REVIEW: Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies

Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies

Hi, everyone.

I’m here to accept this Cookie of the Year award on behalf of Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies. They couldn’t be here because…well, because I ate all of them.

First off, I’d just like to congratulate and thank the other nominees. I’m not really sure who any of you are, because this award is entirely made up by Nestle Toll House, but you all did a great job this year and should feel really proud. Except for you, Swedish Fish Oreos. You were not nominated for this fake award and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

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Next, I want to thank “break and bake” technology. Thanks to you, making sugary, fattening cookies is SO much easier! No more worrying about whether I have enough flour on hand or if the eggs have expired…I can just open the package, break the premade dough along its perforations, and 10-11 minutes later I have some perfectly baked cookies. And another 10-11 minutes later, I have a stomach ache from inhaling those perfectly baked cookies.

The sugar cookie dough is really what made this whole thing possible. It’s sweet and buttery, with just a hint of floury goodness. Its performance doesn’t take any risks, but it doesn’t have to. It’s the same sugar cookie flavor we know and love from Nestle Toll House–a real classic.

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The Butterfinger Baking Bits did a pretty good job in the starring role, too. Their stick-to-your-teeth presence is definitely noticeable, and shows their peanut buttery range through a dynamic sweet and salty combination. As enjoyable as that peanut butter element aspect is, I really wish there had been more of it from start to finish. It just popped up here and there, upstaged by the fantastic sugar cookie dough. But those occasional cameos are really satisfying when they do happen.

I’ve got to say, I’m a little surprised that the milk chocolate took such a minor role in this whole project. When it’s there, it’s creamy and sweet, but I was hoping for a lot more of it. When I think of Butterfingers, I think of a crispy peanut butter center enveloped in a creamy milk chocolate coating. This cookie nailed the peanut butter part, but didn’t quite reach its full milk chocolate potential. With a better peanut butter-to-chocolate ratio, I have no doubt this cookie would go down as one of the all-time greats.

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Having said that, Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies wouldn’t have won this award without good reason (okay, actually, they did). The sugar cookie dough does an incredible job carrying the cookie, and the Butterfinger Baking Bits mimic the inside of a Butterfinger candy bar quite well. The milk chocolate flavor is a bit underwhelming, but hey, not everybody can be the star of the show. Let’s all raise a glass of milk to the 2016 Cookie of the Year: Nestle Toll House Cookie of the Year Butterfinger Baking Bits Cookies.

Thank you for allowing me the honor of devouring them.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookie – 80 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protei.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 16 oz (makes 24 cookies)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Sugary and rich sugar cookie dough. Peanut butter flavor shines through sweet and salty buddy cop duo. Baking Bits stick to your teeth just like an actual Butterfinger. Giving acceptance speeches just for eating cookies.
Cons: Totally made-up award. Milk chocolate flavor could have been better. Swedish Fish Oreos.

REVIEW: Hostess Original Golden Deep Fried Twinkies

Hostess Deep Fried Twinkies

As someone who grew up in a town that hosts the so-called “Biggest Small Town Fair in the Country,” I’m familiar with novelty fried foods. And oxymorons, apparently.

So yes, I have had a deep-fried Twinkie before, and for all I know, that barely digestible monstrosity is still hanging out somewhere inside me. It probably has a better memory of Summer 2004 than I do, too.

That’s why I wasn’t scared of Hostess’ new Deep Fried Twinkies. I mean, these things are pre-fried, frozen, boxed, and conveniently stocked in Walmart’s freezer aisle endcap! “That’s like eating fried food on easy mode!” my inner Twinkie shouted from somewhere in my large intestine.

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But I shouldn’t have treated these Deep Fried Twinkies like declawed kittens. Because despite their sad frozen appearance, which is like Han Solo in carbonite crossed with a belt-sanded fish stick, these unassuming Twinkies are more like rattlesnakes wearing silencers.

