Dolly Bars

I like my blog stats. I’m always interested to see where people are coming from or what search words have led them to my little site. I am usually grateful to anyone and everyone who has linked up to my blog and I am quick to investigate a referrer when I’m getting more than a handful of hits coming in from a particular place.

So, when I saw I was getting visitors from a bulletin board on the America’s Test Kitchen website, I got curious.

I wish I hadn’t.

It was a discussion linking back to my rhubarb crumb cake post (which seemed odd, how did they even find that one particular post) with the subject of: Okay, guys, am I the only one who thinks this photo is great?

At first I thought she was referring to my rhubarb and/or cake photos, but it turned out she was referring to my blog’s header. Me and my red patent shoes and my red mixing bowl.

There were a few nondescript responses. And then the original poster said something that left me feeling like ice. I think it’s a good thing that I don’t have a photographic memory because it’s probably best I don’t remember the comment exactly. Instead, I’ll give you a summary: It looks as if this woman and her “pleasantly plump” calves (because that I do remember) has eaten everything before it could go in the oven and has had to lie down to digest it all.

And then, further down, another comment that struck even deeper.

No (Original Poster), when I opened the link and saw that across the top, I thought “Wa-huh? Did she get murdered while she was stirring her cookie dough? Or did she go into a diabetic coma from too much sugar? Or is she trying to look alluring with that red plastic bowl from Target and the red plastic shoes from Payless?” I couldn’t quite figure out the point of the picture.

It certainly does not make me want to eat….her cooking.

I felt ill to read that.

I have long known the Internet to be a place where meanness spreads easily. After all, I’ve read the comments on some of my articles for the Herald. People are quick to criticize or make mean comments. Anonymity, no doubt, plays a significant role in how people choose to comport themselves online.

And I know there is a valuable lesson in here about paying attention to the 99 people who like you and ignoring the one critic.

But here’s the problem.

These comments from these women confirmed all the things I feared people thought about me.

The original poster later took down her comments, editing the first post to say she had never intended to offend anyone. My initial reaction was to be appreciative that she seemed sorry. But, after a few minutes, I realized that her edited comment was just as strange. How did she not think people would be offended? Did she believe her comments were being made in a vacuum and the object of her criticisms would not find out? Likely, yes. But she was mistaken.

More than 60 people visited my site because of that bulletin board discussion. I have no idea what the others thought, but I can safely say that I’d prefer to get my traffic some other way.

And yes, a small part of me thinks they would probably be less mean if they had a nice slice of cake once in a while.

So, on that note, (she says, clapping her hands together), that is enough time wasted on that. Let’s eat something delicious!

Dolly Bars I

For elective choices in Grade 8 at high school (because there was no junior high in Vancouver and I’ll spare you the woes of being a 12-year-old girl going to school with 18-year-old boys who would never look at a kid like me) one could decide between food/wood/metal and home ec (food and sewing). I had no interest in working around giant saws that would probably take my finger off, so I chose home ec.

I don’t remember many recipes worth saving, except baby cheesecakes that used vanilla wafers for a crust and these things called Dream Bars. I kept the cheesecake recipe but have no idea where the one for the bars went, which is too bad because I think about them pretty often. (As in, more often than really is reasonable to reminisce about a baked good.) They were sort of chewy-gooey with a shortbread type crust and a sweet layer on top. I think there were pecans involved. And chocolate chips. And that’s about all I remember. I’ve googled until the cows come home, but nothing that calls itself a “dream bar” is actually what I remember.

And then I saw Dolly Bars. They seemed a reasonable facsimile and, therefore, worth a try.

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Homesick Texan. I didn’t notice the discrepancy in the amount of sweetened condensed milk until after it became clear this recipe was a bit of a failure for me. A little more online research showed that almost every recipe calls for an entire can of the stuff, while the one I used called for about 1/3 of a cup. My toppings didn’t really stay stuck to the graham cracker base as a result. Still tasty, but a bit of a failure. So, I’m going to try this again and use the entire can.

