Magic bars are one of those party and picnic treats that are simply irresistible. These little bites are bursting with flavor and layers of nuts, coconut, chocolate chips, and a cookie-like crust. Most versions, sadly, are not gluten-free or vegan, relying instead on ingredients such as sweetened condensed milk, butter, and all-purpose flour. This healthier recipe will find its way into many picnic baskets over the summer -- for such a complex and sweet symphony of flavors, these snacks require little more than a handful of ingredients (most of which are already staples in our whole foods pantry). Welcome summer/pool parties/picnics/barbecue season: we've got the perfect treat in honor of you!
1. Gather the ingredients.
For the filling:
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups almonds
- 5 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup-3/4 cup chocolate chips
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup-3/4 cup nuts (I used peanuts and walnuts, but pecans and almonds are also great)
2. Make the coconut filling.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small or medium saucepan, add the entire can of coconut milk and coconut sugar and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, reduce the mixture to a simmer and let simmer for 10 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened. Remove from the heat while preparing the dough.
3. Make the almond flour.
In a high-speed dry blender, blitz the almonds into a flour. This should yield about 1 1/2 cups of almond flour. Alternately, you can simply use 1 1/2 cups pre-made almond flour.
4. Prepare the dough.
Line an 8 by 8 inch baking dish with parchment paper to make it easier to cut the bars later. If the coconut oil is not in a liquid state, heat in a saucepan until melted. In a bowl, add the almond flour, coconut sugar, sea salt, and coconut oil. Mix together until well combined, then press the dough into a layer into the prepared baking dish. It will be slightly sticky so press down firmly into the parchment paper.
5. Chop the nuts.
Chop the nuts into small pieces.
6. Add the filling.
Carefully, pour the coconut filling over the dough. It will still be very liquidy, but don’t worry. It will thicken when baking (and while being chilled).
7. Top with chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts.
Drop the chocolate chips, then sprinkle the coconut, then add the nuts over the filling. You can press them down into the liquid lightly with a spatula if you’d like. The variation in the amount of chocolate chips and nuts is a personal choice: the minimum is sufficient, but the maximum is more decadent.
8. Bake the bars.
Put the bars in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and let the pan cool for about 15 minutes.
9. Chill the bars and serve.
Place the bars in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 2-3 hours in the freezer. If you are keeping them in the freezer, take the pan out after a few hours and cut into desired size bars before they become too hard to cut. The refrigerated bars can be eaten right away; I would recommend thawing the bars from the freezer for about 15 minutes before serving. Pack up and keep bars cool until ready to serve at your next gathering. Enjoy!