March 26, 2013 Slideshows

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Judgment Call: The Best and Worst Easter Candy 

As Easter Sunday creeps closer, Gut Check dreams of baskets piled high with pastel-colored candies, chocolate shaped like baby animals and, oh sweet Jesus, Cadbury eggs. We remember well the ritual of sorting the bounty bestowed by the big, weird Easter Bunny: Would it be good stuff...or crap?

This slideshow originally appeared in blog form over on Gut Check, the RFT food (and drink, and candy) blog. See those blog posts here:

- 5 Worst Easter Candies of All Time
- 5 Best Easter Candies of All Time
The Best

Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs

Reese's peanut butter cups are a year-round favorite. That's just a fact. There is just something special about salty, sweet peanut butter and its meant-to-be marriage with Reese's creamy milk chocolate always within reach near the check-out lane. Gut Check, however, would argue that the seasonal Reese's peanut butter egg is better than the classic peanut butter cup. Wait, we'll explain. The true magic of Reese's peanut butter eggs lie in the chocolate to peanut butter ratio. The egg shape lends to a better distribution of smooth peanut butter encased by rich milk chocolate. The peanut butter core is thicker, housed by a perfectly thin layer of delectable chocolate. There is also something more mystifying and alluring about the short-term, seasonal availability of Reese's eggs that almost challenges, nay begs, us to buy as many as possible before they disappear from shelves for another calendar year.
The Best

Robin's Eggs

Oh, the joys of malt -- in scotch, in dark beer, in milkshakes.

Malt offers a distinctively rich, slightly sweet, flavorful complexity that enriches whatever it touches. Everyone knows that chocolate malts taste better than ordinary milkshakes. The best-known malted candy on the American market is Whoppers, and some import stores carry chocolate Malteasers. While it's possible to buy a carton of Whoppers' malted milk balls year round, during the Easter season, stores start carrying the best iteration of malted candy on the planet -- Robin's Eggs.

Robin's Eggs, which encompass a Whopper in a hard candy shell, come in pink, yellow, lilac, green and white, but nothing quite heralds the arrival of spring like the realistically colored, speckled blue eggs.
The Best

Hershey's Solid Milk Chocolate Eggs

For those who would like to enjoy seasonal candy without the gimmick, look no further than Hershey's solid milk chocolate eggs. These little eggs will satisfy your sweet tooth without rotting your teeth. They're made of the same chocolatey goodness we expect from Hershey's, molded into dense, rich, bite-sized eggs.

These eggs are simple and uncomplicated. Thanks to other trusted Hershey's offerings, including kisses and mini chocolate bars, we know Hershey's won't bullshit us with low-quality, chalky-tasting chocolate.

Hershey's understands that what we want most from our Easter candy is creamy milk chocolate in a holiday shape that won't break our teeth, make us sick to our stomachs or ruin Easter with gross-out novelty. We feel festive while eating Hershey's eggs, and thanks to their pastel wrappers, we can carry some (or a whole bag) around with us without fear of them melting in our pockets and ruining perfectly nice Easter pajamas dress clothes.
The Best

Russell Stover's Mini Bunnies

While the selection of rabbit-shaped chocolate is endless during Easter season, one of the standouts is Russell Stover Milk Chocolate Mini Bunnies. These smooth, creamy choco rabbits are wrapped in pretty pastel-colored foil, and unwrapping each bunny (there are around twenty per bag) is half the fun -- you know, the pleasure and pain of anticipation is what Easter is all about, right? And true to our childhood memories, we always feel some glee at biting off the ears first, and next, the remainder of the rabbit head.

These bunnies might not be as big as some of their candy companions, but they still satisfy a sugar-fix, and though they make great treats long after Easter has passed, for us, they never seem to last beyond that blessed, sugar-coma of a morning.
The Best

Cadbury Mini Caramel Eggs

Most Easter candies seem designed for the palate of the average four-year-old: neon marshmallows shaped like unicorn scat, edible grass and gumball-pooping chickens. Fortunately, the sophisticated adult can resort to the mini Cadbury caramel egg. Since they're mini eggs, we can easily rationalize the calorie count, even while polishing off the whole carton. The caramel filling is salty yet sweet, and perfectly proportioned not to overwhelm the chocolate shell.

In fact, that caramel filling will remind you of Valentine's Day, and make you forget that you bought the Easter candy for yourself -- unless you had to buy your own Valentine's candy, too. In that case, have another Cadbury caramel egg on Gut Check.
The Worst

Cluckers, the Gumball-Egg-Pooping Chicken

Perhaps because we're not a six-year-old boy, Gut Check fails to see the charm in animal-shaped candy dispensers that poop brown jelly beans. Frankly, we don't get it.

When Cluckers the egg-laying chicken (note: inexplicably not labeled a hen?) takes a dump, at least she shits colorful Hubba Bubba bubblegum Easter eggs. To provoke Cluckers' biological urges, the user must twist off her head, insert four eggs in her chute, replace her head and wind her up.

