Review: Brach’s Flavored Candy Corn

There are three sure signs that autumn is fast approaching: the leaves begin to change color, pumpkins start showing up everywhere, and Halloween candy hits the stores. Perhaps the most ubiquitous of all seasonal sweets is Candy Corn.

Candy Corn dates back to the 1880s, and was the brainchild of George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia. The shape and colors are meant to resemble actual kernels of corn, though size-wise the candy is about three times as large. Candy Corn was originally made by hand and contained sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s wax, fondant, and marshmallows. The mixture was warmed and poured into buckets, before being transferred to kernel-shaped molds by men called “stringers.” It took three passes, one for each of the colors (white, orange, and yellow). The process has since been automated, but the recipe is largely unchanged.

As popular as Candy Corn is – Brach’s sells between 9 billion and 15 billion kernels every year – it’s also one of the more reviled candies, ranking poorly in some consumer research polls. My own family would seem to back this up: neither my wife nor daughter are fans, though I love the stuff. You can find more information on our National Candy Corn Day post from last October.

Different variations of Candy Corn are available year-round these days. Over the past few years, new seasonal flavors have been added, including caramel apple and green apple (2011), pumpkin spice and S’mores (2013), and caramel macchiato and apple pie (2014). We decided to review a handful of these newer flavors, settling on caramel apple, pumpkin spice, and apple pie.


Results were a mixed bag (pardon the pun). None were as good as the original. Why mess with perfection?

All three varieties had the same chewiness and “mouth feel” as regular ol’ Candy Corn, but diverged from there. The caramel apple were the worst. They  lacked any discernible flavor, making the effort of eating them pointless. Rating: 1 Knife. Don’t waste your time.






The pumpkin spice, at least, had plenty of pumpkin spice-y flavor – a little too much, IMHO. I don’t blame Brach’s for jumping on the pumpkin spice flavor trend; we can thank Starbucks for that, with the explosive popularity of their seasonal pumpkin spice lattes. These had the same flavor profile, and definitely woke up the senses. And dammit, they smell just like autumn. Rating: 3 Knives. OK in small doses.






The best of the bunch, by a long shot, were the apple pie. Believe it or not, they taste exactly like their namesake: you get clear hints of apple, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I was tempted to warm them up and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Candy Corn à la mode, anybody? Rating: 4 Knives. The resemblance to real apple pie is uncanny.

4 Knives






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National Chocolate Caramel Day

Last year we celebrated too many chocolate holidays to count, and various caramel-themed ones (apples, popcorn, custard, etc.) as well. But never the two together! I guess you could say last March 19 we were too chicken, since it was National Poultry Day. We’re taking care of unfinished business this year by celebrating National Chocolate Caramel Day!

Hard to believe one year ago we were 78 days into our year-long challenge already. On a personal note, we haven’t been as proactive this year as I’d hoped, but there has been a LOT going on in our personal lives. Including downsizing from a townhouse to an apartment. We moved last weekend, and boy are we tired and sore! All the more reason to treat ourselves to chocolate caramel, eh?

This particular flavor combination is one of the most popular, as evidenced by the countless number of sweet treats boasting both chocolate and caramel. It’s one of those classic combinations, like spaghetti and meatballs. Or wine and cheese. Or Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. (What?! Tell me you didn’t laugh out loud during Dumb & Dumber)! We can thank none other than Milton Hershey for combining the two. Hershey began his illustrious career in a caramel company. In the late 1800s, looking for a way to improve plain ol’ caramel candy, he got his hands on some German built chocolate manufacturing machines. His very first product? A chocolate covered caramel! Eventually Milt focused his attention solely on chocolate, but if not for his inventiveness, we might never have Snickers, Milky Way, or Twix. And the world would be a sadder place.

To celebrate, I stopped by 7-Eleven (oh, thank heaven) and grabbed a Rolo. These chocolate covered caramels are one of my favorites!

Now that things are finally settling down (knock on wood), we hope to focus more attention on this blog. We’ve got some big ideas, and will start incorporating those more. Stick around…it’ll be worth it, I promise!


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362/365: National Chocolate Candy Day

They’re really milking it down the homestretch. December 28 is National Chocolate Candy Day!

It feels like we’ve celebrated about a hundred different chocolate and/or candy holidays this year. They have been so plentiful, I think we need a new food pyramid. One that looks like this:


But, I can now say that this is the very last one! There are no more chocolate holidays this year. No more candy holidays, either. This is it, baby!! And it’s a good thing, too. Because at this point, I’ve got absolutely nothing new to say about either chocolate or candy. However, there is one final twist to our challenge: we are traveling out of town for New Year’s, leaving today for Ely, Nevada. We’re going to spend a week visiting family and friends in Ely, Las Vegas, and Elko, and stopping by to say hi to a ghost in Tonopah. Which means we are going to finish up this monumental project on the road, some 840 miles from where it first began. That in itself seems a little odd, but it’s just representative of some of the many challenges faced during the course of the year. A lot of times we were on the go, away from home, but we made it work then…and we’ll make it work now.

