We’ve officially made it through the first week of the Holiday Season, and a hearty congratulations to us all. I don’t know about you guys, but around this part of the Process I start debating the merits of sleeping on the front doorstep until I’ve intercepted all eight million packages that are, inexplicably, headed to my house. Maybe once I get them all inside I can upgrade to napping under the tree in between marathon wrapping sessions. But pay no attention to my grumblings from the depths of Santa’s Sweatshop, because we’re here to talk about the part of the Christmas season that makes it all seem worth it: the cookie swaps.
Have you ever tried to host a cookie swap? It’s kind of like trying to host a herd of buffalo. The first time I tried it, I was determined to go super traditional and provide lots of gingerbread and sugar cookie dough and invited guests to bring their own cookie doughs and fixings as well. Cut to an hour after everyone arrives and the kitchen looks like that scene in Jumanji after the monkeys get to it. And behold, me in the center of it, rolling out I don’t even know how many cubic feet of cookie dough; miserable and deserving every minute of it.
At one point in the evening,I glanced over at the only (relatively) peaceful corner of the kitchen and noticed that one of my girlfriends really had this thing figured out — she was sandwiching Ritz crackers with peanut butter and dipping them in melted chocolate. That’s it. Genius! So simple! She was the first one finished and her contribution was legitimately delicious. And I vowed right then that I would never let such a beautiful thing as a cookie swap get so complicated ever again.
These are definitely not the crispy squares you remember from grade school — thanks to the addition of brown butter and sea salt from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen (the queen, all hail). But I can’t resist taking them a step further by smearing them with dark chocolate and rolling them up jelly-roll style so they can be sliced to look a little more like cookies. And they’re almost no-bake (aside from a brief stint in a warm oven to melt the chocolate and make it spreadable). I promise, these are a cinch to pull off no matter what’s going on in the background — and they keep wonderfully in a sealed container, so feel free to make them in advance.
I know for some of you this is burying the lede somewhat, but our specimens today just happen to be gluten-free (assuming you’re purchasing big-brand marshmallows), and are pretty kid-friendly too — both in the kitchen and after they’re finished. Feel free to cut back on the sea salt or omit it entirely if that’s your plan. I might even know of a certain portly man in a red suit known to lurk about this time of year that might appreciate a plate of these left out for him — who knows? Maybe he’ll share some with you.
Dark Chocolate Rice Crispy Swirls
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
5 cups crispy rice cereal
10 oz. mini marshmallows (1 bag)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Large pinch of sea salt
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 200°F. Line a sheet pan (preferably rimmed) with parchment paper or a silpat. Spray the inside of your largest mixing bowl with nonstick spray and add the cereal.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Once it is fully melted, wait for the bubbles to subside. Keeping a constant eye (brown butter becomes burned butter in seconds) wait for the butter to turn a golden brown color and start to smell nutty and, well, heavenly. Immediately turn the heat to the lowest setting and stir in the marshmallows until completely smooth.
Working quickly, pour the marshmallow mixture into the bowl with the cereal and stir with your largest rubber spatula. Keep stirring until the cereal is evenly coated with the marshmallows and the mixture is completely homogenous.
To spread the sticky, marshmallow-coated cereal, either put on a pair of food-safe gloves and spray the palms of your hands with nonstick spray and use your hands to create an even layer; or you can cover the bottom of a heavy glass with plastic wrap and spray it with nonstick spray. Either way, spread and flatten them until you have a flat surface, leaving a roughly 3 inch border on all sides. Sprinkle all over with the sea salt. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the crispies in an even layer. Place the sheet pan in the oven for 6 minutes until the chocolate is softened enough to spread. Spread the chocolate using the rubber spatula or an offset spatula. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Once the crispies have cooled, gently begin to roll. Beginning at the longer edge of the pan, carefully fold the edge over as tight as you can. Continue to roll slowly in this manner (as if making cinnamon rolls), using the silpat or parchment as a guide, until you’ve rolled the entire mixture. Place the entire pan in the fridge for at least 1 hour, until the mixture has set. Slice as thick or thin as desired and serve.
Will keep in a tightly sealed container for 1 week