Sunday, October 31, 2010

After the failure of the pumpkin fudge, I wanted to make something else to prove to myself that I can still function in the kitchen.  This took the form of dinner.  I know, I know, this is a baking blog, and what I'm about to share with you isn't really a baked good, but whatever.  It's my blog and I will post what I want.  And, you could probably adapt this into a dessert if you want to.

I decided while I was at work that I wanted to make wontons for dinner.  Okay, really I wanted cream cheese wontons, but I also wanted to try and make a filling that was a little better for me.  The only problem was that I didn't have any wonton wrappers at home, and I didn't want to go to the store to get them.  So, I decided to make them myself.  I looked up some recipes, and it seemed simple enough.  Here is the basic recipe:

Wonton Wrappers

1 egg
1/3 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl, beat the egg.  Mix in the water.

In a large bowl, combine the salt and flour.  Create a well in the flour mixture and slowly pour in the egg and water mixture.  Mix well.  If the mixture is too dry, add more water, one teaspoon at a time until a pliable dough has formed.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it is elastic.  Cut dough into two balls. Cover the balls with a damp cloth and leave at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. 

Cut each ball into four equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a 10 1/2 by 10 1/2 inch square.  Cut each large square into smaller 3 1/2 by 3 1/2 inch squares.  Fill with the filling of your choice.

A note about the dough:  I had a heck of a time getting it rolled out really thin with just my rolling pin.  I have a sneaky suspicion that a pasta roller thingy would be very handy in getting the dough uniformly thin.  Because mine weren't that thin, the finished product was a little chewier than I really wanted.  Oh well, it's all a learning experience.

As I mentioned, I made two fillings: cream cheese and also a shrimp and veggie filling.  Both were excellent.  I am going to tell you what I did, but I didn't really measure anything, just guessed.

For the shrimp filling:

Rough chop some raw shrimp, probably about a quarter pound.  Put that in a bowl.  To the bowl, add a glug of soy sauce (low sodium, if you have it), a couple of splashes of white wine, some minced garlic, and grated ginger.  Stir it up and let it hang out for a minute. 

Meanwhile, heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a pan.  While it heats, chop up about half an onion (whatever you have).  Put the onion in the pan and stir around a little.  Cook it until it softens.  While that is cooking, chop up some veggies.  I had a bag of broccoli slaw in the fridge, so I grabbed a handful of that and chopped it a little bit.  Add that to the pan and cook a little.

When the veggies are softer, dump in the shrimp and the sauce.  Cook until pink, stirring some.  Taste it for seasoning, and add more of whatever you think it needs.  When everything is cooked, turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool.

When it's cool, put a small amount on a wonton wrapper.  Brush the edges on one side of the wonton with water, and fold over the other side.  Press to seal.

You can cook this in oil in a pan, or in the oven.  If you decide to bake them, spray them with a little oil first, so they get nice and crispy.  I cooked these in oil in a pan.  Didn't take long and they were pretty good.

For the cream cheese filling:

In a bowl, put one 8-ounce block of cream cheese.  If you have time, let it soften at room temp.  If not, stick it in the microwave for 15 seconds or so.  You don't want to melt it, just make it easier to stir.

To the cream cheese, I usually add a couple of green onions, finely chopped, some minced garlic, and salt.  After that, you can add any veggies you might want.  This time, I added some grated carrot (fine grate, about half a carrot), and about a third of a large green bell pepper, chopped small.  It was really really good.  You could even add little bits of crab, to make them more like crab rangoon, but whatever you like is fine. 

Fill them the same way you fill the shrimp ones.  Try to push out any extra air.  I will mention that if you bake these, they do puff up a bit.  I don't mind it.  I baked these at about 350 for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, until they were golden and crispy.

Here's the thing:  I'm not sure I will make wonton wrappers again for a long time.  I can't honestly say that the results were that much better than the store bought wrappers, especially since I couldn't roll them out thin enough on my own.  The taste was great though, so maybe someday, when I have a pasta roller, I will try this again. 

This trick meant no treats.

I am beginning to recognize that there are things which I will probably never be able to make, or at least not make well.  One of these things is rice krispie treats.  I know that seems ridiculous, but I've only made them one, or maybe two times that they were actually good.  The other times they have been barely passable. 

