A quick and easy sweet treat which can be made almost entirely with items you already have in your pantry. Coconut Mixed Peel Squares have a simple shortbread-like base, and are topped with a sweet, chewy topping consisting of an Old English fruit cake mix. These squares are where fruitcake and shortbread marry to create the most delicious confection!
Coconut Mixed Peel Squares are a great sweet treat to start with if you’re new to baking. It’s easy to make, has very inexpensive ingredients, and the results are pretty much guaranteed to be perfect every time. Seriously, Dear Reader, it would be extremely difficult to mess up this recipe!
Creating a shortbread base is very easy to do and you’ll love the crumbly, cookie-like texture of this particular one. And, to top it all off, you get a chewy, sweet, gooey-like texture on top of the shortbread base, which creates a flood of taste and texture in your mouth. Serve this treat with hot tea on a stay-at-home Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and it’s bound to put a smile on everyone’s face.
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BAKING IS A GREAT WAY TO SPEND YOUR ALONE TIME
Even though my mom never made this particular recipe; not that I can recall anyway, this recipe reminds me so much of her. My mom loved to cook and bake and I credit much of my love for food to her. Our home was never without a homemade square, bar, cookie, cake, or pie. And, she learned everything she knew about cooking and baking from her mom.
I wish I could say the same thing! My mom never let me near the kitchen – except to help with the dishes or something like that. Much like me, she liked to be alone in the kitchen. Having someone help or having to show someone what to do, only slowed her down.
In my own life, there are many times when I will complain about having to take care of all of the cooking and baking in our home despite the fact that when John.e will often offer to help and so will McKenna when she’s visiting. Nonetheless, I always politely decline. If I have to tell someone how to crack an egg or how to properly measure a cup of flour, I’d prefer just to do it myself. But, they’re both great with the cleaning up! Even on the weekends when I bang out two or three recipes back to back for this blog, John.e is right there to wash up the dishes! I appreciate that much more.
LORD BYRON’S 12 BARS AND SQUARES OF CHRISTMAS
Coconut Mixed Peel Squares are the fourth holiday confection in my new series! Yes, that’s right, Dear Reader! I’m kicking off another holiday baking series, just like I have for the past few Christmases! Welcome to Lord Byron’s 12 Bars and Squares of Christmas!!!
If you have been reading my blog for while – well, at least anytime around Christmas for the past few years – you must have run into at least one of my Christmas baking countdowns. This particular countdown is all about bars and squares. For 12 consecutive days, I will share a holiday-based bar or square recipe with you. That means on Saturday and Sunday too! I usually publish new recipes three times a week, so I hope you’re up for this!
You really don’t want to miss one of these recipes, so if you have not yet subscribed to Lord Byron’s Kitchen, I encourage you to do so. That way, a new recipe will be emailed to you every day. You won’t have to bother to come looking for it! Like in previous holiday baking countdowns, I like to mix up the recipes in the series so that there is something for everyone. There will be bars and squares with chocolate, some with candy, and some with nuts too. Are you ready for day 4!!??
Looking For More Christmas Confections?
Lord Byron’s Kitchen has more than enough to satisfy your sweet tooth! Click on the links below to see a countdown series of holiday recipes from that category!
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO PREPARE THIS RECIPE
The following is a list of the ingredients needed to prepare this recipe. The exact amounts and measurements can be found in the printable recipe card located near the bottom of this post.
FOR THE BASE:
- Butter – Make sure your butter is softened and at room temperature! I always use salted butter, unless stated otherwise. To be perfectly honest, there’s never much of a difference in taste or appearance once all is said and done. Use what you have on hand.
- Sugar – Sugar has more than one function in baking. Not only does it add sweetness, but it will caramelize too, which will help to brown cookies and cakes.
- Flour – No need for anything special. Just use regular all-purpose flour. I have not tried this recipe with any other type of flour.
FOR THE TOPPING:
- Eggs – Whenever you set out to bake, make sure your eggs are at room temperature too – just like your butter!
- Vanilla Extract – Probably the most common extract and the most common flavouring used in cakes and cookies.
- Brown Sugar – First of all, it has way more flavour than regular white sugar! And, in this recipe, brown sugar helps to keep the cookie moist and soft.
- Coconut – Be sure to buy the right type of coconut. Read the next section for more details.
- Mixed Peel – Sometimes referred to as fruitcake mix, it most often consists of red and green candied orange peels, red candied cherries, red and green pineapple and candied lemon peel.
THE TYPE OF COCONUT IS IMPORTANT
When it comes to coconut to bake with, there are two kinds – sweetened and unsweetened. Those two types can be found in different levels of fineness and coarseness. It’s important to use unsweetened coconut for this recipe. Otherwise, with the addition of both granulated and brown sugar, these Coconut Mixed Peel Squares may be too sweet to eat!
You’ll want to use unsweetened coconut. The size of the shredded coconut won’t make a difference to the taste, but it certainly will make a difference when you try to cut out the squares. The longer shreds of coconut might make for a messier cut or bite and you want your delicious squares to look just as amazing as they taste!
