If you've ever wanted to eat a Koosh Ball then you understand the appeal of Hostess Sno Balls. Who doesn't want a fluffy, jiggly, bouncy neon snack? Uh. Well. Maybe you don't. In which case, who wants chocolate cake?
Writing about Magic Middles, making a recipe for them, makes me feel like that person at the Police Department that sketches a criminal's portrait while listening to the victim's account. You see, I have never tasted a Magic Middle or seen one in the wild. But based on eye witness reports and video footage, I've taken on the role of a forensic chef in the hunt for America's Most Wanted Cookie.
Oatmeal Creme Pies have mastered consistency in every sense of the word. It starts with the unparalleled consistency of both the cookies and the so-called creme. Together they are yielding yet substantial and neither squishy nor firm. Their flavor and texture remain consistent from edge to edge, from box to box, from decade to decade.
Scarfing down a sugary snack without preamble definitely gets the job done, but a little delayed gratification really amps up the satisfaction of certain sweets. These sweets seem to demand a little ritual and thought: Twisting and licking an Oreo, wearing a Fudge Stripe like an edible ring, punching out the middle of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, or folding and nibbling a Fruit Roll-Up into a fruity snowflake.
I'd like to think of myself as a qualified hangover expert. I grew up in Kentucky, a stone's throw from the Woodford Reserve distillery. I minored in OMG Too Much Booze at culinary school (emphasis on minored; I graduated at 20) and have worked my entire adult life in the hard-drinking realm of restaurant kitchens.
I don't know that there remains any praise for Biscoff that Francis Lam has not already articulated. Rather than try to out-prose the man who wrote of cookies that "taste beautifully and comfortingly of warm spices, caramel and wheat", I've decided to tackle Biscoff from a different angle; as a chef, not a writer.
Writing a nostalgia-fueled column about childhood junk foods has some occupational hazards. Trips to the grocery now involve huge chunks of time spent roaming the center aisles ("Chips Ahoy or Famous Amos? Oh, hello Pecan Sandies..."), my notebook at work has more pages devoted to Little Debbie than Petite Syrah, and my coworkers get irate when subjected to taste-testing the same thing twelve too many times ("Soft Batch, again?").
Last year, Robyn taught us about a magical place called the Netherlands where people enjoy life so much that they crown even the most mundane food, buttered bread, with hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles). I don't know how this practice began, but I'd like to think that the people of the Netherlands have a sweeter constitution and dessert in the evening alone can't sustain them. To survive the long, dangerous hours between breakfast and dessert, they take chocolate vitamins to tide them over.
People who rag on Conversation Hearts as tasteless, chalky pills totally miss the point. You don't eat Conversations Hearts, you experience them. I can remember everything about them without having had a box in years.
Imagine, if you will, a cage match between Butterfinger, 5th Avenue, and Clark Bar. Who would emerge victorious to claim the crispiest, crunchiest, peanut butteriest crown? Moreover, how might we then usurp the throne for ourselves? Let us first define the rules of engagement.
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What made Jell-O pudding in the little plastic cup so exceptional compared to the instant variety, or even homemade, related directly to its texture. It had a slick silkiness that made all other puddings seem as thick and heavy as paste. You could suck up a spoonful through closed teeth, letting it flood your mouth with creamy chocolate wonder. And what can compare to the exquisite pleasure of licking clean the chocolate stained tinfoil lid?
Like loose change lurking in couch cushions, half eaten boxes of Nilla Wafers populate our cupboards; buried treasure lost amid the Seven Cs (cookies, crackers, chocolate, cereal, candy, chips, and cola). No Pantry Pirate ever sets out to find Nilla Wafers, instead, Nilla Wafers reveal themselves with the time is right. Just as despair sets in, the weary snacker sets eyes on their golden shores.
The mere sight of an Oreo stirs up feelings in me disturbingly like love. Not, of course, a torrid, star crossed love. Or even a simple storybook love. No, Oreos give you the kind of love only found in a long term relationship. They're familiar, comforting and pretty good in bed. (Oh, like you never eat cookies in bed?)
What I can't give you: the sound. The crisp, glassine crinkle of Little Debbie's cello wrap crumpling between your fingers. The delicate, mournful song the wadded-up wrapper sings as it slowly unfurls in the trash bin, discarded after faithfully protecting your snack for so long. What I can give you: fluffy yellow cake, silky whipped filling, and a coating of chocolate resilient enough to let you carry the whole thing around in the palm of your hand.
Santa and Milanos have equally substantiated merits. Santa supposedly rewards children for their behavior and Milanos ostensibly taste good. Both claims remain scientifically impossible to prove, but even so, people continue to believe in them because both point to something beautiful.
Maybe it's the PTSD (that's Post Thanksgiving Sobriety Disinclination) talking, but any dessert that can accommodate a few ounces bourbon seems like the very definition of Happy Holidays to me. Not that McDonald's Egg Nog shake is alcoholic. Just that, well, it should be.
Okay, let me get this straight. It's Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and you've bellied up to Serious Eats for more? Either you're not an American or you're an exceptionally good one. In any case, winter has almost arrived and with it? Hot cocoa season.
Most of my childhood memories center around food and one of the earliest involves Fig Newtons. Before my brother had the audacity to be born on my fourth birthday, I was a painfully shy only child. So when my aunt and cousin drove in from out of town for a visit, I felt slightly terrified. My cousin was a bone fide Big Kid who could ride a bike and stuff. Don't those Big Kids pick on the Little Ones? I didn't plan on sticking around to find out.
Not all 1980s era spokes-creatures suffered at the hands of human children as Lucky the Leprechaun did. Chester Cheetah and Tony the Tiger enjoyed an open dialogue with kids that, while perhaps overstepping the bounds of traditional customer-service interactions, symbolized a new era of peaceful human-mascot relations. But none worked harder to maintain this lasting peace than diminutive Ernest J. Keebler.
Urban legend has it that some industrial candy snafu botched the names of 3 Musketeers and Milky Way. The tale has a certain logic. 3 Musketeers doesn't have three ingredients but Milky Way does. And the very name Milky Way recalls the smooth, uninterrupted creaminess found in 3 Musketeers. Those kinds of wonky urban legends ran amok in the eighties, but we have the internet now, so let's clear this stuff up. It's not a tasty tabloid tale of "Switched at Birth!" but rather "Murder, She Wrote."
One of my favorite parts of snuggling up to the latest issue of any given food magazine is catching up on restaurant news in cities across America. New York. Boston. San Francisco. Chicago. Lexington. "Wait, Lexington...What state is that even in?" I can hear you asking.
Today, I give the world homemade Lucky Charms marshmallows. That's right. You can now make little Styrofoam pellets of pure joy. Crispy, toothache inducing marshmallowy delight. I'm talking about marshmallows so crisp they get mistaken for astronaut ice cream. Any color you can imagine. Any shape. No leprechaun hunting required.
After using my culinary time machine to rip a hole in the fabric of the kitchen space-time continuum, I visited an alternate universe where I discovered Brown Butter Soft Batch Cookies. The responsible time/dimensional traveler would have turned back; patched up the rift and come home straight away. And I promise, I'll do just that. But as long as we're here, I want one more souvenir. You see, I discovered the alternate-universe's Nutella, like peanut butter, comes in both crunchy and creamy.
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