Another thing is fudge.  This was not the first time I have tried to make fudge, and every time I try, it doesn't come out right.  It has been grainy, or too hard, or, like this time, way too soft.  Please turn your attention to the evidence:

Yes, that's right.  I made pumpkin fudge spread.  It wasn't supposed to be a spread. I followed the directions, put it in the pan, let it cool to room temperature for several hours on the counter before putting it in the fridge overnight.  And I got this stuff.  It's quite tasty, but not fudge.  It couldn't cut into pretty little squares, and therefore I couldn't take it to work as a Halloween treat for my coworkers.  All trick, no treat this holiday. 

I got the recipe here, if you want to check it out.  Like I said, it's tasty, just didn't set up for me. 

Anyway, I promised you when I started this that I would tell you about my failures, so here you go. 

And, PS, the hubster looked at the photo and said "dude, it looks like crusty peanut butter."  Sad thing is, he's right.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Feta & Creme Fraiche Tart, and an Improvement update!

I have two things to share with you today:  a new recipe, and an improvement on one that I have previously posted. I am very excited about both, so no more delays!

First, the improvement:

That's right, I made macarons again, but this time, they aren't ugly!!! The difference, and the improvement, this time around is that I didn't have any trouble with the chocolate ganache filling.  I think that the recipe I used last time had too much cream and not enough chocolate, so I remedied that.  Here's what I did:

In a small saucepan, heat 2/3 cup of heavy cream until hot. In a small heatproof bowl, put 8 ounces of chocolate, chopped fine.  When the cream is hot, pour it over the chocolate.  Let that sit for a minute, then stir until it is combined and smooth.  Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and stir until melted.  Let it cool until it is the right thickness for piping, then pipe onto the bottoms of the macarons and top with another macaron.

Let me tell you, when these things are right, they are SOOO good.  It is so hard not to just eat the whole bowl of them.  But, if I do that,  I will have one sad hubster on my hands.   So, I have put them out of view until he gets home.

Second, the new recipe!

Feta & Creme Fraiche Tart with Lemony Spinach Salad

Source:  Fine Cooking magazine, Fall 2008

I did not make this recipe the way it is printed, sort of out of necessity.  I will print the real recipe first, and then tell you what I did.  You can decide for yourself which way you want to make it, but do make this.  MAKE IT NOW.  This is so, so, so good, and really easy.  If you make it the way you are supposed to, it would only take about 25 minutes. 

The real recipe:

2 large eggs
1/3 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus 1/2 cup loosely packed dill sprigs for the salad (optional)
1 teaspoon lightly packed, finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 cup crumbled feta (about 1/4 pound)
4 small handfuls baby spinach, washed and dried
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice; more to taste

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to oven to 450 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and creme fraiche or cream with the chopped dill, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and about 10 grinds of pepper.

On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out the puff pastry sheet until it measures about 11 x 13 inches.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.  Lay the pastry on the baking sheet, wet the edges with water, and fold over a 3/4-inch border.  Distribute the feta evenly within the border, and then carefully pour the egg mixture of the cheese, taking care that is doesn't slosh onto the border.  Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the border and underside of the pastry is puffed and brown and the filling is golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. 

Slide the tart off the pan and onto a rack to cool slightly. Move the warm tart to a cutting board and cut into four rectangles, so that each piece gets some border.  Put the four pieces on plates.

In a large bowl, toss the spinach and dill sprigs (if using) with the olive oil and lemon juice until evenly coated. Season with salt, pepper and more lemon juice to taste. Arrange a handful of the salad on each piece of tart and serve immediately.

Alright, so that's the real recipe.  I did it differently.  I LOVE puff pastry, but for some odd reason, I couldn't find any when I shopped for this recipe.  I decided that my pie crust is really flaky, so I would just use that instead.  This is the same pie dough that I used for the Pop Tarts, so if you want, it, that's where you can find the recipe. 

Once you have the pie dough rolled out, you can do a couple of things to it: you can either make it a rectangle, and fold the edges over as the original recipe suggests, or you can do what I did and put it in a tart pan.  I didn't think there would be enough filling for a pie pan, and the more shallow tart pan ended up being the right choice. 

