Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you are all enjoying this wonderful holiday season! I have been so busy this month with school and work that I haven't had much time to do any holiday baking or blogging which is so sad. But, finally school is out and I plan to get a ton of holiday treats baked up this week for my family and friends to enjoy. Baking started yesterday with bake-your-brains-out day at my sister's house in Detroit. This year was our third annual year of bake-your-brains-out day and it was such a great time just being surrounded by loved ones, getting in the holiday spirit, baking and munching on yummy treats, and laughter! This year we made no bakes, lemon squares, seven-layer bars, candy cane cookies, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, pretzal rolo turtles, and homemade chocolate covered cherries. We also decorated gingerbread houses, which is my favorite part! The first 2 years we made our own gingerbread houses, but last year, none of our house stayed up, oh no!.....so this year we cheated and bougt gingerbread houses from the store and they turned out much better!
So, here is a recipe for amazing seven-layer bars from Cook's Illustrated America's Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies 2010. They added a few extra elements to the classic bar cookies which truly knocked these babies up a few levels from the original recipe and they are so scrumptious! They are sweet and buttery, crunchy and creamy, and filled with lots of flavor combinations that marry so well together! In my opinion, these are the perfect treat because they are full of so many different yummy ingredients and they are perfect for holiday gift giving!
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: This classic bar cookie is loaded with ingredients: chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts piled over a buttery graham cracker crust. The original recipe (published on the back of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk) turned out raw-tasting nuts, a soggy crust, and dry bars. To develop a sturdier, crisper texture, we prebake the crust and add ground toffee bits to it for their buttery salty flavor. To improve the bars' flavor, we toast the sweetened coconut and pecans, which also adds crunch to the filling. We add Rice Krispies cereal to lighten the bars. To toast the coconut and pecans, we place them on seperate baking sheets in a 350-degree oven until they are golden, five minutes for the coconut and eight minutes for the pecans. These bars are very sweet and rich, and can be cut into smaller pieces if desired. (I love how Cook's Illustrated elaborates and tells you why they make things the way they do!)
Seven-Layer Bars: (Cook's Illustrated, Holiday Cookies 2010)
Makes 24 Bars
-1 cup chocolate-covered toffee bits
-12 whole ghram crackers
-8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
-8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
-1 cup Rice Krispies
-1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
-2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
-1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Adjust oven rack to middle posistion and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 13 by 9-inch baking pan with foil, allowing excess to hang over pan edges. Grease foil. Process toffee bits in food processor to fine powder. Add ghram crackers and process to fine crumbs. Transfer mixture to bowl and stir in butter. Press mixture firmly into prepared baking pan. Bake until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle crust with milk chocolate, and allow chocolate to soften, about 5 minutes. Using spatula, smooth chocolate into even layer. Layer Rice Krispies, pecans chocolate chips, and coconut in pan in that order, pressing each layer to adhere. Combine condensed milk and vanilla and pour evenly over top. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack, 2 hours. Using foil overhang, lift bars from pan and cut into squares.
Come back tomorrow for Festive Funfetti Cake Batter Bark!