M&Ms were created in 1941 by Forrest Mars (son of of the Mars Candy empire founder). Forrest copied the idea from an English candy called Smarties (a chocolate treat and not the Smarties we know today). Essentially the candy was milk chocolate encased in a candy shell made from hardened sugar syrup which would help prevent the chocolate from melting. He used Hershey’s milk chocolate because Hershey’s had control of rationed chocolate at the country (it was wartime). He ended up forming a partnership with Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey Chocolate’s president William F. R. Murrie and Hershey would have a 20% ownership of the original candy. The name M&Ms comes from their last names, Mars and Murrie. They became a big success during the war because the candy would not melt so our troops could take them with them and not worry about having a gooey mess in their pocket. At the end of the war, Mars worked their way out of the partnership with Hershey and went on to turn M&Ms into one of the most successful candies of all time. Meanwhile, they also created a embittered rivalry between the two companies (Hershey’s and Mars). Today, Mars is the sixth largest privately held company in the United States with over $33 billion dollars in annual sales (still owned entirely by the Mars family). Hershey’s made out ok though. They are still the largest manufacture of chocolate in North America and bring in billions of dollars of annual sales.
Sorry to get all factual with you there, I just find candy companies interesting. There’s a great book about the Hershey-Mars saga called The Emperors of Chocolate that gives you more details. If you like that, I would also suggest a book called Candy Freak which talks about the smaller candy companies around the country and the struggles they face to stay relevant (plus it’s filled with all kind of candy references that will have you craving the candy of your youth).
In any case, let’s hear it for M&Ms! When was the last time you heard someone say “I hate M&Ms!”? Pretty much never. What’s not to like? The only argument comes from flavor choices. Peanut or Plain? Crispy or Almond? Mint or Coffee Nut? That’s right, if you haven’t been paying attention, M&Ms have been popping out new flavors over the last few years kind of like what Lay’s is doing with their potato chips. A side note, the holiday flavor of Candy Corn M&Ms is kind of gross – and I love candy corn. It’s just too sweet and not a good combo with the chocolate. But, it does look festive with it’s yellow, white and orange colors.
That’s how I started today’s celebration, by exploring the many M&M flavors available. I went to Rite Aid and picked up a small package of all the flavors they had available. Peanut, Plain, Coffee Nut, Pretzel, Peanut Butter and Crispy. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for flavors, but it’s the gamut of availability at Rite Aid. My thought was to have a taste test, but that didn’t quite pan out. I can tell you that the Coffee Nut flavor is actually pretty good – it’s a peanut M&M made with coffee flavor. It’s a winner. But other than that, I have tasted all the over flavors before so a taste test would have been silly. The takeaway from that is now we have M&Ms stored for emergency occasions (which come up frequently around here).
Outside of eating lots of M&Ms, I tried to think how I could celebrate this day. Then I realized that I have never made M&M cookies. Lots of people make M&M cookies, so it was time for me to join the ranks. I looked online for recipes and I found a great one from a blogger whose recipes I have used before, Averie Cooks (her Fudgy Banana Bars with Vanilla Bean Browned Butter Glaze are legendary). I actually found two recipes: one for a cookie and one for a bar. I decided to make both. After all, it is a holiday.
I made the M&M Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars first. These were super easy to make and if you enjoy eating raw batter (not recommended by the Surgeon General), the batter was out of this world. They do take a few hours to cool which was the hardest part because they smelled so good when they came out of the oven we really needed to restrain ourselves to dig in. But the bars needed to set, so we let them rest. When we finally dug in, they were super rich and decadent. I think I may have pulled them out of the oven a tad early, but somehow that made them a bit more tasty.
Then I made the Soft and Chewy M&Ms Cookies. These were easy too. I’ve really been giving my pantry a workout lately, reaching for the all-stars almost every day (flour, sugar, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda). I’m getting efficient at gathering all my ingredients and cookware and putting them to use, then cleaning them up and putting them away. It’s a whole system. For the cookies, I made the batter in no time and then the instructions called for the batter to chill for at least three hours, so I did.
While the batter chilled, we decided to go visit Laura’s sister Becky who was at home with her brand new Boxer puppy which had just arrived earlier in the day. We packed up some of our M&M bars and headed over. Becky’s daughter Molly was psyched we were bringing treats too – she’s been a quiet follower of this quest and she definitely enjoys the spoils of it all. I love sharing with her too. When we got there, the puppy, Rivet, was in Becky’s arms. It was a tiny little thing, just eight weeks old, with a body of brownish-beige fur and a face of back fur so his Boxer roots were unmistakable. Within minutes, Lola was lying on the floor and Rivet was lying on her chest and sleeping. Lola was in heaven. I think everyone needs a little puppy cuddle every now and then to set your world straight.
When we got home, I preheated the oven and got ready to bake the cookies. The cookies were bigger than the cookies I usually make and I wasn’t sure how they would come out. They looked a bit underdone when it was time to pull them from the oven, but Averie said they will look this way and just to let them cool for about ten minutes on the tray. I did that and just as promised, they seem to set while they cooled. I couldn’t tempt Lola (she was ready for bed), but I had one myself with a small glass of milk. You can never go wrong with a warm cookie, but man o’ man, was this a good cookie. It was, as promised, soft and chewy, plus the chocolate chips were nice and melty. The M&Ms got a little soft too so biting in to them was a delight as well. I dunked my bites into the milk and was pretty much in a state of cookie bliss.
At the end of the day, I can say I celebrated M&M day, although now I have a lot of leftover M&M stuff. I suppose there are worse problems to have. A great day to celebrate and I think we should keep up celebrations of the great candies of the world. They need be appreciated for the smiles they bring!
Next Up: National Dessert Day