I did blind-bake the crust a bit, for about 20 minutes on 425.  After it was baked, I let it cool a few minutes, then followed the rest of the recipe. 

I am really happy with how this came out.  The crust was  flaky and wonderful, and the filling was so good.  I wanted to eat the whole thing.  I think it will be good as leftovers.  One thing I will suggest is that if you aren't going to eat the whole tart right away, don't top the whole thing with spinach, or it will get wilty, and no one wants that. 

And, just because I'm so happy with my pie crust, here's another photo, so you can experience the wonder:

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I recently attended a birthday party for a friend, and the guests were asked to bring a Spanish tapas-style appetizer to share.  Not being one to pass up a chance to bake, I started pouring through cookbooks, food blogs and other cooking websites, looking for just the right thing to bring. This was a little trickier than usual, because I had an extra requirement: it had to be something that could be made in advance (or at least mostly) because my work schedule was crazy just before the party, and I wouldn't have time to make something that day.

Enter the empanadas. 

These little beauties were perfect!  I could make them in advance and freeze them, and just bake them the day of the party!  I decided on two different types: Chorizo-potato and chocolate-banana.  The chorizo ones I chose because they were a little more appropriate for the theme, and the chocolate ones just looked too good to leave behind.

This was the first time I have ever made empanadas, and also the first time I have worked with chorizo, so it was a fun adventure, learning new things.  I'm happy to report that these were not difficult at all.  I just have a few little notes:
  • I made these smaller than the recipe states, because I wanted them to be two-bite treats.  This worked well, however it did mean it took more time to make them, because there was extra work to be done.
  • I had way more filling than I needed.  I made three batches of dough, and I still had about 3/4 cup of banana filling, and about 1 1/2 cups of chorizo filling left over.  I'm guessing this is because i made them small.  I stuffed as much filling in them as I could, and I was happy with the crust to filling ratio. I may freeze the extra chorizo filling to use later.  The banana filling is destined for some oatmeal.
  • After a little trial and error, I learned I needed to roll the dough thinner than I was originally thinking.  When they are small, it's easy for the filling to get overwhelmed by the crust, so just be careful about that.
(ha ha, get it?  "little" notes? hahaha!)

I used the same dough for both types, and it is a good general-use empanada dough:

Empanada Dough:
Source: Tyler Florence
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup masa-harina
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, masa-harina, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in the melted butter.  Gradually add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of water, working it in with your hands to incorporate; the dough should be easy to handle and not sticky. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes.

I recommend that if you let the dough chill for more than 30 minutes, you should let it hang out on the counter for a bit before using it.  It is pretty hard to work with when it's really cold.

Chorizo Potato Empanadas

Source: Tyler Florence,

3 to 4 waxy red or white potatoes (about 1/2 pound), peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound chorizo sausage, casing removed
1 Spanish onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
12 large pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 recipe empanada dough (above)


Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water; add the salt and bring to a boil, uncovered.  Simmer until fork tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium flame.  Add the chorizo, and cook, stirring for 5 minutes, until the sausage renders its fat and gets crispy.  Add the onion and garlic; season with the cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Cook and stir for 5 minutes, until the mixture is soft and has a beautiful red color.  Pour in the broth and simmer for 3 minutes. 

Drain the potatoes and fold them into the pan, using a wooden spoon, break up the potatoes into nickel-sized pieces.  Add the olives and raisins and toss everything together; season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Allow the filling to cool before filling the empanadas.  Serve with cilantro cream.

Lightly flour your rolling pin and counter.  Dived the dough in 1/2 so it will be easier to work with and roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness.  Using a 4-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out 10 circles of dough; repeat with other 1/2.

Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of filling into the center of each pastry circle, leaving a 1/2-inch border  Brush the edges with the egg wash and then fold the dough over in 1/2 to enclose the filling and form a semi-circle.  Tightly seal the edges by crimping with the tines of a fork.  Chill at least 30 minutes before baking.  (flour pile note:  you can also freeze them at this point. poke some holes in the top first.  when you are ready to bake them, do not thaw them -- brush with egg wash and pop in the oven.  you will probably have to add a few extra minutes to the baking time)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place the empanadas on a buttered baking sheet and brush the tops with additional egg wash.  Using a fork, prick a few holes in the top of the empanadas for steam to escape.  Bake for 30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.

