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The #1 Bestselling Top Secret Recipes Series—With More Than 4 Million Books Sold!
A full-color cookbook from America's Clone Recipe King
For more than twenty-five years, Todd Wilbur has been obsessed with recreating America's most iconic brand-name foods at home. In his first cookbook with color photos, the New York Times bestselling author brings you 125 new clone recipes: 75 first-time hacks and 50 overhauled all-time favorites. Each recipe comes with easy-to-follow step-by-step photos so that even novice cooks can perfectly recreate their favorite famous foods with everyday ingredients. And your homemade versions cost just a fraction of what the restaurants charge! The result of years of careful research, trial-and-error, and a little creative reverse-engineering, Top Secret Recipes® Step-by-Step hacks:
· KFC® Original Recipe® Fried Chicken and Cole Slaw
· Cinnabon® Classic Cinnamon Roll
· IKEA® Swedish Meatballs
· Pinkberry® Original Frozen Yogurt
· Raising Cane's® Chicken Fingers and Sauce
· Arby's® Curly Fries
· Lofthouse® Frosted Cookies
· Wendy's® Chili
· Panera Bread® Fuji Apple Chicken Salad
· Starbucks® Cake Pops
· Cafe Rio® Sweet Pork Barbacoa
· McDonald's® McRib® Sandwich
· The Melting Pot® Cheddar Cheese Fondue
· P.F. Chang's® Chicken Lettuce Wraps
· The Cheesecake Factory® Stuffed Mushrooms
· Ben & Jerry's® Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
· Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich
· Chili's® Baby Back Ribs
· Chipotle Mexican Grill® Adobo-Marinated Grilled Chicken & Steak
· Cracker Barrel® Hash Brown Casserole
· Mrs. Fields® Chocolate Chip Cookies
· Ruth's Chris Steakhouse® Sweet Potato Casserole
And over 100 more delicious dishes, from snacks and appetizers to entrees and desserts!
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
For more than 25 years, Todd Wilbur has been reverse-engineering America's most iconic foods for his series of 11 Top Secret Recipes cookbooks. With over 5 million books in print, the self-proclaimed "food hacker" has appeared in over 100 media outlets including The New York Times, People Magazine, Newsweek, The Daily News, Entertainment Weekly, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, The Dr. Oz Show, and The Food Network. His website www.TopSecretRecipes.com is the #1 copycat recipes website with 1 million visitors every month. He lives with his family in Las Vegas, NV.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The first title I gave this book when I started writing it more than three years ago was Joy of Cloning. Not because I was scheming to pick up new readers who stumbled upon my cookbook while searching for Irma S. Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking—although I admit that wouldn’t have been such a terrible thing—but really because, as Rombauer imparted in her culinary classic, the process of entertaining and creating delicious food for friends and family is a true joy. And I think that sentiment pertains as much, if not more, to this niche of cooking. There are practical reasons why we clone famous foods, which I will explore later in more detail, such as saving money and duplicating the taste of our favorite dishes with ingredients that we prefer. But the enjoyment we experience when everyone is amazed by the successful re-creation of a delicious dish they thought they could only get in a restaurant or in a package sets this type of cooking apart from any other.
Over time, as this book evolved from a cookbook with dozens of photographs into one with hundreds of photographs detailing each important step of every recipe, the current title, Step-by-Step, made more sense.
A NEW LOOK WITH PHOTOS
I considered using photographs when I began writing my first Top Secret Recipes cookbook in 1987. I studied photography in college—even took second place in an L.A. Times photography contest with ten thousand entries while I was in school—but at that time I only knew how to process black-and-white photos in the darkroom, and digital cameras were not yet the norm. I wanted to use some art that I could make myself so I decided to illustrate the books with hand-drawn blueprint-style schematics that nicely suited the “top secret” theme of the books. Over a period of twenty-five years, working on a tiny worn-out drafting table using a combination of stenciling and freehand drawing, I inked a total of 450 blueprints to illustrate the first ten Top Secret Recipes cookbooks. As the years moved on I heard from an increasing number of cookbook buyers and TSR fans who expressed a strong desire for photographs in the cookbooks. I decided it was time to leave the blueprints behind and begin a new look for the Top Secret Recipes cookbooks with step-by-step color photos for each of the recipes.
This is the first copycat recipes cookbook that guides you with photographs through every important step of the replicating process for each of the brand-name clone dishes. By using the photos along with the instructions, you will now have a clearer understanding of how each part of each recipe is made, virtually guaranteeing that all of these famous dishes come out as intended, so that you will produce delicious and accurate copies of the popular brand-name foods that everyone loves to eat.
I kept the photos simple and shot many from a first-person perspective, helping you to see exactly how the cooking process should progress in front of you. Since I work alone, it’s a little tricky to pose, focus, and shoot this way, but I dig the angle so it’s worth the extra effort. When the last ingredient was added, I had shot more than 35,000 photos to get the 1,100+ pics that made it into the book.
