"Anyone that doesn't agree with leggings as pants can physically fight me.
And I'm going to win because I have a full range of motion due to the fact that I am wearing leggings as pants."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Nanaimo Bars

My first trip to Canada 8 years ago was to visit Jeff's family in British Columbia. One of the best parts of our 2 week stay, besides getting to listen to his Scottish Grandma's gorgeous accent, were the Nanaimo Bars. It seems to me that Nanaimo Bars are the Canadian version of Rice Krispie Treats. They're everywhere, at least in BC.

But the giant monstrosities you can buy while waiting for the ferries are nothing compared to a decent homemade batch.


The first few times that Jeff and I made these together, we lived in a 2 bedroom apartment, so maneuvering around each other in our tiny little kitchen turned into somewhat of a dance. Every time I have these, I think of that time and smile.

So here's the recipe we use, straight from Jeff's mum, complete with metric measurements.

Butter or cooking spray (for the pan)
Bottom Layer:
1/2 cup (1 stick) (113 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa (I use Dutch-processed)
1 egg, beaten
1 t. vanilla
2 cups (200 grams) graham cracker crumbs
1 cup (65 grams) shredded coconut (either sweetened or unsweetened is fine)
1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts, pecans or almonds, coarsely chopped (for this batch Jeff used a combination of walnuts and almonds)
Second Layer:
1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
2-3 T. milk
2 T. vanilla custard powder (Bird's) or vanilla pudding powder
1/2 t. vanilla
2 cups (230 grams) powdered sugar
Top Layer:
4 ounces (115 grams) semisweet chocolate, chopped (we use chocolate chips)
1 T. (14 grams) unsalted butter


Notes About Ingredients
-I know it seems like a lot of ingredients, but some of them are listed more than once. Butter, for instance, is in each and every layer, plus is used for greasing the pan.
-The picture above is everything you'll need (except for the graham cracker crumbs, because, well, I took this picture after the bars were made and we were out of them). And, in case you're curious, the jar of brown liquid is homemade vanilla with the beans still in it.
-We've made this with both custard powder and the vanilla pudding powder. Both work fine. And, no, they most likely won't have the custard powder at your local grocery store. We get ours (for about 4 bucks) from Cost Plus World Market in the English foods section. Cost Plus, by the way, has some screamin deals on Ghiradelli chocolate chips at this time of year. If you live within driving distance of one, I suggest you go stock up.

How To Put it all Together
-Butter a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) pan (or use cooking spray)
Bottom Layer:
-Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
-Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg.
-Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 or 2 minutes).
-Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, graham crackers crumbs, coconut and the chopped nuts.
-Press evenly into the pan.
-Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).
Second Layer:
-Cream the butter (using either stand mixer or hand mixer).
-Beat in the remaining ingredients.
-If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk.
-Spread over the bottom layer, cover and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).
Top Layer:
-In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter.
-Spread over the filling and refrigerate.
To Serve:
-Use a sharp knife and bring to room temperature before cutting (if you don't want the chocolate to crack).
-Cut these suckers small because boy they are rich.


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Unknown said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! There is an amazing little shop here in Houston that serves this and when I asked the owner what they heck were these divine little 3 striped bars, he just grinned and said they were a recipe he had picked up on a trip to Canada... now I most certainly will be making my very own batch! Yum, Yum!

Kara said...

Omg, yum! My grandma have me her SUPAH secret recipe for nanaimo bars and mine always turn out kinda ugly but MAN these things are tasty. Yours look delish!!

Julie Andrea said...


An alternate version that I have seen adds some mint flavouring to the gooey middle layer and just a touch of green food colouring too! .. sigh .. sadly, I am a newly diagnosed diabetic, so my days of sinful sugar are now just a fond memory .. sigh again .. enjoy them!

Hugs, if you want one,
Julie Andrea

Debi said...

Oh my... those look soooo incredibly delicious (I'm drooling here) I can't wait to make a batch. Thank you so much for sharing.

Wander to the Wayside said...

Isn't it funny how you can look at a picture of something and your mouth starts watering? I think these would make a scrumptious Christmas present, and look like they could be easily shipped to, oh, I don't know, maybe an out of town uncle and his family. Honestly, they look beyond delicious.

Now tell me the truth. Don't you see that little otter every time you pull up your blog? - Linda

Wendy said...

Linda (Wander to the Wayside), yes, I totally see the otter (finally). He's a cute little guy.

Wendy said...

Julie Andrea, I might like to try the mint thing, but Jeff would have none of it. He hates mixing mint and chocolate for some reason. I'd have to make them in the kitchen late at night (and then eat the whole batch before he woke up). ;) I might be able to do that.

Deb Z. said...

Too funny. Being from the province where the Nanaimo Bar originates, it is everywhere. And it is my favourite treat at any party. For Jeff I have the recipe for the mint version as well as the one that has a coffee flavoured center. I can't believe that someone I'm related to doesn't like mint and choc. It must be another raised in BC thing cause all the ladies in our family love it.

auroramae said...

And why have I not had these yet?!!!!

Annie said...

Those look so rich! Nanaimo bars are obviously popular here in BC and a favourite of my husbands! As someone who as lived in Nanaimo, can I just say it's wonderful you spelt it right? That's so silly but...

deanna said...

I am so excited about this recipe! I was in Nanaimo with some girlfriends a couple years ago and we oooohed over these. They're gettin' em for Christmas!

Thank you!