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')


  1. Um, thanks for turning my sweet tooth on at 8:30 AM EST. These look amazing...I love seven layer bars (aka Awesome Bars in my family). Your bars look mighty tasty, also. I would totally do the strawberry jam in them. Great idea!

  2. Those both look amazing! And now I'm hungry.

  3. Looks good. I think I would prefer the "Hers" in this case.