Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Great Pumpkin Roundup

There were people who wanted me to do this. There were readers commenting that I should be covering Halloween goodies. So here goes. I went to the drug stores over the weekend and found all the pumpkins, most of them marshmallowy.

imageI did a roundup earlier this year of Easter eggs from Russell Stover and I was pleasantly suprised by the taste and quality of them, so it wasn’t hard to purchase these (though they were only on sale for 50 cents each).

This one really appealed to me because it reminded me of one of my favorite candies ever, the See’s Scotchmallow (always best in the dark chocolate single pieces, not the milk chocolate “bar” thing). The pumpkin shape out of the package is actually pretty good. It has some shape and definition, which I enjoyed quite a bit.

It smelled sweet and not a bit like chocolate. The caramel is soft and flowing and the marshmallow firm and bouncy but very moist. The combination of all the textures is nice, but the caramel doesn’t quite have that toasted sugar taste and it’s not quite salty enough to balance out all the other sweetness.

imageI have to say, after staring at the packaging for Russell Stover for the past couple of days, I’ve decided I don’t really like it. It has a sort of faux Peanuts feel to it that I find a little sad. Maybe it’s that the colors are too much like Easter and I feel like Charlie Brown and this might be the equivalent of getting a rock in my Trick or Treat bag.

This was certainly the best looking pumpkin of the whole bunch. It was thick and had a well-defined and easily recognizable shape. The bite was nice, with the soft and fluffy marshmallow center, but it lacked a vanilla punch. It just lacked flavor. The chocolate couldn’t carry it, because it didn’t have much flavor of its own, though it’s not like it was bad, just sweet and without any sort of dairy component to even give it a little kick.

imageI love the purple package. I really do, but it kind of confused me. Hershey’s is positioning purple as their color for dark chocolate (they use it on the Dark Kisses and those dark jewel tones on the Special Dark packaging). But no, this is milk chocolate.

I figured if I was disappointed with the lack of flavor in the Russell Stover marshmallows, Hershey’s would pick up the slack. After all, Hershey’s is known for their distinctive milk chocolate. This one was packaged nicely, a much bigger package than the Russell Stover even though it was slightly lighter. The marshmallow is nice and lofty and has a more firm latexy quality to it. Dryer and with a distinctive fake vanilla flavor, the marshmallow certainly had some personality. The chocolate on here was not really up to the challenge though. Too grainy, too sweet and just not creamy enough for me. I kinda scraped it off with my teeth so I could have more uninterrupted marshmallow. (This pumpkin was made in Canada.)

imageEveryone’s well aware of my love of Reese’s but this has to be the ugly duckling of the pumpkin bunch. It barely even looks like a pumpkin, it was difficult to extract from the wrapper and has a plain old greasy appearance and feel.

Now, all that aside, it’s a Reese’s Egg ... and I love Reese’s Eggs. They’re different from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the ratios are different and though they tried to recapture this difference with the Reese’s Limited Edition Bars earlier this year, I think these unattractive lumps offer something compelling enough to warrant making them seasonally. The center is firm and a little crumbly, a mix of salty, grainy and sweet with a thin and sticky milk chocolate coating that adds a little more sweetness to the mix.

imageI’ve saved the best for last. Last spring I tried my first Snickers novelty item, it was a Snickers Easter Egg. I actually liked it quite a bit and found it different enough from a regular Snickers bar to put it in the same class as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (ratios and all that). For some reason the Snickers Pumpkin might have a slight edge on the Egg. It might have been because I couldn’t easily re-wrap the pumpkin in its foil wrapper, I had to eat it right away. Well, it might not technically have been eaten ... it might have been gobbled.

imageThere aren’t as many whole peanuts in the pumpkin, but there’s a definite nuttiness to it. The nougat seems moister and flavorful and the soft caramel is smooth and has a little toasted salty hit to it that helps out the whole thing. The chocolate is merely adequate, but smooth enough to support the whole (and of course give it the lovely pumpkin shell).

If you’d like more opinions on the other pumpkin shaped goodies, coincidence has it again that Rebecca has posted on the Hershey’s orange pumpkins and Joanna has both orange flavored ones that I couldn’t bring myself to purchase.

