The Southern "Magic" Cookies I've Been Making for Over 30 Years

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If you’re looking for a dessert that’s stood the test of time, look no further than magic cookie bars. Part cookie and part candy, these bars feature a graham cracker crust, chocolate and butterscotch chips, shredded coconut, and pecans, which are magically bound together with sweetened condensed milk. 

Magic cookie bars are simple to make and unbelievably delicious, so it’s no wonder they’ve been a favorite for decades. Here’s how to make them.

The History Behind Magic Cookie Bars

You might know magic cookie bars as Hello Dolly bars, 7-layer bars, coconut dream bars, or even fancy layer bars.

The exact origin of the bars and how they got their name remains lost to history, but there are some clues. Borden, the makers of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk, shared a recipe for magic cookie bars on their can labels and in women’s magazines in the 1960s. Another theory points to the opening of the Broadway musical Hello Dolly in 1964 and desserts named after the production with a familiar list of ingredients soon followed.

Regardless of who invented these cookie bars or what you call them, the recipe took off with busy home cooks and home economics teachers needing a quick and tasty recipe for their students. Magic cookie bars are a nostalgic treat that remain popular today.

Key Ingredients in Magic Cookie Bars

How to Make Magic Cookie Bars

What Is the Difference Between Sweetened Condensed Milk and Evaporated Milk?

It’s easy to understand why sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk can be confused for one another. Both are shelf-stable, concentrated (with about 60% of the water removed) milks sold in small cans, but they are completely different products. Here’s the difference between sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.

How to Store Magic Cookie Bars

Place magic cookie bars in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze the bars for up to 3 months. The bars can be eaten straight from the freezer for a chewy texture, or thawed before serving. 

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