This past week has been a coat of many colors. Rags of frustration and inspiration all sewn together into a colorful patchwork. A couple of failed recipe attempts, a broken camera, and days of work down the drain. It’s been painfully discouraging. Despite the downfalls, thankfully that patchwork brought luck and happiness in newfound connections, supportive pals and lessons in limitations.
This recipe for Hello Dolly Cookie Bars seemed doomed from the start. In an attempt to modernize my Great Grandmothers recipe for Hello Dolly Cookies from the 1987 edition of her Boise, ID church cookbook, I lost the spirit of the simplicity of the original recipe. After working 9-5 (plus OT) trying to get my recipe revisions to work, I had to ask myself “Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That?” I was thinking of scraping the recipe altogether. Then, halfway through the shoot, my camera decided to go up in blue smoke.
I headed down to my local camera shop and got the discouraging news that my camera was experiencing a shutter failure and needed to be sent off for repair. I wasn’t quite ready to accept that, so reached out to my photography buddy system, seeking advice late into the night. We all landed on the same conclusion. She needed fixin’.
The next morning, I tumbled outta bed and I stumbled to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of ambition. I packed up my camera and sent her off to get all fixed up. I got back to work on the Hello Dolly Cookie Bars feeling like a Steel Magnolia. I strapped my 50mm lens on my dusty ol’ Rebel T2i, made my Great Grandma Weaver’s recipe for Hello Dolly Cookie Bars by the book, and blessed them with a kiss.
The Hello Dolly Cookie Bars turned out just the way I remember them, and just the way they should have. With only a handful of ingredients, they come together in a patchwork of comforting textures and flavors. The crunchy graham cracker crust was a great move by my Great Grandma. It’s topped with layers of warm pecans, toasty coconut and smooth, melty chocolate all lathered in a rich, caramel coat of sweetened condensed milk.
My Great Grandma Elizabeth Weaver was a grade school teacher for most of her life and even though she is no longer here with us, she is still teaching me the importance of staying true. Thank you, Mrs. Weaver for reminding me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it.” Oh, but if it is broke, get a professional to fix it for you. And, thank you Great G-Ma for sharing your recipe with your congregation 30 years ago and with me today. Your supportive spirit and sunny smile lives on in these Hello Dolly Cookie Bars.
A patchwork of comforting textures and flavors: a crunchy graham cracker crust topped with layers of warm pecans, toasty coconut and smooth, melty chocolate all lathered in a rich, caramel coat of sweetened condensed milk.
- 2 cups graham crackers - crushed (about 12 -14 whole)
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
- 1 cup coconut flakes
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1 (14) oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tbsp sea salt - optional
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Line a 9" x 9" square baking pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking oil and set aside.
Crush the graham crackers by hand or by pulsing in a food processor.
Melt the butter and pour it over the crushed graham crackers. Mix to combine.
Gently press the graham cracker mixture into the prepared baking pan.
Layer with pecans, chocolate chips and coconut flakes. Reserve a handful of each for finishing touches.
Evenly pour the sweetened condensed milk over top of the layered ingredients.
Bake for 20 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Sprinkle the top with the remaining mix of ingredients and bake for another 5 - 10 minutes until golden brown and the milk is caramelized and bubbly around the edges.
Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Gently lift the sheet of Hello Dolly Cookie Bars from the pan by lifting the parchment paper. Allow to cool completely and cut into 9-12 bars. Top each bar with a sprinkle of sea salt and crank some Dolly Parton!
This recipe comes from my Great Grandmother's Boise, ID church cookbook from 1987. I suspect it originated from a label on a can of Sweetened Condensed Milk. This doesn't make the recipe any less special, it actually makes it extra special as it was like shared and treasured by many families.