Know what makes me sad? It makes me sad that so many people aren’t big fans of coconut. I love the sweet taste, which makes me think about days at the beach. I’m drawn to recipes where coconut, sweetened or unsweetened, is one of the main ingredients but I’ve held back from baking them because of dislikes. I mean, I’d love to polish off a batch of coconut muffins or cupcakes by myself, but that probably won’t help me look good in the bridesmaid dress I’ll be wearing in October.
I was thrilled when I had the chance to make these coconut macadamia nut bars, a last minute dessert for a recent Wine & Cheese Party (read about it later this week) and for a last minute Easter invitation. As a bonus, I miraculously had all ingredients on hand and was able to skip the grocery store. Between the two events, I had no leftovers and one recipe request. I consider that a coconut success!
Coconut Macadamia Nut Bars
Adapted from The Mixer Bible (p. 278)
Makes a 9 x 13 inch pan
Ingredients for the Shortbread Crust:
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 c. confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Ingredients for the Coconut Macadamia Nut Topping:
- 1 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 c. whipping cream
- 1 Tbs. lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 2/3 c. shredded/flaked sweetened coconut
- 1 1/3 c. macadamia nuts, halves or chopped into large pieces
- Prep: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil so that there is an inch or two overhang on either end. Grease the lining and set aside.
- Make the Shortbread: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat all ingredients on medium-low speed (#4) until dough starts to come together. Turn out into prepared pan, and press into an even layer along the bottom. Bake for 18-25 minutes until pale golden. Move to a wire rack to cool slightly and lower heat to 325F.
- Make the Coconut Macadamia Nut Topping: In a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed (#4), combine brown sugar, melted butter, whipping cream, salt, and lemon juice. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in coconut and macadamia nuts. Pour onto prepared shortbread crust. Gently (because the crust is still soft) spread the topping so that most of the shortbread is covered (it will settle a little and fill in small holes that might be lacking topping). Bake for 35-45 minutes, until top is golden and bubbling. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars.
It’s been a while since I told you how much I love the recipes published in Fine Cooking magazine. It’s by far, my favorite cooking magazine out there. I’ve had a subscription for several years now and I rarely make a recipe that doesn’t come out as good as I hoped for.
This recipe is an oldie but a goodie. I made it for a couple of our holiday parties, and then again upon request for a friend’s Chrismukkah party. As a hostess, I love them because they can be made up to a month ahead of time and frozen. As a party-goer, I love Kahlua Truffle Triangles because they’re so rich and decadent, making them more like a truffle or candy than a bar cookie.
Want to spoil a loved one? Try these. (And hide a few in the freezer for yourself!)
Kahlua Truffle Triangles
Adapted from Fine Cooking No.82 p. 66
Makes approximately 5 dozen pieces
Ingredients for the Crust*:
- 6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 c.) all-purpose flour
- 3 oz. (3/4 c.) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 6 oz. (12 Tbs.) cold, unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, plus more to grease the pan
- 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
* Fine Cooking recommends measuring the ingredients for the crust by weight for best results. However, I included measurements as well, in case you don’t have a kitchen scale.
Ingredients for the Chocolatey Kahlua Goodness:
- 1 lb. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 c. whole or 2% milk
- 8 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 c. granulated sugar
- 2-4 Tbs. Kahlua (I use closer to 4 Tbs.)
- Line the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to hang over the edge by an inch or two. Lightly butter and set aside.
- With a rack positioned in the center of the oven, preheat oven to 350°F.
- Make the crust: Place flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and vanilla, pulsing until the ingredients are just a bunch of crumbles. Turn dough out into prepared pan. (Do not add water, no matter how much you think it’s too dry.) Spread and press along bottom of the pan (not sides!) into a smooth even layer. The crumbles will press down and come together into a proper shortbread crust. Bake 20-25 minutes, until pale golden. Do not overbake or you will have a hard crust. Transfer to a cooling rack.
- As crust is cooling, lower temperature to 325°F and make the chocolate Kahlua layer.