All the toppings

Condensed Milk II

Condensed Milk II

Dolly Bars before baking


Dolly Bars II

Dolly Bars

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, cut into large pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups graham crackers crumbs (about 8 graham crackers, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in microwave in heatproof bowl until just melted when stirred. Add graham cracker crumbs. Mix and then press evenly into the bottom of 8×8 baking pan.

Layer coconut, pecans, butterscotch and chocolate chips on top of graham cracker base. Pour sweetened condensed milk over whole mixture.

Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is light brown.

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  1. That story makes me groan…I am constantly shocked by how ridiculous, mean, insensitive, and obnoxious commenters can be…a friend recently told her new method of survival is “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” and I’m trying to follow her lead…reading comments just isn’t worth the heartache.

  2. OMG! I think I gained a bazillion pounds just looking at your wonderful photos. YUM!

    Also, I think you are pretty damn hot! I love the header. Never listen to those that put down others simply to make themselves feel better.

  3. Love the photo. Love the blog. And I love this recipe! It reminds me of these sickly sweet bars I used to make all the time called Rich and Famous Squares. Identical, except for the butterscotch chips.

  4. i am so annoyed on your behalf! it’s so easy for haters to hide behind a computer and spout off all this judgement and negativity about people they don’t even know.

    gwendolyn – whenever you read a stupid comment like that, please think of the people like me who love patent and the pantry, follow you on twitter, and generally think of you as a baking BFF even though we’ve never met!!

    onwards to the treats! LOVE hello dollies – i could eat an entire pan of them. also so excited for rhubarb to appear in my farmer’s market here. rhubarb crumb cake is definitely on the agenda!

  5. 1. stinks that people have to be crass and petty
    2. dolly bars were always called seven-layer-bars or magic-cookie-bars when I was growing up in the South
    3. warm up a good sized dolly bar (or whatever you choose to call them), add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, add some hot fudge or chocolate sauce & you’ll have an ice cream sundae to DIE for

  6. I don’t typically post comments but this one time is an exception because I’m always so appalled that people don’t think twice about ‘libeling’ others online without the thought crossing their mind that the person being libeled would read it.

    You should remind yourself during times like these, that only ignoramuses would think you had fallen down (or whatever), and not realize the link between food and sensuality (their loss). No matter what picture you choose, someone won’t like it (I love it! And I also have a pair of red patent shoes that I love.. although they are ballet flat mary-janes, because that’s just what kinda gal I am).

    I have your blog as one of my ‘bookmarks’ right up in my toolbar, because I love reading about both the successes and the mishaps, and of course, being a massive food obsess-er and home cook myself, looking at the delectable pictures and picking up a few new recipes along the way.

    Thanks for your interesting site!

    p.s. you never said whether the Dolly Bars DID taste like the baked dream bars you remember!!!

    1. Alicia, good point!
      They were good bars, but definitely not dream bars. The search continues…. Stay tuned!

  7. PS – I am reading what you wrote in regard to the mean spirited, evil comments people left about your picture. The internet is a place for insecure people like these to make themselves feel better. Please don’t take any of this to heart. I’d LOVE to meet some of these people in person and see if any of them have the guts to say any of this to your face. Also, I’d love to see what some of them look like. You are a talented woman with awesome taste in red and polka dots (a personal favorite, myself), and it’s an adorable picture. Regardless of where your shoes or mixing bowl are from, you put yourself out there and have actual talent. Whew. Sorry for the long-winded PS!

  8. I think that’s insane. Your header originally attracted me to your blog, not only is it a food blog, but she’s wearing cute red shoes – and it MATCHES her bowl. And she’s wearing an adorable retro-looking dotted dress. I thought I had found a soul mate and put you in my google reader without even reading a post. This girl HAD to have something good on her blog, and if not, I figured I’d un-follow you along the way. Instead I’m stuck here because your recipes are great, your writing is a joy to read and you put up something called Dolly Bars which looks like an end to my dieting so I’ll live vicariously through this blog and “smell” them instead. Dear lord.

    People who cause such a fuss about a pair of great legs are jealous prudes who have waaaay too much time on their hands.

    Chin up. You’re fabulous.

