Thursday, 22 February 2007

Top 10...Chocolate Snack Bars

When I was a kid, child, young person, whatever is the preferred terminology, I used to take a daily walk with my best friend Eoin. We'd go down to the local village shops (Didsbury in Manchester) and buy a chocolate bar at the newsagents, then walk home via some circuitous route so that we had plenty of time to discuss the latest developments with Man United, Blake's 7, Doctor Who and Dallas.

Eoin would stick with the same bar for literally weeks on end. I was the flibbety-gibbet who'd vacillate between a subset of favourites. ('Vacillate' means uming and ahhing, not being able to decide).

We would sometimes get into heated debates about which was better, Twix or Caramel?

These days I'm too scared of sugar and fat now to dare eat one of these every day, or even once a month. This is one of the surprising things that happens when you grow older. Something that you loved as a child actually scares you. It's pathetic.

Can't stop me dreaming though.

Here's the list. It's not in order, okay? That would take just too much work.

1. Mars Bar (Mars)
There really is nothing like the sugar rush you get from one of these. Fresh and in tip-top condition, a Mars Bar is a fudgy delight of maltiness, caramel and thick chocolate. The flavours and textures melt together in a wholly intoxicating way. The problem is that to the educated palate, they are so variable. Batch control: we'll return to this problem again and again. That stuff about putting them in the fridge is a red herring. Milk chocolate - even the Mars kind -melts at close to body temperature. The ideal is to have it melt on your tongue. If you are gulping down chunks of hard chocolate, you have been ripped off, enjoyment-wise.

2. Dipped Flake (Cadbury)
How such an obvious innovation came along so late in the day, I'll never understand. The clues were there - the Galaxy Ripple! Or maybe the patent ran out on the Galaxy Ripple. Ahhh. Only just thought of that.
(a 'patent' is something you use to protect an invention)
The precursor to this, of course, is the Cadbury's Twirl. Cadbury are very good at textured chocolate. By increasing the surface area of the chocolate, they increase your exposure to the flavour. The Dipped Flake stops the chocolate crumb from being wasted.

3. Twix (Mars)
Awesomely good when the batch is good. Beware of batch variability in anything with a biscuit base. When the shortcake is just right, these are perfect. The caramel can vary too, from butterscotchy yumminess to bland sweetness.

4. Caramel (Cadbury)
One of the most reliable performers. Always squidgy, caramely and chocolately. They've really got the ratio of chocolate-to-caramel right here. Not so in the Caramel Egg, where the density of the caramel reveals it's thinness. Stick to the bar.

5. Star Bar (Cadbury)
Very sweet and peanut-buttery. So sticky that it's hard to talk when you are eating one, or even shortly afterwards, on account of your jaws being glued together. Not ideal in warm weather, when the caramel coating of the peanut butter centre starts to melt. Americans have lots of peanut butter bars, but we don't. The Star Bar is a terrific product in this category but it's not up there with the...

6. Nutrageous (Reeses - Hershey)
You can buy these in some shops, particularly if your town is home to lots of Americans, like Oxford. These are unbelievable. Peanut butter with chunks of roasted peanuts, caramel and thick chocolate. It's Hersheys chocolate, which is less milky than Mars or Cadbury. The peanut butter is slightly salty, unlike with the Star Bar. Altogether less sweet - more of a grown-up bar.

7. Kit-Kat Chunky (Nestle)
Boo Nestle for encouraging mothers in the developing world to buy formula milk instead
of breast-feeding. But the Chunky Kit-Kat does marry two great concepts - the chocolate of a Yorkie bar with the wafer crunch of a Kit-Kat.

8. Double Decker (Cadbury)
Another variable one. The nougat can be too chewy, or too soft. The crunchy bit is best when the batch is very fresh. Delicious when they get the batch right.

9. Snickers (Mars)
Stick to the plain kind, with peanuts and nougat. Avoid the peanut-butter or nougat-free variations, and especially the bizarro ones with crispy bits. An acceptable meal substitute if you are find yourself somehow unable to buy sushi or fresh fruit and are starving hungry. Representatives from 3 major food groups.

10. Frys Turkish Delight
Not the best turkish delight, by a long way. (Perfectly good and cheap turkish delight is Marks and Spencers, but eat it quickly and all on the same day while it's still juicy soft.) But still deliciously rose-scented and yummy. For some reason, lots of kids don't like Turkish Delight. I never understood this as a child. That, for me, was the principle appeal of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" - the turkish delight-eating scene. Turkish Delight, therefore, I quickly learned was a great bar to choose if you don't want to share.

Like a bite of my Turkish Delight? What, you don't? Okay then. Why thank-you, I'd love a piece of your Caramel...

D'ya see?

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