We ate a couple of miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups in honor of this holiday. Very early in the morning, before we hit the road. It’s going to be a long travel day, and that was one less thing we had to worry about en route.

National Chocolate Candy Day

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360/365: National Candy Cane Day

You’ll really earn your stripes if you help us celebrate today’s food holiday. December 26 is National Candy Cane Day!

National Candy Cane DayCandy canes are cane-shaped hard candy sticks that are traditionally white with red stripes and peppermint flavored, though nowadays different variations exist. There are a lot of false reports about how candy canes are religious symbols, with the colors representing blood and purity, the three red stripes symbolizing the Holy Trinity, and the shape itself, a letter “J” when inverted, standing for Jesus, but while these stories sound plausible – especially given the candy cane’s association with Christmas – they simply aren’t true. In reality, candy canes were the invention of the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany in 1670. Bothered by the noise caused by children attending his Christmas Eve services, the choirmaster enlisted the aid of a local candy maker to create a peppermint stick to shut the heathens up keep the children preoccupied. Since he was giving them away during church services, he had the candy maker bend them into the shape of a shepherd’s hook to remind the kids about Jesus. Perhaps that’s where the other, more elaborate stories originated! Candy canes were traditionally all white until the turn of the 20th century, when stripes began to appear.

Because Christmas just passed, we had candy canes on hand. Celebrating this holiday was a breeze!

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353/365: National Hard Candy Day*

Hope you’re dressed for suck-cess. December 19 is National Hard Candy Day!

It’s also National Oatmeal Muffin Day. We just didn’t feel like eating the muffin, man. The muffin, man. And since hard candy is synonymous with Christmas – a mere six days away now (!) we decided to stick with that.

Archaeologists have uncovered traces of hard candies at dig sites in ancient Egypt, China, and Arabia. Of course, rather than Dum-Dums, these “candies” were really no more than fruits and nuts dipped in honey. Sometimes they were even attached to sticks to prevent sticky fingers, a precursor of lollipops. Hard candy is made by boiling syrup until it reaches the “hard crack” stage, 300 degrees. It is then flavored, poured, and allowed to set. There is a large variety of different hard candies available including butterscotch, candy canes, Jawbreakers, Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, Pez, rock candy, and lollipops. It’s even the name of a Counting Crows album. More hard candy is sold at Christmas time than during any other time of the year.

To celebrate, we had a classic hard candy that’s been a favorite for generations: Life Savers!

National Hard Candy Day

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350/365: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

Today you’re allowed to let your imagination run free – as long as you let it run in a sweet direction. December 16 is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day!

This would probably be a much more exciting holiday if we hadn’t already eaten chocolate covered insects. Once you’ve gone there, anything else is going to pale in comparison. I’ve eaten my share of unusual chocolate covered foods before – including bacon and Pringles – but those items don’t compare to this list of 11 “seriously weird chocolate-coated foods.” Onions? Pickles? Slim Jims? Weird barely begins to describe it! And from The Huffington Post, here are 10 Things You Didn’t Know Taste Delicious With Chocolate. Avocado made the cut. As did beets and quinoa. I’ll take their word for everything here.

Still, we wanted to try something a little different, so after perusing the aisles of WinCo I settled upon chocolate covered banana chips in their bulk foods section. I think I would have liked chocolate covered banana slices better, because these were crispy – being chips and all – and the texture was a little unusual. But they didn’t taste bad. A couple at breakfast time, and we were good on our RDA of potassium for the day!

By the way…we now have only 15 days left in our challenge!!

National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

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341/365: National Cotton Candy Day

You might just take a cotton to today’s sweet food holiday. December 7 is National Cotton Candy Day!

For a day that will live in infamy, you’d think we’d celebrate with something a little classier. Besides, isn’t cotton candy associated with fairs and carnivals, and don’t those typically occur during the summer months? Oh well, it’s already been well established that if we were in charge of these food holidays, the calendar would look very different than it does.

Cotton candy – also known as candy floss (UK, Ireland, New Zealand, India and South Africa) and fairy floss (Australia) – is simply spun sugar. That’s the only ingredient. And surprisingly, it doesn’t even contain all that much sugar – about the same as you’d consume drinking a can of soda. Food color is added to give it that vibrant pink or blue hue. It first appeared in Europe in the 18th century, but at that time spun sugar was an expensive and labor-intensive process, and few could afford the treat. In 1897 machine-spun cotton candy was invented by a dentist (of all people!), William Morrison, and confectioner John C. Wharton. It was introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair as “fairy floss” and was a huge hit. Joseph Lascaux, another dentist (really?! I’m beginning to think this was all a big conspiracy to increase business) in New Orleans invented a similar machine in 1921 and called his product cotton candy, a name he patented. Fairy floss faded into obscurity except in Australia, where it’s still called that to this day. Good on you, mates! In 1972, an automated cotton candy machine was introduced, making it easier to package and mass market the stuff.

unnamedI wasn’t sure that we’d even be able to find cotton candy this time of year, but WinCo sells a packaged version year-round. You don’t get the stick like you find at circuses and fairs, but otherwise, it’s exactly the same. Sugary and sweet and melts in your mouth. A little odd in December, but hey – these holidays don’t always make sense.

National Cotton Candy Day

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324/365: National Peanut Butter Fudge Day

Today we find ourselves in a familiar sticky situation. November 20 is National Peanut Butter Fudge Day!

Alas, yet another fudge holiday. There have been plenty already. We noshed on nutty fudge, chewed chocolate, and partook in penuche. Each time, we mentioned fudge’s storied history, how it originated in a women’s college in the 1880s and was such a sensation that other women’s colleges across the country attempted to make their own versions of fudge, with varying results. No need to rehash all that…but I do have a rather humorous story to share.

I mistakenly thought today was National Beaujolais Nouveau Day. I was so convinced of this, I popped open a bottle of the wine. We toasted and sipped. I posted the blog entry. We even planned dinner around this (spaghetti, which of course goes perfectly well with red wine). And then, when I was reading over the post – ironically, something I rarely do afterwards – I noticed that I had written the holiday landed on the third Thursday of November. The only problem with that? Today is WEDNESDAY. The problem is, as I’ve mentioned before, about a third of the way through the year I realized these posts are so time consuming, I should write them in advance. Knock out a bunch ahead of time, and fill in the blanks on that particular food holiday. This worked out well. At first I’d write a few ahead of time. Then a week’s worth. Then…well, let’s just say I had gotten in the habit of really writing far out in advance. The only downside is…well, today. Looking at my calendar weeks ago, I was off by one day. I thought the 20th was a Thursday. It was not. You know what really confuses me, by the way? I had also partially written this post in advance. I don’t know what I was thinking. Suffice it to say, at 6:30, we were suddenly scrambling to celebrate peanut butter fudge. I remembered a friend, Wendy, had mentioned how easy fudge is to make. You can even do it in the microwave, she said. A quick Google search confirmed this. I was able to find an easy four-ingredient microwave peanut butter fudge recipe. It’s here, if you’re interested.

Making the fudge took less than ten minutes, but then we had to let it set in the fridge for 90 minutes. Amazingly…it turned out delicious! The consistency was spot on, the flavor, rich and intense. Who knew fudge was so easy to make?!

National Peanut Butter Fudge Day

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311/365: National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

Celebrating a food holiday you’ve already honored previously is bittersweet. Literally. November 7 is National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day.

OK, so it’s not exactly the same as National Milk Chocolate with Almonds Day (July 8) -but it’s almost identical to National Bittersweet Chocolate Day, one of our first challenges way back in January.  Bittersweet chocolate is, by its very definition, bitter. It contains less sugar and more cacao for a rich, intense flavor that is best suited to baking. It is sometimes lumped together with semisweet chocolate and the two can be used interchangeably in most recipes, though semisweet chocolate does contain a little more sugar. The darker the chocolate the healthier it is for you, so eating bittersweet chocolate is akin to snacking on three broccoli florets. OK, not really, but we can pretend, right? Almonds are a natural pairing: 40% of the world’s almond crop goes to the chocolate industry.

To celebrate, we split a Hershey’s bittersweet chocolate with almonds bar. I am not a fan of dark chocolate, and found it much too bitter (truth in advertising!) for my liking. Wouldn’t you know it, Tara liked it. For once, the tables were turned. I think this would have been better used in baking rather than eaten plain.

National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

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308/365: National Candy Day

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re going to be smiling a lot today. November 4 is National Candy Day!

Candy is defined as a sweet confection made with sugar or other sweeteners, and often flavored with fruits or nuts. The word is believe to derive from the Persian Qandi (=قندی ), meaning “cane sugar.” In the U.S. it’s a pretty broad term that includes candy bars, chocolates, licorice, hard candies, taffies, and gumdrops. In Europe it’s often called “sweets” or “confectionery,” and in Australian and New Zealand, is referred to as “lollies.” How fun would it be to walk around Melbourne, approach a stranger, and say, “G’day, mate! Let’s throw another shrimp on the barbie. And then eat lollies for dessert.” There’s no way you would be mistaken for a tourist if you talked like that! Regardless of what it’s called, candy has been enjoyed as far back as ancient times, when people scooped honey from beehives and ate it raw. The first true confections consisted of fruits and nuts rolled in honey. Sugar was initially expensive and enjoyed only by the wealthy, but as prices dropped in the 17th century, hard candies became popular. In the mid-1800s, there were over 400 candy factories in the U.S., giving Willy Wonka some seriously stiff competition. A survey by Bloomberg Businessweek ranking the world’s bestselling candies lists M&M’s at #1, followed by Snicker’s. Can’t say I’m really surprised. Rounding out the Top 5: Trident gum, Kit Kat, and Wrigley’s Orbit gum.

This is one holiday where the timing makes perfect sense. It’s four days after Halloween, so most homes have at least some candy on hand. Ours is no exception. We live in a condo complex and never get trick-or-treaters, but we’re always prepared just in case. That preparation inevitably leads to left over candy, of course. Which made today pretty easy to celebrate.

National Candy Day

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