You know what I hate? Poorly written recipes. You know what else I hate? Wasting quality ingredients. Which is why I will never make these bars again.*
In searching fora different book, I came across my copy of Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. I wondered, “Why haven’t I been using this book more?” Now I know. First there was the unclear directions about refrigerating the dough and then there was the fact that there was a full third too much of that dough. I essentially threw out 10 tablespoons of butter. Add to that the fact that the final baking time was off. Way off. Like the recipe said the bars would be done at 30 minutes. Mine were done at 60. I understand accommodating for oven differences and add 10 minutes here and there. But double the amount of time? Did anyone test this recipe?
This was the weekly treat and I’m sure the crew will enjoy them and might even request the recipe. But my math skills would need to be much better in order to tell you how to either successfully cut the recipe for the dough by a third, or to increase the amount of date filling for an additional set of bars in a smaller pan to accommodate the leftover dough. Ahem. Too. Much. Trouble.
*But here is the thing. I wrote the above paragraphs as I was checking the pan in the oven and while I was waiting for the bars to cool. I was fully prepared to hate them. I sheepishly have to tell you they are delicious. A totally wonky, poorly written, proportionately-off delicious recipe. What do you do with that?
I’m going to give you the recipe as written. If one of you out there in Internet land can figure out a better way to make these bars, of if one of you makes them successfully using this recipe as written, will you let me know? Please and thank you.
(UPDATE: I just want to clarify that the book in question is Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor – NOT Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy. The latter is the most recent book by Alice Medrich and has been celebrated by everyone who has used it. Note to self: do not use a four adjective title for any future cookbooks.)
A couple of hints. I was not clear on whether I was supposed to refrigerate the dough pressed into the pan as well as the topping dough. I did just to be safe. You will need a stand mixer for the dough. I have the “professional” size Kitchen Aid and it struggled. Do not attempt to mix it on medium.
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ tsp. salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/3 cups desiccated coconut
For the date filling
1 pound dates, preferably Medjool, pitted and coarsely chopped
1½ cups water
¼ cup granulated sugar
Combine the butter and sugars in a large bowl. With an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the butter and sugars together until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat to combine. Beat in the flour, baking powder, and 1 cup of the coconut just until a soft dough forms.
Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine the dates, water, and granulated sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan and cook the dates, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and have turned into a glossy brown mass, 10 to 15 minutes. There still may be chunks of dates in the mixture. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer the date mixture to a food processor fitted with a metal blade and, using short pulses, grind the dates to a fine paste.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325ºF. Bake the bottom crust until firm and just beginning to turn golden around the edges of the pan, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool slightly. Spread the date filling evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the date filling to form a pebbly, crumbled topping.
Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until the topping is firm and crisp and just beginning to color, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup coconut. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Using a sharp knife, cut into 24 bars.