Halfway through emptying my third bag of shredded coconut this past week, my tiny reptilian brain began to glimpse a theme in this month’s baking. Coconut-Chocolate Tiramisu. Coconut Cream Tarts. Could the common thread be red velvet cake? Licorice whips? Monkey pantaloons? No, no, and NO, that’s not it…perhaps coconut? Yes!
There has been a lot of coconut desserts around the hizzy, and I for one couldn’t be happier. Coconut in all of its forms is one of my favorite things. Shredded coconut is great in desserts, of course, but I also love it in oatmeal, and as a crust on shrimp or fish. And do you guys know about the amazing manna from heaven that is coconut oil? It’s only the greatest baking ingredient/saute liquid/toast topper ever. I could drink the stuff and live happily ever after.
ANYHOW. I figured since I was already on a coconut roll, I should christen this month Coconut Month and go out of my way to find some coconut recipes I’ve been meaning to try. Coconut Month shall last through the duration of March, or until I lose interest, whichever happens first.
First dessert item on my agenda: 7 Layer Bars, that staple of potlucks and summer picnics, beloved because it requires the least amount of effort of any bar cookie, ever. If you’ve never had one, a 7-layer bar basically consists of a base of graham cracker crumbs, toasted nuts, 3 kinds of chips (butterscotch, white, chocolate) and coconut, all held together with sweetened condensed milk. I feel like this recipe is so old fashioned, it’s one step away from being covered with Jell-O and shoved into a novelty fish-shaped mold.
But, despite its charmingly retro style, it seemed like the perfect recipe for this week, because 1) Duh, it’s Coconut Month and 2) look at what I unearthed when I tidied my chip drawer, and by “drawer” I mean “box in the closet” because I have seriously outgrown my tiny kitchen:
Five bags of butterscotch chips! Can you believe this started out as 10 bags? They were on monster sale last year for 25 cents each (EACH! They’re usually like 3 or 4 bucks apiece!) so of course, being the obsessive hoarder that I am, I had to fill my basket with cheap-o butterscotch chips, never mind that I rarely, if ever, use them, and am now stuck trying to stick them in random recipes and cursed with guilt every time I see them because there’s still so many left. This recipe took a good 1/2 cup, only 9.5 cups more to go!
The bars are ooey-gooey good and so sweet they’ll make your fillings hurt, but that’s part of their appeal. I shared them with a staunch coconut skeptic who loved them, and although it’s been a good 4 or days since they were in the house, my husband is still talking about them and sighing wistfully and dropping not-so-subtle hints as to how much he’d enjoy eating them again. Soon. To which I replied, here’s a can opener and a giant box of butterscotch chips. Go forth, my son, and bless you.
Click on for the recipe…
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
9 graham crackers (5 ounces), crushed
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup butterscotch chips
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F. Line a 9×9 pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. (For thinner bars, you can use a 9×13 pan. I’m just a big pig.)
2. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and bake until it turns a light gold color, stirring every 4 minutes to prevent burning on the edges. Set aside.
3. Melt the butter and combine with graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl. Toss with your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed. Press the crumbs evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan.
4. In order, sprinkle the walnuts, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut over the graham crumbs. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the entire dish.
5. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours.
6. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil or parchment handles and transfer to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or bench cutter, cut into small bars.