I’m of the generation that grew up eating Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes and various other not-so-healthy, not-at-all-homemade goodies. Maybe not Twinkies so much as other Hostess specialties (though finding a Twinkie in my lunchbox would not have sparked immediate trade talks with the kid at the next desk). Devil Dogs? Yum. Fruit Pies? Just what I wanted when my siblings and I rode our bikes up the hill to Melfair Market to squander our paper-route and babysitting money. But for me, it was all about Sno Balls and Funny Bones. I know I’m in the minority on both. But I’m nothing if not loyal, so I’m standing my very sugary ground here.
As a kid, I used to think to myself, “When I’m the one doing the shopping, I’ll buy Funny Bones every week.” Big surprise: I don’t. And even bigger surprise: My 11-year-old son has never even had a Twinkie. And he mentions it. Often.
So the news that New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer was, literally, writing the book on all things Hostess (and so much more) was cause for celebration in my house. Now I could actually make these treats from scratch, know what went into them, and feel confident I wasn’t feeding my kids something that would outlast the apocalypse. Plus, where’s the downside in an occasional Funny Bone or Sno Ball? Nope. There isn’t one.
Before I hurtle full throttle down culinary memory lane, I have to offer full disclosure: Jennifer is a friend. Fuller disclosure: She lives within walking distance, so I got to taste some of these babies during the testing/writing process. Is there really any better way to end an afternoon run than with a quick (or not-so-quick) pit stop at the home of an accomplished and prolific baker? Not if she’s making Heath Bars there isn’t.
There were so many of my childhood treats coming out of Jennifer’s kitchen and now in Treat Yourself that I felt like maybe I should dig out my paper route money and hit the road up to Melfair. The array of oldies but goodies in this book will make your head spin. How to choose…how to choose…Fig Newtons? Mallomars?? Drake’s Coffee Cakes???
And then there’s the Thin Mint. The ne plus ultra of cookies. The holy grail. I sold them myself as a Girl Scout and have bought more than my share from my daughter and even from random Girl Scouts hawking them outside Safeway. Freezing is a given. An absolute. If you don’t believe me, just ask Jennifer.
“Who among us has not plowed through an entire sleeve of Thin Mints right from the freezer, perhaps while watching old Friends episodes at three a.m.?” she writes in Treat Yourself. “When I was a Girl Scout, my parents ordered six boxes of these for our house alone. As with many of these recipes, the flavor profile will match the cookies of your youth, absent the snap that comes from stabilizers. (Ideally, the cookies should be baked as long as possible without burning, which can help with the snappiness.) You also need to be careful not to make your blobs of dough too big, or you will have something more like an undersized brownie than a Thin Mint—the equivalent of a twenty-four-year-old Girl Scout knocking at the door looking for a beer.” Now, fill the comments section with tales of your own favorite childhood treat for a chance to win a copy of Treat Yourself. Go ahead. You deserve it.
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A Treat Yourself Giveaway! We have a spanking new copy of Jennifer Steinhauer’s book, Treat Yourself, to give away to a lucky reader. Leave a comment below the post, and next Friday, we’ll choose a winner at random. You’ll be impressing all the Girl Scouts (and their mothers) in the neighborhood in no time!
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70 Classic Snacks You Loved as a Kid (and Still Love Today)
by Jennifer Steinhauer
Photographs by James Ransom
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoons peppermint extract (spearmint will do as well) (see Note**)
- 1 large egg
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, such as Droste
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt for the chocolate coating
- 2½ cups (15 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon to keep coating smooth (optional)
- ½ teaspoon peppermint extract (spearmint will do as well)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Make the cookie dough: In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, beat the ½ cup butter and the sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the mint extract and the egg, and mix until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as you go.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, stopping to scrape the bowl, until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
- Using a small trigger-handled scoop or a spoon, place the dough in quarter-size rounds 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the cookies are set and firm in appearance. Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack.
- Make the chocolate coating: In a large microwave-safe bowl (see Note*), microwave the chocolate and the ¾ cup of butter on medium heat for 1 minute, or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in the mint extract until the mixture is completely smooth and easily drips off the back of a spoon.
- Carefully dip the top of each cooled cookie into the coating, allowing the excess chocolate to run off. (If the chocolate begins to set before all the cookies are coated, add 1 tablespoon of butter to the chocolate mixture in the bowl and microwave on medium heat for 10 more seconds until the mixture is smooth again.) Place the cookies back onto the baking sheets and let them rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the chocolate is set. Store in an airtight container for 3 days, or in the freezer for 1 month.
Note**: If you use peppermint oil instead of peppermint extract, use a third of the stated amount, as the oil is far more potent.