Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars
Until a couple of days ago, I could not tell you when the last time I had a Nanaimo bar was. In all honesty, it was probably a store-bought one at a piano recital at least 7 years ago. It was the one thing I looked forward to after listening to kids hack away at the ivories for a solid 2 hours, the snacks! It was the same deal with soccer. I would not have gone if it weren’t for the orange slices and Rice Krispie squares. Even as a child my love for food was immense.
What were we talking about again? Oh yes, Nanaimo bars. I am curious, can anyone tell me, can you get these/does anyone make these in the States? I have never really paid attention to whether or not I have ever seen them there. I know that they got their name because they originated in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island but I would be interested to know how far they have spread. As a Canadian, they scream holidays or any get-together where inevitably a grandmother will be baking something.
Ok so here is the Nanaimo bar low-down for those of you who are out of the loop.
1. Crust made primarily of coconut, graham cracker crumbs and cocoa (chopped nuts are optional). Some people bake it, some people don’t. I find that any melted butter/graham crust holds together better when baked so that’s the route I take.
2. Butter icing filling, flavoured with custard powder. Personally, I don’t see what the custard powder adds flavour-wise. I tasted it by itself and it was exactly like cornstarch, blah. However, it does contribute to the eggy, yellow colour. This surprised me as it is bleach white when dry but the minute you add moisture to it, it turns bright yellow. Natural? Perhaps not, but Nanaimo bars would not be Nanaimo bars without a yellow middle layer.
3. Chocolate ganache-like topping. Just melted chocolate with a tablespoon or two of butter, that’s it, that’s all. Unless you are me and then you use Green & Black’s Burnt Toffee chocolate (it was just released in Canada and they sent me a couple of bars to try) to add some crunchy texture and caramel-y flavour. But I guess that is still just melted chocolate and butter. Fancy chocolate, but still chocolate.
Layer it up, let it chill and voila, you’ve got yourself some Nanaimo bars. Eaten right away or frozen for later, they are a nostalgic treat that brings out the kid in any full grown adult. Next thing you know, you will be leaving some out for Santa. Who does that though? You are supposed to give Santa the crappy stuff that you don’t want to eat. The Nanaimo bars, well you keep those all to yourself. It’s worth the risk of getting coal in your stocking.
Nanaimo bars
Nanaimo bars
Nanaimo bars
Nanaimo bars

Nanaimo Bars

Makes 25 squares

Ingredients
Base
½ cup butter
¼ cup white sugar
6 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 egg
1 tbsp. milk
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut
Middle Layer
¼ butter, softened
3 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. custard powder
3 cups icing sugar
Top Layer
2 bars Green & Black’s Burnt Toffee chocolate (or 200g semisweet or dark chocolate of your choice)
2 tbsp. butter
Instructions
1.     To make the base, combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and milk in a large saucepan. Heat to melt the butter, stirring until smooth.
2.     Remove and add in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and egg. Stir until well incorporated and pack into a parchment lined 9×9” pan. Bake at 325F for about 10 minutes. Once it is out of the oven, put it in the freezer to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
3.     To make the middle layer, beat together the butter, milk, custard powder and icing sugar until smooth. Spread this on top of the base and chill.
4.     Melt together the chocolate and butter in the microwave for the top layer. Allow it to cool slightly. Pour this over the first 2 layers, spreading it evenly across the top.

5.     Refrigerate until everything is set, 30-60 minutes. Slice and serve.
Nanaimo bars
Nanaimo bars

18 thoughts on “Nanaimo Bars

  • December 16, 2013 at 2:04 pm
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    My sister-in-law, who lives in London (but grew up in the same Ohio town that I did) was raving and raving about some Nanaimo Bars a friend of hers made! I can’t wait to share your recipe with her! Oh – and gorgeous pics, too – totally mouthwatering! 😀

    Reply
  • December 16, 2013 at 7:40 pm
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    Santa likes the good Nanaimo bars, not the crappy stuff. Ho Ho Ho!

    Reply
  • December 18, 2013 at 6:21 am
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    Interesting – I’ve never actually heard of Nanaimo bars before, but they look and sound delicious!

    Reply
  • December 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm
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    I think, actually, only food bloggers make these in the US 😛 Mostly because I’d never heard of them before I started blogging! But now I love them!

    Reply
    • December 18, 2013 at 2:15 pm
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      That’s what I figured, I’ve seen them make their rounds around the blogosphere!

      Reply
  • December 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm
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    They are sold in the bakery of a local high-end grocery store chain in Eugene, Oregon. They have several varieties including espresso and peanut butter. They look just like the picture above. I remember them from my days at University in BC.

    Reply
  • December 28, 2013 at 9:47 pm
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    I love the layers in these, they look amazing! Thanks so much for linking up at Showcase Your Talent, you’ve been featured and pinned 🙂 Happy holidays!

    Reply
  • January 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm
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    These look like the ultimate dessert bar! Thanks for linking up with What’s Cookin’ Wednesday!

    Reply
  • June 1, 2014 at 3:14 am
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    I love Nanaimo. There are a few stores here in Eugene Oregon that sell them, but until I moved here I’d never heard of them. I’ve always wanted to make my own since I first tried one, so I’m excited to try this recipe! Even better, the only ingredient I need to pick up at the store to make it is coconut. My only question is do you use sweetened or unsweetened coconut in the crust?

    Reply
    • June 1, 2014 at 12:41 pm
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      To be totally honest, in my opinion it doesn’t matter. Sure it will be a bit sweeter with sweetened coconut, but either way, the crust is not overwhelming sweet and you don’t want it to be because the filling is pure sugar. So it’s up to you 🙂

      Reply
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