Remember magic bars from the old bake sale days? These magic bars are a somewhat more sophisticated version of those. The browned butter gives the shortbread-like crust a delicious nutty flavor. Believe it or not, the original recipe called for crispy bacon to be added to give a bit of a salty kick. I decided to omit the bacon and sprinkle Maldon sea salt flakes over the coconut mixture instead. These chewy, sweet, salty, and delicious bars are flat out delicious.
adapted from: Food + Wine
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
heaping ½ cup salted roasted almonds
one 16-ounce jar dulce de leche
one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
large pinch or two of flaky sea salt, like Maldon
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9-by-13 inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving up to 1 inch of overhang. Spray the paper with vegetable oil spray.
In a medium saucepan, cook the butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and browned, about 4-5 minutes. Scrape the butter into a large bowl and freeze just until solid, about 15 minutes.
Using a handheld electric mixer, beat the sugar, vanilla seeds and egg yolk into the butter at medium speed until blended. Add the flour and salt and beat until moistened crumbs form. Press the crumbs into the prepared baking pan and bake in the lower third of the oven for about 25 minutes, until the crust is set and lightly browned. Let cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Meanwhile, wipe out the bowl used to make the crust. In the bowl, toss the coconut with the chocolate chips and almonds.
In another bowl, whisk the dulce de leche with the condensed milk; pour two-thirds of it onto the crust. Lightly press the coconut mixture over the dulce de leche. Evenly sprinkle two large pinches of Maldon sea salt over the coconut mixture. Drizzle the remaining dulce de leche mixture on top.
Bake the bars for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the bars cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Carefully remove the bars from the pan and peel off the paper. Cut into bars and serve.
The bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days or refrigerated for up to 1 week.