Monday, November 16, 2009

This one goes to Starbucks

A rare win for Big Food. Starbucks' vanilla almond biscotti (right) trounces Todd Wilbur's bland, gravelly clone from Top Secret Recipes Unlocked.  Better looks, better flavor, better texture. 

On the other hand, the soft snickerdoodles Isabel baked using Wilbur's Pepperidge Farm clone recipe, were incredible. I always thought Pepperidge Farm was a classy brand of cookie -- have no idea why; is it? -- but tasted side by side with a homemade snickerdoodle, the PF version is almost inedible. Apparently, pure butter trumps "palm and/or interestified and hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed" oil.

You can read my Entertainment Weekly review of Wilbur's book here, but, unfortunately, the online version doesn't include the chart detailing the various items I cooked. The piece is pretty flat without it. If you see a copy of the magazine, it's on page 91. 

Here are some of the experiments that didn't make the cut: 
Homemade Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies (left) were buttery and crispy; the real thing: chalky.
Homemade Starbucks pumpkin cream cheese muffin (left) was fluffy and delicious the real thing: turgid and pasty.

Finally, as some of you might recall, I made onion rings a few weeks ago and since EW doesn't include them in the roundup I can put you out of your suspense.

  A homemade onion ring made using Todd Wilbur's recipe (left) involves dipping actual rings of an actual onion into milk, bread crumbs, and flour, then frying them in a pot of Crisco. They are stupendous. I have no idea how Burger King produces its "onion" rings but they do not contain the rings of an onion. They are more like onion crullers -- batter containing scant bits of onion that is (I would guess) extruded  through a machine into ring shapes, then tossed into a vat of the cheapest possible recycled oil. Sampled side by side with real onion rings, they are truly horrid. 

They are, however, much, much cheaper to buy than to make. They are also tidier to eat and you can get them when you are driving across Nevada, crave a hot, salty snack, and don't want to get out of your car. I would say that the stale, nasty BK onion ring has its place, except why wouldn't you just get french fries? 


  1. I find BK french fries are nasty since they put that crustlike thing on them. Am clicking over to your review now because there are some things I would love to recreate in my kitchen (cheesy biscuits from Red Lobster, cranberry/white chocolate thing from Starbucks). But frying scares me so thank goodness I have an amazing onion ring source nearby!

  2. Seems like the book should have gotten an A for creating food *better* than the originals. (You are a toughie!) I want to buy the book, but I think it would cause me to gain a lot a weight.

  3. You are right, AzureSong. I like the book better the more I cook from it. I should have given it at least a B+.

  4. You are right, AzureSong. I like the book better the more I cook from it. I should have given it at least a B+.

  5. Does that book have a recipe for Houston's spinach dip, and did you make it? My friends and I were addicted to that in college.

  6. Girl Detective -- No, that recipe isn't in this book, but he's written a few others.