White Chocolate Coconut Cream Bars

Fran was so fond of traditional layered cookies like lemon bars and cheesecake squares that she thought long and hard about how best to showcase one of her favorite ingredients: coconut.  We think you’ll approve of the spectacular results from her months of thorough research and laborious cookie tasting. This bar is made of three delightful layers of exquisite indulgence: the bottom is a pressed crust of crumbly shortbread made with two kinds of chocolate; the middle is like a smooth, dense white chocolate pudding laced with shredded coconut; and the top layer caps it all off with a roof of ultra-suave bittersweet ganache. Life—or at least a bar cookie—doesn’t get much better than this. Plan on savoring such a rich treat all on its own. Any ice cream or sauce would be superfluous.

Makes 24 bars

Ingredients

Coconut Cream Filling

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1¼ ounces unsweetened, finely shredded dried coconut

White Chocolate Coconut Shortbread

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups cake flour, sifted then measured

Dark Chocolate Ganache Topping

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3½ ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions

To make the Filling

  1. In a saucepan, warm the cream over medium-high heat just until it begins to simmer.
  2. Remove from the heat, add the white chocolate, and stir until smooth and melted.
  3. Stir in the coconut, then pour into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap touching the top.
  4. Let sit at room temperature at least 3 hours, but no longer than 24 hours.

To make the Shortbread

  1. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch sheet pan, or quarter-sheet pan.
  2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the semisweet chocolate for 1 minute. Pour into a small bowl, then return the larger pieces of chocolate to the processor and pulse again briefly. (Be careful not to overprocess.) The finished chocolate should be ground to pieces about 1/16 to 1/8 inch. Set aside.
  3. In a double boiler, melt the white chocolate over low heat.
  4. Remove the top of the boiler when the chocolate is nearly melted and stir until glossy and smooth.
  5. Set aside to cool slightly. Return to the double boiler only briefly as the chocolate begins to set up.
  6. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Add the melted white chocolate and blend thoroughly on medium-high speed.
  8. Add the sifted cake flour and processed dark chocolate. Mix on low speed until the dough begins to hold together.
  9. Remove from the mixing bowl and gently knead a few times to thoroughly mix.
  10. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate or freeze until firm.

To bake the Bar Base

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F.
  2. Bake the chilled shortbread crust until lightly golden and slightly puffed, 25 minutes.
  3. Cool completely in the pan. If the base settles a bit in the center, don’t worry — it will be perfect for holding even more of the filling.

To assemble the Bars

  1. Place the coconut cream filling in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Beat on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl several times, until the filling is lighter in both color and texture, less than 1 minute.
  2. Spread the filling evenly and smoothly over the now-cooled baked shortbread layer.

To make the Ganache

  1. In a pot, warm the cream over medium-high heat until it begins to simmer.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the finely chopped chocolate until smooth.
  3. Let cool until about 80-85°F.

To finish the Bars

  1. Slowly pour the ganache (still at 80-85°F) over the coconut filling, spreading it evenly to the edges.
  2. Let set at room temperature about 1 hour, or place in the refrigerator to cool quickly, about 20 minutes.
  3. To cut, first score the filling with a sharp knife where you wish to cut. Then slice through the base with a long, sharp blade.
  4. Remove the bars with a spatula and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator as long as one week.

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