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Well, Hello Dolly {Bars}!

Well, Hello Dolly {Bars}!

By a show of hands, who has that song in his or her head now?

Good. Then we can move on.

Hello, Friends. It is nice to have you back here. We’ve talked about this day. Now it’s finally here.

Okay, fine. It’s only been since Monday. But it feels like we’ve been talking about it forever — that is, what we were going to do with dose dere GF Nilla Wafers we made the other day. But before we go any further, I would like to apologize for the whole oven thing. I’m sorry that, to make the Nillas and the Hello Dollies, you have to turn on the oven. Where so many of you live, it’s hot.

Where I live, it’s hot. And I’d rather make something on the stovetop than in the oven. But these babies are worth it. I swear.

While we’re talking about the heat, I thought I’d share a little factoid: I hate the Summer. There. I said it.

What’s that you ask, Dear Friend? What do I hate the most about Summer? Okay, I’ll tell you: I hate that people feel the need to be nearly naked in the summertime. Did they not get the memo? Here. Here’s the memo. Do me a favor? Take one and pass it — around the world:


TO:  Wherever It Is Hot Outside In The World
FROM: Me, Busybody Extraordinaire
RE:  Being half naked when it’s hot outside

Please be advised, Dear World, that, unless you are or look suspiciously like Matthew McConaughey {fair warning: M.M. didn’t get the other Memo — the one that tells us that people don’t like music on web sites, but it’s okay because he’s adorable} in A Time To Kill, we (the rest of the World’s People) don’t want to see you naked, even by half.

For some of you, this might be bad news. For most of you, it’s old news and you have a special obligation to spread The Word. And part of The Word is that it’s actually cooler to wear loose fitting, light colored clothing in the heat.

That settled, let’s get back to Hello Dolly!. If you’re looking for some historical facts, you’ve come to the wrong place. I have looked, but I have come up empty. I have no idea whether these are related to Dolly Madison. There’s a lot of speculation out there on the Internet, but I’m just not sure.

Here’s what I do know: These are your basic trifecta of desserts: rich, impressive, & simple to make.

Making these bars is really more a matter of assembling than active baking. The only stumbling block is a crunchy gluten-free cookie. Traditionally, these are made with a graham cracker crust, and you can definitely go that way. My favorite crust is made of crushed Nilla Wafers. I find that a Nilla Wafer crust balances out the melty chocolate just right, but you should go your own way. Want to make it even easier? Use any old sort of crunchy store-bought GF cookie, like maybe Mi-Del Gluten-Free Crunchy Cinnamon Snaps. These are super flexible. You can sub in nearly anything you like, as long as you have a buttery cookie crust, some chips, and sweetened condensed milk in the mix.

Oh, and just so you know, I’m very forgiving of a Cold & Snowy Winter. I save all my weather-related complaining for The Summer. It all evens out in the end. Most people where I live complain endlessly about the snow we get. I just smile like a lunatic, and shovel the snow.

How about you? Do you have a favorite season? A least favorite season?

Well, Hello Dolly {Bars}!
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Nicole @ Gluten-free on a Shoestring.com
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 16
Gluten-free multi-layered cookie-chocolate bars.
  • 1 1/2 cups crunchy cookie crumbs, like our Nilla Wafers from the other day
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut {optional}
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecan pieces {cheaper than whole pecans}
  • 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease well an 8 inch x 8 inch baking dish, and line with two crisscrossed overhanging strips of parchment paper. Then grease the parchment paper, and set the dish aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, add the cookie crumbs and the melted butter, and mix to combine well. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish, being sure to cover every corner and crevice.
  3. On top of the cookie crust in even layers, add the semi-sweet chocolate chips, the white chocolate chips, the {optional} coconut and the pecans. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top of the whole dish.
  4. Place the baking dish in the center of the preheated oven, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the dish is a warm brown bubbling gooey mess. *sigh*
  5. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan. If you try to remove it too soon, it won’t hold together. Once cool, grab the overhanging layers of parchment and remove the bars. With a wet knife, slice the bars into 16 pieces. Serve at room temperature or chilled from the refrigerator.

