Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars

by Julie Ruble on February 27, 2012 · 74 comments

Several months ago, I attended the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco, California, 2,700 miles away from my home. Traveling alone is always a meaningful, reflective experience for me. To process my trip, I periodically share vignettes that I hope are meaningful to you, as well.

. . .

Normally, I would have said no.

On-the-spot requests for money make me nervous, and I made a rule years ago to always say no. I give food or supplies freely, as I’m able, to anyone who asks me for them. But I only give money if I have a space to sit, read about the organization, and make a thoughtful choice. That’s my rule, anyway.

But I wasn’t standing at a check-out counter being asked to donate a dollar to a charity, or walking down the street being asked for change. I was sitting on the BART, the Bay Area’s system of trains, and the little boy in front of me was adorably nervous. I waited politely as he took a deep breath and began a clearly well-rehearsed speech. It came out as one halting sentence.

“Hi-I-am-part-of-the-Boys-&-Girls-Club-and-we-are-raising-money-to-go-to-our-basketball-tournament-in-Reno-I-have-already-collected-all-but-$55-can-you-help-by-donating-today?” He took another big breath, obviously relieved to have finished his spiel.

I saw his friend delivering a similar pitch across the car and briefly considered that this might be an elaborate scheme to get more video game or snack money. My innate cynicism comes from personal experience, since I may or may not have canvassed my neighborhood when I was a tiny entrepreneur telling folks that I was an orphan soliciting donations for cancer treatments. Not one of my prouder moments. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone was fooled. A few people tried to tame their amusement as they slipped me some change, which, in hindsight, was unnecessarily generous.

Regardless of my own childhood scheming, I instinctively felt the child in front of me on the train was being honest, and what’s more, I decided I didn’t care. He had mustered up plenty of pluck to come ask me for a few dollars, and I was going to give them to him. I opened up my envelope of cash (such a tourist) and pulled out a few bills for him. His relief turned into joy. “Thank you!” he cried as he walked across the car.

I heard him deliver his pitch to another woman with a satisfied emphasis on his new balance: “…and all I need is $48 now!” She grinned at me as she handed him a couple of bills as well.

A few minutes later, I saw another passenger on the train say no. The boy, clearly coached to deal with this politely, veiled his disappointment as best he could and gave a resigned little nod. I glanced over at the woman and noticed she’d been watching the exchange as well. When she looked over at me, her face had the same sympathetic smile I was sure my own face was wearing. I didn’t blame the other passenger — after all, any other day and any other mood and I might have decided to follow my own rule — but I did resolve to pray for all the boys to get to go to their basketball tournament.

(And you know what? If he’s playing video games or eating some cheesy poofs with my money at this very moment, by golly, I hope he’s enjoying them.)

. . .

It’s funny how sometimes things — like a brief exchange on a train — build a little nook in your heart. Some moments are like that. Some people are like that.

I made these Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars for a special person who occupies her own shelf in my heart. Martha is Mike’s great-aunt, for all intents and purposes, and she’s truly a crackerjack of a woman. She deserves all sorts of sweet things — video games and cheesy poofs, even! — but I decided on these bars for her birthday because I know she enjoys coconut. The chocolate layer was a whim, but what a great one — the bittersweet ganache is just enough to add a rich background flavor while still allowing the coconut cream to shine.

These bars take a little time and a little arm muscle, but they’re easy to assemble and more than worth the time spent by the stove. If you love a good coconut cream pie, you’ll love them.

Tell me about a moment when you broke one of your own rules.

Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking with filling adapted from All Recipes
Yield: 12-16 bars, depending on size

Okay, 30 minutes of stirring sounds like a lot. But now that I know how incredible these bars are, I would stir for an hour if I had to — maybe even two! They combine all the goodness of an old-fashioned coconut cream pie with the perfect amount of rich ganache. In short, these things are amazing. I used stabilized whipped cream on top of my bars, but if you’re serving them immediately and don’t anticipate keeping them long, feel free to just use plain whipped cream.

