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    Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and very simple to duplicate at home once you know an important flavor secret. I started my hack using a vegetable broth since that’s what all the other “copycats” call for, but I found its strong vegetable flavor dominated the soup, so I quickly bailed on that plan. Starting over, I referred to the soup ingredients posted online by Panera Bread and noticed there is no broth in the soup, which means every copycat recipe I found online is wrong. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my recipe, but without the broth this soup would be severely lacking in flavor, and that’s no good either.

    In many soup recipes, the broth or stock is important for the umami quality provided by the yeast extract added to the product. Yeast extracts are one of the many ways food manufacturers add an MSG flavor-enhancing effect without adding true MSG. Panera does in fact list “yeast extract” as one of the ingredients in the soup, so I needed to find a readily available ingredient that provides the same savory quality. Enter nutritional yeast—or “nooch” as it’s often called—a flakey, nutrient-packed, vegan ingredient that’s growing quickly in popularity thanks to the savory, cheesy flavor it adds to a variety of foods (it’s great on popcorn). Nooch is also popular with the vegans and vegetarians since it’s fortified with vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that's mainly found in animal-sourced foods.

    Now, with nooch in there, along with yellow corn, red skin potatoes, poblano pepper, tomatoes, cilantro, and other tasty things, no broth is required. Just add water and a little patience. 

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    It may look like it's all chocolate, but Wendy's founder Dave Thomas thought that a purely chocolate frozen dairy dessert would overpower his burger and fries, so he mixed chocolate with vanilla to create his signature ultra-thick shake, and in 1969, the Frosty was born.

    My first crack at this iconic treat was revealed in a copycat recipe published 25 years ago that called for mixing milk with Nestle Quik and vanilla ice cream in a blender. Tasty? Sure it was. But the finished product was too runny, and the flavor wasn't perfect. That's why I recently holed myself up in the lab and created a formula that you now churn in a home ice cream maker until thick and creamy, and it tastes just like the real thing. Unlike my previous recipe which relied on pre-made ice cream and a drink mix, the scratch ingredients I used here allowed me to make small adjustments in flavor for a better match, and an ice cream maker is the perfect way to produce a thick, creamy consistency. So far, this is the best hack I've come up with to duplicate the treat that tests have shown is up to twice as thick as other famous desserts in a cup, including Dairy Queen's Blizzard and McDonald's McFlurry. 

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    Hellmann’s—or Best Foods as the company is known west of the Rockies—recently debuted this new ketchup for customers looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and artificial ingredients. The label lists only six ingredients: tomato puree, honey, white wine vinegar, salt, onion powder, and spices. It wasn’t immediately clear what the “spices” referred to until I wiped a wide smear of the ketchup across a white plate, making the blacks specks of fine grind pepper clearly stand out. After that it was just a matter of getting the ratios right.

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    In the Bush’s Beans commercials, Duke, the family Golden Retriever, wants to sell the secret family recipe, but the Bush family always stops him. The dog is based on the Bush family’s real-life Golden Retriever, and the campaign, which began in 1995, made Bush’s the big dog of the canned baked beans market practically overnight, and their formula is now considered one of the top 10 biggest recipe secrets in the U.S.

    The Bush Brothers & Company had been canning a variety of fruits and vegetables for over 60 years when, in 1969, the company created canned baked beans using a cherished recipe from a family matriarch. Sales jumped from ten thousand cases in the first year to over one hundred thousand cases in 1970. And just one year later sales hit a million cases. Today Bush’s makes over 80 percent of the canned baked beans sold in the U.S., and the secret family recipe remains a secret. Despite Duke’s attempts. A replica of the original recipe book—without the original recipe in it (drats!)—is on display at the company's visitor center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee.

    I chose to hack the “Country Style” version of Bush’s Beans because I don’t think the original flavor has enough, uh, flavor. Country Style is similar to Original, but richer, with more brown sugar. The recipe starts by soaking dry small white beans in a brine overnight. The salt in the water helps to soften the skins, but don’t go over 14 hours or the skins may begin to fall off.

    My first versions tasted great but lacked the deep brown color of the original created by the addition of caramel coloring, which can be hard to find. But a more common ingredient called Kitchen Bouquet did the trick here, adding a rich brown tone that perfectly matches the color of the real thing.

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    A common recipe for marshmallows circulating on the internet and amongst popular Food Network chefs who claim it as their own makes a decent product, but the recipe won’t pass as a hack for America’s favorite marshmallows, Jet-Puffed. I know this for sure because my ten-year-old daughter says so, and she’s the house marshmallow expert (HME).

    According to our HME, the internet recipe makes marshmallows that are too sweet and they don't have the right flavor. Testing the sweetness for myself I decided she was right, so I reduced the sugar for my clone. I also adjusted the flavor to 1½ teaspoons of vanilla, and after another taste test, my batch of fresh marshmallows got the HME seal of approval.

    But the shape was still wrong.

    One thing you’ll notice about homemade marshmallow recipes is that they all make cubic marshmallows, which are hand-sliced from one sheet of marshmallow that has set in a square pan. But Jet-Puffed Marshmallows aren’t cubes, they’re cylindrical, and I wanted marshmallows like that. So, borrowing a technique for cornstarch molds used by candy manufacturers, I came up with a way you can make cylindrical marshmallows just like the big guys do. All you need is cornstarch and a muffin pan. You’ll find instructions for cylindrical marshmallows at the bottom of the recipe in the Tidbits if you want to give the more authentic shape a try.

