Chewy Coconut-Pecan Bliss: Paradise Bars

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times featured a recipe for "Paradise Bars" from San Diego Bakery Bread & Cie in its Culinary S.O.S. column.  While I printed out a copy of the recipe with the idea that I would get to it eventually, I wasn't in any particular rush.  I will admit that I can be a bit superficial when it comes to desserts, and I just didn't think that the picture accompanying the recipe looked all that appealing.  But when I saw recently that the LA Times had included Paradise Bars in its list of the newspaper's top 10 recipes for all of 2010, I concluded that I had better move the recipe to the top of my to-bake list.

Plus, the recipe is fairly easy.  You make a crust from softened butter, brown sugar, and flour, press it into the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch pan, and bake it until golden.  Once the crust is cool, you pour on a topping made from brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, pecans, and unsweetened coconut, and bake the bars until they're set.  The top of the finished bars is fairly unattractive: a monochromatic dark brown crust dotted with tiny air bubbles.

The bars are a little more interesting looking after they're sliced to reveal the interior of coconut and pecans.  When I took my first bite, I was immediately reminded of a Girl Scouts Samoa cookie.  While these bars differ quite a bit from the Samoa (which is a cookie covered in caramel, toasted coconut, and chocolate drizzle), the chewy texture of the Paradise Bars and the distinctive bite of the dried coconut were similar.  These sweet and caramel-y bars are remarkably chewy on top (although quite crisp along the edges of the pan), with a firm crust on the bottom.  I am delighted to have discovered this unusual and marvelous treat!

Recipe: "Paradise Bars" from Bread & Cie, printed in the September 9, 2010 Los Angeles Times.