Revising a Classic: Seven-Layer Bars

"Seven-layer bars," also known as "magic bars," are one of my favorite baked goods, falling just behind chewy chocolate chip cookies. You may wonder why, then, I would ever mess with the traditional recipe, which calls for butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, coconut, nuts (usually walnuts), sweetened condensed milk, butter and graham cracker crumbs.

The simple answer is that I was missing about a third of the aforementioned ingredients, needed to get rid of some Easter candy and was too lazy to go to the store. Rather than make three- or four-layer bars (or something equally lame), I made some substitutions and hoped for the best.

In place of chocolate chips, for example, I used chopped Robin Eggs and Hershey's milk chocolate mini-eggs.

I also swapped butterscotch chips for raisins. Eliminating nuts altogether from seven-layer bars seemed blasphemous, so in the absence of the traditional walnuts, I used dry roasted peanuts.

Here's the modified recipe:

  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped Robin Eggs and chocolate eggs
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a separate bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press crumb mixture firmly to the bottom of 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

2. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer evenly with Robin Eggs, chocolate eggs, raisins, coconut flakes and peanuts. Press down firmly with fork.

3. Bake 25 minutes or until coconut is light brown. Cool. Chill if desired.

For those of you unfamiliar with the complex architecture of the seven-layer bar, here's a picture guide.

Layers No. 1 and No. 2 are butter and graham cracker crumbs, which should be pressed firmly to the bottom of the pan.

Layer No. 3 is sweetened condensed milk. Try not to drink any remaining liquid straight from the can.

Layers No. 4 and No. 5 are chocolate eggs and raisins, both equally healthful.

Layers No. 6 and No. 7 are coconut flakes and peanuts.

My substitutions produced a chewier bar, slightly imbalanced in terms of salty and sweet flavors. Next time, I'll add more chocolate and fewer peanuts; keep my original proportions, though, if your tastes favor the savory and you enjoy a heartier bar.

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Joanna O'Leary