I hail from New York. Not from British Columbia. Know what that means? It means I can mess with Nanaimo Bars. And I totally did. Somebody stop me! Except don’t … more
Know what that means? It means I can mess with Nanaimo Bars.
Except don’t stop me.
Go ahead. Ask me if I’m sorry. ‘Cause I’m not. I’d totally do it again. You should it! I promise I’ll tell you all about it.
First, we gossip.
Nanaimo bars. It is not pronounced na-na-ee-mo bars, not that I ever walked around my house muttering that, something you absolutely cannot prove it would not hold up in court trust me I know things like this on account of how I am a lawyer and that’s why. And I may or may not have been just the teeniest bit depressed when I found out how it is really pronounced. I’ll never tell.
Know how Ina Garten can’t stand cilantro, so she keeps that stuff out of everything that comes out of her kitchen, no exceptions made? I think that’s kind of annoying.
But (although I’m no Ina, don’t roll your eyes ’cause I’m under no illusions), I kind of do it, too, but with nuts in dessert bars and such around here. And it’s not because of me & my personal tastes and preferences. It’s on account of my very wrong children. The poor little dears don’t care for nuts in their dessert bars.
One difference here straight away is that I feel bad about legislating against nuts in dessert bars. But I know you, and I know you’re pretty swift. Let’s say – for argument’s sake – that I put nuts in the ingredients to these here Na•nai•mo Bars. Boom! You’d know right away that, like, something wasn’t quite right. In a hot second, you’d be sayin’ – hey, blog lady, there’s no nuts in the picture but there’s nuts in the ingreds. What up?
You’ll just have to wait until the printy recipe to see how I solved this here problem-o. Suspenseful!
Anyway, these are (mostly) no bake. It’s all, make a layer, chill. Make the next layer, chill. That sort of thing. I’m usually pretty suspicious of no-bake. It tends toward the grody. But it’s okay. I’ve totally got this. Not grody at all.
And one of the ingredients is Bird’s Custard Powder. It’s a British thing. But I find it easily in my regular garden-variety supermarket. And I checked. Totally gluten-free. A teeny bit on the expensive side, but not too bad at all for an import. Don’t feel like an ingredient scavenger hunt? No biggie. Just replace with an equal amount instant vanilla pudding powder. Don’t let it break your stride.
The bottom layer is traditionally graham cracker crumbs, mixed up with cocoa powder, butter, an egg, shredded coconut, and nuts. I have a really nice recipe for GF graham crackers in my cookbook p. 214, but maybe you don’t have the cookbook. I’m not a high pressure cookbook salesperson. You should be able to make nanaimo bars without having to buy my cookbook. So I used ‘Nilla Wafers. You can use either. Free country.
Oh, and I messed around with the top layer. It’s meant to be a chocolate-butter combo. I changed it to more of a ganache. A chocolate-cream combo. Silky smooth. And I used unsweetened chocolate, which I sweetened just a bit, ’cause the middle layer is basically a custard buttercream, and it’s super sweet. I’m all about the yin & the yang. And it’s seriously grown up, too. Not cloyingly sweet. You could defo just use regular semi-sweet chocolate & be done with it.
So, you know. Not that I don’t love our talks. I do. But it’s time to get down to bid’ness.
- 1 cup (16 tablespoons)(1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened (and divided)
- ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 2 cups graham cracker or 'nilla wafer crumbs, finely ground
- 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened - I used unsweetened)
- ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional - I opted out & didn't use nuts)
- ¾ cup cream, divided
- 2 tablespoons Bird's custard powder (or instant vanilla pudding)
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- Grease the bottom of an 8 inch x 8 inch square pan, then line it with two crisscrossed strips of parchment paper, overhanging the edges of the pan and greasing in between the layers and on the top layer. Set the pan aside.
- First, make the bottom layer. In a medium saucepan, combine ½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, ¼ cup granulated sugar and the cocoa powder. Over medium heat, stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat. Beat the egg very slowly into the chocolate butter mixture, whisking or stirring constantly (to temper the egg so it doesn't scramble). Place the saucepan back on the stove, and cook, stirring constantly, over very low heat for about 1 minute (so the egg is no longer raw). Remove the pan from the heat, mix in the cookie crumbs and the coconut (and optional nuts), and stir until well-combined. The mixture will be crumbly, but should still be moist. With wet hands, press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish in an even layer. Chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
- To make the middle layer, cream the remaining ½ cup butter, ¼ cup cream, and the custard powder until well-combined. Mix in the confectioner's sugar until smooth and shiny (see the picture). Once the bottom layer has chilled, spread the buttercream mixture on top in an even layer. Chill another 30 minutes or until firm.
- For the top layer, place the unsweetened chocolate and remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar in a medium sized heat safe bowl and set it aside. Heat the remaining ½ cup cream in a small saucepan until it simmers. Pour the cream over the chocolate and sugar mixture, stirring constantly until smooth and pourable (see the picture). Pour the chocolate mixture over the chilled buttercream layer in an even layer. Tap the dish flat on the counter to break any air bubbles. Chill one final time until the chocolate is solid and shiny. It will also be darker in color (see pictures). Remove from the pan with the overhung pieces of parchment paper. Peel back the parchment paper, and slice with a cold, wet serrated knife into 16 squares. Serve chilled.
- Freezes well.