Ever-curious, I took a nibble of a still-frozen cake. It tasted like a Krispy Kreme doughnut stuffed with frozen custard. That was all the heart-fluttering inspiration I needed to fire up my toaster oven* to 350° and spend the next eight minutes eagerly glued to my warmly radiating fried food boob tube.

The Deep Fried Twinkies’ packaging warns not to over bake them, as the cream inside can disappear. Not wanting my Twinkie’s hot, buttery goo to transcend this earthly plane, I wondered how long to wait. But right as I actually spoke the words, “How do I know if it’s done?” aloud, the golden tube leaked a prophetic drop of sizzling crème onto the toaster’s bottom.

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As emergency rescue, extraction, and cooling of my Twinkie began, I drank in its authentic county fair aroma like a Looney Toon next to a windowsill pie. Once my Deep Fried Twinkie’s leaky wounds cauterized, I dug in.

DMG! (Dough My Goodness!) What was once a chewy, doughnutty shell was now crispy, oily, and buttery sweet—like the shell of a cannoli or the wrapper on a dessert egg roll.** But the oil didn’t leak into the fluffy, warm, and golden sponge cake inside. This created a tasty puff pastry blanket around the cream center instead of the oily mess you might find in other deep fried treats.

I’m looking at you, Taco Bell Cap’n Crunch Delights.

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And can we talk about my Deep Fried Twinkies’ crème filling? Because it was fantastic. It tasted just like the creamy vanilla innards of a normal Twinkie, except half-liquefied. It had the flavor of whipped cream mixed with doughnut glaze and the viscosity of runny maple syrup.

This means that you can squeeze the delicate treat and quite literally suck up the crème like the world’s most dangerous Capri-Sun juice box. And I’ll proudly testify in front of a judge and jury that this, your honor, is exactly what I did with my Deep Fried Twinkie.

Maybe it’s my hometown nostalgia talking, but I adore these Deep Fried Twinkies (which have a Chocolate variety, too). They have a charming novelty with the part-doughnut, part-Twinkie, part-funnel cake taste to back it up. You owe it to your inner child to give one of these a try.

And I promise, that’s not just my inner deep-fried Twinkie talking.

*Note: You can also oven bake or actually deep fry these. I chose a toaster oven because I was impatient and thought McDonald’s would kick me out if I asked to use their fryer.

**Note: I made up the term “dessert egg roll” for this review, but apparently it’s a real thing. What a time to be alive.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 220 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.79
Size: 7 cakes
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: The buttery lovechild of a county fair, a bakery, and a snack cake aisle. Wanting (and planning) to pour this crème onto a Belgian waffle. Frozen custard cylinders. Winning my town fair’s pie-eating contest in high school.
Cons: Being unable to decide whether to eat my next Twinkie frozen or hot. Only come 7 to a package. Smelling burnt crème in my toaster oven for the next two weeks. Shuddering memories of Cap’n Crunch Delights.

REVIEW: Skippy Graham Cracker P.B. Bites

Skippy Graham Cracker P.B. Bites

Let’s get one thing straight. Skippy’s Graham Cracker P.B. Bites aren’t “bites.”

They’re balls.

Which is fine, because the country is in love with balls right now. You’ve got Pokemon Go, baseball season, Powerball, and the Olympics crowding the scene, but Skippy’s Graham Cracker P.B. Bites are what you should be focusing on.

Skippy introduced their P.B. Bites line about a year ago with Double Peanut Butter and Pretzel varieties, and they’ve proven to be a hit with the public. I’d never noticed the P.B. Bites previously because choosy reviewers like me choose Jif, but for TIB I decided to give it a shot and picked up a pack of their new Graham Cracker variety.

The P.B. Bites come in small cup-holder sized containers, because I assume Skippy thought people might take a swill of these during the morning commute. While I advise against that (due to the legal threat of causing something similar to a Pokemon Go-induced car accident), the peanut butter poppers are certainly portable and are easy to take to work or school.