Although the label is very specific that the "dispenser is for the provided gum balls only," nowhere on the packaging nor parent company Wrigley's website will you be able to find information on how to get more specially shaped eggs. More dauntingly, the label also warns: "Please wash dispenser thoroughly before use." Who knows where this thing's been!
The Worst

Edible Easter Grass

When edible Easter grass hit the American market, Gut Check was intrigued. We've seldom met a sugary goody we didn't like. Alas, edible Easter grass doesn't even contain sugar. It's sweetened with aspartame, perhaps so that the grass doesn't become sticky in humid conditions. The other main ingredients are potato and corn starches.

The resulting texture is like munching away at a foam carry-out container, and the bland, faintly sweet taste is equally disappointing. The vaguely green-apple flavor quickly faded, and as we chewed and chewed and chewed, suddenly the realization hit us: Edible Easter grass tastes like a wad of Communion hosts. While the paschal relevance of Communion hosts to Easter morning is appropriate, Gut Check was brought up never to chew the host.

All in all, Gut Check will be sticking with traditional shredded plastic Easter grass, which has several important functions. First, it lessens the burden on parents' wallets. Fill that basket with enough shredded plastic and little darlings might not notice that you shortchanged them in the candy department. Second, no kid will get high on plastic Easter grass. And finally, plastic Easter grass offers a delight found nowhere else -- that moment next Easter when you find a year-old jelly bean nestled in the grass while dragging it out of the basement next year.
The Worst

Jordan Almonds

Jordan almonds are Easter's version of those horrible saltwater taffies you get at Halloween -- and, no, we don't mean in taste, we mean in that they are a terrible holiday tradition. Jordan almonds are sprinkled atop Easter baskets, springtime table settings, bunny-shaped cakes and whatever else Martha Stewart and Pinterest moms can get their hands on.

The rock-solid density of these cursed chalk-flavored candies will crack a tooth on the first bite, and don't even try to argue that they're a healthier alternative to caramel-filled chocolate or saccharine-speckled marshmallow air: Jordan almonds are just sugar-coated nuts, people.

The reason for their perennial popularity might be more offensive than the taste; despite being a year-round "classic candy" available at Walgreens, Target and the like, the only reason these candies keep hopping back into the Easter holiday is that they're pastel-colored. If you take away the pale springy coloring, the only thing jordan almonds have in common with Easter is a striking similarity to the boulder that sealed Jesus' tomb.
Jolly Rancher Sour Bunnies

Departing from the more traditional chocolate rabbit, tick-shaped Jolly Rancher Sour Bunnies come in four classic Jolly Rancher flavors: orange, cherry, apple and watermelon, and promise to "get your taste buds hopping." While they definitely do taste like chewy, tart takes on classic Jolly Ranchers, we tried them and found them wanting.

If we're going to eat a bunny, it had better be chocolate -- and preferably filled with delicious yet unidentified "cream" or caramel. Jolly Rancher Sour Bunnies might offer a different taste experience, but the small, amorphous lumps hardly pass as holiday mascots, and are certainly nothing to look forward to on Easter Sunday. They leave our tongues feeling like sandpaper and do nothing to satisfy our sugar-craving. However much these sour space-wasters might be "jumping with sour goodness," we secretly hope that they hop into a stranger's candy basket, or maybe just off a cliff.
The Worst

Peeps

Given the amount of bandwidth devoted to dressing up Peeps in tiny costumes, one would think that a significant portion of the population loves this borderline-toxic mutation of the noble marshmallow. Gut Check, however, isn't buying the sugarcoated hype. For our money, Peeps hardly resemble baby chicks or bunnies; they more closely resemble what we imagine unicorn poop would look like. Even the name of the manufacturer, Just Born, gives us the creeps.

Somewhat inexplicably (and frequently against our will), Gut Check possesses a powerful waste-not-want-not ethos when it comes to food. When faced with problematic substances, we tend to employ the venerable "bury the peas in the mashed potatoes" strategy. This explains why we dug a graham cracker out of the cupboard, diced some good dark chocolate and sprinkled it on, topped it off with a Peep and popped it in the microwave.

The resulting s'more wasn't too bad, but the best part was watching the microwave radiation batter the Peep into submission. The process of puff, coil, writhe and die seemed a fitting fate.
1/10
The Best

Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs

Reese's peanut butter cups are a year-round favorite. That's just a fact. There is just something special about salty, sweet peanut butter and its meant-to-be marriage with Reese's creamy milk chocolate always within reach near the check-out lane. Gut Check, however, would argue that the seasonal Reese's peanut butter egg is better than the classic peanut butter cup. Wait, we'll explain. The true magic of Reese's peanut butter eggs lie in the chocolate to peanut butter ratio. The egg shape lends to a better distribution of smooth peanut butter encased by rich milk chocolate. The peanut butter core is thicker, housed by a perfectly thin layer of delectable chocolate. There is also something more mystifying and alluring about the short-term, seasonal availability of Reese's eggs that almost challenges, nay begs, us to buy as many as possible before they disappear from shelves for another calendar year.
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