Each weekend, I dig out my favorite cookbook – the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 13th Edition. I flip through the pages, skimming the recipes, checking to see if I have the ingredients to make those that catch my eye. And then, I make the recipe, usually late Sunday afternoon after all the chores are done. It’s my relaxation, my Sabbath rest – baking. Cooking. Chopping, stirring, sautéing.
This weekend was no different. As I flipped through the Fannie Farmer cookbook, a recipe on page 630 promising ‘candy-like’ coconut bars called to me. I had just purchased a large back of unsweetened shredded coconut at the Amish bulk food store. What better dessert than gooey, candylike coconut bars? Count me in!
Baking a Wreck: My Coconut Bars
The good news: They taste good. Not great, but good.
The bad news: They look awful.
They refused to hold together. And by refused to hold together I mean crumbled into bits whenever we tried to slide one from the pan.
The resulting bars looked like lumps of something the cat threw up.
So what happened? What did I do wrong?
- I rushed my recipe. I didn’t read the whole thing before trying to cook it. I should have realized that the instructions for the “pastry bottom” were misleading. Usually, the Fannie Farmer cookbook has very clear directions, but this time the directions had the pastry mixed in the mixer. I should have cut the butter into the pastry mix by hand with my pastry blender in the same way I do when I make a pie crust.
- Speaking of pastry crusts, they usually require cold butter. But, because this recipe called for the butter, flour, and confectioner’s sugar to be mixed in a mixing bowl, I softened the butter in the microwave. Problem was, I softened it too much, and it had been frozen before I threw it in the microwave. The result: big lumps of butter that wouldn’t cut into the pastry, melted butter, and a pastry mix that was impossible to get smooth and event.
- My husband loves chocolate biscotti, and I had a batch of those going at the same time I baked the coconut bars. I moved the trays of biscotti to the upper shelf in the oven because the last time I baked them I burned the edges. The coconut bar pan went on the hotter, bottom shelf. Metal trays on the shelf over it reflected heat back onto the top of the bars as they baked. So, instead of a nice, gooey coconut candy on top, I got browned, crisped coconut on a thick, almost toffee-like crust. And all the coconut flowed to the edges of the pan as the egg, brown sugar, and coconut mixture bubbled and boiled into taffy/toffee/weirdness.
The Moral of the Story…
Never bake when you’re tired.
Crumbled coconut bars taste amazing as topping for vanilla ice cream.
In fact, I’m renaming the recipe “Coconut Toffee Topping” and calling it a day.
Whether this recipe was a cookbook fail (the directions for the crust weren’t quite right) or a failure of the cook (that’s a definite yes), I’m not quite sure, but out of all the recipes in the Fannie Farmer book, this one was a dud.
Coconut Bars, page 630 of the 13th Edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, is part of the “Cooking with Fannie and Me” series on Mondays at Home Garden Joy.
More Articles in This Series – Fannie Farmer Cookbook Recipe Reviews
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.