Gooey vanilla wafer bars
Updated: Aug 16, 2021
I've been thinking about this recipe for a while, and was so excited to make it a reality! When taking the recipe development class led by Christina Tosi, we made her famous Milk Bar pie (which also inspired my chocolate mint pie). The original pie we made, though not the prettiest thing I've ever baked, was something I couldn't stop eating. The texture was dense and gooey, there was a subtle vanilla flavor that came through, and something about the cold temperature of the pie was just incredible.
I love pie, but it can be hard to store and sometimes daunting to slice. I knew I wanted to turn the pie into a bar form with a few changes and it came out better than I could have imagined. It is perfectly sweet with almost a browned butter flavor, and the texture is something unlike many other baked goods.
The most daunting part about this recipe is separating the yolks from the egg whites, as this recipe only uses egg yolks, but I promise once you give it a try you'll get the hang of it if you aren't a pro already. The crust is made of crushed Nilla Wafers that are tossed with melted butter, and the rest of the dry and wet ingredients are ones you may have on hand already or won't mind having around!
There are a few phases to bake and set this bar recipe. First it cooks at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes (first photo), then you'll reduce your oven to 325 degrees and bake for another 8-10 minutes (second photo), and then you'll chill the bar (third photo). You can see the progression of an even golden brown once it's fully baked, and that color only intensifies when the bars chill fully.
Removing the bars from your pan should only be done once they are fully chilled, but because of the gooey nature of this treat know that the removal can take some patience. I lined my 9x9 pan with parchment paper which helps a great deal, and then you can use a spatula along the sides lightly during the chilling process to gently separate your bars from the edges. The great thing is that these bars are not dainty, so you can also flip your pan and get the bars out upside down if needed.
40 Nilla Wafers
4-5 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (half cup) melted unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking time estimate: About an hour of prep and bake time, plus about 3 hours of chill and freeze times.
Prep your crust. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. If you have a food processor, you can break down your Nilla Wafers in it. It shouldn't be a powder, but you want to break it down to a small crumb. I don't have a food processor, so to break down my wafers I placed them into a large ziplock bag and used a meat tenderizer to crush them. You can also use the back of a pan to do this. Once you're done, pour your wafer crumbs into a medium bowl.
Melt four tablespoons of butter, and then add the melted butter crumbled wafer and toss together with a large spoon or spatula to form your crust. If the crumble isn't coming together enough, you can add another tablespoon of melted butter.
Line a 9x9 square pan with parchment paper, and pour your wafer crust mixture into your square pan. You can use a spoon, flat tool, or even a spatula to press your crumble down to form a crust, and make sure that you press down firmly all the way to the edge. Once you're sure there aren't any empty spaces, place your crust in the oven for 8 minutes.
Remove your pan from the oven, and set aside to cool slightly.
Make your filling. Meanwhile, it's time to make your filling. In a large bowl, pour in your sugar, light brown sugar, corn starch, and salt. Use a whisk or large fork to fully combine your dry ingredients.
In a separate small bowl, melt your butter and then pour into your dry ingredients. Use a spatula or large spoon to fully combine.
Now separate out your egg yolks and place them into a small bowl or cup. To do this, I usually have one small container to save my egg whites (you don't need them for this recipe but you can always use them another time!) and one small bowl to hold my yolks. Crack one egg at a time, hold one hand over the egg white container, transfer to that hand, and pass the egg yolk back and forth between your hands until all of the white is in the container, and then place your egg yolk into your other small bowl. Once you have all four yolks, add one at a time to your mixture, fully incorporate using your spatula or small spoon, and only add the next yolk once the last has been fully incorporated.
Pour your heavy cream and vanilla extract into your mixture, and carefully fold together. You'll want to move slowly as to not stir air into the mixture.
Your oven should be set to 350 degrees already but if it's not, turn your oven on. Pour your filling into your partially baked wafer crust. Smooth out slightly using your spatula or spoon, but know that it'll smooth out in the oven. Place your pan into the oven for 20-30 minutes until a light golden brown crust has formed around the outer edges with a lighter golden color in the center. At this point, remove your pan from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Place your pan back into the oven and cook for another 5-10 minutes until your bars have set (it should still wiggle a little if you shake it, but only in the center).
Remove your pan and allow it to cool slightly at room temperature for about an hour. Take a spatula, and press it slowly around the edges of your bars just to loosen the sides for later. Then, place your bars into the fridge for at least an hour. You can keep your bars in the fridge for a minimum of three hours, or after an hour of chill time in the fridge, transfer to the freezer for at least another hour.
Slice and store. Once your bars have fully chilled and set, it's time to slice them. Be patient with loosening your bars from the pan. Use a spatula again around the edges, and if you're able to, you can use the parchment paper to pull the bars out of the pan, or you can turn the pan over and release the bars onto a flat surface. Use a sharp knife to slice into 16 squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week, or place into the freezer and enjoy any time.
Carb and serving info:
Servings: 16 squares
Carbs per serving: 21.1
Carbs for full recipe: 337.8
Note: Carb information is calculated based on the specific ingredients I used to cook with to help guide my own insulin to carb ratio when dosing before I eat my home cooked recipes.