I go on to apologize to no one except the journal Gods for not having written in weeks because I have been soooooo busy with self-proclaimed “trivial relationship matters” such as why doesn’t he call me all the time and should we go to the mall together? (The rhetorical answer was an emphatic “No!” Reason being: not if he hasn’t called. Obviously.) Then a few dozen pages of what I can only assume was meant to be “poetry”.
Fast forward a few journals and I found another gem; a recipe for Nanaimo Bars I had made to thank my supervisors upon the completion of my first internship oh so many moons ago.
If you grew up in Canada or in the Pacific Northwest then you may be familiar with this confection which gets its name from a city on Vancouver Island in British Columbia called – you guessed it – Nanaimo. (Pronounced Na-NYE-mo.)
Nanaimo as a place is honored in its baked good form with a triple layer concoction called the Nanaimo bar. The no-bake bar begins with a base made from melted butter, chocolate, crushed graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut, and some variety of nut (I used almonds). All these glorious things are mixed together and pressed into the bottom of an 8×8 pan.
The middle layer is a custard-flavored buttercream and is what I think really makes these bars. You will want to slather it on just about everything especially those few graham crackers that you will have left over from the bottom layer. Just sayin’…
Then the whole pan is topped with a thin layer of chocolate. To set the cookie record straight, you have been warned about these. Nanaimo bars are not messing around or for the faint of heart.
Make a pan and spread the love with someone who hasn’t heard about the glory of these bars! Go forth and Nanaimo!
Makes 25 small bars
Adapted from the City of Nanaimo
For the bottom layer:
1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) butter, melted
1/3 cup (35 grams) unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch-process
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 sleeve (9 crackers or 145 grams) graham crackers, finely crushed (about 1 heaping cup)
1/2 cup (55 grams) almond meal (or very finely chopped almonds)
1 cup (95 grams) sweetened shredded coconut
For the middle layer:
1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) butter, very soft
3 tablespoons (45 grams) custard pudding powder (or vanilla flavor)*
2 cups (200 grams) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon half-and-half or heavy cream, more as needed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
For the top layer:
1 cup (180 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
Butter an 8×8 pan and line with foil. Set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together the melted butter, cocoa, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth. Add the crushed graham crackers, almond meal and coconut and stir until combined. Press evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. I used the bottom of a measuring spoon to make sure it was firmly pressed into the pan.
In a large bowl beat the butter, custard powder, and powdered sugar together until smooth. Add vanilla, salt and one tablespoon half-and-half. Beat for several minutes until smooth and spreadable, adding half-and-half one teaspoon at a time as needed. Spread evenly over the base layer.
In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate chips, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Pour over the top of the bars and use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate all the way to the edge.
Refrigerate for several hours until firm then slice into to squares. I found that “scoring” them about 10 minutes after the chocolate had set helped to cut clean lines after the chocolate has fully set. I used a sharp knife and a very gentle “sawing” motion to slice them into five equal bars and then into 25 smaller squares. Store bars in the refrigerator.
*Or for the even most authentic use Bird’s Custard Powder if you can find it!