Nanaimo Bars

May 4, 2010

Three words: Canadian sugar high
I’ve been wanting to make these since before the Olympics. I was too lazy to do so. Finally, after seeing enough pictures of them, I got to it. I guess you would call these cookie bars? No idea. They’re three layers of tasty no-bake goodness, and the only thing that requires the most work is waiting while each layer chills.
If you don’t know about Nanaimo bars, they are Canadian, and I have no idea why I never made them before, as I am one of those Team Canada during the Olympics traitors. There’s a town near Vancouver called Nanaimo, and some woman who lived there submitted a recipe for these bars to a contest, calling them Nanaimo bars. They won, and the town became famous for them, they’re all over Canada I hear but I’ve never been so I’ll just take everyone else’s word for it.
So as for those three layers: the bottom is made up of cocoa, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), graham cracker crumbs, and coconut. The middle layer is pretty much like buttercream, and normally it uses custard powder, but in the US that’s not too easy to find, so instant pudding works. And then it’s all topped off with a layer of chocolate.

Nanaimo Bars, adapted from Joy of Baking
First off this says to use a 9×9 pan…I did that and there was no way I’d have any space for the top layers, so I moved it to a 13×9 pan. Whatever you choose to do, start off by spraying it with vegetable oil. I think it might actually be fine if you smash that first layer down into the pan, otherwise you’re going to need to double the middle and top layers in a 13×9…I did…impromptu second batch of buttercream actually went better than I thought. They are all around delicious, and you can find plenty of variations around the internet, like peanut butter and mint…tasty.

Bottom Layer:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I ended up mixing the remains of some Valrhona cocoa with some Hershey’s Special Dark, since I decided to top everything with dark chocolate rather than semisweet)
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened, but you could use sweetened if you preferred)
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (as I said above you could also use walnuts or almonds, I’m just on a pecan kick and I live in Georgia)

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 – 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Middle Layer:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 – 3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp instant vanilla pudding powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

Top Layer:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I planned to use dark chocolate but I didn’t have enough so I used a chocolate bunny from Easter…hahaha)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

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