chewy gooey layer bars

chewy gooey layer bars | movita beaucoup

Growing up, I loved me some Hello Dolly Squares. Some of you might call them Magic Bars, 7-Layer Bars, or Miracle Bars. I requested them every year – especially at Christmastime – and I still do. There are many variations, but the results are always basically the same: layers of über sweet, awesome goodness sitting atop a disgusting graham cracker base.

I loathe graham crackers.

chewy gooey layer bars | movita beaucoup

When you put graham crackers in my dessert, I am instantly saddened. I know how it’s gunna go down. Or, more accurately, not go down. That base is going to crumble. It will fall apart and make it impossible for me to lift my treat to my mouth. Alternatively, you will have packed the graham base down so hard that when I try to break into it with my fork, it will fly across the room. I will pretend to feel bad about the broken vase, but I’ll really be thinking: your penchant for graham crackers comes with a price. Also, your graham base is going to taste like crackers and butter. Would you serve crackers and butter to Oprah, ya crazy nutter? No. I didn’t think so. And don’t think that covering those crackers with say, cheesecake, is any better. The graham dust will still get stuck in my throat. I’ll do my best to choke it down or eat around it, but the entire time I will be thinking: away crumbly thing. AWAY! 

Shouldn’t we be up in arms about this? Can’t we do better than pulverized crackers sitting on the bottom of a pan? The answer is yes, my friends. Yes, we can.

chewy gooey layer bars | movita beaucoup

With another holiday season quickly approaching, my thoughts turned to the Hello Dolly Squares I would once again be craving. Or at least, the top half of the Hello Dolly Squares I’d be craving, and I was, indeed, up in arms about the whole thing. So I set about creating a non-graham base for these bars. Strong enough to support the sweet layers above it, suitable for cutting and capable of portaging the über sweet, awesome goodness to my mouth.

It took a few attempts. A first try included chocolate in the base, and a rejected pre-baked crust idea. There was a batch that landed in the green bin – mostly because they sort of caught on fire. And finally, there were adjusted bake times and a re-ordering of layers. And then I birthed these: Chewy Gooey Layer Bars. Nary a graham cracker in sight.

I actually considered calling these Bye Bye Graham Bars.

chewy gooey layer bars | movita beaucoup

Behold an incredibly sweet, chewy, gooey bar with a non-graham base. The base is a little chewy because there’s coconut in there, and the top is gooey because when you combine even more coconut with sweetened condensed milk, things get a little messy. Should you decide to try them, I want you to heed these instructions: after baking, allow the squares to cool completely, then cover the pan with tinfoil (pull it taut so it’s not touching the surface of the bars), and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least a couple of hours before cutting. Refrigeration sets the bars and makes for easier slicing. Don’t skip that step, okay? Trust. Actually, I think they taste best when still cold, so I’d recommend trying ’em that way first. Also, I’d recommend cutting them into smallish squares as they are very decadent. Don’t be a hero. No one is interested in watching you barf under the Christmas tree.

chewy gooey layer bars | movita beaucoup

Now kick back and imagine Kevin Bacon serving these to you wearin’ nuthin’ but an apron. He’s smiling because you didn’t try to choke him with graham crackers. And then you live happily ever after.

{insert fist bump here}

. . .

Chewy Gooey Layer Bars

recipe: inspired by the traditional Hello Dolly Square and a loathing of graham cracker bases

print and bake

Yields one 9×9 baking pan. An incredibly sweet, chewy, gooey bar.

For the base:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, cooled slightly
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 can (300 ml.) sweetened condensed milk

Mise en place – begin by getting organized. Measure out all of your ingredients. Be sure you’ve allowed enough time for the squares to completely cool and sit in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours prior to slicing. 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×9 baking pan – these are gooey bars, be sure to grease the sides, bottom and corners of your pan.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, baking powder and salt, stirring to combine. Stir in the eggs, mixing well to combine. Add 1/2 cup coconut, melted butter and vanilla, mixing to combine. Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of your prepared baking pan.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly overtop of the base. Next, sprinkle the coconut evenly over the surface, followed by the walnuts. Finally, drizzle the condensed milk over top of the bars. You can use a small spatula to encourage even spreading of the condensed milk and to fill in the nooks and crannies – just be gentle so as not to disturb the layers underneath.

Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan at the 15 minute mark. The top should be deep, golden brown before removing from the oven.

Allow the squares to cool completely (in the pan, on a wire rack), then cover the pan with tinfoil (pull it taut so it’s not touching the surface of the bars), and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least a couple of hours before cutting. I don’t recommend skipping this step. Refrigeration sets the bars and makes for easier slicing. I find these bars taste best when chilled.

Store in the refrigerator.

50 Responses to chewy gooey layer bars

  1. Anonymous October 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Yummy!

  2. Liz October 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Thank you.

  3. emma October 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Oprah looks like she eats her fair share of butter, I don’t think she’d mind.

    I will now imagine Kevin Bacon wearing nothing but graham crackers.

    • movita beaucoup October 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      Noooooooo! Graham crackers will ruin Kevin Bacon!

  4. gottagetbaked October 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    I’ll take a pan or two of these with or without graham crackers. But I need Kevin Bacon to serve them to me.

  5. Dimple@shivaaydelights October 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    I have all these ingredients at home. I hope to make them this weekend. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Willow @ Will Cook For Friends October 18, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    I’ve never heard of the bars you speak of, but these sound incredible. Especially if Kevin Bacon is there to serve them to me. Because Bacon makes everything taste better.

  7. Amy @ Elephant Eats October 18, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    I hope you won’t hate me now….but i love graham cracker crusts. I love that they taste like butter- although I’ll agree with you on the crumbly part…they’re pretty annoying in that way. Maybe I could figure out a way to make a not-so-buttery-not-so-crumbly graham cracker base for you? I would do this purely for your benefit as there are so many desserts you’d otherwise miss out on by avoiding the dreaded graham crust…

    • movita beaucoup October 19, 2013 at 7:56 am #

      Amy I could never hate you for loving graham cracker crusts. A lot of people do. Also, I don’t even like the TASTE of graham crackers. So, I generally just eat whatever is on top of it so I don’t miss out on anything…

  8. thekalechronicles October 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Kudos, Movita! It is about time that someone removed the nasty graham-cracker base from the dessert scene: it has ruined cheesecakes all of my life and prevented me from attempting Nanaimo bars (of course, I never use crackers in my cheesecake, but other people do…). Your bars look scrumptious.

    • movita beaucoup October 19, 2013 at 7:58 am #

      Did you type all of that with ONE HAND? Geez, woman! I’m thinking Nanaimo bars would taste just as good with Arrowroot/digestive cookies. Maybe I should start testing…

  9. Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) October 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    I’ve never heard of Hello Dolly squares (like, by any of the names you listed!), but I’m SURE these are better, and I’m glad you figured them out without starting too many fires. The tops of them look especially amazing… coconut and sweetened condensed milk = Yes.

  10. natalie @ wee eats October 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    WHO KNEW that graham crackers were one of your triggers? I actually spent the majority of my life eating ONLY the graham cracker base of many desserts ( i was super anti-cheesecake/coconut/basically everything that people put on top of graham crackers) but… clearly my tastebuds have matured (i’ve graduated to incorporating both cream cheese AND coconut into my diet, go me!). I’m going to make these though, because 1> they look delicious 2> you worked SO HARD and 3> you’ve heretoforth revolutionized the base of every bar cookie/cheesecake/ANY DESSERT EVER that needs a graham base, so clearly I need to try this out and see all the other things I can make with it.

  11. Jennifer McHenry (@bakeorbreak) October 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    I don’t share your dislike of graham crackers, but I can still get behind these beauties. Bars like these are one of my favorite things to bake!

  12. Sandra R October 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    I am impressed that you utilized your hatred of graham crackers in such a constructive way. And I want to make these, because they look awesome. Barfing under the Christmas tree? I am safe. My tree is boxed in the basement.. is yours up already??? Over achiever.

    • movita beaucoup October 19, 2013 at 8:00 am #

      No, Sandra! Our tree will be thrown up at the last minute as always. It usually involves a last minute trip to the store to find an extra set of lights… and tears.

  13. shannon October 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    to natalie: I actually DID know that graham crackers were one of rachael’s triggers: she hates them. i can’t tell you why i remember what she hates *i’m afraid of her* but i know almost everything, at least in the ingredients category.
    so never make her anything with grahams. like smore’s. she would HATE ALL OVER YOUR SMORES.
    to rachael: i’m trying these. because you know i have my own hello magic sevens dolly layers myself, but they have a graham layer. since i don’t hate graham, but don’t love graham, i think i’d be able to test one against the other objectively. project = go.

  14. Ang October 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    we got those thangs called hello dollys down here in Texas . . . . we just mix them ol’ crackers with extra butter and top with extra eagle brand and them suckers slide right on down . . . add the Texan drawl . . . it really helps (I just found your site and really love your wit and charm, reminds me of our oldest daughter, I am scared of her too!)

    • movita beaucoup October 19, 2013 at 8:00 am #

      You should be scared of us. We’re right tough like.

  15. Krysten S October 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    I really liked how you compared yourself to Oprah there haha. Also, Movita, you know how I feel about Kevin Bacon..

    • movita beaucoup October 19, 2013 at 8:01 am #

      No, I didn’t compare myself to Oprah! I merely suggested that feeding her crackers and butter would be weird. Because IT WOULD BE WEIRD.

      Kinda like people who don’t like Kevin Bacon.

  16. Juls October 18, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    See, I’ve always been intrigued by Graham crackers because we don’t have them here. I have literally no idea what they are and they crop up all the time in American and Canadian recipes. We always sub with biscuits called Digestives but, frankly, I have no idea if the two are vaguely similar. It also grates on me how ‘Graham’ gets pronounced as one syllable (Gram) as opposed to the two it is over here (Gray-am) so we couldn’t possibly be eating them here because we’d pronounce it all ‘wrong’ but insist that its right and get all up ourselves about it and then boycott them anyway. So, in conclusion, I still don’t know what a Gray-am cracker is.

    • movita beaucoup October 19, 2013 at 8:03 am #

      Digestives are similar to Gray-am crackers, but generally less dry and more tasty. I actually like digestives in crusts but REALLY like crushed up chocolate wafers. That should be a way bigger trend, my friend…

  17. Renee October 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Swap out The Bacon for Charlie Hunnam and you have yourself a deal. I was totally laughing because my mom made these every year at Christmas (called them Magic bars) and yeah, that graham bottom was a pain. Your recipe is genius, as per usual. Happy weekend my friend!

  18. juanitascocina October 18, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    I’m going to have to replace Kevin Bacon with someone else…like…anyone.

    BUT…I’m so with you on these magical bars. They’re more magic than David Copperfield. (is he Canadian???)

    • movita beaucoup October 19, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      Yes, David Copperfield is Canadian. Most of the coolest celebrities are. {http://www.imdb.com/list/SCi2RmmqSg0/} We are a non-braggy people, that’s why we don’t get too bothered when Americans claim our people as their own. However, in exchange, I’m going to have to insist that you give us Kevin Bacon.

  19. Caroline October 19, 2013 at 2:32 am #

    Kevin Bacon, Movita……seriously? Awesome looking bars, but how will u send them across the room now????

    • movita beaucoup October 19, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      On a plate, Caroline! Or by hand! Because they won’t fall apart! Yippie!!

      I have a one-word response to your Kevin Bacon comment: Footloose.

      • Caroline October 21, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

        Not as much fun but the barf fest under the tree should make up for it……your KB, my graham cracker.

