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Borden Cracker Jack copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Borden Cracker Jack

Score: 4.83 (votes: 6)
Reviews: 6
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In 1871 a German immigrant named F. W. Rueckheim came to Chicago with $200 in his pocket. He used all of his money to open a small popcorn shop in the city and started selling a sweet caramel-and-molasses-coated popcorn confection. Rueckheim's big break came in 1893, when the treat was served at Chicago's first world's fair. From then on the popcorn's popularity grew enormously. In 1896 a salesman tasting the treat for the first time said, "That's a cracker jack," and the name stuck. Shortly after Cracker Jacks debut another customer commented, "The more you eat, the more you want," and that's still the slogan today.

In 1912 the Cracker Jack Company started adding toy surprises, ranging from small books to miniature metal toy trains. To date they have given away more than 17 billion toy surprises. In 1964 Borden, Inc. bought the Cracker Jack Company, and today the Cracker Jack division is the largest user of popcorn in the world, popping more than twenty tons of corn a day.

Use my Cracker Jack recipe to duplicate the original caramel corn. Toy not included.

Check out my clones for Fiddle Faddle, Poppycock, Screaming Yellow Zonkers, and Crunch N' Munch.

Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

Get This

_main
  • 4 quarts popped popcorn
  • (or 1 1/3 bags microwave popcorn)
  • 1 cup Spanish peanuts
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Do This

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

2. Combine the popcorn and peanuts in a metal bowl or on a cookie sheet and place in the preheated oven.

3. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a saucepan.

4. Stirring over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil.

5. Using a cooking thermometer, bring the mixture to 290 degrees F, or just under the hard-crack stage, the point at which the syrup, when dripped into cold water, forms a hard but pliable ball. This will take about 20 to 25 minutes (or until you notice the mixture turning a slightly darker brown).

6. Remove the popcorn and peanuts from the oven and, working quickly, pour the caramel mixture in a fine stream over them. Then place them back in the oven for 10 minutes.

7. Mix well every five minutes, so that all of the popcorn is coated.

8. Cool and store in a covered container to preserve freshness.

Makes 4 quarts.

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Reviews
Dami
Mar 4, 2016, 22:00
Tastes great. Wouldn't change a thing!
Karen
May 1, 2013, 22:00
Delicious! Easy to make. Crispy. Delicious. Only thing missing was the Toy Surprise!

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    Sabra Classic Hummus

    Every brand of hummus I've tried over the years has been just so-so in taste and texture, until I discovered Sabra. Now this ultra-smooth hummus—which has been rated number one in a blind taste test—is the only hummus in my fridge, unless I've made this clone. Hummus is an awesome snack as a dip for vegetables or pita chips, since it's rich in protein, soluble fiber, potassium, and Vitamin E. The secret to duplicating Sabra's smooth and creamy quality is to let your food processor work the stuff over for a solid 10 minutes. Also, when getting your Sabra hummus ingredients ready, don't use all of the liquid from the can of garbanzo beans or the hummus will end up too runny. Strain off the liquid first, then measure only 1/2 cup back into the food processor. Sabra uses canola and/or soybean oil, but you may think olive oil tastes better. Look for a jar of sesame tahini in the aisle where all the international foods are parked, and while you're there find the citric acid, which may also go by the name "sour salt." The clone below will not have the proper acidic bite without this secret ingredient, and citric acid also works as a preservative to help the leftover hummus stay fresh and tasty.

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    Auntie Anne's Pretzels

    The first Auntie Anne's pretzel store opened in 1988 in the heart of pretzel country—a Pennsylvanian Amish farmers' market. Over 500 stores later, Auntie Anne's is one of the most requested secret clone recipes around, especially on the internet. 

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    Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

    Order an entree from America's largest seafood restaurant chain and you'll get a basket of some of the planet's tastiest garlic-cheese biscuits served up on the side. For many years, the Cheddar Bay Biscuits recipe has been the most-searched-for clone recipe on the Internet, according to Red Lobster. As a result, several versions are floating around, including one that was at one time printed right on the box of Bisquick baking mix.

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    In early 1985, restaurateur Rich Komen felt there was a specialty niche in convenience-food service just waiting to be filled. His idea was to create an efficient outlet that could serve freshly made cinnamon rolls in shopping malls throughout the country. It took nine months for Komen and his staff to develop a cinnamon roll recipe he knew customers would consider the "freshest, gooiest, and most mouthwatering cinnamon roll ever tasted." The concept was tested for the first time in Seattle's Sea-Tac mall later that year, with workers mixing, proofing, rolling, and baking the rolls in full view of customers. Now, more than 626 outlets later, Cinnabon has become the fastest-growing cinnamon roll bakery in the world.

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    KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) Buttermilk Biscuits

    In 1991 Kentucky Fried Chicken bigwigs decided to improve the image of America's third-largest fast-food chain. As a more health-conscious society began to affect sales of fried chicken, the company changed its name to KFC and introduced a lighter fare of skinless chicken.

