Recipe Review

I Tried the Reddit-Famous 89-Year-Old “Dream Bars” and They’re Pretty Spectacular

published Jun 2, 2023
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Dream bars on plate.
Credit: Lena Abraham

At the time of writing, Reddit user Lawskie’s post on r/Old_Recipes is just under a month old and has already amassed over one thousand upvotes. So, I wondered: What could have these Redditors clamoring? 

Turns out, it’s an 89-year-old recipe for “dream bars,” first published in The Lincoln Star on May 4, 1934, by Mrs. Edna Whitmus of Sargent, Nebraska. And although the ingredients seemed quite simple, commenters who had eaten them before claimed they were nothing short of spectacular. Of course, I had to see what all the fuss was about, so I rummaged through my pantry as soon as I could to pull all the necessary ingredients for these sought-after bars.

Get the recipe: 89-Year Old Dream Bars

Credit: Lena Abraham

How to Make Reddit’s 89-Year-Old Dream Bars

To start, line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 350°F. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor, combine room-temperature unsalted butter with dark brown sugar and all-purpose flour. Mix until the mixture has a breadcrumb consistency, then transfer to your prepared baking pan. Press the mixture into a flat, even layer that covers the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk eggs and dark brown sugar until frothy. Add vanilla extract, all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder and stir until combined. Fold in shredded coconut and chopped nuts such as walnuts or pecans, then pour mixture onto the par-baked crust. Return the pan to the oven for 25 to 30 minutes more, until the top is golden-brown and the mixture has set.

Let your dream bars cool for 10 minutes, then cut into squares. Let the bars cool completely before you use the parchment to lift them out of the pan.

Credit: Lena Abraham

My Honest Review of Reddit’s 89-Year-Old Dream Bars

These bars are seriously good. Although I’ve had desserts made with similar ingredients, there’s something about these bars that feels completely new. Their distinct three layers of texture definitely lend to the overall deliciousness: the bottom layer an ultra-buttery shortbread crust; the thin middle layer a sweet, molasses-y mixture composed mostly of brown sugar; and a chewy, macaroon-like top layer tasting of toasty coconut and pecans. I’d put it somewhere between a pecan pie and a coconut macaroon, although arguably it’s easier to make than either of those desserts.

Because it’s a pretty forgiving recipe, I think I’ll mix it up with some additional ingredients next time I make it. I have a strong suspicion chopped chocolate or chocolate chips would be an excellent addition. Dried fruit like cherries or chopped figs would also be delicious, as would a spoonful of cinnamon or other warm spices. And although it’s a bit of a cliché at this point, a final sprinkling of flaky sea salt never hurts if you’ve got some on hand.

Although these bars might not be particularly flashy in the presentation department, I think they’re the perfect dessert to bring to your next potluck or picnic. It’ll only take one bite to get your friends and family on board.

Credit: Lena Abraham

4 Tips for Making Reddit’s 89-Year-Old Dream Bars

  1. Make sure you’ve got dark brown sugar. The deep, caramelized flavor of dark brown sugar is at the forefront of this dessert. This slightly bitter molasses-y flavor also pairs especially well with the coconut and nuts, and would be much more subtle if light brown sugar was used.
  2. Line your pan completely with parchment paper. I made the mistake of lining only two sides of my pan, which made it a little tricky to get the bars out after they’d cooled. I did butter the un-lined sides, so after some finessing with an offset spatula, I was able to get it out in one piece. With parchment on all sides, however, it should slide out with no problem.
  3. Let the bars cool completely before removing them from your pan. Your bars will firm up as they cool, making them much easier to transfer out of the pan. If you try to pull them out while they’re still warm, you risk breaking that crackly top crust into crumbly bits. 
  4. Serve the bars at room temperature. Although it’s best to keep these leftovers in the fridge, they’re much more delicious at room temperature when you can really appreciate the range of textures. Pull them out of the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes in advance and allow them to come up to room temperature before serving.

Get the recipe: 89-Year Old Dream Bars