We wanted chewy, toffee-flavored layer bars that shouted coconut and pecans. Getting back to the original recipe was a good first step.
Why This Recipe Works
Even the simplest recipes for Dream Bars we tested were too sweet for modern tastes, and the coconut and pecans all but disappeared because the sugar was so forward. To bring out the pecan flavor, we toasted the nuts until they were crunchy and rich. To prevent the shredded coconut from drying out, we turned to a surprising ingredient: cream of coconut. Soaking the shredded coconut in the cream, which has almost ten times as much sugar as coconut milk, resulted in a rich, moist topping that caramelized beautifully.
Since the topping was so sweet, we reduced the amount of brown sugar in our shortbread crust. Making the crust thicker and adding pecans to it also created a nutty density that helped counterbalance the sweet topping.