Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Messing with Tradition - Coconut Orange Almond Squares

Christmas traditions run deep in the Twin Tables family. We find joy and comfort by doing the same things every year, from cutting down the Christmas tree down to baking the same cookies. Every now and then, however, we mess with tradition, and add an additional cookie to the Christmas table. Sometimes these are new, never before tried cookies, and other years it is a new favorite being celebrated with the holiday. This year it was the latter with our Coconut Orange Almond Squares. As mentioned in a previous blog, Twin Tables received a blue ribbon in the Eagle Brand bar cookie contest at the Puyallup Fair in 2006 with these beauties. The cookie, ironically, was created out of the base of another one of our Christmas cookies, Grandma's Mount Bars. So it was decided that we would make half of each cookie in the same pan. With grand intentions, we failed miserably. Instead we created two pans, with twice as many cookies. You can never have too much of a good thing, right? Well, the coconut bars received family approval and may stay in the recipe box for next Christmas, unless we find something new and exciting to try.

You can find the original recipe at Eagle Brand, but being true to form we have modified it since the blue ribbon. Some of us just can't leave well enough alone. This Christmas we decided to emphasize the orange flavor a bit more by adding orange marmalade to the graham cracker crust. The result was utterly delicious albeit sticky. Next time we may exclude the butter all together and just use the marmalade. Regardless, this cookie won because of the ease of preparation, simple components, and fabulous taste. Why make another Rice Krispy treat? These are just as easy and so much more decadent!

Coconut Orange Almond Squares
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoon orange marmalade, melted
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (about 9 whole graham cracker sheets, crushed)
1 (14 oz) can Eagle Brand Fat-Free sweetened condensed milk
1 (14 oz) bag sweetened, flaked coconut
1 small egg white
2 cups whole, raw, unsalted almonds
¼ cup brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange, divided
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the butter, marmalade and graham cracker crumbs together. Stir until well combined. Press mixture into the prepared pan, pressing all the way to the edges in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned; cool slightly.
3. In a bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and coconut; mix well. Spread mixture carefully over the slightly cooled graham cracker crust.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white with until frothy. Add almonds and toss to coat. In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, 1 teaspoon orange zest, orange juice and cinnamon. Add almond mixture, and stir well to combine, until sugar is moist and mixture coats each almond.
5. Place almonds, one at a time, on the coconut layer, spacing evenly. You can do as many or as few as you like. (You will have more almonds than space on the bars. Bake any extras on their own greased cookie sheet along side the bars for a delicious snack, appetizer, or dessert).
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until tips of coconut begin to brown and almonds are lightly toasted. Remove from oven. Cool slightly.
7. Sprinkle remaining orange zest over the top of the bars.
8. Cool completely and cut into bars.

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