Shameless Chef

The Shameless Chef: Happy Holiday Uncookies

Happy Holidays! And no, that's not just political correctness talking; there happens to be plenty of holidays besides Christmas in December, including St. Stephen's Day and the Emperor's Birthday. Whatever you're celebrating, you'll enjoy these simple dessert treats you can make with the kids... although you probably shouldn't let them read this article. I tend to say stuff like "Paprika is for dickheads" and "Fuck Guy Fieri in both ears." But I digress.

You will need:

  • Ritz crackers, or nearest knock-off facsimile thereof.
  • some kind of melty confectioner's chocolate, like chocolate bark or chocolate chips. I found these cool pre-packaged microwavable bowls of baking chocolate at Fiesta, so that's what I used this time.
  • this weird marshmallow fluff that comes in a jar
  • peanut butter ("creamy" is way easier to work with than "crunchy," which breaks the crackers)
  • a package of caramels
  • M&M's
Wax paper also helps.

Now, you may be asking "Why Ritz crackers? Why not something more obvious like vanilla wafers or graham crackers?" Those will both work fine, but Ritz crackers are the best. Their saltiness plays with the sweetness of the other ingredients in just the right way. So they're technically not cookies, but nonetheless you will definitely want to eat these with milk, especially the peanut butter ones.

First, you're going to want to dampen your counter-top and lay down your wax paper. Next, sit down by the TV and start making little Ritz cracker peanut butter sandwiches.

Now, make some marshmallow sandwiches, keeping them on a separate plate for easier sorting. It helps if you've refrigerated the marshmallow fluff for an hour or so first, so it supports the weight of the top cracker better (otherwise it can ooze out over the edges of the crackers, creating a visually unseemly cookie, which everyone hates). Finally, make some caramel sandwiches. The caramel sandwiches are easiest: Simply unwrap a caramel, squish it, and stick it between two crackers. And seriously, show me a kid who doesn't love to squish caramels, and I'll show you a 40-year-old, world-weary dwarf posing as a child like in that terrible horror movie.

Note: I tried it just to see what it was like, and no, I absolutely do NOT recommend putting peanut butter, caramel, and marshmallow all in the same Ritz sandwich. Not unless your goofy ass wants type-2 diabetes for Christmas.

Now comes the messy part. Break off some chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl. Three blocks of chocolate bark will cover about one Ritz-cracker-sleeve's worth of uncookies. Melt said chocolate using small increments on the microwave. Heat for 30 seconds, stir, heat for 30 seconds again, stir, and so on until it's reasonably runny but not too drippy, and definitely not nuclear-hot. The Houston Press and the Shameless Chef are not liable if you burn your damn fool fingers off. Wait a couple of minutes until the chocolate has cooled off enough to work with, then start dipping the Ritz sandwiches in it. You don't have to dip it all the way in; it's actually better with slightly less chocolate than total immersion provides, so I find that pressing both sides (heads, then tails) against the chocolate and then smearing some around the outer ridges with your fingers picks up just the right amount. Remember, the more chocolate you use, the longer they will take to dry out.

Start laying the uncookies on the wax paper to cool and harden, with each uncookie on its own, not touching any of the others. Your fingers are now going to be a gooey, chocolatey mess, so perhaps rinse them off, or simply lick them clean if you're one of those people who happen to have been raised without manners.

Here's where the M&M's come in. It's pretty easy to tell those little sammiches apart until they're covered in chocolate, which can be a minor nuisance if people only like one or two out of the three varieties, or a major problem if you happen to be serving to one of those poor bastards with a peanut allergy. This is why we've kept each variety separated up to this point: You can now use the M&M's to color-code them.

I used green for peanut butter, red for caramel, and blue for marshmallow, though of course you're free to use whatever colors you want since, despite what some people claim, all M&Ms taste the same regardless of the color. Although I will recommend putting the blue ones on the marshmallow cookies, since blue and white are lovely Hannukah colors.

Let them cool off and harden well enough not to stick together when stacked, then toss 'em in the fridge to harden the rest of the way. These are a bit of a December tradition around the Shameless Chef household. They're easy to make, and the more people who get involved in the process, the more fun it is. They're also popular at holiday parties, whether you start celebrating as early as Jamhuri Day, or as late as Rizal Day.

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John Seaborn Gray