Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's a Nanaimo Bar?

No bake decadance
A visit to Toronto's InterContinental Hotel introduced me to one of the all time great no bake desserts that no one's heard of. Well, no one outside of Canada, maybe. The Nanaimo bar, named for a random Vancouver Island city, dates back to the 50s, and sandwiches some of the most decadent pairings - chocolate, vanilla custard, biscuit crust.

The addition of ground almonds and coconut in a Digestives cookie base sends me into a blissful sugar coma. After sampling it off the hotel's dessert tray, I immediately Googled recipes and found myself racing to the nearest market to find the only unfamilar ingredient for most Americans: Bird's custard powder, a classic British baking item which creates an egg-free custard (and can be found in the US online at World Market and specialty retailers).

Skip brownies and see how this becomes your party go-to dessert. Warning: it's not low cal and you can't eat just one bar.

There are many variations on the bar. This recipe has been adapted from the town's official visitors site. I used far less butter than originally listed.

Nanaimo Bars

Makes 25 bars in 8” x 8” pan

Bottom Layer
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups Digestive biscuit or graham crackers crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook until thickened and glossy. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, combine crumbs, coconut and nuts. Fold crumb mixture into melted chocolate until uniform. Press firmly and evenly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan. Let cool in refrigerator while preparing next layer.

  Middle Layer
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup cream or half + half
2 tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Cream together butter, cream, custard powder, and confectioner’s sugar. Beat until light. Spread over cooled bottom layer. Refrigerate to set while making third layer.
Top Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 tbsp. 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 squares and serve chilled or at room temperature. Freezes well. Makes 25 bite sized morsels or 16 large bars.

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