Editor’s Note: In his book Food Rules, Michael Pollan declares, “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” The idea is that by cooking at home, you’ll avoid all the unpronounceable chemicals found in store-bought junk. And even though you might gorge on it, you can only eat as much as you made — and it takes hands-on effort, not just a trip to the supermarket, to procure more. In that spirit, we offer DIY Junk Food, the recipe column for those who want to get their hands dirty in the kitchen before enjoying some sublime junk.


almond joysPhoto: John Legge

I love Almond Joys. There’s nothing like hydrolyzed milk proteins, soy lecithin, caramel coloring, sodium metabisulfite, and sulfur dioxide to get my mouth watering. (Those last two additives keep Almond Joys extra-fresh for an extra-, extra-long long time.)

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Of course, I don’t want to actually eat those mystery ingredients that candy bars are so full of, but that doesn’t mean I want to skip the perfect Almond Joy combination of coconut, chocolate, and almonds. Lucky for me, I’m a pastry chef. I knew I could figure out how to make my own Almond Joy using just the basics — sugar, eggs, flour, honey, salt, butter, coconut, vanilla, chocolate, and almonds (or no almonds because, you know, sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t). And I didn’t need a chemistry set to give my Almond Joys long shelf-life — the bars don’t stick around that long.

If you’re afraid you’ll eat all 18 of your homemade Almond Joys in a day, I recommend stowing at least half of the pre-formed bars in the freezer. Then you can pull out the right number for you and a friend. Just make sure you defrost those frozen bars before you bake them.

Homemade Almond Joys

7 oz sweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup white sugar
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup egg whites (about 4 eggs)
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces whole roasted almonds (unsalted)
4 ounces good quality chocolate, chopped
1½  Tablespoons butter

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almond joysPhoto: John LeggeMix the coconut, sugar, flour and salt together in a sauce pan.

In a bowl combine the egg whites and honey and whisk until foamy.

Add the egg mixture to the sauce pan and mix thoroughly with a rubber spatula.

Cook over medium high heat until the batter slightly thickens and takes on a little color, about 10 minutes. You will need to stir frequently so that the batter doesn’t burn on to the bottom of the pot.

Mix in the vanilla.

When the batter is cool enough to handle, form spoonfuls into oval bars. Lightly press two whole almonds into the top of each bar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Allow the bars to cool to room temperature.

While they’re cooling, combine the chocolate and butter in a double-boiler (you can set a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water if you don’t have a double-boiler). Allow the chocolate to melt slowly, mixing it with the butter.

Dip the top of each bar into the melted chocolate, shaking off the excess.

Once the chocolate is set, you’re done.

Makes about 18 (highly delicious and preservative free) bars, which can be eaten immediately or frozen for later use.