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Snacks

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. See if Todd has hacked your favorite snacks here. New recipes added every week.

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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 (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.      

    This hack 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: 5.00. Votes: 1

    The health concerns regarding microwave popcorn are a result of the way it’s packaged. For the corn to pop, the kernels are submerged in boiling fat inside the bag until a buildup of steam in the kernels causes them to burst. To prevent the liquid fat from seeping through, the bags are lined with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, which, unfortunately for microwave popcorn lovers, has been linked to cancer and other nasty things.

    I set out on a mission to make better homemade microwave popcorn with only natural ingredients, and without using costly popping gadgets. I also wanted to avoid using plastic, tape, or metal, such as staples. My solution is a new method of prepping the kernels, but like many other techniques I researched, it requires paper lunch bags. I was dismayed to find some discussions about the potential for problems using brown paper bags in your microwave oven, such as fire, but I had absolutely no issues any of the many times I did it. No smoke, no sparks, nothing looking at all dangerous was going on inside my cooking box. The USDA states that using paper bags in your microwave, “may cause a fire, and may emit toxic fumes,” yet the internet is full of microwave popcorn recipes calling for paper bags. I chose to still share my recipe and technique, but ultimately leave it up to you to decide if it’s a hack recipe you feel safe using. If you’d rather stay on the safe side, see the Tidbits for an alternate technique. 

    My hack starts with clarifying butter so that it’s pure fat, without any milk solids or water. Butter is about 16 percent water and if any of that stays in the mix, your popcorn will be on a fast trip to Soggytown. Once the butter is clarified, we’ll combine it with popcorn and salt and freeze it into pucks that can be saved for weeks until you are ready to make quick popcorn.

    When it’s popcorn time, a puck goes into a small bowl, which goes inside two interlocking paper bags. After a warming session, you hit the “popcorn” button on your microwave oven and the popcorn will pop just like the store product (you may have to add another 30 seconds or so of cooking time). The first bag will soak up the excess butter that splashes around inside as the popcorn pops, and the second bag will keep the butter from messing up your oven.

    To serve, pull the bags apart over a big bowl, and you’ll have a fresh batch of hot microwave popcorn coated perfectly with real butter and salt. 

    If you're like me and you like things spicy, try sprinkling your popcorn with my original Hell Flakes to create what we like to call "Hell Corn".

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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 doughnuts 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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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    Founded in 1914 by Harry Brown and J.C. Haley in Tacoma, Washington, the Brown and Haley Candy Company is one of the oldest confectioners in the country. In 1923 the company hit the jackpot when Harry Brown and the former cook from what would eventually become the Mars candy company, created a chocolate-coated butter toffee candy, sprinkled with California almonds. They took the sweet to Tacoma's head librarian, and she named it Almond Roca—roca means "rock" in Spanish. In 1927 the two men decided to wrap the little candies in imported gold foil and pack them into the now-familiar pink cans to extend their shelf life threefold. In fact, because of the way the candy was packaged, it was carried by troops in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War.

    The Brown and Haley candy company is still housed in the former shoe factory that it has occupied since 1919. Almond Roca is so popular today that it can be found in sixty-four countries and is a market leader in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan. The company sells more than 5 million pounds of Almond Roca each year and is the United States leading exporter of packaged confections. 

    Click here for more of my copycat recipes of famous candy.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 4

    GrandMa's Cookie Company was founded back in 1914 by Foster Wheeler, but it wasn't until 1977 that the company introduced the popular Big Cookie. This large, soft cookie comes two to a pack and is offered in several varieties, including oatmeal raisin. Now you can bake up a couple batches of your own with this GrandMa's oatmeal raisin cookies copycat. Just be sure not to over bake these. You want the cookies soft and chewy when cool—just like a happy grandma would make. Be sure to take the cookies out of the oven when they are just beginning to turn light brown around the edges.

    You might also like my copycat for GrandMa's Peanut Butter Big Cookies.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

    Update 1/13/17: For an improved GrandMa's Big Cookies recipe, replace the 1/2 cup shortening with 3/4 cup softened unsalted butter. Also, reduce baking soda to 1 1/2 teaspoons and cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon. Raising the oven temperature a little—to 300 degrees F—will help with browning and still keep the cookies chewy. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    When these cookies are cool, be sure to seal them up real tight in something like Tupperware or a Ziploc bag. That's the way to keep them moist and chewy like the original GrandMa's Big Cookies. In fact, he real product claims to be the only national cookie brand that guarantees the freshness of the product or double your money back. That confident guarantee comes from the current manufacturer, Frito-Lay, which purchased the GrandMa's Cookies brand from General Mills back in 1980.

