Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas Crafts, Day 11: Cocolate Almond Squares

We’ve lived in the house we currently inhabit for about eight years now, and we love our neighborhood. One of the things that makes it so great is that we genuinely like our neighbors. Over the years the folks living closest to us have collected our mail, moved our car on alternate side parking days, signed for our UPS boxes, and given us excellent gardening advice. Three of them have children who have babysat for mine, one of them (a former fireman) made his way into one of our upper story windows when I was locked out, and several of them have a spare key to my house should I ever get locked out again. I’ve enjoyed chatting with them and getting to know them over time. Although we always thank them on the spot for their various good deeds, we also like to bring them a little something extra around the holidays, to let them know how much we appreciate them.

Baking has never been my strong suit (though I’m incredibly skilled at eating baked goods). It requires a level of precision that I just can’t seem to manage, or am just too lazy to bother with. In the past I’ve baked cookies and brownies for my neighbors, but this year I’m giving them something a little different. These squares, which I saw someone making a similar version of (on a muted tv in a convenience store while I was waiting to have my car washed), are really delicious and easy to make even if, like me, you aren’t an exacting baker.

Here’s what you’ll need:

One nine inch square baking pan
Half a packet (about 4 oz) of unsweetened shredded coconut
About 6 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Most of a 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
4 oz. of chopped salted almonds (Note: you can use plain almonds if you want. I like the sweet and salty combination, myself.)

First spread a layer of shredded coconut to cover the bottom of the pan.

Cover the coconut with a layer of the chocolate chips. Drizzle the condensed milk over the chocolate until its pretty much covered up.

Coarsely chop the almonds and spread them across the top. If your kids are helping you bake, you can assign them the task of smashing the almonds. Put them in a ziplock or a produce bag, and let your child smash them up with a rolling pin or can of soup.

Throw the pan in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

When they’re done you can see where the condensed milk sort of caramelized, which keeps the whole thing together. Let the pan cool outside of the oven for a while. Then cool them completely in the refrigerator before cutting them into squares. Wrap them in wax paper first, then some colorful tissue paper tied up with a nice ribbon. (My favorite way to wrap just about anything.)

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