Walnut Oh Henry Bars – a scrumptious no-bake cookie bar with a caramely, nutty centre sandwiched between graham crackers and topped with sweet vanilla buttercream frosting.
These Walnut Oh Henry Bars were a staple recipe in all the old church cookbooks I knew as a kid when I first started baking. Here in Newfoundland, like all across Canada, these congregation-member submitted recipe books have long been a popular fundraiser for church groups. I remember the Anglican Women’s Cookbook from St. Luke’s Church in Port-de-Grave from 1974 when we lived there for a year, and my Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares being published with her name right beside the recipe. I might have 3 cookbooks in print now but I guess it was Mudder who was the first published recipe writer in this family. HA!
We also owned another couple of these cookbooks; I remember the United Church Women’s Cookbook in Coley’s Point as being one of them. Mudder probably still has them all at my parents house. Some variation of this recipe always seemed to be in the “Squares” section of each book and it always confused me a little. The name Oh Henry Bar I assumed to be taken from the popular candy bar of the same name but the cookie bars are nothing like it. The candy bar has peanuts and no biscuit element, whereas this recipe uses walnuts and the filling is sandwiched between Graham Wafer Crackers. I don’t know how that name came to be, but regardless they are still a favourite, especially at Christmas time, when there always seemed to be a batch in the freezer when I was growing up.
The recipe is a bit flexible; if you don’t like coconut, omit that and add a few more nuts to the mix. Back when I was a kid, we used ground nuts in this recipe; I remember loving the old fashioned nut grinder with crank on the side that you turned to turn the nuts into crumbs. Today I prefer to get the crunch of the nuts in the cookie bars so I only roughly chop them or even crack the individual nuts into large pieces by hand. As for the nuts, if walnuts are not your thing, any toasted nuts you like are easily substituted to personalize your own favourite version.
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- Graham crackers enough to line a 9x13 pan twice
- 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup butter
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped toasted walnuts
- 1 1/2 cups dried unsweetened coconut medium cut
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 2 cups icing sugar powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
Line the bottom of a 9x13 pan with a single layer of the graham cracker, cutting them to fit around the edges. You will need another identical layer fro the top.
Toast the walnuts in a single layer on a pan in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Toss them once at the 5 minute mark. Allow them to cool to room temperature before roughly chopping them with a chefs knife or individually breaking them into a few pieces each with your fingers. larger chunks are better in this recipe, I think.
In a medium to large saucepan over medium heat, add the brown sugar, butter, milk and vanilla extract. Bring to a slow rolling boil for about 4 minutes. Turn the heat down if necessary. This should never boil too rapidly.
Remove from heat and stir in the nuts, coconut and graham crumbs.
Spread this hot mixture evenly over the graham cracker base and then top with an additional layer of graham crackers.
Allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge for a couple of hours at least to set completely.
Top with the vanilla buttercream frosting, cut in squares and serve.
Cream together all of the frosting ingredients until smooth and spreadable. It's okay to add a little more milk if needed but the thicker the frosting consistency the better. If it gets too soft, just add a couple pf heaping tablespoons of icing sugar.