    1. I can’t say what first came to mind because you’d just have to delete it…this being a family blog and all. So I’ll just add this, if you waste one second of time on these pathetic souls, make it time to pity them. How sad their deprived little lives must be that that is how they spend their time. How shallow their souls are that they need to attack someone they’ll never know who has in no way harmed them just to make themselves feel good. I pity their spouses, children and friends as well because they have to live with these people, constantly being judged by such ugly people.

      I’ve always loved your banner photo and every place I’ve ever linked to it, the inhabitants were very impressed by your blog. Fie on those tasteless, moronic people at ATK (and if that’s the kind of commentary they allow, thanks for the warning since I’ll never go there now). Let the bitter lives they chose be their own punishment.

  9. Damn, I’m late to the party. I subscribe via feeds and hardly ever leave comments but this cannot go unanswered! (call to arms, etc.)

    I echo what everyone has said so far. How anyone can detour from a discussion about a cake to snipe at someone’s figure is beyond me and deserves a smacking.

    Someone’s already probably said it already, but I’m guessing they’re unhappy with their own lives and the gorgeous pictures in that post just pushed them over the edge. Not that I’m making any excuses for them, mind.

    For the record, your header picture is GREAT (naturally).

  10. I for one started following your blog because I stumbled across it one day and thought, “I love this chick! Her blog header rocks!” (no, seriously, I did). I think your legs look great, your shoes are freakin’ gorgeous, and your blog is totally fun to read. People like that need to eat a friggin’ cookie and get over their skinny-ass selves. Maybe they’d be happier if they didn’t worry about how other people looked so damn much!

  11. People who write such vitriol don’t realise that it’s actually says more about them than you. This poster obviously has major issues of their own if they feel the need to pick on someone they don’t even know. They’re also incredibly cowardly as there is NO WAY they’d say such things to your face. Shame on them!

    I know it’s so hard not to take things like that to heart but try and bear in mind all the compliments your receive instead. Which I’m sure outweigh the bad by about 99%.

  12. These look good. (I’m still craving lemon, though.)

    Re: soccermom (and her handle should tell you something), apparently her life is otherwise empty, because she posts to that forum an average of twice a day, every day (3601 posts over ~5 years). She has removed all her posts, so maybe someone gave her a clue. OTOH, one poster said your photo reminded him of “9 Chickweed Lane,” which I would take as a compliment. :-)

  13. I totally agree with Margarita. I love your header and everyone that I’ve directed to your site to see your fabulous blog also loves it. I first found your blog searching for a whiskey sour recipe, saw your shoes and knew instantly that I had to follow your posts.

  14. after i read this, i thot i’d rush to rescue with positive feedback…but clearly there’s no need. there’s already so many nice things said here that i won’t add more for fear your ego will explode. ;) seriously, i read your blog more often than any other…and the pic at the top is what first impressed me.

  15. Mean people suck.

    For me, it all started with your pumpkin cupcakes made the day before my baby was born (and shared with our midwives), I love the the way you write about it all and your title picture confirmed my love of your blog. I will be making your Dollies tomorrow morning with my buddy Mary. Thanks for all the great food inspiration! – – Deb

  16. I love your header and your blog. I don’t understand why people feel the need to comment about your looks when this is a cooking blog, and anyway you’re gorgeous. Screw those bitches.

  17. OMG I LOVE HELLO DOLLIES. I SWEAR. From the graham base to the chips to the nuts to the coconut to the condensed milk and blahhhhh… Seven layers of goodness. INDEED!!!

    Well I really feel like slapping those people who posted such tasty comments. Let’s not be bothered by them cause, trust me, I love your blog. Keep baking, always! <3

  18. What a bunch of jerky jerks. I think your header is cute. Love the shoes and the bowl, I wish I had both. And what is wrong with Payless and Target??? Elitist snobs. Bah.

    Your bars look delicious btw.

