Chairs and Fairs: Nut and Coconut Pie Bars

26 Aug

My yoga practice has changed a lot this year. One of the places I have found comfort, support, and joy is my weekly chair yoga class at Mind the Mat in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.  The teacher and all of the students could not have been more welcoming when I joined, and I was so grateful to find a practice that allowed me to appreciate my body and mind for the first time in months.

So of course, when I had a kitchen table full of baked goods the week before the Arlington County Fair, I opted to share them with the group. After all, the judges only needed six pieces of each submission (aside from the pies, which had to be presented whole). One of the categories I entered was for bar cookies, and the ones I made were honestly the result of having some leftover odds and ends to use up after candy and pie making. Well, I must have stumbled upon something great, because not only did they win a blue ribbon(!) for the bar cookie category, my chair yoga classmates loved them and gently requested that I share the recipe here. So without further ado…

Nut and Coconut Pie Bars

Crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cold

Filling:

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup toasted chopped nuts (I used ½ pecans and ½ walnuts)
  • ½ cup toasted shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line an 8×8 in. baking pan with parchment paper.

Begin by making the crust. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the bowl, then run the machine until the mixture forms large clumps.

Press into the prepared baking pan evenly across the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides.

Bake for 15 minutes. I usually melt the butter for the filling as soon as the crust goes in the oven so that it is cool enough to use by the time the crust is done baking.

To make the filling, whisk the brown sugar into butter until smooth.

Add the whole egg, egg yolk, salt, and vanilla and blend well.

Stir in flour until just combined, and then fold in the coconut and nuts.

Pour the filling over the par-baked crust, spreading evenly using a spatula or small offset palette knife.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden on top.

Cool completely before cutting into squares or triangles. I like to refrigerate the pan because it is much easier to cut neat squares when they have been chilled for a few hours or even overnight.

The texture of the filling resembles pecan pie, but the coconut adds a sweet chewiness that reminds me of the topping on Samoas cookies.  The crust is buttery and crisp, like a rich, thick shortbread. All in all, these accidental delights have a lot more to offer than I initially gave them credit for, and my chair yoga classmates and the county fair judges agreed.

Change happens in a blink and life can really surprise you with strange twists. Sometimes they give you something really special, like a whole new way to practice yoga. It’s good to know that recipes can surprise too in the most unexpected and wonderful ways.

Ciao for now,

Neen

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