I know of no dairy-free substitute for sweetened condensed milk. For the butter, you can easily sub in non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening.
Any chopped nuts will do. Or you can leave them out altogether, but it won’t be the same.
Any combination of chips is great. Butterscotch chips are awesome here, too.

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If you liked this recipe, you'll love my new book!

Gluten-Free on a Shoestring [Second Edition]:

125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap

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Comments are closed.

  • Tammy Park
    October 8, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    So yummy-looking, I want to lick the computer screen. But then I’d have to wash the rest of it to match. These are definitely going in my new GF recipe collection. Thanks to you. xxx

    • Nicole
      October 8, 2011 at 7:59 PM

      Hi, Tammy,
      Yes, it is bad manners to lick only a portion of one’s computer screen. Good catch. ;)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Fiona Sheehan
    September 17, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    Thanks for a fun and informative blog /site. I have been GF for a year and miss baked goods most of all. So I am looking forward to many more delicious recipes. Will rate the lemon bars and magic bars recipes after making for a luncheon next week.

  • kat hill
    September 10, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    Ok now I just seriously adore you -you are hitting every single one of my sans gluten buttons -first ‘nilla wafers and now hello dolly’s and then I scroll down to find lemon squares? Are you reading my mind or what?! your the neighbor lady I always wanted with all your recipes needing tasting!

    One things for sure this aint yo grandmas gluten free, (we just get to take her recipes into the 21st century and beyond! thanks to you and other intrepid explorers like you…) now could you get on with re creating a delicious GF Beer to go with all the cookies please?

    In GF solidarity,

    • Nicole
      September 11, 2011 at 10:58 AM

      Hi, Kat,
      You have no idea how much I wish I had a GF neighbor! My husband is pretty much the worst GF taste-tester ever. He loves to eat, but he’s terrible at breaking down the different flavors and textures. Everything is “good.” I have to read his body language. It’s very frustrating!
      There actually are some really good GF beers on the market these days! I have tried many of them (‘scuse me), and so far my favorite is Bard’s. http://www.bardsbeer.com/ You have to put in your birthday to get into the site. It’s almost like being carded – it’s fun! ;)
      Oh, and I adore you, too. Keep coming back!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Annie D.
    July 9, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    Nicole! I am a newbie to your blog, but have been cooking GFCF for about 3 years ago — when I was diagnosed with allergies to wheat and dairy. I have never felt better in my life, and I love the GF community. Thank you so much for sharing your brilliant recipes with all of us! These look AMAZING!!!!!!

    • Nicole
      July 9, 2011 at 8:29 PM

      Hi, Annie,
      Welcome to Gluten-Free on a Shoestring! I’m so glad you have found the resources you need in the gluten-free community. Stick around. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • July 6, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    […] me out of house and home, whichever comes first — they seem kind of indifferent}, people are disgustingly naked in the Summer, I purchased a Community Supported Agriculture {“CSA”} share and received my first […]

  • Lindsey
    June 22, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    These are in my oven right now- I don’t think I’m going to be able to wait until the dinner party they’re for to eat them!

    • Nicole
      June 22, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      Hi, Lindsey,
      Does it help at all that they are easier to cut when they’re entirely cooled? Otherwise, just dig in. They’re really rich. Tell everyone you only brought one per person, to protect them from overdosing. :)

  • June 9, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Hi Nicole,

    So the bagels, chocolate chip brownies & the sourdough starter are all made and I have been in baking heaven all day. Seriously it’s the most I’ve ever baked (I’m more of a cook, not a baker), especially GF, in one day. My house smells amazing and I feel so productive today!! I’m dying to dive into the brownies but you said to let them cool so I will obey. (reluctantly!) The bagels topped with Philadelphia Whipped Cream Cheese are just amazing. No weird after taste like most GF breads that I have tried and the perfect consistency. Now, my question is how do I store these lovely creations?? Like normal GF breads and in the freezer or on the counter? I’ve heard the fridge dries out GF breads, is this true??
    I am loving my new cookbook and Laura and I have decided to have a weekly bake session….next is the soft pretzels and sourdough bread. Can you tell I’m craving bread?? LOL!

