I was in the mood to bake something, and decided to take a walk through my pantry and see what was in there that I could bake with- that would produce something a little different than normal. My gaze fell upon a large can of crushed pineapple and an unopened package of shredded coconut. As the snow continues to pile up outside and the frigid temperatures just keep getting colder, I knew a taste of summer was exactly what I needed to make.
Yet, I couldn't find quite what I was looking for. I had a bar cookie in mind, something akin to a lemon bar, only made with pineapple and sporting a lovely coconut layer on top. After finding several similar recipes that didn't quite fit the bill, I did a bit of tweaking and came up with my own Piña-Colada Bar.
I began with the crust- shortbread would be fine, except that using brown sugar would offer a caramel note to the crust, so I used brown sugar instead of white. I also opted to use a portion of whole wheat pastry flour. For the filling I simply made a sort of pineapple curd with the crushed pineapple. When I tasted it though, I thought the tartness of the pineapple didn't come through, so a shot of lemon juice helped perk that up a bit. It was the topping though that gave me the most trouble. I didn't want to just sprinkle coconut, and I didn't want to make an icing or glaze. So I made a sort of coconut batter that reminded me of making coconut macaroons and spread that on top. The whole think baked until golden brown, and then I had to wait for it to cool.
I didn't wait long enough. The more these bars cooled, the better they tasted. I was disappointed with the first taste, and wondered what I was going to do with all these bars! But after letting them set completely and then chilling, they turned out to be exactly what I was shooting for. Start to finish these bars took about an hour- well worth it for the glimpse of summer it provided during the winter of never-ending snow and cold.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple in juice
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
7 oz. sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 egg whites
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almon extract
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
Combine all-purpose flour, pastry flour, brown sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender until the butter is well incorporated and the mixture is crumbly.
Press into the 9x13 pan and bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine sugar, cornstarch, crushed pineapple with juice, and egg yolks in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice.
Pour pineapple mixture over the hot crust, spreading gently with the back of a spoon.
In a small mixing bowl, combine remaining sugar, coconut, flour, salt, egg whites, egg, and extracts. Mix well.
Using a combination of fork and your fingers, dollop coconut mixture all over the pineapple mixture, trying your best to cover all of the pineapple with the coconut evenly.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes, or until the coconut is beginning to turn golden brown and the bars seem to be set.
Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. They taste best after being chilled for awhile as well.
Yield: About 30 bars