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Five Layer Bars

by on May 12, 2011 · 12 comments

I’ve always been a little uptight about Seven Layer Bars, the cookies where you melt the butter directly in the pan, sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over the butter, pour milk directly over the crumbs, etc. etc. I love the concept but always worry I’ll burn the butter (because one time I did) and that the crumbs and condensed milk won’t soak into the butter evenly.  So usually when I make Seven Layer Bars, I call them Hello Dolly Bars and mix the butter and crumbs together in a bowl, pat that mixture into the pan, then carefully pour the milk over the bars. I also mix the chips and nuts together before pouring them over the condensed milk.

This week, I decided to live life on the edge and try doing it the layerd way. But I had to start small, and rather than seven layers, I went with five and used a recipe with an interesting twist.

Five Layer Bars

This recipe was originally developed by Hershey’s, and it’s special because the graham cracker layer has cocoa mixed in. I wasn’t sure if I’d like cocoa muddying up the graham flavor, but it’s actually really good. I made some changes of my own as well. The old recipe calls for a layer of raisins along with the chocolate chips. I went with peanut butter chips instead. Another thing I do when I make Seven Layer or Hello Dolly type bars is reserve some of the chips and sprinkle them on at the very end for more dimension. And one final and very important note: Make sure you toast the pecans. I skipped that step when I made this batch and could really tell the difference.  I thought maybe the pecans would just kind of toast on their own since they were one of the top layers, but no. They lacked the crispy texture and depth of flavor pecans get when you toast them prior to using.

Five Layer Bars

1 cup whole pecans
12 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted okay
1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
14 oz can of condensed milk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided use)
1 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread pecans on a cookie sheet and toast for about 7 minutes or until aromatic. Let cool, then chop.

Line a 9 x13 inch metal pan with non-stick foil. Put the butter in the pan and put it in the oven just until butter melts – keep an eye on it or it will burn.

Mix together crumbs, cocoa powder and sugar. Sprinkle evenly over melted butter.

Pour condensed milk over crumbs as evenly as possible. Mix together chopped nuts, 1 ½ cups of the chocolate chips and about ½ cup of the peanut butter chips. Sprinkle this mixture over the condensed milk. Bake for 25 minutes. Pull from oven and immediately sprinkle reserved chocolate chips and peanut butter chips over top.

Let cool to room temperature. Lift from pan by grasping foil, put on a cutting board, cut into 32 squares.

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Published on May 12, 2011

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam May 12, 2011 at 11:04 am

You know, I’ve never actually bothered to look at the process for one of these. I always figured the “layers” just refered to how much stuff you could stack before sticking it into the oven. I’m fascinated by this process. Is there any benefit, can you distinguish between the layers?

AJ May 12, 2011 at 11:13 am

Ya know, I’ve always made these with the condensed milk being the LAST layer before you put it in the oven.

I do butter + crumbs – pat into crust and pop into oven for about 5 min to set up (so they’re not so crumbly). Layer of toasted pecans (or walnuts). Layer of choco chips. Layer of butterscotch (or PB) chips. Layer of coconut. Then pour the can of condensed milk over everything and spread it around with a spatula.

Tara May 12, 2011 at 11:22 am

@AJ – ditto that. I’ve always thought of the condensed milk as the sort of “glue” that holds the bars together.

I completely didn’t realize you were supposed to toast the pecans first, though–no wonder mine are always kind of bland! Live and learn; read Cookie Madness.

Kelly May 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I have to admit that I’ve never made 5 layer bars so clearly I’ve been blissfully unaware of the methodology involved, but I will say Re: toasting nuts, this is never something I can decide on. If the nuts are going to sit on top of something I generally don’t toast them because I have that fear that with the extra baking they will get burnt, but if they are going in something where the heat will be a bit more in-direct so to speak I do. Hmmmm…

Kay May 12, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Oh, YUM! Love these things… whether they’re 5-layer, 7-layer, Hello-Dolly, layered, partially mixed, whatever variation, it’s all good! :) Haven’t made them for a long time. I’ve never toasted the pecans either, will have to try that next time! I can see that it would add something to the flavor.

Pam May 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I’m with AJ — I’ve always made these with the condensed milk being the last step, and I usually don’t toast the pecans first. May have to try that next time!

Lisa Ernst May 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm

This is my kind of layer bar — love the chocolate twist in the crumb mixture!

Gloria May 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm

I’ve never made 5 or 7 layer bars, but I like them. It is genius to add cocoa to the crumbs!!!! Toasting nuts does make desserts (and salads) much better! A tangent…Sometimes I add left over toasted pecans to Kozy Shack Cinnamon Raisin Rice pudding–to die for..

Hannah at Fleurdelicious May 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Like others who have commented, I always pour the condensed milk on last. Love the addition of cocoa and pb chips, although raisins sound interesting! I also like versions that add coconut to the Graham crust layer. These look great, I love that these kinds of bars are so customizable!

Darlene May 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Anna, I don’t know if you’ve tried these yet, but my son’s girlfriend recently made Nestle’s Dark Chocolate Crumb Bars, which were really outstanding. (just in case you are in the mood for another bar cookie)

Anna May 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm

I usually pour the condensed milk on last, but I was pretty happy with the results I got when pouring it on before the chips. It kind of bubbled up around the chips and they held together just fine. Of course now I have to make a batch of Seven Layer and put the condensed milk under the chips on one half and over the chips on the other just for comparison’s sake.

Cookie Sleuth May 12, 2011 at 11:27 pm

I love 7 layer bars and am sure I will love this too!

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