Evaporated milk is when most of the water has been removed and canning milk is a popular preservative process that allows it to last longer than fresh milk. Though sweetened condensed milk has also been evaporated and canned, it differs in that it’s been combined with sugar, making for a rich and thick texture. Straight out of the jar it tastes super sweet a.k.a super amazing, and it’s another one of those ingredients that is used in different ways around the world. In many parts of Asia, sweetened condensed milk is used in tea (which I definitely need to start doing) and in South America it’s an important component to dulce de leche.
In my family, sweetened condensed milk is used for hello dollies. These cookies are commonly referred to as seven layer bars or magic cookie bars and I have no idea where the Hello Dolly moniker comes in. Hello dollies are everything you want in a cookie (butter and chocolate), but the melt-in-your-mouth graham cracker crust combined with sticky and delicious sweetened condensed milk have put them high up on my list of comfort foods.
My cousins and I learned from a very young age that the rectangular shape wrapped in aluminum foil tucked away in our nana’s freezer contained these magic layered hello dolly cookies. The freezer in her old house was drawer-style, below the fridge, perfect for our little hands to reach in and grab when the adults weren’t looking.
Now that I live just blocks away from my nana in Seattle, I have 24-7 access to her freezer. I found that even a block for these cookies can seem just a little too far though, and I like to have them on hand in my own apartment. I put the recipe my family uses below, but it’s easy to adjust based on your personal preference (common additions include nuts or butterscotch chips). Keep scrolling and you’ll find some international recipes that also use sweetened condensed milk!
makes about 30 bars, depending on how big you cut them
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups coconut shavings (unsweetened or sweetened is up to you)
Melt the butter then mix together with graham cracker crumbs directly in a 9×13 inch pan and spread evenly across bottom of pan. Next, pour on the chocolate chips then add the layer of coconut shavings. Lastly, pour the can of sweetened condensed milk on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes, until golden brown.
Other recipes with sweetened condensed milk: