Do you remember these from when you were a kid? I do. I remember someone bringing them into school for something and practically swooning over them. My grandmother was a great baker, but she never made these. And then, I sort of forgot about them, for, like, decades. What was I crazy?
But then a couple of weeks ago, on a blog I read that’s not, primarily, a cooking blog, a recipe for a slightly more healthy version of these 5 layer bars appeared and I got obsessed. Now, whenever anyone says they’ve made a recipe more “healthy” I like to go back and find an original recipe to do a comparison of ingredients. Let’s be honest, the term “healthy” is at least a tiny bit subjective as one man’s vice is another man’s virtue. For example, I won’t cook (or bake) with refined sugar but I’m not afraid of a stick of butter. (Given that you might be surprised to know how low my cholesterol is!)
So I pulled up four or five recipes, made my own little tweaks to all of them, and landed on this recipe. Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog! What came out of my oven was so awesome that I’m not honestly sure how to describe it. I mean it’s gooey (have to keep them in the fridge) and it’s sweet (mouth achingly good). It’s also chewy, crunchy, and crumbly all rolled into one.
Here’s some disclosure on some of the things that I changed. First thing is that I didn’t go with the traditional graham cracker crust because I didn’t have any graham crackers on hand and I didn’t want to be locked into always having to have graham crackers on hand to make this. But the alternative recipes I saw all called for regular or whole wheat flour and I wanted to try to retain some of the graham cracker-y goodness. I used ground up oatmeal as the flour base and took Progressive Pioneers suggestion of throwing in some ground almonds too. It was a fantastic combination.
Next, I dumped the sweetened condensed milk and went with Progressive Pioneer’s suggestion of sweetened coconut milk. But I went with light coconut milk and sweetened it with maple syrup to give another level of flavor. Then, I ran into my biggest obstacle: butterscotch chips. They are used in this traditionally, but not only didn’t I have any, you can’t buy ones that aren’t made with refined sugar. So… I bailed on it all together. I read a few recipes for homemade butterscotch. While it seemed fantastic, it was too much work to just be a single layer addition to this recipe. One of the recipes I read for it said to mix it with a slab of unsweetened white chocolate to form it into chips. So, I gave it a whirl with a bag of white chocolate chips and let’s just say the end result didn’t suffer.
This makes a huge batch and you have to cut them really small because they are so sweet. So, I sent about two thirds of them into school with the kids for their teachers. The faces of the teachers were so funny. They lit up like little kids’ faces. That what these bars can do. It’s magic.