    • Nicole
      June 9, 2011 at 8:02 PM

      That’s amazing, Heather! It’s the best feeling, isn’t it? You feel like having something, so you make it. Simple as that. The bagels can be on the counter for about 2 days, then in the refrigerator or the freezer after that. I don’t find that the refrigerator dries out GF bread more than anything else, really. Bread will dry out – GF or not – as it sits. But wrap it in wax paper, not plastic, and when you are ready to eat it, toast it (in a toaster or even in a warm — not hot — oven of about 250 degrees) or just microwave it a bit. If it seems dry to the touch, just sprinkle it with a few drops of tap water right before you microwave it. Nothing magic to it. Before putting bagels in the refrigerator or especially the freezer, I would suggest slicing them first. It just makes it easier later. Great job!! I love that you and Laura are going to have a standing date to bake. She’s a keeper!

  • June 9, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    Maybe it’s time to take GF on a Shoestring on the road and land in Seattle for a book-tour in our chilly city. It’s just an idea [*whistles innocently, despite the fact that she can’t actually whistle*]. I can visualize you at Elliott Bay Books or Third Place Books, easily! Elliott Bay Books has Molly Moon’s ice cream right around the corner, too.

    Oh look, the the sun came out! I must catch it.

    • Nicole
      June 9, 2011 at 7:27 PM

      Hi, Farida,
      I wish I could move to another part of the country. You have no idea how much I wish that. I would take a rainy climate over the one I have here. My husband is rather risk averse. It’s not his best quality. :)

  • Sarah Dean
    June 9, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    These are my favorite for Christmas time. My Mom always called them “7-Layer Bars”, though. I could eat an entire pan myself. Yummy!

    • Nicole
      June 9, 2011 at 1:21 PM

      Hi, Sarah,
      It’s good to hear from you. You are, apparently, in good company when it comes to calling these 7 Layer Bars. I had never heard that, but you can’t go by me. I tend to be an outlier. ;) These are so good, whatever you call them!

  • June 9, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Hi Nicole,
    My mom tells me that she’s largely lost her taste for sweets, but I know her weakness: sweetened condensed milk. I think she’ll get a contact high just by looking at this recipe. (Or maybe she’ll just be peeved with me for revealing a secret. Ha!) She’s flying in to visit me for a week AND she’s now wheat-free, which is why I mention her.

    I understand that much of the USA is experiencing heat. Poor little Seattle is shivering in fear and loathing of the thought of a Year Without a Summer. We had two days this past weekend of 70 degree sunniness, but I was wearing wool socks and a hat on June 1! I have no interest in walking around half-naked, but I would like to wear sandals without my toes going numb.

    Are you familiar with Nanaimo Bars? I haven’t had one since 2004, but I remember them well, and with fondness. I think that the Nilla Wafers would work well with them as well. Nanaimo Bars (named after the town of Nanaimo, British Columbia) require melted chocolate but no baking.

    • Nicole
      June 9, 2011 at 12:15 PM

      Hi, Farida,
      I love the contact high reference! If she didn’t love sweetened condensed milk, I would worry that maybe she wasn’t a real person. I think these bars are basically just an excuse to eat that stuff.
      I have in fact heard of Nanaimo bars. A couple years ago, I had a bunch of readers ask me to come up with a GF recipe for those babies, so I looked into it. I agree that these wafers would be lovely in those.
      I’m jealous of your weather, all the same. Have I mentioned that I hate the heat?

