Photo courtesy of Taunton Press
(Congratulations to Tami who could never just eat one bite of her mom’s hummingbird cake and to Beyond the Window who said there was no way she could just eat one bite of homemade lasagna and warm apple pie.)
It was a happy coincidence early last December when Abby Dodge and I bumped into one another at the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Cookie Swap a few weeks before Sharon and Anthony’s wedding. Lucky for me Abby brought her Coconut Caramel Macadamia Squares to the event.
I was in charge of baking cookies for Sharon and Tony’s upcoming wedding. (They had opted for cookie plates instead of a traditional cake.) I had a cookie plan. Tony’s grandmother was making her special anise-scented pizzelles, and I was rounding out the plates with little lime bars, craggy pieces of white chocolate-peppermint bark, mini cream cheese-cranberry brownies, and buttery Linzer cookies. Something was missing from the mix, and when I tasted Abby’s Coconut Caramel Macadamia Squares I knew what.
Abby and I both live in Connecticut. I had driven to the cookie exchange; she had taken the train. I believe my motives were pure when I offered her a ride home. En route I did mention how much I loved her Coconut Caramel Macadamia Bars, and how I was in charge of the cookie plates at Sharon and Anthony’s wedding, and how these bars would complete the mix.
She got my not-so-subtle hints, and even though her book—Mini Treats and Hand-Held Sweets—wasn’t out until fall, she agreed to e-mail me the recipe, which I promised not to post until the book came out.
I’ve been holding this recipe a long time! Since Abby’s and my car ride back from the cookie exchange, the wedding has come and gone and Sharon and Tony have graduated from school, gone on their summer honeymoon, and moved to Atlanta. Coincidentally I’m writing about these Coconut Caramel Macadamia Bars as I fly down to see Sharon and Tony for the very first time since their move.
Since that car ride last December I’ve also gotten a copy of Abby’s new book—Mini Treats and Hand-Held Sweets—and I’m impressed. I’ve long respected Abby as a solid, creative baker, and in this book, she offers up sweets exactly the way I like them—one little decadent bite at the time. There are cookies and pies, candies and cakes, and even a chapter of miniature frozen treats.
Because of this happy full-circle coincidence, we’re giving away two copies of Abby’s new book. To enter, simply fill in the blank to the following statement. There is no way I could only eat one bite of ___________.
Giveaway ends Wednesday, September 26th, at 9PM ET. We’ll announce two winners before noon on Thursday.
Here goes. There’s no way I could only eat one bite of… Abby Dodge’s Coconut Caramel Macadamia Bars!
Abby Dodge’s Coconut Caramel Macadamia Squares
For the Crust
1 1⁄4 cups (51⁄2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1⁄3cup (11⁄3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces and chilled
1tablespoon cold water
For the Topping
2 cups (10 ounces) unsalted macadamia nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup (11⁄4 ounces) shredded coconut, toasted
11⁄4 cups (83⁄4 ounces) granulated sugar
2⁄3 cup water
1⁄2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon table salt
Makes thirty-six 11⁄2-inch squares
This recipe can be a bit tricky and time-consuming, but it’s worth the effort. Simply put aside some time and set up your mise en place (French kitchen-speak for having all ingredients measured out before you start the recipe). Be sure you have an accurate candy thermometer (see p. 5), follow the directions, and pay close attention to the doneness tests for the crust and the caramel. In the end, you will have made a sinfully good cookie, and your friends and family will love you forever.
Make the Crust
1.) Line a 9-inch-square baking pan (I like the straight-sided kind) with foil, leaving about a 1-inch overhang on two sides (see p. 5). Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the foil.
2.) Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Process until blended, about 2 seconds. Scatter the chilled butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture, then pulse just until the dough forms moist crumbs, about 10 seconds. Scatter the dough in the prepared pan. Using lightly floured fingertips, pat the dough to make an even layer (or as close to even you can get) on the bottom and about 1⁄2 inch up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate the pan while the oven heats.
3.) Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Bake until the crust is pale golden brown, 24 to 26 minutes. Don’t overbake the crust or it will be too crumbly. Move the pan to a wire rack.
Make the Topping
1.) Sprinkle the nuts and coconut evenly over the crust. Put the sugar and water in a medium heavy saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil, without stirring, until the sugar begins to color around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes. Swirl the pan over the heat until the caramel is an evenly deep amber, about another 2 minutes.
2.) Slide the pan off the heat and add the cream and butter. Be careful—it will bubble up, and the steam is super hot. Whisk until well blended and smooth. (If the caramel clumps, put the pan over low heat and whisk until smooth.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240°F, about another 2 to 4 minutes. Slide the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and salt. Pour the caramel evenly over the nuts and coconut to cover completely. Gently wiggle the tart pan to settle the caramel. Set aside to cool completely, about 3 hours, then refrigerate until ready to serve or for up to 5 days.
3.) To cut and serve, use the foil “handles” to lift the entire cookie from the pan. Carefully peel or tear away the foil and toss it out. Using a ruler as a guide (or by eye) and a sharp, long knife, cut crosswise into 6 equal strips and then cut each strip into 6 bars. Cover and stow in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. These are best when served slightly chilled.