  19. I just strolled in from foodgawker, drawn by a picture of totally delicious looking dolly bars, and I swear to you that my VERY first thought when your blog opened was how much I love your header picture. It made me smile a real big smile. :) Just for whatever that’s worth. :)

  20. It’s a fun header and I love RED! These bars are the best and it has been ages since I have made them. When I get bad comments I think of Martha Stewart laughing all the way to the bank with all the mean things people have said about her. It does hurt though…

  21. I am an avid checker of foodgawker and in the past few weeks almost every day I seem to click on a photo that leads my straight to your blog. In fact the picture of these bars was the first thing I clicked on foodgawker today and as soon as I saw the red bowl and shoes I was like no wonder these bars looks delicious its the red shoes blogger! I love your site, I love the header, and I love the food you cook. I WILL be making these bars, hopefully sooner rather than later!!

  22. I agree with everything everyone has said so far. Please don’t let those nasty comments get you down! People who can so easily say such negative things about other people obviously have some unresolved issues of their own. I think your header is beautiful, as well as the rest of the photography on your site. I love your recipes, and I check back for updates all the time.

    A girl I work with makes these Dolly Bars all the time, but we call them Magic Cookie Bars here in New England. They are scrumptious!

  23. gasp! don’t listen to the mean people. sometimes, the internet can surprise you… and not in a good way. Try not to let it bother you :( Your photos are amazing, and your blog writing is fabulous.

  24. I just wanted to let you know (I followed a link from foodgawker to your site for the first time) and the first thing I thought was: What a awesome photo! Thanks for sharing it-I hope you don’t change it :D

  25. I think it’s incredible that you have your very own food blog, and I link to your site for your recipes, not your header.

    Thank you for being an inspiration for someone who wants to someday have her own blog.

    You rock!

  26. Your header is one of my favorite things about this blog! I take it to be a blend of our common loves: food, shoes and RED! I assumed you were passed out due to the pure pleasure of the food! My love, I made your one-cup cookies over and over again this holiday season. I’ve made youe mustard-butter pasta more times than I ever made a packaged meal.
    I thank you so much for helping me to be a better cook for my family, (all two of us!) and for your writing style. I love the love that you put into your passion.
    Keep up the fantastic posts and photos and keep your nose up in the midst of all that stank!
    On another note, for most of my childhood and much of my adulthood I’ve been made fun of for being so skinny. YOU and your wonderful blog have introduced me to such amazing food that I’ve finally been able to gain some weight! (Not working in crazy corporate America anymore has also helped!) So, I thank you, my husband thanks you, my doctors thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  27. I love that you tackled this head-on — and I’ve never understood why the supposed anonymity of the Internet makes people so nasty. Your blog is fabulous and so are you. Keep cooking, baking and writing!

  28. my reaction when i saw the photo was—SEXY! i have to show this to my hubby. it looks so 50’s and HOT! as for your dessert- my aunt calls them diet crashers and brings them to our christmas eve party every year for me. they are sublime americana!
    p.s. keep up the sexy, wholesome photography!

  29. I needed to add a Here Here!! to everything everyone has said so far regarding your beautiful header and the awfulness that can spew from ugly souls. Your website is beautful and the recipes are wonderful :0)

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to all of your future posts.

  30. Love the site, Love the food pictures ( I drool every time) Love your humour, Love your obsession with anything lemon, love the bowl and shoes, kudos to you for going with red. as for those silly closed minded idiots they are just jealous they didn’t have a grandma who came up with rhubarb cocktails ;)

  31. I came across you on Stumbleupon and will definatley be returning!

    People are mean. I thought your header was cute and intriguing and made me want to check out what you had posted! :)

    These bars look super yummy!


  32. Hi Gwendolyn,

    Just discovered your scrump-delicious blog through your flourless cookie recipe online at The Montreal Gazette. (I live in central Ontario.) My Mom was a little bored with her usual rhubarb recipes so I made your Rhubarb Pudding Cakes. To die for. Thanks so much for sharing. Then I came across your mentioning Dream Squares. These (I was so sure that’s what they were called) were the ONLY thing in my early teens that I ever wanted to bake. Haven’t baked them in over 30 years. Searched high and low. Finally found the recipe in ‘The New Purity Cook Book,’ page 151, but they’re called Choco-Toffee Dream Bars. I, however, always omitted the chocolate chips as they weren’t a fave of mine back then. I think just about all our mothers of the 50s (Canadian) had this cookbook. Not sure if these bars are similar to your faves but next time you get the urge perhaps you might want to give them a try.