Cilantro Cream

1 cup sour cream
1/4 finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 lime, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the sour cream, cilantro, and lime juice together.  Mix thoroughly; season with salt and pepper.  Serve with empanadas.

Chocolate-Banana Empanadas

Source: Tyler Florence

4 large ripe bananas
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 recipe empanada dough
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken in chunks
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Mash the bananas, sugar, and cinnamon together in a mixing bowl until creamy, but not completely smooth -- you should still have pieces of banana chunks.  Spoon a generous tablespoon of the banana filling on the empanada pastry circles and stick a piece of chocolate on top.  Form and bake the empanadas as directed in the previous recipe.  Dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve hot.

(flour pile note:  as you can see in the photo, i forgot the confectioners' sugar.  i almost made a cinnamon whipped cream to serve with these, but i didn't end up doing that.  i should have -- it would have been nice)

Both of these recipes were a total hit at the party, but the chorizo ones went faster.  I highly recommend you try these sometime!

And sorry, no photos of the disaster that was my kitchen after making all of these.  It was frightening, and I wouldn't want to scare you away.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pop Tarts, Take One!!

About a week ago (maybe more?), Jackie from Not Your Bubbe's Kitchen and I got a bit obsessed with making our own pop tarts.  When I get obsessed with making something, especially if it's something I've never made, I don't stop until I've made it to my satisfaction. 

As a result of this, I have completed my first attempt at making pumpkin pie pop tarts.  Jackie also made some!  Hers, however, are a healthier (no, really) version.  She is infinitely good at making things healthier, so you should go check out her recipe.  I, on the other hand, don't even try to make things healthier.  I believe in butter and sugar and all that they stand for.

I say this is my first attempt because, while these were amazingly tasty, they were not what I want them to be.  Here are the things I will change the next time, just to start:
  1. The dough.  I used a traditional pie dough (spiced up a bit), and while it was delicious, it was also very flaky.  It was not like the cookie-ish crust that is on a normal pop tart.  Next time, I will try my regular tart dough, as it is more like a cookie. 
  2. More filling!  You can kind of see in the photo that there isn't a lot of filling.  I think I was worried that it would make the pastries explode during baking, so I didn't use more than about a tablespoon on each one.  Definitely not enough.
  3. Less glaze!  The glaze was really tasty, but I put it on too think, and it never got hard like it's supposed to.  

And, I have a couple of notes about this recipe. 
  1. I used my favorite pie dough.  You can use whichever one you like best.  However, if you are looking for a good all-purpose pie dough (except for this purpose, obviously), this is a great one. 
  2. I went simple for the filling.  I just used the recipe on the back of the can of pumpkin puree.  I thought it was just fine.
  3. Poke more holes in the tops than you think you will need.  The filling is really moist, so a lot of steam is going to be looking to escape.  If you don't poke a lot of holes, they will get really puffy and look weird.
  4. I am OBSESSED with pumpkin pie spice.  I have it in my cabinet all year round.  I used a lot of it in this recipe.  You don't have to use as much as I do.

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts, Take One

For the crust:
All-Butter Double Crust Pie Dough
Source: America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

1/3 cup ice water, plus extra as needed
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and frozen for 10 to 15 minutes

This is the regular recipe.  When I made it for this use, I added a little more sugar (like 1/2 tablespoon or so) and about a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice.  You don't have to, but I felt like it added something nice.

1.  Mix 1/3 cup of the ice water and sour cream together in a small bowl until combined. Process the flour, sugar, and salt together in a food processor until combined (add the pumpkin pie spice at this step, if using).  Scatter the butter pieces over the top about pulse the mixture until the butter is the size of large peas, about 10 pulses.

2.  Pour half of the sour cream mixture over the flour mixture and pulse until incorporated, about 3 pulses.  Repeat with the remaining sour cream mixture.  Pinch the dough with your fingers; if the dough feels dry and does not hold together, sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons more ice water over the mixture and pulse until the dough forms large clumps and no dry flour remains, 3 to 5 pulses.

