Saturday, April 3, 2010

Seven Layer Cookies

My friend Lauren recently told me about a seven layer cookie that she makes, and I was immediately mystified. It turns out it neither has seven layers nor is a cookie; however, it has seven ingredients which I assume were originally put down in layers. The seven layer cookie (also known as ‘magic bars’) belongs to the genre of confections that – like Rice Krispies treats and confetti marshmallow squares – are tooth-achingly sweet, rely heavily on processed ingredients, and are forgiving for amateur cooks. Other hallmarks of this form include no-bake cakes and pies, ambrosia and s'mores. The origin of such recipes is unclear – I suspect it’s a combination of the desire for instant gratification and corporations inventing new ways to market their products.

Seven layer cookies are popular at Christmastime. I also found an
eleven layer version that includes dark chocolate chips, miniature marshmallows, toffee chips and dulce de leche. This recipe should not be confused with the more sophisticated Venetian seven layer cookie (often called rainbow cookie) which is a sandwich of three multicolored, almond-flavored sponge cakes separated by apricot jam and covered with chocolate. In contrast to its American namesake, the Italian version is massively labor-intensive so you’re unlikely to see it on this blog anytime soon.

Makes 32 bars

1 stick unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 pound semisweet chocolate chips
1 pound butterscotch chips
12 ounces walnuts or pecans, chopped
12 ounces shredded, desiccated coconut (unsweetened if available)
20 ounces sweetened condensed milk (do not use evaporated milk)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. In a medium bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Mix in graham cracker crumbs, and press mixture along the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass Pyrex dish.
3. Bake crust for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and set aside.
4. In a large bowl use a spatula to mix chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, walnuts and coconut. Pour evenly over crust.
5. Carefully drizzle condensed milk over mixture, making sure to spread evenly.
6. Return to the oven and bake for a further 30-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and fragrant.
7. Remove from the oven and cool for several hours. Cut into small pieces.
8. Cookies can be stored in the fridge for one month or in the freezer for six months. Frozen cookies are best served slightly reheated in the microwave with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.