Baking Through Adversity: Oatmeal Coconut Raspberry Bars

Should I be concerned that in my writing program I am known best not necessarily for my writing or my insightful commentary but for my baking?

The director of the department today sampled an oatmeal coconut raspberry bar that I made for my adaptation class and said to my classmates: “Boy are you lucky.” Apprently he told his master screenwriting class about me. (My friend John says he said: “This guy makes unbelievable pastries…this coconut raspberry bar…it was very short.” What does that mean? I asked John. “It means there’s lots of butter…like shortening. It’s a good thing.)

Well I’ll take glory where it comes. And if anyone knew how disaster-riddled this coconut raspberry bar experience was, they’d think twice before declaring me a master baker.

The recipe comes from The Gourmet Cookbook which means that the recipe’s available on Epicurious. You can read it here.

Essentially you toast coconut, make dough, add the coconut and oats, spread in a pan, add raspberry jam, sprinkle with topping and more coconut and bake.

The first disaster struck when toasting the coconut. I burnt it:

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This was especially distressing because I only had one bag of coconut. Whole Foods doesn’t sell normal baking coconut–only unsweetened flaked coconut. So I had to rely on the one bag I purchased a while back from Gristedes. Luckily, there was enough in there to toast more.

The second toasting came out swell—-if you do this recipe make sure to watch the oven as it the coconut gets golden. It’s a short leap from gold and pretty to charred and nasty.

My next disaster involved the spreading of jam. When you press a layer of buttery, flaky, crumby dough at the bottom of a pan and attempt to spread jam over it you’ll have a problem: the dough will start rising up with whatever tool you’re using. I was using a flat spatula. I had to patch dough-holes with topping dough. (You reserve dough for the topping.) Eventually I got a fine layer of jam:

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A note on the jam: it says to use seedless raspberry, but I couldn’t find seedless raspberry. So I used raspberry jam with seeds and no one noticed. (Maybe they’ll notice later when raspberries begin to grow on their digestive track…)

Those two disasters aside, the rest was easy. You sprinkle on the topping and bake for 20 minutes. Look how pretty they came out:

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I have to tell you, this is my favorite kind of pastry. Buttery and fruity—I love raspberry jam and I love coconut. I bought a similar pastry all the time at the Fairfax Farmer’s Market when I lived in LA. It was called the “Raspberry Princess.” That one didn’t have coconut so this princess is more tropical. And more substantial than either play I’ve written this semester—I only have 20 pages of each and I need to finish one. STOP MAKING ME BLOG FOR YOU! I’m in a writing program, damn it, not a baking program! Maybe I should transfer to the King Arthur Flour school of dramatic writing? I can write “A Streetcar Named Ciabatta” or “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Bake Bread.”

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