WHAT’S IN STEP-BY-STEP
All 125 recipes in this cookbook are new, never-before-published recipes. Most of them (a total of 75) are formulas that I have not cloned in any of my cookbooks. I call them “First-Time Hacks.” I chose these recipes from a long list of fan requests that I have compiled over many years and from researching what is popular in today’s food business. Some of these items have been big sellers for many years like McDonald’s McRib Sandwich (here), The Cheesecake Factory Stuffed Mushrooms (here), Carrabba’s Italian Grill Steamed Mussels (here), Gatorade Orange Sports Drink (here), Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream (here), and Legal Sea Foods Legal’s Signature Crab Cakes (here). Some of the First-Time Hacks you’ll find here are top-selling newer items like Chili’s Chipotle Chicken Flatbread (here), McDonald’s Premium Sweet Chili Chicken McWrap (here), and Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger (here).
The other fifty recipes in the book are what I call “Improved Hacks.” These are some of my most popular classic clone recipes that I have gone back and re-hacked to make much better than my original previously published versions. I tapped into some new techniques and tricks that I’ve picked up over the last two and a half decades of cloning foods to make these classic recipes even better culinary carbon copies of their famous brand-name counterparts. For these improved hacks I chose my most popular recipes for which I had discovered new information that helps makes the recipes better, or recipes that needed an update because the original product formulas they clone had been altered. If you like my early version of KFC Cole Slaw, then you’ll really like the new hack here where dairy is no longer in the ingredients list. If you’re a fan of the Tony Roma’s Ribs recipe I published almost twenty years ago, then you’re going to be crazy about the new version in this book, which incorporates a restaurant trick I learned to make smoky ribs at home without a smoker (here). The Olive Garden Salad Dressing (here) is better now, as is Wendy’s Chili (here), Applebee’s Fiesta Lime Chicken (here), and El Pollo Loco Fire-Grilled Chicken (here), just to name a few.
To make it clear which of the two categories a recipe falls under I have tagged each one with either “First-Time Hack” or “Improved Hack.”
Eight of the recipes included here (some are Improved Hacks and some are First-Time Hacks) were developed from information I gathered on the eight episodes of my CMT TV show Top Secret Recipe. In the show I travel around the country in my food lab on wheels to the headquarters of some of the country’s biggest food companies and attempt to re-create their famous products. I am given three days to gather enough information—using whatever sneaky means I can muster—to re-create a dish that can fool three judges in a blind taste test. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes not so much. Three days is not a lot of time to hack dishes that were developed and perfected by these companies over years of research and development, so the task is a challenging one—especially when the judges are often picked by the company whose product I’m hacking.
Every recipe from the show is here: Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Roll (here), Chili’s Grilled Baby Back Ribs (here), Dippin’ Dots Banana Split Ice Cream (here), Domino’s Large Cheese Pizza (here), KFC Original Recipe Fried Chicken (here), Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies (here), Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion (here), and P.F. Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps (here).
BETTER RECIPES, BETTER RESULTS
With this book I have made a few changes to the way I write recipes. These tweaks should help give you more consistent and reliable results that closely match the finished products I intend for you to create.
Because weight is often a more accurate way to measure certain ingredients like flour and powdered sugar, I specify weight measurements for ingredients that are best measured that way. I recommend that you get yourself a kitchen scale and measure ingredients by weight whenever possible. This measuring method will give you more consistent results, especially when baking. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, don’t worry. I also list the volume measurements for those ingredients.
Because the amount of salt in salted butter can vary from brand to brand, I am now creating all recipes with unsalted butter. This small change will help give you results that are closer to mine.
In previous Top Secret Recipes books I often use ingredient shortcuts to make the recipes easy, but this sometimes results in a finished product that could have tasted better if I had used a scratch method. For example, my previous version of Chili’s Molten Chocolate Cake (here) called for a boxed cake mix for the cake and bottled fudge for the molten center. In this book I have redesigned the recipe by making the chocolate cake and fudge filling from scratch. It takes a little more time to write recipes this way, but by creating scratch versions of these formulas I can make adjustments in individual ingredients so that the finished product is a better clone of the original recipe. There are several other re-hacks in this book that I have converted to scratch recipes to give you improved results: the Hostess Twinkie (here), which formerly called for a box of pound cake mix, and the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits (here), which called for Bisquick baking mix, are a couple other examples. I have also made an effort to create most of the First-Time Hacks in this book with scratch ingredients for more accurate and great-tasting clone recipes.
I have included an info box at the top of each recipe to give you an idea of the time required for each recipe and the difficulty level. I estimated the time required for the active and inactive preparation of each recipe. The “Active Prep” time is the hands-on time required to make the recipe, while the “Inactive Prep” time is the passive time required to make the recipe, such as when ingredients are marinating or something is baking.