    In the last forty years KFC has experienced extraordinary growth. Five years after first franchising the business, Colonel Harland Sanders had 400 outlets in the United States and Canada. Four years later there were more than 600 franchises, including one in England, the first overseas outlet. In 1964 John Y. Brown, Jr., a young Louisville lawyer, and Jack Massey, a Nashville financier, bought the Colonel's business for $2 million. Only seven years later, in 1971 Heublein, Inc., bought the KFC Corporation for $275 million. Then in 1986, for a whopping $840 million, PepsiCo added KFC to its conglomerate, which now includes Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. That means PepsiCo owns more fast food outlets than any other company including McDonald's.

    At each KFC restaurant, workers blend real buttermilk with a dry blend to create the well-known KFC buttermilk biscuits recipe that have made a popular menu item since their introduction in 1982. Pair these buttermilk biscuits with my KFC mac and cheese recipe and the famous KFC Original Recipe Chicken to complete your meal.

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    Cheesecake Factory Cajun Jambalaya Pasta

    Menu Description: "Our most popular dish! Shrimp and Chicken Sauteed with Onions, Peppers and Tomatoes in a Very Spicy Cajun Sauce. All on top of Fresh Fettuccine."

    The Cheesecake Factory's founder, David Overton, says it was his unfamiliarity with the restaurant business that contributed to the company's success. In an interview with Nation's Restaurant News David says, "We did not know anything about running restaurants. We just knew that people valued fresh foods. In some ways our naivete helped us because we didn't know what you are not supposed to do."

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    This recipe makes 2 huge portions, like those served in the restaurant. It's probably enough food for a family of four.

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    Olive Garden Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo

    Menu Description: "Grilled beef medallions drizzled with balsamic glaze, served over fettuccine tossed with spinach and gorgonzola-alfredo sauce."

    This menu item builds on Olive Garden's great Alfredo sauce recipe with the addition of Gorgonzola cheese. The tangy cheese sauce works well with the sweet-and-sour balsamic reduction drizzled over the beef medallions. 

    For my Olive Garden Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo recipe, find three 6-ounce sirloin steaks or whatever cut you prefer and slice each of them into four 1 1/2-ounce fillets. Get pounding with a kitchen mallet and make those steaks about 1/2-inch thick, and they will grill up to same size as the medallions on the original dish. Between the pounding and the meat tenderizer in the beef seasoning, you will turn even the cheapest cut of beef into a tender morsel. Build your dish as described below, and you will have re-created the taste and presentation of the original rich, tasty, fulfilling dish.

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    Menu Description: "Fire-roasted chicken breast topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our Florio Marsala wine sauce."

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    Red Lobster Parrot Bay Coconut Shrimp

    Menu Description: "Jumbo butterflied shrimp hand-dipped in batter flavored with Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Rum & coconut flakes. Served with pina colada dipping sauce."

    Fans of this dish say the best part is the pina colada dipping sauce. And it's true. That sauce is so good you could eat it with a spoon. But the coconut shrimp is pretty awesome too, just on its own. Red Lobster's secret formula includes Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay rum, which sweetens the batter and adds a great coconut flavor (plus you can whip up a nice cocktail with it while you're cooking). Panko breadcrumbs—which give a nice crunch to the shrimp—can be found in the aisle of your market where all the Asian foods are parked. This secret recipe makes two times the size of a serving you get at the Lobster, so there should be enough for everyone. The real thing comes with salsa on the side in addition to the pina colada sauce, but you may not even want to include it.

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    Olive Garden Tiramisu

    Menu Description: "The classic Italian dessert. A layer of creamy custard set atop espresso-soaked ladyfingers."

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    Cheesecake Factory Chicken Madeira

    Menu Description: "Our most popular chicken dish! Sauteed chicken breast topped with fresh asparagus and melted mozzarella cheese, covered with fresh mushroom madeira sauce. Served with mashed potatoes."

    What makes this Cheesecake Factory's "most popular chicken dish" is the sweet madeira wine reduction sauce spooned over the top. Man, I could slurp that stuff straight from a glass. It's that good. And—get this—it's easy. Even though the real stuff appears to include veal stock, we can concoct a great knockoff using canned beef stock. Get sliced mozzarella cheese from your deli section and be sure to pound the chicken breasts very thin using plastic wrap to cover each one before you get medieval on it. Also, in typical Cheesecake Factory style, their entrée is huge, including two chicken fillets and a giant pile of mashed potatoes on the side. This Cheesecake Factory Chicken Madeira recipe makes a total of four chicken fillets, which divides into two servings if you're at the restaurant. At home though, this is probably the perfect amount for a tribe of four.

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  • Score: 4.96 (votes: 24)
    Boston Market Meatloaf

    In the early 90's Boston Chicken was rockin' it. The home meal replacement chain's stock was soaring and the lines were filled with hungry customers waiting to sink their teeth into a serving of the chain's delicious rotisserie chicken. The chain was so successful with chicken, the company quickly decided it was time to introduce other entrée selections, the first of which was a delicious barbecue sauce-covered ground sirloin meatloaf. 

