There are many names for Hello Dolly dessert bars, including angel bars, magic bars, or seven layer bars. A dessert bar by any other name would be as sweet… Regardless of what you call them, they are a scrumptious and easy dessert to make and definitely deserve a spot in your Christmas baking line-up.
With so many tasks to complete during the holidays, a simple but delicious recipe that yields a decent number of pieces is a must. Hello Dolly bars tick all those boxes. It is made up of chewy coconut, crunchy nuts, decadent chocolate enrobed with sweetened condensed milk on top of a sweet crunchy graham cracker base. I grew up eating these delicious morsels and then started making them myself when I was in university. When I found out that I was gluten intolerant, I knew I had to figure out how to adapt the recipe because I didn’t want to lose this traditional taste of Christmas. So, we’re making gluten-free Hello Dolly bars now.
The graham cracker base recipe comes from grain changer. This is one recipe I have not adapted because why mess with perfection? The only difference is we aren’t making them into crackers we’re making a single layer crust. This means the cooking differs from the original. The recipe will yield two thin crusts that fit a 9”x13” glass baking dishes. So, you can either make a second graham cracker base or make some actual graham crackers. You can also make half the recipe. I like to make a second graham cracker based crust, so I make the entire recipe.
This is the second recipe in our gluten-free holiday baking series. Previously we shared a gluten-free chocolate caramel cookie bar recipe, that has become the star of our holiday baking tray. No one even asks if its gluten free, because they can’t tell and/or don’t care! Without further ado, here is our gluten-free Hello Dolly recipe
Hello Dolly Ingredients
Graham Cracker Base:
- 1 ½ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour- I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
- ½ cup almond meal
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 7 Tablespoons COLD butter
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 3 Tablespoons cold water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (gluten-free)
Hello Dolly Toppings:
- 1 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts (or your choice of nut – almonds and walnuts work just as well)
- 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 200g package or 2 cups of sweetened shredded coconut
- 2 cans of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. One or both should be low-fat, as it spreads better than 2 regular cans.
Preheat your oven to 325° and spray a 9”x13” glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Measure a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom and up the sides of a 9”x13” glass baking dish. Ensure there is some overhang, so you can manoeuvre it out of the pan afterwards.
- Using your thumb mark/score the bottom of the parchment lightly (you don’t want to cut the paper) so that you can see where your crust needs to fit. Remove parchment and set aside.
Graham Cracker Base:
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, almond meal, xanthan gum, brown sugar, baking powder and cinnamon.
- Cut the butter into very small cubes (or grate) and then cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or two forks. Combine until the mixture has a coarse, uniform consistency (no lumps!)
- In a separate, small bowl, combine honey, water, and vanilla, stirring well. Then add the honey mixture to the large bowl, and mix thoroughly with a rubber spatula. Once combined, separate into two balls of dough.
- Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate the dough for at least 15 minutes.
- Remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator, and place on the parchment. Cover the dough with one large piece of plastic wrap (helps to prevent the dough from sticking) and roll the dough out to an even thickness which covers your 9” x 13” rectangle.
- Lift the parchment gently into the greased 9”x13” glass baking dish. Make any adjustment needed for an even base. You don’t want cookie up the sides so cut any extra dough away with a butter knife and patch any areas that require it, or add it back to the other ball of dough.
- Gently dock the base, by making indents with a fork. Do not poke through the dough.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
Hello Dolly topping:
- Remove graham cracker base from the oven and increase oven temperature to 350°.
- Sprinkle the toasted chopped nuts of your choice in an even layer over the base.
- Place chocolate chips over nuts in an even layer.
- Sprinkle coconut over nuts and chocolate layers.
- Evenly pour the cans of sweetened condensed milk over the entire tray. Using a spatula, gently spread any of the sweetened condensed milk that has pooled in some areas to other areas that may require more- if necessary.
- Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until the top is bubbling and slightly brown. Check at the 20 minute mark, as ovens vary. This may take longer in some ovens. The even bubbles along the edges and towards the middle are the secret to knowing when it is done.
- Once it is baked, remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Then using the parchment lift them out of the glass baking sheet and place on a large cutting board or cookie tray to cool.
- Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting. These versatile squares can be cut into diamond shapes, regular squares, or mini squares, depending on how many you wish to yield.
- Once cut, place in an airtight container separating the layers with parchment or wax paper.
These gluten-free Hello Dolly dessert squares can be enjoyed year-round and they also freeze very well too. If you have leftovers you can put them in labelled freezer bags and keep them up to 3 months. Just let them sit out to give them a chance to thaw before eating them. Oh and don’t forget to put them on your freezer inventory list.
Have you ever tried Hello Dolly before? Give this gluten-free version a try. Do you or your family have other easy and delicious Christmas dessert bar recipes that have become part of your traditional baking? Let us know in the comments.
Happy holiday baking!