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Welcome. You just found copycat recipes for all of your favorite famous foods! Bestselling author and TV host Todd Wilbur shows you how to easily duplicate the taste of iconic dishes and treats at home. Find all the best restaurant recipes from P..F.Chang's to Tony Roma's here. New recipes added every week.

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    Score: 4.89. Votes: 9

    Here's a great one for the holidays, or anytime you want, really. It's a mint chocolate brownie with peppermint buttercream frosting on top and creamy chocolate frosting on top of that. And to simplify the cloning process, we start with a common fudge brownie mix. By changing the required ingredients listed on the brownie mix box and modifying some steps, we can improve on the finished product. Rather than oil, use a stick of melted butter in your brownies for a richer, better flavor. And cook the brownies at a slightly lower temperature so that they come out moist and chewy. Since this recipe is for peppermint brownies, add just a bit of peppermint extract to the batter. The peppermint brownies from Starbucks have red and white frosting drizzled lightly across the top. To duplicate this easily you can buy premade red and white colored frostings that come in little cans with tips included.

    Check out my other Starbucks copycat recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.27. Votes: 22

    The easy-melting, individually-wrapped Kraft Cheddar Singles are a perfect secret ingredient for this Panera Bread broccoli cheddar soup recipe that's served at this top soup stop. In this clone, fresh broccoli is first steamed, then diced into little bits before you combine it with chicken broth, half-and-half, shredded carrot, and onion. Now you're just 30 minutes away from soup spoon go-time.

    Click here for more of my copycat Panera Bread recipes. 

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Menu Description: "Parmesan and Romano cheeses blended with spinach, artichokes and sauteed onions & peppers. Served with Friday's red & white tortilla chips." 

    Many casual chains have their own version of spinach artichoke dip somewhere on the appetizer menu, but one of the most popular versions is found at this huge national chain. For our clone well use marinated artichoke hearts to contribute the slightly acidic flavor found in the original. The recipe here is a stovetop method, but you can also prepare a version of this dip entirely in your microwave using the technique at the bottom in Tidbits. 

    You'll find a ton of recipes for T.G.I. Friday's best dishes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    The problem with adding sauce to fried food is that the wet sauce makes the crunchy fried food not so crunchy. Panda Express manages to keep the crispy beef in Beijing Beef crispy even though it may be sitting for over 20 minutes in the sauce on its way to a hungry you. My early attempts at hacking my favorite dish at the massive Chinese food chain all resulted in gummy, soggy beef pieces that were more like flat dumplings than the delicious, crunchy strips of joy they were meant to be.

    Then finally, on one batch, I decided to fry the coated beef for much longer than I intuitively felt it should be cooked, resulting in dark browning on the cornstarch coating and an even darker piece of meat beneath it. I anticipated a beef jerky experience, but when I took a bite, I found it to be delicious! It wasn’t tough and chewy as I expected it to be. And when this seemingly overcooked beef was stirred into the sauce, it stayed crispy until served, just like the real thing.

    Now, with the soggy beef problem solved, we’ve finally got a good hack for this famous sweet-and-spicy dish.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    The PSL is doing A-OK at Starbucks. In 2018, Starbucks moved the release of its seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte from September to August in anticipation of record sales for the 15-year-old product. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, consumers in 2017 “visited PSL establishments twice as many times as typical patrons,” most likely because they know the drinks are around for only a short time.

    The trick when hacking this Starbucks superstar is making a perfect clone of the syrup used in the drink. I found a friendly barista who was willing to squirt a little of the secret syrup into a cup for me to take back to headquarters for examination. Back in the lab I discovered the mysterious light orange–colored syrup had no spice particles in it whatsoever, meaning the flavors are added as extracts or oils. Most home cooks like you and me cannot get such ingredients, so I had to come up with a formula using easily accessible ground spices and pumpkin puree. 

    Using pumpkin pie spice makes this recipe easy and is much cheaper than buying all the spices separately. Pumpkin pie spice is a convenient blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and either allspice or clove, and it’s found in practically all food stores. For our hack, the blend is combined with a sugar solution and cooked until syrupy, then sweetened condensed milk is stirred in. Condensed milk is also used in the original syrup at Starbucks—according to the ingredients list—which is why the syrup they use is opaque and creamy. When your syrup is done, add a couple tablespoons to your latte, then top it off with whipped cream and a sprinkling of more spice.

