When we’re young, eating comes without consequence. As children, we didn’t consider what the filling of our Twinkies was made of or how much sugar was really in our cheese crackers. We didn’t pause to consider the high-fructose corn syrup and strange chemical flavorants before scarfing down Fruit Roll-Ups with wild abandon. As adults, we stray from the strange foods we so enjoyed years ago for any number of reasons, but the nostalgia often remains. Though we can’t go back to the carefree snacking of our youth, we can adjust the recipe to make it adult-friendly. Here, we explore 7 childhood favorites upgraded for a little grown-up sophistication and wisdom.
1. Whole-Wheat Goldfish Crackers
All in all, goldfish crackers are pretty solid. They use real cheese and aren’t packed with terrible ingredients — even the coloring comes from annatto, a spice with an orange tint. After you’ve started moving to whole grains, though, the bleached wheat flour can make these little orange crackers taste like candy, and they can really tip the sodium scale. Deb of Smitten Kitchen has reinvented them with her own recipe, which gives you the choice of how salty you’d like your little fish crackers. You can always cut them into any shape, but to really nod to the classic, Deb uses this cookie cutter.
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup whole-wheat flour
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon table salt
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, running the machine until the dough forms a ball, about 2 minutes.
If the dough feels too soft to work with, chill it in the fridge for up to 45 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to ⅛ inch thick. Form shapes with a cookie cutter, dipping it in flour from time to time to ensure a clean cut. Gently transfer crackers to an ungreased cookie sheet spaced ½ inch apart. Bake the crackers on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are barely browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.
2. Fruit Leather Roll-Ups
Neither fruit leather nor fruit jerky sounds phenomenally appetizing, but this fruit snack from The Food Network is infinitely cleaner eating than Fruit Roll-Ups and the infamous Fruit By The Foot. You can use any fruit, really, to make these fruit leathers, with some ideas from The Food Network listed below. Tongue tattoos are not advised.
- 1¼ pounds chopped fruit
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Directions: Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the fruit and sugar in a blender. Add the lemon juice to taste, using the full 2 tablespoons for apples or bananas, and puree until smooth.
Transfer the pureed fruit to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally at first and then more often toward the end, until most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture is very thick, 35 to 45 minutes. Be careful of splattering.
Line a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat or nonstick foil. Use an offset spatula to spread the fruit on the mat or foil into a thin layer. Bake until barely tacky, 3 hours to 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the fruit leather cool completely. Peel off the mat or foil. If the leather is still moist on the underside, return it to the oven, moist side up, until dry, about 20 more minutes. Lay the leather smooth-side down on a sheet of wax paper and use kitchen shears to cut it into strips on the paper. Roll up the strips and store in zip-top bags for up to 1 week.
- Plum: 5 medium, unpeeled, chopped
- Peach or nectarine: 5 medium, unpeeled, chopped
- Apple: 3 large Gala or Granny Smith, peeled and chopped
- Strawberry: 4 cups, hulled and chopped
- Raspberry: 5 cups
- Grape: 3½ cups, preferably Concord, seeded if necessary
- Banana: 5 medium, peeled
- Mango: 2 large, peeled and chopped
- Raspberry-vanilla: 5 cups raspberries, plus the seeds from ½ vanilla bean
- Strawberry-banana: 3 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped, plus 2 medium bananas, peeled
- Apple-ginger: 3 large apples, peeled and chopped, plus 1½ teaspoons grated ginger
- Spicy mango: 2 large mangoes, peeled and chopped, plus ⅛ teaspoon each salt and cayenne pepper
3. Homemade Chocolate Teddy Grahams
These Teddy Grahams are so full of good stuff that they could go into hibernation! Buckwheat flour, dark cocoa powder, maple syrup, coconut sugar, and a pinch of sea salt make these irresistible snacking cookies from Fork and Beans a little more adult. These cookies are vegan, but if you have dairy milk or normal butter on hand, feel free to substitute. For a bear-shaped cutter, Cara suggests this one.
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- Pinch of sea salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons solid coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons organic maple syrup
- 2 to 3 tablespoons non-dairy milk
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Cut in the coconut oil until small lumps form in the flour.
Add the maple syrup and 2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk and mix until a dough forms. If the dough feels too dry, add another tablespoon of milk. If the dough is too sticky, chill in the fridge for up to 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment to ⅛ inch thickness.
Using a mini-teddy bear cookie cutter, cut into shapes. With the additional scraps of dough, cut out circles in two sizes, one smaller than the other, for the nose and belly. Gently but firmly press down into the dough. With a toothpick, make circles for the eyes, nose, and belly button. Dust with coconut sugar and bake for 8 minutes. Allow to cool.
4. Pistachio Bakewell Pop-Tarts
Instead of a tooth-achingly sweet Pop-Tart with a one-sided taste, make these pistachio bakewell Pop-Tart from My Name is Yeh. Based on the classic English bakewell tart — a shortcrust pastry with jam and a sponge made of ground almonds — these are not the packaged snacks of the past. You can use any kind of jam here: peach, black currants, cherry, raspberry, and fig all go particularly well with pistachios. Molly uses a pistachio nut paste from King Arthur for her bakewell sponge, available here. As a topping, you have two choices: crushed pistachios for sophisticated glamour, or naturally colored sprinkles for fun nostalgia.
- 1 stick butter, softened
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup pistachio paste
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup flour
- 1 pound pie dough
- ¼ cup jam
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- About 2 tablespoons milk
- Crushed toasted pistachios and sprinkles
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set it aside.
In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and pistachio paste. Add 1 egg, reserving the other for an egg wash, followed by the lemon juice and extracts.
Mix the salt and flour into the wet ingredients until just combined.
Cut out 8 2-by-3-inch rectangles of pie dough and place them on your baking sheet. Spread a teaspoon of jam and top with what Molly calls a “healthy blob” of pistachio batter.
With the remaining pie dough, cut rectangles ¼ inch larger on all sides than the bottom pieces so they fit over the filling.
Beat the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water and brush the edges of the bottom layer of dough. Line up the top layer over the bottom layer and crimp the edges with a fork to seal well.
Puncture the top with a fork a few times and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until slightly golden. Let cool.
Meanwhile, beat the powdered sugar and milk. When tarts are cool, spread the frosting on them and top with crushed nuts and/or sprinkles.
5. Homemade Twinkies
Twinkies are the infamous star of any snack cake conversation, but they’re full of ingredients (37 in total) that most adults would rightfully balk at. Rather than stuffing a high-fructose corn syrup-laden, sweetened animal shortening-filled, plastic-wrapped snack in your face, make these upgraded homemade Twinkies from Leite’s Culinaria. The sponge is a delicate, moist affair filled with 7-minute buttercream. If you don’t mind your Twinkies looking like disks, use a cupcake pan. If you’re a real stickler, though, you can buy this mold.
- Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
- ½ cup cake flour
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons milk, preferably whole
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tarter
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 large egg whites
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position a rack in the lower third.
Whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Cover to keep warm.
Separate the eggs, placing the whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Reserve the yolks in another bowl. Beat the whites on high speed until foamy. Gradually add 6 tablespoons of the sugar and the cream of tartar, and continue to beat until the whites reach soft, moist peaks.
Transfer the beaten egg whites to a large bowl and add the egg yolks to the standing mixer bowl. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is very thick and a pale lemon color, about 5 minutes. Add the beaten egg whites to the yolks, but do not mix.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg whites and then mix everything on low speed for just 10 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer, make a well in one side of the batter, and pour the melted butter mixture into the bowl. Fold gently with a large rubber spatula until the batter shows no trace of flour and the whites and yolks are evenly mixed, about 8 strokes.
Immediately scrape the batter into the prepared molds, filling each with about ¾ inch of batter. Bake until the cake tops are light brown and feel firm and spring back when touched, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the cakes to cool in the molds.
While the Twinkies are cooling, make the 7-minute frosting. In the metal bowl of a stand mixer set over but not touching a saucepan of simmering water, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, egg whites, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved, 3 to 4 minutes.
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on high speed until glossy, thick, and billowing peaks form. Like the name suggests, this will take about 7 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
When the cakes are ready to be filled, unmold them and poke 3 holes in the bottom with a chopstick, wiggling it around a bit to make some room. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip and pipe into the holes you’ve created. Don’t overfill, as it will crack the cake. These are best served slightly warm, which is something you’ll never see with a standard Twinkie.
6. Mocha Popsicles
If you ever loved Fudgesicles as a kid and now, as an adult, love coffee, well, these popsicles from A Cozy Kitchen are for you. They have a serious coffee flavor, some real chocolate-y goodness from Dutch-processed cocoa powder, and a touch of sweetened condensed milk to make them sweet and fudgy. Those are all the ingredients. Seriously. Get on this.
- 2 cups extra-strong coffee or espresso
- ⅔ cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1½ tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Directions: Mix the coffee with the sweetened condensed milk. Add the tablespoon of cocoa powder. Taste and add a bit more milk or chocolate powder, to taste. Don’t add too much, or the popsicles won’t freeze as well.
Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid, about 8 hours. To loosen the popsicle out of its mold, hold under warm water until it slides out.
7. Salted Brown-Butter Crispy Treats
Consider your Rice Krispies Treats upgraded with this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. These are phenomenally easy to make, but they also combine the delicious, caramelized nuttiness of browned butter and a bit of sea salt to even out the sweetness of the marshmallows. While there’s not much different from the standard recipe, everything about these makes them better.
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
- 1 (10-ounce) bag marshmallows
- Heaping ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
Directions: Butter an 8-inch square pan and set aside.
In a large steel pot or pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. As it continues to cook, it will begin to foam. Milk solids will fall to the bottom and begin to brown. As soon as they’re evenly golden brown, turn off the heat and immediately add the marshmallows. Melt the marshmallows with the residual heat from the butter. If necessary, put over very low heat until they’re smooth.
When the marshmallows are melted, stir in the salt and the cereal. Quickly spread into the prepared pan and press firmly into the corners. Let cool, then cut into squares.