Aunt Franny’s Lemon Coconut Walnut Bars
The best part about visiting my great grandmother when I was a kid, was that my aunt Franny would inevitably be there. She was in charge of caring for my great grandma, who lived in the small downstairs bedroom of their house, just off the kitchen. It seemed to me back then that this was no easy task, since my great grandma, though sharp and funny, could be awfully crabby. And her name was Robbie, which at age eight, made me wish she had a more grandmotherly name, like Eleanor or Margaret. And if that wasn’t enough, it was universally understood among the cousins that Robbie was nearly bald under her stiff grey wig, a fact that made me sad and unsettled in equal measure.
A Home-Baked Welcome
So whenever we would visit and Franny would open the door — with her warm greeting and tidy house — it was always a comfort. Even better, was that Franny was a famously good baker. The fact that she sold her carrot cake in a restaurant in town made me feel like our family was just a little bit famous. If we were lucky, Franny would have been baking and there would be remnants of her treats in the kitchen.
Lemon Coconut Walnut Bars
These bars were always my favorite, so good that I’d eat them until my belly ached of too much sugar and butter. Although everyone calls them Franny’s Lemon Bars, they’re not the standard sort with lemon curd filling. Instead, the bars are built on a cookie base of flour, butter and sugar, then topped with walnuts and coconut, and finished with a sheen of lemon glaze. The result is a masterpiece in texture and sweet, tangy flavor.
A Perfect Holiday Gift
Last December I thought about Franny’s bars, sort of out of the blue. It occurred to me that they’d be ideal for holiday gift giving, so I tracked down the recipe. I made several batches and handed them out to friends and teachers, tied up in cellophane and ribbon.
Special Occasion Treat
According to my cousin Ellen, Franny worked hard on these bars until she thought they were perfect. I scaled down the recipe, but did very little otherwise in the way of adjustments. They’re not healthy, like most recipes I share, but they’re ideal for this time of year when it’s all about making people feel warm and comforted, just like Franny did for me.
For more cookie and bar recipes, you might like:
Aunt Franny’s Coconut Walnut Lemon Bars
These wonderful bars are sweet and tangy, with a cookie base and a lemon glaze topping. They will keep for at least a week in the fridge and even longer in the freezer. Feel free to double the recipe and make them on a standard baking sheet instead of a 9×13-inch pan.
- 1/2 cup melted butter (I used salted)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 1/2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 lemon
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line an 9 X 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper draping over two sides.
Put the crust ingredients into a large bowl and stir with a fork until combined. Dump into the prepared baking pan and press firmly and evenly along the bottom. Bake until it begins to turn golden brown, 10 minutes.
Cool for at least 12 minutes before adding the topping. Turn oven up to 350 F.
Crack the eggs into the large bowl you used for the crust and whisk well. Add the brown sugar, flour, vanilla, and salt and whisk until smooth. Add the walnuts and coconut and stir to combine.
Pour the batter over the par-baked crust and spread with a rubber spatula. Bake until lightly brown across the surface, 20 to 25 minutes.
Make the glaze by whisking together the lemon juice, and confectioners’ sugar. Add the butter and whisk until smooth. While the bars are still warm (but not piping hot), use a rubber spatula to spread the glaze over the surface. It will just coat the bars. Scatter the finely chopped walnuts over the top and shower with the zest of the 1/2 lemon.
Cool for an hour, then use the parchment paper to lift the bars from the pan. Cut into 36 bars.