The best Twinkies defense is a good offense


Looks like a Twinkie, but it could be Washington’s next best thing. (Wagshal’s)

With news that Hostess Brands Inc. will dump the iconic foodstuff and Wonder Bread (someone else has to buy the rights or recipes, right?), AWCE wiped a tear from our eye and the cream filling from the corners of our mouths — so we could concentrate on Twinkie production, and, more importantly, on where to scout out suitable alternatives.

Brooklyn author Steve Ettlinger is already booked for a number of post-Twinkielyptic interviews, having written the definitive “Twinkie, Deconstructed” (Plume, 2008). Reached at home this morning by phone, he told AWCE that back in January when Hostess announced plans to file for bankruptcy, he fielded “a gazillion calls — as if there were some sort of national crisis.”

He estimates eating less than three dozen of them during the 2 1/2 years of research for the book. The former sous-chef says he was more partial to Sno Balls in his youth, but is not an avid Twinkie eater. “I felt compelled to taste them and assess texture,” he says. And Ettlinger admits to having more than his fill during repeated takes shot for a subsequent History Channel show on Twinkies (cultural significance Exhibit A).

He was also compelled to try his own hand at making them from scratch, with success. “They came out nicely,” Ettlinger says, adding in TMI fashion that his homemade cream filling did not “coat the teeth” the way Twinkies’ polysorbate 60-filled white stuff does.


(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

* The Wall Street Journal reports that Twinkies sales were down at least 2 percent from 2010, but sales figures did not include Wal-Mart stores. Seems like a major flaw in the metrics.

* Eight out of Twinkies’ 39 ingredients are derived from corn, Ettlinger told HowStuffWorks.com.

* Twinkies are dairy-free, with a recommended shelf life of slightly more than three weeks. As IF.

* Nutritionally speaking, a single Twinkie might make a more healthful alternative than just about any Thanksgiving dessert you’re likely to eat.

* Feeling adventurous this Thanksgiving? “The Twinkies Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press, 2006) included a stuffing recipe — and we don’t mean for cream filling. We’re talking Twinkies in turkey. Chow.com gave it a try.

Wagshal’s Deli in Northwest Washington has manufactured its own proprietary version of oblong, “nostalgic, cream-filled cake rolls” ($3.50 per two-pack) for the past several years. Pastry chef Ganesh Rajamonickam and his crew make hundreds per week (Hostess-like cupcakes, too). Their shelf life: one week.

Years ago, when Food staffer Tim Carman was Mr. Young & Hungry, he found Wagshal’s Twinkie-like treats smooth on the outside, “almost like a nice cotton shirt.” His verdict back then: “If I want a Twinkie-like product, I’ll just buy a damn Twinkie.” Flash-forward to a few weeks ago, when Food staffers trekked to Wagshal’s Market for a heritage turkey taste test: Carman bought, and ate, the alternatives.

In 2011, the pastry chef at Ted’s Bulletin shared a “Twinkie”-type recipe that called for a brush of simple syrup to keep the cake moist, and an Italian meringue filling. (Thanks, Graphophobia.blogspot.com.)

Neighborhood Restaurant Group executive pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac has made Twinkie-like treats with yellow cake and a cream cheese filling. A regular buttercream will work for the filling as well, she says. Home bakers can find the right-shaped molds on Amazon, naturally.

Has the Twinkies announcement put a damper on your Friday? Or are you doing a happy dance? Share your cream-filled memories in the comments below.

Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes: washingtonpost.com/recipes.

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