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    Score: 4.83. Votes: 6

    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. 

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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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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    Since the candy maker’s first milk chocolate bar debuted in 1900, just four candy bars have carried the Hershey name. Hershey’s Special Dark came out in 1939 and Hershey’s Cookies and Crème was introduced in 1995. But the only one made without any chocolate in it is the new Hershey’s Gold, which hit the shelves in late 2017. The base of the bar is “caramelized crème” that Hershey’s claims is made by browning the sugar in white crème. I recalled a recipe for caramelizing white chocolate by slowly cooking it in the oven, stirring often, until it becomes golden brown. By mixing in a little creamy peanut butter and salt I was able to create a perfectly caramelized base to which crushed peanuts and pretzels could be added. I poured the golden crème into candy bar molds and let them set up in the fridge for 30 minutes. When removed from the molds the bars looked like they were made in a real candy bar factory, and they tasted like it too. I wrapped each in gold foil and felt like Willy Wonka.

    If you don’t have candy bar molds, you can pour the candy onto parchment paper or wax paper on a baking sheet to set up, then just break up the candy to serve or store.

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    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—I made some in a gummy bears 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.      

    This hack calls for fresh cream and butter just like the original invented in Germany over 100 years ago, and now sold throughout Europe and North America. 

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    Score: 4.25. Votes: 4

    In December of 1996, Hershey Foods snagged the U.S. operations of Leaf Brands for a pretty penny. This added several well known candies to Hershey's already impressive roster, including Good & Plenty, Jolly Rancher, Milk Duds, Whoppers, Heath, and this delicious peanut roll, which we can finally clone at home. The center is sort of a white fudge that we can make by combining a few ingredients on the stove, then getting the mixture up to just the right temperature using a candy thermometer (you've got one, right?). Once cool, this candy center is coated with a thin layer of caramel, then quickly rolled over roasted peanuts. Looks just like the real thing! This recipe will make eight candy bars. But it's up to you to make the dental appointment.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 4

    Beneath the chocolate of Nestle's popular candy bar is a chewy, peanut-covered center that resembles Hershey's PayDay. To clone this one we'll only have to make a couple adjustments to the PayDay clone recipe, then add the milk chocolate coating. Even though the wrapper of this candy bar calls the center "nougat," it's more of a white or blonde fudge that you can make in a saucepan on your stovetop with a candy thermometer.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.58. Votes: 66

    The first Top Secret Recipes book features a version of this clone recipe for America's most beloved candy creation, and the recipe is posted all over the place. But since 1993, I've learned a few things about Reese's Peanut Butter Cup cloning. Now, when you make this Reese's Peanut Butter Cups recipe, it's better to use reduced-fat peanut butter for a texture that's drier and crumblier like the original. Also, use scissors to trim paper muffin cups so that they are shallower—and a better mold for your clone.  

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

    Here's how to clone a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in 3 minutes.

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    Score: 4.17. Votes: 12

    Each spring Cadbury candy machines whip out 66,000 of these cool candies every hour. And now, because of the success of these chocolates with the orange, yolk-colored center, other candy companies have come out with their own milk chocolate eggs. Some are filled with Snickers or Milky Way centers, while others contain peanut butter, coconut, caramel, or the same type of fondant center as the original—right down to the colors. Still, nothing compares to these original eggs that are sold only once a year, for the Easter holiday. And now you can enjoy your own version at home anytime you like. The final shape of your clones will be more like half eggs, but the flavor will be full-on Cadbury. 

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur. 

    Update 4/11/17: I recently discovered that freezing the very sticky fondant center—rather than refrigerating it—makes it easier to work with. I made the adjustments in the recipe below. 

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    Score: 4.73. Votes: 11

    At his candy factory In York, Pennsylvania, in the late 1930s, Henry C. Kessler first concocted this minty confection. The York Cone Company was originally established to make ice cream cones, but by the end of World War II the peppermint patty had become so popular that the company discontinued all other products. In 1972 the company was sold to Peter Paul, manufacturers of Almond Joy and Mounds. Cadbury USA purchased the firm in 1978, and in 1988 the York Peppermint Pattie became the property of Hershey USA.

    Other chocolate-covered peppermints were manufactured before the York Peppermint Pattie came on the market, but Kessler's version was firm and crisp, while the competition was soft and gummy. One former employee and York resident remembered the final test the patty went through before it left the factory. "It was a snap test. If the candy didn't break clean in the middle, it was a second." For years, seconds were sold to visitors at the plant for fifty cents a pound.

    Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.56. Votes: 25

    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.

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