So yesterday I wrote about my sightseeing trip to Washington DC where I visited Julia Child’s kitchen and tasted some of DC’s “best” cupcakes. But you want to know what else I was really excited to see? I’m warning you now, this is gonna sound really lame!……. Target! Yes, that’s right – Target the discount store! The highlight of any trip I make to the US is going to Target. Told you it was lame! I try and visit a Target at least once or twice every time I go the the States. Why? It’s simple – because of the selection & variety! Growing up in North America I got used to the selection we had over there, but when I moved to the UK I suddenly realized how spoiled I was back home. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know I’ve mentioned this once or twice before.
In the US the baking aisles seem to go on for miles, while the baking aisle here in the UK is only about a meter or two (3 – 6 feet) wide. While the US has literally over 20 different flavours of cake mix – not to mention dozens of different brands and variations of each flavour, the UK has about 3 different main stream brands of cake mix in pretty basic flavours – chocolate, vanilla & spice. Even though we’ve got Betty Crocker here, they only make chocolate, chocolate vanilla swirl & spice cake mixes. Not even a plain vanilla! To be honest, as much as I hate the lack of selection here, I think it’s probably one of the main reasons I try so many different recipes. I’m always trying to re-create something I’ve had back home, or something that I can’t make here because one of the typical ingredients isn’t available. I’m not sure that would be the case if I still lived back in Canada.
Just because I’m a geek, I took few pictures of one side of the baking aisle in an American Target store with my iPhone.
When I go to Target I usually stock up on a few cake mixes, a selection of different chocolate chips, and seasonal candy – all of which of pretty are hard to find here (from a variety point of view).
Among the things I picked up this trip were Easter coloured peanut butter M&M’s, almond M&M’s, regular Easter coloured M&M’s, pretzel M&M’s & Coconut M&M’s (which are absolutely amazing btw!) I also picked up one of my favorite candy’s – the Coconut Cream Hershey Kiss! Hershey Kisses are pretty frowned upon here in the UK – most people here would describe them of tasting like stinky feet. I’m impartial to the flavour of the original ones, but the coconut cream ones – oh boy! They are delicious!
So when I got home from holiday and started going through my emails, one immediately jumped out at me. A recipe from Martha Stewart for her Chocolate Coconut Cream Cheese Bars. I mean – seriously! Is there any better combination? I had to make them! They’re just like the coconut cream hershey kiss, only in bar form!
The base of these bars is very similar to the base of a Nanaimo bar, while the top has a nice cheesecakey taste. Overall I’d say this is a pretty solid recipe, but I’ve added a few comments of my own in grey. *Just a note – these bars do take a while to make, and require refrigeration overnight, but they’re well worth it!
Chocolate Coconut Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from Martha Stewart
2 Cups (205g) Graham Crackers, finely ground (from 15 rectangles)
3 Cups (10oz/ 410g) shredded / desiccated Coconut
5oz (140g) Semisweet Chocolate, finely chopped
2oz (57g) Milk Chocolate, finely chopped
1 Cup + 3 Tbsp (260g) Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup (114g) Butter, plus more for pan
3 Eggs, plus 5 Egg Yolks
12oz (340g) Cream Cheese, room temperature
Coconut Cream Hershey Kisses (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (189ºC). Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides, and grease the parchment.
2. Stir together the graham cracker crumbs and 2 cups of coconut.
3. Place the chocolate and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a heatproof bowl, and set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, and stir until melted. Add the butter, and stir until melted and smooth. Remove the mixture from the heat, and let it cool slightly. Whisk in 1 egg.
4. Stir the chocolate mixture into the coconut mixture. Press it evenly into your prepared pan. Bake until set – approx 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack, and let cool in pan. *I don’t really think it’s necessary to pre-bake the base considering it will be baked again. I baked mine for the recommended 10 mins, but I thought the base was a tad overcooked once they were baked again. If you’re going to bake it, I’d recommend only doing so for 5 minutes.
5. Using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat cream cheese and the remaining cup of sugar on high speed until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium, and add egg yolks and remaining 2 eggs, 1 at a time, until well combined. Scrape the sides of bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until completely smooth, about 3 minutes.
6. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust, and sprinkle the remaining cup of coconut evenly over the top.
7. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until top layer is just set and coconut is golden brown. Let the bars cool in the pan on a wire rack for about an hour, and then evenly place unwrapped Coconut Kisses across the top. (Try 1 Kiss first and wait about 5 minutes to make sure it’s not melting too much. If it is, then wait another 10 – 20 minutes until the cheesecake cools a bit more before trying again). Refrigerate, overnight.
8. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan, and use the parchment to lift out cheesecake. Cut the cheesecake into squares, wiping knife clean between cuts. Serve immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Coconut and chocolate is such a wonderful combination, and I was so excited to see the recipe for these bars come through to my in-box. Although they are a bit time consuming (if you pre-cook the base & let it cool), they’re definitely worth the time. I brought these into the office and they received rave reviews. Absolutely delicious!