A caramel, walnut, and coconut filling, sandwiched between graham crackers, and topped with a simple buttercream frosting. Walnut Oh Henry Bars are a deliciously classic Newfoundland Christmastime recipe.
I can’t remember a Christmas during my childhood that did not have Walnut Oh Henry Bars on the dessert menu. My mom loved these cookie bars just as much as I did! They might not look Christmas-like, but to me, they bring back so many memories of the holidays.
My mom, like most Newfoundlander’s, was very keen on having a large and vast array of baked goods on hand at Christmastime. She would bake cookies, and roll balls, bake squares, and make cakes. There was a huge deep freezer that would hold all of these goodies and keep them fresh until company came to visit. Usually, that didn’t take too long. My parents loved to invite over friends and family. I can remember many times when we would have company over for dinner on several nights back to back.
Whenever company had been invited, my mom would go to the basement with a platter, remove each container and take out just what she needed for that particular evening. Oh, I should mention, those containers were not like the containers we use now. I tend to use Rubbermaid, Glade, or Tupperware brands, but my mom would use old butter containers, or ice cream tubs. They were unmarked too, but she knew exactly what was in each one.
I still look back fondly on how she would wrap her cakes for freezing. She would start by quartering a fruit cake or a gum drop cake and wrapping each quarter quite liberally in aluminum foil. Then, she would wrap each of those very tightly in plastic wrap. There was no way she was letting freezer burn get to her cakes. Or, as she would eloquently put it, “So they don’t taste fridge-y.”
Now, I find myself doing almost the same thing. Although I don’t wash up and keep old ice cream or butter containers, I do tend to use Chinese food take-out containers to store and freeze cookies and squares. And, due to my self-diagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder, I take a little more time to package cookies using parchment paper between the layers and labeling the containers so that I’m not guessing at the contents.
But, when it comes to freezing fruitcake, or any un-iced cake for that matter, I still employ my mother’s aluminum foil and plastic wrap method. It works!
This is our second Christmas without mom being with us. I’m positive that wherever she may be, she’s proud of the fact that her recipes are living on and being enjoyed by me, John.e, and McKenna, and of course you too, Dear Reader. My mom was a giver and she loved Christmas more than anyone I know. Even me, and that’s quite the statement! So, Merry Christmas from my family to yours. I hope your holiday is filled with fun, laughter, and delicious food just like these Walnut Oh Henry Bars. Enjoy!
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Walnut Oh Henry Bars
For the bar:
- 1 box graham crackers, 14 ounces
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
- 3/4 cup salted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup 2% milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus more for garnish
- 1 1/2 cups sweetened desiccated coconut
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
For the frosting:
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1/3 cup salted butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons 2% milk
For the bar
- Begin by lining the bottom of a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish with a layer of graham crackers. Try to get into the corners and if you need to, use a serrated knife to cut the crackers to fit.
- Add the brown sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla to a sauce pan and over medium heat, whisk together until mixture comes to a low boil. Lower heat to medium low and continue to slowly whisk the mixture and allow to cook for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the walnuts, coconut, and graham crumbs. Stir together well.
- Pour the mixture over the layered graham crackers.
- Apply a second layer of graham crackers to the top of the walnut mixture. Press the crackers very lightly into the walnut mixture so that it sticks.
- Set the Pyrex pan aside and allow to cool for an hour before placing in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
For the frosting
- Use a handheld mixer to blend together all frosting ingredients until smooth.
- Spread the frosting over the bars and top with extra walnut pieces for garnish. Cut into 24 squares and enjoy!
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