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 14)
    Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage

    Before he became America's sausage king, Jimmy Dean was known for crooning the country hit "Big Bad John." That song came out in 1962 and sold more than 8 million copies. His singing success launched a television career on ABC with The Jimmy Dean Show, where Roy Clark, Patsy Cline, and Roger Miller got their big breaks. The TV exposure led to acting roles for Jimmy, as a regular on Daniel Boone, and in feature films, including his debut in the James Bond flick Diamonds are Forever. Realizing that steady income from an acting and singing career can be undependable, Jimmy invested his show-biz money in a hog farm. In 1968 the Jimmy Dean Meat Company developed the special recipe for sausage that has now become a household name. Today the company is part of the Sara Lee Corporation, and Jimmy retired as company spokesman in 2004.

    My Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage recipe re-creates three varieties of the famous roll sausage that you form into patties and cook in a skillet. Use ground pork found at the supermarket—make it lean pork if you like—or grind some up yourself if you have a meat grinder.

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  • Score: 4.55 (votes: 44)
    Girl Scout Cookies Thin Mints

    If those cute little cookie peddlers aren't posted outside the market, it may be tough to get your hands on these thin mint cookies—the most popular cookies sold by the Girl Scouts every spring. One out of every four boxes of cookies sold by the girls is Thin Mints. 

    My Girl Scout cookie thin mint recipe uses an improved version of the chocolate wafers created for my Oreo cookie clone in the second TSR book, More Top Secret Recipes. That recipe creates 108 cookie wafers, so when you're done dipping, you'll have the equivalent of three boxes of the Girl Scout Cookies favorite. That's why you bought those extra cookie sheets, right? You could, of course, reduce this recipe by baking only one-third of the cookie dough for the wafers and then reducing the coating ingredients by one-third, giving you a total of 36 cookies. But that may not be enough to last you until next spring.

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    Cheesecake Factory Key Lime Cheesecake

    Just 15 minutes after the very first Cheesecake Factory opened in Beverly Hills back in 1978, the lines began forming. These guys know how to make a dang good cheesecake! 

    Here's my recipe for Cheesecake Factory's Key Lime Cheesecake. A yummy twist on Key lime pie. Since Key limes and Key lime juice can be hard to find, I decided to use standard lime juice, which can be purchased bottled or squeezed fresh. If you can find Key lime juice, bear in mind that Key limes are more tart, so you'll need only half as much juice. You'll also need a springform pan. If you don't have one, you can use two 9-inch pie pans and make two smaller cheesecakes.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 17)
    KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) Original Recipe Fried Chicken

    One of the most protected, discussed, and sought-after secret recipes in the food world is KFC's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. Long ago I published my first hack of the famous formula, but the recipe, which was based on research from "Big Secrets" author William Poundstone, includes only salt, pepper, MSG, and flour in the breading, and not the blend of eleven herbs and spices we have all heard about. The fried chicken made with my first recipe is good in a pinch, but it really needs several more ingredients to be a true clone. 

    That is why, over twenty years later, I was happy to get another crack at the secret when we shot the pilot episode for my CMT TV series Top Secret Recipe. In the show, I visited KFC headquarters, talked to friends of Harlan Sanders who had seen the actual recipe, and even checked out the Corbin, Kentucky, kitchen where Harland Sanders first developed his chicken recipe. During that four-day shoot I was able to gather enough clues about the secret eleven herbs and spices to craft my new KFC Fried chicken recipe—one that I believe is the closest match to the Colonel's secret fried chicken that anyone has ever revealed.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Keebler Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Keebler joined in a federation with sixteen local and regional bakeries to help form the United Biscuit Company in 1927. This system lasted for twenty-two years, until 1949, when the conglomerate chose to operate under a single name. Keebler was judged to be the most sound and memorable. In 1983 Keebler expanded its distribution to the West Coast, making the conglomerate a national concern.

    Today Keebler manufactures more than 200 different products from its 83,000-square-foot facility in Elmhurst, Illinois. Those products, including the chewy Soft Batch cookie, are sold in some 75,000 retail outlets nationwide. Total annual sales for the company are in excess of $1.5 billion, making Keebler the second-largest cookie and cracker manufacturer in the United States, with popular products that have been enjoyed by five generations of Americans. 

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  • Score: 4.67 (votes: 6)
    Panda Express Chow Mein

    I got lucky on the day I picked up a box of chow mein from this huge Chinese chain because they had just run out. This meant that I could watch from the sidelines as they whipped up a fresh batch in a giant wok over a high flame in the completely visible kitchen, and I was able to take plenty of mental notes. The whole dish took just a few minutes for the enthusiastic chef to prepare, and before I knew it I was out the door with a huge box of hot chow mein ready for hacking. 

    Just like the real Panda Express Chow Mein, the beauty in this re-creation is its simplicity. There are only seven ingredients, and the prep work is low-impact. I used dry chow mein noodles (also called Chinese stir fry noodles) which are easy to find and cheap, and dark soy sauce to get that great caramel color. And if you don’t have a wok for this, a large skillet with sloped sides for tossing will work just fine.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Panda Express Fried Rice

    A popular staple of any Chinese chain is fried rice, so it better be good, and the version served at Panda Express most certainly is. Here's my easy Panda Express Fried Rice recipe for when you need a stress-free, low-cost side for your entrées. But I do suggest that you cook the white rice several hours or even a day or two before you plan to make the finished dish. I found that the cooked rice called for in this recipe works best when it's cold. 

