Cookie Trials 2010 – Bittersweet Chocolate Coconut Squares


Our second holiday cookie trial for 2010 is a contender to knockout the famous Nanimo bars that make our list every year. This 1997 recipe is from the Gourmet Cookie book that was published this year as a history to the magazine’s single best recipes from 1941 to 2009. For those of you not familiar with Nanimo bars they are a classic favorite in Canada. Any large bakery in a grocery store in Canada typically has these bars available for purchase. Wikipedia has a summary on these bars here.

So why is this recipe a potential challenger to this famous bar recipe. The bars have similar ingredients but without the vanilla custard middle layer. Now anyone who has had a Nanimo bar knows that the filling is flavorful and part of the whole experience but it does have drawbacks. The custard can often be soft making the chocolate layer crack when cutting the bars. The same is true for eating the bars as the custard layer squeezes out of the side as your teeth press down on the chocolate. Not the easiest thing to pick up and eat at a holiday party. This new recipe does not have the middle layer; the whole bar is firm.

Cracked Nanimo bars

Cracked Nanimo bars

This challenger recipe was very simple to make with easy to find ingredients. If you can’t find the biscuits you can always use graham crackers (ten 5 by 2 1/2 inch). The base, although without cocoa, is very flavorful with lots of fat from the butter. The simple chocolate layer went together smoothly and pulls all the flavors together in your mouth. Note that this is a much thicker layer than our typical Nanimo bars. Early results from the test kitchen tasting crew found the bars to be excellent and easy to handle. Small 1 inch square were easy to eat without mess. Those with confectionary sugar stencil dressings had great contrast against the dark chocolate.

This recipe is a keeper as a potential replacement for the famous Nanimo bars every so often – sorry my Canadian family and friends. I would call this a tie.

One last comment on making the bars. I did elect to do the criss-cross double layer of foil in the pan to easily lift the bars out of the pan. Just lightly butter the foil. Why have I not done this in years past?


12 Digestive cookies (wheatmeal biscuits)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut (5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces quality bittersweet chocolate
2 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a food processor pulse the biscuits until finely ground. Melt the butter and pour into a large mixer bowl. Stir together the butter, crumbs, coconut and salt until combined. Press the mixture into a 9 inch square pan (foiled lined optional). Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 15 minutes until golden. Cool the crust completely.

Chop the chocolate into small chunk and melt in a double boiler until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl lightly beat the egg yolks. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat on medium until just boiling. Remove 1/2 cup with a ladle and place in the small bowl with the yolks whisking constantly ensuring that the eggs do not cook. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and whisk until the temperature reaches 160F. Remove the custard mixture from the heat and whisk into the chocolate until smooth and well blended.

Pour chocolate mixture over the coconut base layer smoothing it out with a metal offset spatula. Chill for at least 4 hours until firm.

With a sharp thin knife cut into 36 squares. Layer in an air tight container between layers of wax paper. These will keep for about 1 week. Decorate using stencils confectioner’s sugar before serving if desired.

Source: Gourmet Cookie book

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