I guess I assumed that everyone else knew what Hello Dolly bars are or that they ate them as when they were younger. I remember trying them at a friends house and loving them. The other day some friends were asking me what I made for the blog and everyone looked at me with uncertain faces when I said “Hello Dolly bars but I’m not adding nuts to them” finally one of my friends goes, “And what exactly is a Hello Dolly bar?” It has been fun to introduce them to other people who have liked them as much as I do. I haven’t made them in forever because of my son’s tree nut allergies. So I came up with an idea for a replacement ingredient for the pecans or walnuts that are usually in the the bars – pretzels! I thought of this while looking at the Vermont Nut Free Chocolates website. They use pretzels in a chocolate caramel bark to add crunch and made me start to think about how I could use pretzels for the same reason. I’m so pleased with how these bars came out. The salty pretzels add a nice foil to the other super sweet ingredients and add the crunch that would be missing if you just left the nuts out all together.
To begin getting ready for this bake I preheated the oven to 350 F degrees. I also lined my 9-by-13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. I crumpled the paper up to make it fit into the corners easily. I also learned this trick from the King Arthur Baking Instagram account. I use binder clips to hold the parchment paper into place while I’m putting ingredients into the pan and you can leave them on while the pan goes into the oven. It is so simple and easy to do. Just a side note – if you haven’t watched the King Arthur Baking Instagram stories with Chef Susan Reid you need to right now! She bakes tasty things but is the most real baker on social media. Every recipe she is like…”Oh yeah I tried this and it didn’t work, so I tried it a different way, or ooops I forgot an ingredient, I’ll just throw it in now” It is so nice to see, I love it.
Okay, back to the recipe – the ingredients are 2 cups of crushed graham crackers, 1/2 cup of melted butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut, 1 cup of chocolate chips, 1 cup of broken pretzel sticks and 1 – 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. To make the crust, I combined the graham crackers, butter and sugar in a bowl and spread the crumbs in a very thin layer over the bottom of the pan. I used the bottom of my measuring cup to flatten the crumbs out. Then I baked the crust for 8 minutes in the oven.
After the 8 minutes, I pulled the pan out of the oven and sprinkled the coconut over the top of the hot crust, then the pretzels and chocolate chips. Finally, I topped the whole pan with the sweetened condensed milk. It is is kind of hard to cover the pan evenly, but do your best. As you can see…I have heavy pour spots and bald spots, but it all works out. Put the pan back into the oven to bake for 20 – 25 minutes.
I hope that you have an opportunity this summer to safely get together with some family or friends and make these very simple and delicious bars. The possibilities for these Hello Dolly bars are endless. You can easily swap the pretzels out for nuts of your choice again. You could double the graham cracker crust ingredients if you prefer a thicker crust or add more sweetened condensed milk if you want a whole tray of gooey bars. I’m sure some butterscotch chips would be delicious on these as well. I always love the pieces closer to the edges that are a little more crispy and my husband always loves the pieces in the middle that are gooey and soft. Be sure to let me know if you make these which ones are your favorites.
Recipe: Nut Free Hello Dolly Bars
- 2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup broken pretzel sticks
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 – 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Prepare a 9-by-13 inch baking pan by lining it with parchment paper with some hanging over the edges. Use binder clips to hold the paper in place if possible.
- Mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar together. Press it into a thin layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes.
- Sprinkle the coconut, pretzels and chocolate chips on top of the hot crust. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the top of all the ingredients as evenly as possible, but do not mix.
- Bake again for 20 – 25 minutes until the edges are browned and the pan sweetened condensed milk is bubbly.
- Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes on a wire rack and then use the parchment paper to pull the bars out and finish cooling on the wire rack.
- Slice them into bars.
Recipe adapted from Southern Living The Official SEC Tailgating Cookbook