    As for a shortcut, bagged frozen peas and carrots will save you from the hassle of petite-dicing carrots since the carrots in those bags are the perfect size to produce an identical clone. And they're already cooked. 

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    T.G.I. Friday's Cajun Shrimp and Chicken Pasta

    Menu Description: “Sauteed chicken, shrimp, red bell peppers in a spicy Cajun Alfredo sauce, Parmesan-Romano and fettuccine. Served with a warm garlic breadstick.”  

    In 1997, I published a clone recipe for T.G.I Friday’s Spicy Cajun Chicken Pasta because it was one of the chain’s most popular dishes at the time. But as the years pass and menus get tweaked, old food favorites are decommissioned to make way for fresh, new ideas. Sometimes the new dishes are twists on old favorites, as is this improved version of the classic Spicy Cajun Chicken Pasta, which now includes extra-large shrimp and a better spicy alfredo sauce.  

    My T.G.I. Friday's Cajun Shrimp and Chicken Pasta recipe starts with a quick brine for moist, flavorful chicken. Prep the chicken and creamy sauce in one pan; the shrimp, bell pepper, and garlic in another.

    When you’re ready to serve the dish, toss the sauce with the pasta, then plate it and top it with minced parsley and you've got a perfect restaurant-style hack.

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  • Not rated yet
    Panera Bread Creamy Tomato Soup

    It’s a good thing that Panera’s delicious tomato soup is made with pear tomatoes so we can use canned San Marzano-style tomatoes for a quick and easy hack, and we’ll pump up the tomato flavor with added tomato paste.

    Other recipes will call for some form of broth here, but the broth is unnecessary, and it's not in the real thing so a good clone recipe wouldn't include it. There is plenty of flavorful liquid in the canned tomatoes, and we’ll sculpt the final flavor with herbs and spices, sugar, and lemon juice.

    You can buy premade croutons to use on top of your soup, but I’ve also included an easy hack to make black pepper croutons from focaccia or ciabatta bread, just like those you get at the restaurant. 

    Check here for more of my Panera Bread copycat recipes. 

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Pizza Hut Meaty Marinara Pasta

    One of two pasta dishes currently on the pizza giant’s menu, the Meaty Marinara Pasta was first introduced in a 2008 April Fool’s publicity stunt when Pizza Hut claimed it was changing its name to “Pasta Hut.” No one fell for the prank but they did fall for the pasta, and that's why the Tuscani Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta and Meaty Marinara Pasta have been on the menu ever since. The sauce is the big secret here; it's simple and classic, but customized to produce a marinara with that distinct Pizza Hut taste. And the recipe will make more than enough pasta to go around.

    My Pizza Hut Meaty Marinara Pasta recipe is an easy one. After browning the seasoned beef you add it to the sauce, simmer the sauce until thick, then spread it over one pound of rotini pasta in a baking dish in two layers so that every bite is filled with flavor. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the top and melt it until golden brown under your broiler. Boom! No one can resist. You rule.

    This simple and inexpensive meal will feed eight, and leftovers keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Dole Dole Whip

    The real Dole Whip is a non-dairy dessert that includes artificial flavoring, a small amount of real pineapple juice, and more gums than a candy store. Everything in this Hawaiian ice cream is combined in a powdered form including the pineapple juice in 4.4-pound bags that are sold to soft-serve machine operators at fairs, sporting events, and amusement parks. On the back of the Dole Whip mix are instructions to dissolve the powder in 2 gallons of cold tap water, then immediately pour the syrup into a soft serve machine and hit the switch.  

    Up until now, almost all recipes that claim to reproduce Dole Whip—including one shared by Disneyland during the coronavirus outbreak—include ice cream, to make what is supposed to be a "non-dairy" dessert one that is quite full of dairy. The results you get from these recipes may be tasty, but they are nothing like Dole Whip because Dole Whip is sorbet and sorbet isn't made with ice cream.

    One thing that makes Dole Whip special is its creamy consistency, which may lead some people to believe it has dairy in it. Dole Whip creates this thickness with the assistance of six different natural gums and gels: cellulose gum, xanthan gum, locust bean gum, guar gum, karaya gum, and pectin. In addition, there is a small amount of coconut fat solids in the mix to help simulate the fat found in dairy.

    For my Dole Whip recipe, I limited the gels to two that are easy to find: unflavored gelatin and pectin. When these two ingredients are heated, then cooled, they form a gel similar to what’s in the real Dole Whip, and the result is a thick-and-creamy consistency. Another trick often used to help thicken sorbets is the use of viscous corn syrup to replace much of the sugar. Corn syrup will give the sorbet body and it helps tone down the acidic pineapple juice.

    But the best part of this recipe, unlike the real thing, is that it contains all-natural ingredients and it's mostly made of real Dole pineapple juice, plus a little tangerine juice to round out the flavor and enrich the color. This homemade Dole Whip is ridiculously easy to make (you'll need an ice cream maker) and fans of the real thing will love it. Plus, now you can have this DIY Dole Whip whenever you want—no amusement park required.

