Why It Works
- The graham cracker crumb crust, nuts, chocolate, and coconut flakes are soaked with condensed milk, which intensifies and caramelizes in the oven, resulting in a rich flavor and a moist, chewy texture.
- The recipe is very forgiving and can be changed to use nuts, dried fruits, or chocolate chips of your choosing.
I think it's pretty cool how much linguistic variation exists across this large country of ours. Of course, I assume that the way I say things is the right way, while others are using cute regional dialects. Doesn't it just make sense to wait in line, drink soda, eat submarine sandwiches, sit on the couch, wear a bathing suit, put on sunscreen, and pick pennies off the sidewalk?
It doesn't even take someone from Seattle talking to someone from Savannah to spot the differences. Case in point: these bars. I made them as a treat on the day that two friends came to visit. When they arrived, I pulled them out of the fridge and offered them each a Hello Dolly bar. My friend from Long Island looked at them quizzically and finally said, "Oh, you mean magic cookies."
I wasn't surprised—I knew that these bar cookies are also commonly called "seven-layer bars," especially in the South. I knew them as Hello Dolly bars because that's what they were called at Magnolia Bakery 15 plus years ago when I would occasionally get them as an after-school snack. Whatever their proper name, they're easy as pie to make and incredibly delicious.
The base is a graham cracker crust. That's topped with a layer of chocolate chips and pecans, followed by lots of sweetened shredded coconut (don't think of going with unsweetened here, that's not the style of these bars.) The whole thing is drizzled with condensed milk.
A few tips: First, you can basically mix and match any kind of nut and chip that you like. Butterscotch chips? White chocolate chips? Add them right in. Like walnuts better than pecans? Go right ahead. I do find that slightly softer, fattier nuts (think pecans, walnuts, cashews) work better than harder ones like almonds or peanuts. Second, refrigerate the bars. One of the best parts of these bars is how, when you bite in, the condensed milk kind of oozes out of little pockets. But if you add that to melting chocolate, it becomes a gooey mess that's just as hard to eat as it is to cut. These don't lose anything by being cold, and in fact I think they taste better after a day or two in the fridge. And last, the positioning of the coconut is a strategic one. I like to add it on top so that the bars get a visually appealing toasted coconut topping. If you put the coconut in the middle it won't toast and the bars will have a more rustic look, but the filling will be slightly more cohesive. It's your call.
All in all, given that these take about five minutes to throw together and 30 minutes to bake, I think we can all agree to call them our next afternoon snack.
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 cups (about a 13 1/2 ounce box) graham cracker crumbs
2 cups (about 12 ounces) dark or semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups (about 8 ounces) pecans, roughly chopped
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut flakes
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Combine melted butter and graham cracker crumbs in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Press evenly into bottom of baking dish.
Top crust with chocolate chips, followed by pecans and finally coconut. Drizzle with condensed milk. Bake until any crust visible is golden brown and coconut begins to toast, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. To cut easily, let sit in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Cut into 12 bars. Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, though especially if your kitchen runs hot, they are safest kept in the fridge.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 49g||63%|
|Saturated Fat 24g||121%|
|Total Carbohydrate 72g||26%|
|Dietary Fiber 6g||23%|
|Total Sugars 53g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||7%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|