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Simple Magic bars recipe

Sue Lawrence's Anta Bars

I was due to give a Scottish cookery class last Sunday in Aegviidu – a small town about an hour from Tallinn. While finalising the menu for the cookery class (skirlie and clapshot and cranachan and such like), I flipped again through the pages of Scottish author’s Sue Lawrence‘s excellent “A Cook’s Tour of Scotland: from Barra to Brora in 120 recipes“. One of the last recipes in the book was for Anta Bars – a tray cake that Sue Lawrence was served at the Anta Pottery‘s tearoom in Fearn, Tain, near Ross-shire in the Scottish Highlands (see here for the exact address). Ingredients? Digestive biscuits, butter, sweet condensed milk, milk chocolate and desiccated coconut. Very similar to Magic bars, though these tend to have a layer of nuts included as well, and are layered somewhat differently (I rely on the Joy of Baking blog for this information).

I had a whole packet of sweet condensed milk I wanted to use, and while I really wanted to make the Millionaire’s Shortbread, I decided to give these Anta Bars a go instead. Why? Well, for the Millionaire’s Shortbread (also known as caramel shortbread) you need to boil the condensed milk first, whereas the Anta Bars have a layer of regular sweet condensed milk drizzled over the cookie crumb base. So much simpler and quicker.

A word of warning, however. While Scotland can be really proud about the great quality of their produce and ingredients (venison, lamb, beef, salmon, raspberries, shortcakes, haggis etc etc), then this cake is not the healthy option, for the fainthearted or for those counting their calories. It’s extremely sweet. You know, tooth-achingly sweet. Definitely an occasional treat rather than your regular afternoon tea or coffee cake 🙂

Sue Lawrence’s recipe was excellent – no surprise, as she is considered one of the best Scottish food writers of our times. However, I did reduce the amount of coconut flakes after the initial attempt, as I had hard time getting the original amount (170 g of desiccated coconut) to stick to the cake and not fall off. Also – even if you might be tempted to use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, perhaps to counteract the sweetness, then don’t – this cake needs the much sweeter milk chocolate. Trust me, I tried both versions..

Anta Magic Bars or a recipe for caramel, milk chocolate and coconut slices
(Anta koogiruudud)
Source: Sue Lawrence’s “A Cook’s Tour of Scotland”, sligthly adapted
Serves about 24

Sue Lawrence's Anta Bars

140 g butter, melted and cooled
350 g Digestive biscuits or graham crackers
300 g sweetened condensed milk
200 g good-quality milk chocolate, chopped (or use chips)
100 g desiccated coconut

Line a baking sheet/Swiss roll tin (about 25×35 cm) with a parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F.
Finely crush the Digestive biscuits (I used my food processor), then mix thoroughly with melted butter. Spoon the biscuit mixture into the cake tin, pressing down. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture.
Now scatter the chopped chocolate evenly on top, finally sprinkle with coconut flakes, patting down lightly.
Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until the coconut is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before cutting into small squares or bars.

Other foodbloggers have been testing Sue Lawrence’s recipes:
Cock-a-leekie soup by Pille @ Nami-Nami
Mince and tatties by Pille @ Nami-Nami
Chocolate brownie with raspberries by Pille @ Nami-Nami
Smoked salmon frittata by Pille @ Nami-Nami
Haggis and winter tzatziki wraps by Sophie @ Mostly Eating (intrigued!!!)
Passion cake by Maggie @ Kitchen Delights
German apple cake by Celia @ English patis

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