Tag Archives: almond

Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeIn keeping with social distancing, baking with what I have, considering what you might have, thinking up swaps, and trying to make something Easter-appropriate, I present to you this Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake. It’s made with the last of a container of sour cream I found in my fridge, poppy seeds leftover from Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, and sliced almonds from Almond Boterkoek. The rest of the ingredients are baking basics/things I normally have around. Oh, and it only requires one egg—score!Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAs far as Easter goes, this is not my norm. This cake is not pastel or coconut or coated in my nemesis, poured fondant, but it feels decidedly springlike anyway. I mean, I know we eat almond things at other times of year, but doesn’t Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake scream springtime Sunday morning?Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeThe cake is just my usual coffee/crumb cake base, but perfumed with almond extract and studding with crunchy poppy seeds. It’s super moist and tender thanks to sour cream, milk and softened butter.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeI skipped the traditional coffee cake crumble here because I felt like it was competing with the poppy seeds—too much crunch, ya know? Instead, I’ve taken the easy way out and topped this sucker with sliced almonds, put it in the oven and called it a day.

You might think you’ll miss the crumble, but once this cake is baked and golden, I promise you’ll be like “Crumble who?” Or, more likely, you’ll be too busy eating soft almond poppy seed cake to care.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAs with every recipe I’m posting right now, Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake has plenty of room for substitutions and swaps.

-don’t have poppy seeds? Leave them out. You won’t have same crispy, crunchy texture, but your coffee cake will still be delicious.
-if you don’t have a round cake pan, use a square pan. I haven’t tried it, but I have a sneaking suspicion this will work in a loaf pan too, though you may want to let it bake for more like 50-60 minutes.
-don’t have both granulated and brown sugars? You can use all of one or the other. This will change the color and flavor of the cake a little in either direction, but not in a bad way.
-no almond extract? Well, your cake won’t be Almond Poppy Seed without it, but it also will be fine. If you have citrus at home, feel free to zest a lemon (or whatever) into the sugar. If you leave it plain though, I promise it will still be good.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake
-no vanilla? Not ideal, of course, but it can be left out.
-our of sour cream? Use yogurt. No yogurt? Swap all the sour cream & milk in the recipe for 1 1/4 cup buttermilk. For DIY buttermilk, see here.
-I bake almost exclusively with whole milk, but feel free to sub whatever you have. With the quantity of sour cream in this recipe, plant-based milks should work without issue.
-if you don’t have sliced almonds for the top, use slivered or chopped almonds, or leave them off entirely. If you feel like your cake needs more adornment, make a glaze or sift confectioners sugar over the top.

That’s every substitution I can think of, but feel free to ask questions in the comments if you think of another. “Make it work” is the name of the game this Easter.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

Almond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake
makes one 9-inch round cake, about 10 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, poppy seeds, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy. Mix in egg, sour cream, vanilla and almond extracts; mixture will be a bit lumpy. Mix in half the dry ingredients followed by half the milk. Add remaining dry ingredients, followed by remaining milk.

Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Use your fingers to scatter sliced almonds over the top. Tap full pan a few times on the countertop to release any large air bubbles. Bake cake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool 20 minutes in the pan on a rack. Run a thin, flexible knife around the edge of the pan before inverting onto a plate to release. Revert cake onto a serving plate. Cake may be served warm or room temperature. Serve.

Leftover cake will keep well at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.Almond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAlmond Poppy Seed Coffee CakeAlmond Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}

Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}I would have been content to make and eat only one Boterkoek for the rest of my life, but then my friend, David, had to go and one-up himself on New Year’s Eve by adding a bunch of almond paste.Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}I don’t make traditional New Year’s resolutions, but that night I absolutely resolved to make Almond Boterkoek happen on this blog. It took exactly eight weeks.

Me: 1
2020: 0Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Anyway…David’s go-to Boterkoek (“bow-ter-kook”) already has a hint of almond to complement all the glorious butter, but this one…whoa. It’s super soft in the middle with crispy & buttery edges on the top and bottom, so it’s almost like biting into a piece of marzipan that is coated in a thin layer of butter cake.Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Does that make it sound gross? I promise it’s anything but.

Am I making sense? I don’t even know. What I do know is that adding almond paste to Boterkoek is the closest one can get to having a spiritual experience* with a baked good.

