February 2010

Cadbury Mini Eggs: The Best Part of Easter

Although everyone has their own favorite Easter candy, I doubt that anyone will debate the supremacy of Cadbury Mini Eggs.  With their distinctive dark blue packaging, chalky candy coating, and delicious chocolate, the Cadbury Mini Eggs are one of the best candies available for Easter.  They far surpass such kitschy and guilty pleasures as Cadbury Crème Eggs, marshmallow Peeps, and candy corn.

You always have to specify the "mini" in Cadbury Mini Eggs, lest people confuse them with Cadbury Crème Eggs.  I think we can all spot a Cadbury Crème Egg at 50 paces, whether out of delight or loathing.  And it seems like every year there is a new kind of Crème Egg.  But no, today we are taking a closer look at Cadbury Mini Eggs.

Liquorice Allsorts

Liquorice Allsorts are sadly uncommon here in America.  One of those things that most people can only find at a Cost Plus imports (if you happen to live within the range) or Ikea (ditto).  Oddly enough I have found that the Fred Meyer store in the town nearest me happens to carry them, which makes me very happy indeed!

Allsorts are so common in England that I have found English people are surprised that most Americans haven't heard of them.  It's like telling an American that people in other countries haven't heard of Snickers or Hershey bars (which is true, by the way).  

Mountain Bars

Along with the Idaho Spud, another delicious treat specific to the Pacific Northwest is the Mountain Bar.  (Although I dare say the Mountain Bar is better and more popular than the Idaho Spud, Almond Roca must surely rank highest on that list.  If you ask me, Aplets and Cotlets rank lowest, but I know a lot of people love them.)

Mountain Bars are produced by Brown and Haley, a candy company situated "at the foot of Mt. Rainier."  (Which is a more polite way to say "just outside Tacoma.")  Mountain Bars were first put out in 1915, when they were called the "Mount Tacoma Bar."  I can think of few names less appealing, so I think they used good judgment when they changed the name.

Chocolate Covered Peeps

Can you believe such a thing exists?  I never would have dreamed of it, but the instant I saw them, it felt so very right.  Why wouldn't you want Peeps covered in chocolate?  I mean, you're already halfway to Type 2 Diabetes with Peeps to begin with, you might as well finish the job!

All joking aside, chocolate covered Peeps turned out to be so delicious that I regret having tried one.  Now I will be obsessed with them for the next however long until Easter.  (Six weeks.  Easter is April 4th this year, I just checked.)

What makes these delicious, frankly, is that it's not a Peep inside there.  Instead, Just Born has subbed in a more reasonable marshmallow filling.  It's creamier and more tender than a real Peep - more like the filling you get in a Rocky Road bar, or in the middle of a Mallomar.

Vanilla - Quality Not As Important As You Might Think!

The other day I was bemoaning the cost of real vanilla extract and vanilla beans, and a friend sent me a link to this Cooks Illustrated article.  It turns out that professional bakers cannot distinguish between the use of real vanilla extract and the cheap artificial stuff in a baked item.  

(First we learn that wine connoisseurs cannot distinguish between expensive and cheap wines in double blind tests, and now this?)

Real vanilla contains hundreds of different compounds that contribute to its taste and smell.  However, artificial vanilla contains only one, the strongest note, vanillin.  It turns out that when you bake vanilla, all of those other compounds get burned away by the heat.  The only one that remains is - you guessed it - vanillin.  

Toblerone, Best Thing Ever

Ah Toblerone, one of my true beloveds.  After trying so many revolting candies, I have decided to give myself a break and write up some reviews of my favorites.  And of course you can't write a review without giving one a new try, can you?

The first thing that comes to mind for many people when the Toblerone is mentioned is its distinctive triangular shape, which is meant to echo the shape of the Swiss Alps.  It is also famous as being something that you buy at the Duty Free shop at the airport (which led to several comedic gags on an episode of "Friends" when Joey kept pleading with Ross's English girlfriend to bring him back a giant Toblerone bar from the airport).

The Idaho Spud

If you live outside the Pacific Northwest, you are doubtless wondering why an article about an "Idaho Spud" is being posted on a dessert blog.  Idaho Spuds are one of the few remaining regional independent candies in America, and in an era of globalization and the inescapable force of market expansion and corporate buy-outs and mergers, that is a very rare thing, indeed.

The Idaho Spud is made by the Idaho Candy Company, and has been since WWI.  The Idaho Candy Company is located in Boise, and although they make a lot of different candy bars, it's the Idaho Spud which has been "exported to a wider audience," so to speak.  If by "wider audience" you understand I mean "Washington and Oregon."

Death Candy: Cola Bottles

Once again, I encounter a candy which keeps me up all night long.  I never would have guessed how much sleep I would end up losing to CANDY.  I suspect the problem is the gelatin, since that's the ingredient that both Cola Bottles and Conversation Hearts have in common.  

It isn't like I'm eating a big fistful of candy and then going right to bed, either.  In the case of the Gummy Brand Cola Bottles, I ate half the packet at about 8PM.  I went to bed at midnight.  By 2AM I had started tossing and turning, and downing Tums in a futile attempt to suppress the terrible gastric reflux cola and cow hoof gelatin flavored acid burps.

The next day I thought that surely it must have been some kind of mistake.  So I finished off the rest of the packet, and spent the entire afternoon being acutely aware that Cola Bottles do not agree with me.