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.
- 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
For the Base Layer
- ½ Cup Unsalted Butter
- ¼ Cup White Sugar
- ⅓ Cup Cocoa Powder
- 1 Large Egg Lightly beaten.
- 1¾ 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
- 1¾ Cups Powdered Sugar Sifted
For the Ganache Top Layer
- 4 Oz Chocolate Chips
- ½ Cup Heavy Cream
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!