Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Decadence

My son began first grade this week and I wanted to celebrate with a new treat for his lunch box.  Chocolate is a favourite of his and cookie dough is a highly prized item in his food choices, so these bars seemed like the perfect idea. They are adapted from a contribution to The Food Recipe Critic that was, in turn, adapted the recipe from Lifes Simple Measures, the major difference being that these are nut-free.

These bars were a huge hit, even with my dad who began as a sceptic, but they won’t be going in any lunch boxes as they wouldn’t survive the ordeals that lunchbox items must be prepared to endure.

I was a little concerned that the dough might be too soft, so I was careful about the amount of sweetened condensed milk that I added. In the end, I chose not to scrape out the can of condensed milk, leaving a good tablespoon in the can. Even at that, the dough is quite soft when not fully chilled. Consequently, I wouldn’t serve these bars on a hot day when they had to sit out of the fridge for any time.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Decadence - A Pat & A Pinch

In Canada, sweetened condensed milk comes in 300ml cans.  This is roughly 10 oz in size. Not wanting to have part of a can of condensed milk left over, I adjusted the following amounts by 7/10ths and used a loaf pan approximately 9×5 inches in size. The adjusted amounts are in parentheses.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Decadence

½ c. unsalted butter, softened (5 3/5 tbsp)

¾ c. packed light brown sugar (8 tbsp + 1 tsp)

1 tsp. vanilla extract (I like vanilla, so I used a light tsp)

2 c. all purpose flour (1 c. + 6 tbsp. + 1 tsp.)

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk ( 1 300 ml. can)

2 c. mini chocolate chips (1 c. + 6 tbsp. + 1 tsp.)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (½ c. + 3 tbsp.)

1 tbsp. cream (2 tsp)

1 1/2 tsp. butter (1 generous tsp.)

Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until it is fluffy. This takes about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and beat until combined.

Turn the mixer to low and alternate the flour and the sweetened condensed milk until combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips.

Press the cookie dough into the bottom of the 8×8 pan. It will be sticky so lightly flour your hands if needed.

Cover your bars with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight until firm.

To make the topping, combine the cup of chocolate chips, the cream and the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds and stir. Repeat as needed to obtain a smooth consistency but be very careful to not overheat the chocolate or it will become stiff and grainy. Pour and spread over the top of the chilled dough and chill at least for 1 hour until firm.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Decadence - A Pat & A Pinch

Spiced Apple Butter

Spiced Apple Butter - A Pat & A Pinch

My parents live on a property that has the remnants of an old orchard.  The apple trees are larger than ideal and you can tell that they have witnessed a lot of history but they still produce apples.  This weekend the Gravensteins were ready to be picked. Gravensteins are a tasty eating apple, but they aren’t any good for pies. With a bumper crop, they needed to be used and what better solution than apple butter.

Choose a day when you can be home all day to make apple butter: It takes a long time to cook! Mine cooked all day – a good 12 hours in total but I think that that was largely due to the volume I made which necessitated starting it on the cooktop and then shifting it to the oven. It needs to be stirred regularly, but other than the stirring it requires little attention. If I was making a smaller batch, I would simply use the oven or a crock pot – it is so much less effort and requires so much less attention!

I can’t give you a specific recipe for apple butter – it depends on what type(s) of apples you have and how many of them you have.  The good news, however, is that you really don’t need a recipe.

I peeled, sliced  and cored my apples using a peeling and coring gizmo like this.  It yields a spiral sliced apple that I then cut into quarters.  If you have a food mill, you can slice your apples whole with peel and then run the cooked mixture through the mill, but I find beginning with prepared apples easier.

I filled a heavy bottomed 17 litre stock pot to within 2 inches of the top with the apples and added 2 litres of some soft apple cider from a previous year’s bounty that we keep frozen until needed. You could also simply start with a little water or commercial apple juice. I put the pot on low on the cooktop and began to let it cook. The fruit broke down into an applesauce quite quickly.  Gravensteins do break down easily but if you have an apple that doesn’t, you can easily break it down with an immersion blender or with a food mill.

I added spices to taste: my choices were cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and some ground ginger.  For my first batch, I used whole spices tied up in cheese cloth and then supplemented with ground spices.  For the second batch, I went straight to the ground spices. Remember that the apples are going to be reduced by at least half, so the spices you add will concentrate.  You can always add more spices later in the process if you find that you would like more.

As the fruit cooked down, I tasted it for sweetness and added brown sugar to my taste. Again, it is important to remember that the apples will reduce, so be careful not to over sweeten.

When my mixture had reduced by about half, I put it into two uncovered dutch ovens which I placed in a 250 degree F oven.  I continued to cook down the mixture, but in the oven it only needed to be stirred hourly.

The apple butter is done when it is very thick. You can almost slice the mixture and it will retain the “cut”.  By the time it reaches this consistency it is a lovely rich reddish brown colour.

I poured the hot mixture into hot canning jars, filling them to within a quarter inch of the top. I then quickly placed the lids on top.  All of the jars sealed without the need for an additional canning process.

My son loves this on pancakes, but I use it liberally on anything and everything that lends itself well to jam.

Spiced Apple Butter - A Pat & A Pinch