Dulce de Leche Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars
Dulce de leche is translated as candy of milk or milk candy.
These (candy) bars are translated as one of the richest things I’ve made in 2013, and one of the best.
If you’re the type of person who complains about desserts being too sweet or too rich, stop reading now because these bars are both.
Dulce de leche is similar in texture and thickness to thick homemade caramel sauce, but rather than being made from butter, brown sugar, and cream like caramel sauce, it’s made by cooking sweetened condensed milk. It’s caramely, sweet, rich, and smooth.
I’ve always loved Seven Layer Bars (Hello Dolly Bars) and these bars are a riff on those. They’re a five layer bar made with shredded coconut, chocolate and white chocolate chips, and rather than sweetened condensed milk, I used dulce de leche.
But coming up with these felt like an episode of Chopped. Here’s what went down in my head.
You must use: At least 1 of the 3 bags of shredded coconut that you’ve somehow accumulated. You must use an almost expired can of dulce de leche. You cannot use cocoa powder because there’s not enough left to do anything with. You cannot bake cookies or muffins because your oven sucks. You must use some of at least two of the partially-used bags of white/chocolate/peanut butter/butterscotch chips. You cannot make a no-bake bar because you make too many of those already.
Only one bowl is dirtied, no mixer used, and they take 5 minutes to get from cupboard to oven.
The base layer is a stick of melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and flour that’s stirred together and pressed into a pan. It’s not quick as thick as cookie dough, but nearly.
The brown sugar and butter caramelize while baking, intensifying and adding to the overall deep caramel flavor in the bars.
Then sprinkle on white chocolate chips, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and top with half of one can of dulce de leche. You can buy dulce de leche in many grocery stores, including Eagle or Nestle brands, Williams-Sonoma makes one, or try La Salamandra online.
Make your own by submerging 1 unopened can of sweetened condensed milk into a boiling pot of water for 3 to 4 hours. Voila, dulce de leche.
If you absolutely don’t want to be bothered, you can substitute with sweetened condensed milk, but you’ll miss out on the lovely caramel flavor and thick, rich texture. Or you could try using half caramel sauce, half sweetened condensed milk.
Biting into the bars is a texture and flavor lovers’ dream.
The dulce de leche bubbles and caramelizes in the oven, turns thicker, and becomes bronzed.
The white chocolate chips underneath are creamy, melty, and complement the dulce de leche and the coconut. The coconut toasts slightly while baking, but doesn’t get crispy because it’s covered by the golden dulce de leche layer.
The brown sugar cookie dough base firms up and add some heft, firmness, chewiness, and structure to the softer, gooier topping layer.
I’m grateful for forcing Chopped onto myself because otherwise I never would have come up with these.
And I’m really glad I did. They’re worth running in the heat for.
Dulce de Leche Coconut Chocolate Chip Bars
These rich, soft, gooey, five layer bars are a riff on Seven Layer Bars. They’re made with shredded coconut, chocolate and white chocolate chips, and rather than sweetened condensed milk, use dulce de leche. It’s thick, rich, caramely and available in many grocery stores, online, or make your own (see blog post). The recipe calls for half of one can, and the unused portion can be used as ice cream topping, smeared on toast, as a fruit dip, in your coffee or tea, or double the recipe and bake in a 9×13 pan, thereby using the whole can. The dulce de leche caramelizes and turns golden and bubbly, but keep an eye on bars and lower oven temp to 325F or tent pan with foil if yours is browning a bit too quickly or too much. The bars are a texture lovers’ dream, and they’re made in own bowl, no mixer, in less than 5 minutes. Cooling the bars overnight is recommended.
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (butterscotch or peanut butter chips may be substituted)
1 cup loosely packed sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
half of one 14-ounce can dulce de leche (make your own, or storebought; sweetened condensed milk may be substituted but the flavor/texture of bars will change)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. Lining your pan is mandatory so bars don’t stick and for cleanup ease.
- In a medium microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
- Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
- Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
- Turn mixture out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula and spreading mixture into corners.
- Evenly sprinkle with white chocolate chips.
- Evenly sprinkle with coconut.
- Evenly sprinkle with chocolate chips.
- Pour or scoop out about half the can of dulce de leche and evenly spread it with a knife or spatula over the chocolate chips. Take your time and use a light hand as to not disturb the underneath layers. It doesn’t have to cover all crevices because it spreads some as it bakes.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, or until dulce de leche is golden, bubbly, and bars show signs of being set around the edges. The coconut will look crispy at the edges. Because ovens, ingredients, and climates vary, use your judgment when your bars are done. Watch your bars, not the number on the clock. If at any time your dulce de leche layer seems to be browning too fast, turn your oven down to 325F and/or cover the pan with a sheet of foil.
- Allow bars to set up for at least 2 hours, or overnight (strongly recommended), before slicing and serving. The butter in the base, the natural coconut oil, and the milkfat in the dulce de leche all seep out while baking, but reabsorb as the bars cool over time. Bars will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
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Magic Eight Bars – Like Seven Layer Bars, but with 8
Peanut Butter Caramel Twix Bars (almost no-bake) – One of the favorite 2013 bars
Nutella-Swirled Peanut Butter Chip Blondies – Made these the last time I was in Aruba and they turned into a Pinterest hit
10-Minute Homemade Hot Fudge (GF) – Never buy storebought again
Have you tried dulce de leche?