Saturday, July 5, 2014

Eating the Americas: Nanaimo Bars

Eating the Americas

I promised to get this posted during this week, so here it is - the recipe for a very Canadian dessert: Nanaimo Bars. I previously posted the recipe as part of a round-up of holiday dessert recipes - you can see that post HERE. But Nanaimo Bars are not just for the holidays, and we felt like we really needed to have them in order to celebrate Canada Day properly, so here's the recipe one more time!

Nanaimo Bars recipe

So what IS a Nanaimo Bar? It's a three-layer dessert bar, believed to have originated in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. (Oh, and it's pronounced nuh-NYE-mo.) The bottom layer is a chocolatey graham crumb crust, and most recipes include shredded coconut or chopped nuts. Personally, I don't include those in my recipe because my kids object to coconut. Go figure. But leaving out the nuts and coconut also make it more likely that folks with nut allergies can enjoy this dessert, so it's all good! After melting together the sugar, butter, and cocoa, a beaten egg is added and cooked a bit before adding the graham crumbs.
Nanaimo Bars recipe

Nanaimo Bars recipe

Nanaimo Bars recipe

The middle layer is a rich vanilla custard/icing type filling. You will need vanilla custard powder. I've seen recipes that use vanilla pudding mix, which might work out okay, but for it to be authentic, I believe you need custard powder. To find it (if you're in the USA), you may have to troll the International Foods Aisle at your grocery store. Maybe you'll be lucky and find it in the baking aisle, as I have sometimes! This may be a factor in this being a Canadian thing, because Bird's Custard Powder (there may be other brands, but this is the only one I'm familiar with) is readily available in the baking aisle of almost every grocery store. I have rarely seen it in local grocery stores in the USA, and when I have found it, it's been in the UK/Europe section of the International Foods Aisle.

Nanaimo Bars recipe

Nanaimo Bars recipe

And to finish it off, a chocolate layer goes on top. 

Nanaimo Bars recipe

Nanaimo Bars recipe

After chilling a bit, it's ready to enjoy - it goes great with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk.

Nanaimo Bars recipe

Nanaimo Bars
Bottom Layer:
1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp cocoa
1 egg, beaten
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Melt butter, sugar, and cocoa in top of a double boiler (or a heavy saucepan). Add beaten egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat and stir in graham crumbs. You want it to be moist enough to pack firmly and hold together, but not be mushy. Press firmly into an ungreased 9x9 pan.

Middle Layer:
1/2 cup butter (you can use margarine, but trust me - butter is better)
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, milk and custard powder together, then add icing sugar and mix well. Beat until light and creamy. Spread over the bottom layer. I suggest chilling it a bit at this point to help that layer set.

Top Layer:
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or 4 squares semisweet baking chocolate)
3 tbsp butter

Melt chocolate and butter together over low heat. Allow it to cool for a bit, but while it's still pourable, spread gently over the second layer. Chill in the fridge for about an hour before serving. Cut into 36 squares with a sharp knife. 
Nanaimo Bars recipe

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Lisa Boyle said...

This looks absolutely amazing! I am definitely going to try this one. I know my kids will love it. Thanks for linking up with "Try a New Recipe Tuesday." Hope you can join us again this week.

Unknown said...

This looks really delicious! I pinned it for future reference to bring back out again when we are studying Canada! :-)

Annette said...

that's a good Canadian recipe to have. :) I know that many (hubby included) love these bars. I find them consistently WAY too sweet...but they make me smile none-the-less whenever I see them. :)

Annette @ A Net in Time (

Jenn H. said...

This looks amazing. I'm utterly jealous that you have stores with a UK/Europe section. Our international foods section includes soy sauce and salsa. I think most other stores would call that the condiment aisle.

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