Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tu B'Shvat Magic Cookie Bars

Remember Magic Cookie Bars?

Cookie crumbs + butter + chocolate chips + condensed milk = "Mom, I made cookies all by myself!"

If that's where you are in your baking development, well ... good for you, honey! But even if you've made macarons (I have, don't bother), you should still make Magic Cookie Bars this week for Tu B'Shvat.

Tu B'Shvat is a minor Jewish holiday referred to as the New Year of the Trees. Like many Jewish festivals, this one has its roots in the agricultural rhythms of the Middle East. Modern Jews celebrate this as a day to be grateful for the wonderful foods that come from the Earth. We often consume the Seven Species, plants which were staple crops in the time of the Bible: wheat, barley, pomegranate, olives, grapes, figs and dates. Because almonds are an essential part of modern, Israeli cooking, these are often included as well.

Putting together a meal with all of these is a challenge, all the more so when the holiday comes mid-week. Since Tu B'Shvat falls on a Wednesday this year, I figured on one recipe which knocks out three Species, requires no baking, and can be done by your children in ten minutes. Parents can get on with the barley, which is a bit more trouble.

I used kosher tea biscuits for the crumb layer, but feel free to use crushed graham crackers, chocolate wafers, or whatever you like. I also omitted the almonds, since the presence of delicious nuts causes my children to whine and ask for potato chips. What are you gonna do?

Tu B'Shvat Magic Cookie Bars
4-5 ounces cookie crumbs
5 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 cup chopped, pitted dates
3/4 cup chopped figs
1/3 cup slivered (toasted, if you have the attention span) almonds
7 ounces (half a small can) sweetened, condensed milk

8" square pan, lined with foil

Crush cookies with your hands, until you have some crumbs and some larger, pea-sized pieces. Mix with the butter, then press into an even-ish layer on the bottom of your foil-lined pan. In the same bowl, because why not?, mix the fruit and nuts with the condensed milk. Glop this over the crumbs, and put the pan in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up. Lift out the foil to move the cold cookies to the counter to slice into bars.

With love, I must remind you that these delicious cookies pack a major wallop of dried fruit. Eat half the pan, and you might feel a little sick tomorrow. Just saying.

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