    Click here for more of my hacks of delicious desserts and sweet treats. 

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Texas Roadhouse Rolls

    I never thought dinner rolls were something I could get excited about until I got my hand into the breadbasket at Texas Roadhouse. The rolls are fresh out of the oven and they hit the table when you do, so there’s no waiting to tear into a magnificently gooey sweet roll topped with soft cinnamon butter. The first bite you take will make you think of a fresh cinnamon roll, and then you can’t stop eating it. And when the first roll’s gone, you are powerless to resist grabbing for just one more. But it’s never just one more. It’s two or three more, plus a few extra to take home for tomorrow.

    Discovering the secret to making rolls at home that taste as good as Texas Roadhouse Rolls involved making numerous batches of dough, each one sweeter than the last (sweetened with sugar, not honey—I checked), until a very sticky batch, proofed for 2 hours, produced exactly what I was looking for. You can make the dough with a stand mixer or a handheld one, the only difference being that you must knead the dough by hand without a stand mixer. When working with the dough add a little bit of flour at a time to keep it from sticking, and just know that the dough will be less sticky and more workable after the first rise.

    Roll the dough out and measure it as specified here, and after a final proofing and a quick bake—plus a generous brushing of butter on the tops—you will produce dinner rolls that look and taste just like the best rolls I’ve had at any famous American dinner chain.

    This recipe was our #1 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce

    Getting a table at the 123-year-old original Rao’s restaurant in New York City is next to impossible. The tables are “owned” by regulars who schedule their meals months in advance, so every table is full every night, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 38 years. The only way an outsider would get to taste the restaurant’s fresh marinara sauce is to be invited by a regular.

    If that isn’t in the stars for you, you could buy a bottle of the sauce at your local market (if they even have it). It won't be fresh, and it's likely to be the most expensive sauce in the store, but it still has that great Rao's taste. An even better solution is to copy the Rao's Marinara sauce for yourself using this new and very easy recipe.

    The current co-owner of Rao’s, Frank Pellegrino Jr., told Bon Appetit in 2015 that the famous marinara sauce was created by his grandmother many years ago, and the sauce you buy in stores is the same recipe served in his restaurants. The ingredients are common, but correctly choosing the main ingredient—tomatoes—is important. Try to find San Marzano-style whole canned tomatoes, preferably from Italy. They are a little more expensive than typical canned tomatoes, but they will give you some great sauce.

    After 30 minutes of cooking, you’ll end up with about the same amount of sauce as in a large jar of the real thing. Your version will likely be just a little bit brighter and better than the bottled stuff, thanks to the fresh ingredients. But now you can eat it anytime you want, with no reservations, at a table you own.

    This recipe was our #1 most popular in 2020. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Olive Garden Lasagna Classico (#2), King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (#3), Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken (#4), Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas (#5).

    You might also like my #1 recipe of 2019, Texas Roadhouse Rolls.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Starbucks Egg White and Roasted Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites

    The same slow-cooking technique is used to copy this yolk-less companion to the Bacon & Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites, but instead of bacon, the Starbucks Egg White and Roasted Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites come with roasted red pepper, green onion, and spinach.

    Because there is no yolk, a little rice flour is used to help hold everything together. I suspect Starbucks chose rice flour to keep the product gluten-free, even though most people really don’t mind a little gluten, and gluten does a much better job of binding. I include the rice flour here but you can substitute with all-purpose wheat flour if gluten isn't a concern, and if you don’t feel like buying a whole bag of rice flour just to use 2 teaspoons out of it.  

    To get the same smooth texture in your egg bites as Starbucks, be sure to blend the mixture until no bits of cheese can be felt when you rub some between your fingers. The recipe tastes best with full-fat cottage cheese, but you can still use low-fat cottage cheese if you feel like trimming some of the fat.

    Check out my other clone recipes for your favorite Starbucks drinks and baked goods here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Starbucks Bacon and Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites

    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. To speed up service, Starbucks makes the egg pucks ahead of time, then freezes and ships 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 my Starbucks Bacon and Gruyère Sous Vide Egg Bites 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 of the cheese mixture 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 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, that’s their way of telling you the water is a bit too hot.

    You might also like my version of Starbucks Egg White and Roasted Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites. 

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  • Not rated yet
    Werther's Original Hard Candies

    The famous hard caramel candy created in 1903 in the German town of Werther is easy to duplicate at home as long as you’ve got a candy thermometer and some rounded silicone candy molds. Realistically, you can make these candies any shape you want (one time I made some in a gummy-bear mold!), but the best shape for hard candies is something smooth and rounded. That’s what works best for a candy designed to be sucked on, rather than chewed. Just be sure to get enough molds to hold 50 or more bite-size candies at once.      

    My Werther's candy recipe calls for fresh cream and butter just like the original, which was invented in Germany over 100 years ago and is now sold throughout Europe and North America. 

    I've hacked a lot of famous candy over the years. See if I copied your favorites here

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  • Score: 3.00 (votes: 2)
    Wendy's Chocolate Frosty (Improved)

    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 I published 25 years ago in my first book "Top Secret Recipes" 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 new improved Wendy's Frosty recipe that you churn in a home ice cream maker until thick and creamy, and it now tastes just like the real thing.