3.  Divide the dough into 2 even pieces.  Turn each piece of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten each into a 4-inch disk.  Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Before rolling the dough out, let it sit on the counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes. 

For the filling:
Famous Pumpkin Pie
Source: the back of the can of Libby's pumpkin puree

Note:  this makes enough filling for two large pies.  It's WAY more than you will need.  I made it all, since I figured I would be making pop tarts again soon.  Whatever's left I will freeze and use later for something else.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs
1 can (29 oz.) pureed pumpkin
2 cans (12 oz each) evaporated milk

Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a small bowl.  Beat eggs in a large bowl.  Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture.  Gradually stir in evaporated milk. 

At this point, I put the filling into the freezer to chill a bit and get slightly more solid.  You could use the fridge, but I didn't feel like waiting that long.


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

1.  On a floured surface, roll out your dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. You want it to be thinner than you would make it for a regular pie.  Cut the dough into whatever shapes you want.  I did rectangles this time, but you could use cookie or biscuit cutters.  I wouldn't do anything too complicated though.  And make sure you have two of each shape if you do multiple shapes.

2.  Spoon some filling on half of the shapes.  Spread it out slightly with your spoon.  Brush the edges of the piece with the filling with egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little water).  Top with another piece of dough.  Gently press around the filling to get out any air.  Crimp the edges with a fork to seal the pieces together.

3.  Poke several holes in the top of each pop tart with a fork.  Brush each one with egg wash.  Lay on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the pop tarts are golden brown and crisp. 

4.  Let the pop tarts cool on a rack.

Once they are cool, you can glaze them. 

For the glaze:

Okay, so this is where I forgot to measure stuff.  I took some warm water, combined it with powdered sugar, and added pumpkin pie spice to taste.  I beat it in a bowl with a fork until it was smooth, adding more sugar or water or spice until it was the taste and consistency I wanted.  When I got to that point, I spread it on the pop tarts and put them back on the parchment lined sheet pans, so that if the glaze dripped, I didn't have to really clean up anything.  If you want to add sprinkles, do it while the glaze is still wet.

Allow the glaze to harden before doing anything with them.  I let them sit overnight, and since I used too much, they got a crust on top, but were still soft underneath.  Meh, they were still really tasty, so I didn't care too much. Store them in an airtight container. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cafe Coffee Cookies

This was one of those recipes that I saw online and knew that I had to make.  Coffee? yum.  Chocolate?  YUM.  Both in cookie form with a sweet glaze?  SUPER YUM!

On top of the yum factor, these cookies were super easy to whip up.  If you can make chocolate chip cookies, you can definitely make these.

I just have a few little notes about these babies:
  1. I skipped the nuts.  I always do. 
  2. I could have used more coffee flavor.  In the future I will AT LEAST double the amount of instant espresso powder I put in these.  And increase the amount in the glaze while I'm at it. 
  3. Speaking of the glaze, I ran out a little more than halfway through glazing the cookies, so I had to make more.  My glazing skills leave something to be desired, so maybe that was the culprit, but I'm just putting it out there. 
I got this recipe from Tasty Kitchen, while I was trolling around the Pioneer Woman website.

Cafe Coffee Cookies


½ cups Granulated Sugar
½ cups Packed Light Brown Sugar
½ cups Butter Or Margarine, Softened
1 whole Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Instant Coffee Or Instant Espresso Granules Or Crystals
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoons Salt
½ cups Chopped Pecans
12 ounces, weight Semisweet Chocolate Chips (2 Cups)


½ teaspoons Instant Coffee Or Instant Espresso Granules Or Crystals
1 Tablespoon Hot Water
½ cups (or More) Confectioners' Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat sugars, butter, egg and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.

On low speed, beat in flour, coffee granules, baking soda and salt. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2″ apart onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and edges are set. Cool on the pan for 2-4 minutes; remove cookies from pans to wire racks and cool completely.

For the glaze, in a small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in hot water. Stir in confectioners’ sugar, adding more confectioner’s sugar, if necessary, to reach desired drizzling consistency.