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup icing sugar

Ganache Ingredients:
3/8 cups heavy cream
about 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I love Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao chips)
about 3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Coconut Cream Filling Ingredients:
3 cups half-and-half
3 cups coconut milk
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon cold water (for stabilizing)
1 teaspoon gelatin (for stabilizing)
3-4 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 cup coconut, toasted

Directions:
Make shortbread crust: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 13 in. baking dish with a parchment paper sling (I use one long sheet across the length of my dish, and two overlapping short sheets across the width of my dish — just arrange it so that it has some overlap and overhang to help you pull the bars out after they’re finished). Cut the butter into the flour and icing sugar and press into the baking dish (I used a food processor to cut the fat into the flour — about 6 pulses — and then the bottom of a glass to press the mixture into the pan). Bake 18-20 minutes or until light brown. Set on a wire rack. Keep oven preheated for coconut toasting.

Make ganache: While the shortbread is baking, place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or microwave it for a couple of minutes). Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Set it aside until your crust is finished and has cooled for a few minutes, and then pour it over the crust (it’s okay if it’s not cooled all the way). Place the chocolate covered crust in the fridge to chill until the ganache is set into a firm layer.

Toast coconut for the topping: Spread about 1/2 cup of the coconut flakes out on a baking sheet and toast for a few minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the coconut is golden brown. Spread it out on a plate to cool completely.

Make coconut cream filling: Combine the half-and-half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking constantly (this can take anywhere from 30-38 minutes. Some folks on All Recipes said you could zap it in the microwave for a minute at a time, stirring after every minute, until it was thickened. It was only supposed to take around 5-10 minutes, but I was too chicken to try. Let me know if you do.) Add coconut and vanilla extracts and the 1 1/2 cups of untoasted coconut and stir. Pour this filling over your chilled ganache and stick the whole thing in the fridge to chill until firm, about 2 to 4 hours.

Make whipped cream topping: Put 1 tablespoon cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Let it soften for 2 minutes before microwaving it for 30 seconds and whisking to dissolve the gelatin. Using a chilled bowl and beater, whisk the 2 cups of heavy cream and icing sugar together until the cream forms stiff peaks, stopping to add gelatin mixture about halfway through. Dollop the cream over your bars and gently spread it around. Sprinkle on toasted coconut. Chill until ready to serve to let the whipped cream set up. Use the sling to pull the bars out of the dish, slice with a sharp knife, and enjoy!

If you liked this post, please:
-Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
-Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
-Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
-Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon
-Pin It


Shareother ways to share this post with friends

Print Friendly
Or you can share this post:
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Stumbleupon
This post is published on Willow Bird Baking. All rights reserved by Julie Ruble.

If you liked this post, please:
-Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
-Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
-Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

A_Boleyn February 27, 2012 at 4:04 am

The story is lovely and I too hope that boy and the rest of his group got to go on their trip.

The coconut bars look delicious but, unfortunately, are a bit more labour intensive than I can justify unless it’s for a very special person/event. Maybe one will come up in the future but for right now, I’ll just enjoy them vicariously.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 27, 2012 at 4:10 am

They’re actually quite easy — just time consuming. Unless you count the arm muscles part. LOL.

Thanks :)

Reply

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga February 27, 2012 at 5:10 am

That cream layer…Omg. I want. Lots and lots of THAT!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Thanks, Averie :)

Reply

Penny Wolf February 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Since when is basically a little measuring and a little stirring considered labor? I manage to cook
everyday and make a dessert each week. With some time management and a little multi tasking in the kitchen it would be done in no time. It looks great!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Thanks, Penny! I’ve learned via the blog that different people have VERY different tolerances for how much kitchen time they can handle. LOL. Personally, I can stay in the kitchen for hours and still feel a recipe is pretty simple, but I try to let people know in case they’re of the “30 minutes or less” mindset ;)

Reply

Tina@flourtrader February 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm

This does look like a tasty one and I do not mind time in the kitchen if it yields this kind of results! Your pictures look stunning as well as delicious. Delicious layers of flavors, I am definitely saving this so I can enjoy the great taste! Happy Monday!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 2:27 am

Thanks, Tina! Happy Monday :)

Reply

Rhonda February 27, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Yum, these look so good! Reminds me of the coconut cream pie that I just had from Sunflour Bakery in Elizabeth this weekend. Have you tried theirs? It had a thin layer of chocolate between the cream and the crust.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 27, 2012 at 5:18 pm

NO, but now I have to!! I haven’t been to Sunflour, but it’s been on my list. Putting a layer of ganache in my coconut cream pie is definitely on my to-do list after my little “experiment.” :) Thanks, Rhonda!

