By Mary Jo McMillin of mjcuisine
For the last choir rehearsal before summer break, it seems like a good idea to take along a plate of cookies. There’s a package of coconut staring at me and walnuts left from winter cakes. I flip to that page in the Joy of Cooking with the old recipe for Angel Slices and see a series of notes. There’s an old file card with a similar recipe from Dorrie Waltz, the walnut shortbreads notes from the shop, and the memory of baking these bars for the nurses at DeKalb County Hospital who gave me so much support following Catherine’s birth decades ago. It’s a great recipe; time to bring it out again.
After years of experience, I’ll take the liberty to make a few changes. For the shortbread base, I’ll use my standard 1,2,3 proportions instead of the egg yolk pastry suggested. The basic 1,2,3 shortbread never fails especially when made with European style butter. This is the cookie recipe always to have in your hip pocket memory : 1 oz. sugar, 2 oz. butter, 3 oz. flour; include a pinch of salt with unsalted butter and a quarter teaspoon vanilla for free standing cookies.
Dorrie suggested half corn syrup and the Joy includes another ½ cup brown sugar which makes the squares way too sweet. I opt to cut
the syrup and limit the brown sugar in the topping to 1 cup. The lemon glaze drizzle is optional but adds a festive flair if you have time for the fiddly bit. These old fashioned bars always bring a nostalgic swoon, a good choice to say goodbye and thank you.
Coconut Walnut Squares
2 oz. brown sugar (heaped ¼ cup)
4 oz. butter
6 oz. all purpose flour (1 cup + 3 tablespoons)
¼ teaspoon salt if unsalted butter
7 oz. brown sugar, light or dark (1 cup packed)
2 tablespoons flour
scant ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz. walnuts, lightly toasted, chopped (1 cup)
4 oz. flaked, sweetened coconut (1 cup)
3 oz. powdered sugar
fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350º. Line an 11 by 7-inch baking tin with parchment for easier removal. Prepare the shortbread base by mixing the softened butter into the 2 oz. brown sugar and 6 oz. flour. Crumble the cookie mixture over the base of the baking tin. Pat the base evenly over the bottom of the tin, smoothing the top with back of a spoon. Bake the base 15-20 minutes or until lightly colored around the edges and the top beginning to lose the “raw” look.
Meanwhile combine 7 oz. brown sugar with 2 tablespoons flour, salt, baking powder and whisk in the 2 eggs with vanilla. Mix to insure brown sugar lumps are melted. Add walnuts and coconut.
When the shortbread base is ready, dollop the coconut mixture over the top and spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Return the tin to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove to cooling rack and while still warm decorate with a thin icing made from powdered sugar and lemon juice. Use the tines of a fork or a pastry bag with a writing tip to drizzle the icing.
Cool thoroughly until the icing has hardened. Invert the cookie rectangle into a cooling rack, peel off parchment and upend it onto a cutting board. Cut into squares. Makes 36-48 luscious bites.