    Lattes are made with espresso, and in this case you’ll need a double shot, which is about ¼ cup. If you can’t make espresso, then make some strong coffee and use ½ cup of it. If you don’t have a way to steam milk, you can heat it up in the microwave for 2 minutes or until hot, then make it foamy with a milk foamer, immersion blender, or whisk.

    Now, how about using that leftover syrup to make a Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Good things come in small packages - just like these hit scones that have been a staple Starbucks favorite for years.

    Unlike many scones that end up too dry and tasteless, these miniature scones are moist and full of great vanilla flavor. They’re deliciously sweet and creamy, with real vanilla bean in both the dough and the glaze. Want to make some great scones? Make these.

    For more of my copycat Starbucks recipes, click here.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    Three components must be mastered to properly hack this top menu pick at the country’s largest fast Chinese chain: candied nuts, honey sauce, and perfectly battered shrimp. For the candied walnuts, I came up with a technique using the oven, which means there’s no candy thermometer required and it’s a no-brainer. For the sauce, you just whisk the ingredients together in a bowl.

    To make your shrimp look like the shrimp at Panda Express, you don’t want them tightly curled up when they fry. You can keep them from curling by pinching the tail end of each shrimp after it has been floured and dipping it into the batter headfirst. When you pull it out, the weight of the batter will help unfurl the shrimp a bit, and if you then lower it slowly into the oil it will mostly stay that way.

    When all the shrimp have been fried, bake them in the oven so that they are crispy and warm, then toss the shrimp and the nuts in the sweet honey sauce and serve.

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    Several years ago, when this moist, lemony frosted pound cake used to be called "Lemon Loaf," it was discontinued from the coffee house chain along with the banana and pumpkin flavors, and customers were outraged. The "Loafies" (my word for them) protested and demanded that the beloved sweet loaves be returned to their rightful pastry display case, and in early 2014, the treat was brought back.

    Today the Iced Lemon Loaf Cake (its new name), is made by the bakery chain La Boulange that Starbucks acquired in 2012, and it is a little different than the one I cloned years ago. So, I headed back down into the underground lab for a re-hack of this loaf cake, which will now produce a better lemon loaf that is bigger, moister, less oily, more buttery, and tastier than the previous version. If Starbucks ever ditches your Lemon Loaf again Loafies, I've got your back...right here with a hack.   

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    A great cream scone should include just enough cream to help the dough stick together, but not so much that the inside of the scone is gooey. And the perfect amount of butter is required to keep the scone from being either too tough, or too flakey, like pie crust. After two dozen attempts, I believe I’ve found the right ratios that will give you tender, nicely-browned scones with juicy blueberries buried inside—and very little blue dough from blueberry juice, just like the real thing.

    I tried this recipe with every type of blueberry—fresh, frozen, dry, and rehydrated—and found that frozen worked best. After baking, these berries had the same flavor and texture as those in the original scone, so I have to assume that Panera also uses frozen berries. The secret is to first rinse and blot the berries dry before adding them to the dough. If you mix the dough properly, it should be crumbly so that you can easily integrate the juicy berries into every portion of dough. Just don’t squeeze too hard when you form the dough, or the berries may pop and you’ll be seeing blue.

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    Panera Bread’s product information pages refer to a long proofing time when describing the sour characteristic of the chain’s phenomenal bagels, but there is no mention of how long. After several weeks of trying different approaches to proofing these cinnamon bit–filled bagels, I decided the best solution was to form the bagels and proof them overnight in the cold. The next day the bagels came out of the refrigerator not much bigger, but after sitting for several hours at room temperature they more than doubled in size and had a light sourdough flavor like the original.

    The cinnamon drops that go into the bagel were also tricky. I needed to come up with a way to make bits of cinnamon/sugar that were crunchy, but not so hard as to break a tooth. I found the best way was to make oven-cooked cinnamon candy bound with cornstarch and milk and tenderized with oil. This sugar mixture is baked in a loaf pan until no longer bubbling, then cooled and shattered into tiny pieces. When the candy is broken up, much of it gets pulverized into dust, which you separate from the crumbs with a sieve. The crumbs are the cinnamon drops used in the bagel, and the cinnamon/sugar powder is used to dust the tops of the bagels just before baking.

    I also found that kettling (boiling the bagels) with just a tablespoon of sugar in the water produced a browner bagel than kettling with no sugar, so that’s the technique I’m sharing here. Some techniques call for malt in the water, but sugar works just fine and makes the perfectly shiny, blistered crust you see in the photo.

    Panera Bread has amazing soups too! See if I hacked your favorite here

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I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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