Some things need time to come on their own.
These coconut mango bars (AKA panetela de mango) scared me for a while.
I’m a cook, not a “real” baker…
On Friday night, I baked a double batch and an extra one of these bars to take with me to the fifth edition of the Puerto Rico Blogger Con. In my head, these would have been part of my ice breaking/mingling strategy. It would all start with a tweet… “Food blogger brought samples! Come say hi! #prbloggercon”. A little treat, a business card exchange, and hey, if you like it the recipe is already up! I went to bed, left these to cool and woke up before sunrise to slice and pack them.
Truth be told, I had been tweaking this recipe for a while now. The base recipe for these is a well known treat, panetela de guayaba. The panetela itself is a Cuban pound cake that evolved into the base for other treats. Like most pound cakes, it consists simply of eggs, sugar, butter and flour and a leavening agent. I made these guava bars for my FFwD friend Kathy earlier this year, following the traditional recipe, and they turned out perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that I got it in my head that there were ways to tweak with that perfection.
- Swap the guava paste for mango paste… everyone must be already sick of the guava version by now!
(They aren’t… but this is still an interesting swap)
- Swap the butter with coconut oil. You are blogging from Puerto Rico, a tropical island. Make it even more tropical!
(Turned out to be a decent idea)
- Cut back on the sugar. E’s always complaining that these bars are too sweet.
(Sugar adds more than just sweetness to baked goods. It’s considered a liquid ingredient in baking. Oh. OH!)
So back to Saturday, PR BloggerCon day. I lifted the parchment paper off the glass baking dish, and at first sight the bars look way too ‘tall’. And dry. Part of the beauty of these bars in their original version is that they look a little amelcochaitas… almost gooey, but completely, knife-clean baked. These were almost biscotti dry. I was almost on the verge of tears. I finished slicing the bars up, piled them up in two large zipper bags, vented on Instagram and stashed them in the car. And left them there. I shared the story of my failure with my friends Madelyn of Karma Free Cooking and Paulina of Spoon Food Tours, and laughed it off (tried to, anyways).
By the time the conference was over, I was famished. I reached out for the bag and grabbed a piece or two. I wasn’t sure if I was that hungry that they hit the spot or what, but they weren’t as bone dry as they were in the morning. The hot car must have done a little alchemy. On my way back home, I stopped by my friend Frances’ place to drop off some of the bars, but she wasn’t home. Our friend Rebeca was, so I stopped for a short visit.
“These are really good”
“Aren’t they kind of dry?”
“Aren’t they supposed to be dry?”
“Well some panetelas are.”
After Rebeca planted the seeds of doubt, I had a couple more. I had promised Frances a few pieces over at Instagram and left her another bag full. Her family raved. On Sunday, I tasted a few and they turned out to be more than okay. Almost amelcochaítas. It was definitely a matter of time.
About the ingredients
Coconut oil is not traditional in Puerto Rican baking, but I find it gives that tropical oomph that differentiates these coconut mango bars recipe from the traditional guava panetela made with butter. The coconut flavor is subtle, but it’s there. I know the mango paste is very hard to find stateside, so I experimented with reconstituted dried mango. That batch didn’t even make it out of the house. Eduardo is still picking on it and removing the ‘gummy’ mango pieces.
I also cut back the sugar from the more traditional panetela de guayaba recipes from a full cup to 3/4 cups. To make up for the moisture/texture, I added an extra tablespoon of coconut oil. I’d bump it up to at least 2 tablespoons to cut the part where you need to leave these in a hot car for a few hours to bring them up to the right texture.