Reply

Amanda February 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I love that story. And you’re so right – I’d like to think he was being honest about raising that money (and from the way you described his tone, it sounds like he was), but who really cares if he ended up spending it on video games?

Your recipe sounds heavenly. I love coconut!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 2:28 am

Thanks, Amanda :) I’m a huge coconut fan too! I hated it as a kid, so I guess I’m making up for lost time.

Reply

natalie (the sweets life) February 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I admit I’m a little bit skeptical when people ask for money as well–but it feels good sometimes to take a chance on people and know that regardless, you’re hopefully making SOME sort of impression!

i wish i could’ve sampled these bars…they sound RIGHT up my alley! Going to have to find time to stir sometime :)

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 2:29 am

Thanks, Natalie! Yes, carve out some time to stir — and maybe a volunteer to sub in ;) It really wasn’t too bad, but an extra pair of arms would’ve been nice. LOL.

Reply

Deanna February 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I love coconut cream pie, and the bars look so much easier to transport! We had the cutest little girl come sell Girl Scout cookies the other day. I’d already bought some, but I had to have another box because she was just so scared.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 2:42 am

LOL, I would totally do the same thing! How sweet :) Thanks, Deanna!

Reply

what katie's baking February 27, 2012 at 10:47 pm

i try not to be, but i’m also wary of people asking for money. you never know, though, and i’d rather risk it and give it to them, too.
these look so awesome. seriously!! i love that you made them into bars instead of an actual pie.
are you going to the festival this year?

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 2:30 am

Thanks, Katie! You know, I usually try to give food or supplies that might help a bit more than money, but for this little one, food wasn’t going to get him to Reno ;) He was too cute.

I’m not sure re: the festival. I’d LOVE to, but I always rely on the generosity of a sponsor or winning a contest or some such something, since I can’t afford the flight on my own. Here’s hoping something will come through! :)

Reply

Natalie @ Once Upon a Cutting Board February 28, 2012 at 2:10 am

That was such a cute story .. I used to hate when we had to try to aise money for various school events and fundraisers so I can sympathize with that boy!
These coconut bars look absolutely amazing! I don’t usually see chocolate in coconut cream pies but now I wonder why not – it makes perfect sense!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 2:31 am

I know what you mean, Natalie! I always opted out of raising funds (and of the prizes/etc. associated with it, but oh well!)

Thank you :)

Reply

Joanne February 28, 2012 at 2:44 am

I try not to give money on the trains either but I definitely have broken my rules for little kids. They’re just so cute! And I can’t bear the thought of some of them going hungry because I refused to give a dollar or two.

I love all things coconut and all things creamy! These sound perfect to me!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 2:58 am

Thanks, Joanne :D

Reply

Kaitlin February 28, 2012 at 4:37 am

Your blog is so uplifting! I love it :) This is such a happy place. I want to share, but I can’t think of a good example of breaking my own rules that ended on a good note. Lol. I’ll keep you posted ;)

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Aww, thank you Kaitlin :) And you know, that’s a good point — plenty of times breaking your own rules ends badly. Though I bet those times were still quite the learning experiences (maybe you’d’ve rather had a little less learnin’, though. LOL) :)

Reply

Kaitlin February 28, 2012 at 4:37 am

Oh! Also! Absolutely gorgeous photos. That first one is totally striking. You rock!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Thank you!! Means a lot coming from you — I always love yours :)

Reply

Jessica @ How Sweet February 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I am a major major major fan of coconut cream pie. These look to die for!!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Thank you, Jessica!

Reply

Barbara @ Barbara Bakes February 28, 2012 at 5:51 pm

It looks so luscious! How great to have the pie in bar form.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 29, 2012 at 4:38 am

Thank you, Barbara!

Reply

CulinarilyCourtney February 28, 2012 at 7:58 pm

I always love reading your stories. So sweet and heart-warming! I am a coconut lover and this recipe looks very tempting :)

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 29, 2012 at 4:38 am

Aw, thank you!

Reply

Steve February 29, 2012 at 3:11 am

I know not everyone has this sort of thing but the whole 30 minutes of whisking while heating thing can be easily surmounted if you happen to have a thermomix (or the new knockoff) since it heats AND mixes at the same time.

