Nanaimo Bars

I came across Nanaimo bars while procrastinating and perusing food blogs (the usual). I read somewhere that they were of Canadian origin, so I talked to J, my Canadian contact for all things except hockey (to my disappointment, she somehow doesn’t have hockey infused in her blood).

I should have never mentioned them to her. I think her response to my inquiry was along the lines of, “OH MY GOSH. THOSE ARE SO GOOD. WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE THEM?”

I believe she begged for Nanaimo bars for a good couple of weeks until I said, nope, she wasn’t getting them until her birthday. She remembered, and has been dropping not-so-subtle hints about Nanaimo bars for the last couple of weeks. She’s lucky that she’s my friend and that I don’t shove Safeway cookies on her. Kidding; that’s against my baking code. Yes, there’s pudding mix in these, but please ignore that. Thanks, I appreciate it. Really.

There were no pots to make a double boiler, so I made do with a pot that I held a couple inches over the lowest possible flame. I totally forgot about the egg and started adding the graham cracker crumbs prematurely. I added the egg and started to cook the mixture, but separation occurred. I pulled it off the fire, probably a bit prematurely, so hopefully the egg is cooked through. I wasn’t too worried about the separation, however, since there’s graham crackers and coconut and nuts that take some of the focus off on the chocolatey binding. I thought the coconut I used was flaked, but it seemed awful large, so maybe not. Oh, well. I also used walnuts, which I toasted for extra umph.

I didn’t have powdered sugar, so I opted to use 1 cup granulated sugar. I figured if I creamed it with the butter at the beginning, it would practically be the same. Not. It wasn’t nearly as smooth as it should have been, though I think a more finely ground sugar would have helped matters. I wasn’t about to just toss my progress, so I forged on and added my pudding mix. I used chocolate, because I couldn’t find vanilla. I have no idea what it’s supposed to look like at this stage, but mine looked whippy, like a milk chocolate mousse. Mmm.

For the topping, I forwent the butter, as there are already 2 sticks of butter in the 8×8″ pan. These bars are definitely not for the faint of heart. I also used about 3/8 cup of chocolate chips, because I was too lazy to pull out a ⅓ cup measure and I only had a 1/4 cup measure out.

I originally wasn’t that impressed with the overall Nanaimo bars. The base was basically like a no-bake brownie with a bunch of mix-ins. Great, but no wow there. The middle layer was messed up. But when I tried the bars a day later, after an overnight rest in the fridge, the bars were significantly more delicious. The foundation was dense and chewy, and it almost tasted like there was crispy rice cereal mixed in. The middle, though not technically authentic, was super light and buttery. The chocolate top added a nice hit of chocolate. It’s a lovely chocolate dessert.

It received rave reviews from everyone who consumed it. My dad thinks it’s one of the better desserts I’ve made in a while, and the birthday girl was ecstatic. I was really relieved, since that middle layer wasn’t quite how it’s supposed to be (though it was delicious).

My only problem with these bars is that I have no idea how to say it. J was equally uncertain, though she believes that you can say Nanaimo as “Nah-ny-moh” or as “Neh-knee-moh.” Whatever way you say it, Nanaimo Bars are sure to fix your chocolate craving.

Nanaimo Bars
from Joy of Baking

1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg, room temperature and beaten
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I used toasted walnuts)

In a double boiler, combine butter, sugar and cocoa. Stir occasionally until melted. Beat in the egg, stirring until thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in graham crackers, coconut and nuts. Press into an ungreased 8×8″ pan.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 T heavy cream (I used milk)
2 T instant pudding mix
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Cream the butter, cream and pudding until light and fluffy. Mix in the sugar until smooth. Spread over the bottom layer. Chill until set.

1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp unsalted butter (I omitted the butter; there’s so much in here already that you don’t miss it)

Melt the chocolate and butter. Spread over the bars. Let the chocolate set before cutting into squares.

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