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These gooey, chewy bars are loaded with coconut AND caramel AND chocolate. They’re a tasty substitute for those Samoa cookies the Girl Scouts sell, if you’ve devoured your stash and just can’t wait till Girl Scout cookie time comes around again.
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter
1 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla-butternut flavor
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups (6 ounces) shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened, toasted (1/2 cup reserved for topping)
1 cup (10 ounces) caramel cut from a block (or about 36 individual caramel candies), divided*
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) milk or cream
*Or use 10 ounces of caramel sundae sauce, if you don't want to melt caramel.
To toast coconut, spread it in a 9" x 13" pan, and bake it in a preheated 300°F oven for 18 to 22 minutes, stirring it halfway through, or until it’s a light golden brown. Watch it very closely towards the end, as it’ll go from golden to dark brown very quickly.
Increase the oven heat to 350°F.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg. Mix in the flour, salt, baking powder, and 1 1/2 cups of the toasted coconut.
Spread the mixture in an ungreased 9" x 13" pan.* Bake for 15 minutes. Just before the 15 minutes is up, melt half the caramel (1/2 cup); a VERY brief burst in the microwave makes this easy (probably 15 seconds or so). Drizzle the melted caramel (or caramel sauce) over the crust and return it to the oven for 10 to 13 minutes; when done it'll be medium-brown and the caramel will be bubbly.
Remove the crust from the oven and, working quickly, use a heatproof plastic knife (plastic reduces the drag in sticky baked goods), or a bench knife, to loosen the edges of the crust from the pan, and to cut 2 dozen bars, leaving them right in the pan. It’s easier to cut these bars while they’re warm. Sprinkle the bars with the chocolate. Allow the chocolate to soften for about 5 minutes, then spread it evenly atop the bars. Set aside to cool completely.
Loosen the bars from the edge of the pan again, and use a flexible spatula to lift them out and set them on a rack. Combine the remaining caramel with 1 tablespoon milk or cream, and heat until the caramel is pourable. Stir to combine with the cream, and drizzle over the bars. (Or drizzle bars with caramel sauce, if desired.) Garnish with the reserved toasted coconut.
Yield: 24 bars.
*These bars usually aren’t a challenge to get out of the pan. But if you’re at all nervous, line the bottom of the pan with parchment, if desired.