"As Homer Simpson would say, "Mmmm, chocolate goo-filled egg...gggghggghghghghg."
Speaking as a confectioner and a chocolate lover, familiarity with great ingredients really gives an appreciation of what to look for in truly fine chocolates: character and depth of flavor; smooth texture with a thin coating; nuanced, and not too sweet. I've been lucky enough to sample all kinds of amazing chocolates and sweets over the past few years, and I'm continually impressed by the subtle, innovative flavors my fellow sweet-makers dream up.
But this post is not about that kind of chocolate. It's about something that gives us all (yes, even you) a certain kind of comfort that we all need once in a while: drugstore candy.
I may make small-batch candy for a living, but I happen to love it. Ya know, every once in a while. Especially now with all the fun stuff the big manufacturers roll out for Easter. This is a very non-scientific sampling of candy; I basically picked my favorite things, then grabbed a couple others that caught my eye. Here are the results with taste rated on a scale of one to five NOMs.
Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs
What's great about Reese's peanut butter cups? As we mentioned earlier today—of course—the peanut butter part. I've always appreciated how salty it is, which makes them, overall, much less cloyingly sweet than most mass-produced candy. The best part is the chocolate in the chocolate-to-peanut-butter ratio decreases dramatically, leaving a large patty of that nice, salty peanut butter filling with a thin coating of chocolate to balance it. Definitely worth a special trip in the spring. SCORE: 4 1/2 NOMs
Whoppers Robin's Eggs
Another seasonal favorite, but they can be tough to find. They're basically Whoppers coated in a thin candy shell; and if you're like me and Ed Levine and looove malted milk balls, there's not much to argue with here. Admittedly, the shell itself has an oddly cooling effect on the tongue, which can be slightly off-putting if you haven't had them in a while. But once you eat a couple, this becomes less of an issue. SCORE: 3 NOMs
Cadbury Creme Eggs
What can I say about Cadbury Creme Eggs? So much of our attachment to these is tied up in nostalgia—the commercials with the clucking bunny, the anticipation every spring of seeing the first one in a store, the fact that it's basically a frosting-filled ball of chocolate. For whatever reason, I have serious love in my heart for these little fellas. Though the sweetness might make me physically wince, the sight of that little fondant yolk in the middle inevitably turns that wince into a smile. SCORE: 3 NOMs
Hershey's Chocolate Bunny
The eternal, the iconic, the hollow. What I really wanted was to find one of the bunnies with the blue-and-yellow-royal-icing freaky-eyes, but alas. Since there were only bunnies wrapped in pretty foil, I chose this one from Hershey's (mostly because of the saucy look on the bunny's face).
Taste-wise, it's about what you'd expect—very sweet, very mildly chocolatey. But you don't buy chocolate bunnies because they taste good. You buy them because they're bunny-shaped (see: marshmallow eggs in an egg carton). SCORE: 2 NOMs
Related: Taste Test: Chocolate Easter Bunnies
Necco Chocolate Marshmallow Eggs
I got these because of the packaging. I mean, look at it! It's genius: marshmallow eggs in an egg carton! The eggs aren't actually egg-sized, like I imagined. They're about an inch and a half long and flat on one side, coated in chocolate. The taste was, well, weird. The ivory-colored marshmallow itself was dense and more creamy-chewy than fluffy, which was a little odd. The artificial vanilla taste was also somewhat jarring. But come on! They come in an egg carton! SCORE: 1 NOM
An honorable mention goes to Cadbury Mini Eggs, which I couldn't find anywhere (because they freakin' sell out all the time!). But I had them a few weeks ago and there's just something about the crunchiness of the shell and the creaminess of the chocolate that's pleasantly addictive.
There are many reasons why mass-produced Easter candy endures. It's perfectly consistent, reminds us of simpler times (and palates), and skews heavily towards the colorful and egg- or bunny-shaped. So if you see me standing in line at the drugstore on Monday, my arms overflowing with on-sale factory-made Easter candy, please—don't judge.
About the author: Liz Gutman co-owns the Brooklyn-based candy business Liddabit Sweets, which means she spends a lot of time around chocolate (and a lot of time eating it). She moved to New York in 2001 to go to, wait for it, acting school. But when the acting life wasn't for her, she wound up in the French Culinary Institute's pastry program while working at Roni-Sue's Chocolates in Manhattan's Lower East Side. She befriended Jen King, aka the other half of Liddabit, at FCI and founded Liddabit in May of 2009.