    Unlike my previous recipe, which relied on premade 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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  • Not rated yet
    KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (Improved)

    To get their Extra Crispy Chicken so crispy, KFC breads the chicken two times. This double breading gives the chicken its ultra craggy exterior and extra crunch, which is a different texture than the less crispy original recipe fried chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.

    As with my KFC Original Fried Chicken recipe, we must first brine the chicken to give it flavor and moisture all the way through, like the real thing, then the chicken is double breaded and deep-fried until golden brown. KFC uses small chickens which cook faster, but small chickens can be hard to find. If your chicken parts are on the large side, they may not cook all the way through in the 12 to 15 minutes of frying I’m specifying here. To be sure your chicken is cooked, start frying with the thickest pieces, like the breasts, then park them in a 300-degree oven while you finish with the smaller pieces. This will keep the chicken warm and crispy, and more importantly, ensure that they are cooked perfectly all the way through.

    On my CMT show Top Secret Recipe I chatted with Winston Shelton, a long-time friend of KFC founder Harland Sanders. Winston saw the Colonel's handwritten secret recipe for KFC Original Recipe chicken, and he told me one of the secret ingredients is Tellicherry black pepper. It's a more expensive, better-tasting black pepper that comes from the Malabar coast in India, and you should use it here if you can find it. Winston pulled me aside and whispered this secret to me when he thought we were off-camera, but our microphones and very alert cameramen caught the whole thing, and we aired it.

    I first published my KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken recipe in Even More Top Secret Recipesbut recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved recipe of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world. 

    My KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken recipe below was our #2 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Bob Evans Farms Banana Nut Bread Loaf

    When I checked out the ingredients for the Banana Nut Bread Loaf—the most popular baked item at Bob Evans Farms—I was surprised to discover that the banana bread has very little real banana in it. In fact, banana is the second-to-last ingredient, just before water. So the banana taste in the loaf appears to come from artificial banana flavoring. But I have to assume that there was once a time when these delicious loaves were made with more real banana, and with real butter instead of the less expensive margarine that is used in the loaves today. And that’s how I crafted this clone.

    This upgraded recipe calls for old-school wholesome ingredients, and it produces a moist, delicious banana bread loaf that tastes like the real thing—and maybe even a little bit better. So if you like Bob Evans Banana Nut Bread Loaf, you'll love this new recipe hack.

    Making bread is fun, right? Find more of my copycat recipes for famous bread here

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  • Score: 4.38 (votes: 8)
    Olive Garden Breadsticks

    Anyone who loves Olive Garden is probably also a big fan of the bottomless basket of warm, garlicky breadsticks served before each meal at the huge Italian casual chain. My guess is that the breadsticks are proofed, and then sent to each restaurant where they are baked until golden brown, brushed with butter and sprinkled with garlic salt. Getting the bread just right for a good Olive Garden breadstick recipe was tricky—I tried several different amounts of yeast in all-purpose flour, but then settled on bread flour to give these breadsticks the same chewy bite as the originals. The two-stage rising process is also a crucial step in this much requested homemade Olive Garden breadstick recipe. Also check out our Olive Garden Italian salad dressing recipe.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Spago Pumpkin Cheesecake

    Menu Description: "Gingerbread crispy crust, cranberry compote, spiced anglaise."

    Every year it's the same dessert at the thanksgiving table: a triangular portion of pumpkin pie with a giant dollop of Cool Whip piled up on top. Sure, it's tasty and traditional, but maybe you want to step it up this year? I've got just the thing. Spago makes a semi-deconstructed pumpkin cheesecake in the fall that is the perfect upscale clone for your homemade holiday dessert. 

    In my Spago Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe, all four components are made separately, then when it's dessert time, you pipe the filing onto the crispy gingerbread crusts with a pastry bag (or you can just spoon it on), pile on the garnish, and serve it up with a smile. You make everything the day before, or on the morning of your celebration, and then you build each plate just before serving. If you want an extra garnish for your plates as in the restaurant, grab some vanilla sauce at the store, or follow the quickie recipe found below in "Tidbits."

    If you're looking for a traditional pumpkin pie, try my clone for Marie Callender's, or this pumpkin pecan cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.38 (votes: 13)
    Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Coolatta

    Add vanilla, hazelnut, almond and chocolate to coffee, milk, sugar and ice in a blender, and you get a hack of Dunkin' Donuts' hit frozen coffee drink. Torani makes hazelnut syrup that's perfect for this recipe—you'll find it near the coffee in your market or in a bar supply outlet. Your iced coffee will come out lighter in color than the real thing—the real recipe may include caramel coloring to darken the drink. 

    My Dunkin' Donuts Coffee Coolatta recipe below makes one 24-ounce serving, which is called "medium" at the store—or you can split the recipe into two more modest 12-ounce servings.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 24)
    Bonefish Grill Bang Bang Shrimp

    Menu Description: "Tender, crispy wild gulf shrimp tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce."

