WCC#18: Nanaimo BarsJuly 5, 2007 at 6:48 pm | Posted in cookies & bars, events, sweet things | 27 Comments
“This looks good. What is it?” R asked.
“It’s a Nanaimo bar,” I replied.
I may be from south of the border, but when I saw that the theme of this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge is “red and white,” I immediately thought of the Canadian flag. Perhaps this was because Canada Day had just passed, or perhaps because Sara from i like to cook (creator and host of WCC) lives in Canada…I don’t know. I did know that I wanted to make Nanaimo bars, a British Columbian treat named after a city on Vancouver Island, for my entry. I love these simple bar cookies, with melt-in-your-mouth ganache and filling layers and a chocolaty graham cracker crust (a little goes a long way, though, as they are really sweet). So I opened a book with a red and white spine, The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, and found the recipe I was looking for.
I have to admit that I thought this would be a pretty easy recipe to whip up. I didn’t know that the “challenge” part of the equation would be finding graham crackers here in Sydney. I went to four different grocery stores, one 7-11 and one import shop, but no luck. I thought about replacing them with plain chocolate wafers, but couldn’t find those either. Worn out from my search, I went home and made my own graham crackers from a recipe in the same book. (While they were quite good on their own, I don’t think making graham crackers from scratch is necessary for these bars. Therefore, I’m not including those steps below. If like me, you cannot find them at the store, let me know, and I’ll be happy to add the recipe.)
I don’t remember when I first had a Nanaimo bar, but it could have been on any number of trips up north. My first time in Canada was with Grandma W, who took me to Vancouver for the 1986 World’s Fair. Since then, I have traveled extensively through the country. Two weeks spent on Grand Manan Island with high school classmates sealed my love of the Maritime Provinces. The cute, smart, funny boy from Dundas, Ontario that I went out with for three years was reason enough to make the trip to the Toronto area several times. I have probably been to more national parks in Canada than in the US, and I think there is no place more beautiful than the Canadian Rockies in early spring. Where do I hope to go next? Maybe PEI or Quebec City. Although now that I really think about it, while I have been to Victoria, I have never been to Nanaimo…
Nanaimo Bars- makes 48 small bars
adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
for the crust:
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar
1/3 cup (1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 large egg
1 cup (3 oz) sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup (2 oz) chopped walnuts
1 t vanilla extract
2 cups (10 oz) graham cracker crumbs
for the filling:
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 T instant vanilla pudding mix
2 T milk
for the frosting:
1 cup (6 oz) chopped dark chocolate
2 T (1 oz) unsalted butter
-for the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease a 9×9-inch or 11×7-inch pan and line the bottom with parchment. Combine melted butter, sugar and cocoa in a bowl, then mix in the egg. Stir in the coconut, chopped nuts, vanilla and graham cracker crumbs. Press into the botton of the prepared pan and bake for about 10 minutes. Cool crust completely before filling and frosting.
-for the filling: Cream the butter by hand in a medium bowl and add in 1 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla. In a separate small bowl, stir the milk and pudding mix together, then add to the butter mixture. Add in the remaining powdered sugar and beat vigorously until free of lumps. Spread over the cooled crust and refrigerate until cold (half an hour is good).
-for the frosting: Melt the chocolate and butter together using a double boiler or the microwave, stirring until smooth. Spread and smooth over the chilled bars and refrigerate until set (another half hour or so). Cut with a sharp knife (heat your knife if you have trouble with the chocolate cracking).