In 1867, infant mortality rates in Vevey, Switzerland, had been climbing and Henri Nestle was working hard on a concoction of concentrated milk, sugar, and cereal for babies who were refusing their mother's milk. Eventually he discovered a formula that helped infants stay strong and healthy. He called his new product Farine Lactee and merged with two American brothers, Charles and George Page, who came to Switzerland to capitalize on Swiss canned milk technology. Their new company was called Nestle and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company, and quickly expanded into fifteen other countries. Seven years later, Nestle sold the company to three local businessmen for one million francs.
The new company kept the Nestle name and started selling chocolate in 1904. In 1929, the company acquired Cailler, the first company to mass-produce chocolate bars, and Swiss General, the company credited with inventing milk chocolate. This company was the core of the chocolate business as we know it today. The Nestle Crunch bar was introduced in 1928 and is now the company's top-selling candy bar.
Update 10/27/20: For chocolate that sets better, temper the chocolate by melting 2/3 of the chips (16 ounces) in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Be sure not to get any water in the chocolate or it will seize up. Gently stir occasionally. When the chips are melted and smooth, remove the bowl from the hot water and place it on a bunched up dish towel. Add the remaining 8 ounces of chips and stir vigorously until they are melted. If you are having a tough time getting the chips to melt all the way, you can place the bowl over the simmering water again, but just for a couple seconds, then remove the bowl and stir again. You may also want to line your 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper, or make a sling so that the candy can be easily removed.
Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.
- Two 12-ounce bags milk chocolate chips (Nestle is best)
- 1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1. There are two ways to melt the chocolate. The best way: Temper it (see instructions above in the intro); or the easy way: Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in a microwave set on medium for 2 minutes. Stir halfway through the heating time. Melt thoroughly, but be careful not to overheat.
2. Gently mix the Rice Krispies into the chocolate and pour into a greased 9x13-inch pan.
3. Slam the pan on the counter or floor to level the chocolate.
4. Refrigerate until firm about 30 minutes.
5. Cut the candy in half widthwise and then cut it twice lengthwise, making 6 bars.
Makes 6 "king-size" bars
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Menu Description: "Layers of rich chocolate cake and sweet buttercream icing."
The cake mix has cherry flavoring mixed in and the buttercream frosting between the layers is made from scratch, but the real secret to this Top Secret Recipe is how we put it all together. You've got to make two slices through the edge of the baked cake to create the three thin layers, so you'll want to use a long serrated knife. Lay down some wax paper under the cake to help you turn the cake while you slice. Slide the whole thing over near the edge of the counter so that you can more easily keep the knife parallel to the countertop. You can use your favorite chocolate cake mix for the recipe, but be sure not to use one with pudding in it or one that is "extra moist" (Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe is one such brand). These mixes make slicing and layering difficult because the baked cake falls apart so easily.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
Menu Description: "Fire-roasted chicken breast topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our Florio Marsala wine sauce."
To create my Carrabba's Chicken Marsala recipe, I ordered the dish to go, with the sauce on the side, so that I could separately analyze each component. After some trial and error in the underground lab, I found that re-creating the secret sauce from scratch is easy enough with a couple small cans of sliced mushrooms, a bit of prosciutto, some Marsala wine, shallots, garlic and a few other good things.
Cooking the chicken requires a very hot grill. The restaurant chain grills chicken breasts over a blazing real wood fire, so crank your grill up high enough to get the flames nipping at your cluckers (not a euphemism). If your grill has a lid, keep it open, so you can watch for nasty flare-ups.
Here's a clone recipe for a favorite East Coast treat that could even fool Rosie O'Donnell. The snack food-loving talk show hostess professed her love for these tasty Drake's goodies on her daytime show. And who could blame her? It's hard not to relish the smooth, fluffy filling between two tender devil's food cake fingers. I'll take a Devil Dog over a Twinkie any day of the week. For this clone recipe, we'll make the cakes from scratch. This will create a cake similar to the original. You may also use a devil's food cake mix rather than the scratch recipe here. Just make the filling with the recipe below and assemble your cakes the same way.
Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.
