When I host my book group, even in summer, I like to put out a home-baked snack. The conversation is more likely to be helped along by wine than food, but baking for people I love is what I do. This time I had in mind a bar rather than cookies, chocolately but not a brownie, simple to make but not boring. Although I did not find exactly what I had in mind in any of my (numerous) cookbooks, I found a recipe that inspired me in Judy Rosenberg’s All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No-Holds-Barred Baking Book.
I've had this cookbook since the early '90s and it is thoroughly sugared and buttered up. In fact, you could easily find my favorite recipes in the book, merely by looking for which pages stick together and have the most stains on them. In my world, the best cookbooks are the ones you go back to time and again, with recipes you enjoy making and eating as written or which inspire you to go off on your own frolics and detours. By my own criteria, this book is one of my all-time favorites. And this turned out to be a delicious frolic and detour indeed.
These bars are simple to make and pretty, light but packed with flavor. The base is chewy and reminiscent of butterscotch; the flavorings – dark chocolate, coconut, and pecans – sit on top. Bake these at least a few hours before serving because they should be completely cool before you cut them. Small pieces work best, so one pan makes enough for a crowd.
Chocolate Coconut Pecan "Book Group" Bars
About 32 small rectangular servings Cost - $5
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose (white) flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup of chopped pecans
- ¾ cup sweetened coconut, flaked or shredded
- 1 cup of bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips
- Cooking spray or additional butter for greasing pan
- 13” by 9” pan, preferably glass
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Large fork
- 1 small and 1 large bowl (large one from stand mixer if using)
- Mixer - either stand or hand-held (or wire whisk)
- Wire rack (for cooling)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease the pan.
- Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set it aside.
- Cream the room temperature butter, the dark and light sugars, and the vanilla in the larger bowl until fluffy – about 3 minutes on medium speed with a stand mixer, a bit longer with a hand-held mixer. If you are using a whisk, this will take some fortitude – stick with it and mix vigorously so that you get a fluffy texture.
- Add the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture one at a time, on low speed or with a fork, just until blended.
- Add in the flour mixture and blend it until the batter is uniformly colored with no white showing. I prefer to do this by hand, but you can do it on low speed with a mixer.
- Using the spatula, add the batter to the pan and smooth it down.
- Spread the chips first (making a reasonable attempt to spread them evenly without being too manic), then the nuts, and finally the coconut. Pat them down gently, so that much of the coconut is slightly pressed into the batter.
- Bake for about 35-40 minutes. The coconut will get lightly browned and a toothpick should come out clean (except for melting chocolate perhaps) if you prick the fully baked bars.
- Cool the bars in the pan on a wire rack. Once fully cooled (the chocolate chips should no longer be soft), cut the bars with a pizza cutter, cleaver, or large knife. The easiest way to cut is to make a center cut length and width-wise in the pan, then cut each half into half again and then cut each quarter on the longer side again into halves.