As I was trying to come up with my Game Day menu for this week, I found myself flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks. I was looking for an appetizer, but flipped to the wrong part of the book and landed in the dessert section. There is was, staring right at me…Caramel-Coconut-Pecan Cheesecake Bars. I looked at the recipe, it looked at me. It said, “Christine, I think you should make me.” Never one to argue with a talking recipe, I replied, “Yes. I think I should.”
And so I did.
These cheesecake bars are the perfect dessert to throw together for a crowd. You must make it ahead of time and can make them up to two days ahead, they are delicious and rich enough that a 9×13 pan of them goes a long way.
Start by mixing together a simple and basic cheesecake recipe. You’ll make a quick graham cracker crust using store-bought graham cracker crumbs and butter and then blend together the creamy stuff. After 40 minutes in the oven, you’ll have this.
See those cracks on the top? They don’t matter, because you’re going to top the cheesecake with the most amazing frosting. A frosting so amazing that after I put it on the cheesecake, my husband and I dug around the pan with spoons trying to scrape up what was left and both of us pouted when it was gone. It’s crazy good.
For the frosting, you’ll need to toast up some chopped pecans in the oven. After the pecans, I suggest toasting up the coconut you’ll be using as well. The original recipe doesn’t call for toasted coconut, but I think coconut just tastes better toasted. Either way, I’m sure it’s good. So, do what you have time for. If you do toast the coconut, watch it carefully. It can burn so quickly. I usually keep an eye on it and then, as it starts to brown, I stir it up before putting it back in the oven for a couple of minutes more. You just want it to crisp up a little.
Once the coconut and pecans are toasted, you can concentrate on the frosting. In a saucepan, you’re going to melt down a heart attack worthy concoction of butter, brown sugar, vanilla and sweetened condensed milk. I did use fat-free sweetened condensed milk so that made me feel a little better about scraping the pan!
Bring this to a boil, stirring all the while. As much as you want to go change the channel on the TV or run a bath for your little one, now is not the time. There is serious frosting making at hand! After the mixture comes to a boil, continue stirring it until it really thickens up, almost to the consistency of pudding, about 5 minutes after it starts to boil. Once thickened, you’ll remove it from the heat and stir in those pecans and the coconut. Holy…Moly.
Next, you’ll spread the frosting, while it’s warm, over the cooled cheesecake. Carefully spread it out and if you feel like you still need an extra little something, feel free to sprinkle the bars with mini-chocolate chips like I did. Millions of Samoa cookie lovers can’t be wrong. Do yourself a favor and save yourself a spoonful, for testing purposes, of course.
The bars need to chill at least 6 hours. When you take them out of the fridge to slice them, they’ll be pretty firm as the topping chills to be fairly solid. Slice them up and let them sit out for a bit before you eat them. Also, they are quite rich, so small bar cookie slices will do!
I’m so glad I let the recipe talk me into making them. I hope you are too.
CARAMEL-COCONUT-PECAN CHEESECAKE BARS
Adapted from Southern Living
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup butter, melted
- 4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened (low-fat is OK)
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- 2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk (fat-free is OK)
- ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1½ cups sweetened, flaked coconut, toasted
- 1½ cups chopped pecans, toasted
- mini chocolate chips, optional
- Preheat oven to 350*
- In a small bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and the melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch pan.
- Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
- Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Combine the sugar and the flour and gradually add to the cream cheese, beating just until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until blended. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the prepared crust, spreading to the edges of the pan.
- Bake at 350* for 40 minutes or until the cheesecake is set in the middle (doesn't jiggle when you shake the pan a bit). Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
- Place first 4 frosting ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring all the while, until the mixture reaches a puddinglike thickness, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in toasted pecans and coconut.
- Pour warm Coconut-Pecan frosting over the cheesecake and spread it out evenly, to the edges of the pan. Cover and chill at least 6 hours or overnight. Cut into bars.