Coconut Cream Bars: REDUX

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The problem with this blog is that people I work with READ it. And then they EXPECT me to bring them baked goods. And then when I DO, they demand MORE. So sometimes I have to make things AGAIN. So these I’ve made before, and they were awesome. And I brought some to work. And one of the ladies I work with send me a calendar invitation for her birthday (which was MONTHS away) with instructions for me to make these for her (again). And so that’s what I did. I tweaked the recipe a little bit to add some more flavour, and I think I like them better than the originals. Conveniently they’re also Papa John’s favourite and his birthday is coming up …

Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with waxed paper and spray it as well. Set that aside. In a large bowl, dump in 20oz shredded unsweetened coconut, and 14oz sweetened condensed milk. I like to stand there and stare while the milk ever-so-slowly comes out of the can.

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Now here’s where I changed things up a little bit. I have some genuine Caribbean coconut extract that I added in for more flavour (I tipped in about 2 teaspoons) and then I decided to add a hint of orange by pouring in about 2 tablespoons Cointreau. I recommend doing it just for the subtlety of the flavour over the straight sugar taste you got before with the original recipe.

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I was actually amazed at how thick the coconut extract was – it was more of a syrup.

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Anyway, stir that up, together with 2 cups icing sugar, until you have a lovely gooey coconutty paste.

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Smooth that into your baking pan and level the top. Freeze that for a couple hours.

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When you’re nearly ready to go, melt up about 24oz chocolate of your choice – I used half dark, half milk in this batch. It’s also useful to do the chocolate in a couple of batches, adding more unmelted stuff to the mix as you run out.

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Let that cool a bit, and slice up your coconut goo into squares.

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Then start dipping! Remember that the cooler your chocolate is, the faster it will set, so act accordingly. Sprinkle the tops of each bar with more bits of coconut before the chocolate sets – for decoration.

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My chocolate was cooler (because it’s February and this is Canada) than last time so it set a little messier and less smooth than the previous version, but they’re still super tasty!

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Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes

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Yup.  ANOTHER cupcake recipe.  If you think that’s ridiculous, you’re gonna laugh at what I have planned for Friday.  This recipe has been stored in my Evernote for forever, but I keep seeing the photos pop up on Facebook. I think it’s a not-so-subtle hint that I should probably make them.

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Start with 1 1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds (I used flaked) and mix them with 2 cups dessicated unsweetened coconut in a bowl.  Set that aside for now.

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Toast a wee pinch of the coconut and almonds (I popped mine in the toaster oven) and set that aside as well.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a standard muffin tin with cups.  I like how cheery these are.

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In another bowl, whisk together 2 cups cake flour, 1 cup cocoa, and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

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In yet ANOTHER bowl, ideally the one in your electric mixer, cream together 3/4 room temperature butter, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar for about 3 minutes until pale and cohesive.

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Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time.  Ideally they are also room temperature.  Pour in 3 teaspoons vanilla while you’re at it.

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Now you can start adding your flour mixture in, alternating with 1 1/2 cup buttermilk until it’s all smooth and combined.

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Then you can fold in all your almonds and coconut.

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Scoop the batter into your cupcake cups until they’re’ about 3/4 full.  Now, the recipe didn’t tell me how many this made and so I assumed that it was only 12.

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I WAS WRONG.  AND I WAS OUT OF CUPCAKE LINERS.  So I used the last four I had, then put the rest of the batter in a disposable loaf pan.  I figured it’d make a nice cake to freeze.

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Anyway, bake your enormous number of cupcakes for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean, then you can let them cool completely on a wire rack.

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The Nanaimo-bar-y-ness of the icing comes from using custard powder.  The custard is what makes a Nanaimo bar a Nanaimo bar. Nah-NYE-mo bar.  I love the word Nanaimo.  I may have a problem.

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Right.  Icing.  That’s what we were doing.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together 1 cup room temperature butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 cups icing sugar, and 4 tablespoons custard powder.

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When that’s all combined, pour in as well about 3/4 cup whipping cream for smoothness.

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There, that’s lovely.

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Pipe it onto your cupcakes, and then sprinkle with the toasted almonds and coconut.  That’s it.

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Then you eat it and then it’s gone.  So satisfying.

