Coconut Cream Bars

adapted from Willow Bird Baking

Crust Layer

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Coconut Cream Layer

3 cups half and half

3 cups coconut milk

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

2/3 cup cornstarch

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/2 tsp coconut flavoring (or extract, if available)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping

1 Tbsp cold water (for stabilizing)

1 tsp gelatin (for stabilizing)

2 cups heavy whipping cream

3-4 Tbsp powdered sugar

1 cup coconut, toasted

Crust Layer

Preheat oven:  350° F.

Prepare baking dish (9 X 13 inches) by making a foil sling by folding an 18" piece of foil lengthwise to an 8" width.  Fit the foil into the length of your baking pan.  Push it into the corners and up the sides of the pan.  Allow the excess foil to hang over the edge of the pan.

Cut a 14" length of foil and fit it into the width of the pan in the same manner, pushing it into corners and up the sides of the pan.  It will be perpendicular to the first piece.  Allow the excess foil to hang over the edge of the pan.

In a bowl, cut the butter into the flour and the powdered sugar, by hand or in the food processor.   Press the dough evenly into the baking dish,  Bake 18-20 minutes or until light brown.  Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

While the oven is on, toast the coconut for the topping.  Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Spread about 1 cup coconut flakes on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 3-6 minutes. Stir every few minutes until the coconut is a golden brown.  Remove from the oven and spread on a separate baking sheet or a plate to cool.

Coconut Cream Layer

In a large saucepan combine the half and half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.  Whisk constantly until it is thick and bubbling, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.  Add the coconut flavoring, vanilla extract, and 1 1/2 cups flaked coconut (not toasted).  Stir.

Pour the mixture over the cooled crust.  Allow to cool.  Place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours to chill until firm.

Whipped Cream Topping

Put 1 Tablespoon cold water in a small microwave safe bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface.  Let the gelatin soften for 2 minutes.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Whisk to dissolve the gelatin.  

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the 2 cups of heavy cream and powdered sugar together until the cream forms stiff peaks.  Stop about halfway through to add the gelatin mixture.  Gently spread the cream over the top of the bars.  Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top.  

Chill until ready to serve to allow the whipped cream to set up.  

Use the sling to lift the bars out of the dish.  Slice with a sharp knife and enjoy!