Upon opening the package, I was hit with a strong wave of peanut butter scent. The smell is of a nicely roasted peanut butter, and gave off none of the artificial notes you may typically find in the peanut butter candy at the bottom of your Halloween spoils.

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The P.B. Bites glisten in the light (note to self: make Mom a peanut butter diamond necklace for Christmas), and that sheen is indicative of the oily nature of the balls. Since the bites’ exteriors are coated in peanut butter, they’re soft and tacky to the touch and can only be handled for a few moments before eating (lest you want to have a real big mess on your hands). Thankfully though, the bites aren’t sticky, so you’ll be able to pop a few before getting club hand.

While you may expect the P.B. Bites have a little bit of chew to them, this is furthest from the case. The soft peanut butter exterior of the balls melts away to reveal a small, crunchy graham cracker center. The peanut butter tastes surprisingly more natural than what you typically expect from a jar of Skippy, with a deep peanut flavor. And while peanut butter from the jar has a tendency to collect on the roof of your mouth, I am pleased to share that Skippy’s P.B. Bites do no such thing. Glass of milk be gone!

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Regrettably, while the Bites’ crunch is satisfying, the tiny graham cracker center lacks any discernible flavor and is overwhelmed by the peanut butter. This makes sense, because I can imagine if I covered myself in peanut butter and ate myself, I’d be incredibly delicious. And while the bites may not provide any graham cracker flavor, you’ll find yourself not caring because the rest of the bite is just so damn good.

Overall, with their natural flavor and pleasing crunch, Skippy’s Graham Cracker P.B. Bites are a pleasant snack that any peanut butter connoisseur would appreciate. Just don’t try to throw one at a Charizard.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 pieces – 160 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 6 oz. tub
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pop ‘em in your Pontiac. Natural peanut butter taste. Satisfying crunch. Good for people with Arachibutyrophobia.
Cons: Melts in your hand and also in your mouth. Tiny, flavorless center. Thoughts of self-cannibalism.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Key Lime Slime Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition Key Lime Slime Twinkies

What’s your favorite scene from the original Ghostbusters?

Was it the library ghost sequence to open the movie? What about Venkman getting slimed? Maybe you liked the big climax where our heroes saved New York City? There are plenty to choose from.

My favorite scene was when Egon ate a Twinkie. Classic!

Okay, that’s not entirely true, but if you were wondering how the famous snack cake ties in with the Ghostbusters, there’s your connection. Egon Spengler used a Twinkie as a metaphor for some scientific mumbo jumbo and then chowed down.

Fast forward 32 years (OMG, you’re so old!) and we have new Ghostbusters and new Twinkies. Long gone are the days of Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, Hudson, and boring old vanilla cream. Now we have Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon, Jones, and Key Lime Slime cream!

Hostess has graced the public with the same oily Twinkie cakes we’ve loved since 1930 (OMGGG, you’re sooooo old!) This time, however, they tried something new with the cream.

Twinkies are always a gamble for me. Sometimes you get a nice moist, fluffy cake. Other times you get a firm, spongy disaster. I lucked out with a perfect batch this time.

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The “slime” colored cream bursting out of the three holes on the underbelly of the cake makes it look moldy. I have a feeling this may turn some people off, but if you stick with it, the Key lime flavor will make you forget about that. It also looks a lot tastier once you bite or cut into the Twinkie.

I was skeptical of Key lime as a Twinkie flavor, but they managed to pull it off. In reality, it’s artificially colored green, so they could have just dyed the regular filling like Oreo does with the orange Halloween cookies. Why not? It’d be a perfect representation of the movie it’s promoting – a cheap gimmicky repacking of an old idea.

Whooooaaaa! Proton blasts fired!

Nah, I kid because I love. The lime flavor is very subtle. It tasted like a regular Twinkie with a faint citrus blast.

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Normally I’d probably hold that against a product. It almost seemed like they didn’t believe in the flavor so they diluted it, but it worked well here. I’ll let it slide.

