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I already have a seven layer bar recipe on this blog, but this one deserves a post on its own because it’s even more homemade. Usually seven layer bars are made with graham crackers, canned condensed milk, sweetened coconut flakes and chocolate chips. All highly processed stuff, and I’ve a great disdain for things that come out of a package. This seven layer bar takes homemade to a new level: I made the condensed milk out of milk, and the cookie base is made out of an oatmeal cookie dough. The chocolate chips were from a chopped up chocolate bar. I could up the ante by making my own sweetened coconut flakes… and mill my own flour. Hah, I could carry the homemade schtick a lot further.

Honestly the only real reason why I had homemade condensed milk around was because I bought some milk to make cinnamon buns, but then I realized my yeast packets were expired and they didn’t activate. Which sucked, because I really wanted to make bread. But never mind, I used up the milk to make some condensed milk. If you wanted the condensed milk recipe, you can click here. I really don’t expect you to, though. Mine came out a little bit grainy, but then it didn’t matter in the seven layer bar.

The oatmeal cookie base is quite lovely, it holds everything up well and I feel good about putting a little bit more fiber into my body. The recipe had way more cookie than I’d like, so I just made oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough with the rest and it’s now in the freezer, ready to be baked whenever I want some homemade sugary goodness.

Seven layer bars are so incredibly easy; I guesstimated all the proportions of the filling by just sprinkling it by hand. I like baking like this; I feel more at one with my food, you know?

From-Scratch Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 1 9×5 inch pan

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

FILLING
1/2 (7 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I threw in some white chocolate chips in there)
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture. Spread in the bottom of an ungreased 9×5 baking pan with the thickness to your liking; set aside. Spread condensed milk on cookie dough base. Sprinkle chocolate chips, coconut and walnuts. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes.

I recommend freezing the bars before cutting into them. It’s a lot easier to handle and you get cleaner slices.

This is probably one of the easiest things I’ve ever made. It’s made out of graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, condensed milk and shredded coconut: essentially a mix of all the sweet, gooey, and chewy things you can find in the kitchen. Feel free to play around with the proportions and add different kinds of fill-ins or toppings. I put mine in the oven for ten minutes just to get the coconut toasted but you can feel free to skip that step.

Graham Cracker Balls
Makes 25 balls
Adapted from this Taste of Home thread

8 graham cracker sheets
14 tbsp condensed milk
1 cup shredded coconut (I used sweetened)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven at 350 F. Crumble 10 graham crackers very fine. Add condensed milk and chocolate chips. Mix well. Form into balls and roll in shredded coconut. Bake for 10 minutes till coconut is lightly toasted. Remove and let cool on pan. Refrigerate (optional).

If you don’t know my baking style by now, I’ll have you know that I am generally very much a fuss-free baker. I don’t accessorize my baked goods much. If I could get away with not frosting a cake, I could – not having an electric mixer really makes the process a lot more labor-intensive. Therefore, my coconut cocktail buns had to deal without having a glossy egg wash too.

Chinese baked buns are generally glazed with an egg wash, and sometimes have a crusty shortening topping too. This one in particular actually has an interesting explanation to its nomenclature. The reason why it’s called a cocktail bun is because its filling was a way for bakers to use up old buns. They would create a blended “cocktail” of old buns, sugar and some shredded coconut and make it into a filling for new buns to sell the next day.

Here’s a cross-section of the bun. Bread is one of those things that’s easy to make but hard to perfect. My bread had a good sweet taste to it, but certainly lacked the fluffiness and “compressability” that bakery buns have. I don’t really know what I did wrong, but dense bread is typically attributed to too much flour and/or not enough kneading. The filling recipe I used also created a more chewy than creamy filling, so if you don’t like the mouth-feel of shredded coconut, feel free to give it a whirl in the food processor. (Which I don’t have! Alas, such is the plight of a college baker.)

Chinese Coconut Cocktail Bun
Bread recipe from Allrecipes; filling recipe from About
Makes 8 buns

Dough
1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup milk (I used skim and it turned out okay)
1/4 cup softened butter
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour, or more if needed

Filling (makes enough for 7 buns – be creative with the last bun’s filling!)
1 1/3 cups (325 ml) coconut flakes (I used sweetened angel flake coconut and omitted the sugar)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) hard margarine or butter, melted
1 large egg yolk

1. Place 1/3 cup sugar and milk in a small saucepan, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1/4 cup softened butter, and gently warm the mixture until the butter melts and the mixture is warm but not hot (no warmer than about 100 degrees F (40 degrees C). In a large bowl, stir together the yeast with 2 1/2 cups flour until well blended, and pour the milk mixture into the flour-yeast mixture. Stir in 1 beaten egg, and mix until the mixture forms a sticky, wet dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead for about 10 minutes, gradually kneading in 1 cup of additional flour or as needed to make a smooth, elastic dough. Form the dough into a round ball, place into an oiled bowl, and turn the dough around in the bowl a few times to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a cloth, and allow dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Coconut Filling: Process coconut and sugar in blender or food processor until very fine. Turn into small bowl. Stir in margarine and egg yolk until paste-like consistency. Makes scant 2/3 cup (150 ml) filling.
4. Working on a floured surface, punch down the dough, and cut into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece into 8 equal-sized pieces (16 pieces total). Form each piece into an oblong bun, and flatten the bun with a floured rolling pin. Scoop up about 1 tablespoon of filling with a spoon, and place in the center of a bun. Pull and pinch the edges of the dough together to enclose the filling in the bun. Repeat with all dough pieces, and place the filled buns, seam sides down, onto the prepared baking sheets. Cover the buns with a cloth, and allow to rise in a warm place 1 hour.
5. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Bake in the preheated oven until the buns are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

P.S. Feel free to freeze it once it has cooled to preserve the texture of the buns. Baked goods generally aren’t affected by freezing and really helps preventing bread from going stale.

These treats are called seven layer because they are traditionally made with seven ingredients, and are also named magic bars because they are so simple to make but once you take them out of the oven, the results are like magic! When I removed the pan from the oven, the condensed milk was bubbling; it sure looked like some hocus pocus had been brewing while it was in there.

I made these for a party, primarily because it was an easy dessert to make and it was a sturdy bar that could withstand transportation and didn’t need to be refrigerated. I used the recipe from Eagle Brand, and I reduced the shredded coconut by 1/3 cup and still thought it was plenty. A problem I faced was that the bars were too soft in the middle to remove from the pan cleanly. I had left a big chunk in there when I inverted it. I recommend putting the pan in the freezer before you try removing it, and then slicing it when it is still firm but not frozen.

Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars
Adapted from Eagle Brand
Makes one 13 x 9 inch pan

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 13 x 9 baking pan. Mix butter and crumbs and pat down into base of pan. Add a layer of condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Sprinkle chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and coconut. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool in pan.

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