Here's all you need to know to make the best cookie bars ever

J. H. Osborne • Dec 2, 2019 at 7:30 PM

I am writing this from Walt Disney World. Disney’s Polynesian Resort to be more precise. A deluxe studio in the resort’s Disney Vacation Club Villas (Tokelau section) to be exact.

I am here as the guest of a generous friend who owns DVC points. All he asks is that I bring his favorite cookie bars. I first had this type of bar, which is quite common and often referred to as “Seven Layer Cookies” or “Seven Layer Bars,” roughly 20 years ago when I was staying at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge as a guest of my parents. Disney’s version is dubbed “Magic Cookie Bars.” So I’ve long associated the bar cookies with Disney World. To me they seem especially appropriate for a stay at the Polynesian because they remind me of Girl Scout “Samoas” cookies.

The version I’ve come to make time and time again (this time, with Mom’s help, I baked three pans full the day before Thanksgiving) can’t be called “Seven Layer” bars or cookies because I’ve followed my family’s unofficial maxim: more is more. Instead of seven ingredients, mine have eight (and sometimes nine). They are wonderful and a favorite of not only my friend/host (who is snoring away as I sit by a tiki lamp writing this, drapes still drawn to block out the Florida sunshine, drinking coffee and eating a cookie bar for my breakfast). They’re popular with most of my family. I know my cousin Lynn Wallen and his son Daniel are big fans, as are family members of Lynn’s sister Gwen McAmis. But their recipe may or may not include the same basics as mine.

And here it is:

• Heat oven to 350 degrees.

• Place one stick of unsalted butter in a 9x13 pan and put in oven to melt (cutting the butter into smaller pieces makes it melt faster).

• Once butter is melted, remove pan from oven and sprinkle one cup of finely crumbled graham crackers over the butter as evenly as possible. (I cheat and buy the box of cracker crumbs.)

• Sprinkle the crumbs with ½ cup each of semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and white baking chips.

• Sprinkle with one cup coconut.

• Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk over everything, again, as evenly as possible.

• Sprinkle top with one cup chopped pecans. (I’ve also used walnuts).

• Bake for 30 minutes. When you remove them, they will not seem firm. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into desired bar sizes. But don’t wait until they’re completely cooled or you’ll have trouble getting the edges away from the pan. I have found wax paper works best to separate layers of bars in storage containers.

I know that’s six “layers.” But the name “Seven Layer Bars” was an easy way, I think, of remembering the most common recipe includes seven ingredients — typically using only semi-sweet chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. I add the white chips, so that makes eight. Since my friend/host here loves salted caramel, in one batch this time I added mocha-infused sea salt (added on top of the chips, before the coconut).

Other variations I’ve tried: use only semi-sweet chocolate chips (increasing to 1½ cups) and replacing pecans with chopped peanuts; using only the white chips (1 cup), then adding ½ cup each of candied red and green cherries on top of the coconut and under the pecans. I think next time I bring them to the Polynesian I’m going to omit the butterscotch and add dried or candied pineapple.

I know many of you already have this or a similar recipe. But I wanted to share mine. Hope you enjoy them.


J.H. Osborne covers Sullivan County government for the Times News. Email him at josborne@timesnews.net.