Maple syrup is one of my favorite sweet ingredients to work with in the kitchen. Not only is it delicious on pancakes and waffles, but the rich flavor of maple can add a lot of complexity – and sweetness, of course – to a wide variety of recipes. These Coconut Maple Pecan Bars combine a buttery shortbread base with a surprisingly rich topping of coconut, maple syrup and toasted pecans.
These bars have a little bit in common with pecan pie, although the topping is baked in a much, much thinner layer than the filling of your average pecan pie. While a classic pecan pie is made with a generous amount of corn syrup, this one is made with maple syrup as the base. Coconut is added to the maple syrup, giving the topping a pleasant chewiness that contrasts well with the crunch of toasted pecans. You might normally associate coconut with more tropical desserts, but in this one it blends beautifully with the rich maple syrup and nutty pecans for a dessert that tastes like pure comfort food.
The topping mixture is spread relatively thinly over the shortbread base of these bars. The shortbread layer is crisp and buttery, a perfect counterpart to the moist and chewy topping. The base is baked and the topping is spread on while the shortbread is still hot. Fortunately, the shortbread layer is sturdy enough that you can gently spread the coconut out with a spatula to ensure that the the topping is evenly distributed over the whole base. The topping needs to be baked again to set it, then the bars should be cooled completely before slicing.
This recipe makes a fairly large batch, which means that these are perfect for sharing. They have just the right balance of salt and sweet – and you need that salt to contrast the sweetness of the maple syrup – to make these downright addictive.
Coconut Maple Pecan Bars
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into 6-8 pieces
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
In a food processor, combine all crust ingredients and pulse until butter is well-integrated into the dry ingredients and the mixture resembles sand. This can also be done by cutting the butter in by hand, or with a pastry cutter.
Pour mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer
Bake crust for 15-17 minutes, or until edges have a hint of golden brown to them.
While the crust is baking, combine all the topping ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. When crust has set, carefully pour the topping mixture over the hot crust. Using a spatula, gently spread out the coconut and pecans until they evenly cover the crust.
Bake for an additional 16-18 minutes, until the topping is set.
Allow bars to cool completely before slicing.
Makes 20-24 bars.