The 3-Ingredient Hail Mary of Edible Gifts to Save You From Yourself

December 23, 2016

Every year since I can remember, I return home to my parents' house in Baltimore for what I'll call "winter recess"—yes, this is really Christmas break; no, it does not always align with Hanukkah—to find a plastic snack bag (distinct from the reasonably-sized sandwich bags, this is a finger-width, tube sock of a bag that can accommodate a handful of almonds and no more) with three or four pretzel-Hershey's Kiss-M&M faces squeezed inside.

Every year, I make fun of my mom for having not eaten them already, and of her skating friend (my mom is an avid ice dancer—more on that never) for giving them to us in the first place. A few pretzels as a gift? I know it's the thought that counts, but where's the homemade granola? ...I am a scrooge. I am a spoiled-rotten scrooge. (I blame the insanely kind and over-the-top Holiday Swap packages.)

Every year, I eat them all when my parents aren't looking. And this year, I made them myself. Each of my recipients got exactly nine pretzel-kiss-&Ms.

About 10 seconds of work. Photo by James Ransom

For as much as I've droned on about edible gifts as great last-minute alternatives for us put-er-off-ers who have failed to order a present online (or, heaven forbid, brave a brick-and-mortar store during shopping season), most are not at all suitable for the kind of last-minute urgency I'm talking about: "last-minute" as in you're due to leave for the party in an hour; "last-minute" as in you received a Christmas gift at 5 PM on Christmas Day from the scrooge neighbor you never expected to give you anything (was it me?); "last-minute" as in there is no way you're getting out of your pajamas to drive to the grocery store. In this "last-minute" world, you will not be "throwing together" pumpkin butter.

That's where these better-than-they-should-be pretzel-kiss-&Ms come on the scene. They're three "ingredients" (I mean, they're probably made up of hundreds of ingredients but just three pronounceable "food stuffs"), all of which you'll find at the convenience store (in fact, I couldn't find the pretzels anywhere but the Duane Reade), and they take approximately—oh, let's see now—zero effort.

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Even if you're not in a rush, you may be so busy and/or tired and/or preoccupied and/or sugared-out that no volume of coffee or alcohol will provide the will to measure, mix, and clean (...hello). Do yourself a favor, stay away from the kitchen, and preserve a shred of well-being: Your co-workers and friends will understand. (Mine did.) Heck, they may even eat all of those silly pretzels in one sitting. They will enjoy them. They will think it's lovely that you did anything at all. And they will not know where you got the idea.

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Top Comment:
“CANDY CANE PRETZEL KISSES ••• Place peppermint kisses on top of waffle-style pretzels on a cookie sheet • Bake at 300 for 3 min. • Gently squish another pretzel on top • Chill in fridge 20 min. (*for 100 treats: I did 50/50 on 2 sheets & used a 17.8oz family bag of kisses & a 14oz bag of pretzels w a little to spare of each... ”
— ellen

Here's how to make them. (Does this need to be explained? I don't know. Going for it!)

  • Line up your pretzels on a baking sheet. If you have obsessive tendencies (me!), line them all in the same direction. NOTE: There are fifty-four Kisses in a bag, so you need no more than 54 pretzels (basic math) unless you've splurged and bought multiple bags. I have not counted how many pretzels or M&Ms there are in one bag. Sorry.
  • Enlist a helper to unwrap the Kisses with you. You are doing a lot of work and need a helper. (I chose dark chocolate Kisses because—ha, ha—I'm a "food stylist" and also because I suspected that some of my very strange Food52 colleagues hated milk chocolate? But if there had been HUGS at the store, I'd have chosen HUGS in a heartbeat).
  • Place one Hershey's Kiss on each pretzel.
  • Place the baking sheet in a warm oven (like 200° or 300°F) until you see the Kisses' peaks droop and their surfaces glisten. This takes between 2 and 5 minutes. (I didn't time it. Sit next to the oven and watch them.)
  • Working quickly (call your helper back from the sofa where they're watching a dumb TV show that is not as important as the task at hand!), place one M&M atop each melting Kiss and press down. If the Kiss doesn't smoosh under the strength of the colorful candy, back in the oven the Kissed pretzels go.
  • I don't need to tell you that you can choose any sort of M&M you want (pretzel, almond, peanut, peanut butter)—but the real honkin' drops might balance a bit awkwardly on dainty pretzels.
  • Put the baking sheet in the fridge so that the chocolate hardens.
  • Divide among your loved ones. It's okay if everyone gets three.

And if you want to get fancy, that's what we have Pinterest for:

Bringing my HUGS dreams to fruition:

Reindeers, minimalism and maximalism:

Tagging out the Kisses for ROLOS and the M&Ms for pecans (healthy fats?):

For Hanukkah:

And for spring, which will, indeed, come:

Tell us: What's your go-to, zero-effort, last-minute present?

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Anne
  • ellen
  • KatyWho
  • ktr
  • Fern Pachter Hallman
    Fern Pachter Hallman
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Anne December 14, 2018
I made these for a cookie exchange, also using the dark chocolate Hershey's kisses. Put in 300° oven for 3 minutes. They looked so adorable. But, as the day went on, the chocolate started to turn ashy and ugly, and even worse the next day. Chocolate, tempering---tricky I know. Any suggestions?
ellen December 25, 2017
CANDY CANE PRETZEL KISSES ••• Place peppermint kisses on top of waffle-style pretzels on a cookie sheet • Bake at 300 for 3 min. • Gently squish another pretzel on top • Chill in fridge 20 min. (*for 100 treats: I did 50/50 on 2 sheets & used a 17.8oz family bag of kisses & a 14oz bag of pretzels w a little to spare of each...
KatyWho December 25, 2016
OMG, I LOVE this post. The story, the recipe, the Pinterest add ons! Thanks!
ktr December 23, 2016
My mom bakes a dozen different kinds of cookies every year for Christmas. She started making these with pretzels and rolos a few years ago and they have been a favorite ever since. Sometimes the simplest things are the best!
Sarah J. December 23, 2016
Amen, ktr. Amen.
Fern P. December 23, 2016
Love the progression from simple to insane. Making these today!