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October 19, 2012

Magical Cookie Bars

First-prize winner at The HSUS's 2011 holiday dessert contest

  • These magical cookie bars are a treat fit for Halloween, or any other day. Michelle Riley/HSUS

Makes 24 cookie bars

1 14-ounce can coconut milk (regular or light)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted, non-hydrogenated margarine (e.g., Earth Balance)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups non-dairy chocolate chips or chunks
2 cups flaked, sweetened coconut
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

In a large saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk and brown sugar over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (The mixture may form a thin skin on the surface; if it does, just stir it back into the liquid.)

Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool while preparing the crust.

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). 

To prepare the crust, line a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, margarine, and sugar; mix well to moisten the crumbs completely. Firmly press the mixture into the prepared pan, pressing evenly from the center outward to the sides of the pan. 

Pour the warm coconut milk mixture evenly over the crumb base. Top with an even layer of chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts, in that order. Firmly pat everything down until the coconut milk mixture soaks upward into the toppings.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until the coconut is deeply golden and the filling is bubbling. 

Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to cool completely and firm up the bars for at least 4 hours (overnight is best), until very firm. 

Run a sharp, heavy knife along the edges of the pan and slide the cake on its parchment paper out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Slice the cake into 24 square cookie bars. 

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. These bars also freeze well, tightly wrapped and allowed to thaw for 20 minutes before serving.

Tips and variations

  • Make sure to use only sweetened, fluffy, white flaked coconut for these—not the natural, shredded coconut.
  • Press the graham cracker crumb crust like crazy into the pan; the more you pat it down, the firmer the resulting crust will be.
  • You can also add butterscotch chips in place of chocolate chips

Recipe courtesy of HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, who adapted this from a Keebler recipe.

Nutrition

All figures are per cookie bar (assumes 24 cookie bars total, prepared with light coconut milk and walnuts).

Calories: 234
Fat: 38 g
Carbs: 25 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 2 g
Sodium: 123 mg

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