Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Great Moments in Candy-Making (and some not-so-great ones, too)

You know those easter-egg shaped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that come out every Easter? Well, someone at Hershey or Mars or wherever finally had the most obvious epiphany of all time: Why do those egg-shaped knockoffs of popular candy bars have to be Peanut Butter Cups, and only Peanut Butter Cups?

Hence, today I discovered Easter-egg shaped Milky Ways, Snickers's, and -- oh joy of joys -- Mounds's and Almond Joys. I nearly cried at the beauty of it all.

But then, there's the flip side. I love candy corn in the fall, I really do. It's one of the few food items that I associate with a very definite time of year, so much so that I won't even consider buying candy corn at any time other than late September and the month of October, no matter how much I like the stuff. (And I like it a lot.) I'm not going to change on this, either, so I'm afraid that changing the color of candy-corn from orange to a variety of pastels, and calling it "Easter Corn", is not likely to change my mind here.

By the way, there's something I enjoyed some years ago, and I've never seen it since -- nor did I make note of the brand name, so I have no idea where to even look. It was a peanut butter cup, and I figured I knew what I was getting, since the wrapper said "Peanut Butter Cup" on it even though it wasn't a Reese's. But when I unwrapped it, I discovered that it was, in fact, just that: a peanut butter cup. There was no chocolate at all. It was as if the peanut butter center of a Reese's had been expanded to become the entire cup!

The Reese's people did come up with something close to this a while back, on a limited basis. They called it an "Inside-Out Reese's", and it was a peanut butter shell with a chocolate interior. That was close, but I still want the version with no chocolate. (Nothing against chocolate, mind you. I adore chocolate, in all its forms -- even white. Yeah, I know, white chocolate isn't technically chocolate. So what? Root beer isn't really beer!)

I seem to recall that one of the standard pieces in a Whitman's Sampler is a no-chocolate peanut butter cup, but it has been many years since I enjoyed a Whitman's Sampler, so I'm not sure. Whitman's Samplers were always fun, though, when I was a kid -- I still recall vividly that first discovery of the second layer of candy, and I recall the ritual that the piece shaped like the Whitman's delivery boy was the last piece of the upper level to be consumed before proceeding to the lower level. Those were the days.

Oh, and back when I used to receive lots of shopping catalogs (those were the days -- catalogs make great bathroom reading, because that is the only room in which one can look at some of the items in the catalogs and actually think, "Damn, I need one of those"), one of them always advertised "Maple Nut Goodie" candy bars, sold by the small tin for something like $29.95 plus shipping. The catalog claimed that these candy bars are beloved in Minnesota. Well, I happen to have some Minnesotans amongst my readership, so, are these things beloved? Or, are they merely good? I ask because I love the flavor of maple.

Also, I admire the elaborate lengths to which folks who make suckers and lollipops go these days, but for my money, there will never be any sucker better than your basic old Tootsie-Pop. (I always buy them at the bulk section, because that way I can avoid getting the chocolate-flavored ones. What I said above about loving chocolate does not apply to chocolate-flavored hard candy.)

And to conclude this rambling paean to All Things Bad For Your Teeth, here in Buffalo there's a popular item called "sponge candy". I find it hard to describe, but it's like if they take yellow sponge cake and somehow cook it until it's very hard -- maybe they fry it -- and then it's dipped and coated in either milk or dark chocolate. People in Buffalo adore this stuff, but for some reason, I just don't get into it. I find the texture weird and the sponge center flavorless.

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