    Bonefish Grill proudly refers to this appetizer as the "house specialty." And why not, it's an attractive dish with bang-up flavor, especially if you like your food on the spicy side. The heat in my Bonefish Grill Bang Bang Shrimp recipe comes from the secret sauce blend that's flavored with chili garlic sauce, also known as sambal. You can find this bright red sauce where the Asian foods are in your market—and while you're there, pick up some rice vinegar. Once the sauce is made, you coat the shrimp in a simple seasoned breading, fry them to a nice golden brown, toss them gently in the sauce, and then serve them up on a bed of mixed greens to hungry folks who, hopefully, have a cool drink nearby to mellow the sting.

    You might also like my recipes for Bonefish Grill's Saucy Shrimp and Citrus Herb Vinaigrette.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.82 (votes: 17)
    Outback Steakhouse Blue Cheese Chopped Salad

    This cheesy little number is one of the most popular side salad choices at America's favorite steakhouse chain. Cinnamon Pecans and fried angel hair pasta are tossed with salad greens and a delicious sweet and sour blue cheese vinaigrette. The crunchy angel hair pasta pieces are made by first boiling 24 sticks of uncooked pasta for half of the usual cooking time. When the pasta is cool, fry it in a bit of oil until light brown and crispy. The cinnamon pecans are easily candied in a small saucepan with a few basic ingredients. 

    My Outback Steakhouse Blue Cheese Chopped Salad recipe here makes two large salad servings, which will require only half of the dressing. This way, if you want to serve more salads you can easily double up on the other ingredients, and you'll have just the right amount of dressing for a couple more servings.

    I've cloned a ton of famous dishes from Outback Steakhouse. See if I hacked your favorites here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.83 (votes: 12)
    Original Pancake House Apple Pancake

    Menu Description: "Oven baked with fresh apples and pure Sikiyan cinnamon glaze."

    Fresh, high-quality ingredients and traditional recipes are what makes this growing chain a frequent favorite for anyone who stops in. The star of the show is the incredible apple pancake, the chain's signature dish. To make a dead-on clone, Granny Smith apples are sauteed in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, then allowed to cool for a bit. That way, when the batter is poured into the pan, the apples and glaze stay anchored to the bottom. This technique also prevents the glaze from penetrating into the batter as the pancake bakes since there is now an apple barrier preventing any mixing of the ingredients. When the pancake comes out of the oven it's flipped over onto a plate and the apples are right there on top, dripping with a delicious cinnamon-sugar glaze. You won't need any syrup for this one, that's for sure. Just a light dusting of powdered sugar on top. Then dig into an apple pancake unlike any other.

    You may also like my clone recipe for the Original Pancake House German Pancake aka "Dutch Baby".

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.56 (votes: 25)
    Tootsie Roll Midgees

    Even though this clone recipe duplicates the tiny bite-size versions of the candy, you're free to make yours any size you like. The technique here is a tweaking of the previous secret formula that was featured in Low-Fat Top Secret Recipes, and it includes several upgrades. I found that more cocoa, plus the addition of salt and butter to the mix improved the flavor. I also found that bringing your sweet bubbling mixture to the firm ball stage 250 degrees F (you do have a candy thermometer, right?), and then stretching and pulling the candy like taffy (fun!) as it cools, will give you a finished product more like the real deal.

    Find more famous candy recipes here

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  • Score: 4.79 (votes: 39)
    Romano's Macaroni Grill Chicken Scaloppine

    Menu Description: "Chicken breast, mushrooms, artichokes, capers & smoked prosciutto in lemon butter with pasta."

    Mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and prosciutto in a creamy lemon butter sauce surround sauteed chicken breasts and angel hair pasta for this unique and satisfying take on a traditional dish. This clone ranks in the top three most requested recipes on my hit list from the 227-unit Romano's Macaroni Grill. The successful Italian chain is part of the Brinker group of restaurants that controls several other high-profile casual eateries including Border Mexican Grill, Maggiano's, and Chili's.

    Make my copycat Lemon Passion Cake for dessert to get the full Macaroni Grill experience.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.84 (votes: 37)
    Hard Rock Cafe Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

    Give this simple soup clone a shot and you'll never again want to eat chicken soup from a can. I designed this recipe to be easy, requiring chicken fillets rather than a whole chicken, and you won't need to create a stock from scratch. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.62 (votes: 13)
    Olive Garden Tiramisu Low-Fat

    The Olive Garden chain offers a very popular and delicious tiramisu that is produced outside the restaurants and then delivered fresh to each outlet. Fluffy mascarpone cheese is layered over ladyfingers soaked in a solution of espresso and coffee liqueur, and the dessert is topped with dusting of cocoa. But mascarpone cheese has 13 grams of fat per ounce, and there's nothing that tastes quite like it. However, there is one way to get very close, and its a special creamy combination of Dream Whip, gelatin, and fat-free cream cheese. You can make your own espresso, use extra strong coffee as a substitute, or order a quadruple shot of espresso on your next trip to Starbucks. If you love the traditional Italian dessert, but don't love the fat, you simply must check out this slightly tweaked version of the clone from Top Secret Recipes - Lite! that will create a guilt-free clone to satisfy any tiramisu craving.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 slice
    Total servings–9 slices
    Calories–268 (Original–475)
    Fat–2.9g (Original–38g)

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite! by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.28 (votes: 25)
    Wienerschnitzel Chili Sauce

    The real version of this chili sauce comes to each Wienerschnitzel unit as concentrated brown goo in big 6-pound, 12-ounce cans. After adding 64 ounces of water and 15 chopped hamburger patties the stuff is transformed into the familiar thick and spicy chili sauce dolloped over hot dogs and French fries at America's largest hot dog chain. The proper proportion of spices, tomato paste, and meat is crucial; but the real challenge in creating my Wienerschnitzel chili recipe is finding a common grocery store equivalent for modified food starch that's used in the real chili sauce as a thickener. After a couple days in the underground lab with Starbucks lattes on intravenous drip, I came out, squinting at the bright sunshine, with a solution to the chili conundrum. This secret combination of cornstarch and Wondra flour and plenty of salt and chili powder makes a chili sauce that says nothing but "Wienerschnitzel" all over it.

    Now, what incredible side dish will you make?

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.78 (votes: 9)
    Gardenburger Original Veggie Patty

    In the early eighties, at his Gardenhouse restaurant, Chef Paul Wenner created a unique meatless patty to replace hamburgers. The patty, which contained mushrooms, brown rice, onions, oats, and low-fat cheeses was dubbed Gardenburger and quickly became a hit. Soon, Wenner closed his restaurant and began to concentrate on marketing his meatless, low-fat creation to a hungry, health-conscious America. Today Gardenburger patties can be found in more than 35,000 food service outlets around the world, and in more than 20,000 stores.

    Now you can make a surprisingly accurate clone of the real thing with the same type of ingredients Wenner uses. Most of the ingredients can be found at your local supermarket, although you may have to go to a health food store to get bulgar wheat. And if you jog over there you can burn off the few calories you ingest from this cool kitchen clone.

    Nutrition facts:
    Serving size–1 patty
    Total servings–6
    Calories per serving–135
    Fat per serving–3g

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.89 (votes: 44)
    Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup

    For two years after the first Olive Garden restaurant opened in 1982, operators were still tweaking the restaurant's physical appearance and the food that was served. Even the tomato sauce was changed as many as 25 times. It's that sort of dedication that creates fabulous dishes like this popular soup. It blends the flavors of potatoes, kale, and Italian sausage in a slightly spicy chicken and cream broth. 

    How about creating your own bottomless Olive Garden House Salad and Breadsticks? Find more of my Olive Garden clone recipes here!

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.62 (votes: 13)
    Hot Dog on a Stick Hot Dog on a Stick

    One hot summer day in 1946 Dave Barham was inspired to dip a hot dog into his mother's cornbread batter, then deep fry it to a golden brown. Dave soon found a quaint Santa Monica, California location near the beach to sell his new creation with mustard on the side and a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade. For a perfect clone of Hot Dog On A Stick, be sure you find the shorter turkey hot dogs, not "bun-length". In this case, size does matter. Snag some of the disposable wood chopsticks from a local Chinese or Japanese restaurant next time you're there and start dipping.

    Update 5/3/17: If your hot dogs are browning too fast, turn the temperature of the oil down to 350 degrees. And rather than using chopsticks, thick round skewer sticks (corn dog skewers) found in houseware stores and online will work much better.

    Now, how about a tall glass of Hot Dog On A Stick Lemonade?

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Grand Marnier Liqueur

    In 1880s France, oranges were quite rare and exotic. When Louis Alexandre Marnier-Lopostolle traveled to the Caribbean in search of ingredients, he came back with bitter oranges to combine with his family's fine cognac. Other orange-flavored liqueurs such as triple sec and curacao are mixed with a neutral alcohol base. Grand Marnier took it to the next level with a more complex flavor that makes it today's top-selling French liqueur.

    Now you too can combine cognac with a real orange to make a home version of the tasty—and pricey—stuff. By using an inexpensive cognac that costs around 18 to 20 dollars a bottle, you can create a clone cousin of the real thing that normally sells for around 30 bucks a bottle. All you need, in addition to the cognac, is some sugar, an orange, and a little patience to wait at least 2 weeks.

    Try more of my copycat cocktail and liquor recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes: Sodas, Smoothies, Spirits & Shakes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.60 (votes: 10)
    Great American Cookies Snickerdoodles

    Rather than trying to beat the competitors—especially if they have an exceptional product—Mrs. Fields Famous Brands throws cash at 'em. With the acquisition of Great American Cookies in 1998 by the company that made chewy mall cookies big business, Mrs. Fields is now peddling her baked wares in more than 90 percent of the premier shopping malls in the United States. That's how you make some serious dough. One of the all-time favorite cookies you can grab at any of the 364 Great American Cookies outlets is the classic snickerdoodle. Rolled in cinnamon and sugar, it's soft and chewy and will seem to be undercooked when you take it out of the oven. When it cools it should be gooey, yet firm in the middle. Just a couple bites should make you wonder: "Got milk?!" 

    Check out my recipe for Great American White Chunk Macadamia cookies here

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

For over 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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