    Regardless of what shape you decide to make, a stand mixer and a candy thermometer will help you turn out the best ever homemade marshmallows—which, by the way, make great s'mores.

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    Here's how to build a cheeseburger in crispy spring roll dough and make the secret 4-ingredient dipping sauce, for a perfect hack of one of Cheesecake Factory’s newest appetizers. I found the best solution for a good clone was to first cook two 4-ounce Angus patties—with 15% fat so the beef stays juicy—in a saute pan until browned. I then grilled some onion in the same pan, and mixed it into the crumbled patties, with ketchup, and diced American cheese. 

    I tried several different wrappers and found the thinnest wrappers to work the best. Try to find wrappers that say “super thin” on them. Thicker dough wrappers will blister when fried, which is not how the restaurant version looks, although the thicker wrappers still make tasty spring rolls. Rice paper wrappers will give you a chewier, less crispy bite, but are a good option if you're interested in a gluten-free version. If you go with rice paper, you won’t need the cornstarch solution to seal them. Just dipping the wrapper in a little water makes the rice paper pliable and naturally sticky.

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    My previously published recipe hack of America's most popular rice pudding was not picky about which kind of rice to use. That's a problem because all rice is not created equal. The recipe calls for medium grain rice but is not any more specific than that, which could lead to varying results in the consistency of the pudding since every rice has a different thickening ability.

    I recently re-worked this recipe with many types of rice, from short grain to long grain, using instant rice, converted rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, calrose rice, arborio rice, and even sushi rice. Most didn't contain the starch needed to properly thicken the pudding, especially the par-cooked rice such as instant rice and converted rice. On the other end of the spectrum, sushi rice contained too much starch and was much too small.

    The best of the bunch was jasmine rice, a long grain rice, which thickened the pudding nicely after 45 minutes or so of simmering and appeared to be comparable in size to what is in the real thing. Jasmine rice, plus five more ingredients is all it takes to make the best clone.

    And now there's no need for a cooking thermometer required by my previous recipe since you can just add the rice in when you see the milk beginning to steam and keep the pudding at a low simmer until it's done. After about an hour, you'll have a Kozy Shack rice pudding copycat recipe that's ready to pop into the fridge until cool and creamy.

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    In January of 2017 Starbucks perfected slow-cooked sous vide-style egg snacks that can be prepped and served quickly by the baristas at any location. The trick is to make the egg pucks ahead of time, then freeze and ship them to the coffee stores where they are defrosted and reheated in blazing hot convection ovens.

    Sous vide refers to the method of cooking food sealed in bags or jars at a low, consistent temperature for a long time. This technique creates food that’s softer in texture and less dried out than food cooked with other, faster methods. Cooks who use sous vide will often vacuum pack their food in bags and use special machines to regulate temperature. But you won’t need an expensive machine like that for this recipe—just some 8-ounce canning jars and a blender.

    The secret to duplicating the smooth texture starts with blending the cheeses very well until no lumps remain. Rub some between your fingers to make sure it’s smooth before you pour it into the jars. It’s also important to monitor the temperature of the water. Try to keep it in a range of between 170 and 180 degrees F. so that your eggs are neither too tough nor too soft. It’s best to use a cooking thermometer for this, but if you don’t have one, the right temperature is just below where you see tiny bubbles rising to the surface. Also, if you hear the jars jiggling in the water, it’s their way of telling you the water is a little too hot.

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    At the 2018 Salvation Army National Doughnut Day World Doughnut Eating Contest, held every June 1st, competitive eater Joey Chestnut consumed 257 Hostess powdered Donettes in six minutes to take home the top prize. There was a big smile on Joey's powdered-sugar-and-crumb-coated face that day as he raised a trophy to celebrate another glorious gastronomic feat.  

    If you had to guess who makes the top-selling doughnuts in America, you’d probably say Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme, but you’d be wrong. According to Hostess, Donettes are the country’s most popular doughnuts—you rarely find a supermarket, corner market, or convenience store without at least a few packages on the shelf. Hostess Donettes come in several flavors, including chocolate, crumb and strawberry, but the one most people turn to, and the one I grew up on (they were called “Gems” back then), is coated with a thick layer of powdered sugar.    

    Cloning the Hostess powdered donuts recipe is not hard, once you know the secrets. You'll make a stiff cake dough, punch out 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter, pierce the dough with a straw or chopstick to make a hole, then fry the doughnuts for 2 minutes until golden brown. After you roll them in powdered sugar you'll have around 20 fresh home cloned miniature doughnuts that will make you feel like a kid again.

    And—just doing a little math here—it would take Joey Chestnut all of about 14 seconds to eat that entire plate of doughnuts you just made.

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    Menu Description: “Creamy marsala wine sauce with mushrooms over grilled chicken breasts, stuffed with Italian cheeses and sundried tomatoes. Served with garlic mashed potatoes.”

    This recipe includes a marsala sauce that even marsala sauce haters will like. My wife is one of those haters, but when she tried this sauce, her eyes lit up, and she begged for more. Great, now I won’t have to eat it alone.

    Not only is Olive Garden's delicious marsala sauce hacked here (and it’s easy to make), you’ll also get the copycat hack for the chain's awesome Italian cheese stuffing that goes between the two pan-cooked chicken filets. Build it, sauce it, serve it. The presentation is awesome, and the flavor will knock their socks off.

    Try this dish paired with my recent free clone of Olive Garden’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes for the complete O.G. Stuffed Chicken Marsala experience.

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