Peanut Butter Cracker Cookies - from Family Christmas OnlineTM
Every Christmas season, Grandma used to greet us kids with a giant bucket of goodies, including these tasty “Ritz cookies”. When Grandma passed away, I decided to make these cookies for my family at Christmas. I trialed-and-erred my way through them – much to the delight of my roommates, classmates, and family. I was surprised at their universal appeal, never having seen the cookies outside of our family. However, anyone who likes a little salty with his sweet or a little peanut butter with her chocolate will love these easy treats.
Advantages of these cookies:
- They don’t require the stove or even the refrigerator.
- They can be made by several participants or alone.
- They have some wiggle room for improvisation.
- No worries about salmonella!
- The time commitment is less than many cookies.
- They create an interesting addition to any cookie platter, especially if you include my special touch at the bottom
To make this page as useful as possible, we've broken it down into the following subsections:
- Two small mixing bowls that you can put into the microwave to melt chocolate. One- or two-quart bowls should be adequate, since you don't want to heat more than a pound of chocolat at a time anyway.
- Metal forks(s) - used to handle the cookies and drizzle the chocolate.
- Wax paper - used to set the finished "cookies" on until the chocolate sets.
- Cookie sheets or other heat-resistant flat surface(s) - used to hold the wax paper.
- Container(s) - used to store or to give away the finished shortbread pieces.
- Coating or “bark” chocolate. A one-pound brick of both white chocolate and regular chocolate will suffice. (Yes, we know it’s not real chocolate, but we’ll call it chocolate for the sake of the recipe.) Do not use semi-sweet morsels (chocolate chips), because they’re designed not to melt as you cook. We did it once, but the coating step became much more difficult.
- Peanut butter (and something to spread it with). Any brand of creamy will be fine.
- Crackers of the Ritz or Applause style. You will need 2 for each cookie, so that’s the best way to think of your quantity here.
Quantities are a little hard to tell, but who complains about having leftover chocolate? We usually keep going until we run out of peanut butter or crackers.
- Prepare the crackers: Here’s where you figure out how many cookies you’re actually making. This step is good for younger helpers, especially since it doesn’t involve hot dishes. Basically, make little cracker sandwiches by spreading peanut butter on one cracker and topping it with another cracker. You don’t want to make the sandwiches too thick. Also, don’t squeeze them; you don’t want the peanut butter coming out the edges. You can lay the sandwiches out on the wax paper as you go. This will also show you if you’ve laid out enough wax paper. Remember, after you’ve dipped the sandwiches, you’ll lay them out with a little space between each.
- Melt the chocolate: When I made the cookies in my college apartment, I melted the chocolate over my stove. While this works just fine, it does limit where you can complete the following steps. When I made them at home with my sister, Mother pointed out that we could simply microwave the chocolate. Therefore, I’ve tried three methods – in a saucepan, in a double-broiler, and in the microwave. I highly recommend the microwave. When you melt the chocolate, you don’t have to use the whole brick. This Christmas, we made about 60 cookies using about three-fourths of each one-pound brick. Think of it this way: You want enough chocolate in the pan to almost submerge the cookie, but you don’t want to have to go diving for it. And you can always melt more chocolate if you need to. Finally, watch your chocolate carefully. Burnt chocolate is bad. So is chocolate that gets poured into a wet bowl. So is chocolate that gets eaten by your “helpers” before you get to make the cookies.
Note: Some kinds of coating chocolate will actually be ready to use before the pieces lose their shape. If you wait until the entire bowlful of chocolate looks like a gloppy mess, you've probably waited too long, and you may even have burned the chocolate. When you see some melting and discoloration, try stirring it (with a dry spoon). If the chocolate loses its shape and turns shiny when you do, you're ready to go. If it doesn't, give it a few seconds more and try again. Every manufacturer's chocolate is a little different in this way, and white "chocolate" is different from dark chocolate, but you'll figure it out.
- Coat the cookies: When your sandwiches are finished and your chocolate is all melted, it’s time for the tricky part! I prefer long-tined forks, because they seem to work better. Drop a sandwich into the chocolate, then press it down a little with the fork. Flip it (again, using the fork: melted chocolate is extremely hot) and make sure it’s all coated.
- Jiggle: Then, you have to get rid of the excess chocolate. This is done by a method I call “The Jiggle”. Fish out your cookie with your fork. Jiggle the fork very carefully with rapid, short movements. This shakes off the extra chocolate, leaving the surface smooth. If you shake too hard, you’ll probably spray the chocolate and drop the cookie. If you do drop the cookie, just repeat the step. Once the surface of the cookie is smooth, deposit it gently onto the wax paper and start on your next cookie. Two people can comfortably work with one container of chocolate. If more than two people are participating, you’ll probably want to run both white and regular chocolate at the same time.
- Cool the cookies: The coating chocolate will dry by itself pretty quickly. You shouldn’t need to refrigerate; just make sure you don’t drip on the finished cookies as you transfer “wet” cookies to the wax paper.
- The special touch: This is something my Grandma didn’t do, but it occurred to me once when I had leftover chocolate, and I've been doing it ever since. Using the same forks, I drizzled the dry cookies with chocolate of the opposite color. I suppose there are more delicate ways of doing it, but I got a fork covered in chocolate and perfected a “jiggle” that was more of a controlled lash from the wrist. Here, you’re supposed to fling the chocolate, so make sure your surface is covered in wax paper (and you should maybe wear an apron). This isn’t for the smallest of helpers, but it’s lots of fun. I tend to keep to a very parallel movement across the cookie sheet, but this is the artistic part. Express yourself! The object of this is simply to make the cookies look more interesting, and you’d be surprised how the cookies that look the silliest on the wax paper become the most artistic and appealing of the bunch.
- Serve the cookies: These cookies are ready to serve as soon as the chocolate is cool enough to harden. However, they also keep for a relatively long time, so they can be made in advance. Simply peel them off the wax paper (snapping off any “trailing” chocolate), and place them either in a container to save for later or on a plate for display. Make sure you keep the finished cookies cool, although I’ve never had trouble with them melting.
Some possible variations: I haven’t tried these, but these cookies are easy to experiment with in small doses.
- Some brands are carrying bark chocolate in other flavors, such as peppermint.
- Other spreads for the sandwiches, like Nutella or peanut-butter-chocolate spreads. For the brave! Again, experiment in small amounts before committing yourself.
- Some brands are carrying different Ritz-styled crackers, such as whole wheat (for a little extra health) and honey butter.
However you decide to make these cookies, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them, and so will your guests and families!
Once you've learned how to make this treat, you'll be able to remember the "recipe" wherever you go. And folks will be impressed by how clever you are.
If you have a favorite recipe for cookies or other treats, let us know, and we'll see if we can add it to this page.
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