When my sister flew up to visit Easter weekend I baked her some delicious Meyer Lemon Cupcakes. I’d been working on the recipe for a while: delicious white almond sour cream cake, filled with a tart raspberry jam and topped with a decadent fresh Meyer Lemon Buttercream…..yum, except I forgot she doesn’t like lemon! Duh! To make up for my major baking faux pas I am sending her a new goodie that includes two of her all-time favorites of chocolate and coconut: Black Bottom Coconut Bars.

These bars bake up into a nice combination of rich, moist chocolate brownie, sweet nutty coconut macaroon and a crunchy toasted coconut topping. Almost like a Mounds Candy Bar, but better. You don’t even need a mixer to make these, just a bowl and whisk. The recipe I based this on can be found here, and above you can see step-by-step how I put them together, along with what alterations I made.

Whenever I get ready to bake I always gather my ingredients together first, that way I know if I’m out of sugar or vanilla before I get started. When I am sure I have everything it’s time for measuring.

Measure out all the ingredients into individual bowls. Bakers have a phrase for this process, “mise en place,” which basically means “everything in place.” By doing this prep work first you won’t accidentally leave out any ingredients or waste time looking for them once you’ve started.

I decided to add 1/2 tsp. of instant espresso powder to my chocolate mixture. I like the way the espresso gives the chocolate a more intense flavor.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (I lowered mine to 350 because my oven runs a little hot). Give the oven around 30 minutes to come up to the exact temperature needed. Hint: Checking the temperature with an oven thermometer placed on one of the racks will insure that the oven temperature is accurate, a smart move for those of us living in San Francisco apartments with less-than-new ovens.

Prepare the baking pan by lining with aluminum foil, letting it hang over the edges a bit. The edges will allow you to easily pick up the finished bars from the pan. Spray the foil with Pam cooking spray instead of butter — I find that Pam keeps things from sticking much better than butter. I used an 8 inch x 8 inch pan instead of the 9 inch x 9 inch (I ended up with 16 bars) pan recommended because I wanted a thicker cookie bar.

Make the chocolate base by whisking together the melted butter with the sugar and salt. Whisk in the egg. Whisk in the cocoa and flour (I also whisked in my 1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder) until the batter is smooth. Hints: Melt butter in a medium sized bowl so you can mix all your ingredients into it without dirtying another bowl. You can stabilize your mixing bowl for whisking by placing it on a kitchen towel.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth evenly across the bottom. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes until the sides pull away from the edges of the pan. Remove from oven (keep oven on) and let cool while you make the coconut topping.

While the chocolate base is cooling, have all the ingredients for the coconut topping measured and ready to mix.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla. With a spatula, mix in the flour and coconut. I used the entire 7 oz. of coconut in the topping mixture and added another extra 1/2 cup coconut later to sprinkle over the top.

When the chocolate base has cooled a little, place mounds of the coconut topping over the chocolate base until the entire base is covered. Next, sprinkle 1/2 cup of coconut over the topping. Tap coconut down lightly. Place pan back into the oven for 25-30 minutes until the coconut is golden.

Cool bars completely, remove from pan and peel off aluminum foil. Cut into small squares for serving. For gift-giving, buy a 9 inch x 9 inch pastry box (50 at craft store) and line with colorful waxed paper. Place each bar onto a small square of waxed paper and place in box.

To make wax paper squares: fold a piece of wax paper in half and then into quarters. Cut out small squares of wax paper with a decorative-edge scissors. Put each bar onto its own wax paper square and place in box.

Decorate the box with ribbons and strips of wax paper for a terrific gift. Enjoy!

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