…because we can’t count. There’s a layer of salted, buttery graham cracker crumbs (one); and a layer of coconut mixed with chocolate chips (two), all glued together with sweetened condensed milk that bakes to a chewy gold on the edges. The condensed milk melds with everything else so it can hardly be classified as another layer. But my husband grew up calling these Seven Layers, so Seven Layers they are. Some recipes call for additional ingredients like butterscotch chips and pecans, bumping up the number of ingredients to seven, but an ingredient does not equal a layer. So there.
These treats have been around a while. Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk used to feature a version the company called Magic Cookie Bars, printed in a tiny booklet stuck to the top of the can. When I was a kid, we knew them as Hello Dollies, a name that makes less sense than Seven Layers. My horizons were broadened when I started making David’s Dreambars, yet another iteration of this classic included in Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum (© 1990 Cordon Rose Incorporated – a newer edition is available). The base of that version is made with cinnamon graham crackers, and the yield is higher; it fits a jelly roll pan, 10″ x 15″. But the kicker is using chopped bars of three different kinds of chocolate — white, milk, and bittersweet — which makes these fancy and extra delicious.
And yet, I found one I like even more. A little salt in a thicker crust is the secret.
The path to this recipe zigzags a little. I found it a couple of years ago on Martha Stewart’s web site where the source is listed as The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread, by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree (© 2008 Scherber and Dupree). I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that such a gem is not in my collection, so Amazon is sending me a copy by week’s end.
Here’s how you make Gooey Coconut Dream Bars, adapted from The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread.
Makes 20 bars.
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (freshly crushed from about 20 crackers)
Please, in the name of all things tasty, do not use prepackaged crumbs. Break up whole crackers into a gallon-size freezer bag, press most of the air out, and seal the top. Whack the bag a few times with a rolling pin, then crush those smaller pieces into crumbs that are sandy and fairly uniform. Retrieve your noise-phobic lhasa apso from the back of the closet once you’re done making a racket.
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350°F.; position oven rack in center. Coat the inside of a 9″x13″ pan with non-stick spray. Cut a piece of baking parchment to fit bottom and sides of pan; place in pan and coat parchment with non-stick spray. (Don’t fret, the parchment will not cooperate much until you’ve weighted it down with the crust.) In a medium-size bowl, combine all of the graham cracker crumbs and salt. Mix in butter and combine evenly. Pour into prepared pan and press to an even thickness. (The bottom of a measuring cup is a handy tool for this.)
Wipe out the bowl you just used for the crust and pour in chocolate chips and coconut. Toss to combine, then sprinkle over the crust. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top, scraping the can with a spatula to get every drop out. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Let cool completely to firm up, then lift out by the edges of the parchment and set down on a cutting board. Slice into 20 squares. (This is easiest with a big chef’s knife.) Fill the cookie jar!