Thursday, October 14, 2010

164. Peanut-Coconut Bars (V - contains eggs)

Since I was old enough to be trusted in the kitchen, I knew it was the place to be! I would pour over recipes like a detective on the hunt for the next big clue. It was a gold mining expedition - a cooking safari - and it was exciting!

In fact, after I decided on a recipe, I could hardly wait to pull out the necessary ingredients and get busy. My mother trusted me to work alone, and in those solitary hours, I was a real cook in my own kitchen.

My first culinary steps involved cookies and every new recipe was a step into the unknown. As the sweet treats baked and their warm, sweet smells floated around me, I could not resist a peek into the oven to see if things were as they should be. After they were removed to a rack, it was almost impossible to wait for the cookies to cool for the all important taste test, but it had to be done. I found early on - a cookie tastes best when cooled to room temperature.

If I was lucky, I would have discovered a new family favorite. Most times, however, the recipes lacked something in the taste category, (tasted awful),  and others required too much effort to ever become a favorite of mine.

All batch cookies take time to produce and the process cannot be hurried. The bar cookie can be a wonderful time-saver and comforting aromas and flavors are created in less than half the time. Bar cookies do not have the same crispness as cookies made by the batch system, but these treats definitely have their place.

Today's peanut bar is enhanced with the addition of moist coconut. The bar itself has a very peanutty flavor and the optional icing gives it a hint of vanilla sweetness.

Peanut-Coconut Bars

1/4 C margarine
1/4 C creamy peanut butter
1 1/3 C flour, divided
1 1/4 C brown sugar, packed and divided
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C coconut, flaked
1 C dry, roasted peanuts

Combine margarine and peanut butter in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat while stirring, until melted. Add 1 C flour, 1/4 C brown sugar and salt. Stir well. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of a greased  8x11.5x2-inch baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Beat eggs in a medium bowl until foamy; add sugar gradually and beat until slightly fluffy. Stir in last 1/3 C of flour, baking powder, vanilla, coconut and peanuts. Pour mixture over crust and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until browned. Cool before cutting into bars. Makes 36 bars. (Icing optional)

Store in a covered container, do not refrigerate.

Iced bars: Icing recipe #145

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