It may seem odd that National Jelly Bean Day comes the week after Easter, but it appears that Jelly Bean Day is an annual holiday that always falls specifically on April 22nd while Easter tends to happen at different times (depending on lunar calendars and if Jesus sees his shadow, I think). Easter came a bit earlier than usual this year so that throws off the whole Jelly Bean Day tie in for big Jelly Bean. However, it makes sense on paper to celebrate at this time of year. The problem I discovered was that if Jelly Bean Day comes after Easter, the availability of jelly beans for sale becomes limited. Sure, they were half-priced, but the selection wasn’t that great. Jelly beans are carried year round in most candy stores and candy aisles, but after Easter, I think they hide the everyday jelly beans so they don’t get mixed up with the clearance sale.
I didn’t go all out looking for jelly beans. I was in Stop and Shop and they had a whole table of all their Easter candy available for quick sale and that’s where I bought mine. While they had some good chocolate goodies available for the half-off discount like Cadbury Mini Eggs and Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, the jelly bean section had been thoroughly picked through. I was given three options: spiced jelly beans (a creation so offensive to my taste buds I literally sneered at the vision of them), Sweet-tart jelly beans (billed as having a “punchy tanginess” which I was curious about but I felt that they wouldn’t be the true jelly bean experience), and finally the Brach’s classic Jelly Egg jelly bean. This was the jelly bean of my youth because it was pretty much the only one available for mass distribution. I picked up two bags and was ready to celebrate.
I could have just sat there and eaten a bag of jelly beans as my celebration for today but I always feel that’s not so exciting for my readers. I decided to look at what recipes I could make with jelly beans and after a brief search, I found a recipe for Jelly Bean Donuts from a blogger/baker called Melanie Makes. You baked these donuts so you didn’t have to deal with frying and hot oil and that whole rigamarole. I have kind of been hoping to try to make my own donuts although that could be a dangerous path to head down. That’s almost like an addict saying, “I’ve always wanted to make my own meth.” Nonetheless, this quest is a battle of new challenges but with a healthy dose of self-control, so tackling a donut seemed only natural. The recipe seemed easy but I had two discrepancies on the ingredients. First, it called for a half cup of yogurt which I did not have in house, so I substituted sour cream. I looked online and it seems that sour cream is a pretty easy substitute for yogurt. I have heard about sour cream donuts before, so I knew it was a thing, so I was pretty ok with my substitution. Second, the recipe specifically called for Laffy Taffy jelly beans and I had the Brach’s variety. This is where I may have strayed too far.
There is a whole new world of jelly beans over the last few decades with more fruity and sweet flavor to them. It also seems that famous candy makers have taken their tried and true best sellers and turned them into jelly bean form. That’s where Laffy Taffy beans come from: the great taste of Laffy Taffy condensed into jelly bean form. I’ve never had them before but I’m sure they are great. I have had Starburst jelly beans and in my opinion, there is no finer product out there. They give you great fruity taste which is nice and chewy and the perfect balance of sweetness. If they were on the discount table, I would have surely gone for them. In any case, the new modern jelly bean are sweeter but they are also smaller, especially when compared to the Brach’s Jelly Eggs. I thought that might be an issue. But I had to work with what I had, so to make them smaller for the recipe, I cut them in half. Cutting jelly beans in half is not an easy job. You have to cut each one individually and they tend to roll while you are cutting. They have a hard outside which you really have to work the knife to get through, then it all sticks to the blade. It called for a cup of jelly beans so I tediously cut enough to fill a one cup container.
