You don't miss your water, says the song, till your well runs dry.
Twinkies still had their fans, but no one thought much about them until last month, when it was announced that parent company Hostess Brands was going to close its doors. Suddenly, everyone loved Twinkies. Fans started hoarding them, while others bought what they could and offered them for ridiculously high prices on eBay.
It is possible, even likely, that another company will buy the brand and begin producing their own Twinkies in the future. But until that day comes, let's all join in the panic.
TWINKIES ARE GONE FOREVER! NEVER AGAIN WILL WE EAT THOSE GOOEY, DELICIOUS TREATS! THE END OF TIMES IS AT HAND!
There, that feels better.
Fortunately, a large number of people with apparently far too much time on their hands have been trying for years to create copycat versions of Twinkies to make in their own kitchens. Some had more success than others, but pretty much everyone put the results on the Internet.
Most home cooks do not have access to the snack foods' more chemistry-related ingredients (cellulose gum, polysorbate 60, sodium stearoyl lactylate), so they have been making these recipes with the generally natural ingredients they have on hand. While these knock-off recipes may be better for you -- if Twinkies could ever be said to be good for you -- they will never be able to taste exactly like the real thing.
But how close can they come? We decided to test a few of the more likely looking to see which is the most Twinkiesque.
But first, a confession: I never understood the Twinkies mystique. Though I am a junk-food omnivore, or I was in my younger days, I never saw the particular appeal of the Twinkie. I have probably not had more than three or four in my life, and maybe not more than one or two. The cake part struck me as a bit bland, and I thought the white filling was ... weird. I am, or was, a sucker for gooey creme fillings, but the stuff in the middle of a Twinkie never did it for me.
I never much cared for the filling in Ding Dongs, either, but I did prefer their chocolate cake to the sponge cake of the Twinkie.
None of which stopped my pursuit of the perfect homemade version. If possible, I wanted mine to be even better than the real thing, which means I wanted the cake part to have a flavor as well as texture, and I hoped the filling would be a bit less cloying. I wanted it sweet, but not to the point where it dissolves the enamel on your teeth.
First I turned to the wisdom of Todd Wilbur, the TV guy who became well-known by re-creating famous brand-name and restaurant dishes at home. He's the man who figured out the secret sauce on the Big Mac, the herbs and spices behind Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the proportions and ingredients in Wendy's chili.
As I suspected, he had already conquered the mysteries of the Twinkie -- or so he claimed. He even had a video showing how to do it.
Based on the realization that Twinkies are sponge cakes with marshmallow gunk inside, he begins with a box of pound cake mix. Some people may feel that using a box of mix is cheating, but then again, the whole concept of making your own Twinkies is kind of cheating. Mr. Wilbur makes a big deal of ignoring the directions on the box -- on the video, he scornfully tosses it away -- and
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