Cooking with Purpose: Chocolate Scotcharoos to Sweeten a Public Critique

Tonight, I will silently sit in a conference room and listen to 14 other people, professor included, tear my writing apart, section by section. Last week, I turned in the first chapter of the book I’ve been telling you about, the one I’m writing about my travels in Asia, the one which this post is an excerpt from. My peers had seven days to read through it, mark up the pages with red, blue or black ink (does it really matter – it all says the same thing), and then tell me, in writing, all the things I did well, and all the things I didn’t. Tonight, those written critiques will come at me verbally, like shards of glass to the ears.

I made a dessert to soften the blow.

chocolate scotcharoos

Don’t get me wrong. Having my work critiqued is always beneficial, and I don’t like to send anything to an editor without first having others look at it. But never have I had it done in this fashion.

Tonight will be as though I’m not there. I’m not allowed to agree or disagree. I’m not allowed to back up my artistic decisions. I’m not allowed speak at all, until the end.

It’s intimidating. And, I’m excited. If you remember what I told you in my first post about cooking, I’m a little weird like that, because doing things that scare me, oddly manage to intrigue me. And in the end, no matter what fear I’m facing, I’m usually better off in the end.

With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to combine two classes into one, and use a cooking assignment for my Creativity course to bribe my workshop classmates to be kind. For the record, workshops have been occurring every Tuesday for the past three weeks and almost all of the other writers have brought snacks ranging from crescent rolls and hummus to cookies and bananas. None of them, might I add, made the critiques any less harsh.

Nevertheless, a bribe is now part of the ritual, and I’m not about to be the one to upset an expectant class on the night they give me feedback. I’ll enter with a tray of chocolate-covered, peanut butter Rice Krispies treats, otherwise known as Chocolate Scotcharoos. I slaved over the stove for all of 20 minutes last night (who said cooking I to take hours? Oh right, I did), stirring the sugar and Karo syrup to perfection before mixing in the peanut butter and cereal. When it came time to melt the chocolate chips, I ate half of one bag (click here to see why I hate cooking) and was forced to open another (I knew this would happen, so I bought two. My mother, still, hides the chocolate chips before I visit).

This was my grandmother’s recipe, and every female in my family has had their turn at trying. It’s not complicated in any sense of the word, and the most crucial thing to remember is not to overcook the syrup and sugar. Plus, always give the chocolate time to harden.

My cousin reminded me of these little tricks last night, and so far I think everything went as planned. It’s been years since I made Chocolate Scotcharoos – I tried once in China, but couldn’t find corn syrup anywhere, even in two international grocery stores – so the true taste test will come tonight in the form of a verbal critique.

When my peers take a sugary bite, I’ll hope their words come out just as sweet. Deep down, I know they can’t sugarcoat their thoughts (for they’re already on paper), and doing so wouldn’t be helpful to me anyway. However, I’m prepared to carry the leftover treats home with me afterward, to pair them with a bottle of red, and swallow their words whole.

chocolate scotcharoos 1

Tomorrow, when I wake up feeling like crap, I’ll have a bottle of Malbec and an overdose of chocolate to blame, instead of the kind classmates who are simply trying to make me a better writer.


The creativity this week lies solely in my motivation for cooking. Finding that motivation is often hard to do, though it’s made easier by a grade looming over my head and a required blog post to follow suit.

Chocolate Scotcharoos are quick and simple, and though I didn’t once look at a recipe, I did ask my cousin for a brief reminder. That said, it was fun to watch the ingredients melt together, to become one, in a paste that will add five pounds to my waistline when paired with cereal and chocolate.


Chocolate Scotcharoos Recipe:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup Karo syrup

1 cup peanut butter (I always use Jiffy Reduced Fat)

6 cups Rice Krispies

1 bag chocolate chips (I used the dark chocolate variety)


Heat the sugar and corn syrup in a large pot until melted. Don’t cook too long. Add in the peanut butter and stir until blended. Remove from heat and stir in the cereal. Spread evenly in a greased 9×16 pan. Then, melt the chocolate chips (don’t burn – I’ve done this a few times) and layer the chocolate over the concoction. Let cool overnight, or place in freezer.

I wonder what it would be like to try brown sugar and to mix peanut butter chips with chocolate chips for the topping?

Have you ever cooked for a bribe? If so, what was it for?

Cooking with Purpose: Chocolate Scotcharoos to Sweeten a Public Critique


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  1. Edna says:

    Good luck and let us know how the evaluations go!!

    • jessicajhill says:

      Thanks, Edna! It went really well. The class offered a lot of positive encouragement, and some very smart revising suggestions. Everything they said makes sense, and it’s always good to have others who aren’t so close to the work be able to say what’s missing or needs changed, as I’m sure you know. It was intimidating, but I really enjoyed it in the end.
      I hope things are settling down for you! Glad to see you back in the blogosphere.

  2. Jayla Rae Ardelean says:

    I think it’s prettayyy hilarious that I’m reading this blog post RIGHT before our (your) workshop. I’m looking forward to dining on this delicious-looking dessert, and to tell you that I love your writing- in person!
    Love, Jayla

    • jessicajhill says:

      I read this just before class last night, and it really helped settle my nerves. Thanks, Jayla! The critique was very helpful, just like I knew it would be, but the thought of it sure is intimidating! I can’t wait to get to writing and revising now. Looking forward to reading yours.

  3. Emily says:

    Ah, chocolate, it can soothe the most savage of burns, especially coming from our peers about our writing! After reading your comments, I’m glad to see that everything went well! I’m also glad to see that I’m not the only person who suffers from eating half their ingredients before they put everything together. I haven’t delved into desserts yet, because like you, my Mom also hides the chocolate chips (and anything else that can be remotely sweet) when I come home. We can just say we eat our ingredients because cooking just makes us so DAMN excited, and we can’t control ourselves.

    I like how you decided to make something that is so familiar to you. Maybe making something you already knew so much about helped bring you the comforts of home during the trials of workshop. If you have anymore left, be sure to bring it to tomorrow’s class so I can get through the trials of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and friends. It would be GREATLY appreciated. I also like how, even though we’re learning more about ourselves through this process, we both recognize cooking is obligatory, but maybe we’ll find some joy in it soon! If not, at least we know wine and chocolate exist in this crazy, mixed-up world, and that just makes everything better.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Haha, riiight. The reason we eat all of the chocolate chips is because of excitement, yep. It has absolutely nothing to do with an addiction to chocolate. Not at all 🙂

      Sorry I failed to bring you a treat. I meant to, honestly, but my memory failed me. Again.

  4. I’ve never heard of Chocolate Scotcharoos and I’m so glad you included the recipe! I know a ten year old girl who’ll only be too happy to whip that one out this weekend – and I’ll be standing by with my glass of red wine to help her out, of course!

    I’ve never used anything to bribe anyone in a work or school situation – not that I can recall. But I like the idea of it very much. Hmmm, I may need to explore this idea some.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Oh Annika will love to make these! They’re so easy, and even more delicious (dangerously so). Red wine definitely pairs well with them. Trust me, I tried.

      Treats always work well in work situations. Just think how many clients would sign if you showed up with a yummy red velvet cupcake for them? Maybe?

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