Dream bars recipe

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Whether you call them dream bars, magic bars, or seven-layer bars, these loaded confections should appeal to just about everyone; we certainly remember them fondly from our childhood. But our first attempt at re-creating these bars in the test kitchen led to an undeniable realization: They contain far too many ingredients, making them too sweet for modern tastes. To revamp these bars we ditched the seven-layer idea, nixing the superfluous including chips of all kinds (from chocolate to white chocolate and butterscotch), toffee bits, and graham crackers and choosing only the most essential and traditional ingredients: coconut and pecans. This was enough to create the chewy, toffee-flavored layer bars we desired. Making the base was easy; we mixed up a shortbread dough and deepened its toffee notes by sweetening it with dark brown sugar. After baking the base, we layered it with a pecan filling before spreading on the coconut topping. To prevent the shredded coconut from drying out, we turned to a surprising ingredient: cream of coconut. Soaking the shredded coconut in the cream resulted in a rich, moist topping that caramelized beautifully. Spread the coconut mixture as evenly as possible over the pecan layer, but don’t worry if it looks patchy.

  • Yield: 24 bars

Ingredients

Crust
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup pecans
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
Topping
  • 1½ cups (4½ ounces) sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup cream of coconut
  • ¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped coarse
How to Make It
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Make foil sling for 13 by 9-inch baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil; first sheet should be 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Grease foil.
  2. For the Crust
  3. Pulse flour, sugar, pecans, and salt in food processor until pecans are coarsely ground, about 10 pulses. Scatter butter over top and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 12 pulses. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press firmly into even layer. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let crust cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes.
  4. For the Topping
  5. Combine coconut and cream of coconut in bowl. Whisk sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, vanilla, and salt in second bowl until smooth. Stir in pecans, then spread filling over cooled crust. Dollop heaping tablespoons of coconut mixture over filling, then spread into even layer.
  6. Bake until topping is deep golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let bars cool completely in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours. Using foil overhang, remove bars from pan. Cut into 24 pieces before serving. (Bars can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.)
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