    The base is 2 c. flour, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 3/4 c. soft butter pressed into a greased 13″ x 9″ pan and baked at 350° for 10 mins. The topping is 1/4 c. flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs until foamy, stir in 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 1/2 c. brown sugar. Blend in dry ingredients. Then stir in: 1 c. coconut, 1 c. plumped raisins (covered with boiling water, let stand 5 mins., then drain), 3/4 c. chopped walnuts (or pecans, etc.), and 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips. Spread over baked pastry. Return to oven and bake for an additional 25 – 30 mins. Cool and cut into bars. Makes 4 dozen. Enjoy.

    – Elaine Here in Cottage Country –

    And re the totally uncalled for destructive criticism you received last month,

    “Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember, the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.” – Zig Ziglar

    “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do.” – Dale Carnegie

  33. Wow that story makes us upset!

    My partner was just showing me your blog because of the beautiful, high quality photos and your obvious eye for good visuals.

    Keep up the good work and even better, the baking. We love the eye-candy!

    Please visit our page and upload some photos if you wish-our fans would love to see them!

  34. I am so sorry someone said that about you. People can be so cruel.

    I came across your site while searching for “Earl Grey Cupcakes” in Google and am stoked to try your recipe (from way back in 2008) when I get home tonight. I love Earl Grey Tea and cupcakes, so your recipe is a dream come true!

    Just keep doing what you do, the food looks amazing, and your shoes (in the header) are fabulous.

  35. Who cares about their opinion of your heading? Your food and photography are amazing. I can’t wait to try several of your recipes.

  36. Just ran across your blog & the FIRST thing I thought was how much I LOVED your pic at the top!! I think people that are miserable just spew their hatred & work to tear others down to make themselves feel better. Whatever!! Keep on producing the awesome recipes & photography — you’re an inspiration! I hope to get my act together to start my own food blog one of these days :)

  37. Midwesterners, or at least Iowans, call these seven layer bars, and are the same ingredients you use, except with the whole can of sweetened condensed milk.

    The pretzels instead of graham crackers that were suggested sound like a great alternative I hope to never try – I live alone, am stingy with baked goods, and my ass doesn’t need more padding.

    Haven taken tons of criticism over the years on various websites, I understand your pain. It isn’t fun being told that the filth you spew all over the internet is making the world a terribly place and that you should die. Oh wait, that’s just me.

    I just refer to myself as a ne’er-do-well webutante, and my mission statement is: proudly perpetuating & promoting a lifestyle of free-thinking, trash-talking, chagrin-filled, & mostly text-based infamy for the last decade or so.

    Keep on cooking, and let the haters hate. It just means they’re jealous. And probably covetous of your dress and how nicely your calves look, and how the red plays off so lovely against your creamy skin.

  38. I do not blog for this reason. Who cares what people say! I love the header. You are a fun person for that. The world is full of unhappy people with nothing better to do. Of course they probably are mad at them selves for not thinking of the same recipes. LAUGH ON GIRL!! IF it were me, I would have been sitting cross-legged. HU-RAH.

  39. I actually got a link to this from another blog (for the Dolly Recipe) and read the top of this…I’m not usually a commenter, but I just want to saw that I have respect for the confidence you have in you (and not only your cooking), and truth be told, I’m a little jealous! Screw everyone else.

  40. What a hoot – reading your blog and thinking “wait a minute, I know that somewhere in my 8 bazillion cookbooks I have a recipe for dreambars.” And with an unerring homing capability (can’t remember names, but where recipes can be found in said cookbooks, well…) found a recipe called David’s dreambars in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Christmas Cookies. Lovely tome. And for the naysayers about red bowls and shoes, I say “stuff it where the sun don’t shine.” Of course, that comes from someone who also has lived in and has family in Victoria, has lived in Calgary, and thoroughly appreciates your work. You go, girl!!!

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