I know this doesn't seem like this has anything to do with coconut cream bars (which are just as creamy and dreamy as they look!), but I have had allergies on the brain lately. Apparently, I am allergic to everything. Cats, dogs, mold, dust, hay, grass, and a host of other things yet unknown. Which is why I have 40 little stickers stuck to my back that are itching like crazy. But it will be good to finally know what it is that I am allergic to to, after not knowing for all this time.
Which has got me to thinking about allergies, because lots of people have them, and not just to dogs and cats and dust and pollen, but to foods as well. Before I knew about my gluten issues, I used to roll my eyes at people with special diets. Like, how pretentious can you get? I can't eat this, I can't eat that, treat me special. Back when I taught, I had a few students who were on gluten-free diets, and they were invariably the most difficult ones. I'm ashamed to say that on more than one occasion, I thought to myself "oh, of course you would be the one on the "gluten-free diet" you annoying kid." Ah, youth. It makes idiots of us all.
Because it was one of those students who actually turned me on to the fact that I had a gluten-problem myself. She brought cupcakes to class one day, and her mom chimed in, "and they're gluten free!" Inwardly I rolled my eyes, but after I ate one I thought "Woah. I don't feel sick after eating that cupcake. I always feel sick after eating a cupcake. What is this "gluten" stuff anyway?" And that was the end of that. Within 2 months, I had gone gluten-free for life. I had become the person I mocked. Haha! Life has a way turning things around on you like that.
All that is to say, you never know: it could happen to you. And if it does happen to you, you can take solace in the fact that allergies and intolerances don't mean the end to all good things. If you can't eat gluten (or whatever you happen to be allergic to... Unless you are allergic to coconut!), you can still eat these bars! (If you can eat gluten, you can eat them too, if you can get your hands on them!). I promise, one day you will never miss the gluten at all. I don't!
And what's to miss, when you can have these dreamy creamy coconut cream bars? It sucks to be allergic to stuff. I suppose I will just have to eat another coconut bar to console myself. Poor, poor me. I feel soooo sorry for myself.
Dreamy Creamy Coconut Bars
adapted from Martha Stewart magazine, May 2004
2.5 cups sweetened dried coconut flakes
1.5 cups white rice flour (or all purpose flour if gluten is not an issue)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick butter, melted
(if you want, you can just use pulsed up sugar cookies instead of the flour and sugar).
1 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can coconut milk
2 cups whole milk
5 eggs yolk
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces
1.5 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread coconut on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake 10-15 minutes (stirring occasionally if needed), until coconut is golden around the edges. Remove and let cool.
2. In a food processor, pulse together 1 cup of the toasted coconut, 1.5 cups rice flour, 1/2 a cup white sugar, and the melted butter. Pulse together 1-2 minutes until mixture is crumbly. Press into a 9x13 glass baking dish, and bake 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove, and let cool.
3. In a large non-reactive sauce pan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/2 a teaspoon salt. Mix in 1 can coconut milk, 2 cups whole milk, and 5 egg yolks. Whisk over high heat, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat, and whisk in pieces of butter and 1 cup of the toasted coconut.
4. Scrape coconut cream into crust, and smooth with a spatula. Press saran wrap to the surface of the coconut cream, so that no skin forms on the custard. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until cream is completely cooled.
5. In a stand mixer (or by hand if you are buff), beat 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream with 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar, until stiff. Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.
6. Cut cream and crust into bars. Pipe a zig zag of whipped cream onto each bar (so it looks pretty!) and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut. Enjoy!