- Set a medium bowl over simmering water. Melt the chocolate, milk, and butter together, stirring and whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- As the chocolate is cooling, combine eggs, sugar, and Kahlua in a stand mixer on medium-high speed until the color has lightened and mixture is slightly foamy. Reduce speed to low and slowly add in chocolate mixture, scraping down the sides as necessary. Beat for 30-60 seconds until completely combined.
- Pour the chocolate-Kahlua topping over crust in an even layer. Bake 25-30 minutes, until sides are slightly puffy and a toothpick inserted into the center is “wet and gooey but not liquid.” Allow to cool on a wire rack. (Center may sink a little bit – that’s ok. It doesn’t bother me, but if you’d like, while chocolate is still warm, push down on the elevated edges so that they sink to the same level as the center.)
- When completely cool, refrigerate until very cold, at least 12 hours or as much as 2 days.
- An hour or two before serving, remove bars from pan using the handy-dandy aluminum foil overhand. Peal away foil and place on a cutting board. Using a hot knife, slice bars into squares and then diagonally into triangles. Trust me, these are very rich so you want to cut them into triangles. Wipe knife clean, warming if necessary, in between each cut. If the triangles get too soft (as it did for me on this unusually warm spring day), refrigerate another 15 minutes before continue cutting.
This summer, my best friend moved from one side of the city to the other. While moving is never fun, I’m selfish and loved every minute of it. But that’s because she moved 5 minutes away from me. I get to see her so much more often than I used to. So close that despite our busy schedules, there’s always time for an evening glass of wine. But, knowing how stressed out my bestie was about moving (and starting a new job), I decided to make her a little moving in package – homemade hot chocolate mix and a batch of homemade brownies. Now, I’m not even a big fan of brownies, but these? These were amazing. I allowed myself one out of the pan – gotta make sure it’s good enough to gift and to blog, right?. My own little brownie was covered in chopped up walnuts and was gone much faster than I would have liked. These bad boys turned a non-brownie eater into a brownie eater.
Chocolate Chunk Fudge Brownies
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 76 (p 59)
Makes a 8×8 (or 9×9) pan, about 9 brownies
- 3/4 c. unsalted butter, plus more for pan
- 2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 2/3 c. granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 4 oz. (3/4 c.) coarsely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- 1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Butter bottom and sides of a 8×8 or 9×9 inch Pyrex or baking pan.Line with parchment paper and butter again. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. Remove from heat. Whisk in the following ingredients, one at a time. The mixture should be smooth before adding the following ingredient:
- sugar & salt
- 1 egg
- 2nd egg & vanilla
Switch to a rubber spatula and sprinkle in flour. Stir until just blended.
Add chopped chocolate, stirring until combined.
Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with nuts, if using.
Bake 33-38 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out with a little bit of clumps stuck to it. Don’t overbake or brownies won’t be fudgy. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
I’m always looking for new recipes to include in care packages. I have some family and friends still in college (and who doesn’t love a break from cafeteria food?) and a brother who occasionally checks for unexpected packages in his condo complex (I can say that because I send you surprises occasionally!). These oatmeal caramelitas were my latest experiment – the recipients love then, and the hubby was looking for more than the two that I left for him. The bars are sweet from the caramel (go easy on it if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth) but my favorite part? The bars stayed soft, even throughout shipping.
Adapted from Southern Living’s Best Loved Cookies,
also found online at SouthernLiving.com
Yields 24-30 squares
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 c. uncooked quick-cooking oats
- 1 1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 c. butter, melted
- 1 12-oz. pkg. semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 c. chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
- 1 14-oz. pkg. caramels
- 1/3 c. half-and-half
Preheat oven to 350F and line a 13×9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease with butter and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients (flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt).
Add butter, stirring until mixture is crumbly. Pour half of mixture into bottom of prepared pan, pressing down with your fingers. Sprinkle with chocolate and nuts. Set aside remaining dough and pan.
