Canadian Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars are a staple Canadian dessert.

Ever since I first saw a recipe for Nanaimo Bars in Edd Kimber’s first book “The Boy Who Bakes”, I have always wanted to test these Canadian treats out for myself.  I never got round to it, until last week. My family had just come back from a fantastic holiday visiting my brother and his family in Edmonton to celebrate his wedding and I just was in the mood to bake something Canadian.

Edd says in his recipe introduction that “this is a quintessentially Canadian recipe hailing from the small town of Nanaimo in British Columbia. It was first created in the 1950’s by a Canadian housewife who submitted it to the annual Women’s Institute fundraising cookbook. It quickly grew in popularity and was recently voted Canada’s favourite confection in a newspaper survey”,

I can easily see why, they look amazing with the three different layers of contrasting textures and also they are simple to make. No baking required here, just pop in the fridge to set. They do take time to chill the layers in stages but I assure you it is worth it!

Last week I didn’t have much supply work on with it being the end of term. So it was a great opportunity to catch up on jobs and to make these yummy treats. Although I shouldn’t have been making anything rich or sweet, I put back on all the weight I lost on holiday and should be trying to cut back. But I wanted the experience of making the bars even if it would take all my willpower and strength not to eat one.

Here is how I made these delicious and totally moreish treats:

The base was first pressed into a large traybake tin and left to chill in my fridge for about an hour until firm.

I always use my fab Alan Silverwood traybake tin which I’ve had for a few years now. It is about 30x23cm in size and gets used for all my bars, Mary Berryesque traybakes and for Rocky Road no bake type treats. I swear by it as I can get everything out of it easily. With a no bake recipe I tend to line the tray with either foil or cling film to stop it sticking and this is what I did to prepare for making the Nanaimo Bars. Then I crushed up some digestive biscuits in a bowl using the end of a rolling pin.

The next step was to melt butter in a pan on the hob.  When that was ready, I whisked in caster sugar, cocoa powder and then in two beaten eggs.  It was then I realised I needed dessicated coconut and walnuts to add in. What hadn’t I got in the cupboard? Yes! Those very same two things. In the end I substituted ground almonds and flaked almonds which actually helped me use up a huge stash of flaked almonds I didn’t think I was going to get through before they went out of date! It didn’t affect the mixture though, thankfully.

The mixture was then combined and then put into the prepared tin, making sure that it covered the whole of the tin and was even.  The mixture then had to go into my fridge to chill for about an hour.

The custardy middle layer wes then spread on top of the chilled biscuit mixture and left to set for about half an hour.
This is the custard mixture being mixed up before spreading onto the bars. It tasted of a very sweet, creamy custard.

While the base was chilling this gave me chance to catch up on a couple of jobs but I also had to make the middle layer. This was made up of icing sugar, butter, custard powder and double cream.  Sounds extremely rich, sweet and decadent to me.  I was worried about getting it right but it looked absolutely fine to me.  It was like making up a buttercream filling and spread well onto the chilled base.

Melted dark chocolate to be turned into a rich chocolate ganache.
Spreading the chocolate ganache topping on top of the other layers, which had now set.

Now for Nanaimo Bars part three as the middle layer was now being given time to set in the fridge.  Edd said to give the middle layer about half an hour to chill which is what I did.  While that was doing its stuff I started on the topping, which was a rich melted chocolate cream ganache. First I melted some dark chocolate in the microwave, then added in some butter. On the stove I heated some double cream to boil and then finally the chocolate mixture was folded in.  We now had a gorgeous, smooth chocolate topping to spread on top of the bars.

After another chilling time the finished Nanaimo bars were ready to be cut into squares.

I gave the bars another half an hour or so in the fridge to firm up and to make them easier to cut. When I cut bars like this that you need a neat edge on the top, I always wipe my knife clean between each cut so that I don’t get crumbs or cream around the next bit I cut into.

Well, I was in chocolate heaven here and it took such iron willpower not to eat one as I took photos. I cut the bars into little fingers as they are meant to be quite rich. Even my sweet toothed son said so!

I ended up cutting the squares even smaller as one big piece is very rich.
Just for photographic purposes only, I didn’t eat this…. well I did eat a small piece the following day as I was tired and hungry. I have no willpower where sweet stuff is concerned!

Well those of you who know me, will know it wasn’t long before temptation set in. I have even less willpower than my greedy Labrador, especially if I’m tired or busy.  The following two days saw me working long hours so I ended up scoffing one.  Better get out running again!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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