Depending on the brand, some coconut is shredded, grated, or desiccated. Shredded usually refers to larger pieces, while grated tends to be smaller. Desiccated has nothing to do with the size of the pieces but means the coconut is dried or the moisture has been removed. In most cases, you will find a fine or medium grade. Medium is my personal coconut of choice in most cases and it is what I used here.
WHAT IS MIXED PEEL?
Mixed peel is one of those ingredients mainly used in Christmas cakes and cookies. (I couldn’t help but use it in these Coconut Mixed Peel Squares, because it just screams Christmas to me!) It is the actual peel from fruit that has been candied and dried. Most commonly, mixed peel consists of candied lemon, orange, and ginger.
Back in the 18th century, bakers knew that the most intense fruit flavour was derived from the fruit. And, since fresh fruit was scarce, the peels were cured and saved for use when fresh fruit was not readily available.
You can use any combination of those peels in these cookies. You might be wondering why my cookies look so festive with red and green. Well, that’s because I used an Old English mix. That particular mix has orange, lemon, red and green cherries and even pineapple. You can buy the mix by clicking on the link.
You can find the mix in stores too. Here in Canada, I know you can find it at Bulk Barn as well as Loblaws. Look in the baking section. It’s usually found on the shelf above the flour at grocery stores. You can also buy just the peel and the cherries separately. Simply dice the cherries and mix them into the peel.
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HOW TO MAKE COCONUT MIXED PEEL SQUARES
Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper so that it fits snugly in the pan. I use two sheets – one folded to fit the length of the pan and another folded to fit across the pan. Allow the excess parchment paper to hang out over the side of the pan. Once the confection is firm, use the excess parchment to lift the whole block out of the pan to make it easy to cut into squares.
In a mixing bowl, beat to fully incorporate the butter, sugar, and flour amounts under the ingredients listed for the base of the squares. Beat on medium speed for a full 2 minutes. The mixture will be crumbly. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and gently press the mixture into the pan. Be sure to get into the corners. Use the bottom of a drinking glass or mug to evenly press the mixture. Bake the base for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
In the meantime, add the ingredients listed under the topping heading to a mixing bowl and use your handheld mixer to just incorporate the ingredients. Don’t over-mix. Pour the topping mixture over the base and spread it out evenly. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting into squares.
Lord Byron’s Annual Christmas Cookie Series
Did you know that Lord Byron’s Kitchen has been sharing a 24 Cookies of Christmas Series for the past several years? Click on the links below to see all of the recipes from each series on one page!
- I can’t find Old English Mixed Peel. Well, the good news is that you don’t have to use the same brand that I did. You can easily buy mixed peel and red and green candied cherries in almost any baking supply store. Walmart will carry it as well. The mixed peel is aways finely diced. Dice the red and green cherries and mix them with the peel.
- Can I double the recipe? Yes, you certainly can! If you do double the recipe, increase the size of the pan, otherwise, the squares will be too thick. These are meant to be on the thinner side. If they’re too thick, the baking times will not be sufficient.
- I don’t like mixed peel! If that’s you, then omit it! You can use all mixed peel, just cherries, or none of them at all. Instead, you could double the amount of coconut and just call them coconut squares!
STORING, PACKAGING, AND FREEZING
These squares will stay fresh for about 3-5 days in a covered container and in a cool place. But, if you plan to freeze these squares, use a food-safe container that can be frozen. You’ll want to ensure a very tight-fitting lid too. (I use these quite often when freezing baked goods.) I like to place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the container before pushing the lid on. This helps to create a better seal. The goal is to keep all of that freshness locked in!
You can freeze these Coconut Mixed Peel Squares for up to three months. They will come out of the freezer looking just like they did when you put them in there as long as you don’t stack them. If you must stack, lay a sheet of parchment paper between each layer. To thaw, remove bars from the freezer and place them on a wire cooling rack for 20 minutes. Once you thaw them, they will taste just as fresh, and be just as soft, as the day you first baked them.
Do You Like This Recipe?
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Coconut Mixed Peel Squares
For the base:
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
For the topping:
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup mixed peel, see post for description and recommendations
- Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F
- Next, line a 9×9 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside. Fold the parchment paper so that it fits snugly in the pan. I use two sheets – one folded to fit the length of the pan and another folded to fit across the pan. Allow the excess parchment paper to hang out over the side of the pan. Once the confection is firm, use the excess parchment to lift the whole block out of the pan to make it easy to cut into bars.
- In a mixing bowl, beat to fully incorporate the butter, sugar, and flour amounts under the 'base' heading above. Mix on medium speed for a full 2 minutes. The mixture will be crumbly.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and gently press the mixture into the pan. Be sure to get into the corners. Use the bottom of a drinking glass or mug to evenly press the mixture.
- Bake the base for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
- In the meantime, add the ‘topping’ ingredients to a mixing bowl and use your handheld mixer to just incorporate the ingredients. Don’t over mix.
- Pour the topping mixture over the base and spread out evenly.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting into squares.
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