  • Jennifer R
    June 9, 2011 at 1:05 AM

    PS My favorite season is autumn, but where I live in the southwest US it stays pretty warm, and we don’t get so much of the beautiful fall foliage. I love the crisp cool days after the heat (and I mean HEAT) of summer here. My sister lives in NY now and we’re going to visit in three weeks. She said it has been hot lately. I’m excited to share some gluten free tips with her that I’ve learned from you.

    • Nicole
      June 9, 2011 at 9:52 AM

      Oh, no, Jennifer — it’s awful in NY these days. The heat index will bring it up to 100 degrees today! And it’s so so humid. As they say, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity! I wish you cool travels. :)

  • Jennifer R
    June 9, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    We always called these 7 Layer bars or Magic Bars in Minnesota where I grew up. I never liked coconut until I had these either! I just bought some coconut because I’ve been craving it in a sweet dessert lately. But i didn’t have a specific recipe in mind until now. Thanks Nicole!

    • Nicole
      June 9, 2011 at 9:51 AM

      We’re so in synch, Jennifer! My husband doesn’t like coconut, either, but he likes these!

  • June 8, 2011 at 7:44 PM

    Those bars look amazing! Hahaha, I laughed when I read your memo. I totally agree with you about the half naked people! The thing is, in my part of the world it’s currently pretty cold – we’re heading into winter. Feel free to come over to New Zealand if the nakedness gets too much for you! ;)

    • Nicole
      June 8, 2011 at 8:15 PM

      Hi, Theresa,
      Don’t tempt me! I wish I lived much further north than I do. I belong somewhere that doesn’t have a true summer. I do not belong in New York!

  • Bonnie Sue
    June 8, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Nicole, Do you have a banana bread recipe somewhere? Could I use the one in your cookbook and only use bananas and put it in a loaf pan and bake longer? TIA!

    • Nicole
      June 8, 2011 at 8:13 PM

      Hi, Bonnie Sue,
      I do have a recipe for banana bread on the blog: http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/banana-bread/ It’s an old recipe, though, so there’s no picture and it’s not very explicit in its directions, but it works. You could definitely use the recipe in book as you describe.

  • I lost my cookbook!!!

  • June 8, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    Yummmm—– yea and I hate summer too. The heat makes me physically ill

  • Jena Thygesen Goshia via Facebook
    June 8, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Goodness, those look decadent!

  • Anne-Marie
    June 8, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Looks awesome!! Looks like I’ll be responsible for dessert for Father’s Day..thanks Nicole! =)

    • Nicole
      June 8, 2011 at 10:44 AM

      Hi, Anne-Marie,
      You’re welcome! Responsibility is over-rated. How about you will be gracious enough to offer these on Father’s Day? ;) I hope everyone appreciates it!

  • June 8, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    I can’t wait until the kids’ baseball season slows down, so I can cook again. I’m really excited to try lots of your recipes!

  • Bonnie Sue
    June 8, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Wow these look ridiculously delicious! I thought gf was supposed to be boring and well gross. Really want to try these but wondered what I could substitute the sweetened condensed milk to make it df? Thanks Nicole!

    • Nicole
      June 8, 2011 at 10:10 AM

      Hi, Bonnie Sue,
      Who told you that gluten-free meant gross!? For a dairy-free sweetened condensed milk option, please see Valerie’s comment just above. She seems to have great DF suggestions {and I’m really grateful to her for posting that}!

  • Valerie
    June 8, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    Any time you have to say Dairy-free (insert whatever) milk, it just seems a little sick and wrong. However, I have accumulated several possibilities over the last year or so for evaporated milk, I just haven’t tried any of them. I think I will break them out for these (which I also know as Magic bars, or 7- layer bars- is it a regional thing maybe???) but I thought I’d share for the rest of my GFCF buddies..