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German Chocolate Cake

For my dad’s birthday back in November, he requested chocolate, and we settled on German chocolate cake for the big celebration.  German chocolate cake is not German, despite the name.  Emerging out of the heart of America in the 1950s, the recipe was actually named after Samuel German, founder of the Bakers Chocolate company.  And of course I have borrowed the recipe from my favourite American in Paris, David Lebovitz.  This cake has a few more extra steps than you’re probably used to (unless you do stuff like this all the time, in which case I bow down to you), so be prepared to devote quite a bit of time to it.  Hopefully yours will turn out a bit better than mine did.

The Cake

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Butter two 9″ round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  I didn’t have my handy-dandy kitchen compass (it’s still in Newfoundland) so I had to wing it.

In a double boiler or in your microwave, melt together 2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, with 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, also chopped, and 6 tablespoons water.  Set that aside and let it cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 cup room temperature butter with 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar until fluffy, about five minutes.

Separate 4 eggs into two small bowls (one for the whites, one for the yolks, natch).  Beat your melted chocolate into your butter, and add your 4 egg yolks, one at a time.

In a measuring cup, sift together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.

Mix in half the dry ingredients into the creamed butter.

Add 1 cup buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

***TIPS AND TRICKS INTERRUPTION***

If you don’t have buttermilk you can make an easy substitution here: plop a tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice (I used lemon here) into a measuring cup.

Top it up with milk to equal 1 cup.

Allow it to sit for about five minutes to curdle and you’re all set.

***END INTERRUPTION ***

Add in the rest of the dry ingredients and mix.

In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the 4 egg whites until they are at the soft peak stage. 

Beat in 1/4 cup granulated sugar and keep going until you get stiff peaks.

Fold in your egg white mixture until there’s no trace of it visible.

Divide your batter into the two prepared pans and bake for about 45 minutes, until your toothpick test comes out clean.

Place the pans on racks to cool completely.

While your cakes are cooking and cooling, you can make the coconut pecan custard filling, the rum syrup, and the chocolate icing.  Mmm!

The Filling

If the oven is free, or if you had the foresight to do this ahead of time, spread 1 cup finely chopped pecans on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toast, turning halfway through, for 10 minutes in your oven at about 400°F.  Do the same with 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut.  Allow them to cool.

In a medium saucepan, mix together 1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream), 1 cup granulated sugar, and 3 large egg yolks.

Cut 3 oz room temperature butter (that’s 6 tablespoons) into small pieces and place them in a bowl with the cooled coconut and pecans.  Okay, so my pieces aren’t that small.  Sue me.

Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom, until the custard thickens and coats the back of your spoon.

Pour the hot custard immediately into the coconut and pecan mixture and stir until the butter is melted.  Cool to room temperature.

The Syrup

In a small saucepan heat together 1 cup water and 3/4 cup granulated sugar until the sugar has completely melted and the liquid is clear.

Remove the pan from the heat and add in 2 tablespoons dark rum.  I of course used Screech.

The Icing

Chop up 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and plop it in a bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup and 3 tablespoons butter. [Ali’s note: I found that using corn syrup in this particular ganache made my icing runny and hard to apply.  I would probably not use it next time.]

In a small saucepan heat 1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream) until it just begins to boil.  Pour that sucker over the chocolate and let it stand for a minute.

Stir until totally smooth and let sit until it’s room temperature.

Cake Construction

Ease your cooled cakes out of the pans and peel off the parchment paper.  Using a serrated knife (like a bread knife) cut both cake layers in half horizontally. 

I also cut off the tops of my cakes to make them more level.  Lots of bubbles in this here cake.

Set the first cake layer on a cake plate.  Brush well with your rum syrup.  Don’t be shy — there’s plenty.

Spread 3/4 cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges.

Plop another cake layer on top, and then repeat the syrup and filling process, even on the top.

Use your chocolate icing all up the sides of the cake.  This will seal in all the moisture.  I tried to do the decorative piping of icing around the edges of the top, but as I said, my icing was too runny, so I ended up just dribbling it everywhere.  Make sure you use all of it, no matter what happens to its consistency.

I chilled the cake to set the icing.  If your icing is normal, then you won’t need to worry.

Serve and enjoy!