Serious scrumptiousness. Rich, sweet and addictive. Seven layers of delight. I can’t stop picking at them. I keep talking to myself, oh, I’ll just have a nibble even though it is 10 AM, then oh, what’s another little sliver at noon (before lunch is big for me), then another sliver around 4 and before I realize it I’m full and slightly nauseated from the days tastings. I don’t even love coconut but managed to gobble these up. Judy summed it up nicely stating very simply, “this is the perfect food.” Karen echoed that with lots of mmmms and then added my usual line,”this would be perfect with vanilla ice cream!” (girl after my own heart). (Happy birthday BTW.) And Chrissi nodded, smiled, and said quietly, “really good Lisi.” Cooks County Magazine’s Diane Unger really perfected this recipe. No more butterscotch chips (I’m not a fan) and added little goodies here and there that make an even more delicious bar than the Hello Dolly bars (or Magic bars) of yore. She worked hard fiddling with Heath Bars and Rice Krispies and really the only change I made was to add a touch of salt to the crust and a tad of sea salt to the top. I can’t resist the sweet salty thing and neither will you (well, I think!)
You can prep a few of the ingredients in advance so that baking day is even simpler.
seven-layer bars (from Diane Ungers recipe in The Cooks County Magazine):
1 cup toffee bits (Heath or Skor Bars)
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces milk chocolate – chopped into smallish chunks. (I used Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips. Or use a block chocolate.)
1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and make sure there is excess foil that hangs over the edges. Grease the foil with butter or spray – and don’t forget the sides.
As mentioned above, you can prep the 3 ingredients below a day or 2 or 3 in advance. This will make life easier on baking day.
1. Toast the nuts in the oven at 350 degrees for about 7-10 minutes or until fragrant. Cool and chop coarsely.
2. Toast the coconut for a bit longer. I’m forgetting what I did – but some of it should turn a nice golden brown and it should dry out a bit. Stir it up every now and then as you toast it.
3. Process the toffee bits (I broke up Heath Bars) in a food processor to a fine powder. You need one cup total.
Ok, now time to assemble.
Mix together the graham cracker crumbs and the fine toffee crumbs and add 2 pinches of kosher salt. Add the melted butter and mix well to incorporate. Press the mixture into your prepped pan and try to press it out evenly – the corners too.
Bake for about 8 – 10 minutes – it should just start to brown.
Once out of the oven, immediately sprinkle the chocolate chunks over the crust. Let sit about 2 minutes – allowing the chocolate to soften, and then spread and smooth it into and even layer. Use the back of a spoon or an off set spatula if you have one (makes it easier).
Next, place the Rice Krispies on top of the melted chocolate layer. Try to do this evenly and then gently press them into the chocolate.
Add layers of chopped pecans, chocolate chips and toasted coconut (in that order) and press each layer to adhere.
Whisk together the condensed milk and the vanilla. Pour evenly over the coconut.
Sprinkle a little bit of sea salt (I love Maldon) to the top (this is optional but adds a great nuance).
Place in oven and bake until golden brown – for about 25-30 minutes. I had to place mine on the top rack towards the end in order for it to brown nicely. Didn’t want it to bake extra. See how your oven does and do what you need to do.
Let the bars cool for 2 hours. Then simply pull the foil up with the uncut bars and place on counter. Pull the foil free from the sides. Cut and serve gooey that day (and pop into that ice cream) or loosely wrap with foil and let the bars harden (I like it like this) and cut the next day.