Hello Dolly Cookie Bars from ‘Nashville Eats’

This week, we’re spotlighting recipes from Nashville Eats: Hot Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuits, and 100 More Southern Recipes from Music Cityby Jennifer Justus (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), a book that proves Nashville’s food scene is as lively as its music scene. Try making the recipes at home and let us know what you think!

Photograph by Andrea Behrends

By Jennifer Justus

Makes 32 bite-size squares

As a pastry chef living in modern times, Rebekah Turshen of City House often takes photos and posts her latest creations on social media, giving diners a peek at how they could end their meals at the restaurant. But even with the advancements in technology at hand, her ingredients are often as old-fashioned as it gets.

“It’s pawpaw season!” she wrote of the mango-looking fruit with the texture and taste of banana. “Tonight only!” The pawpaw pies arrive in individual servings, sitting in an artful puddle of lemon marmalade, with a tuft of lime cream on top, speckled with poppy-seed-cornmeal cookie crumbs. She both revives old-fashioned treats, like lemon chess pies with strawberry preserves, and makes mass-produced favorites from scratch, like Tennessee-native Moon Pies. She always works that spark of nostalgic recognition to add something unexpected. That might mean using a technique not readily available to the home cook or a creating a dessert that’s a bit less sweet by incorporating an extra note of salt or an interesting texture to bring out the best of what we love about an old favorite.

But when she wants a crowd-pleasing cookie bar, she chooses the Hello Dolly. Tandy Wilson, the chef at City House, gave her his grandmother’s recipe for these bars. Rebekah has made it her own, but she jokes that even though it has passed through many hands, it could have originated on the back of a can of sweetened condensed milk.

“Hello Dollys are user-friendly bars,” she says. “Feel free to experiment with any cookies, nuts, and chocolate you have on hand. The coconut is optional as well. You can take it out and add a bit of extra chocolate or nuts if you like.”

 2 ½ cups finely crushed crumbs from your favorite cookies, such as graham crackers
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
3 ounces unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, salt, and melted butter. Scatter the mixture onto a parchment-lined 8-inch square baking pan. Press the cookie mixture flat into the pan.

In another medium bowl, combine the chocolate, coconut, and pecans, and scatter the mixture over the crust.

Drizzle the condensed milk across the top. Bake the bars for 25 to 30 minutes or until they turn a light caramel color.

Let the bars cool and then cut them into squares to serve.

Reprinted with permission from Nashville Eats: Hot Chicken, Buttermilk Biscuits, and 100 More Southern Recipes from Music Cityby Jennifer Justus (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).

Nashville Eats by Jennifer Justus. (Photo: Andrea Behrends

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