So yeah, while not everyone will have that i’ll tell you it makes it soooo much easier.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 29, 2012 at 4:37 am

Good to know, Steve!

Reply

Memoria February 29, 2012 at 6:03 am

Seems it would be quicker to just treat the filling like a regular custard (which it basically is) and just temper the eggs with the hot milk and cornstarch mixture. Then return the combination to the saucepan until it thickens in 5-7 minutes. I may have to try it out that way. Anyway, I’m just happy that this isn’t just a vanilla custard with toasted coconut thrown in like I’ve seen in many other recipes. This is a true coconut custard. YUM! It looks amazing.

I enjoyed reading the story and how you left mini-cliffhangers betwixt delicious photos of the dessert. Now that I don’t carry cash anymore, I couldn’t offer money even if I wanted to. However, if I had had cash on me on that bus, I would have given the little boy some. He seemed to be sincere based on your description.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

This is similar to that, Memoria, but I’m not sure if using that method versus having the eggs in, in the beginning would chance the time much. It might still take longer to thicken because of the volume (it’s a LOTTA custard). Let me know if you try it! I’m sure everyone would appreciate a little less stirring. So worth it, though :)

I know what you mean about not carrying cash — if I hadn’t been being touristy, I probably wouldn’t have had any, either!

Reply

Lisa L February 29, 2012 at 8:38 am

Julie – forgive my ignorance, but what is a “sling” that you refer to for lifting out the bars? These do sound divine and since my muse Jessica at How Sweet It Is raved on these, I will have to try them. I do find when I make bar cookies that the crust sticks to the bottom of the pan. Still tastes good but leaves something to be desired in the presentation. Any tips?

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Hi Lisa, I just use a few sheets of parchment — one long one and two short ones. I put the long one in the pan longways and then the two short ones across the pan (they will overlap, which you want). Then I pack my crust down into these. It helps to lift the bars out at the end and make them pretty :) Hope you love them!

Reply

Jenni March 1, 2012 at 1:41 am

These bars look amazing! I love coconut cream pie, I will have to try these!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 1, 2012 at 5:02 am

Thanks, Jenni! I hope you love them!

Reply

christina @ ovenadventures March 1, 2012 at 9:20 pm

these bars look fantastic. i’m always a sucker for kids that are trying to raise money. If they have the guts to come up and ask total strangers for help then I am always willing to spare a couple bucks.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 2, 2012 at 12:44 am

I know, right?! It’s just too cute! Thanks, Christina.

Reply

Jennifer March 2, 2012 at 3:21 am

Interesting story. I just have to say….those bars look soft enough to sleep on. Potential next post….chocolate and coconut cream pie pillows? :)

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 2, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Sounds good to me! Thanks, Jennifer :)

Reply

K&B N. March 4, 2012 at 5:00 am

Quaint, cute little thing! I love the incorporation of coconut

ratedkb.blogspot.com

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Thanks :)

Reply

Elaine March 9, 2012 at 2:31 am

These looked so wonderful that I decided to make them for all the teachers at school. HOWEVER, I always like to make a recipe first before taking it somewhere so I made a half recipe tonight. Absolutely delicious. The only thing I did not have was the coconut extract, but I will get some for the next batch . It only took my custard about 14 minutes to thicken. Great recipe and really quite easy..

Thanks!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 9, 2012 at 4:57 am

Hooray, I’m so glad you enjoyed them, Elaine! Are they coconutty enough without the extract, or do you think folks should make a grocery run if they don’t have it? So glad your custard only took 14 minutes, too!

Thanks — hope the teachers love them (I know my colleagues and I would be over the moon if someone brought us coconut bars!)

Reply

Elaine March 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm

They definitely had a coconut flavor, but I think the extract would deepen that flavor and make it even yummier! So glad I found your blog. You have some delightful recipes. I also think that the custard alone would be wonderful as a pie filling.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 9, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Aw, thanks Elaine! I’m glad to have you here! :)

Reply

bet April 5, 2012 at 4:45 pm

This may be a silly question – but is the coconut sweetened or unsweetened? Thanks! :o)

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Not silly! I’d use regular sweetened flakes you find in the baking aisle.

