As the quarter reaches its end and we are faced with the unfortunate prospect of midterms and lengthy essays, our diets take a turn for the bizarre, if not the downright ludicrous. Nearly all of us use food to ease the pain of long bouts of concentration. In high school, if I had an essay to write, I would make sure to have grapes in the house. I would stand up from the computer, walk to the refrigerator, take one grape, and return to “begin working for real.” Lo and behold, by the time I had made it back to my desk, I would have finished the grape and be passionately craving another. Thus began a steady trek between my room and the kitchen until half an hour later, when the grapes (and my excuses) were exhausted.
For the most part, the diet change of mid-semester simply takes the form of an increase in sugar consumption. All of a sudden, untoasted Pop-Tarts seem like ambrosia from the heavens. People buy boxes upon boxes of cookies, because with carefully crafted rationality we decide that studying is its own form of exercise. But let me say this, and I will say it only once: there is nothing satisfying about eating three bags of M&Ms in a row.
Most of the time, when we binge on candy while studying, we do not even notice that we are eating. There is no time to savor the food and no sense afterward that you just ate something special. Five minutes later, the only sign of your voracious consumption is a vague feeling of nausea. The solution to this is not to give up on candy completely, but rather to eat it when it will be worth it and you can focus on it. You will be satisfied with less, for longer.
This recipe for chocolate covered coconut macadamia squares is worth it. It is adapted from the blog “Mel’s Kitchen Café,” and I keep it hidden away in my arsenal of “wow” recipes for times of dire necessity. The recipe is not a quick fix for a sugar craving—it is too labor-intensive for that—but the reward for your efforts will leave you smiling. These bars are unusual; the powdery crust and gooey, nutty topping create a powerful gustatory sensation, and the melted chocolate enhances the flavors of the other ingredients.
With that, I wish everyone lots of luck with work, and I promise this recipe will make everything much brighter.
Coconut Macadamia Bars
Makes 18 Bars
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, all-purpose flour
3/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts, chopped into quarters or smaller using a food processor. (If you do not have a food processor, smash the nuts with the flat side of a can and then cut them in pieces with a knife. Or get creative and use the edge of said can.)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 cups semisweet chocolate, melted
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a nine-inch square pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Scatter the small pieces of butter over the mixture and mash them in with a fork or your hands until it has a somewhat homogeneous texture. It will still be fairly powdery but with small crumbs of butter spread throughout (they melt in the oven and bind the batter into a crust).
3. Press the crust into the pan to form a solid layer, approximately half an inch thick. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are golden. Do not worry if it is slightly crumbly.
4. Combine 2 tablespoons flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, egg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and stir until blended well. Add the chopped nuts and the shredded coconut.
5. Spread the macadamia-coconut topping evenly over the crust and take care not to break the crust layer. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes until the nuts begin to brown.
6. Let cool completely until the topping firms up, then cut into approximately 18 bars. Spread the melted chocolate over half of each of the bars. The chocolate will harden after approximately half an hour in the refrigerator.