Cookies with a surprise inside
Alison Sherwood/MCT

Certain words, when included in the title of a recipe, will spark my interest. Who doesn't want to know what is "hidden" inside or what technique or ingredient makes the recipe a "mystery"?

One of the first recipes that comes to mind is the popular "Tunnel of Fudge Cake." When Ella Helfrich of Houston, Texas, was experimenting with a new idea for the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off, her Bundt cake "mysteriously" developed a center of fudge. This has become known as the "most famous Bundt cake of all time." I wonder if perhaps this old recipe had something to do with the birth of the little chocolate lava cakes that are so popular now.

More than 40 years ago, when I was experimenting with some new ideas, I decided to hide an ingredient in one of my favorite cookies. I have always liked the butter balls that taste like wedding cookies or crispy sand tarts. At the time, I had some malted milk balls (another favorite) and decided to put one inside each cookie. It worked! What a surprise when my family took that first bite.

Recently, I decided to change the center and I opted to use the new candies called "bites," distributed by the Mars Company. Snickers was my candy of choice, and it tastes great nestled in the center of a butter crunch. This is a good recipe to use for kitchen experiments.

I think Butterfinger bites would also be good in this recipe. I would probably add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa to the dough to make it a chocolate butter ball, and I would omit the pecans.

The following "surprise" dessert bars, made with only four ingredients, are unusual because they are made with saltine crackers. A food processor is needed for this recipe.


  • 1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
  • ½ cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • About 40 Snickers "Bites"
  • Confectioners' sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter, sugar, vanilla and flour in a large bowl. Mix until well blended. This is a stiff mixture. Stir in pecans. Shape a scant tablespoonful of the dough around each piece of candy, forming a ball that is about 1 ¼ inches in diameter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, spacing balls about an inch apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until cookies begin to turn a light brown. Do not overbake. Remove from cookie sheet and roll each cookie in confectioners' sugar. After cookies cool slightly, coat again with confectioners' sugar.


  • 1 stack saltine crackers (about 28)
  • 1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips, divided
  • ⅔ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Combine crackers and 1 cup of the chips in bowl of food processor, fitted with steel blade. Process until crackers are very fine (about like corn meal). Some of the chips might not be completely ground up, but that is OK. Pour into a bowl and add pecans. Mix and then stir in condensed milk, mixing well. Pour into pan and smooth with a spatula. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until set in the middle. As soon as the pan comes out of the oven, sprinkle remaining chips over top. When they begin to melt, spread the chocolate to cover the top. Cut into squares. Good with ice cream.

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