In addition, I have estimated the difficulty of each recipe by tagging the recipe with either “Easy,” “Medium,” or “Hard.” If you are a novice cook I suggest you use only the recipes that are either “Easy” or “Medium” difficulty. These recipes make up the bulk of the recipes in this book. There are, however, a handful of recipes here that I consider to be “Hard.” A little more cooking experience is suggested for these recipes and the time required to make these recipes is considerably longer. You up for the challenge? Don’t be scared. They’re not impossible recipes—just a little harder than the other ones.
WHY CLONE FAMOUS FOODS?
It was in 1987 that I received a chain letter in the mail claiming to be the real secret recipe for a Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookie. It was not, of course. But this chain letter with a mediocre recipe for chocolate chip cookies printed on it was widely popular across the country and caused quite a stir. People who made the recipe and had never tried a Mrs. Fields Cookie assumed that Mrs. Fields Cookies were as ordinary as the cookies produced with the recipe. The chain letter also claimed that the recipe was obtained by a woman who had purchased it at one of the cookie stores for $2.50 but was then charged $250.00 on her credit card for the purchase. This prompted the Mrs. Fields Cookie company to place signs in all their stores disclaiming the recipe as well as the story about the woman’s purchase and overcharging. Debbi Fields later wrote about the incident in her book, One Smart Cookie, referring to the situation as “The Recipe Problem.”
When I saw the signs pop up in the cookie stores, it struck me that this ridiculous little chain letter must have become very popular—and it didn’t even make a good cookie! It became obvious to me that America had a fascination with copycat recipes for famous brand-name foods, and a book filled with a bunch of recipes like these might be a winner. For the next five years I spent all my free time learning how to reverse-engineer popular foods, and I started by making a much better version of the Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookie than the one in the chain letter. Eventually I had created a collection of recipes that duplicated the taste and appearance of iconic American brand-name foods, and I set out to find a publisher for the book.
That first book, called Top Secret Recipes, came out in 1993 and sold better than expected. I appeared on several popular TV and radio talk shows in the following weeks responding to various questions about my food-hacking process, my favorite cloned recipes, and which secret formulas were the most difficult to reverse-engineer.
One of the questions that I got most often back then—and still today—is, “Why would anyone want to duplicate a famous food item that they can just go out and buy?” In a short radio or TV interview it’s hard to hit on all of the reasons why America loves to clone food and why this specialty niche of cooking is more popular today than ever before, but this is the perfect place to give you my full list:
Cost: It is almost always cheaper to clone these food items at home than it is to purchase the original items at restaurants or in stores. Through cost analysis I have found that re-creating these dishes in your own kitchen costs an average of around half of what the original product will cost you. Cloning famous food at home is a great way to save some coin.
Customization: With these recipes you have the freedom to customize brand-name dishes to suit your taste preferences and nutritional needs. You may wish to substitute reduced-fat ingredients for those with full fat, such as mayonnaise or sour cream. You may prefer to use organic ingredients, or use wheat buns when sesame seed buns are called for. You may choose to substitute ground turkey for ground beef because you don’t eat red meat. You now have the freedom to make these dishes the way you like them and treat yourself to a special version of the item that is not available where the original is sold.
Discontinuation: Someone once said to me, “Why would I ever want to make a Twinkie at home when I can just go out and buy a Twinkie? It’s not like they’re ever gonna stop selling Twinkies!” But in November 2012, that’s exactly what happened. Due to a labor dispute, Hostess closed the doors to its baking facilities and we became a Twinkie-less country until the company reopened with new owners in July of the following year. There are gobs of other famous foods that have been discontinued over the years, many of them indefinitely. Having these secret recipes is the only way to enjoy the taste of our favorites long after they are gone.
Scarcity: In the holiday months of 2008 a memo was sent to all Starbucks stores announcing a shortage of the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins. Demand was so high that year that supplies were dwindling and the chain would run out before the holidays had even arrived! In November 2009 historic amounts of rain closed the plant in Atlanta that makes Eggo Waffles and another Kellogg’s plant in Rossville, Tennessee, was closed indefinitely for repairs. These two closures reduced Eggo production by 50 percent and the country was faced with a nationwide shortage of Eggos that left grocery store freezer shelves empty for weeks. With clone recipes at the ready for popular items such as these (both of which I previously cloned in another book and on our website at TopSecretRecipes.com), scarcity of your favorite food products is no longer an issue.
Location: When you were in Indianapolis you had the best shrimp cocktail of your life at St. Elmo Steak House and now you’re back home in Poughkeepsie with a deep craving for it. Good thing you have a clone recipe for St. Elmo Steak House World Famous Shrimp Cocktail here to satisfy your otherwise insatiable urge, so that you can treat yourself to a food that’s only available in a specific part of the country. It’s also nice to have a handy clone rec...
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