April 7th, 2009

San Francisco And Magical Coconut Bars

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I’m heading to San Francisco this weekend! So all you Bay Area people better hide your tempeh and get to your favorite restaurants early, lest I eat everything. I’m planning on hitting up Millenium, Cafe Gratitude (say what you will, their tiramisu rocks yours), Cha Ya, Udupi Palace and Amici Pizza, which is apparently serving Cheezly pizzas with no extra vegan cheese charge. How swell! (I don’t think I’ve ever used “swell” in a sentence, but it’s the only thing that fit.) I hope to come home with plenty of food porn, but for now feast your eyes on another recipe from the upcoming Vegan Cookies book.

Magical Coconut Cookie Bars
makes 24 very rich little bars

As the song from Xanadu (the movie) goes…you got to believe we are magic, and nothing will stand in our (and your) way once you taste this unapologetically vegany version of the stuff childhood dreams are made of.  Here are the nutty, chocolately, ultra-sweet and buttery-tasting graham-crackery coconut bars you loved so much as a kid. If your childhood was lacking in them, well then these are tastier than therapy for sure. The vegan secret weapon of choice here is cooked-down coconut milk, bringing in even bigger coconut flavor than ever imagined. The ever-elusive vegan butterscotch chip, should you ever have some, makes a sublime addition too.

These bars require a good overnight chilling to really firm them up before slicing, so plan accordingly.

Tip: You’ll want to use only sweetened, fluffy white flaked coconut for these. Save the natural shredded stuff for a healthy curry.

Tip: Press the graham cracker crumb crust like crazy into the pan; the more you pat it down the firmer the resulting crust will be.

One 14 oz can (regular or lite) coconut milk (about 1 3/4 cups)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups vegan graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted margarine
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
2 cups flaked, sweetened coconut
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

In a large saucepan whisk together coconut milk and brown sugar over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture may form a thin skin on the surface; just stir it back into the liquid. Remove from heat and let cool while preparing the crust.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, melted margarine and sugar; mix well to moisten crumbs completely. Firmly press mixture into prepared pan, pressing evenly from center to sides of pan.

Pour warm coconut milk mixture evenly over crumb base. Top with an even layer of chocolate chips, flaked coconut and nuts, in that order. Firmly pat everything down until coconut milk mixture soaks upward into the toppings. Bake for 28-30 minutes or until coconut is deeply golden and filling is bubbling, remove from oven and let entire pan cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Transfer pan to the refrigerator to completely cool and firm up for at least 4 hours, even better overnight or until very firm. Use a sharp, heavy knife to run along the edges of bars, slide bars on parchment paper out of pan onto a cutting board then to slice into 24 squares. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. These also freeze well, tightly wrapped and allowed to thaw for 20 minutes before serving.

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