When I was cutting the jelly beans I realized that there is one major flaw in using the classic Brach’s variety. I almost overlooked it and it would have been a huge error. That was of course the black jelly bean. The licorice tasting one. The Mike & Ike to my Good & Fruity desires. I think modern jelly beaners have removed the black jelly bean from the mix because so many people dislike it. So before I cut, the first thing I had to do was separate out all the black jelly beans. I took out most of the white too as a precaution. The white jelly beans are on the sweeter side (and no anise taste), but I was just worried that it would be the wrong flavor. I tried some of the other jelly beans, orange still being my all time favorite. It’s still the great classic jelly bean taste. I could almost feel the sensation of Easter grass on my fingers when I was eating them because that was part of the whole jelly bean experience. The jelly beans always fell to the bottom of the basket and you had to search for them like a bird seeking a grub in the lawn. They were also the quick bite you could take while you were sizing up your easter candy haul. You couldn’t bust into to the chocolate bunny without parental permission, but you could always steal a quick jelly bean and get a quick sugar fix on Easter morning. We’d have to seek out every bean before we got rid of the grass. When all the candy was removed, we’d start organizing. Trades would begin. I was always looking to pick up some extra Cadbury Creme Eggs and would trade away the Milky Ways and a draft pick to be named later for one. The black jelly beans in everyone’s basket were ceremoniously collected and given to my Dad who oddly liked them. He would make out pretty well on Easter morning.
The recipe came together super fast and the half jelly bean pieces were folded into the batter. When it was all incorporated, I put the batter into a plastic bag and cut off the tip so I could squeeze it in ring shape into my donut baking pan. They took about 12 minutes in the oven and I let them sit for five more minutes in the pan. Then came the moment of truth when I had to flip them out onto a wire rack and this is when I started seeing the errors of my way. At first they didn’t pop out, so I shook the pan and lightly tapped the back. Then half a donut popped out. Uh oh. I could see what happened. While the dough was cooked and I don’t think it needed any more time, because I cut the jelly beans, the sugar started to melt and seep out. That made it so that the donuts never really came together as an actual whole. Wherever there were jelly beans in the donut, there were areas of wet, syrupy mess. That made it hard to get them out of the pan. It wasn’t too bad and with effort I was able to get a few whole donuts out of the batch of six, but they weren’t ideal looking. The final step was to glaze them and I made a quick glaze of milk, sugar and vanilla. I ended up putting in too much vanilla to the glaze because I basically over-poured on my measurement. It still came out good, it just had a strong vanilla flavor (almost overpowering).
No, it’s not a fruitcake donut. This wasn’t my best work. I think the dough was cooked to perfection, the jelly beans just messed it all up. Taste wise, they actually weren’t that bad. The donuts were light and airy and the vanilla glaze (which is pretty much just liquid sugar) was nice and sweet. The jelly beans added more sweetness, but to be honest, it wasn’t a flavor that needed to be in there. It was like eating jelly beans and taking a bit of a donut (and yes I have experience with that). They are kind of two different flavors that don’t need to be combined. The jelly beans were chewy too (as they should be), so it added a different dimension to the joy of a donut. To me, with a donut, you want a nice flaky, light pastry that packs big flavor. The jelly beans complicated that. Honestly, despite the cooking mishaps, they aren’t that bad. But, when Lola asked me what they were, I couldn’t recommend them.
And oh yes, Lola came home today so all is right in my world. I was working for most of the day today and she arrived about a half hour before I got home. I had cooked the donuts in the morning before work, so they were on the table when she got home. Naturally she was curious and I couldn’t recommend them as her first step back into the quest. I told her to go for my Animal Cracker White Truffle Bars instead. That was a better choice.
When I was tasting the Brach’s jelly eggs, I was immediately taken back to the joy of Easter morning and rooting through an Easter basket. Jelly beans were always little treasures to me when you found them. The best part would be when you thought you had eaten them all and then you suddenly found one in a particularly thick tangle of Easter grass. I don’t think kids today have loose candy in their Easter basket. I think it all comes in neat little packages now, but they are missing that thrill of the hunt. I guess if I had just eaten the jelly beans and revisted that memory, that would have been the perfect Jelly Bean Day celebration. It would have made me re-appreciate the fun these candies have given me throughout the years. They are the workhorse of the Easter basket; the base upon which they are formed. So I am grateful for that. My recipe may have gone astray, but it still gave me something new to try and an appreciation for how jelly beans can be used outside the basket. At the end of the day, I think I liked jelly beans a little more than when I started the day (which is saying something because I really like jelly beans). So I can call this a day well celebrated. And now Lola is back, so this day keeps getting better.
Next up: National Cherry Cheesecake Day