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What I Love About Entenmann’s

February 24, 2012

Here in upstate New York we’ve got Freihofer’s. When I grew up we had Entenmann’s. Maybe it had something to do with living in Brooklyn where the company started. Although my parents both grew up in Long Island where the company expanded. But as long as I can remember, Entenmann’s baked goods were always a treat.

Even when we left New York, Entenmann’s followed us down to Miami. And their donuts, cookies and cakes are an inextricable part of my childhood.

I have fond memories of their chocolate donuts, which were special not because they were chocolate, but because they were covered in a crisp chocolate shell. I loved how the coating would turn the yellow donut chocolate as it was chewed, and how the chocolate would melt on my fingers.

Later in life, I’d find them to be waxy and wholly unappealing. Part of me wonders if they were always that way, and part of me is curious if their recipes changed as the company grew from the regional bakery it was into the international producer it is today.

Recently I came across a box of their chocolate chip cookies, and had to smile. But that reaction has absolutely nothing to do with nostalgia. No. Now instead of loving their product, I love their chutzpah.

On the front of the box is a pretty blue seal that reads, “BAKED FRESH DAILY.”

And if by “Baked” they mean produced, and by “Fresh” they mean when they came off the line, and by “Daily” they mean their factory runs seven days a week, then that’s cool.

But I question the application of this phrase to a cookie whose ingredient label lists sugar first, followed by chocolate chips, and wheat flour third. This is a cookie that uses artificial flavors in both the chocolate chips and the cookie itself. It is made with both guar gum and carob bean gum. Despite being “baked” this product still requires caramel color. And naturally, in addition to sugar at the top of the ingredients list, these contain more high fructose corn syrup than they do water, eggs, or soybean oil.

The bakery had been in existence the better part of a century before they started selling chocolate chip cookies in 1972. Although the box of cookies implies they have been around since 1898.

So I also have to chuckle when the box calls trumpets these cookies as their “Original Recipe.” Part of me wonders if indeed the cookies that are made today are unchanged from their recipe forty years ago. I suppose it’s possible. But I would like to imagine they have changed, and that my parents didn’t see fit to feed me these feats of science.

Still, “Recipe” seems like the wrong word here. “Formulation” might be more appropriate.

The company did go through a lot of changes in the past 35 years. And thanks to Wikipedia, I can share it with you here. You can see the full description on the page, but here’s the relevant part.

The pharmaceutical company Warner-Lambert purchased Entenmann’s in 1978 and sold it to General Foods in 1982. General Foods merged with Kraft in 1990. Kraft sold its bakery business to CPC International (later Bestfoods). Bestfoods was purchased by Unilever in 2000, which sold its baking division to George Weston, a Canadian baked goods and supermarket business, the next year. Weston sold its United States interests including Entemann’s in 2008 to Mexican conglomerate Grupo Bimbo.

So is it possible that each mega-conglomerate that took possession of the brand tried to squeeze additional profits by skimping on expensive ingredients and filling the product with gums and cheap sweeteners? It wouldn’t be the first time.

But I do not know.

What I do know is that while our famous and historic downstate bakery was being gobbled up by international parent companies, our hometown Freihofer’s has remained true to its roots.

Actually. That’s not true at all. They too are owned by Grupo Bimbo, as is pretty much anything that is bread and sold in a grocery store. But their website tells me they are a company with trustworthy brands. Trustworthy brands that for the most part pump up their products with food gums, additives and/or high fructose corn syrup. Sweet.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2012 11:28 am

    i grew up loving entenmann’s baked donuts (especially cinnamon). i still crave them occasionally. this article prompted me to look for a way to make them at home, as that’s they way we fight against most of the nastiness in foods these days. it’s even more disappointing to me that this disappointing cookbook is the first thing i found.

    so long, entenmann’s, you’re off my list of favorite bakery products.

  2. February 24, 2012 12:19 pm

    As you mentioned, there’s definitely something different about the texture of the chocolate covered donuts. Still, I occasionally enjoy one lightly chilled in the fridge. The shell gets a little more firm and less melty right away.

    It’s really funny. I never really talk about Entenmann’s, but it’s actually come up about 4 times in conversation this week, mostly citing the Seinfeld joke about it.

  3. February 24, 2012 1:09 pm

    Sadly, it’s very hard to avoid buying Mexican bread these days. It’s shocking how much of the bread aisle that one company has gobbled up. What, Americans can’t even make their own bread anymore? :( (We buy Country Kitchen, which looks to still be made by Americans.)

    • dan sheehan permalink
      February 25, 2012 12:51 pm

      Indeed,it is made in Auburn Maine about 2 miles from my home

  4. February 24, 2012 1:21 pm

    So often things you liked as a child turn out unappealing as an adult.. my approach is usually to try to make a version that is actually made from scratch.. It’s funny how that works. Entenmann’s was a big part of my childhood in Michigan too.

  5. Kerosena permalink
    February 24, 2012 2:45 pm

    Growing up in Guilderland, field trips to the Freihofer factory were an annual event. I wonder if they still do that. Each kid got a box of cookies to take home.

    A few years later, as a high school student at the height of the Fat Free Everything trend, my friends and I became obsessed with Entemann’s Fat Free chocolate cake. It had this chocolate crunch topping and was incredibly moist and deeply chocolatey.

    So…the Ente-chutzpah is nothing new :)

  6. Marianne permalink
    February 24, 2012 3:15 pm

    I used to enjoy Entenmann’s – but that was before I became a “label reader.” Now, I cannot feed it to my children, but I also cannot go anywhere near Freihofer’s either, as they also use HFCS in their breads, also Pepperidge Farms, etc. So, now I bake my own bread, even my own pitas. Recently stumbled upon Farmers Ground Flour – incredible flavor! I wonder if the day will ever come, when we can trust store bought products? What does the food future hold for our children? It’s a scary thought. I only wish I could find some whole wheat hamburger buns for the black bean burgers I make. For now, we put them in homemade pitas. Last night – made some yummy chocolate chip cookies with Ghirardelli 60% chips and whole wheat pastry flour. Delicious!

  7. February 26, 2012 6:26 pm

    Oh man, this is when I miss running my mom’s store. The Freihofer’s delivery guy used to give my son free cookies, donuts and eclairs all the time. Which is kind of funny considering I would never buy them from a store but when something’s free, it always tastes better. Freihofer’s eclairs are decidedly better than Entenmann’s which was quite distressing for me to discover since growing up in Brooklyn, Entenmann’s were a staple. I loved the mini chocolate donuts and could eat my way through a box in two days.

    I almost want to purchase a box for nostalgia now.

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