All of the pumpkins I listed were 50 cents each on sale. If you’re looking for stuff to throw into the Trick or Treat bags, stick with the tried and true candies, they’re less expensive (when on sale most fun sized bars can be 10 cents each). If you’re looking for a little treat for yourself, it’s not a bad gamble. Overall I’m giving them all a 4 out of 10. They’re benign ... they’re not the epitome of their genre, but they’re not embarrassments either.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:31 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyReviewHalloweenHershey'sMarsRussell StoverCaramelChocolateMarshmallowNougatNutsPeanuts4-BenignCanadaUnited States

  1. Russell Stover’s orange marshmallow pumpkins are easily in my top ten favorite candies.  When they were still made here, I wasted no chance to go buy them for a quarter each and eat 25 or so of them every year.  The last would survive until mid January, and would be noticeably stiffer than the mid-October ones.  You really deprived yourself, the plain marshmallow Stover’s stuff is really bland, but the orange ones are excellent.

    Oh, and Rebecca’s assessment of comparing the oranginess to baby aspirin (I’ve always been partial to St. Joseph’s) isn’t quite fair.  It’s much closer to being like Orange Glo.

    Comment by Dave on 10/25/06 at 3:02 pm #
  2. I love the Snickers Nutcrackers, which are the Christmas version of the eggs and pumpkins. I’m a big fan of regular Snickers bars, too, but I like the softer version of the holiday ones even better.

    Comment by Grace on 10/25/06 at 3:09 pm #
  3. Purple seems to be a “Halloween color” these days, that might be why Hershey’s is using it for this packaging.  I’ve never seen those orange marshmallow pumpkins, are they new this year? I like orange+chocolate, but not marshmallow+chocolate - too bad they’re not an orange creme filling instead…

    Comment by Tricia on 10/25/06 at 3:24 pm #
  4. I haven’t tried the others, but when I bought a mixed bag of halloween treats very early in the season (early September), which included Hershey’s milk chocolate ghosts, reese’s peanut butter pumpkins and York Bat peppermint patties, the pb pumpkins went first, much to my surprise, as I tend to be a York PP fan.  I couldn’t stop eating them.

    Comment by Karen on 10/25/06 at 3:44 pm #
  5. I’m all about the Reese’s eggs and punkins.  They’re better than the PB cups.

    Comment by Scott on 10/26/06 at 4:13 am #
  6. Hmmm. What’s the obsession with pumpkins about? None of these look even vaguely like pumpkins to me. I would have thought Halloween would be the ideal opportunity for manufacturers to get a little bit more creative.. and scary than this.

    Comment by Dom on 10/26/06 at 4:15 am #
  7. I picked up a couple of the reese’s peanutbutter pumpkins a couple of weeks ago. The SO and I refer to them as “Reese’s Peanut Butter Kidneys”.

    Comment by Kendra on 10/26/06 at 4:44 am #
  8. I love the Reeses and Snickers eggs. I suppose this means I’ll just have to try the pumpkin versions too.  It really is all about the ratios.

    Comment by g on 10/26/06 at 5:40 am #
  9. The concept of marshmallow in these candies freaks me out. I don’t know why, but whenever I see mallown in candies like these it always looks like it’s going to taste stale and generally ick. So I steer clear just to be safe. (Well, I steer clear anyway due to an unfortunate sugar allergy, but back when I was still eating sugar, I steered clear.)

    Comment by Carly on 10/26/06 at 7:09 am #
  10. Many of us seem to prefer the seasonal versions of popular candy bars such as Reese’s and Snickers. Of course, some of this preference relates directly to our taste for different ratios (such as more pb to choc), but do you think that seasonal candies, particularly chocolates, are generally more fresh?  Thanks.

    Comment by MarkO on 10/26/06 at 10:36 am #
  11. Interesting point, MarkO.  I wonder. . . .

    Comment by Karen on 10/26/06 at 10:53 am #
  12. I love see’s.  ScotchMallow and Coconut buttercream are among my faves.  See’s is one of the things I miss about living in Cali( and the weather of course)

    Comment by Randi on 10/27/06 at 4:00 pm #
  13. You’re so right on about Reese’s Eggs/(trees, pumpkins, footballs, what have ya.) So good.

    Comment by Shauna on 10/28/06 at 4:46 pm #
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