Cast-Iron Pan Chocolate Coconut Bars: deliciously decadent bars, loaded with milk chocolate, shredded coconut and dried apricots. Soft, chewy, with a nice crusty topping. Call some friends, it’s Tea Time!
The other day the north wind was blowing, creating whirlwinds in the snow and reducing visibility. The air was misty, icy, and the temperatures prohibitively low. Not that I was planning to go out anyway. I was just recovering from a home injury, I fell down the stairs, not ALL the stairs, and luckily not face front, but enough to end up with greenish, purplish bruises on my lower end and right arm. I know, who falls down the stairs, children or older people, right?
Well, accidents happen. I had just come back from yoga, I was relaxed and limber. My cats were happy to see me, especially the male, Wonton, who was waiting for me to go upstairs and turn on the water in the bathtub so he could drink (read: spoiled cats). We’re trying to teach him how to turn off the water when he’s done, but for now, we have to wait until “his majesty” has finished. Once he filled his belly, we were going down the stairs, but you know cats, they like to play you tricks, he ran in front of me and I went for a loop. But what does this have to do with the recipe, I hear you asking. Wait, we’re getting there. So, I was lazing on the couch, trying to find a comfortable position for my..hum..right cheek, when the bell rang and it was the mailman! Out, delivering mail in that cold! He delivered a wonderful cookbook I won in a giveaway over at One Wet Foot, no less than Dorie Greenspan’s latest “Dorie’s Cookies”. Oh yesss! Flipping the pages of a pretty heavy book, more than 500 pages, can be a little problematic for someone with a sore arm, but no, I had to get in there right away and decide on the recipe I was going to make the next day, first of many more to come.
Cast-Iron Pan Chocolate Coconut Bars, was my choice. And such a good one!
The first thing that led to the choice was having all the ingredients and some that I wanted to use up: in specific, shredded coconut, dried apricots, and a beautiful Bernard Callebaut milk chocolate log, leftover from the Christmas holidays. All the other ingredients: butter, eggs, all-purpose flour, pure vanilla extract, sea salt, baking soda, granulated sugar and brown sugar, are staples in our fridge and pantry.
The recipe is pretty easy and straightforward, and I appreciated that the ingredients were in both cups and grams. I am European and I am used to grams, so that’s what I followed, plus I really believe that using a scale is way more precise for baking. I like having all the ingredients ready, measured and separated in individual ramekins before I start. It makes for a smoother outcome, no hiccups, no waiting time halfway down the preparation to read and measure the next ingredient. I respected the list of ingredients, but I cut the amount of granulated sugar in half. The apricots are left to sit in hot water while you’re making the dough, and they become nice and plump and juicy. I have to tell you, chopping a whole log, the apricots, and lifting a heavy skillet, was not ideal for my arm and hand, but you know me and baking, I cannot stop, the show must go on! lol.
Cast-iron pan nice and buttered, I smoothened the thick batter with a spatula and in the oven it went for 1 hour. The smell in the house was exquisite. Out of the oven, a couple quick pictures, then just when it was reaching room temperature I cut it into bars, ’cause I could no longer wait: I had to taste it!
These bars were luxurious. A smooth buttery flavoring accompanied by that slight crunch and nuttiness of the coconut, amazing. The richness of the Callebaut chocolate entices every bite and the apricots adding some plump, velvet, smoothness to the mix. The crumbly texture of the bar has you grabbing for crumbs on the plate. Yes plate necessary, lol. Having been baked in a cast-iron pan has a crust that is beautifully colored and a texture that is crunchy yet melts in your mouth that only enhances the topping which is outright lovely.
The sun was shining and the temperatures were better (-15° C) so I decided to surprise my neighbours with a home delivery. I arranged few bars on two plates, wrapped the plates in foil, put on boots, jacket, scarf, gloves and hat, and off I went. They both thought it was the mailman ringing at their door but were much more pleased to see the sweet package. There’s nothing better than seeing a smile on someone’s face knowing they were thought of.
Song of the day: “I Love Me”, Meghan Trainor – ft. LunchMoney Lewis.
Recipe slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan's "Dorie's Cookies".
- 3/4 cups (120 g) dried apricots, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups (204 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp; 170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks
- 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (100 g) brown sugar
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (240 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 10 ounces (283 g) milk chocolate
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325° F. Butter a 9 1/2 inch cast-iron pan and set aside.
- Soak the apricots in hot water until they're plump. Then drain and chop them.
- In a small bowl whisk together flour and baking soda.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, the sugars and salt on medium speed until creamy (about 3 minutes), scraping down the sides if necessary.
- Add the egg and the yolk, beating after each addition, then add the vanilla and mix again.
- Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients (flour and baking soda) and pulse to blending, then on low speed mix until partially incorporated.
- Add the coconut, apricots and chocolate, pulsing after each addition, until well incorporated.
- Turn off mixer, give a final stir with a spatula or wooden spoon, then place the dough in cast-iron pan, smoothing the top.
- Bake the cookie-cake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until the top is deeply golden brown, and the edges are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Transfer the pan to a rack, let it reach room temperature, then cut into bars.
As for an alternative baking pan, you can use a 9 or 10 inch round cake pan but the cooking time will be about 10 minutes less (so, about 45-50 minutes) and you won't get that crispy exterior. The bars will keep for up to 3 days, well wrapped, or in an airitight container, at room temperature. They also freeze well, wrapped tight, for up to 2 months.
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