    You might also like my copycat for GrandMa's Big Raising Cookies. 

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

    Update 1/13/17: For an improved recipe, replace the 1/2 cup shortening with 3/4 cup softened unsalted butter. Also, reduce the baking soda to 1 1/2 teaspoons. 2 teaspoons is too much. Also, raising the oven temperature a little—to 300 degrees F—will help with browning and still keep the cookies chewy. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.

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    Score: 4.33. Votes: 3

    As far as scones go, the maple oat nut scone at Starbucks is a superstar. At first I thought that we could use real maple syrup or even the maple-flavored syrups that are more commonly used on pancakes today (they are actually corn syrup-based and artificially-flavored). But I found that these syrups add too much moisture to the dough, creating something more like cake batter than the type of dough we want for a dense, chewy scone. I found that the caramel-colored imitation maple flavoring stocked near the vanilla extract in your supermarket gives this scone—and the icing—the strong maple taste and dark caramel color that perfectly matches the flavor and appearance of the real thing.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.25. Votes: 4

    Little checkerboard squares of rice, corn, and wheat are worth big bucks! In 1996 General Mills paid $570 million to Ralston Purina for the entire brand of Chex cereals and snack mixes. As it turns out, developing these cereals into a convenient snack mix brand was a smart move. When I was a kid the only way to get Chex Mix was to make it myself from a recipe on the box of Chex Cereal. Today Chex Mix comes in nearly a dozen different flavors, including chocolate, cheddar, honey nut, and hot & spicy. But a home version using the recipe on the cereal box never tastes the same as the stuff in the bags. That's because the recipe leaves out a very important secret ingredient: MSG, or monosodium glutamate. This amino acid salt enhances the other flavors in the bag and gives the snack mix its addictive savory taste. You can find MSG in grocery stores near the salt (Accent Flavor Enhancer is one popular brand name). Add a little of that to your creative mix of Chex Cereal, pretzels, crackers, and breadsticks, along with some white cheddar popcorn seasoning, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a few other common ingredients, and you'll have quickly cloned the popular Chex Mix Bold Party Blend.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.40. Votes: 10

    Menu Description: “Homemade, fried golden brown & dill-icious. Cut into thin slices and served with dipping sauce.”

    Fried Oreos, fried Twinkies, fried bull testicles, fried crickets—just about anything can be battered and fried, but that doesn’t always mean it’ll taste good. I’ve tasted many unexpectedly delicious foods out of a fryer and these pickles are one of the delicious surprises. The combination of sour pickles, crunchy breading and creamy dipping sauce was really good. It’s no wonder these are such a popular pick at the chain known more for its chicken wings, orange short-shorts, and belly shirts. After a little sleuthing I discovered that Hooters use Mrs. Klein’s crinkle-cut pickles, but that particular brand can be hard to find in most stores. I did a taste test of all popular brands and found that the most similar tasting pickle slices happen to be one of the most popular brands on the market: Heinz. Find the hamburger dill chips and be sure to blot the pickle slices dry before breading them. The breading recipe here should be enough to coat all the pickle slices in a 16-ounce jar (50 to 55 slices). As for the dipping sauce? That’s just a simple matter of stirring a little cayenne pepper into some Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. Done and done.

    Click here for wings and more of your favorite foods from Hooters.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    Menu Description: "Seasoned beef, refried beans and cheese." 

    Marno McDermott was a successful Minneapolis restaurateur, opening a chain of Mexican restaurants in the seventies called Zapata's against the advice of skeptics who said he would never be able to sell Mexican food to the large population of Scandinavians in the area. Marno proved them wrong then, and once again in 1976, when he partnered with Max McGee, a former Green Bay Packer football player, to open the first Chi-Chi's in Richfield, Minnesota. The restaurant was built inside a deserted Kroger grocery store and became instantly famous for the intensely flavored and larger-than-usual portions of food. To keep volume high, Chi-Chi's designed a custom computer-driven system that clocks every aspect of service from the time each server enters an order to when the order is placed in front of the customers. Special attention was given to the design of the menu items as well, with each dish taking no more than nine minutes to prepare, even during the rush hours. 

    At the restaurant you can order the Nachos Grande with beef, chicken, seafood or a combination. This recipe will show you how to make the beef and chicken versions.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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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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