My editor was suggesting that I write about how several corporations, in recent years, have begun publishing the recipes for some of their most iconic dishes.
DoubleTree by Hilton has released the recipe for the chocolate chip cookie that workers there give you when you check in. The Cheesecake Factory has parted with the recipe for its popular Chinese Chicken Salad. Disney has published the recipe for its Dole Whip.
These are not knockoff recipes, in which ordinary people try with varying degrees of success to re-create a favorite recipe from a fast-food joint or theme park. These are the actual recipes used by the actual restaurants and hotels that serve them.
They are even scaled down to home-cook proportions by the corporations themselves. What you see here is, at least theoretically, what you get there.
I started with the Dole Whip, largely out of curiosity. I can see why people love the Dole Whip so much, especially in such hot-weather areas as Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California. It is a delightful treat, cool and especially refreshing. And with only three ingredients, it is also easy to make.
I stayed with the good folks at Disney to re-create another of their wildly popular dishes, churro tots. Churros are stiff, uniquely shaped, cinnamon doughnuts popular throughout Central America as well as Spain and Portugal, where they originated. The recipe Disney has published is for what they call churro tots — a smaller, bite-size version of regular churros with a chocolate dipping sauce.
To my surprise, the churros begin with a pâte a choux dough — it’s the type of dough that bakes up with a big pocket of air in the middle; it’s used for eclairs and cream puffs. When you fry it, though, it clearly turns into a churro.
Pâte a choux doughs take a couple of steps more to make than some other pastry doughs, but they are quite easy and forgiving. Once you’ve made the dough, you have to pipe it out with a pastry bag and fry it; then roll it in a cinnamon-sugar mixture and, of course, make a chocolate sauce.
It takes a fair amount of energy to make them, but when you are done you have churro tots and a chocolate sauce. Trust me, it’s worth it.
The Chinese Chicken Salad from the Cheesecake Factory starts innocently enough, with a mixture of lettuces and cabbage, plus bean sprouts, green onions and sliced poached chicken. But then you add crispy (fried) rice noodles, crispy (fried) wonton wrappers, a hill of toasted almonds and far too much sesame-plum dressing.
About that sesame-plum dressing: The recipe says it is available in “fine food markets.” I’m guessing the store where I shop is not fine enough. They didn’t carry it. So I bought a bottle of Asian Ginger-Sesame dressing and used about half the amount that was recommended, and that worked fine. Other than the dressing, the recipe tastes just like it does at the Cheesecake Factory.
I turned next to Chick-fil-A and its recipe for its very popular but discontinued coleslaw. Before they stopped selling it (in favor of a trendy kale salad with dried cherries and nuts), Chick-fil-A released the recipe, so its many fans could continue to make it at home. It is a standard recipe for Southern coleslaw with a bit of a twist: it gets its bite from dry mustard. And that makes all the difference.
I next took a recipe for guacamole from Chipotle. The brilliance of this dish is its simplicity; there are no extraneous flavors to get in the way of the purity of the guacamole. All it requires are ripe avocados, lime juice, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno and salt.
Finally, I made the chocolate chip cookies from DoubleTree. These are buttery cookies, absolutely packed with chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. A couple of things make the cookies stand out. One is that, while they are mostly made from flour, they have also have a bit of oats in them for a bit of a heartier chew. And the other unexpected ingredient is just a hint of lemon juice.
As written, the recipe calls for the cookies to be baked at 300 F for 20 to 23 minutes. That didn’t work for me. I got close to 30 minutes, and they still were not ready. So I bumped up the temperature to a more reasonable 350 F, and they turned out fine.
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 cup water
- 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, cut up
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Chocolate sauce, see note
Note: To make your own chocolate sauce, chop 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate and place in a bowl. Heat 1/2 cup half-and-half, light cream or heavy cream almost to a boil (you can boil the heavy cream) and pour over the chocolate. Allow to stand for 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the sauce. This ganache will only stay in a liquid form for 1 hour or less.
- In a medium saucepan, bring water, butter, salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon to a rolling boil. Add the flour all at once, reduce the heat to low and stir vigorously until the dough forms a ball. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 to 7 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, stirring between each addition to incorporate the egg into the dough. In a small bowl, mix together sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
- In a medium to large saucepan, bring oil to a temperature of 350 degrees. Spoon the rested dough into a pastry bag or a reusable plastic bag with a corner cut off, fitted with a star-shaped tip. Squeeze out dough shapes about 11/2 inches long and fry in batches of no more than 10 or 12 at a time until they are a light, golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels before coating in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
- Serve with chocolate sauce.
