‘Tis the season for neighborhood barbecues, block parties, and picnics. If you are lucky enough to have a few of these events on your social calendar, and have been called on to bring a dessert to share, then have we got a recipe for you. Light years better than any boxed brownie mix or slice and bake cookies you can find, and barely more work than either.
On the 4th of July, my family gathered not only to celebrate my sister’s 40th (again) birthday, but also the 70th birthdays of my mom and dad, as they each had hit this milestone earlier in the spring. Suffice to say that a rather special shindig was in order. Everyone rolled up their sleeves, and we put on quite a spread for family and friends. There was grilled chicken, steak, burgers, and dogs. There was a delicious fruit salad, a fab potato salad, a yummy composed green salad, and my mom’s famous baked beans and pasta fagioli. We had sublime homemade hommus and crab dip, killer guacamole and chips, and a delicious artichoke dip. There were even steamed lobsters with drawn butter, and a fabulously rich chocolate birthday cake to commemorate the day. Ugh….I’m feeling full again just thinking about it all.
If I were a gamblin’ man, I would have guessed that the lobster, or maybe the steaks would have garnered the most praise from the crowd, but as good as they were, they couldn’t compete with the Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Bars that I put out after lunch…..silly me. They were, without question, the hit of the day.
OMG…WHERE DID YOU GET THESE THINGS?
YOU MADE THEM…..CUT IT OUT…..REALLY?
I DON’T SUPPOSE YOU’D BE WILLING TO SHARE THE RECIPE, WOULD YOU, WOULD YOU, HUH?
I MEAN THESE ARE REALLY GOOD……ACTUALLY THEY ARE BETTER THAN REALLY GOOD (at this point, the speaker is starting to shake like a crack addict desperate for a fix).
OH SWEET JESUS…..THEY ARE FABULOUSLY, STUPENDOUSLY, AWESOMELY GOOD! CAN I PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE HAVE THE RECIPE? PLEEEEEASE!!!
Alright…already. I’ll make you a deal. If you promise to check yourself into rehab on Monday, I’ll post the recipe to my blog. 😉
The last time I made these, Peyton was, if I am not mistaken, the biggest fan among the kids, so when I decided to make these again for the gig on the 4th, she got the call to help in the kitchen. The recipe is from Nick Malgieri’s latest cookbook The Modern Baker: Time-Saving Techniques for Breads, Tarts, Pies, Cakes and Cookies and is about as decadent, and easy as they come. The bars are cooked in two stages, the first stage cooks the “pressed in” pastry layer that makes up the base of the bars, the second bake sets the topping mixture once it has been added to the pan.
Peyton busied herself sifting the dry ingredients while I set up the Kitchen-aid mixer, and buttered and papered our pan. We then creamed the sugar and butter in the mixer with the paddle attachment, and gently mixed in the dry ingredients. She then dumped the resulting dough into the pan, and pressed it into place.
While the pastry base was baked, I chopped the chocolate into 1/4” chunks while Peyton mixed all the rest of the topping ingredients in one large bowl. **FAIR WARNING** If your anything like me, it will take every ounce of will power you have to keep from grabbing a big mixing spoon, and noshing your way through the bowl of topping once you have it all mixed together….it looks and smells that good.
We removed the blind baked dough from the oven after 15 minutes, and topped it with the filling mix. Back into the oven for 30 minutes (the recipe below says 20-25 minutes, so start checking for doneness at 20 minutes), et voila….a new addiction for all to enjoy!
Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Bars
Adapted from: Nick Malgieri’s “The Modern Baker”
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups (1- 7 ounce package) sweetened shredded coconut
2 cups (8 ounces) pecan pieces, coarsely chopped
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate cut into 1/4” to 1/2” pieces (we used Valrhona Manjari – 64% cocoa solids)
One 9X13X2 – inch pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment (bottom and sides).
Here’s a tip – having the buttered parchment extend beyond the rim of the pan by a couple inches all around will help you to lift the slab out of the pan once it has cooled.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 F and set rack to the lowest position.
- To start the dough, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl, reserve.
- Beat the butter and sugar for the dough at medium speed, in a mixer with a paddle attachment, until light and soft, about 2-3 minutes.
- Set the mixer to it’s lowest speed and add the flour mix, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Mix until the dough is smooth, but do not over-mix.
- Place the dough into the pan, and gently press into place with your palms and fingers without compressing it too much. Bake the dough until it is slightly puffed in the center, and just starting to color, about 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the topping. Place the brown sugar in a large bowl, and with the rubber spatula, mix the eggs into the sugar one at a time, stirring until smooth after each addition. Add the granulated sugar, then stir in the coconut and pecan pieces. Finally, mix in the chocolate chunks, having first placed them in a small strainer to sift away any dust formed when chopping the chocolate. Removing the dust will ensure a “cleaner” looking bar in the end.
- Remove the pan from the oven when the dough is ready and spread the topping onto the partially cooked base lay
- Bake until the filling is set and nicely golden brown, about 20-25 minutes (it took us 30 minutes)
- Cool the pan on a rack, and lift the slab out of the pan and onto a cutting board before it has cooled completely. Remember – excess flaps of parchment here really help.
- Once cooled completely, cut into 2-inch squares to serve.