When I think of Magic Bars, or let’s get real–anything magic, I think of this song:
And so I present: Dance Magic Bars! (like magic bars, but with a little David Bowie song thrown in for pizazz!)
I didn’t realize there was another name for these bars until I read Jenna’s blog yesterday with the recipe for her grandma’s “Hello Dolly’” bars. Turns out Magic Bars and Hello Dolly bars are THE SAME THING. That didn’t really blow my mind because I had never heard of Hello Dolly bars, but it might blow yours if you have. The more you know and all, right?
Reading her blog inspired me to make a vegan version. With relatively few ingredients, I thought it should be easy. They turned out surprisingly well and very good for my first time.
Traditionally, the ingredients are graham crackers and butter for the crust, and sweetened condensed milk, coconut, walnuts and chocolate chips for the magic top part.
(Mmmmmmm Coconut, get into my mouth!)
I knew I had to veganize a sweetened condensed milk, and I had to find a replacement for the graham crackers (vegan graham crackers, WHERE ARE YOU???).
Coconut Milk is so friggin’ versatile—and DELICIOUS—I started with that as my base. I knew what a great thickener it is based on my vegan bailey’s recipe. For the sweetener, I wanted to stay away from basic white sugar and agave, and I thought maple syrup would be too rich (and I haven’t jumped on the Stevia bandwagon yet), so I used coconut sugar that my roommate and I discovered at a local co-op.
After simmering on very low heat for a very long time, it had thickened up enough for me to be happy with it, and it was a pretty golden color.
I then went to work on the crust. I used walnuts and cashews for the base, and added a little coconut oil for moisture and a touch of maple syrup for sweetener. The crust turned out great—way better than I thought it might from my random measurements.
I patted the crust into a 9×9 baking pan, and it made it to about an inch from the edge. I’m sure it could even cover the whole bottom in the future, but I wasn’t sure how liquidy and goopy the ‘condensed milk’ would make the whole thing. (Spoiler Alert: it worked out perfectly and didn’t get soggy or goopy at all.)
Onto the nut mixture went dark chocolate chips, big pieces of coconut flakes, shredded coconut, chia seeds (I wanted to add as much a health aspect as possible to this decadent little thing) and walnuts. Then I realized what a dummy I was. I didn’t see peanut butter ANYWHERE. Who makes something chocolatey and coconuty without adding peanut butter?? Not this girl. I added 2 heaping tablespoons to the ‘condensed milk’ mixture, stirring in to the slightly still-warm pot. Then that got poured over the whole hot mess. I added a sprinkle of sea salt and a topping of coconut sugar for good measure.
Then I baked.
While cooling, which I knew from reading Jenna’s recipe was very important to the integrity of the bar, I took a walk to the local Goodwill to look for cute summer dresses or skirts. I did find a few cute things, thankyouverymuch.
When I got back to the house, the Dance Magic Bars had cooled, so I cut them and stuck ’em in the freezer.
Then I ate one.
For a hodgepodge gluten-free vegan treat I made up spur of the moment, I am extremely pleased with these.
Heck, I’d be pleased with these even if I actually planned them to be this good.
If I were to make them again, I’d possibly add a little less coconut oil to the nut mixture, but they’re glorious the way they are. I might also add dried cranberries if I had them on hand and was feelin’ sassy.
Vegan Dance Magic Bars
(Note: You better like coconut.)
Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-free
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- sprinkle sea salt
In your food processor, process the nuts, oil, maple syrup and sea salt until well blended. It should form into a ball easily.
Vegan Peanut Butter Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 1/4-1/2 cup coconut sugar, depending on how sweet your sweet tooth is
- 2 heaping tablespoons of creamy organic peanut butter (without palm oil, if you’re feelin’ hip to the orangutans’ plight)
In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the coconut milk and coconut sugar for 90 minutes, until a thicker consistency and a caramel color. If you don’t have that long to wait, or if you’re an impatient person, I probably could have taken it off heat at 60 minutes and it would have done the job just as well. But that’s just speculation; I can’t guarantee this recipe will work as well with a shorter simmer time.
Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter.
- 1 recipe nut crust
- 1 recipe peanut butter sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional; they don’t serve a benefit I noticed, I just like them for their nutritional value)
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes and/or shreds
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- sea salt and coconut sugar to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a 9×9 pan, use your fingertips to spread the nut crust to cover the bottom. No need to oil the pan; the coconut oil in the nut mixture prevents it from sticking.
Sprinkle chia seeds over the mixture, followed by chocolate chips, coconut and walnuts. Pour the PBSCM over the entire mixture. It’s okay at this point to pick a covered chocolate chip out of this mess to ‘test’.
Sprinkle sea salt and coconut sugar over the entire mixture and place in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes minute. Let cool for an hour.
Cut into pieces and stick in the freezer until ready to eat, ie immediately.
The bars hold up really well, especially if you cut them into smaller pieces.
If you don’t have coconut sugar, DON’T PANIC. I’m sure you can use vegan white sugar, brown sugar or maple sugar (Hello, Trader Joe’s!) instead. I’m not sure how agave or maple syrup would change the texture, but if you try it leave a note in the comments and let me know.
Of course, peanut butter is optional, but only if you’re extremely allergic to peanuts.