Reply

Amber April 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I made these for Easter…So good!!! And not hard to make at all! Thanks for the amazing recipe!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking April 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I’m so glad you enjoyed them, Amber!!

Reply

Stephanie May 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Great blog – I love all the coconut!
I was just about settled on your Coconut Cream Tart recipe when I saw this one, and can’t resist the chocolate! I want to make a tart for a birthday dessert next week, and thought I’d just add a ganache layer to your original C.C. Tart recipe – but I noticed the cream filling in these bars is a little bit different. Do you prefer it to the coconut pastry cream?

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking May 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Thanks Stephanie! It really just depends on what texture you’re going for — the pastry cream is a thick cream whereas this is more of a pudding-like coconut cream filling. I’d say the coconut pastry cream would be less likely than this one to stay pretty firm when cut. I love them both!

Reply

Jeanne June 3, 2012 at 12:06 am

I made these for some friends and have passed your website along to three people as a result, and I’m sure it’s gone on from there when they’ve passed it to their friends. This was decadent, and so far I’ve had to tell everyone who has tried them that I made them, they all think they were made by professionals. You’ve made me look very good!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking June 5, 2012 at 2:49 am

I’m so glad to hear that, Jeanne! These are some of my favorite treats and I love that your friends enjoyed them! Kudos to you for being an awesome chef!

Reply

Debbie Johnson June 17, 2012 at 12:26 am

I have a recipe that is very similar that you can make either coconut or chocolate pie from the same base. You can put it in the microwave. It looks gross the first time you nuke it. the second time add 1 1/2 Tbs butter and nuke it again. take it out and stir , stir between each nuking. It works beautifully!! The first time I did it Icouldn’t believe it, because I have scorched many a pie and had to start over. This works every time!!I do hope you try it… You’ll never go back!!

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking June 17, 2012 at 1:17 am

Hey Debbie, Thanks for this note! I actually did try the microwave-and-stir procedure for another recipe I did after this and it was great in a pinch — but I did find the texture to be less smooth and creamy with that method. Maybe the butter helps!

Reply

Chelsea June 29, 2012 at 2:45 am

I made these last night for a special dessert this evening. It was amazing! Chocolate and coconut are a match made in heaven–and add to that a wonderful short crust–you’ve got yourself a winner right here. The custard-making process was so interesting; it was nice to not have to temper the eggs. I find stirring somewhat therapeutic, so the thirty minutes was kind of nice. This was definitely great for the 100+ degree we’re having in the midwest. The only problem, a minor one at that, I had was the crust’s baking time. It took me nearly twice as long. I guess I really need to invest in an oven thermometer.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking June 29, 2012 at 2:53 am

Chelsea, I’m so glad you loved them and enjoyed making them too!! Good to know about your crusts, so that others know there may be a variation with different ovens. Thank you!!

Reply

Rose August 17, 2012 at 1:23 am

Julie…i can’t wait to try this recipe. Looks totally sinful! I have a question….for the crust, the recipe states “icing sugar”. I feel like this means confectioner sugar. Can you confirm that for me? Thank you for your beautifully written stories and recipes. I am new to your site and I love it.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking August 17, 2012 at 1:59 am

Aw, thanks Rose! Yes, icing and confectioners’ sugar are one and the same. Hope you love these!!

Reply

Tanya September 2, 2012 at 1:05 am

My daughter and I made these today and they are delicious!!! I only had unsweetened coconut but they still turned out really good! They were easy to make and it didn’t take long since you use the fridge to cool. We will make these again. Thank you for sharing your recipe! :)

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking September 2, 2012 at 1:06 am

This makes me so happy to hear! Thank you, Tanya! I’m so glad you enjoyed them!

Reply

Yvonne February 4, 2013 at 3:31 pm

These look delicious. I am thinking of making them for my husband for valentines day since he loves coconut.

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 4, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Ooh, great idea!! These are perfect Valentines for a sweetie :) Hope you love them, Yvonne!

Reply

Deb March 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

These look amazing!! How many days in advance can you make them? Thanks! :)

Reply

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I think you could make them a couple days in advance and leave off the whipped topping and be fine :) Put the topping on the day you’re serving.

Reply

Deb March 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Thank you! I can’t wait to try them!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: