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The Search For The Perfect Candy Bar

One of the great things about having kids is that on Halloween, you can send them out to fetch candy for you. As we do every year, we went out early in the evening this Halloween, so we could pick through what our kids got, and redistribute the crappy candy–the non-chocolate, in other words–to our giveaway bucket, to be passed out to trick-or-treaters who came later. And now, since our own kids are only allowed one miniature candy bar a day, the missus and I can eat our weight in tiny treats over the next month, getting our metabolisms in shape for Thanksgiving in Christmas.

My own personal sweet tooth runs more toward ice cream, cake, and chewy cookies–or preferably all three mixed together–but I've been on a diet lately, so I've been reducing my daily dessert to a couple of small pieces of candy. It satisfies my craving for something sweet and chocolatey, and I'm not usually tempted to eat more than two or three minis. I can barely eat a full candy bar, most days. Even the standard size Reese's Cup package, by the time I get to the second cup, I start to feel a little queasy.

The candy bars I can eat with the most gusto are the ones that are heavily adulterated. As much as I like straight chocolate–and the darker the better, like Hershey's new Cacao Reserve Extra Dark Chocolate With Cacao Nibs–I just can't eat much of it. I need a little crunch, or a layer of chewiness (though not too chewy), or some creamy peanut butter. What don't I need? Coconut, fruit, white chocolate and anything overly gooey. Nuts are okay–especially almonds–but they're not really a significant adulterating factor. And while I like the taste of a Butterfinger, I'm not wild about the texture of that crunchy center. (I prefer the Butterfinger Crisp.)

So what are the best candy bars?

Honorable Mention #1: Hershey's Cookies 'N' Mint. Only available seasonally–usually around Christmas–this is lightly crunchy, but the crunchiness is quickly and gloriously overwhelmed by the smooth, minty chocolate. I think I've tried just about every limited edition candy bar in the Hershey's stable–hooray for malt, boo to coffee–and nothing beats the mint cookie. It's good in its Nuggets form too, though the texture is less of a meltaway.

Honorable Mention #2: Hershey's S'Mores. The manufactured version of this campfire treat doesn't really taste like its namesake–the "marshmallow" is really just a fluffy nougat, for one thing–but it's still damn tasty, thanks in large part to the thin graham cracker layer, and the way the chocolate coating kind of breaks instead of melting.

5. Kit Kat. Only mildly adulterated–just chocolate enrobed wafers–which makes them damnably easy to eat, and kind of hard to stop eating. Like I said, I rarely feel like eating a whole full-size candy bar, but I can actually eat a whole King-Size Kit Kat. (Or better, a Big Kat.)

4. Snickers/Snickers Cruncher. Snickers is clearly the most evolved version of the Three Musketeeers/Milky Way/Snickers line–notwithstanding the oft-delightful Milky Way Midnight–though oddly enough, Snickers is one of those candy bars that's best when its smallest, for some inexplicable reason (Reese's Cups are the same way.) Like the Butterfinger Crisp, I also enjoy the not-really-like-its-namesake Snickers Cruncher, which reminds me of the Carnation Instant Breakfast Bars I used to eat before school in my latchkey kid days. (It also reminds me of Whatchamacalits and Bar Nones, two other wafer-like candy bars I've always enjoyed.)

3. Twix. Are you getting the sense that I like cookies/wafers in my candy bars? I still remember when the Twix was introduced into the marketplace, when I was about 12. So simple–cookie, caramel, chocolate–but the crunchy shortbread and rippled chocolate makes this a delight all the way through. Plus, even though you get two per package, they don't exhaust you.

2. Take 5. A latecomer to the confectionary market, and almost ridiculous in concept–pretzel, peanuts, peanut butter and caramel, covered in chocolate–this candy bar is crazy good, and reminds me of the all-in "monster cookies" I used to get as a kid on special occasions. The little bit of salt on the pretzel helps a lot, balancing the sweet. Also, the creaminess, crunchiness and chewiness are in near-perfect proportion.

1. Reese's Fast Break. I avoided this candy bar for the first couple of years of its existence, because it looked like an energy bar. But aside from the lack of crunch, the Fast Break turns out to be just about perfect (especially in miniature form). That often-too-rich Reese's creaminess is anchored by a thin layer of chewy nougat, which holds the peanut butter in check. At the moment, it's a toss-up between Take 5 and Reese's Fast Break for my go-to candy bar.

How about you?

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