Drizzle glaze over cooled cookies. Allow glaze to set before storing cookies in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper, plastic wrap or foil.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

His and Hers -- childhood favorites

We all have childhood favorites, right?  A favorite toy, a piece of clothing, a memory....

Mine is a baked good. I know, no surprise there.

Since I wanted to share my favorite goody with you, I thought it might be fun if I also shared the hubster's favorite childhood baked good.

His:  Seven Layer Bars, aka "Hello Dollies"

One day, some time ago, the hubster mentioned that when he was a kid, he used to love these things called Hello Dollies.  He used to get them from little old ladies at church functions.  He couldn't remember a lot about what was in them, other than  they were kind of a chocolate chip cookie base, with a bunch of other stuff piled in. 

Since we didn't know anyone with a recipe like that, I turned to the trusty interwebz.  I found a recipe for Hello Dollies, and I tried it out.  The results were less than I was hoping for.  The hubster said they were close to what he remembered, and he liked them, but I wasn't happy.  Since I didn't trust the interwebz anymore, I took a shot in the dark and went through my America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. They had a recipe for Seven Layer Bars that looked pretty close to what I was looking for.  So, I tried it.  Success! 

Just a warning:  these things are dense, and VERY sweet.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Seven Layer Bars, aka "Hello Dollies"

1 cup (5 ounces) chocolate covered toffee bits*
12 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped fine
1 cup rice krispies
1 cup (4 ounces) pecans, toasted and chopped coarse (flour pile note: i don't like nuts in baked goods, so i skipped them)
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (4 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

*i can never find chocolate covered toffee bits in the store, only the kind without chocolate.  to deal with that, i just added a handful or so of milk chocolate chips to the toffee bits when i put them in the food processor.

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with a foil sling and grease the foil.

2.  Process the toffee bits to a fine powder in a food processor, about 10 seconds.  Add the graham cracker pieces and continue to process the mixture to fine crumbs, about 30 seconds.  Drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs and pulse to incorporate. Sprinkle the crumbs into the prepared pan and press into an even layer with the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

3.  Remove the crust from the oven, sprinkle with the milk chocolate, and let sit until the chocolate is softened but not melted, about 5 minutes. Smooth the chocolate into an even layer.

4.  Layer the rice krispies, pecans, chocolate chips, then coconut into the pan, in that order, pressing on each layer to adhere.  Whisk the condensed milk and vanilla together and pour this mixture evenly over the top. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. (flourpile note:  watch these puppies.  they brown up very fast towards the end. mine got a little darker than i would have liked, and i only baked them 25 minutes.)

5.  Let the bars cool completely in the pan, set on a wire rack, about 2 hours.  Remove the bars from the pan using the foil, cut into squares, and serve.

Hers:  Gooey Bars

We used to make these all of the time when I was a kid.  The recipe came from my Great Aunt.  Sadly, over the years, the little card it was written on was lost.  Recently I wanted to make them again.  I talked to my mom,who gave me the basics of the recipe, and I went off on my search.  This time, the interwebz came through, namely one of my favorite food bloggers, Beantown Baker

The great thing about these bars is that they are pretty simple, and you can add all sorts of stuff to them.  I have added coconut or chocolate to the cream cheese layer with great success.  This time, I tried adding a layer of strawberry jam between the cake and cream cheese layers, and it was delish!  On top of the great flavor, the little stripe of red in the bars is so pretty to look at.  When you make these (which I know you will), try anything you want.  They are so easy to make that even if one variation isn't the best, it's so easy to whip up another batch. 

A little note:  normally, I'm not one for using boxed cake mix, but this is one of the few exceptions.  Try it -- you'll see why.

Gooey Bars

1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
1 pound powdered sugar
1 8-ounce package cream cheese

1. Mix cake mix, butter and 1 egg with fork.  Press into bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan, set aside.

2.  Beat powdered sugar, cream cheese and 2 eggs for 4 or 5 minutes. (flour pile note: start the mixer on slow, unless you want to cover your kitchen in a cloud of powdered sugar.) Pour over cake mixture.

3.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Cool completely.  Cut into bars.

I really hope you make one or both of these recipes. You won't be sorry.  (but i will say that when i took both of these to work, there were none left of mine at the end of the day.  just sayin')