I don’t want to write about baking today—I want to write about how much I love the Olympics. I’ve watched the coverage every night and had it on in the background while I’ve baked during the day. This isn’t a recent habit—I grew up in a family that gathered to watch the games (summer or winter) every night they were on, and I even once had a wall of my teenage bedroom dedicated to the decorated short track speedskater Apolo Ohno.
Yeah…when it comes to the Olympics, I’m a real big nerd. I’m also a baseball nerd and an Oscars nerd, so…well, maybe I just watch too much TV. That’s probably it.
Anyway, this isn’t an Olympics blog. It’s a baking blog. So, let’s talk about baked goods, specifically Almond Joy Shortbread Bars.
If you’re going to try to improve on the practically perfect combination of chocolate, almonds, and sweet coconut filling, layering it all onto a buttery chocolate shortbread crust is a pretty good way to start.
All the layers in these bars make them look like they take hours to prepare, but in reality, they take about 90 minutes from start to finish and are nearly no-bake. That easy chocolate shortbread crust is the only layer that has to spend time in the oven.
It’s topped with a thick layer of coconut filling and dotted with whole roasted almonds…
…and a layer of milk chocolate. You can use dark chocolate if you like, but apparently Almond Joys are made with milk chocolate. I’ve been wrong for two years. Oh well.
But back to the bars. Slice ‘em up and admire your handiwork. #thoselayerstho
The flavor is everything you love about sweet, chewy, crunchy Almond Joys, but better because they’re homemade. Oh, and because they have a crispy layer of chocolate shortbread offsetting all their sweetness. After sinking your teeth into one of these, you’ll never be able to go back to the mass-produced candy bar.
Y’all, these are seriously good. I know I say that about everything on this blog, but I really mean it today. These are a gold medal recipe for sure.
Almond Joy Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch square pan, about 16 bars
Chocolate Shortbread Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1/2 cup whole raw almonds
5 fluid ounces (10 tablespoons) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil and grease well with butter. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, light brown sugar, and salt. Use your fingertips to rub butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 14-15 minutes, until no longer wet-looking. Let shortbread crust cool completely in the pan on a rack.
Make the filling. Place almonds on a dry baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut. Mixture will be very thick. Drop filling in spoonfuls over the cooled crust and spread across the entire surface. Arrange almonds in lines (or as desired) over the top of the coconut and press down to adhere. Freeze full pan for 15 minutes.
Make the chocolate topping. Combine chopped milk chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, just until melted. Drop chocolate over filling one spoonful at a time. Use a small offset icing knife (or a silicone spatula) to carefully spread it over a section of the filling. Continue dropping and spreading chocolate until it’s all used and the almonds are covered. Freeze until chocolate has hardened, about 15 minutes.
Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel foil down the sides. Use a lightly-greased sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Lift bars from foil with a thin spatula. Serve.
Bars may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. Layer them with wax paper if they are to be stacked.