I expected the cream to be either too sweet or too sour, but it toed the line nicely. It also had a great whipped texture, and there was plenty of it stuffed within the cake.

I picked up some Banana Twinkies just for taste and appearance comparisons, and I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I might like Key Lime Slime more than Banana.

Now please allow me a mini rant.

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I said it in my Ecto Cooler review, but they’ve really done a subpar job with the marketing of this movie. The box here has one tiny Ghostbusters logo and shades of green. This could have been a really cool collectable box if designed better. This is yet another “slime” tie-in that has no mention or appearance of Slimer. It’s not like they lost the rights to the character. I know he’s in the new movie, so put him on the box! I know he’s an ugly little spud, but put him on the damn box! Stay Puft is on the White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkie box. Where’s Slimer?!

Anyway, the serving size for these Twinkies is two cakes. I ate two. That should tell you that these are a winner. Happy hunting.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cakes – 260 calories, 80 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 35 mg of cholesterol, 350 mg of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 29 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 13.58 oz. box/10 cakes
Purchased at: Wegmans
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Not overly sweet. Not overly sour. Perfectly fresh Twinkie batch. Ample cream filling. The name “Egon Spangler.” Might be better than Banana.
Cons: Key lime could have been a tad stronger. Moldy looking. Complete lack of Slimer in the marketing. My mother gave most of my old Ghostbusters toys away. Scientific mumbo jumbo. We’re old.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies

Ever since I was young, I’ve been a sucker for ghost jokes.

For example:

Where do ghosts buy their junk food?

At the ghost-ery store.

What’s a ghost’s favorite fruit?

Boo-berries.

What does a ghost barista offer its customers?

Scream and sugar.

Okay, those weren’t funny at all. No wonder none of my classmates laughed at my jokes throughout school. What the hell was I thinking for all of those years? Is this why I went to prom alone two years in a row? What am I going to find out next, that I DIDN’T look totally cool sipping on my Ecto Cooler juice box while all of the upperclassmen were drinking out of flasks?!

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Luckily, Ghostbusters is back in theaters to grace the world with the ghoul-related humor we so desperately need, and I clearly cannot provide. To celebrate the new movie, Hostess has introduced Limited Edition White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies (there’s also a Key Lime Slime flavor). Wouldn’t you know it, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man himself adorns the face of the box, and each rotund white Twinkie pays homage to him, too. The colorful packaging describes this Twinkie variety as a “white fudge covered sponge cake with marshmallow topping and creamy filling.” Now, if THAT doesn’t make you want to buy these Twinkies then…well, then you probably don’t look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Good for you.

Biting through the firm-yet-forgiving outer shell of frosting, I was instantly met with a heavy white chocolate flavor. It’s more than just “sugar” and clearly distinguishable from milk or even dark chocolate, but its exaggerated sweetness is almost unpleasant. If anything stands out over the taste of the white fudge, it’s the sponge cake itself. It’s the classic Twinkie cake: buttery and very sweet. There’s very little saltiness or other flavor to distinguish it from the rest of the Twinkie.

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The filling, which is the same standard Twinkie cream filling — not marshmallow flavored — was barely noticeable. This was disappointing, because it’s the only ingredient that stood a chance to provide some balance in flavor. There is also an unexpectedly thick marshmallow layer between the sponge cake and the white fudge frosting, which seemed to provide a certain creaminess among the saccharine frenzy going on here. Still, it was hard to tell because all of the ingredients are basically just sugar.

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The real distinction of the marshmallow layer is its texture: it’s chewy, stretchy, and almost tough. This stuck out as an unpleasant surprise for what is usually a very soft, fluffy cake. Between the firm white fudge coating, the leathery marshmallow topping, the cushiony cake and the wispy filling, the texture of this Twinkie was a truly repugnant experience. For a junk food reviewer, that’s saying something.

