OK, there are two unusual things about this post.
First, this is a recipe for Christmas cookies, which I’ve only baked once in the past 20 years. Don’t get me wrong. I love the holiday season and am fully engaged when it comes to making Christmas dinner, decorating the tree, giving gifts, and most other aspects of the holiday. However, my brother-in-law Neil is a Christmas cookie baking fanatic and has always shared more than enough for our whole family until this year, when he moved away. So this holiday season we’ll be left Christmas cookie-less unless I roll up my sleeves and bake some myself.
The second unusual thing about this recipe is that it’s not “from scratch.” In fact, a whopping six of the seven ingredients used here come straight out of a bag, can, or box. What could I be thinking? Well, actually I’ve been thinking about my all-time favorite Christmas cookies — magic cookie bars, or seven-layer cookies, as they are sometimes called — and what new spin I might put on them. The taste of key lime pie, anyone?
This very simple, quick recipe uses the same layered assembly technique and most of the same ingredients as traditional magic bars — graham cracker crumbs, butter, flaked coconut, chocolate, chopped nuts, and condensed milk — but with two modifications that radically change the flavor of these much loved bars. White rather than dark chocolate is used here, and key lime juice is added for a different, deliciously sweet-tart citrusy flavor.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 1/4 cups plain graham cracker crumbs (8 graham crackers, finely crushed)
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed (not evaporated) milk
1 1/2 tablespoons water
7 tablespoons fresh or bottled key lime juice (if using the latter, Nellie & Joe’s brand is very good)
1 1/4 cups white chocolate morsels
1 cup coarsely chopped, unsalted macadamia (which I prefer), almond, pecan, or cashew nuts
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., with the rack in the middle position. While the oven is heating, put all of the butter in a 9-inch square or 8-inch by 10-inch cake pan and place the pan in the oven until the butter has just melted. Remove the pan from the oven.
- Sprinkle all of the graham cracker crumbs over the melted butter in the pan, stir them together until well blended, and pat down this crumb mixture to make a level crust. Sprinkle all of the coconut evenly over the crust.
- In a bowl, combine the condensed milk, water, and key lime juice until well blended. Drizzle about one-third of this mixture over the coconut.
- In order, in layers, and without mixing them, sprinkle on all of the white chocolate morsels and then all of the nuts. Drizzle the remainder of the key lime/condensed milk mixture over the nuts.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges are lightly browned, remove the pan from the oven, and allow it to cool to room temperature. If you prefer, refrigerate before serving. Makes 36 1 1/2-inch square bars if baked in a 9-inch by 9-inch pan.