Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Sandwiches. Yeah!

"Choco PB Cracker Cookies," from Make It Like as Man!

Yeah, you read that right. Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Sandwiches. These cookies are fiendishly simple … in fact, they are the fastest, easiest cookies I know how to make. Yet, for as simple as they are, they’re nonetheless delicious.

The story goes like this: I stumbled into a low-brow grocery store – the kind that shrink-wraps broccoli – looking for Fireball, because it was, like, two days after Christmas and I was all out of whiskey … and I stumbled upon a whole bunch of “almond bark” in the Christmas after-party sale aisle. After appropriately laughing my ass off – for I take pride in being a pretentious food snob who finds “chocolate flavored” chocolate to be, well, hysterical – I decided to buy some, ironically. I got it home, shoved it in the cupboard right next to some Ritz crackers, then took a beat and thought WTF … and literally 15 minutes later, these little beauties were laid out to dry on the kitchen table. Soon enough, I was pounding them down, along with my pride. They’re friggin awesome. And mind-blowingly easy.

You can confidently serve Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Sandwiches to anyone, even a food snob. They taste a lot like Tagalongs, but they’re lighter. They have a certain delicacy, even though they’re satisfyingly rich.

What You Need to Make 3 Dozen Cookies:

2¾ oz. powdered sugar (about ¾ cup)
9 oz. smooth peanut butter, because chunky peanut butter is a sin against nature (about 1 cup)
72 Ritz crackers (around ½ of a 13.7 oz. box)
10 oz. Log House™ chocolate-flavored “Make Your Own Almond Bark and Coated Pretzels” candy coating
1 oz. Crisco – yeah, you heard me … Crisco (about 2 Tbs)

How to Do It:
  1. Use a sturdy, medium-sized spoon to angrily mash and stir the powdered sugar into the peanut butter. (Or use a mixer if you’re in a kind of Zen state.) Mix just until fully incorporated. (If using an electric mixer, don’t overmix; if you do, the peanut butter will go back to being sticky, and that’s not what you want. Very little chance of that happening if you mix by hand. Unless you’re into cross fit. In that case, don’t overmix, Rocky.)

"Almond Bark," from Make It Like a Man!

  1. Next, you’re going to sandwich peanut butter between the bottoms of two crackers. Scoop a heaping tsp of the peanut butter onto the bottom of a cracker. Set aside. Keep doing this until you’ve distributed all your peanut butter onto about 36 crackers. Then, top each proto-cookie with a second cracker, making sure that it’s the bottom of the cracker that you’re pushing into the peanut butter. As you press and twist each sandwich together, make sure that you’ve pushed the peanut butter right to the edge. It’s worth taking some time here to add or scrape away peanut butter, as needed, to result in an amply and neatly filled sandwich.
  2. Retrieve some chocolate coating product from the cupboard and bust off six chunks (10 oz. worth). Place it in a microwavable bowl along with the Crisco, and nuke according to package directions. Once it’s melted, stir it. Not viciously, but for a long time. It loves to be stirred. Stir it until there are no lumps, no bubbles, no variations in color or texture … and then it loves to be stirred some more after that. It should be pretty, liquid, and runny. Blast it with more radiation if it seems too thick.
  3. One by one, using a fork in either hand, or just one hand with a rather small tongs, dunk each sandwich into the chocolate, turning it at least once, to make sure it’s fully coated. Let excess chocolate drip off back into the bowl. You should really take your time here and get this right. Be fussy with the chocolate-flavored coating to get it to the right consistency. The product should be thin enough that it flows easily off the sandwich … thinner than, say, Mrs. Butterworth’s, but not so thin that one coat won’t do the trick. Make sure that your cookies are beautifully and evenly coated. Move the cookie to a Silpat (or wax paper, if you’re hopelessly pedestrian) to harden. A little twirl of the fork as you set the cookie down will keep the chocolate from leaving trails that will have to be broken away from the cookie once they’ve hardened. Every 9 cookies or so, you may find that you need to give the coating a short trip through the microwave to keep it at the right consistency. If you’re economically minded, you’ll want to use just as much compound chocolate as you have to, and the last few cookies, you’ll find yourself painting the chocolate onto them more than you’re dipping them. With this product, as with chocolate, that’s going to encourage an unevenness in the sheen once the cookie dries.
  4. Once the chocolate has set, which happens just short of instantly, feel free to chow.

"Ritz Sandwich," from Make It Like a Man!

Notes:

  • These cookies would be sweet enough without adding sugar to the peanut butter, but sweetened peanut butter is delicious, so you’ll have to balance your desire for deliciousness with your desire to eat less sugar. The sugar has the added benefit of making the peanut butter easier to work with. Do what you will.
  • If you were curious enough to taste some of the melted candy coating while you were working, you’ll have discovered that it’s shockingly sweet. It has enough of its own sugar to carry whatever it’s coating even if the thing you’re coating has no sweetness of its own. And it’s also quite surprisingly chocolaty. A very thin coating will easily balance even more peanut butter than I’m recommending in each cookie. It doesn’t have the finesse, luxuriousness, and nuance of tempered chocolate, but it is infinitely easier to work with and seems appropriately breezy, given that this chocolate peanut butter cracker cookie recipe has nearly the same level of difficulty as making a really good sandwich.
  • If you cut this recipe in half, the distance between the whim striking you and your teeth striking the cookie could be as little as 15-20 minutes, tops.
  • If you’re inexplicably uninterested in eating them all, you can move what’s left to an airtight container. A dozen of them will fit beautifully into a 7½ x 5¼ x 1¾ container, but place a sheet of wax paper between the layers.
  • If you’re planning to serve these to anyone other than your best friend, you should realize that they take pretty easily to fingerprints. Curl the Silpat to unstick the bottoms, and then use an offset spatula to move them to the container.
  • They keep at room temperature for … I have no idea, because they have a way of disappearing. You start out determined to just try one, but then you realize that they’re really good, but they’re also kind of light … and you really probably should have a second one. And next thing you know, you’re eating them like chips. There isn’t an ingredient in them that doesn’t have a pretty long shelf life; that’s about as much as I can tell you.

