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Home Made Junk Food

Home Made Junk Food

Late last year a somewhat unique cookbook came on the radar titled, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch — Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods; a cookbook that was a mouthful, both in title as well as offering. The conceit of the book was to provide a sort of division of labor for the home cook. There is not much of a practical reason to make your own mayonnaise, but canning your own heirloom tomatoes…positively. Much of the book focuses on fairly straightforward items and recipes, and not the arcane desirables of the artisanal food world. Recipes for hot dog buns, bagels, potato chips and guacamole fills the pages: the kind of stuff you would find and routinely buy at a chain grocery store. In addition, there were quite a few recipes for homemade junk food items, albeit made with more wholesome and healthy ingredients.

For anyone who has tried their hand at homemade junk food items (a show of hands please?) you know that the most industrialized of foods is often exceptionally challenging to recreate at home. This goes for things like Oreos, Cheetos, and even ketchup (it can be done, but results vary). There was a book that endeavored to give home cooks a taste of that junky pleasure without all of the artificial ingredients, trans fats, and preservatives (and that obligatory trip to the corner store) called The Wholesome Junk Food Cookbook. The idea wasn’t so much replicate the entire Hostess Snack Cake cannon, but make junk food-inspired recipes with healthy ingredients; Kind of like building a fascist dictatorship with cuddly kittens in place of bloodthirsty despots.

Recently, because of the bankruptcy filing of the Hostess Corporation (the company that brought you the Twinkie, the Ho-Ho, and Wonder Bread) people like New York Times writer Jennifer Steinhauer have decided to move beyond the grab-and-go mentality and start producing some junk food favorites at home (or at least in the NYT test kitchen). Steinhauer documents her trials and travails in a recent NYT piece titled, “It’s Not Junk If I Made It.” She started with the iconic Twinkie, which requires something called a “canoe pan” and cream injectors, not to mention several ingredients and the ability to make a 7-minute cream filling. Her results were successful, with a few backfires (the cream, after sitting, began to be absorbed into the cake). Steinhauer then tries her hand at Oreos (middling success) and then Fritos (tasty, but not quite the real thing). The moral of the story – while you can emulate the junkiest of the junk, and do such with more wholesome ingredients, you can’t actually recreate the magic of the industrialized junk food machinery.

Do you hold any interest in making your own junk food? I am not talking about those easily translatable treat food staples like chilidogs and smores, but things like Doritos, Ding-Dongs, and Mountain Dew? Is it worth the effort, or are these foods to be avoided at all costs, no matter where they come from?

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Read more: Blogs, Eating for Health, Following Food, Food,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
6:29PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

One has to give in every once in a while... if possible!

6:26PM PDT on Apr 2, 2012

One has to give in every once in a while... if possible!

12:47PM PDT on Mar 22, 2012

I'm not particularly interested in recreating the Hostess line in my own kitchen (I never thought they were very tasty to begin with), but my mother does have a thing for fries. She has an Actifry, which is really a great thing if you like fried food, but are wary of it for health reasons. You put in the fries (frozen or freshly cut!), 1 tablespoon of oil and turn it on. I always think of fries as "junk food", but if you're using fresh potatoes, only a spoonfull of oil and a dash of salt is it really "junk food"?

9:31AM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

And now Nirvana?
The point is that making it yourself is BETTER for you than buying commercial stuff that doesn't taste anywhere near as good!

Geez, what's wrong with little pleasures every so often?

9:19AM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

Cary, what IS your problem??
The whole article IS ABOUT MAKING YOUR OWN. So what if it's "junk food". That's just a word for the processed crap that passes for "food".

I've made the most delicious foods that aren't the greatest for me, but I have complete control of the ingredients.
Besides, one person's "junk", is another's normal diet. At least this way, the chemicals are left out.
And is any real food really all junk?

My idea of junk food is my pasta/broc/sun-dried tomato dish with a ton of garlic and olive oil.
So how junky is that, really?

1:58AM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

Its bad for you even if you make it yourself so what's the point?

3:41PM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

I am allergic to both artificial flavours and chocolate, so the vast majority of store-bought junk food is out of the question for me. I am pretty handy in the kitchen, though, so I have tried a few things. Generally, I find that the effort is nowhere near being worth the result. Eclairs, like the twinkie mentioned, are a huge amount of effort for very little result. Sure they tasted good, but they have no shelf life and take an hour plus of finicky work, plus clean up. I only bothered to make them once. The same goes for doughnuts. Tons of work, huge mess to clean up, middling results.

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some candies and sweets that are worth the effort. I make cakes throughout the year (cake is always worth making yourself, btw), and I always make candies at Christmas. The candies just don't usually resemble anything that's on store shelves.

One thing I would like to try, though, is Eat-More bars. They strike me as something that might be worth the effort.

10:00AM PDT on Mar 11, 2012

Everything in moderation. Thanks for posting.

10:52PM PST on Mar 10, 2012

I enjoy a little bit of everything in my diet. I don't plan on making my junk food at home though. When I eat it, I'll buy it.

10:18PM PST on Mar 10, 2012

Okay, Debbie, here you go. I hope you like it.

In a wide-mouth mason jar, at least 12 ounces in size, place the following ingredients in the order listed:
1 egg
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper (white pepper, if you have it)
pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 cup salad oil (any light tasting oil will work; I use a flavorless olive oil)

Place the end of the immersion blender at the bottom of the jar and, keeping a firm hold on the jar, turn on the blender. With the blender running at high speed, slowly pull it toward the top of the jar, By the time you reach the top, everything should be emulsified. Turn off the blender before removing it. You might have to scrape down the sides. If necessary, give it a stir with a whisk or rubber scraper. Cover tightly and refrigerate. It should keep for up to a month. Makes about 1 1/4 cup.

Remember, this has no preservatives other than the acid in the vinegar or lemon juice. Do NOT store outside the refrigerator. It WILL spoil.
Use a very fresh egg that you will feel comfortable eating uncooked.
Adding a little paprika, for color, wouldn't hurt.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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