Canada’s Favorite: Nanaimo Bars

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I’m always looking for new ideas on what to make, especially for desserts. One of my many sources is the various communities I spend time in, and I always listen when friends make requests. In this case, a friend told me that many Americans have probably never heard of a Nanaimo Bar, and more importantly, will probably like them.

Nanaimo Bars come from the town of Nanaimo in British Columbia, Canada. They’re a three-layer no-bake bar made out of chocolate, custard, wafers, nuts, and coconut. They’re pretty easy to make, fairly rich, and delicious. They’re also why I made special note of my ganache recipe last week; these use it to great effect.

On a personal note, I’m not actually a fan of coconut. The flavor isn’t that appealing to me (I don’t like the taste that much) and, especially coconut flakes, I really don’t like the texture. Which is why it was very surprising to me that I not only like these bars, but I’m adding them to my list of things to make again.

I have two comments on the ingredients, as well.

  • Many recipes say the base uses “wafers” but never really specify what the wafers actually are. Many recipes just use honey graham crackers, so that’s what I did, and it works just fine. I suspect they’re just there for substance, not flavor or texture, because the other ingredients do texture just fine.
  • The middle icing layer is traditionally made with a powdered vanilla custard, often Bird’s. I couldn’t find any locally in time to make this recipe, so I just made my own out of heavy cream, dry milk, and sugar. It works fine, but I still need to make it with actual custard powder to see how it compares.

Be warned that there are nuts in this recipe; the base uses sliced almonds. You can leave them out, or replace them with another nut like walnuts or pecans, if you prefer.

Nanaimo Bars

A delectable no-bake Canadian treat made with chocolate, coconut, and a custard filling.
Servings 1 9×9″ Pan
Prep Time 20 minutes
Chilling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Equipment

  • 8×8" or 9×9" Baking Dish
  • Parchment Paper
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Double Boiler Make your own by heating water in a dutch oven with a mixing bowl over the top.
  • Stand Mixer

Ingredients

For the Base Layer

  • ½ Cup Unsalted Butter
  • ¼ Cup White Sugar
  • Cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Large Egg Lightly beaten.
  • Cups Honey Graham Crackers Crushed into crumbs; pulse in food processor for fast crumble.
  • ½ Cup Chopped Almonds Pecans or Walnuts also acceptable.
  • 1 Cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut

For the Custard Frosting Layer

  • ¼ Cup Powdered Milk
  • 3 Tbsp Heavy Cream
  • ½ Cup Butter Softened
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Cups Powdered Sugar Sifted

For the Ganache Top Layer

  • 4 Oz Chocolate Chips
  • ½ Cup Heavy Cream

Instructions

Make the Base Layer

  • Grease your baking dish and line it with parchment paper to make the bars easy to remove once they're set.
  • In a bowl, combine your sugar and cocoa powder, then set aside.
  • In a double boiler, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  • Remove the melted butter from the heat and mix in the sugar/cocoa mixture, stirring until well combined.
  • While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the egg a little at a time. Don't pour too much or it'll curdle from the heat.
  • Return the mixture to the heat and cook while whisking until it thickens up some.
  • Remove from the heat again and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and almonds. Stir until well combined.
  • Pour this mixture into the baking dish, spreading it evenly to make a base "crust" for the bars. Lightly press it down, and place the baking dish in the fridge to chill.

Make the Filling Layer

  • In your stand mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the dry milk and heavy cream, mixing until the powder is dissolved. Don't whisk too high; you're not making whipped cream.
  • Swap to a mixing paddle and add in your butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat until it turns light and fluffy like a frosting.
  • Remove your chilled crust from the fridge. Spread the frosting layer evenly over the top of it.
  • Place the whole assemblage in the freezer (not fridge) to chill for the final step.

Make the Ganache Topping

  • In your double boiler over medium-low heat, warm up the heavy cream. When it's warm, but before it can boil, add in the chocolate chips.
  • Stir your chocolate until the heat from the cream fully melts the chocolate and it becomes a single smooth chocolate mixture.
  • Pour this ganache mixture over the top of your assembled Nanaimo Bars, spreading it evenly.
  • Return to the fridge to cool the ganache until it fully sets, about 30 minutes. Then, remove from the pan, slice, and enjoy!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Chocolate, Coconut, No-Bake

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