When I moved in with my roommate, I thought it would be a short-term deal. We were friendly, but didn’t know each other particularly well, and I honestly didn’t think we’d get along in close quarters—the original plan was that I’d live here for six months or so while I recovered from the end of a relationship.Flash forward three years and I’m still here, living with the same guy. Turns out that an obsessive baker who mostly wears pajamas and a neat freak can, in fact, live in peace. And make each other laugh really hard.Before I get to the point and why this is relevant to Coconut Cluster Brownies, I have to say that this is not some sort of romantic announcement. Hahahahahaha absolutely not.But let me confuse you further by telling you that he got me a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t a romantic gesture. We get each other things all the time—I sometimes make Super Sprinkle Sugar Cookies just because I know he likes them and I regularly find new jars of peanut butter on my baking bench because he sees them on sale and knows I’ll put them to use. In the case of the Valentine’s candy, we both happen to have a thing for cheap drugstore chocolate. High brow, we are not.The small Whitman’s Sampler that I received only had a few pieces in it, and I immediately determined the order in which I would eat them, one at a time, over the next few days. The caramel went first, followed by the buttercream and the ganache. The last one, the candy that I was the least excited about, was the Coconut Cluster. It was shaped like a peanut butter cup, but instead of being a filling enrobed in chocolate, it was a block of milk chocolate speckled with bits of coconut. As I went to eat it so I could toss the heart-shaped box, I didn’t expect much, but then I popped it into my mouth and suddenly became obsessed with putting this rich, simple chocolate-coconut combination on a brownie. And so, a month later, I did.These Coconut Cluster Brownies are nothing more than my favorite Cocoa Brownies topped with a layer of milk chocolate coconut candy. The brownie layer is rich and chewy with a touch of salt, while the candy layer is chocolaty, coconutty and slightly soft from the addition of a few tablespoons of butter. They’re great at room temperature, but if you chill the brownies, the candy gets a little on the snappy side. This is heaven for a texture freak like me.If you love chocolate, coconut, and brownies like I do, you will want to hoard all of these for yourself……but maybe set one or two or four aside for your friend who puts up with your late night baking and knows you well enough to know how you feel about sale-priced peanut butter and cheap chocolate. That’s a good sort of person to have around.
Coconut Cluster Brownies
brownie recipe adapted from Alice Medrich
makes about 16 brownies
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the inside of an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on all sides, and butter again. Set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan or the microwave. Stir butter, sugars, and cocoa together in a large mixing bowl. Let mixture cool for a couple of minutes. Add the eggs one-by-one, mixing until they are completely incorporated. Stir in vanilla extract. Fold in flour and salt just until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap the full pan on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack.
In a double boiler (or in 30-second increments in the microwave), melt chocolate and butter together. Fold in coconut. Mixture will be thick and heavily textured. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to spread mixture over brownies. Score chocolate with a knife for easier slicing. Top with additional coconut, if desired. Chill full pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Use parchment overhang to remove brownies to a cutting board and slice along score-lines. Serve, or refrigerate in an airtight container, layering brownies with wax paper to prevent sticking. Brownies will keep well for 4-5 days.