Magic Cookie Bars

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Coconut dream bars. Magic cookie bars. Hello Dolly bars. You’ve seen these classic treats at bake sales, holiday parties and potlucks over the years. But they tend to crumble when cut, thanks to a thin graham cracker crust. And, topped with gobs of super-sweet shredded coconut, sweetened condensed milk and semisweet chocolate, they have a cloying bite that may be too much for even the sweetest tooth. This version starts with a thicker graham cracker cookie base. It’s baked with an egg, a bit of brown sugar and some leavener, which makes it pleasantly dense and chewy and means that it cuts nicely and stands up well to the decadent toppings. Next, unsweetened flaked coconut and dark chocolate are layered with plenty of chopped pecans and condensed milk. The slightly bitter chocolate and toasty coconut tame the sweetness of the condensed milk, which caramelizes as it cooks, making the whole package well-balanced and full of flavor.

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE CRUST:

  • 6 tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, more for greasing the pan
  • 20 graham crackers (about 310 grams)
  • ¼ cup/50 grams packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg

FOR THE TOPPING:

  • 1 14-ounce/397 gram can sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 ounces/227 grams chopped bittersweet chocolate (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup/110 grams chopped pecans
  • 2 cups/114 grams unsweetened flaked coconut

PREPARATION

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Line it with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides.
  2. In a food processor, process the graham crackers until finely ground. (You should have about 2 3/4 cups.) Add brown sugar, baking powder and salt and pulse to combine. While machine is running, add butter and egg and process until the crumbs are completely moistened and large clumps have formed.
  3. Tip the graham cracker mixture out into the prepared pan. Crumble the mixture to divide it evenly across the bottom of the pan, then use your fingers to spread it out into an even layer, lightly pressing it into the pan. Bake the crust until it is set and dry, about 15 minutes.
  4. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crust and spread it out into an even layer. Sprinkle half the chocolate and half the pecans evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the coconut on in an even layer. Then sprinkle the remaining chocolate and nuts evenly over the top.
  5. Bake until toppings are evenly golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. To serve, lift the bar out of the pan using the parchment overhang, transfer it to a cutting board and cut into 15 bars.
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