*maybe exaggerating…but also, maybe not.Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}As with David’s O.G. Boterkoek, this one is no big deal to whip up. You will need to break out your mixer, but I promise that’s the fussiest part of the whole process. Well, except for the part where you have to remove a teaspoon of egg from a beaten egg, but that’s not too annoying. I even found time (30 whole seconds!) to make a crackly almond topping, which I used it to decorate the cake in a way that is much more flattering when it’s all sliced up.Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Texture-wise, this dessert is fairly dense–more like a blondie than an American-style cake. This is because it contains no leaveners, therefore depending on the egg and the air that’s whipped into the butter for its minimal lift. If you want a cakier almond cake, try this one.Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}I, however, am more than content with a wedge of this buttery-edged, soft-centered almond cake (or whatever) anytime, anywhere, especially right-this-minute as I simultaneously write a blog post and watch Netflix. Yep.Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}

Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}
makes 1 8-inch cake, about 12 servings

1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon water (not hot)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 ounces almond paste, pinched into small pieces
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract, according to your preference
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Topping:
1 large egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch pie plate with butter. Set aside.

Crack egg into a small bowl and beat with a fork. Use a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon to remove 1 teaspoon of the egg to a separate bowl. Whisk 1 teaspoon water with the 1 teaspoon of egg to make an egg wash. Set both bowls aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, an electric mixer (or wooden spoon and a lot of elbow grease) to beat sugar and almond paste together until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add the larger amount of egg, vanilla and almond extracts, and beat to combine. Add flour and salt and mix until a thick dough forms.

Press dough into prepared pan. Brush egg wash over the top. Use the tines of a fork or edge of a knife to create a crosshatch pattern on top.

Make topping. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together egg white and sugar. Stir in almonds. Arrange topping on top of cake as desired.

Bake cake 35-40 minutes, or until golden and glossy on top. Cake will slice cleanly when completely cooled, but may be slices and served warm from the pan after 45 minutes.

Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4. Individual slices may be double-wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 months.Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}Almond Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}

Flourless Italian Rainbow Cookies

Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesI had never seen Italian Rainbow Cookies (aka Seven Layer Cookies) until I moved to New York. Come to find, they are everywhere here. I mean everywhere. Little Italy (duh), bakeries, bodegas, bagel shops, grocery stores—everywhere. I can’t go a day without seeing these festive Italian-American confections, and yet, it took me eleven years to try one.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesWhat can I say? Almond cake, jam, chocolate, food coloring—Italian Rainbow Cookies are kind of a lot. Even when I did finally try one, I wasn’t a huge fan. Most of the versions you see in NYC are mass-produced, and while they are ostensibly fine, they’re nothing to write home about. Dry, too dense, probably full of stuff that wouldn’t go in a homemade cake…Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesAll that is to say that homemade Italian Rainbow Cookies are where it’s at. Sure, they take a little more effort than popping down to the corner store and handing over some cash, but they are also infinitely better, and you don’t have to put on a coat to make them.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesMost Italian Rainbow Cookies are made from a standard torte batter that’s spiked with almond paste. Mine are different though, relying on almond flour instead. These cookies are grain-free—inclusive baking for the win!Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFor the colorful layers, I used my Flourless Almond Cake recipe as a starting point, doubled the batch, then tweaked it to use softened butter, and added almond paste and a bit of baking powder.

Once the batter is mixed up, it’s divided into three portions. One is dyed red (I like mine a bit pink), another is dyed green, and the third is left plain. They’re each baked for 10 minutes and will look super underdone when they’re ready, but a toothpick inserted in the centers should come out clean.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesThe layers are very thin and will cool quickly. Once you can handle them, spread two of them with jam and stack ‘em up so they resemble the Italian flag. Then put them in your refrigerator and weigh ‘em down for several hours. I like to leave mine in the fridge overnight—you want those layers to become besties for the resties.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesOnce the chill time is up, give each side a good swipe of dark chocolate and a chill, and then slice them into as many pieces as you like. The cookies here are 1 1/2”x1” with the total count coming out to 49. That’s enough to keep some, gift some, and still have a few to leave for Santa!Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesI know this all sounds like a lot of work, but it really happens very quickly and is pretty simple. The most taxing part is making the batter (whipped egg whites alert!) and that’s really no problem. Really, the biggest obstacles between you and a batch of homemade Flourless Italian Rainbow Cookies are time and fridge space.

