Totally delicious recipe for caramel coconut shortbread bars made with homemade caramel, unsweetened coconut and topped with a layer of dark chocolate.
When I discovered this recipe for caramel coconut shortbread bars years ago they quickly moved to the top of my favorite Christmas cookie list, since they include all the best elements:
- Buttery shortbread bottom layer.
- A second layer of caramel mixed with coconut.
- Finished with a layer of dark chocolate.
They remind me of Girl Scout Samoas Cookies, but with a lot more caramel. Which makes them kind of hard to give away in our goody bags, as you can imagine!
Caramel Coconut Shortbread Bars
While they seem complicated with the layers, to make these caramel coconut shortbread bars, you simply bake up a 5-ingredient shortbread crust, layer it with caramel layer that’s mixed with coconut and top it all with melted chocolate.
This recipe is adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe, which called for wrapped caramel candies. You can probably guess that I would not have any of those around (plus, they always taste funny to me – are they real?), so my version uses an easy caramel made with a can of sweetened condensed milk, that you can make one of two ways (it’s similar to my Caramel Apple Dip, but cooked longer).
Option 1: Make a lower-sugar caramel in the microwave.
- Pros: uses less sugar, doesn’t need constant stirring, no chance of burning on bottom, no thermometer needed.
- Cons: can overflow the bowl at the end if not watched, sets up harder – not as soft and chewy.
Option 2: Make a more traditional caramel on the stove with a candy thermometer.
- Pros: control consistency better with a thermometer, softer texture, makes more so you can make a few caramel candies, too.
- Cons: potential for burning, need to stir constantly, uses more sugar and a thermometer.
I’ve done it both ways (master of the obvious, here), and I can tell you that I like the finished product better when I use the stove-top version, but I like the ease of the microwave technique (and the almost no risk of burning). So I choose depending on the amount of time I have – you simply cannot do other things when making stove-top caramel.
To give you an idea of the difference, here is a comparison of the original photos I took of this recipe in 2010 using the stove-top caramel next to the current photos with the microwaved caramel that was refrigerated overnight (and let’s just focus on how far my photography skills have come and not how bad they were, k? 🙂 ):
I think you see what I mean by the texture differences. But I can tell you that both are equally delicious!
The ease of the microwaved version, plus the fact that it uses less sugar – and still tastes amazing! – is winning me over to that cooking technique, I think. It’s still chewy with the same great flavor. But since choices are a good thing, I’m giving you both cooking options in the printable recipe when you click the arrow below.
However you make the caramel, please make these – everyone on your goody list will LOVE them, I promise.