Have you ever made a dessert that was so over-the-top sublime that it shifted your gravitational pull? Suddenly you couldn’t seem to function normally because you found yourself being constantly drawn back for second/third/fourth/fifth helpings?
California Dream Bars are one such dessert.
To this day, I still haven’t been able to figure out the origin of this name. Maybe the Mamas & the Papas had something to do with it? Regardless of their geographic ties, the bars are a simply an adaptation of a seven-layer bar, with a shortbread crust and a filling chocked full of shredded coconut, chocolate chips, pecans, and an obscene amount of brown sugar.
My introduction to this sweet treat came in the form of a very worn index card buried in the depths of my family’s accordion recipe folder. The recipe itself originated at a small bakery in Southfield, MI where my mom worked summers in college. Story goes that the bars were so outstanding and freakishly addicting that my mom had to have the recipe for herself. Since then, they grew to become a regular rotation in both my mom and I's baking repertoire, making regular appearances everywhere from birthdays, to block parties, potlucks, or just a weekday when an indulgent after school snack was the only thing that would do.
Besides the obvious taste merits of California Dream Bars, the ease of the recipe also makes it an ideal baking project for novice and experienced bakers a like. From start to finish, the process only takes one bowl, one sheet pan, and a mere 30 minutes. And trust me, it's a good thing they only take that long because once they come out of the oven, it is nearly impossible to restrain yourself from diving right in. I should know, I'm guilty of it myself. There are too many moments to count where my mom, best friend, or sister and I would be hovering over a tray of dream bars, still piping hot out of the oven, cutting off modest slivers one by one until a whole row was suddenly missing.
Now, if you find yourself experiencing a similar inclination remember that noshing is an integral part of the dream bar ritual. I actually have a theory that the whole process makes the bars taste better--just something to keep in mind.
While my mom's original notecard has become more and more illegible with time, my love for these bars has only come into clearer view. I mean, just look at the recipe card. Through all the rips, stains, and bends, it has prevailed and served as a reminder of the simple bliss that a good dessert can bring into the world.
Please don't freak out at the amount of butter and sugar in this recipe. It makes A LOT of dream bars. And you deserve it. Seriously.
California Dream Bars
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the brown sugar and flour. Add in the melted butter and mix until well combined. Press the dough evenly into a half sheet pan. Bake for 15 minutes until golden. Let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees.
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups pecans
2 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
8-12 oz chocolate chips
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Spread the filling evenly and carefully over the crust. Bake for 15 minutes until golden. Cool completely before eating, if you can wait that long!