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When it comes to the iconic Reese's, it's all about proportion, not candy gimmicks

FARGO — On my very first day of first grade, I excitedly followed my other classmates out the door when the teacher hollered “recess!” Imagine my disappointment when I learned “recess” meant going outside to play dodgeball rather than entering a room where we would eat a giant pile of peanut butter cups.

My love of the iconic candy bar goes back a long way — so long that I remember when it came only in a one-cup portion and was wrapped in fig leaves (OK, I made up that last part). Little did I realize that Reese’s would eventually become the Amazon of the candy bar world, steamrolling over flash-in-the-pan confections like the Reggie Bar or the Marathon Bar to achieve world domination.

This becomes especially apparent before Halloween, when you notice all of the orange-and-brown wrappers dominating the candy aisle. It seems like The Hershey Co. tries to pawn off its less popular candies — Milk Duds, Whoppers and Whatchamacallits (which I call Whatchabuyingthisfors?) — by pairing these dowdy wallflowers in jumbo variety packs with Reese’s, the ultimate prom queen.

But what surprises me the most about America’s favorite confection is that its manufacturer can’t stop messing with the formula. Here we have the perfect candy bar: a seamless marriage of silky milk chocolate and slightly salty peanut butter. Apparently, that is not enough.

Reese’s continues to diversify, enrobing its golden goose in dark or white chocolate, stuffing the peanut butter with candy, nougat or cookies, and minting it in different shapes and sizes. Some of these variations have been more successful than others.

The real answer isn’t to make the Reese’s more extreme. The real key is proportion: the precisely right ratio of salty to sweet.

As a seasoned Reesesologist, I felt compelled to rate some of the most successful and least successful Reese’s spinoffs. And so, armed with a bagful of Reese’s treats, and an even bigger bagful of Tums, I sat down to review them.

For the sake of simplicity (and my blood sugar), I stuck only to cups or shapes over the more elaborate Nutrageous-style candy bars. And, as much as I love Reese’s, I have to admit that this challenge gave me an epic belly ache. (I ate an entire bag of green beans the next day for breakfast, possibly as some sort of penance to my colon.)

Anyway, here are my rankings:

6) White Peanut Butter Pumpkins: Why, Reese’s, why?! Why would you turn your back on milk chocolate, which is the perfect Sonny to peanut butter’s Cher?

Don’t you realize that everyone doesn’t have to like you, including those people with their baffling claim that they “don’t really like chocolate?” Perhaps you will also start catering to people who don’t like peanut butter by filling their candy cups with gravy.

To make matters worse, this isn’t even real white chocolate, but “white crème,” which is a fancy way to say “almond bark.” The overall flavor was bland, one-dimensional and much too sweet.

5) Reese’s Minis: Isn’t the miniature version of everything cuter, better and more precious? Think Pomeranians, Mini Coopers and Peter Dinklage.

Not only are these Barbie-sized peanut butter cups adorbs, they are unwrapped, which makes them even easier to furtively shovel in your mouth when you’re huddled in your pantry while trying to hide your stress-eating. (I mean, that’s what I’ve heard.)

The problem with Reese’s Minis is that the proportions are all wrong. You get a mouthful of chocolate, but can barely taste the peanut butter, which is what makes the flavors pop in the first place.

4) Cups Stuffed with Reese’s Pieces: I appreciated the richer peanut taste of these slightly thicker cups, but Reese’s Pieces bug me.

The M&M-style candy coating adds crunch, but not much else besides Yellow 6 Lake food coloring. This sugar shrapnel just took up valuable real estate inside an otherwise delicious cup.

3) Dark Chocolate Cups: I actually looked forward to the slight bitterness of dark chocolate after consuming so much sugar. But this dark chocolate was really undistinguished — almost as flavorless as the white chocolate.

Guess that’s what Reese’s gets for trying to act like a socialite, when she’s really a likable dairy princess at heart.

2) Crunchy Cookie Big Cup: I was fully expecting to hate this one, with its smattering of Oreo-style cookies folded into the peanut butter center.

The cookies amped up the sweetness and the chocolate flavor, but it all evened out when competing with the higher dose of peanut butter. The crunch also turned out to be a welcome surprise, reminding me of my friend’s delicious recipe for homemade peanut butter bonbons, which contain ground-up Rice Krispies.

1) Miniature Reese’s Cup: Remember what I said earlier about proportion? For some reason, the thickness and exact size of the miniature cup forms the ideal bite of salty chocolate goodness. Even the original cup can’t compete, as the filling is too thin.

See, Reese’s? You don’t need to make Reese’s cups as big as a tractor tire or to roll them in potato chips. You just need to stick to miniatures.

Just don’t wrap them. They leave such a mess in the pantry.

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