Maui Wowee Cookie Bars with Coconut & Chocolate Chips


Gluten free coconut chocolate chip cookie bars
Gluten-free cookie bars with coconut and chocolate.

Ah. Savor this Maui Wowee goodness- a delicious coconut chocolate chip cookie bar recipe. But first, a little back story. I remember the first gluten-free cookie I ever ate. I was a week into this new gluten-free lifestyle, knowing- by my body's dramatic response to giving up gluten- I was on the right track. I was feeling hopeful, deprived, relieved, angry and curious all at once.

So, Dear Reader, I took my first bite.

The store-bought cookie tasted like dog biscuit dust. Like a thawed frozen pizza box whizzed in a Cuisinart. Like a stale corner crumble from last year's abandoned Christmas cookie tin from your aunt that can't cook and pontificates about politics over instant coffee, Sara Lee pound cake and her gently crushed pack of Virginia Slims.

My husband and sons felt sorry for me (though they masked it with humor, tossing cookies out the back door into the night like so many flying hockey pucks). The worst of it? They felt powerless to help.

That's when I knew.

If I was going to commit to this thing- this whole wacky, prickly, gluten-free thing- and if I was going to regain my health and thrive again and more importantly, enjoy eating and great food again (and not live on rice cakes and peanut butter), I was going to have to buckle down and get my skinny tuchus into the newly cleaned out de-glutenized kitchen.

I was going to have to take control of this thing.

And experiment. After all, dessert is too important to settle for something flavorless, without WOW, without joy. So why not re-learn to bake?

And thus began the ordering of every alternative flour and baking mix I could find. Followed by dumping dozens of sunken breads, crumbly cakes and gummy pie crusts into the garbage pail. I'm the first to admit it. I cried. More than once. And my taste buds? My taste buds grew seriously depressed.

The good news is, I'm stubborn. And tenacious. And willing to make a fool of myself (maybe it's the whole Jungian-Zen letting go of ego thing). So I kept on trying. And tossing.

And in time, during the steep learning curve of that first gluten-free year I discovered some decent gluten-free mixes (that benefited from a little doctoring) and I developed a handful of dessert recipes based on the alternative flours I preferred.

I began a love affair with dark chocolate, flaked coconut and organic golden brown sugar because I discovered that these magical ingredients enhanced most gluten-free baking recipes.

One of the few pleasant surprises I discovered that first year was a versatile mix- called Pamela's Ultimate Baking Mix- and I began using it as my general all-purpose gluten-free flour mix. Using Pamela's mix I made Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars, Summer Blueberry Crisp, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars that tasted like Toll House. And I loved the simplicity and ease of having a single all purpose flour mix (instead of thirteen bags of flours shoved into my refrigerated vegetable bin).

So, Darling. Here's the latest gluten-free baking experiment. It has quickly become my number one favorite sweet. And guess what?

No cardboard texture or hockey pucks in sight.

Maui Wowee Bars Recipe with Coconut and Chocolate Chips

Originally published August 2006.

Warm from the oven these bars are soft and fall-apart tender melt-in-your-mouth gooey goodness. Cut, wrapped and chilled, they become slightly chewy on the inside, moist and fabulous. Kinda like blondie meets Almond Joy.

Mix in a mixing bowl by hand, with a wooden spoon, until moistened:

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cup Pamela's Ultimate Baking & Pancake Mix- see below for more options
1/2 heaping cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 heaping cup organic light brown sugar
2 large free-range organic eggs
1/2 cup light olive oil or grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla extract

Add in:

1/2 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 heaping cup white chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF (if you live above 5,000 feet, set your oven temp to 375ºF).

Using a rubber or silicone spatula, spread the batter evenly into a lightly oiled 8x8-inch baking pan. Add extra chips to the top and lightly press into the batter.

Bake on a center rack until the bars are set and golden brown - about 21 to 25 minutes, depending upon your oven and altitude - and do not over-bake. Allow the bars to cool on a wire rack before cutting.

Makes nine delectable bars.

Options:

If you do not have Pamela's baking mix try your favorite all purpose leavened gluten-free baking and pancake mix; or substitute your own gluten-free flour blend and add 1 teaspoon of baking powder, a 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum for each cup of gluten-free flour.

Enjoy sugary treats in moderation. Gluten-Free Goddess advises consuming no more than 2 tablespoons of sugar a day.

Karina