When I visited Hawaii 2 years ago, I only stayed for a week and a half, and it was just not enough time to try more than a small percentage of the amazing foods Hawaii has to offer. I did have the chance to try the purple sweet potato haupia bars found at farmers’ markets, but I left Hawaii without ever knowing about chocolate haupia pie, which is sold in Hawaiian bakeries and supermarkets. Haupia is a thick coconut pudding that’s unbelievably easy to make – coconut milk thickened with cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Chocolate and coconut is always an excellent combination, and even better, these bars have the flavor of coconut-chocolate covered macadamia nuts.
Notes on Ingredients
Macadamia nuts – Unless you actually live in Hawaii, it can be hard to find macadamia nuts that are not roasted and salted, and for that reason, I omitted salt from the shortbread recipe. If you are using salt-free nuts, you will want to add ¼ tsp salt to the shortbread layer. I was able to find unroasted nuts, and I didn’t pre-roast them because the shortbread cooks in such a thin layer for such a long amount of time that the effect is basically the same, but if you can only find pre-roasted, it would not compromise the flavor.
Coconut Milk – I used canned coconut milk, not the kind found in the dairy section of the store, and not coconut cream.
Substituting Arrowroot for Cornstarch – I did not try it, but I have read that haupia used to be made with arrowroot in the past, and that you can substitute 2 tsp arrowroot powder for 3 tsp cornstarch – in this recipe, that would mean using ¼ cup arrowroot to replace ⅓ cup cornstarch.
Chocolate – You can use whatever cacao percentage you want, depending on your taste. I used “dark” chocolate chips that were slightly sweetened, and even then these bars were not overly sweet.
Notes on Technique
Make sure to grease and flour the baking dish well. After allowing the shortbread layer to cool, before adding the other layers, see if you can pop the shortbread out in one piece, then put it back in. This will make the bars much easier to get out once they have been refrigerated.
To prevent lumps, make a slurry of the cornstarch and water before adding it to the coconut milk. The starch will settle very quickly, so make certain to stir it again just before adding.
Add the hapuia to the chocolate immediately after taking it off the heat. Let the hot haupia sit on top of the chocolate for 30 seconds before stirring, so that it has more time to melt. The smaller your chocolate pieces, the quicker they will melt, so if you use a chocolate bar, you’ll want to chop it finely.
This recipe is easily veganized. For the butter in the shortbread, substitute ½ cup solid coconut oil and 1-2 tsp milk, and substitute equal amounts non-dairy milk and dairy-free chocolate in the haupia.
Chocolate Macadamia Haupia Bars
For the Macadamia Shortbread Layer:
- 1 cup flour (120g)
- 1/2 cup softened butter (113g)
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar (25g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts (40g) salted
- 1/4 tsp salt (optional; add only if using unsalted nuts)
For the Chocolate and Haupia Layers
- 13.5 oz coconut milk
- 1/3 cup sugar (68g)
- 3/4 cup milk (6 fl oz)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/3 cup cornstarch (40g)
- 1/3 cup water (2.67 fl oz)
- 6 oz chocolate chopped or chocolate chips
Macadamia Shortbread Layer
- Preheat the oven to 325F (160C) and grease and flour an 8×8 inch baking pan.
- Finely chop the macadamia nuts using a knife, or a food processor if you'd like them really fine.
- Add the flour, softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and chopped macadamia nuts to a large bowl and mix by hand until all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Using your hands, press the shortbread dough into an 8×8 inch baking pan, spreading it out in even thickness to the edges of the pan.
- Bake the shortbread until it is slightly browned and crunchy, 40-50 minutes.
- Allow the shortbread to cool for 30-60 minutes, then loosen it from the edges of the pan with a table knife and flip upside down onto a towel or plate. You should be able to pop the shortbread out in one large piece. You'll want to return it to the pan to assemble the other layers, but this step makes it much easier to get the bars out of the pan after they have been chilled.
Chocolate and Haupia Layers
- Chop the chocolate if using a bar, place it in a large bowl, and set it aside.
- Add the coconut milk, sugar, milk and pinch of salt to a 2 or 3 quart saucepan.
- Make a slurry by stirring the cornstarch into the water. It will settle quickly, so make sure it is stirred up, then add it to the coconut milk mixture and cook immediately.
- Cook on medium heat until the haupia is very thick. If you have a digital or cooking themometer, the haupia will thicken at about 170F (77C). Cook while thickened for 1-2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
- Immediately pour 1/3 of the haupia into the bowl with the chocolate. Allow it to sit on top of the chocolate for 30-60 seconds before stirring, to ensure the chocolate melts well. Stir, and once the chocolate is fully incorporated, spread the chocolate on top of the shortbread in the 8×8 pan for the second layer.
- Spoon the rest of the haupia over the chocolate layer, then use a spoon or spatula to gently spread it across the chocolate for the top layer.
- Chill at least 4 hours before serving.