Magic Bars

You know how occasionally you come across a recipe where every single ingredient is delicious, totally on its own? This is one of those recipes. No baking soda or raw eggs here. No flour or water or boring leavening agents. Just pure decadence, from start to finish.* It's one of those recipes that would be hard to pass up when you read it... but since it came from the inside of a box of butter, I'm not really sure how Eleanor found it to begin with.

Growing up, I remember friends making these for potluck dinners and to bring to parties, and we always called them Seven Layer Bars, but we must have been terrible at counting, because these only have 6 ingredients. So good are these bars that I used up my precious stash of chocolate chips in order to make them. As an aside, you can't get chocolate chips in Scotland-- at least not the kind needed for baking. So every time I go to the States, I pick up a couple bags and stash them in the back of the pantry for emergency use only. Judson doesn't understand the concept of an emergency baking stash, so I'm appealing to you for compassion on this. I've tried cooking with a bar of chocolate hacked to pieces, and although it sometimes works, mostly it makes your baked goods look kind of muddy from the tiny shavings of chocolate it leaves behind, instead of clean and studded with pockets of melty chocolate.**

These are the perfect party snack, and practically foolproof. Eleanor's copy was dogeared and worn, but absent any of the notations that most of her go-to recipes have, so trust me when I say: neither she nor I have found any way to improve upon this perfection. It's truly embarrassing how good these are-- the type of thing that you could bring to a party and, despite dirtying only one pan and spending less than 30 minutes on the entire dish, start to finish, they'll be polished off within an hour, even as the plate of petit fours languishes next to it.

Nobody is gonna want to admit how delicious these are, but no one could ever say no to one of them. Oh, and if you live stateside and have the option of shredded or flaked coconut instead of desiccated, so much the better for the texture. These are the best friend of the person who no one trusts to make a decent baked good-- easy, delicious, and so decadent you'll have to cut them into small pieces, which just means more to go around.

Take it from me and Eleanor: make these tonight, take them to work tomorrow, and then count the hours til you get called into the boss's office for a promotion

*Admittedly, part of the reason for this is that the recipe relies on a crust made of pre-made cookies, but nevertheless, I stand by my argument.

**If you're looking for things to mail us, chocolate chips are way at the top of the list, along with maple syrup, Tabasco sauce, hot pepper vinegar, and most flavours of Jell-o, which, embarrassingly, I need for a lot of upcoming recipes from the box. (Oh, also something called canned grapes, which I can't even fathom, really.)

The verdict: 4 spoons out of five, if you make them with the amount of chocolate I recommend below. I knocked off a spoon because nothing this easy should really get 5 spoons, it's just awkward.

The recipe:

Magic Bars

the ingredients:

½ c butter
1 ½ c Rich Tea crumbs (UK) or graham cracker crumbs (US)
14 oz condensed milk
10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 c flaked or shredded coconut, or 1 c desiccated coconut
1 c chopped nuts (I used pecans and hazelnuts)


Preheat oven to 176C/350F.
Melt butter by placing it in a 13x9 baking dish in the oven.
Sprinkle crumbs over butter evenly, pressing down to ensure good contact.
Pour condensed milk over crumbs as evenly as possible.
Top with chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts, pressing down firmly.
Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and nuts are toasted.
Cool and cut into bars. Store at room temperature, or cold for a chewier treat.

Yields 18-24 bars.