You are probably familiar with cookie bars, from Magic to 7 layer. I don’t discriminate against cookie bars, I love them all. They are my fall back, go to, SOP (Standard Operating Procedure; my husband is an engineer) for every event all year round. For my very knit close group of friends, who get together regularly, we often bring a dish to impromptu gatherings. I go straight to the cookie bars. They never let me down.
As organic as possible:
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter
9 Graham crackers, full sheets (I like Annie’s Organic)
14 oz Sweetened condensed milk (1 can or Trader Joe’s organic bottle)
1/2 cup Crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 cup Coconut
1 cup Chocolate chips
1 cup Chopped hazelnuts
Okay, here’s the drill. Preheat the oven to 325º for a glass pan, 350º for metal. In a ziplock or mortar and pestle type set up, smash the graham crackers until fine crumbs. Place the stick of butter in a 13X9 baking dish and let melt in the oven. Continue to leave in the oven a couple more minutes until browned (not burned). In the mean time, in a sauce pan over medium-low heat, warm condensed milk, peanut butter and vanilla just until smooth. Remove from heat. When butter is a little browned and bubbly, (using oven safe gloves or hot pads) remove the dish from the oven and move around, letting melted butter coat the whole bottom of the pan. Add the crumbs to the butter making an even layer. Press down gently using your hands or the bottom of a glass. Pour condensed milk mixture over the graham cracker crust and gently smooth to make it even. Sprinkle the coconut flakes over the milky peanut butter. Scatter the chocolate chips evenly over the coconut. Sprinkle chopped nuts on the top of the chocolate. Carefully pat the toppings down. Bake 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool, cut into squares and serve.
Tip #1 Use good ingredients! I love Annie’s Organic Graham Crackers, they are sweet and perfect all by themselves.
Tip #2 Use Salted Butter! For this recipe, a salty bite on the crust is what you need.
Tip #3 Brown your butter! It just adds that je ne sais quoi.
Tip #4 Use crunchy peanut butter! We are building layers of texture and flavor here, it all matters.
Tip #5 A little coconut goes along way. Too much does not make it better in this case!
Tip #6 Use milk chocolate! Everybody likes milk chocolate.
Tip #7 Hazelnuts have a great crunch! (chopped peanuts are the next best thing) And great bars have crunch.
Tip #8 Layer bars are best served at room temperature. It allows all of the flavors to shine.
Tip #9 Share! Because something this good should be had by all.