Peanut Butter Science: Ms. Momo with Guest M. Crouton

As we sat in one of Ottawa’s premiere burger joints, The Works, where one can easily spend half an hour deciding what to put on your burger, we contemplated our upcoming candy-less Halloween weekend. How was it possible that we managed to plan a whole Halloween weekend without candy? We had thought about costumes. We had thought about pumpkins. But no candy.
We kept browsing the menu, sifting through a seemingly endless list of toppings, from avocado to Kraft dinner. And then there it was, as if calling to us: a burger topped with peanut butter. Now, neither one of us was ready to abandon our initial picks for lunch – sundried tomatoes? roasted red peppers? yes please – but the peanut butter stuck in our minds.

The conversation naturally turned to the different ways we loved to eat it.  On toast, on celery, on apples, even on pancakes. But we both agreed that the best way was with chocolate, bien sûr. Our mouths started to salivate.

A trip to Wikipedia told us that there are actually a lot more chocolate bar brands than expected out there that feature peanut butter.  We made a list.  Then, we made a plan. Yes, a plan.

In the name of Science!

The plan:

Buy all the main candy bars from the grocery store that featured peanut butter.  Taste them.  And rate them and compare them.  Because, you know, we need to keep track of these things. Right? For science.

And so, on a cold October evening, we sat down in our lab coats, a glass of milk each, and proceeded to sample every single one of the 9 chocolate bars.  It’s going to be a long (and delicious!) night.

The lineup

Here goes:

1. Twix PB

She says: Twix is one of my favourite chocolate bars – this one is an interesting twist.  The peanut butter is sufficiently peanutty, and the chocolate is nice and soft.  But it’s missing the essential chewiness of a classic Twix because of its lack of caramel.

He says: Ah, Twix, the candy bar with a cookie crumble. This peanut butter version has the signature lightness of the original Twix, and a nice salty twist. The chocolate flavour remains missing, however, and one is only left with this confusing mix of sweet and salty. Still, a good start.

2. Snickers

She says: Caramel. Nougat. Whole peanut.  Encased in a chocolate shell that melts in your mouth.  Yes. This well-balanced mouth sensation is what I crave.  However, not peanut buttery enough.

He says: Now, I have an already well established love for Snickers. The peanut flavour is strong enough but doesn’t detract from all that nougat-y goodness. It’s a classic for a reason.

3. Reese’s Nutrageous

She says:  It’s only the third one in.  But I think we may have a winner even though it looks like a turd.  It’s like a Snickers in its level of chewiness and got that whole peanut crunch, plus caramel.  And it’s got a chunk of actual peanut butter in the centre.  Two thumbs up from me!

He says: Lovely name. This special offering from Reese tastes like a cross between classic Reese (that signature salty peanut butter), and a nut-caramel bar like Oh Henry!. It is both chewy and crunchy, and offers a hint of caramel to round things off. Love it. (Boy do I need some milk now.)

4. Butterfinger

She says: The package says “Crunchety and peanut-buttery!” but it’s only half right.  Yes, it’s crunchy, but… where’s the peanut butter?  Maybe there’s a hint of it but it’s way too sweet.  It’s more like a flaky toffee and I’m so not into that.  Next.

He says: This one is quite a departure from the others. It is crunchy (the label says “crunchety”, thanks, marketing folks!) and quite flaky. A simple peanut butter (emphasis on butter) filling with a thin chocolate coating. It tastes like an overbaked crust with a peanut butter finish. Too sweet for me.

5. 5th Avenue

She says: Am I eating a potato chip!?  In terms of peanut taste 5th Avenue is a bit north of the mark, but miles closer than the last contestant.  But in terms of texture… see first sentence.

He says: This is a US-only candy bar. That’s right, we’re eating an import. Such snobs. Now, is the grass really greener south of the border? Not in this case, I’m afraid. It tastes and feels much like a Butterfinger: crunchy, flaky toffee-like peanut butter filling coated with chocolate. It is somewhat less sweet but here again, it fails to impress.

6. Wunderbar

She says: The level of chewiness makes me think there is caramel in this candy but is there?  The package says so, so it must be true!  This is a very nice candy.  The crispness and crunch factor is just the level it should be – a slight crunch when you chew on it, thanks to the crisped rice.  The peanut and chocolate ratio is also well balanced, but the caramel level makes it slightly too chewy for me.   Well done, Cadbury!

He says: At number 6, we’re starting to run out of peanut-chocolate combinations, but Wunderbar, with its straightforward concentric layers of peanut butter, caramel, and chocolate, offers a welcome change from the last two samples. It is chewy enough, and the peanut butter is of good quality.

7. Crispy Crunch

She says: This candy means business.  If you’re not prepared to sit there and try to get the toffee unstuck from your teeth, then pass this one on.  However, in the realm of crisp chocolate bars, I would rank this one above 5th Avenue and Butterfinger.  But I would not go out of my way to buy this.

He says: Crispy Crunch succeeds where Butterfinger and 5th Avenue failed. A well balanced, flaky and crispy candy bar with the right balance of saltiness, sweetness, and textures. Easily the best of the “crunchy” genre. Yes, genre.

8. Oh Henry!

She says: Oh memories of childhood.  This was one of my favourites, along with Mr. Big. I would always try to get these ones when trick-or-treating.  None of that Smarties or Glosettes crap.   I wonder how Henry and Mr. Big are different?  We forgot to pick up a Mr. Big so alas we’ll never know!  Nice chewiness, nice crunch from the whole peanuts, and I think there’s even a bit of peanut nougat inside.  Me likey.

He says: I’ve had several Oh Henry’s! in my life, but in the context of this experiment, I must put an emphasis on how much it tastes like peanuts. Much more than any other sample so far. That’s a great thing. It is crunchy with a chewy centre, somewhat reminiscent of Snickers. Satisfying. (I’m starting to suspect that my top choices will roughly reflect the sales revenue of each candy – I’m so mainstream.)

9. Reese

She says: Pure unadulterated salty peanut butter covered with a thin layer of chocolate.  Yes.  A thousand times yes.

He says: What more can be said about Reese. It’s chewy, salty, delicious. There’s a reason why they’re number 1. (And no, it’s not because of ET’s unexpected endorsement.)

Ten dollars and an estimated 428 calories later, who’s the winner?

The end result

And we're spent

She says: If I had these candies on a line-up and I had to pick just one on a day that I’m jonesing for a peanut butter experience, I think I’d go for the Reese’s NutRageous.  But I think this isn’t widely available everywhere (we went to the Sugar Mountain) so if that was eliminated, I would most likely go for Snickers.  For everyday snacking, I’d go for the Twix.

He says: While I love peanut butter, I rarely find myself craving it. Faced with a choice among the candies sampled for this highly scientific endeavour, I would first reach for Snickers (for the peanut and nougat combo), then Reese’s Nutrageous (great spin on the original), and good old Reese. The crunchy candies didn’t do it for me, and the Twix was perhaps a bit too bland.


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