  20. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef October 19, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    I like graham crackers and probably because I can’t get any. There’s no such thing here. I think I’d love your non-graham bars because I can make them from ingredients I CAN buy. They look wonderful.

  21. frugalfeeding October 20, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    Damn, Movita – those look good. I also don’t really understand the graham cracker. I’ll certainly buy some if I ever come across them! These look naughty – shame I’m off the cake really…

  22. ibreatheimhungry October 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    I hope that we can still be friends after I tell you that I actually like graham cracker crusts, and that I don’t really like Kevin Bacon. I’m hoping we can put aside our differences and get past it. These do look amazing though, and I’d eat the heck out of them if I had some, and I would try not to miss the crunchy sweet buttery bottom layer. But part of me would be sad about it…

  23. Lan | morestomach October 21, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    but wait, what about S’mores? how do you eat s’mores without graham crackers?

    PS. all is not lost, i do love me some Kevin Bacon. did you see him in Wild Things? need i say more?

  24. themessybakerblog October 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Farewell crumbly graham crust! I’m on to new and better things now. I’ll happily take three.

  25. Choc Chip Uru October 23, 2013 at 4:43 am #

    I need these bars in my life they look incredible 😀

    Cheers
    CCU

  26. Lily @ Life, Love, and Cupcakes October 23, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    I have nothing against graham crackers, but this version sounds pretty awesome!!

  27. spree October 24, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    geez movita, you’ve taken all the wind out of my sails. my next post was going to be a graham cracker tofu lasagna – but now knowing that neither you NOR Oprah would eat it…this is just too sad…(but your bars! get outta here! those look SO good!)

  28. chezus1 October 24, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Damn you for making even more hungry. These look awesome!!!

  29. Averie @ Averie Cooks October 28, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    These look incredible and way to stick with the recipe to finally get it the way you wanted it! I despise recipe fails and if it’s for my blog, 1 fail is all I need. And then I just move on. Lol Big props for getting them how you wanted! Minus the graham crackers (I have a couple graham crusts that are solid, firm, buttery and if anything would change your mind about graham crusts, i.e. mushy and fall apart, I have a couple arm-twisters for you!) Pinned!

  30. Eggton November 4, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    It is my sincere hope that Kevin Bacon googles himself this week and finds these bars and gets such a hoot out of himself in an apron that he tweets you a picture of it. A picture of the APRON, movita. Geez. Keep your mind out of the gutter.

  31. wendy@chezchloe November 5, 2013 at 5:57 am #

    I’m with Amy on the graham crackers but I will follow your recipe to the tee. I’m making these for the next holiday party I go to. Or maybe some little presents for folks in my hood.

  32. shannon December 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    okay, SO: i made these bars for the Wee One’s teachers’ lunch this week. i actually made a double batch in case they needed lots extra (or in case my freezer needed lots extra). my verdict?

    *deep breath*

    I AM NEVER EATING REGULAR BE-GRAHAMED SEVEN LAYER BARS AGAIN. EVER. THESE ARE WONDROUS. IT’S LIKE EATING HEAVEN IN A FAT SQUARE.

    and pretty soon I’M going to be a fat square, so thank you for that. Shannon-approved. MANY THUMBS UP, including two very small ones. and basically an entire school’s faculty and staff.

    • movita beaucoup December 7, 2013 at 8:00 am #

      Yay! This is very good news indeed. I’m so glad you liked them, and I hope that the Wee One will receive a glowing report card as a result. (Do kids still get report cards? Or does that crush their emotional freedom?)

      Also, everything is better when shaped like a fat square.

  33. Lea Carroll October 22, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    I have been searching the internet for at least 2 hours looking for a recipe without graham crackers! I was about to give up and come up with my own and your wonderful recipe, blog and site popped up! Finally someone gets it!

    • movita beaucoup October 23, 2014 at 8:38 am #

      I’m so glad YOU understand! It’s tough out there for those with graham aversions. So tough…

  34. movita beaucoup December 28, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    Comments on this post are now closed as it was published in October 2013. Thanks for stopping by!

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