What’s odd is that these White Fudge Marshmallow Twinkies actually do achieve what they advertise, and for that Hostess deserves some credit. These are Twinkies, draped in a flavorful white fudge coating, and featuring an obvious marshmallow layer. The problem is that all of those ingredients combine to form a sugary monster not even Peter Venkman could vanquish. And that’s something to be afraid of.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 23 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 15.55 oz box (9 cakes)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Hefty marshmallow layer and decent white fudge taste. Familiar Twinkie goodness. Ecto Cooler. Bill Murray.
Cons: Sweetness of white fudge, marshmallow, and sponge cake is overwhelming. Textural nightmare. Eating Twinkies until you look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Terrible ghost jokes.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel

Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel

For the better part of four years as a TIB reviewer, I have maintained a nearly impeccable streak that few writers in the colorfully chemical world of nutritionally devoid junk food can lay claim to.

I have kept poop references to an absolute minimum.

There have been one or two Fiber One one-liners, maybe some vague references to flatulence, and the occasional, you know what that looks like…, but never have I just come out and said something I’ve eaten looks like poop and pretty much tastes as vile as you could imagine. In other words, like, yeah…

But like Jerry Seinfeld’s barfless streak, Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, and Don Gorske’s Big Mac streak, my ability to hold out from using the most primal of negative food metaphors has expired. I believe the technical term for moments like this is that the shit has hit the fan.

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Skippy Peanut Butter (left) Peanut butter-flavored icing (right)

There is just no other way to describe the artificial peanut butter flavored filling of the Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel. That I am supposed to refer to this brown goo as icing just makes me want to throw up.

Icing is something you want to nibble off a day-old glazed donut; icing is what made Santa Claus fat in the process of hundreds of years of sugar cookie eating; icing is not, and never shall be, a cloying fake peanut butter taste that leaves you with a metallic and bitter alcohol flavor in your mouth when you should be enjoying a PB&J.

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If you’re a baker, you might recognize the flavor I’m talking about. It’s the flavor of imitation peanut butter extract; noticeably synthetic, with a cough-syrup like alcohol aftertaste, it’s made all the worse by a horribly out-of-place sweetness. There’s no saltiness, no lip-smacking fatty mouthfeel, and definitely no roasted depth. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Pillsbury Doughboy is allergic to peanuts.

Oh yeah, and the icing looks like poop.

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Thankfully, the D.I.Y. nature of the Toaster Strudel provides a saving grace. Since the packets of the icing are separate, one can simply avoid them like one would avoid, well, foods that are known to cause gastrointestinal distress. Eaten completely without peanut butter, the toaster strudel is fine: The strawberry jelly is admirable for a frozen product, while the flaky layers provide buttery croissant notes.

Adding your own peanut butter makes the pastry delicious, but you’ve probably figured that out by now. Humans have only been enjoying the combination for a gazillion years*, and the slightly caramelized edges of the golden-brown strudel give the combination an unexpected richness that will make you want to start making PB&Js out of croissants.

Overall, the spokesman and chief baker for Pillsbury didn’t just forget to put on a pair of pants, he forgot to put actual peanut butter in his peanut butter and jelly Toaster Strudels.

What follows is one of the more disgusting visuals in frozen breakfasts, not to mention an abrupt goodbye to one of the best streaks in junk food blogging. It’s a shame, really, because all other things being equal, the Toaster Strudels aren’t so bad. Just make sure you get rid of the “icing” ASAP and have jar of Jif close at hand.

*approximate

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry with icing – 180 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 180 mg of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 11.7 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: A fine and scrumptious flaky layered pastry without the poop-inspired peanut butter flavored icing. Surprisingly balanced buttery crust with sweet, gooey strawberry jelly. More substantial eating than a Pop-Tart.
Cons: The absolute vilest and most repulsive peanut butter flavored product I have ever put into this temple I call my body. Peanut butter icing tastes like a 50-50 mix of sweet and low and peanut butter flavored extract. Poopless review streak coming to an ignominious end.