    Condensed Milk
    use Vance’s Foods DariFree Original Powder Gluten-Free Beverage. Rather than mixing it as milk, mix 1/2 c. of the powder with 1 c. of hot water.

    Sweetened Condensed Milk I
    Equivalent: 1 cup
    3 cups Soy or Rice Milk
    ½ cup White Sugar (try evaporated cane sugar for more nutrients)
    Vanilla Extract
    Directions: Add the soy or rice milk and the sugar to a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until volume is reduced to 1 cup. Add a few drops of vanilla to taste, and a pinch of salt. Cool before using. May be stored in the refrigerator.

    Sweetened Condensed Milk III
    Equivalent: 1 cup of Sweetened Condensed Milk
    ¾ cup Silken Tofu
    ¼ cup Honey
    Directions: Place the tofu and honey in a blender and process until very smooth. Cool before using, and store in the refrigerator.

    • Nicole
      June 8, 2011 at 9:46 AM

      Thank you so much, Valerie! That’s awesome. I’m sure that will help a lot of people…

  • June 8, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Ugh…I LOATHE summer. The only thing worse than the average Tennessee summer…is being pregnant during one. Ugh…i’ve done that twice.

  • Sandra Turner Rowland via Facebook
    June 8, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    Looks delicious! I agree with you (and I think we are a minority!) I hate summer!

  • Kadren
    June 8, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    I never knew the name of these! We called them fat bars in college. lol

    • Nicole
      June 8, 2011 at 9:19 AM

      Oh, no, Kadren! You did NOT just tell me that. Where were you while I was writing this post?! The name would one thousand percent be FAT BARS if I had known that before. Love it!

    • Kadren
      June 8, 2011 at 12:12 PM

      Hee hee hee Maybe you could A.K.A. them Fat Bars. They could be, “hello, Dolly! A.K.A. Fat Bars” I’m pretty sure ours used the butterscotch chips most of the time. It was the first time I ever liked coconut. :)

  • Nancy Cooper Mills via Facebook
    June 8, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    I will do this!!

  • June 8, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    Um, yes – these look very ooh-y, chewy, gooey and delicious! I have to amend my shopping list and then hurry to the store so I can prepare myself for a food induced coma this weekend. You got me, I had no idea where we were headed with those Nillas but I couldn”t be more pleased. I like the way you think!

    • Nicole
      June 8, 2011 at 9:13 AM

      Hi, Jayne,
      I only fooled you in the name of l-o-v-e. I dare you to eat more than one row of these and stay conscious. I dare you!

  • Becky
    June 8, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    Love that you called them by “Hello Dolly”, the name I grew up knowing them by. My husband will be so thrilled to eat these. I like the song!

    • Nicole
      June 8, 2011 at 9:12 AM

      Hi, Becky,
      That’s the only name I know them by! Except Jen said “7 layer bars,” but that was news to me. :)

  • June 8, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    Hear that? My hips. Crying on my waist’s shoulder. And my arteries are in hysterics. Because they know I’m going to make these and probably eat the whole danged pan.
    Oh, and I’ve always called these 7 layer bars. Or 9 layer bars. Just depends on how much stuff you layer on.

    • Nicole
      June 8, 2011 at 9:08 AM

      Hi, Jen,
      I hear it. And I’m sorry. Except that I’m not really sorry. These are awesome, so I feel there is nothing to be sorry about. :)
      7 or 9 layer bars, huh? That’s a lot of layers. What about poor Dolly?

  • Jen Torbeck Merrill via Facebook
    June 8, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    OMG. Another killer recipe. I…can’t…my diet, it cries! I made the deep dish pizza last night and ate half. :( In my defense, it was the first deep dish pizza I’ve had in 3 years. ;)
    But, if you insist, I’ll make these bars. And listen to the pathetic weeping of that diet. ;)

  • Pam Gordon via Facebook
    June 8, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    OMG….well, looks like i’m going to be busy this weekend…..good thing it’s supposed to rain Saturday! :)

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