In 1995 pediatric nurse Lindsay Frucci discovered a way to make chewy, fudgy brownies without any of fat. Today you can find her brownie mix boxes in thousands of grocery stores and specialty markets throughout the country. All you have to do is add some nonfat vanilla yogurt to the dry mix and bake.
The brownies that emerge from your oven are good, but the mix can be pricey. One box of No Pudge! Fat Free Fudge Brownie Mix will set you back around four bucks, which seems like a lot when you consider that boxes of regular brownie mix from larger brands such as Pillsbury or Duncan Hines contain similar ingredients but sell for roughly half that. So I spent a week burning through gobs of cocoa, sugar, and flour in hopes of creating an easy No Pudge! Brownie mix copycat recipe that you can make for a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest brownie mix on the market. After much trial and error, I finally nailed it.
I tried many batches with Hershey's and Nestle's cocoa, but eventually decided the best widely available unsweetened cocoa powder for the task is the stuff made by Ghirardelli. Use this cocoa powder for the best results. You'll also want to track down baker's sugar, which is a superfine sugar, and some powdered egg whites (health foods stores or cake decorating suppliers carry this). Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl, and when you're ready to make the brownies, simply mix in 2/3 cup of nonfat vanilla yogurt, just like with the real thing. In 34 baking minutes (same as regular minutes, but they seem much longer) you'll have one plate of amazing fat-free chocolate brownies ready to eat.
Click here for more famous cookie and brownie copycat recipes.
Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.
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.
The problem with making biscuits using Bisquick is that if you follow the directions from the box you don't end up with a very fluffy or flakey finished product, since most of the fat in the recipe comes from the shortening that's included in the mix. On its own, room temperature shortening does a poor job creating the light, airy texture you want from good biscuits, and it contributes little in the way of flavor. So, we'll invite some cold butter along on the trip -- with grated Cheddar cheese and a little garlic powder. Now you'll be well on your way to delicious Cheddar Bay. Wherever that is.
Source: "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2" by Todd Wilbur.
Menu Description: "Jumbo butterflied shrimp hand-dipped in batter flavored with Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Rum & coconut flakes. Served with piña colada dipping sauce."
Fans of this dish say the best part is the piña 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. My Red Lobster Parrot Bay coconut shrimp copycat 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 piña colada sauce, but you may not even want to include it.
Menu Description: "Our creamy cheesecake with chunks of white chocolate and swirls of imported seedless raspberries throughout. Baked in a chocolate crust and finished with white chocolate shavings and whipped cream."
Use my Cheesecake Factory White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake recipe below to make a home version of the cheesecake that many claim is the best they've ever had. Raspberry preserves are the secret ingredient that is swirled into the cream cheese that's poured into a crumbled chocolate cookie crust. Yum. No wonder this cheesecake is the number one pick from the chain's massive list of cheesecake choices.
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.
Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.
Update 11/16/17: You can make an even better clone using a chocolate product that wasn't available when I created this recipe. Rather than using the semi-sweet chocolate chips combined with shortening and peppermint for coating the cookies, use Ghirardelli Dark Melting Wafers. You will need 2 10-ounce bags of the chips, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract (and no shortening). Melt the chocolate the same way, and dip the cookies as instructed.
At the train station in Naugatuck, Connecticut, candy and ice-cream shop owner Peter Paul Halajian used to meet the commuter trains carrying baskets full of fresh hand-made chocolates. The most popular of his candies was a blend of coconut, fruits, nuts, and chocolate that he called Konabar.
In 1919, when demand for his confections grew, Halajian and five associates, all of Armenian heritage, opened a business in New Haven to produce and sell his chocolates on a larger scale. Because there were no refrigerators, they made the chocolate by hand at night, when the air was the coolest, and sold the candy during the day. In 1920 the first Mounds bar was introduced.
Peter Paul merged with Cadbury U.S.A. in 1978, and in 1986 Cadbury U.S.A. merged with the Hershey Foods Corporation, now the world's largest candy conglomerate.
Try my Almond Joy and Mounds copycat recipes below to enjoy those familiar candy bars at home anytime, and find more of your favorite candy clone recipes here.
Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.
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.
Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.
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 below to duplicate the original caramel corn. Toy not included.
For over 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original copycat recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.