Seven-layer bars. Magic bars. Kitchen-sink bars. In other words, bars in which you can toss whatever delicious, sweet trinkets are in your pantry– basically we can’t go wrong here. Besides their incredible layer cakes, probably my favorite items at BAKED in New York City/Brooklyn are their bars. They make incredible PB&J Bars, Caramel Coconut Bars, and so many others, all scrumptious and oh-so-decadent. One type of their bars is called, appropriately, BAKED Bars– their version of that 7-layer situation. To be honest, I don’t remember if I’ve had that particular one in the bakery, but I always had the recipe marked to make… one of these days. Fortunately, this week’s recipe for Baked Sunday Mornings is that very recipe from BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking. Sometimes I find these types of bars cloyingly sweet, but the beauty of making them is that you can add whatever you’d like to adjust the flavor. The original recipe includes toasted walnuts, chocolate chips, chopped white chocolate, and butterscotch chips, all sitting atop a glorious graham-coconut crust and drowning in sweetened condensed milk. I changed them up a bit by omitting the butterscotch chips, which I don’t generally care for, and I reduced the white chocolate partly because of sweetness and partly because I only had a small piece on hand. I replaced these with chopped halva and I’m so glad I did! These BAKED Bars with Double Halva are one of my very favorite things that I’ve made recently. I totally didn’t expect it either; I had no idea how they would turn out, but since halva pairs beautifully with coconut, chocolate, white chocolate, and I guess pretty much everything, it seemed like a promising idea. Oh, one more thing– brown. butter. I’ve sort of taken to browning butter most of the time when a recipe calls for melted butter. Because if I’m already melting it, why not go the extra mile and get that nutty goodness all up in the crust, amiright?
The bars are really easy to make, though there are a number of ingredients to prep. After toasting and chopping the walnuts, toasting the coconut, grinding the graham crackers, chopping the white chocolate, and chopping the halva, I was ready to go. For the crust, the graham cracker crumbs get tossed with the toasted coconut, and then you add the melted/brown butter. I accidentally let it get really brown while I was prepping other ingredients, and the toasted solids were nearly burnt, but this lent a deep buttery flavor to the crust, so we’ll call that a win. Also, when you brown butter, a little bit burns off during cooking, so my crust was nicely crisp and not the least bit greasy (as is wont to happen with buttery crusts). After pressing the crust into the bottom and up the sides of the baking pan, you’ll chill it in the fridge before baking for 10 minutes; I gave mine a few extra minutes because it wasn’t quite as toasty as I wanted.
After the crust cooled, I piled in the walnuts (also deeply toasted), chocolate chips, ¼ cup chopped white chocolate, and 100g of that lovely halva (about 1 heaping cup), then poured in the sweetened condensed milk. The bars should bake until the top is nicely golden and bubbly, which was 40 minutes in my oven. You definitely want to make sure that these are not underbaked because the sweetened condensed milk will be runny, whereas you want it to be thickened and gooey, and basically melted in with everything else. The halva worked perfectly here because it too gets soft and a little gooey when you bake it.
My one other addition was flaky halva on top. Once the bars were cooled and cut, I sprinkled some shredded halva, which I can best describe as resembling shredded chicken (but thank god it tastes nothing like that). It is light and airy and sort of melts in your mouth like cotton candy. Sweet sesame-flavored cotton candy– which sounds weird, but trust me, it works so well. You can find regular and flaky halva at Middle Eastern markets.
As I mentioned, this is one of the best things I’ve baked recently– I was sooooo happy with them! They are toothsome, gooey, full of complex flavors, and this version has just the right amount of sweetness for me personally. They were gone within the hour when I put them out at work, so I’ll take that as a good sign!
The original recipe for BAKED Bars (and links to the other bakers’ bars) lives at Baked Sunday Mornings, and feel free to adapt them with halva as I did, or the items of your choice. Let these bring you tons of joy because they are freaking wonderful. And that’s all I have to say about that.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2018.