Monday, June 12, 2006

OH, CANADA...We Love Nanaimo Bars!

Again yesterday there was no gardening to be had; it was nasty, cold and windy, though they say that there should be some sun in the next few days. Let's hope so, or I'm not going to have a garden this year! UGH!

Anyway, there was more baking yesterday instead. It's sad when you pull a recipe off of the internet, and you still haven't made it a YEAR later! What does that say about my life? (The date on the bottom of the printout is 6/7/05...GEEZ!). There was a period last summer where I became obsessed with bar cookies/desserts, and being a native of the Pacific Northwest, I had always wanted to try making Nanaimo Bars. Nanaimo Bars are a Canadian dessert, specifically named after Nanaimo, British Columbia. But you can find them all over the PNW where I grew up. The problem was, I made these thick mint brownies first, and even though they were scrumptious, they were so rich, that I couldn't face anything similar for quite some time! Plus, my local gourmet shop was out of Bird's Custard Powder (well, to be accurate, they only had strawberry). So I actually had to take myself across the border into another country to finally acquire some. But if you aren't lucky enough to live six miles from Canada, I feel quite confident that instant vanilla pudding would be a fine substitute. Also, speaking of substitutions, I do not enjoy coconut as a general rule (unless it's fresh, and I'm scraping it off the shell with my teeth!), so I know that this goes against the authentic Nanaimo Bar, but I left out the coconut and increased the Oreo crumbs to two cups and the walnuts to one cup. Finally, for some reason, when I was melting my chocolate, it seized on me (not sure where the invasive moisture came from). So rather than pitch it, I added 1/4 cup of heavy cream and smoothed it out into a lovely ganache, which worked quite well for the topping.

Nanaimo Bars
Yield: 9, though I cut them into 16 pieces myself, as they are VERY rich and sweet!

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (almonds are also frequently used)

1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoon custard powder (or instant vanilla pudding mix)
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups icing (powdered) sugar, sifted

8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with vegetable oil or spray. For base, melt butter and stir in sugar. Sift cocoa powder into mixture and blend well. Whisk together egg and vanilla extract and add. Blend in chocolate cookie crumbs, coconut and chopped walnuts until evenly incorporated. Press into prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then chill for 20 minutes.

For filling, beat butter by hand until smooth and beat in custard powder. Stir in milk and add sifted icing sugar a cup at a time, combining well. Spread over base and chill while preparing topping.

For topping, melt chocolate and butter over a pot of gently simmering water. Pour over vanilla filling and spread to cover evenly. Chill for 30 minutes.

To serve, slice with a hot, dry knife into 1-inch squares. Yield 1 8-inch square pan.


Anonymous said...

Looks wonderful and I enjoy reading your recipes. I found your blog looking for a Travers Ciy Cherry Pie recipe with the crump topping.
Being so close to Canada, have you ever experienced a whipped maple type of cake thingy? I have it while in Quebec a few years ago and have never been able to come close.

Anna said...

What a drop dead gorgeous picture. The base of your Nanaimos sounds better than mine.