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine caramel and half-and-half. Microwave on medium-power for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until combined. Pour over chocolate and nuts. Crumble remaining dough over the caramel layer.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. When ready to cut, use foil to remove the bars from pan and cut into squares.
(Books n’ Cooks is almost a year old, and I promised myself that, now that school and the SKG walk is done, I’d get better with photos. Above is my first experiment with Picasa. Tips and suggestions are greatly appreciated!)
When I saw this recipe on Beantown Baker, I knew I had to give it a shot. This is a great recipe for using up those random baking items in the cabinet. The only change I’d make in the future, would probably be to skip the caramel pieces – when solidified, they were a bit tougher to chew through. Feel free to throw in butterscotch or peanut butter chips or nuts instead of or in different proportions to the mix-ins listed below.
Again, not the prettiest of photos (I’ve since learned to use my camera a bit better) but I promise good reviews.
Rocky Ledge Bars
Adapted from Beantown Baker
Originally from Martha Stewart
Makes 36 bars
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 c. mini marshmallows
- 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 c. white chocolate chips
- 18 squares individually wrapped caramel, chopped into quarters
- 1 1/2 c. toffee chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Lay a piece of parchment paper in dish, covering the bottom with a bit overhanging the sides. Butter parchment.
In a medium bowl, combine marshmallows, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, caramel, and toffee. Mix together and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt, beating until combined.
Remove bowl from the mixer and fold in half of the mix-ins – the marshmallows, chocolate chips, caramel and toffee.
Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle remaining mix-ins on top of the batter so that the top is covered.
Bake about 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Using the parchment overhang, remove bars from plan and place on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
The directions also said once cooled, to chill on a baking sheet in the fridge until set, about 30 minutes. I omitted this step and the bars seemed to come out fine.
With a serrated knife, cut into desired shapes and sizes.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
When I saw this recipe from Elly Says Opa earlier in the year, I knew I had to try it. I love nutella and can eat it by the spoonful, but have done very little baking with it. These bars were wonderful. While I loved the nutella and blackberry jam, for me, the start of the show was actually the cookie part. It was a bit sweet and tasted nutty (I had to think about whether I put peanut butter in them!). Enjoy!
Nutella-Blackberry Oatmeal Squares
Adapted from Elly Says Opa
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 c. light brown sugar
- 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 c. Nutella
- 2/3 c. blackberry or other preserves or jam
- 1.5 c. oats, divided
- 1/4 c. chopped hazelnuts, more if desired
Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9×9 baking dish (I used my Pyrex).
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and both sugars. Add egg and vanilla, beating until combined. Add in baking powder and salt, again beating to combine. Add flour a little at a time. Add 1 1/4 c. of oats (reserving 1/4 c. on the side) to the mixture and combine.
Remove bowl from stand mixer and check to make sure you don’t have lots of oats at the bottom of the bowl.
Spoon about 2/3-3/4 of the mixture into the buttered baking dish. Using your hands (or a wooden spoon or strong rubber spatula), press down dough.
Microwave nutella for about 20 seconds, just to make it easier to spread. With a butter knife, spread on top of dough. The spread jam over nutella.
Put your KA bowl back into mixer and add remaining 1/4 c. oats and the chopped hazelnuts, beating to combine. Crumble over nutella and jam.
Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Wait until completely cooled to cut and serve, as the bars will be very soft until they cool.
These were quite yummy, especially when slightly warm. My favorite was is that they bars stayed soft, even after a couple days.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars
Source: Recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten
Makes 24 bar cookies
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 c. creamy peanut butter (recommended: Skippy)
- 3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 c. raspberry jam or other jam (I used blackberry preserves)
- 2/3 c. salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350.
Grease a 9×13 pan. Grease and lightly flour the pan. (You can also lay parchment paper on bottom of pan, and grease & flour that.)
Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer to low speed and add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and gradually add to peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.
Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan and spread over the bottom with a spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small bits of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. (Note: The original recipe said that the dough would spread in the oven, but mine did not.) Sprinkle chopped peanuts on top of bar cookies and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown.