When you reach a certain age, it begins. Those dreaded moments when you see some of your most beloved treats simply go to hell. Maybe the candy is half the size it used to be, looks different, or just doesn't taste the same. The fact is that at some point the companies decide to cut costs and it sucks.
Lately I've had major gripes with Russell Stover. You see as much as I love Russell Stover candies (yes, I seriously do), I've been throwing 'em the stank eye because they've just about ruined two of my favorite Easter candies. The first is their chocolate covered marshmallow rabbit. Anyone as old as I am will remember that it used to be adorable: decorated with a cute bunny face, long whiskers, and it even held an orange carrot. These days, slip it out of the foil wrapper and you'll find it's nothing more than a vaguely shaped rabbit with not a speck of decoration. At least they thought enough to put a picture on the front of the package so that you can try visualize a bunny instead of a turd as you're eating it.
Why did you have to mess with my Easter basket, Russell?
My other gripe is with their famous chocolate coconut bird nests. For years, I remember a cute little milk chocolate nest with tiny colorful jelly bean "eggs" snuggled in the center. It also came as a white chocolate version that was tinted the palest spring mint green. A few years ago Russell decided to stop laying the jelly bean eggs. How can you have an Easter nest without eggs? After an onslaught of fellow traumatized patrons complained, the company put them back in—but only through online ordering and in certain retail stores. That's too much planning ahead for someone like me.
So this year I took matters into my own hands and made my own. And you know what? It's a cinch. I whipped up a triple batch of 3 varieties: semi-sweet, milk, and white chocolate in all of 30 minutes. My only hurdle here was figuring out how to nail the crispy coconut texture. I knew that plain sweetened shredded coconut would be too chewy, so I started by toasting the coconut before folding it into the chocolate. Nope, still not crispy enough. I hit payday after experimenting with a bag of unsweetened dessicated coconut. This was the bomb. The coconut was already dry and crisp (no toasting necessary), and the less sweet coconut balanced the sweet chocolate much better.
Forming these adorable little nests is a snap. Just spoon the mixture onto a pan, press into the center to form a crater, plop in a few jellybeans, and chill til set. And if you take it up a notch with some gourmet flavored jelly beans, well then you Easter Bunny you, you'll have totally outdone yourself—and Mr. Stover himself.
About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore and is currently at work constructing her new blog, http://shophousecook.com/ .