Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nanaimo Bars 'A Canadian Signature'

Being so far from home I sometimes get cravings for flavours from there to feel that homely comfort. One thing that certainly does this is Nanaimo bars! Chocolaty, nutty, custardy scrumptiousness!

While I enjoyed these lovely squares of goodness as a youngin', I never thought about looking into the history of them, of course all that mattered was the chocolaty treat, of which I probably snuck too many past my Mum. But now, as the grown up, responsible and knowledge hungry woman that I am today..... uuh hrrmm, shhh to those who know me!.... I am very curious to know the origin.
I did already know the name Nanaimo is a town on the beautiful Vancouver Island, of the British Columbian province, Canada. I want to know more though. Was this dessert invented by someone from Nanaimo? Were they named after the person who founded Nanaimo? Hhhmmmm? What did I find out you ask? No one actually knows the true origin! However I did find out that local legend says the bar did originate in Nanaimo in the 1950s. The story in Nanaimo is that a local housewife sent in the recipe to a magazine or newspaper and named them "Nanaimo Bars". Her recipe won, the bars became very popular and spread across British Columbia province then eventually the country...and everyone lived happily ever after ;)

I borrowed the recipe off fellow Canadian blogger Debbie from Maple Spice

The few things I did differently
- I added some finely crushed mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts) to the pecan and biscuit base.
- I have some graham crackers which I had ordered online , so I mixed half these with half digestives.
- I made them shallower for 2 reasons, 1/ they can be very rich so shallow pieces are easier to eat and 2/ I only had a larger rectangular baking pan (a square 9" pan would be the size used for these measurements to make the typical deeper squares). If you also have a larger based pan and want more depth you could double up the ingredients.
- I doubled the vanilla essence (I love vanilla! I often double it in my baking)
- Even though I was making more shallow bars I did make extra chocolate topping as to cover the top and make a more even balance. I made about 50% more chocolate topping

This is the original recipe as found on Maple Spice :

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups graham wafer - finely crumbed (or digestive biscuit crumbs here in the UK)
1 egg
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup soft butter
3 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp Bird's custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

4 ounces (115 grams) semi-sweet or plain chocolate (dark)
1 Tbsp butter

4 ounces (115 grams) semi-sweet or plain chocolate (dark)
1 Tbsp butter

Base - Place butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and egg in a bowl over boiling water, stir until like custard. Combine crumbs, coconut and pecans in a large bowl. Add chocolate mixture to this and stir well. Press into a 9 inch square pan and chill. (I only have an 8 inch square pan and it's fine, just higher bars as you can see from the picture)

Filling - cream butter then add the milk and custard powder. Blend in icing sugar then spread over base. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes.

Glaze - melt chocolate and butter together until smooth. I just do this in the microwave as opposed to the bowl over water method. Spread over squares and chill. Makes 25 squares, do cut small as they are quite rich. 210 calories a square.

Notes: good idea to either score the squares while the chocolate is semi set OR bring the pan out of the fridge and bring them to room temperature before cutting otherwise the chocolate will just crack and you won't have nice slices.

Thanks Debbie!


Anonymous said...

Nice work spreading Canadiana abroad. Really enjoying having your little updates mixed in with my regular blog feed of marketing and tech stuff - this makes a nice change. :)

Debbie said...

Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for the link, don't know how this passed me by when you first posted it!!! Glad you like it, they are essential aren't they? I'm so glad they veganized easily too as I don't think I could live without them!! Actually that's looking so good I may just have to make a tray once all the Easter candy is gone!!