If you can’t find either of those things between now and Christmas, don’t worry. New Yorkers eat them all year round, and you can, too.Flourless Italian Rainbow Cookies

Flourless Italian Rainbow Cookies {Grain-Free}
makes one 9×13 pan, 4-5 dozen cookies

6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces almond paste (not marzipan)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 cups blanched almond flour (measured by spoon & level)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5-6 drops red gel food coloring (liquid will work)
5 drops green gel food coloring (liquid will work)

For assembly:
1 10-ounce jar jam (raspberry and apricot are traditional)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Read this recipe before proceeding. None of the steps are difficult, but there are a lot of them. The active work time for this recipe is between 2-3 hours, and there is one 4 hour chill.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3* 9×13-inch pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Separate egg yolks from whites. Set whites aside in a very clean, dry bowl.

Pour sugar into a large mixing bowl. Pinch almond paste into small pieces. Turn your mixer to low and allow to mix until the largest pieces of almond paste are the size of small peas. Add butter and mix until fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing until combined. Add half the almond flour, the baking powder and salt, and beat until combined. Mix in remaining almond flour. If using a stand mixer, transfer batter to a separate bowl.

Wash and dry mixer attachments, along with a medium mixing bowl. I also like to wipe down the equipment with vinegar, just to ensure that everything is completely clean before I add the egg whites. There is no way to salvage this recipe if the egg whites are contaminated with oil, yolk, or even water.

Transfer egg whites to the very clean, dry medium mixing bowl. Use the very clean, dry electric mixer to whip them until stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.

Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the almond mixture. Gently fold half the remaining egg whites into the mixture, followed by the other half.

Divide batter into three bowls (about 1 1/4 cups batter in each). Leave one plain, dye one pink(red, and dye the remaining one green.

Taking care to wipe down silicone spatulas, spoons, etc., between colors, transfer batters to the three pans. Use an offset spatula to smooth batter to the edges of the pans, taking care to wipe it clean between colors.

Bake the pink/red and plain layers for 10-11 minutes. They will look underdone, but a toothpick inserted in the centers should come out clean. Let cool in their pans for 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

Bake the green layer for 10-11 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in their pans for 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

Prepare the jam. Transfer jam to a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds and stir to see if it’s loose enough to sieve. If not, microwave in 15 second increments until it is (it shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds).

Place a wire mesh sieve over a heatproof bowl. Pour warm jam into the sieve and use a spoon to press it through. Discard solids.

Assemble layers. Top the pinkish-red layer (still on the rack) with a piece of parchment. Top with a cutting board or sheet pan (top side down) over the parchment. Use both hands to grab the rack/layer/board situation and invert. Remove rack and discard pinkish-red layer’s baking parchment. Spread 3-4 tablespoons of strained jam over the entire layer.

Carefully invert plain layer over the pinkish-red layer. Peel off and discard plain layer’s baking parchment. Spread 3-4 tablespoons of jam over the entire layer.

Carefully invert green layer over the green layer over the plain layer. Peel off and discard green layer’s baking parchment. Replace with a new sheet of parchment. Place a rimmed sheet pan over the top of the parchment.

Set this entire contraption in the refrigerator. Place a few canned goods in the sheet pan to weigh down the layers. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Remove layers contraption from refrigerator. Remove weight, sheet pan and parchment over the green layer. Use a serrated knife to slice off a thin edge all the way around.

Prepare the chocolate. Combine chopped bittersweet chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, just until smooth.

Spoon half the chocolate over the green layer. Use an offset spatula to smooth it just to the edges. Use the cutting board (or sheet pan) under the layers to transfer them to the freezer* for 10 minutes, or until chocolate is set.

Remove layers from freezer. Top chocolate with a sheet of parchment. Top with a cutting board (or sheet pan) over the parchment. Use both hands to grab the cutting boards on both sides of the layers. Holding them tightly, invert. Remove cutting board and discard parchment over the pinkish-red layer.

If chocolate has cooled too much, reheat for 10-15 seconds. Spoon remaining chocolate over the pinkish-red layer. Use an offset spatula to smooth it just to the edges. Use the cutting board (or sheet pan) under the layers to transfer them to the freezer* for 10 minutes, or until chocolate is set.

Slice cookies into 1 1/2×1-inch pieces. I use a serrated knife, but press directly down instead of sawing. Wipe down knife between cuts.

