Editor's Note: You may know Alexandra Penfold as Brownie from the popular blog Blondie and Brownie. She'll be stopping by weekly, digging up long-lost classic desserts and regional favorites.


[Photograph: Alexandra Penfold]

Recently I had to face the fact that I don't actually hate coconut. For someone whose spent serious time avoiding suspicious round chocolates in any Valentine's mix, this was a sobering realization. While you won't find me embracing Mounds Bars anytime soon, I've discovered that in the right hands coconut can transcend cloying and be downright delicious. If lightly toasted coconut shavings were my gateway to other coconut forms then Magic Squares, Seven Layer Bars, or Hello Dollies were my vector of choice.

With the oven-to-mouth time on this recipe clocking in at around 30 minutes, these quick and easy cookie bars enjoyed the height of their popularity in the 60s and 70s when convenience cooking first began to take hold. Variations abound, but the standard recipe typically includes a butter and graham cracker crumb crust, topped with sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, and nuts. The sweetened condensed milk binds the bar together, bubbling up in the oven and lending a caramelized quality to the shredded coconut.

I first encountered Magic Squares in college. Mind-blowingly sweet, chewy, and ooey-gooey, they were just the perfect fuel for late night study sessions. Over time my own rendition has evolved into a treat that's more kitchen sink-ish in nature with the addition of crushed potato chips, pretzels, and chopped peanuts. If you love sweet and salty treats along the lines of last week's Chocolate Crack recipe, this is a worthy addition to your midnight snacking lineup.

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