My puppy came to visit last week!
By came to visit, I mean I basically kidnapped her from my family in Dallas and brought her home with me for the week. And by puppy, I mean she’s 5 years old, and we still treat her like a baby. And a human. Her name is Halo…not after the video game, but after my brother Taylor’s mommy-given nickname.
This was Halo’s spring break vacation, at Camp Ben & Han. You see, last spring, we brought home a brother – Melvin – for Halo, after she had been living as an only child for almost 3 years. I thought I would give Halo a break from sibling life and bring her to my apartment, where she wouldn’t have to share toys, tummy rubs, or walks.
Halo spent a lot of time licking the kitchen floor and lying on the balcony with her face stuck in the gap between the ground and the balcony wall, keeping watch on the neighboring houses.
We went on some long walks (Camp Ben & Han is slightly fitness-oriented).
We took some cuddly naps.
We generally had an awesome time. I know she can’t wait for her next vacay to Wichita Falls. (Never said that before. No one vacays in the Falls.)
When the Weatherman took Halo away from me to bring her back to Dallas, I was lonely. It’s very sad when you come home from work and a little ball of white fur isn’t wiggling around, waiting to jump all over you just because she’s happy to see you. And what do you do when you’re sad and lonely and puppy-less? You bake.
You bake Baked Bars from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, the same cookbook that gave us those perfect brownies. Baked Bars (similar to Seven-Layer Bars) are pretty much a mess of all your favorite kinds of chips – butterscotch, white chocolate, and semisweet chocolate – plus a graham cracker & coconut crust. Then your pour sweetened condensed milk (which, let’s face it, like cream cheese, makes everything better) over the whole darn thing and stick it in the oven, then in your face.
The original recipe calls for toasted, chopped walnuts, which I didn’t have on hand…and I needed these bars, stat. I did however, have some fun size Butterfingers lying around. These candy bars needed to go into some baked good before I gave into temptation and ate them…and this seemed like as good a time as any. I was a little afraid that Butterfingers would make the bars over-the-top in the sugar department, but they actually just went really well with the butterscotch chips. Plus, when melted, Butterfingers get all caramelized and chewy, which is delightful.
These bars were fantastic. Cut them into small servings and watch them disappear, quickly. The Weatherman – who doesn’t even like coconut (or so he says, although he secretly loves pina coladas) – wanted to eat them all before I insisted he share them with his co-workers. The recipe is easy to throw together; the most complicated part is pressing the crust into the pan. It’s also easy to customize…the cookbook just suggests you don’t swap the semisweet chocolate for milk chocolate, because you need something to cut the sweetness of the other chips. I halved the recipe and made it in a 8×8 inch pan, but I’ll post it as it’s written for a 9×13 inch pan.
Makes one 9×13 inch pan…which is at least 24 bars
For the crust
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs – about 20 full crackers
1 cup (= 2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (I actually used salted butter, and it was really yummy)
For the filling
16 fun-size Butterfinger bars, chopped (or 1 1/2 cups walnut halves, toasted and chopped…you can also use another kind of nut)
1 1/2 cups (= 9 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
3/4 cup white chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
3 1/4 cups (= 26 oz = 2 cans) sweetened condensed milk
1. For crust – Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch glass baking pan. Preheat oven to 300ºF with a rack in the middle position. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned and fragrant, about 10-12 minutes, stirring after about 7 minutes. Once toasted, remove from the oven and toss with the graham cracker crumbs in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter over the crumb mixture and toss with a fork or your hands until combined.
2. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press in an even layer over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. (A 1-cup dry measuring cup makes it easier to press the mixture up the sides.) Refrigerate the crust about 15 minutes, then bake in the 300ºF oven until golden, for about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
3. For filling – Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Sprinkle the Butterfinger pieces (or chopped nuts) evenly in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over that layer, then the white chocolate chips, then the butterscotch chips.
4. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the filling in the pan. Give the pan a little shake to make sure it’s evenly distributed. Bake the bars for about 30-35 minutes, until it’s bubbly and the crust and chips are golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack, then slice into small bars and serve. (Don’t even try to cut into these when they’re still warm, it won’t work out.) Bars will keep at room temperature (although I’m betting these would be yummy cold), tightly wrapped or in an airtight container, for 3-4 days.
Recipe adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
If I could I would send some bars to my puppy to let her know I miss her, but she can’t eat chocolate duh. Also I’m sure she’s too busy chasing squirrels and birds in her big backyard.
What would YOU put in your version of Baked Bars? Thanks for reading, happy baking!
On a different note, here’s a link to what Medecins Sans Frontieres (= Doctors Without Borders) is doing in Japan: http://www.msf.org.za/viewnews.php?n=889. MSF is a fantastic organization dedicated to providing immediate relief and sustainable solutions to victims of natural and man-made (think Sudan) disasters. A donation to MSF would assuredly be put to good use.