Why should you let greedy fast-food conglomerates rot your teeth with their artery-occluding, guilt-inducing products when you can make them at home for yourself? Todd Wilbur’s Top Secret Recipes: Creating Kitchen Clones of America’s Favorite Brand-Name Foods (Plume) is selling like McNuggets all over the country.
But do his recipes work? Entertainment Weekly asked me, as a food editor, to test Wilbur’s formulas and find out. Though tempted by recipes for Jack-in-the-Box tacos and Almond Roca, I settled on an appetizer of Borden Cracker Jacks, followed by Big Macs as the entrée, with Hostess Twinkies to cleanse the palate.
Wilbur’s Cracker Jack recipe passed the test almost flawlessly. My three guests could scarcely distinguish the homemade version from the real thing. ”The only way I could tell for sure,” said one, ”you were more generous with the peanuts.” Eyes closed, testers found that the Big Macs tasted exactly the same as the real thing, though they stood twice as tall. The Twinkies, however, fell flat. The aluminum-foil molds they require were hard work to make, and the finished Twinkie resembled an anemic tamale. Gone was the store-bought sponge providing that initial sugar rush followed by an exquisite aftertaste of grease. But the filling tasted right: The undissolved granulated sugar set everyone’s teeth perfectly on edge. ”I knew Wilbur had gotten it right,” noted one test-kitchen gourmet, ”when it crunched a bit, just like when I was a kid.” — Additional reporting by Tim Appelo