Friday, December 18, 2009

Most special

Hello Dolly bars are the sweet, gooey pillar upon which the joyous Christmases of my youth rest. They were omnipresent: on every cookie tray, in each cousin's hand, presented in abundance on the card table my aunt would set up in front of her living room closet for the express purpose of holding Christmas cookies.

(Studly cousin Jeff on Christmas morning 1984, in front of the festive tablecloth-covered cookie card table.)

I didn't know back then that they were a relatively common bar cookie. I didn't know that anyone else had ever heard of Hello Dolly bars. I thought my extended family was really onto something...a super-secret amalgamation of graham cracker, nuts, chocolate, butterscotch, coconut and Eagle Milk.

For you see, my aunt -- the one with the cookie card table -- is named Dolly. (Actually, she is named Georgeann, but everyone throughout the history of time has only called her Dolly.) And she is an amazing cookie-baker (she made all the cookies for my wedding favors). I thought the cookies were named for her. Like, Hello, Dolly! We are here to eat your cookies!
It wasn't until, like, 2003 that I realized they were (a) common, and (b) named after Carol Channing. OK, I don't know if they were named after Carol Channing, but I know for certain that they weren't named after Georgeann Shearer.

But just because something is popular doesn't mean it's not perfect in every way. (See: Glee, Tater Tots, "Single Ladies.") I'm happy I can't imagine Christmas without a pan of Hello Dolly bars. I'm glad that I can still picture them on the card table, next to those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey's Kisses planted firmly atop them.

So though Hello Dolly bars are nothing special, they are most special to me. If someone told me that I could only have one cookie at Christmastime, I would choose the Hello Dolly bar. They're rich, and sweet, and crumbly, and more than able to support a childhood's worth of happy Christmas memories.

Even if they're not named after my aunt.



These delicious cookies are an absolute snap to make. Which is good for when you need a quick dessert (or for when you have a craving).

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 18 graham crackers, pulsed in the food processor)
1 c. sweetened coconut
6 oz. butterscotch chips
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. walnuts, roughly chopped
1 14-oz. can sweetened, condensed milk (I prefer Eagle Brand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt the butter over low heat directly in a 13" x 9" metal pan. Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over the butter and mix to combine. Using your fingers, pat the graham cracker crust into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle the coconut over the crust, followed by the butterscotch chips, chocolate chips and walnuts. Drizzle the sweetened, condensed milk evenly over the cookies, then bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.


Jillian said...

We make these, but we call them Magic Cookie Bars, and omit the butterscotch chips! I've also heard them called 7-layer bars. Usually when I make them I do about half the milk over the crust and the other half over the rest of the toppings. Yum!

My Persian Kitchen said...

They look so good!!!

Heather said...

I love these! The only thing I do different is omit the coconut for pretzel sticks and butterscotch for peanut butter chips. I have a mental block to butterscotch chips and just can not use them or even have them near my kitchen. ;-)

Marianne said...

I bought a spatula at the grocery store when I was in school, and the recipe for "Magic Cookie Bars" was printed on the back of the package. I still have that little piece of cardboard tucked in my recipe binder.

L*Joy said...

My mom has made these every year and they are such a sweet pillar to lean on!

vegetablej said...

Nice story. How could you go wrong with chewy coconut and chocolate? Bars and squares, once so common, seem scarcer these days, with people not baking as much as they once did. I'm with you - I love them and think we should try to stage a revival.