Chocolate Compound Coating:

Candy coating chocolate, almond bark (not to be confused with “almond bark”), summer coating, CandiQuik … why none of these is “real chocolate” and why  that both is and isn’t pretentious

The processing of cocoa beans eventually renders two important products: presscake and cocoa butter. Presscake is turned into cocoa powder, while cocoa butter is turned into chocolate. Thus, one part of the definition of “chocolate” is that it’s made with cocoa butter. However, we also use the word “chocolate” as an adjective, to describe the taste and color of chocolate. Cocoa tastes chocolaty, is chocolate in color, and is a derivative of the cocoa bean … and yet, because it doesn’t contain cocoa butter, it isn’t, at least in a technical sense, chocolate. This gives rise to some confusion. “Chocolate” cakes may be made from chocolate, cocoa, or both – although cocoa is arguably far more common. With regard to the beverage, many people use the terms “cocoa” and “hot chocolate” interchangeably and probably couldn’t tell them apart in a taste test. My point is that, in a day-to-day practical sense, we don’t make much of a distinction between cocoa and chocolate, even though they are technically (and legally) not the same thing.

Of course, there are some inestimable differences. Right-thinking people will travel vast distances and pay exorbitant sums to eat chocolate, while no one in his right mind would eat cocoa right out of the can. Cocoa is always an ingredient, while chocolate is often produced to be eaten out of hand.

Only now can we talk about “chocolate compound coating” and put it in its proper context. It looks like a block of chocolate (or sometimes like chips or disks), but it is made with cocoa and does not contain cocoa butter. Cocoa gives it a legitimately chocolaty flavor. But instead of cocoa butter – a temperamental yet highly prized fat – compound chocolate is made with more rugged types of fats, like palm oil. This gives chocolate compound certain advantages and disadvantages compared to chocolate. It doesn’t have chocolate’s luscious texture, nuanced flavor, and to-die-for feel as it melts in your mouth. But on the other hand, it has excellent molding properties, can withstand the full-on blast of a microwave or direct flame, and doesn’t require (God forbid) tempering. It’s sometimes looked down upon as not being “real” chocolate, but because it’s easy to work with and far less expensive than chocolate, it’s ubiquitous. Many of the chocolate-dipped strawberries and cherries you’ve eaten, as well as many of the cake pops, chocolate-covered pretzels, and chocolate fountains – unless you buy them exclusively from fine chocolatiers –  were probably made with a compound chocolate.

Compound chocolate is often referred to, colloquially, as “almond bark,” presumably because your grandma used it to make almond bark candy. This is wholly unfortunate. If I ask your grandmother to go to the store and fetch me some almond bark, only context could tell her whether I wanted compound chocolate, or almond bark candy. How do we un-confuse her? Embarking on a campaign to cleanse the world of the use of “almond bark” to refer to anything but almond bark candy is the answer. But then we’d have to pressure Log House Foods into changing the name of the product I used for this recipe. They call it “Almond Bark” … or maybe it’s called “Make Your Own Almond Bark and Coated Pretzels,” or even “Make Your Own Almond Bark and Other Tasty Treats.” The packaging seems confusing on this point.

Oddly enough, Log House also makes another coating compound called CandiQuik. Apparently, Almond Bark is Log House’s entry-level product, and CandiQuik is a step up. A comparison of their ingredients labels supports the fact that many regard the two products as interchangeable. There is one other important difference: Miss CandiQuik. Before researching this topic thoroughly, I thought Miss CandiQuik was a burlesque artist, but it turns out she’s an imaginary woman who coats everything (except herself – that’s where I was wrong) in chocolate. There is no Miss Almond Bark, but if there were, you just know she’d work at one of those adult joints you see at some exit off the interstate, in the middle of nowhere.

"Ritz Sandwich," from Make It Like a Man!

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Sandwiches

I’ve submitted this post to Tea Time Treats.

Tea Time Treats is a monthly tea party (“tea party” as in the beverage, not to be confused with the political insurgents who are attempting to implode the American government from within) challenge for bloggers and bakers, hosted by Lavender and Lovage and The Hedgec0mbers. This month, it’s hosted by The Hedgec0mbers.

Tea Time Treats

Credits for all images on this page: blame me. I took’m. Hover over images and/or green text for more into. Click for instant gratification.
For further reading: Sephra, About.com, The Guardian, The Nibble

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5 thoughts on “Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Sandwiches. Yeah!

  1. Well, that was an education! I think I’m quite happy that we don’t get Almond Bark (either variety) here in the UK, however I am totally up for for trying this recipe with real chocolate and, I’m afraid, crunchy peanut butter. I bet the salty/peanutty/sweet/chocolatey thing totally works.
    Thanks so much for sharing with this months Tea Time Treats & explaining to the world that Karen & I are about as far removed from political rebellion as possible 🙂
    Janie x

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