For the last two years we have spent one week of our summer at the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Emigrant, Montana. It’s a glorious place. Our time there is filled with hiking, horseback riding, yoga, fishing, white-water rafting, reading and EATING. The Mountain Sky chefs consistently put out exceptional food from the mundane (perfect mac ‘n cheese) to the sublime (5 course gourmet dinners that rival anything we can get in Los Angeles). Pam Comstock is the pastry chef and has been for 17 years. Thank goodness we only spend a week at Mountain Sky. Her baked goodies are absolutely fabulous and I have no will power. None. Zero. When we were there last year I asked permission to highlight some of her specialties on my food blog and she graciously acquiesced. Here is the first of a number of her rockin’ good treats. Just one note on this recipe – Pam makes these bars with maraschino cherries and you can too. I respect Pam immensely but maraschino cherries always look slightly radioactive to me. They have a color and texture that cannot be achieved in nature. Rather than using them I swapped in dried cranberries. I was worried that they would be too tough, so I soaked them overnight in Amaretto (soaking things in alcohol almost always improves matters – if you ask me). The end result was splendid. If you make your bars with maraschino cherries, I know Pam will approve.
Cranberry Amaretto Coconut Bars (9-12 bars)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup butter at room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
- ½ cup sweetened coconut
- ½ cup dried cranberries, soaked overnight in ½ cup Amaretto and then drained. For heck’s sake don’t throw out the Amaretto. Save it and pour it over vanilla ice cream – it’s a fabulous color and tastes AMAZING. If you want to use maraschino cherries use the exact same amount. Don’t forget to drain and chop them.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Get out an 8 or 9-inch square pan. Either one will work.
In the bowl of a stand mixer blend together the butter and powdered sugar until light and creamy. Add the flour and blend until smooth. Press into the bottom of an 8 or 9-inch square pan. You’ll need to use your fingers and gently spread the dough until it covers the bottom of the whole pan. Bake for 25 minutes.
In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, chopped nuts, coconut and the drained cranberries. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and blend well. Spread the topping mixture over the prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely and then cut into squares. Makes 9 squares.