Per serving: 865 calories; 68 g fat; 46 g saturated fat; 217 mg cholesterol; 12 g protein; 59 g carbohydrate; 26 g sugar; 4 g fiber; 642 mg sodium; 52 mg calcium
— The Walt Disney Co.
Doubletree Signature Cookies
Yield: 26 cookies
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 21/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 2 2/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 3/4 cups chopped walnuts
Note: This recipe makes cookies that are soft and almost underbaked. If you want cookies that are sturdier and more thoroughly baked, cook them at 350 F for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees, or 350 degrees for crisper cookies. Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice, blending with mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl.
- With mixer on low speed, add flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, blending for about 45 seconds. Don’t overmix. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
- Portion dough with a scoop (about 3 tablespoons) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart. You’ll need to use 3 baking sheets, or cook in 3 batches, to keep the cookies from spreading into one another.
- Bake at 300 F for 20 to 23 minutes, or at 350 F for 15 to 20 minutes, until edges are golden brown but centers are still soft. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 1 hour.
Per serving: 257 calories; 15 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 33 mg cholesterol; 4 g protein; 29 g carbohydrate; 18 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 147 mg sodium; 21 mg calcium
— Adapted from a recipe by DoubleTree by Hilton
The Cheesecake Factory Chinese Chicken Salad
Yield: 2 to 4 servings
- 8 ounces iceberg lettuce
- 4 ounces Romaine lettuce, cored and chopped
- 4 ounces red cabbage, cored and sliced thin
- 4 ounces bean sprouts
- 2 ounces (1 bunch) green onions, sliced thin
- 8 ounces poached chicken, sliced thin
- 4 ounces crispy rice noodles
- 4 ounces crispy wonton strips
- 8 ounces sesame-plum dressing, available in fine food markets, see note
- 16 segments of mandarin orange
- 4 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
- 2 teaspoons black and white sesame seeds
- 2 snow pea pods, sliced thin
Note: If you can’t find sesame-plum dressing, use another Asian-style salad dressing with sesame as one of the main flavors.
- 1. Place lettuces, cabbage, bean sprouts, green onions, chicken, rice noodles (reserving some noodles) and wonton strips (reserving some wonton strips) and dressing in a mixing bowl, and toss until evenly covered.
- 2. Place the mandarin orange segments around the salad, and top with the reserved noodles, the reserved wonton strips, the almonds and the sesame seeds. Garnish with the thinly sliced snow pea pods.
Per serving (based on 4): 734 calories; 43 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 43 mg cholesterol; 26 g protein; 64 g carbohydrate; 16 g sugar; 9 g fiber; 776 mg sodium; 179 mg calcium
— The Cheesecake Factory
Yield: 1 serving
- 2 cups frozen unsweetened pineapple
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) pineapple juice
- 1 large scoop vanilla ice cream
- Blend frozen pineapple and pineapple juice in a blender until smooth. Add ice cream and blend until smooth.
- To serve, spoon immediately into a reusable plastic bag with one corner removed and swirl into a bowl, cup or cone.
Per serving: 309 calories; 5 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 12 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 57 g carbohydrate; 52 g sugar; 4 g fiber; 27 mg sodium; 77 mg calcium
— The Walt Disney Co.
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 ripe Hass avocados
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 jalapeño, or to taste, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Cut the avocados in half and carefully remove the pit. Scoop the avocados and place in a medium bowl. Toss and coat with lime juice. Add the salt and, using a fork or potato masher, mash until smooth. Fold in the cilantro, red onion, jalapeño and salt, and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Per serving: 169 calories; 15 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 2 g protein; 11 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 7 g fiber; 153 mg sodium; 17 mg calcium
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 (20-ounce) bags fine shredded cabbage, chopped to 1/8 inch, or 20 ounces cabbage, shredded, chopped to 1/8 inch
- 1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
- In a large bowl, whisk vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt together until sugar is dissolved. Add mayonnaise, and whisk to mix. Add cabbage and carrots. Mix to combine. Refrigerate for 2 hours, and serve.
Per serving (based on 6): 308 calories; 28 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 15g carbohydrate; 12 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 351 mg sodium; 43 mg calcium
— DANIEL NEMAN, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH