When Twinkies return to shelves today after an eight-month hiatus, many Americans will be relieved that one of the most famous, iconic brand names is back among us. Others will, of course, snort with derision. In either case, we care. When he was President, Bill Clinton even put some in a time capsule. And it will be only about five minutes before people start complaining that the taste has changed because of the new owners, or because they're put off by the notion that the infamous 25-day shelf life is now extended to a fairly astounding 45 days.
Does that mean the Twinkie will taste different? Hostess wouldn't share the new recipe with me prior to the release, but having studied Twinkies' ingredient labels from Hostess bakeries around the country for my book, Twinkie, Deconstructed, I know that the recipe has never been etched in stone. Industrial food product recipes evolve, sometimes due to major price fluctuations for certain commodity ingredients, like sugar; other times they may be tweaked to work with the equipment unique to a particular bakery (Twinkies have always been baked at various plants around the country) or different mineral makeup of the local water. In some markets, vegetable shortening was substituted for lard in order to get a kosher label. And certainly various ingredients have been added as they were invented, such as my personal favorite, polysorbate 60. In fact, almost nothing artificial was in the original recipe back in 1930; fresh dairy ingredients were shed long ago in the quest for a longer shelf life.