Update: The auction is over and we raised almost $4000! Thank you to all who participated!
Want to try these bars without making them yourself? I donated 2 dozen to an online bake sale to help Japan with earthquake and tsunami relief. There are lots of baked goods available as well as restaurant gift certificates in the Sacramento area. Check out the listings here and go bid on April 1-2!
When Girl Scout cookie season began, the familiar order form went up in the office at my school. For the last couple of years, I’ve been meaning to make a homemade version of some kind of Girl Scout cookie – maybe my favorite, Thin Mints, or another classic, Samoas (AKA Caramel DeLites). Instead, fate intervened: my dear coworker and friend, who was having a very stressful month, mentioned a dessert bar from a local cafe that was like Samoas, but even better. “They had chunks of chocolate, much more than on the cookies,” she said dreamily, ” but ever since the owners changed, I haven’t seen the bars.”
Instead, she resigned herself to a box of Samoas once a year. She told me the name of the amazing bars: dream bars (which seemed quite apropro). I’d never heard of them, but made a mental note to look them up later. Once I Googled “dream bars” I was met with something from my childhood: magic layer bars (AKA 7 layer bars). While my dad was the chocolate chip cookie baker, my mom made magic layer bars. They were a simple recipe from the sweetened condensed milk can: a graham cracker crust topped with sweetened condensed milk, coconut and chocolate chips.
I found many variations on dream bars and magic layer bars, but decided to stray from my childhood memories in favor of what seemed like a more classic dream bar recipe. I wanted to surprise the recipient so I didn’t risk asking her more about the bars but hoped that they would be want she wanted…
And I don’t think she was disappointed. The shortbread crust was richer than the graham cracker crust I remembered. Topping that with a gooey layer of coconut cream, coconut and a sweet filling with chocolate and pecans made these bars irresistible. Forget potato chips – I literally could not eat just one in a sitting. I ended up giving as many as I could away, after making a small dent in the pile. These are dangerous, but so worth it! I won’t make them often, and will make sure I have many people to share with, but they are fantastic dessert bars. If you like coconut even a little, you have to try these!
Coconut Dream Bars
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Makes 24 bars
For the crust:
- 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 C pecans
- 1/4 t salt
- 10 T unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
For the filling:
- 1 1/2 C sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 C cream of coconut (you can find this in the baking aisle)
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
- 2 T unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 t baking powder
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/2 C pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
- 1/2 C chocolate chips
To make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F and place rack in middle of ove. Line a 13″x9″ baking pan with foil and lightly coat with nonstick spray.
In a food processor, process the flour, sugar, pecan and salt for about 10 seconds, until the pecans are coarsely ground. Add the butter and pulse around 10 seconds, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Press the mixture into the baking pan, pressing it down firmly with the flat bottom of a glass. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes before adding the filling.
To make the filling:
Combine coconut and cream of coconut in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla and salt until smooth, then stir in the pecans and chocolate chips. Spread the filling over the cooled crust, then dollop heaping spoonfuls of the coconut mixture over the filling. Spread into an even layer, but don’t worry if appears patchy.
Bake in the preheated oven until topping is a deep golden brown (around 30-40 minutes). Let cool completely, then lift bars out of pan using the foil and cut into 24 pieces. The bars can be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.