Monday, November 23, 2009

Nanaimo Bars

Hi everyone. Yes, yes, I know. It's been almost 5 whole months since I posted. It's unforgivable really. But you see, the reason I started this blog in the first place was because my second love, the Red Sox, were taking their winter break and I wasn't traveling as much for work anymore so I needed something to occupy my time. And well, what do you know, it's that time of the year again! So please forgive me, and get ready to start drooling again!

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Last week The Kitchn had a post on nanaimo bars (apparently pronounce nah-NAI-mo): a three-layer dessert bar with a cocoa coconut crust, vanilla custard middle, and chocolate top. With over 2 whole sticks of butter in the recipe, what's not to love? And I just happened to have all the ingredients except for the cream in my fridge and cupboard so I decided to make a batch for a pre-Thanksgiving potluck dinner.

Nanaimo Bars (adapted from City of Nanaimo via Eclectic Cook and The Kitchn)
makes 40+ bars

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cups finely chopped almonds*
1 cup coconut*

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add about a third of the hot mixture to the beaten egg a spoonful at a time to temper. Add the egg mixture to the pot and stir to cook and thicken (roughly 3 minutes). Pay careful attention to the mixture when cooking so that the egg does not curdle. If you start seeing any lumps, immediately remove from heat and keep stirring. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and almonds. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.


Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 Tsp. cream*
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder*
2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.


Third Layer
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator. Cut into 1 inch squares and serve slightly chilled.

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*A note about the ingredients: the type of cream and coconut was not specified, and I ended up using light cream and sweetened, shredded coconut. And instead of using vanilla custard powder, I substituted with French vanilla instant pudding powder. Also, instead of using finely chopped almonds, I substituted with almond meal. I've never had one of these bars before, so I'm not sure if you could tell a difference in texture.

I found that the quantity of ingredients that the recipe calls for in the third layer to be barely enough to cover the middle layer. And even though the recipe calls for the third layer to cool before spreading over the second layer, I found that even when it was still warm it was getting quite viscous. I was afraid that if I waited for it to cool too much I wouldn't be able to spread it out so I ended up using it while it was still warm. Of course, then I found out the reason why you want to wait until it is cool is because the second layer can melt and start blending with the third layer. =(

At the potluck, everyone seemed to like the bars, and it was agreed that a 1 inch square bar was enough. As rich as the recipe is, I thought the bars were otherwise a little bland. Personally, I could have used a little salt in the recipe to round out the richness. I think either using salted butter or sprinkling the top with sea salt would've done the trick. Another direction I would go is to add almond extract to the custard layer to brighten it up a bit.

One year ago:  Homemade Crystallized Ginger


  1. mmm, this looks good! good tips to add salt and almond extract... what about vanilla extract?

  2. hmm, yeah, that's a really long break. these bars look insanely good though.

  3. Welcome back!!! I was wondering whether you would ever come back. I have missed your posts!

  4. Welcome back! And just as a wierd side note I have visted the town of Nanaimo which is a beautiful place in Canada in the province of Brittish Columbia. They had tons of different flavours of these bars, my favourite was mint. Apparently all you have to do is add some extract to the butter cream layer, and yes nanaimo bars tend to be little other than sweet and creamy which is why they are made in a variety of flavours!

  5. Welcome back! I discovered your blog a while back and was sad when I realised that it wasn't being updated anymore. These Nanaido Bars make for a comeback with a vengeance though. I shall have custard creams now to make up for the virtual amazingness. :D

  6. I'm so glad you're updating your blog again!!! You may find that creepy since, unlike Jen, you don't know me, but your food blog is my favorite! Please keep posting!

  7. joanh - In this case, vanilla might be too...vanilla, i.e. plain and boring. Although that's a personal opinion; if you love vanilla, go for it!

    Viv - Haha, not creepy; I don't know 99% of the people who write my favorite food blogs either. Thanks for reading!

  8. What about different flavored nanaimo bars like almond, lemon, maple cream, pumpkin, blueberry, apple?