It was my senior year of college and my journalism professor had assigned us the fairly straightforward task of making a dish and writing about it. But I had a problem: I lived in a sorority house where an antiquated microwave, communal refrigerator, and beat-up toaster comprised our entire kitchen.
I could have asked asked to borrow a friend’s stove or oven (or knives or measuring cups), but procrastination a jam-packed schedule left me no other option but to MacGyver a recipe I knew all too well: Oreo balls.
I first tasted the treat at a high school sleepover. Between bags of chips and popcorn, the plate of rich, chocolatey truffles disappeared in minutes. And later, after learning that the balls only needed three ingredients—Oreos, cream cheese, and melted chocolate—I was sold.
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Sure, I’d have to fight for counter space and commander the microwave. But this was my Hail Mary and I wasn’t afraid to make my housemates wait on the sidelines with their unpopped popcorn.
Here's how it went:
1. Finely crush Oreo cookies.
O.K., easy enough. Some might use a food processor to pulse the sandwich cookies into a fine powder; I settled on a Ziploc bag and elbow grease. Plus, crushing the Oreos with my hands served as a wonderful stress reliever. I thought of the parking ticket (unjustly!) tacked to my car the week prior as I crushed the cookies to smithereens.
2. Mix cookie crumbs and cream cheese until blended.
I didn’t have a spatula (definitely the prefered method for mixing the cream cheese and crumbs). But I did have that Ziploc bag. I dropped a brick of cream cheese into the mess that resembled black, oxygen-rich soil and squished and squeezed “until blended.” Everything was taking longer than I anticipated. “Is this what it was like to churn butter by hand?” was the thought that crossed my mind.
3. Shape into 1-inch balls. Freeze for 10 minutes.
I rolled the sticky mixture into lopsided balls between the palms of my hands, aiming for quantity rather than consistency. As the saying goes, “Variety [in Oreo balls] is the spice of life.”
In lieu of a freezer, I placed the misshapen balls toward the back of the house refrigerator and kept vigil. Sorority women were notorious for clearing the fridge after a late night out. (It was college, O.K.?)
4. Dip balls into melted chocolate and place on wax paper.
Without a microwave-safe bowl, I hunted down the next best thing. My sister’s oversized coffee mug fit four squares of chocolate comfortably, and the handle expedited the dipping process. I nuked the perfectly shaped squares into a gooey liquid and prepared an Oreo ball assembly line. By the fourth ball, I had developed a rhythm: skewer, dip, shake, drop, and sprinkle. I felt so powerful. Like I had mastered the domestic hurdle before me: cooking. I was cooking.
Instead of wax paper, I repurposed party cups and the Styrofoam plates our chapter used as paint palettes for decorating game-day banners. My fingers, shirt, and elbows (and somehow face?) were smudged with chocolate.
5. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.
Ready to finish my dish, I dumped the mostly-firm Oreo balls into a plastic container and taped a note to the lid saying I would come after anyone who ate my creations. I also pushed the container behind a milk jug for good measure. (Like I said, drunk eaters are the worst.)
I looked at the mess of crumbs and stray globs of chocolate and wondered, "How did three* ingredients make such a disaster?" And as I chiseled white chocolate off the countertop with a plastic knife, I decided that the limitation of a microwave and toaster for 60 women was probably for the best.
*Now, years later, I like to make them fancy-schmancy with two kinds of chocolate, semi-sweet and white.
Have you had Oreo balls before? Tell us your favorite dish to make in college in the comments below!