Serve cookies. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container container in the refrigerator for several days. Put wax paper between layers of cookies to prevent sticking.

Note:

If you do not have 3 9×13-inch pans, you may bake the layers one at a time, washing and drying the pans between layers. Cover any batter with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until you need it.Flourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow CookiesFlourless Italian Rainbow Cookies

A Simpler, Better White Cake

White CakeI owe you an apology. The white cake recipe I’ve been using, it’s…well, it’s a pain in the ass. There’s no subtler way to put it. I’m sorry.White CakeSure, that cake is delicious—it’s cake!—but it’s not delicious enough to require four bowls, ample sifting, a whisk, a spatula, a mixer and whipped egg whites. Few things are.White CakeAfter being asked to make a few Funfetti cakes earlier this year (and subsequently washing every mixing bowl I own and deep-cleaning sifted flour out of every crevice of my kitchen a few times), I realized the error of my overly-complicated ways and went back to the drawing board.

It should go without saying that it’s silly to rely on a recipe you dread making when you have the ability to make one that is simpler and yields better results.White CakeSimpler and better is exactly what you’ll find with this new, improved White Cake recipe. This rich, tender, fine-crumbed cake is a one-bowl endeavor, and while it does require a mixer, you don’t have to sift anything or whip egg whites. I’m calling it a huge win.White CakeThis cake comes together differently than the others you’ll find on this site. Instead of the usual creaming method (creaming butter and sugar before adding eggs, dry ingredients and milk), this recipe is made using the reverse creaming method, which might be my new favorite way to make cakes. Let me walk you through the process.White CakeStart by combining flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl—the only mixing bowl you’ll need for this recipe. Give those a good stir with a whisk or a low mixer before adding all your softened butter.

You read that correctly. Add all your softened butter directly to the dry ingredients.White CakeNext up, use your mixer to combine the two. This will take a few minutes and produce a rubbly, sandy-looking mixture. The purpose of doing this is to coat the flour with fat before adding the liquid ingredients. The butter creates a barrier that impedes gluten-development, producing a softer, more tender cake.White CakeWhite CakeWhite CakeAnd speaking of gluten-development, the last two steps are adding liquid ingredients (egg whites, extracts, and buttermilk), which are what will activate the gluten in the flour. Mix just until combined before dividing the batter into two pans and baking.White CakeOnce the cake layers are cool, you may fill and frost them however you like. I kept it simple this time around with a white buttercream (just my vanilla buttercream with less vanilla) and went for the naked cake look.White CakeOoooh. Ahhhhh.White CakeYou’ll love this White Cake for its buttery vanilla-almond flavor, fine crumb, and did I mention it only requires one bowl?????!!!!!🙌😍💪🍰🎉 White CakeIt’s great on its own, but is also a wonderful blank slate for all sorts of applications. Feeling like Funfetti? Add some sprinkles to the batter before baking. Embarking on your own wedding cake adventure? Layer it with Lazy Lemon Curd and finish it with a coat of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Looking for the perfect fireworks-watching treat for your Fourth of July party? Give this recipe the Red, White & Blueberry treatment.White CakeOr maybe get brave and wild and do all three, because this White Cake is just that simple and just that good.

White Cake
makes one 9-inch round layer cake

2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
4 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

White Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
sprinkles and/or decorative sugar, if desired
Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk ingredients together (I like to do this by running my mixer on its lowest speed for about a minute).

Add butter to dry ingredients. Run the mixer on low speed to mix in the butter until there are no large pieces and the texture is sort of rubbly. This will take a few minutes.

Add egg whites, vanilla, and optional almond extract to the bowl. Mix until combined. Running the mixer on medium, add the buttermilk in two installments and mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Tap each full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake layers on the center rack for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let let layers cool in their pans for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges of the layer before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, vanilla, and optional almond extract. Add in heavy cream until desired consistency is reached. Frost and layer cooled cakes as desired. Top with sprinkles and/or decorative sugar immediately after frosting, if desired.

Layer cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.White CakeWhite Cake

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsI 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.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAnyway, this isn’t an Olympics blog. It’s a baking blog. So, let’s talk about baked goods, specifically Almond Joy Shortbread Bars.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIf 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.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAll 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.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIt’s topped with a thick layer of coconut filling and dotted with whole roasted almonds…Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread Bars

…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.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread BarsBut 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

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

Coconut Filling:
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

Chocolate Topping:
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.

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars