Last year for the first time, I made Magic Wands, which are pretzels dipped into melted white almond bark and then sprinkled with colored sugar. The salty-sweet flavor made them a big hit. Such a simple treat, and yet they were the first thing that many people reached for when they approached the plate of cookies. (You can find a printable version of the recipe for Magic Wands at www.susanmallery.com/recipes.php.)
So this year, when I decided to try to make up a recipe for a new Christmas treat, that salty-sweet combination was on my mind. I opened my pantry, and there sat an unopened box of Ritz crackers. Perfect! I would create something using the Ritz as a base. Its shape and size would make it both pretty and portable.
I didn’t want to just dip it in almond bark and sprinkle it with sugar, though, because that would be cheating. This needed to be a whole new recipe, something that would make people slap their foreheads and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”
Often when I’m writing a book, I start out with a really great title and then try to come up with a story to fit the title. (And then my editor or the marketing department ask me to change the title because it turns out that I do not have a talent for titles. Even so… ) Before I started contemplating ingredients, I thought about what I could name my new treat.
Putting on the Ritz?
Somehow, I stumbled upon Christmas Crackers, and felt that thrilling “Aha!” rush through me. I’ve always found the British tradition of Christmas crackers to be charming, those brightly colored little pockets of wrapping paper, which pop open to reveal candy and toys.
So I would make my own version of Christmas Crackers with a Ritz cracker as the base with melted chocolate hiding a surprise inside.
I tried both Parmesan on its own and Parmesan over a layer of orange marmalade. Both were okay, but they weren’t as good as the four options I settled upon for the recipe. (The printable version of this recipe with its multiple fillings is also available at www.susanmallery.com/recipes.php.)
1 box (4 sleeves) of Ritz crackers
1 36-oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-2 T vegetable shortening or coconut oil
Line four cookie sheets with parchment paper. (If you don’t have four cookie sheets, you can just lay the parchment paper out on any flat surface. You only really need the cookie sheet for the sleeves of crackers that will have the marshmallow filling.) Lay all four sleeves of crackers out on the parchment paper and cover each of the crackers with one of the following fillings.
Melt the chocolate and shortening in a double-boiler. If you don’t have a double-boiler, then boil water in a small saucepan and carefully balance a medium-sized saucepan over it. Stir constantly until chocolate is melted.
Cover each cracker thoroughly, hiding the filling. Refrigerate until set.
1 C caramel bits or caramel candy
½ T heavy cream
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the caramel and the cream. Heat in 30-second increments until melted, stirring after each time. Drop by scant spoonful onto each cracker.
Peanut Butter Filling:
Spread a thin layer of creamy peanut butter on each cracker, then sprinkle heavily with chopped peanuts.
Mint Crème Filling:
¼ C butter, softened to room temperature
1 C powdered sugar
1 T green crème de menthe
In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add crème de menthe and mix thoroughly. Spread a thin layer on each cracker.