When I made these for the first time it was because I found a recipe in the King Arthur Flour cookbook that I thought could be adapted to the ingredients I had on hand. I liked that only 1 stick of butter was needed to make an entire pan of cookie bars (this is abnormal, in case you didn’t know). Why have I made them several more times? Because they’re memorable.
Bar cookies are usually either brownies or blondies – wonderful in their own right but also pretty predictable. You can brown the butter, add different chocolates, etc, but it’s still totally recognizable. These cookie bars are the opposite – a brown sugar shortbread crust and a topping that’s chewy, sweet, and hard to define, flavor-wise. You don’t even taste the coconut or walnuts so much – they add perfect texture though so I wouldn’t swap them out.
The only problem is, they’re ugly. I’m not one for making fancy looking desserts and stay away from fondant as a rule, but these bars go beyond plain to homely. I’d dress them up with powdered sugar, at least the first time you present them to your family and friends. The second time around you won’t need a clever disguise as they’ll be gobbled up before you get to it.
Chewy Brown Sugar Coconut Bars
Makes 24 2 in. bars
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 c. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 c. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
1 c. toasted walnuts, diced well
Powdered sugar, to dust on top
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat butter and brown sugar (for crust) with electric mixer until smoothly combined. Add flour and salt and beat until combined (mixture will be crumbly).
2. Scrape mixture into 9×13 baking dish and press into an even layer, covering the bottom of pan, with fingertips. Bake for 10 minutes.
3. Remove crust from oven and increase oven temperature to 325 degrees.
4. Beat brown sugar, flour, and baking powder together with electric mixer until combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until combined.
5. Add coconut and nuts (to toast raw walnuts, cook in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes) to mixture and mix until combined.
6. Scoop mixture onto crust and gently spread with a rubber spatula to cover the crust completely.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Remove and let cool to room temperature before dusting with powdered sugar and cutting into bars.
Store at room temperature for several days in airtight container.