does. This is a Caramello bar on steroids, a caramel mega-blister, a huge bubble of salty, flowing caramel inside a sweet, chocolate shell. Just as I discussed the aspects of ratio with the Reese’s Eggs, I don’t think that the Caramello bar can withstand so much tinkering with ratios. However, I liked this egg quite a bit more than the Creme Egg ... what I probably should have done is buy some of the mini-eggs, which might have a more satisfying ratio to them. (I’ll probably pick them up at the after-Easter sales.)
I think that these are great candies ... for people other than me. I’m not going to dish them the way I did with the Bunny Basket Eggs ... Cadbury Creme Eggs are a valid confectionery expression, just not one I’m capable of throwing my support towards. However, I would be very disappointed if they went away. I like seeing them, and I like the fact that they have so many fervent fans.
For more positive poetic waxings on the subject of Cadbury Creme Eggs, visit X-Entertainment or see the Writers and Artists Snacking at Work page devoted to the ovoids.
UPDATE: Cadbury has introduced the Cadbury Orange Creme Egg for Easter 2007.
UPDATED UPDATE: This review from 2006 documents the weight of the egg at 1.38 ounces. The 2007 eggs are 1.2 ounces.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The standard of Easter themed “regular” candies has been the Reese’s egg for quite a while in my mind. It’s not really that different from a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, yet it is.
The Reese’s egg has naked sides. Instead of sitting all snuggled in a cup with fluted sides to keep it protected, the Reese’s egg sits there on a little flimsy tray. And when you pull it out of its wrapper, you can see the whole thing, with no little bits and flecks lost during the unwrapping.
One of the things that’s different about the Egg is that it’s slightly skewed in the proportion of chocolate to peanut butter that we’re used to in the regular cup. Just look at how much of that is peanut butter. Reese’s peanut butter is interesting too. It’s slightly cool on the tongue and a little dry. It crumbles in the mouth and dissolves as well as melts. It has a good hit of salt, which makes the milk chocolate coating seem all the sweeter and smoother.
I’ll admit that there are some people who prefer a smoother peanut butter in their cups, but I like the crumbly texture that includes the bitty bits of nuts in it.
The Reese’s Eggs are nothing like the Hershey’s Eggs, except that they’re egg-shaped. These are little foil wrapped chocolate eggs filled with the Reese’s peanut butter found in the Peanut Butter cups. Honestly, I was worried that I’d end up with the stuff that’s inside Reese’s Pieces.
I’m not sure how they make these, but it appears that they create a half-shell of an egg and fill it with the peanut butter and then join it with another half-shell. There’s a bit of a void in the center of most of the ones I ate (and I ate quite a few just to see).
The proportions on this variety of Reese’s egg are probably one to one on the chocolate and peanut butter. The shell is very thick and with the void there’s not that much peanut butter in there. The combination in the mouth is nice, again, the salty hit and crumbly texture of the peanut butter blends well with the sweet and creamy milk chocolate. The chocolate shell feels just slightly oily to the touch, I’m not sure if it’s because some of the eggs seeped a bit of their peanut oil or they make them that way so they’ll come out of their molds ... or maybe it’s because I’m used to eating things sealed with carnauba wax.
I like both versions. Aesthetically I think I prefer the little foil wrapped ones, they’re easier to share and of course save some for later. I haven’t tried freezing them (I like my Reese’s Miniatures frozen) but I imagine they’ll do very well. These are definitely on my list of items to pick up on sale after the holiday. I think what’s interesting is that these plus the original Peanut Butter cup and the miniatures demonstrate what a difference proportion makes, even when you have, basically, two ingredients.
UPDATE 4/7/2009: Hershey’s has changed the formula on this classic egg. Not only that, there are several versions lurking in stores. There are packages like that reviewed above that say Milk Chocolate Reese’s Egg and then there are others that just say Reese’s Egg that may or may not have a real chocolate shell.
The new 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, TBHQ & 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. Read more about it here.
Candy is a microcosm of society and existence. I know this because there are certain candies that indicate the presence of the divine in every scrumptious bite. Then there is evidence of evil on this planet. The Easter “marshmallow egg” is one of the latter candies.
