Chocolate and Coconut Cream Pie Bars

printed from melskitchencafe.com

*Note: To toast the coconut, place it in a single layer in a nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until it browns evenly. Watch closely so it doesn't burn. I've also halved this recipe with great success - use a 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan. Because many of the steps can be prepared ahead of time and/or need to be coordinated, read through the recipe before starting. Also, these bars can be made up to a day in advance - if doing so, I recommend not topping them with the whipped cream until you are ready to serve (whipped cream that hasn't been stabilized by gelatin, which I chose not to do here, has a tendency to weep and give off liquid if refrigerated over an hour or so).

*Makes 16 bars

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into 10-12 pieces

Ganache:

1/4 cup heavy cream

6 ounces (about 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

Coconut Cream Filling:

3 cups half-and-half

3 cups coconut milk

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

Whipped Cream Topping:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 cup coconut, toasted (see note above)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9X13-inch baking dish with foil or parchment paper, leaving a 2-3 inch overhang on both of the long sides to help remove the bars after baking.

In a large bowl, combine the flour and powdered sugar. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, two knives or using a food processor for this entire step. Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 16-18 minutes until the crust is light brown. Cool on a wire rack.

While the shortbread is baking, place the chocolate for the ganache (1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips) in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan (or microwave it for a 30 seconds or so). Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let the mixture stand for 1-2 minutes. Stir completely until a shiny, smooth ganache forms. Once the crust has cooled fora bout 10 minutes, pour the ganache over the bottom of the crust and smooth to the edges. Place the chocolate covered crust in the fridge to chill until the ganache is set into a firm layer and the crust is cooled completely.

While the crust is chilling, make the coconut cream filling by combining the half-and-half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly until it is very thick like warm pudding. Alternately (and I've actually done it this way for the coconut cream pie with great results), you can combine all those same ingredients in a large microwave-safe bowl and cook for one-minute increments, stirring well after each minute. It will take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to thicken in the microwave. I always strain my custard/pudding mixures through a fine-mesh strainer into another bowl. That is optional but it helps get rid of any little bits of cooked egg. Once the mixture thickens and after it has been strained (if you choose to do so), stir in the coconut and vanilla extracts and untoasted coconut. Pour the filling over the chilled ganache and refrigerate the bars until they are firm and set up, about 4 hours.

For the whipped topping, combine the heavy cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl and blend on medium-high speed with a handheld electric mixer until soft peaks form and the cream is thick and stabilized. Spread the cream over the chilled bars and sprinkle on the toasted coconut. Chill until ready to serve. Use the foil or parchment overhang to lift the bars from the pan. Cut into pieces and serve.