The Square Challenge or Why does my cousin Kirsten hate me?

My cousin Kirsten posted a recipe for No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars with the following challenge:

“I think that “Sandy”, Tony, and I should make these this weekend. It could be an international “baking” experience”

Ok – it wasn’t really a challenge so much as a suggestion, but if you’ve ever encountered a Kenyon before you’ll know that even saying ‘Good day!” can become a challenge depending on the specific Kenyon you are addressing. Unfortunately today I was That Specific Kenyon.  Game ON!

When my husband and I went out to get groceries that morning I told him I needed to get some sweetened condensed milk and some chocolate chips.  He looked at me, kind of confused.   “um… why?”  I arched a brow “I’m in a baking competition” I said airily, turning to peruse the mysteries of the baking aisle.  “I’m sorry? What? You are in a baking competition?”  confusion turned to amusement “You’re in a BAKING competition??” He crowed, a huge grin splitting his once handsome face  “OMG!  Is your entry the “what not to do” picture?”  he was almost crying with laughter at this point “seriously… this is a joke right?”  I was very miffed.  Fine, so I’m no Wolfgang Puck, nor am I Martha Stewart… hell, my ‘food’ isn’t even on par with hospital fare, but surely a no bake square is not beyond my reach.  I ignored him and took two cans of sweetened condensed milk off the shelf and dropped them into the cart.  Don shook his head and reached in, snagging the cans and putting them back on the shelf.  ‘What are you doing?’ I demanded indignantly ‘I need that for my recipe!’  Don shook his head again and reached for some cans on a different shelf.  ‘Did you need evaporated milk” here he gestured with the can I had picked up “or sweetened condensed Milk.” he gestured with the can he chose, “They’re different. If it’s a square it’s probably the sweetened condensed milk”  I silently cursed Kirsten for taunting me into this “baking” thing, then plucked the sweetened condensed milk from his hand and dropped it into the cart  “Whatever”.  Then turned my back on him and went in search of chocolate chips.

I found the shelves of chocolate chips at the end of the baking aisle we were in. Hmm… who knew there could be SO many different kinds of chocolate chips?  dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, mini chocolate, mini chocolate chips with candy coating… for gods sake!  Feeling Don’s amused gaze I pretended I knew what I was doing and took two bags of chocolate chips off the shelf.  “So… you want dark chocolate and not milk chocolate chips?” he asked.  If his tone hadn’t been so smugly patronizing I would probably have put them back and gotten the milk chocolate chips that I suddenly remembered the recipe called for (mental note, next time bring the recipe with me), however, Stubborn is my middle name.  “Actually, I think Semi-sweet would make the recipe healthier” I said, putting the dark chocolate chips back and grabbing a package of semi-sweet chips.  “Healthy cookie dough squares…ok” He shrugged “Will one package be enough?” Don asked.  How the hell was a girl to remember all these things? I silently fumed “YES!” I said quite firmly, hoping against hope that I was correct. Then I grabbed one more bag and flung the chocolate chips into the cart. Quickly I retreated from the stupid baking aisle and off we went to finish the shopping.

Fast forward to two hours later: we are home, groceries unpacked.  I stacked the unsalted butter, chocolate chips and condensed milk on the counter.  “I’m going to go out and ride the horse….unless you need me?” Don suggested pointing at the ingredients on the counter “Off you go!” I sang, with a bravado I did not feel “They are just No Bake squares – easy peasy!”  He tried to disguise his laugh with a cough but I knew. Oh ye of little faith! I thought.. just wait and see.  He gave me a kiss and headed out the door.

I turned to the recipe on the counter and read the first step:

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

I pulled out the aluminum foil and ripped off a piece about 2 feet long.  Well. I tried to fit it into the pan but the darn thing was longer than it was wide… so the sides were bare. I took another piece off the roll and tried to fit it across the first piece. Nope. This piece was to short. Grrrr! Ok, it took about 40000 pieces of foil to get it the right size… and as you can see from the creases, it wasn’t an easy fit.. but it’s done and so that’s good.

squares 1

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

“Bet” until combined…  Bet what?  Ha Ha… I crack myself up.  The recipe called for 3/4 of a cup of light brown sugar.  I retrieved the brown sugar from the cupboard and measured out half a cup.  crap.  That’s all there was in the bag. Panicking slightly I searched through the pantry.  Nope, no more brown sugar.  I checked my ‘Smart Chef’ app on my phone.  According to the Owl (why would an owl know how to bake?) I could substitute white sugar and molasses for brown sugar.  Huh.  Ok, so I got on a chair and started searching for molasses in the top of the pantry.  No luck. “Well” I reasoned “sugar is sugar and all good Bakers know that substitutions happen and it will be fine!”  I measured out a 1/4 cup of white sugar and dumped that in on top of the brown sugar.  Then, worried that maybe brown sugar was sweeter than white sugar?  I plopped a bit more in just in case.  “It’s sugar! how can more sugar hurt?” I dusted my hands on my shirt (oops, should have put an apron on!) and looked at the recipe.

Butter.  I had forgotten to put the butter out to get soft.  I put the hard bar of butter on the counter and found the half cup mark on the wrapper.  Using a sharp knife I cut through the wrapper and sliced off a chunk.  A sort of uneven chunk.  Uh oh. I’m sure the butter should be a square or rectangle of some sort and this was clearly a trapezoid or something.  Hmm.  I got a bigger knife, and measured the same distance from the other end of the pound of butter.  Carefully I sliced through the bar and Voila!!  This piece was even!  Ok, it was slightly bigger than the first piece, but I’d put some extra sugar in so I’m sure it would be all good, I reassured myself.  I gathered up the remaining oddly shaped chunks of the bar of butter, deposited them in a plastic bag and put them back in the fridge.  I’m sure it was fine.

squares 2

‘bet’ until combined.  I snapped the beaters into the mixer and plugged it in.  Turning it to low, I pushed it into the butter and prayed.  It made a really sad noise, then kind of stopped.  The butter might be a bit too hard, I reasoned.  BUT I knew that if I microwaved the butter it would get too soft (retained knowledge from another baking disaster) so I just forced the beaters into the butter again and turned it on. Eventually it started to smash up the butter into smaller chunks and spray sugar everywhere but it did start to combine.  Persistence pays off!!  suddenly it got REALLY easy to mix and I realized that this had happened :

squares 3

All of the butter was now inside the beaters and most of the sugar was outside of the beaters… how to combine them both? I added the vanilla, reasoning that more moisture might help loosen things up and then fell back on my usual baking motto:  When in doubt, use more power.  I turned the beaters up to ‘high’ and held them about a half an inch above the sugar.  For a few seconds nothing happened other than the butter filled beaters spun and spun.  Suddenly a wee bit of butter came flying out and before you could say ‘Holy Crap!’ butter was flying everywhere!  I jammed the beaters into the sugar only to add flying sugar to the flying butter. Good lord!  Being a natural problem solver I grabbed the cord and unplugged the beaters. Silence filled the kitchen; Butter and butter/sugar dotted the backsplash on the counter and the sides of the mixing bowl. But SUCCESS!! The beaters were no longer jammed full of butter!  I grabbed a teaspoon and started scooping the butter/sugar blobs back into the bowl.

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

Once all the batter was back in the bowl, I measured out the sweetened condensed milk. Because we are a metric people, I once again pulled out my handy dandy smart phone and plugged in: 300ml converted to oz.  It calculated that one 300ml can of condensed milk was 10 oz. Hmm.  Ok, so then I needed 4 more ounces and luckily I had purchased two cans.  I opened the second can and then realized that I didn’t have anything that would measure just 4 oz… rats.  Well, 8 oz is a cup so 4 oz would be half a cup, I reasoned.  I rummaged through the utensil drawer… no half cups. Hmm.  Well, one can was 10 oz so half a can would be 5 oz, so 1 fifth less of half a can would be 4 oz.  Silently congratulating myself on my advanced math skills I dumped the first can into the butter/sugar mixture and started to pour the second can in… oops!  a bit more than half a can.  No worries, I’d already put some extra sugar and butter in, it was probably actually good that I put a bit extra Condensed milk in there… I consulted the recipe again.  Oh shit.  ‘alternate the flour and sweetened condensed milk…” I looked dubiously at the contents of the mixing bowl… there is no real way to pull the condensed milk out of the ‘batter’ at this point

squares 6

You know, I think alternating ingredients is a tactic people use when they are not very diligent in their mixing – so I decided to put all the flour in next and then mix it all at once. Really it was a more efficient way to combine things.  I grabbed the flour canister and a measuring cup and scooped out a cup of flour.  I dumped it into the bowl and started the mixer. Immediately a huge pouf of flour flew up and all over my shirt and the counter.  Oh, right.  I turned the beaters off and used the mixer like a spoon and slopped it around in the batter for a while till most of the flour was at least damp.  Then I turned on the mixer again and, turning it up to High, mixed the batter for all it was worth.  Once the motor in the mixer started to smell like melting plastic, I turned it off – clearly things were combined. I looked back at the recipe.  Shit.  Had I added One cup or Two of flour? Hmm.  Well, I reasoned, since I’d added too much condensed milk I should probably add a bit more flour anyway so as a compromise I added another half cup of flour. Then decided I probably hadn’t added the second cup so added 3/4 again just to be sure.

squares 7

Yep. That looked better.  I put the mixer in and started it again… it was really groaning and smelled kind of bad.  No worry, this was a good mixer and I had faith in it!  After beating the flour in I stopped and measured out the chocolate chips and realized that they were supposed to be mini-chips.  Huh. Whatever –  chocolate is chocolate, right?  I measured out two cups of chocolate chips and dumped them in the batter.  Since I’d added extra flour I had better add extra chocolate chips as well – no one wants a square that has too few chocolate chips in it!  So I opened the second bag and judiciously poured about 1/3 of the bag in.  I abused my mixer again and got all the chocolate chips incorporated. It looked pretty good! Yes, it was both stiff and sticky, but since it was ‘no bake’ I was pretty sure that’s exactly how it should have been.

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

 I tipped the bowl over the prepared baking pan and scooped it out onto the foil.  It was very sticky.  Really. Like, when I used the spoon to smooth the batter out, it stuck to the spoon and pulled the whole mess and the foil away from the pan. Panicking I pushed it back with my fingers but I forgot to ‘lightly flour my hands’ so… they got batter stuck all over them. Ew. It was sort of like cement really but I managed to use the spoon to pry the batter off my fingers and smush the whole thing into the pan again. Good job Sandy!

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

After washing my hands, I got the wax paper out and placed a piece over the squares.  It looked pretty good!  Now to wait three hours!

squares 8

Three hours later….

Ok. It’s totally *not* three hours later.  Or maybe it is? I forgot to note the time when I put the squares in the fridge. Sigh.  Well, why do they need to be in there for so long anyway? I mean really – what is the big deal? They don’t get cooked… I went and poked the squares through the waxed paper.  They seemed pretty firm… I’m sure it has been three hours.  I consult the recipe:

6) To make the topping, combine the peanut butter and ½ cup chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Stir every 30 seconds until smooth. Pour and spread over the top of the chilled dough and chill at least for 1 hour until firm.

I open the peanut butter jar and look at the peanut butter.  Luckily there is a LOT of peanut butter… but how do you measure half a cup without getting everything covered in peanut butter?  Tablespoons.  Tablespoons will be tidier than 1/2  cups of sticky gross peanut butter.  I whip out my handy dandy smart phone again and consult the Conversion Calculator. 1/2 a cup is 4 oz, and 4 oz is the same as 8 tablespoons of peanut butter.  Excellent.  I grab the measuring spoons out of the drawer and start scooping peanut butter into a large pyrex measuring cup.  I get to about 4 spoons when I realize I’m using a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon.  For crying out loud! Grrrr… I hate baking. Even No-bake baking.  sigh. I look in the bowl and realize that my little flight of frustration has now made me forget how many teaspoons I’ve put in already.  Crap. I think it must be about 3 and I know that 3 is basically a tablespoon, so I just switch to the tablespoon and keep on scooping. 2, 3, 4, 5… and the phone rings. I pick it up and cradle it between ear and shoulder while I push the last scoop of peanut butter off with my finger. “You have been selected…”  That’s as far as they get before I hang up. Darn telemarketers! I look at the batter and the small blobs of peanut butter sitting on top. Oh no… I try to count them… it looks like 4? Maybe 4. or 5. Ok, never mind, I start again at 5, 6, 7, 8.  Done.  8-ish blobs of peanut butter.  Of course I now have peanut butter all over the cup, my hands, the counter. Next time (like I’ll actually do this again…) I’ll use a 1/2 cup measure. I grab the chocolate chips and start pouring them in the cup before I remember I’m supposed to measure them.  WHATEVER! I WANT THIS HELL TO BE OVER!! I throw in one more handful, cram a half a handful in my mouth out of frustration, and take the mess over to the microwave.

After about 400 half minute bursts, the peanut butter and chocolate chips morph into a melty goo and I mix them vigorously.  Pulling the pan out of the fridge, I peel off the wax paper and a LOT of batter sticks to the paper. ok, it’s not that firm. I don’t care, I’m done messing around with this stuff.  I pour the chocolate peanut butter topping onto the base and observe the lumps of unmelted chocolate chips marring the surface. Sigh. I throw the thing back into the fridge for one more hour.  I’m telling you now, these better taste wonderful!

squares 9

At exactly 9:00pm I pulled the squares out of the fridge.  The top looked pretty set. I poked them with my finger.  Not too bad, fairly firm.  I pulled the foil up and took the whole thing out of the pan and set it on a wooden cutting board.  I peeled the foil back.. it looked like this

squares 10

It was a little sticky (ok, maybe I hadn’t left it as long as I should have) but so far, so good!  I cut a slice off of one side and then into little squares (ok, big squares). it was a bit soft but not to bad… what was the end result?

squares 11I fed one to Andy and his response was “omg these are good!  Did Don make them?” and then “I think my pancreas is hurting….”   LOL   I think it was a success!  Aside from the fact that I will never make these again – I mean, who are we kidding? it is basically just a fluke that these turned out at all!

And what did I think?  Well, it’s a really bad picture, but Nom Nom Nom sums it up nicely  🙂

squares 13

Categories: daily life, humour, short story

6 replies

  1. Bravo Sandy! As I was reading I remembered inheriting a mixer. I pulled it out in December to do Christmas baking because that’s what people expect of adults. Sadly, the mixer started smoking. I then inherited a second mixer. I pulled it out in December to do Christmas baking, because that still seemed to be an adult thing to do. The mixer started smoking. I took it as a sign and went shopping.

  2. I shared your blog with Suzanna. This is the response- “SANDY HAS CLYSDALES.????. We HAVE to go to Canada”. Pretty soon she’ll want us to get horses to go with those goats we don’t have.

    • The goats are a reasonable request. The horses, however, are lovely to look at but that’s about all I have to do with them – they are SO big!! No, Suzanna, no horses… stick to goats! 🙂
      But coming to Canada is a great idea!

  3. Sounds like you had a hell of a lot more fun than I did! Aren’t they amazing? What are we “baking” next? I’m gone next weekend, so we’ll have an extra week to figure. There was something about toffee covered graham crackers……

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