Monday, December 13, 2010

Seven Layer Cookies (aka Magic Cookie Bars)

Cheap Eat Challenge Count Down: 19 days

Look like a sea of chocolate? Yeah, we have that problem. In our family one of the layers outbalances the rest. Tell me you're shocked.

I realize that Seven Layer Cookies are a basic, easy cookie. But I'm going to pull a Christopher Kimball on you and propose that there is a technique even to this simple delight--a technique that, if followed, will make your Seven Layer Cookies even better than any product containing butter, graham crackers, nuts, chocolate, coconut and sweetened condensed milk already is. I will also wax verbose (blame Christopher Kimball, not me).

First of all, the order of the layers matters.

Not to sound pushy or anything, but the following order is best:

Graham cracker crust
Sweetened Condensed Milk

Why? Because as it cooks and cools, the chocolate and other chips will ooze down through the layers further cementing everything. The nuts and coconut will not do that, which means that sometimes when you take a cookie out with them on top, it sort of crumbles apart. Also I don't like the coconut or nuts on top because they somtimes get too brown or get an overly roasted taste to them. There's nothing worse than a Seven Layer Cookie with burned, hair-like coconut sticking out of it. (Okay, so there are lots of things worse: poverty, death, sickness, turnip casserole--to name just a few.) But, still, why wreck a perfectly transcendent dessert. If, however, you really really like toasted (or perhaps a bit overtoasted) coconut or nuts, I can't stop you from flopping them on top (though I'm going to be a little stubborn here and recommend just roasting them for a few minutes alone in a skillet before assembling the ingredients rather than flopping them on top).

Now to discuss sweetened condensed milk. First off, let me give a little call out to whoever invented it because you, Mr Sweetened Condensed Milk Man, have done a very good thing for the world, though not the waistlines of the world.

Secondly, the threat with putting the sweetened condensed milk on top of your concoction is that it will not have time to sink down and then when you take the cookies out, there will be a sort of blanket of sweetened condensed milk that hasn't fused fully with the cookie. Is this such a tragedy, you ask. Well, again, when you cut the cookies up, the top might stay together, but the middle stuff might crumble apart. The solution: Before baking, let the cookies sit there for several minutes (about 15) while the sweetened condensed milk sinks down. I know you want your cookies now. I know you don't want to wait 15 minutes longer. But it will pay off. If you must, you can save time after the cookies are cooked by scooping them out before they're set and throwing them in the freezer (not that I've ever done that before or anything), but seriously, you'll be happier with the finished cookie if you follow this step.

Below are some pictures illustrating how your cookies should look. (Otherwise known as food coronography. Or something that rhymes with that):

Here we are pouring the sweetened condensed milk.

Here's how the cookies look before they've sat for 15 minutes. I know they look really good still, but just trust me and let them sit, alright.  

And below are picture's of how they'll look after they've sat there for 15 minutes (not how they look after we lost control and licked all the sweetened condensed milk off--I swear) 

Yes, just like that. Now you can put them in the oven.

And one final tip: Don't overbake them. The edges should be just lightly browned or golden. Growing up, we got our edges a little on the over-golden (otherwise known as brown) side. And then because we'd overdone them we believed that the sides of our Seven Layer Cookies just stuck to the pan, and that it was an inevitable loss inherent in Seven Layer Cookie making. Sorry, parents, but this is just not so--we were cooking them too long. All those edges lost over the years, it's enough to make one weep. In my depression I'll have to eat another cookie. The tragedy.

You can even go a wee bit blonder than this.

Seven Layer Cookies (or Magic Cookie Bars--this is what Kip's family calls them; we love them anyway.)
Makes 24

A note on the chips: The standard recipe calls for 1 C chocolate chips and 1 C butterscotch chips. But you can use whatever kind of other chips you wish. We used dark chocolate because we have a problem. You can use white chocolate chips, milk chocolate, peanut butter--though be warned that it will give your cookies a very strong peanut butter flavor (a little too strong for me). I wouldn't recommend mint chips because I don't feel they go that well with the nuts and coconut, but maybe that's your thing. If it is, run with it. I imagine some type of caramel or toffee chip would work too.

1 package graham crackers
1 stick (1/2 C butter), melted
1 C chopped walnuts
1 C coconut
1 C chocolate chips
1 C other kind of chips. (I believe that the standard is butterscotch, but you can use whatever you like--white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter.)
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Crush the graham crackers. I do this in the blender because I'm that kind of lazy, but Kip hates having something else to clean so he puts them in a Ziploc bag and rolls them to death with a sturdy glass cup. Pour the graham crackers into a 9x13 inch pan. (You can line it with parchment paper draped over the edges if you want these to come out super easy. I don't line the pan, and mine come out easy enough for my needs.)

Add melted butter to graham crackers and mix with your fingers until fully incorporated. Press graham cracker crust evenly into pan.

Layer other ingredients on in this order: walnuts, coconut, chips.

Pour sweetened condensed milk over the top, getting it evenly over all parts of cookies. Let it sit for 15 minutes.

Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until edges are just getting golden and middle has just a bit of color.

And then, if you care about having jeans that fit, hide them from yourself. I usually put them in the freezer, which may or may not be why I know that they are some kind of crazy good frozen.


P.S. Maybe you're wondering if we just sit around all day eating cookies. Well, some of us would if we could, but there are other things in our lives. A few. For some non-hip-busting soup recipes, check out a couple I've tried and loved this past week.

This is a perfectly perfect soup. I halved the lentils because that's all I had in my house and then reduced the chicken stock since there wouldn't be so many lentils to suck it up. It was still delicious.

A great vitamin packed soup, although there is WAY WAY too much salt, so cut it at least in half and then add more in if you'd like.


  1. my grandma used to make these all the time, she called them Dolly bars and we do them a little bit differently. We switch the order of the chocolate and coconut, and we don't tend to wait for the sweetened condensed milk to settle in.... although I may try it that way next time :)

  2. It'll be worth your while to let the sweetened condensed milk sink in:).

  3. Each year I wonder what would happen if we mixed the chips, coconut, and nuts together and then put them on. Maybe one of these years when I'm ready to live dangerously I'll got for it and tell you how it went.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...