This candy has promise on the outside, as all temptresses do. It’s big, so of course it’s appealing to any foolish child who hasn’t learned that “bigger is not always better.” What’s more, it is an evil that has no name. Really, what are these things called? If I say marshmallow egg, you might thing of the satisfying marshmallow half-hemispheres that are drenched in chocolate this time of year. Or even something that resembles an Easter-themed Circus Peanut. Brachs has chosen to call their version of these Bunny Basket Eggs. I will hereafter refer to them as BBBE, which when pronounced as an acronym (as all good acronyms should be) it will sound like a stuttered bee-bee or a very cold person trying to say ‘bean.’
Part of their temptation lies in their beguiling size, which is made up entirely of sugar with a dash of artificial color and carnauba wax. That’s a Starburst Jelly bean there; it’s no match for the Mastodon known as a Brachs Bunny Basket Egg.
I hope you understand that Brachs probably makes the finest BBBEs there are. They’re generous with the color and they’re even flavored. The green ones are lime and orange ones are orange. I can’t tell you what the rest are. Please don’t make me eat more of them.
If you haven’t already guessed, these are horrid candies. It’s not like I’m against eating pure sugar, I have in fact indulged in full spoonfuls of honey or brown sugar as a treat quite often. The shell of a BBBE is similar to a jelly bean. It’s a rather grainy sugar coating that’s smooth on the outside and lightly flavored. The center of a BBBE is a fluffy, grainy sugar that really isn’t like marshmallow, but I call it that because the ingredients mention gelatin and corn starch.
I don’t think BBBEs can be made and delivered fresh, not to mention the fact that few people eat them right out of a pristine bag. They’re intended to sit in amongst the pastel cello grass of an Easter basket until all the other choice candies are consumed and a desperate sugar-toothed child is force to eat it. Then the last thing this child remembers of his Easter experience is this deplorable egg. The smell of these inside the bag is like a mess of flavored lipsticks or a bad candle shop. A combination of fake fruit flavors and of course airborne microfine sugar which is intent on giving you that satisfying sweet feeling on your tongue before you even eat one.
I realize that this candy has its champions, and that by no means makes you minions of evil. I can only surmise that the experience of eating these foul little fingers of pure sucrose is inextricably tied to a pleasant experience and these help you relive a little of it. If that’s the reason, then I completely support their continued, but limited, production as a therapy device. If you would like to read someone who might share your unending love of these, you might want to pick up Hilary Lifton’s memoir called Candy and Me: A Love Story (you can preview the chapter online).
I honestly did try to like these. I never cared for them as a child, but I did buy them, make them look pretty in the photos (they are actually very pretty) and of course ate TWO! That’s why they get a rating of two instead of one. (You may now commence in the comments section telling me how wrong I am.)
Monday, March 13, 2006
For a while Hershey’s made a candy-shelled chocolate candy called Hershey-ets. They’re still produced at Christmas and sold in inside little ornaments or plastic cane-shaped tubes, but they’re not a regular product. Then came Hershey’s Kissables. While they’re a wonderful addition to the Hershey’s line, they’re still not the same as Hershey’s Eggs. Like Cadbury Mini Eggs, these are an Easter Only Item.
There are a lot of egg shaped candies this time of year, and just calling something Hershey’s Eggs seems like a poorly differentiated name. But candy lovers know what we’re talking about. Forget that the packaging probably hasn’t change much in twenty years ... these are just a jolt of chocolate wrapped in hard sugar.
Hershey’s Eggs have it all going on. It’s a large egg of chocolate, bigger than the size of an M&M Peanut. They come in lovely pastel shades of blue, yellow, pink and green. The shells are thick and hard, and give each candy a rather substantial feel. They’re solid milk chocolate and each Egg weighs the same as a single Hershey’s Kiss (really! I checked). The shells are super-thick and crunch but often I find that my shells have cracks in them. As I don’t think you can get salmonella from chocolate eggs, I don’t reject the broken-shelled ones as I would with a carton of chicken eggs. I do find that I’m not able to cleave off the shell with my teeth like I can with an M&M, but the different type of crunch is wholly satisfying. If someone is eating these near you, unless they’re suckers, you’re gonna know it.
Where the bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs smells like sugar and milk, the Hershey’s Eggs smell like chocolate. That tangy milk chocolate from Pennsylvania that you either love or hate. Fortunately there’s enough room in my heart to give both Hershey’s Eggs and Cabury Mini Eggs a ten. And of course I’ll proceed to stock up on these when Easter is over.
Many other holiday candies are just different packaging for regular candies. Really, what’s so Christmassy about red and green M&Ms or Peppermint Patties in red and green foil? Cadbury Mini Eggs stand as one of those candies that aren’t sold any other time of year and as much as I’d like them to be, I treasure them when I see them in a way that I might not if they were as ubiquitous as M&Ms (whatever color they might be).
Cadbury Mini Eggs are unique. While there are plenty of other candy covered chocolates ala M&Ms, the Hershey’s Eggs, Kissables, Jots and other imitators. There’s nothing else like the Mini Eggs, Cadbury doesn’t make a candy covered chocolate bean. They’re even oddly shaped, irregular, more like little rounded cones than eggs, they’re just such satisfying shapes.
What sets them apart from other chocolate candies at this time of years, first and foremost, is that they contain Cadbury chocolate. Cadbury is rather milky tasting, and certainly very sweet. Then it’s all cloaked in this amazingly odd slightly sanded, matte shell. The shell is crunchy and has slightly cool feel in the mouth. You can dissolve it away to get to the chocolate centers, or you can crunch the whole thing together for a sweeter burst.
The colors are even a little less common. Because of the matte finish the yellow, pink, blue and white morsels look like chunks of colored chalk and even have a slightly chalky feel when you first put them in your mouth.
Here’s the big surprise, when I turned them over to see where they were made it said “manufactured by Hershey Foods Corp under license from Cadbury, Ltd.” How long has that been going on? Um, since 1988 ... jeeze, shows you how much I pay attention!
UPDATE: New for 2007! Cadbury Royal Dark Mini Eggs ... hmm.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:13 am
Friday, March 10, 2006
April 16th is Easter Sunday. It’s over a month away, but next week I’ve decided to make a theme week devoted entirely to Easter candies.
I’m planning to cover the following items, but if there’s something else you think I’m missing that’s iconically Easter, I’ll see what I can do to get a hold of it:
What’s your Easter basket favorite? You can check out what I’ve got so far here in my Flickr Easter photoset.
I’ve ignored these bars for years. Well, they’re not really bars, they’re lumps. Maybe that’s why I avoided them, they’re just plops, like something you’d make at home.
I can’t say that I see them very often, but after the pleasant Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll experience, I thought I would give these a try. So what is a Bun? It’s a nut and milk chocolate patty filled with a white fudge/fondant (vanilla or maple) or caramel. The Bun bar was originally made by Wayne Bun Candy Company back in the 1920s, which was based, oddly enough in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Later the bar was bought by Clark of Pittsburgh (the Clark bar) but when Clark was ailing they sold the Bun rights off to Pearson’s in 1998, which only makes sense as Pearson’s was already known for their high protein Salted Nut Roll.
The version that appealed to me most was the caramel, so I’ll start with it. The nuts are whole (or halves, actually) so they provide a huge boost of texture to the sweet milk chocolate. The center is a thick and soft caramel. The whole bar doesn’t smell like peanuts or caramelized sugar, instead it smells like coconut. It also has a tangy quality to it that I can’t quite put my finger on that kind of ruined the experience. It’s salty, but not quite in the right balance.
The chocolate on this one was glossier and I have to say, when it’s fresh, it’s a rather handsome looking candy plop. This one has the requisite nut and chocolate smell. The vanilla center is sweet and has a nice vanilla flavor (part artificial and part natural). The peanuts keep the whole thing from being too sweet. It’s not a bar I would buy again, but I appreciate that when it first came out, as a combination bar it’s filling and interesting.
What kind of confuses me about the whole history of the Bun and Pearson’s is that they already have a candy similar to this, called the Nut Goodie. The Nut Goodie came on the market a good ten years earlier than the Bun Maple, yet Pearson’s still continues to make this regional favorite. (I’ll need to get a hold of one and do a comparison.) Anyway, this is definitely the highlight of the Bun line. The center on this is a maple fudge. It’s smooth and soft and has a microfine crystalline structure that melts quickly in the mouth and mingles well with the nuts and milk chocolate. It’s quite a bit saltier tasting than the Vanilla one, but I think that’s what makes the flavors pop. Of the three, this is the one that was consumed first. I suspect that these are the hardest to find of the three varieties, so I can’t bump up the whole rating for the line.
If you’re looking for Pearson’s candy, look no further than their affiliate website. You have to buy in whole boxes, but their prices are excellent (less than $.65 a bar) and they offer assortments of Pearson’s and even retro candy boxes that include Rocky Road, GooGoo Clusters and Moon Pies.
(click on any photo for a bigger version)
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