Coconut Bars

The climate and tropical fruits and vegetables abundant throughout the Philippines inform many of the country’s most recognizable dishes: from purple tubers called ube to cassava root, durian, mangoes, bananas and coconuts. Bibingka, a rice flour-based coconut cake steamed in banana leaves, is a popular Christmas dessert in the Philippines. Here, I’ve modernized – and truthfully, Americanized – the traditional flavor of bibingka in hand-held coconut bars.

Coconut Bars

Make sure to get the plain variety of white rice flour, as sweet rice flour or glutinous rice flour will produce different results. Also, be sure to buy unsweetened coconut, which is different from what you’ll find in most baking aisles. (Scan the organic shelf-stable section at your local international market or specialty grocery store.) Diced mango or lychee would make great substitutes for the pineapple in the filling.

Yields | 16 bars |

Crust

  • 2 cups white rice flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened, grated or flaked coconut
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • zest of 1 lime
  • ½ cup white rice flour
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 2½ cups unsweetened, grated or flaked coconut
  • ½ cup crushed pineapple

| Preparation – Crust | Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, letting the ends extend up the sides.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine rice flour, coconut, brown sugar and salt. Stir in melted butter and mix well. Using the bottom of a water glass, press crust mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until dark golden brown, approximately 20 minutes.

| Preparation – Filling | Reduce oven to 300°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, on medium speed, whip eggs, salt, brown sugar, lime zest and rice flour until light and fluffy. Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla and stir. Add melted butter. Fold in coconut and pineapple.

Pour filling over prebaked crust and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The center will be firm to the touch and should be a very light golden brown around the edges. Let cool. Cut into 16 bars and serve or tightly wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Christy is the owner of Pint Size Bakery in St. Louis and calls herself the baker of all things good and evil.

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