Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Congo Bars

I made these bars as dessert for a dinner I was delivering to a friend. After the bars finished baking, I thought they needed to be kicked up a notch for presentation. So I made a ganache topping and sprinkled on toasted coconut. I can’t imagine the bars without this topping now—the chocolate really goes well with the coconut-pecan filling. These bars feature a filling that is a lot like the filling of a German chocolate cake—coconutty and gooey—on a crisp crust.

Congo Bars

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
¼ cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Generous 1/8 teaspoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose white flour
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) chopped pecans
1 cup (about 3 ounces) shredded or flaked sweetened coconut
2/3 cup (4 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels

Topping (optional—Valerie’s version):
6 ounces heavy whipping cream
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup coconut, toasted in a skillet over medium heat

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan or coat with Baker’s Joy. Line the pan with aluminum foil, letting the foil overhang the two narrow ends of the pan by about 2 inches. Grease the foil or coat with Baker’s Joy.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Using forks, a pastry cutter, or your fingertips, cut in the butter until the mixture is the consistency of coarse crumbs. Firmly press the mixture into an even layer in the baking pan; it is normal for flecks of brown sugar to show in the dough.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 – 22 minutes, or until barely browned at the edges. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool slightly.

For the filling, in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed beat together the condensed milk, eggs and egg yolk, brown sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and salt until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is well blended. Beat in the flour. Beat or stir in the pecans, coconut, and chocolate morsels. Spread the filling evenly over the crust.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 22 to 30 minutes, or until golden all over and barely baked through in the center. Transfer to a wire rack and let stand until completely cooled.

For topping (if desired—the original version doesn’t call for this), heat whipping cream in small saucepan just until wisps of steam start to rise. Pour over chopped bittersweet chocolate in a large glass bowl. Stir to melt chocolate. If chocolate doesn’t melt entirely, microwave for a few seconds on high until chocolate is melted. Stir in vanilla extract. Let stand to thicken slightly. Spread over bars and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Refrigerate until topping has set.

Using the overhanging foil as handles, transfer the slab to a cutting board. Carefully peel off and discard the foil. Using a large, sharp knife (or bench knife), cut the slab into 20 bars (or smaller--the bars are rich); wipe the knife clean between cuts.

Recipe source: adapted from The All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett

1 comment:

  1. I love the confidence you have to adapt recipes and make them your own, Valerie! You are a cooking rock star!