Friday, August 20, 2010

Nanaimo Bars




Nanaimo Bars.  Mmmmmm..
(Disclaimer: If you are a true blue Canadian, before you read this post and get offended, please know that I realize that "real" or "traditional" Nanaimo bars do not use Jell-O pudding powder. For a more traditional Nanaimo bar that uses Bird's powdered custard, click here.)
   
Chocolatey, creamy, chewy, with just a hint of salt, the Nanaimo Bar endeared itself to me from the get-go. If a pastry could be a friend, the Nanaimo Bar would be my BFF and a half. I first experienced this amazing confection at an event at Portland State University.  The servings they offered were at least twice the size of what I make them now, and I ate THREE of them over the course of an hour.  I didn't know its name, but I knew I was in love.  I eventually called the PSU food service to find out what those amazing bars were called and whether I could get the recipe. Imagine my horror and disgust at finding out they had ordered the bars from a bakery, and the person I was speaking with had no idea which bakery. 

Months passed, and I ended up getting a name AND a recipe for these wonderful bars from my friend Kathi, who lived near the Canadian border.  They are a Canadian dessert (the best cuisine Canada has to offer, I might add) and they are called "Nanaimo Bars."  Once I had a recipe and a name, I could tweak it and make it mine.  As I introduced the little bar to friends and family, they all fell in love with it too.

Fast forward a few years to my first food competition at the Iowa State Fair.  Actually, the Nanaimo Bar is the only reason I really entered in the first place.  The first time I saw the winners' displays at the ISF,  and looked at the blue ribbon cookies, I thought, "My Nanaimo Bar would kick all these cookies' butts."  And kick some cookie butt it did.  Not only did it take first place in its class in 2006, but it went on to win best cookie overall: the "Cookie of the Fair."  Top dog over 54 other classes of cookies.  Once you eat these, you will know why, and you too, will feel the love.

      For a blonde Nanaimo bar, click here.

Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:

Bottom Layer
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1/2 cup Ghirardelli Ground Chocolate (or ¼ cup cocoa powder and ¼ cup white sugar)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ½  cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup pecans, finely chopped
Middle Layer
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons half & half
  • 2 tablespoons powdered vanilla pudding mix(of the instant variety)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
Top Layer
  • 1 cup semi-sweet-chocolate chips (or, even better, about 22 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises)
  • 1 tablespoon Crisco or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped white or milk chocolate, melted
Instructions:

Line the bottom of a 9 X 9-inch pan (glass or metal) with parchment paper or non-stick foil.

Bottom Layer:  In a 300° oven, toast coconut and chopped pecans until golden brown and fragrant, stirring occasionally.   Remove from oven and set aside.  In the top of a double boiler, melt ½ cup butter and Ghirardelli Ground Chocolate (or cocoa and sugar). Whisk to combine.  Whisk in the beaten egg.  Whisk until thickened, and then remove at once from heat.  Fold in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and pecans.  Press into prepared pan.  Put in refrigerator while you prepare the next layer.

Middle Layer:  In a large mixing bowl, cream together ½ cup softened butter, half & half, and pudding mix.  Fold in the powdered sugar.  Beat until very light.  Spread evenly on top of the first layer.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Put in refrigerator again for an hour or so, until middle layer is firm.

Top Layer:  In a double boiler melt the chocolate chips and Crisco or vegetable oil. The chocolate may melt the middle layer if it’s too hot, so you might want to let it cool for a little bit.  Pour onto second layer and spread evenly.  Drizzle white or milk chocolate over the top for decoration.*  Let set in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes and then cut.  (This keeps the chocolate from cracking when you cut it.)  Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. 

Note: Be sure to remove any foil or parchment paper that may have stuck to the bottom of individual bars.
*I've created a post that gives explicit instructions and photos on how to make the "feathery" lines you see on these bars: How to Make Those Feathery Lines on Nanaimo Bars.
Nanaimo Bars with pretty designs
Makes 16-25 servings, depending on how you cut them.


34 comments:

  1. Those are absolutely gorgeous. I can't stop looking at them. How did you get such a pretty pattern on top?

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    1. you put the lines on the top with the different color chocolate take a knife and pull it down,but don't go too deep...

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    2. Thanks, Shannon. I think the previous comment came before I really figured out how to reply to comments on my blog. Since then (and perhaps in response to the question) I have a post that specifically details how I get the lines on Nanaimo bars. There's a link to the post at the end of the recipe.

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  2. Your bars are beautiful. I have seen other bars posted in the past but I recall that they had peanut butter in them and I am not a peanut butter fan. So, I never read the recipe instructions prior to your post and didn't realize this was a no bake cookie. Since it is a no bake cookie, I am thinking that instant vanilla pudding mix, not the cooked variety, would be the correct ingredient.

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  3. Thanks, Anonymous. I added "instant" to the vanilla pudding in my recipe.
    Teenagefoodie, I will try to find a video tutorial about that pattern, but it's actually super easy. Right after you spread on the melted chocolate, you pipe on lines of melted white chocolate. Then you just run a toothpick back and forth, perpendicular to the white lines, and that's what creates the design.

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  4. NOT PUDDING!
    Use Vanilla Custard Powder (preferably Bird's)
    - so much yummier and definitely the traditional way to go :)

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  5. Anonymous, you must live in Canada then? I've looked in Oregon and California for custard powder, but have never seen it. Now that I live in Iowa, I should see if they carry it in stores here. Otherwise I'm stuck with Jell-O brand instant pudding.

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    Replies
    1. I use Bird's Custard powder as well...you can get it at Fred Meyer. I buy it all the time here in WA. I have the original recipe by Neiman Marcus which is to die for. I will have to give your recipe a try as well.

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    2. The 'original' is not by Neiman Marcus. This is a downhome creation from Nanaimo, British Columbia. For the authentic original recipe, go to the town's website. This sounds like a good variation - it always has cocoa in the base in recipes I've seen, but I'm sure the grated chocolate is verrrry nice! Other than that, the only thing that really stands out is the vanilla pudding. Use Bird's Custard if any way possible for the classic, authentic article!

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  6. Do you have a World Market where you live? I believe most of them sell Bird's custard powder

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  7. I've posted how to do the white chocolate design on these Nanaimo bars:
    http://food-pusher.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-to-make-those-feathery-lines-on.html

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  8. Those are the most beautiful nanaimo bars I've ever seen. I can see how they would win a contest. I've had them tons of times being originally from Canada but have never attempted to make them. I have my mother's recipe and now I'm curious if it calls for custard powder.

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  9. Can I make them without the coconut and pecans? I have picky eaters :P

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    Replies
    1. I've made them without coconut and pecans for picky people in my life. You just need to replace those ingredients with equal amounts of graham cracker crumbs. It doesn't taste as good, but at least the picky people can try it. I've also tried it with just Oreo crumbs, and that's super dark and yummy too.

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    2. I don't tell people the ingredients...especially the picky people. My sister hates nuts and coconut, but LOVES my nanaimo bars. Go figure.

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  10. made these today for a party....they look so delicious! the pattern on top was so easy to do. I used half oreos and half graham crackers after reading the comments, also left out the coconut due to allergies.

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    Replies
    1. They will still be delicious w/o coconut. Be careful, you might get addicted. :)

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  11. Your Nanaimo bars are beautiful! And you spelled Nanaimo right! Bravo!

    I agree with the others, you must use custard powder. My mom sometimes makes a variation with a mint layer and it is delicious too!

    I think you have done Nanaimo proud with these! (apart from that jello pudding nonsense ;)

    And yes, I am a Nanaimo-ite. I have eaten more than my fare share of these.

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    Replies
    1. I'm going to have to figure out a way to get the custard powder, just to see for myself. I might have to just order some online. Bird's custard powder, right? I'll post my results... :)

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  12. How could I add peanut butter to the middle layer? I have peanut butter fanatics in my house and these look absolutely deightful!

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    Replies
    1. I'm pretty sure there are recipes out there that address this, but if it were me, in the middle layer I would only use 1/4 cup butter, and then add 1/4 cup peanut butter. I would probably also replace the pecans with chopped peanuts. AND because I think that dark chocolate cuts too much into the peanut flavor of peanut buttery things, I would use milk chocolate instead of dark on top. Now, I've never done this, but that's what I would try. Let me know what you do try or if you find another recipe that works for you.

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    2. Here are a couple of recipes I found with a google search for "peanut butter nanaimo bar recipe":
      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/peanut-butter-nanaimo-bar-canada-recipe/index
      .html
      http://ilovepeanutbutter.com/recipes/peanut-butter-nanaimo-bars/

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  13. I just made these and they are incredible! I did use custard powder and if you are having trouble finding it let me know and I will ship some to you as a thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!

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  14. Yes indeed the orginial is for Birds Custard Powder. I get mine shipped to me now that I live in the US. People die for these at xmas.

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    Replies
    1. You can also find Birds custard powder at Worldmarket if you have one nearby. OR order on Amazon cheap!! Definitely a must!

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  15. Please never, ever use crisco for any part of a Nanaimo bar. These are best made with cultured butter (Trader Joe's has a good one). A nice variation is to set a few dark roasted coffee beans atop the third layer to lessen the sweetness a bit. Yum!

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    Replies
    1. I only used Crisco because whenever I tried using butter as called for in the original recipe I had, the chocolate would seize, and I'd have to throw it away. I had to use something with no water in it. I suppose I could have melted it and it might have worked better. At any rate, perhaps I'll try a cultured butter sometime. I generally use canola oil which ends up softening the top layer anyway, making it easier to cut and eat. Just saying.

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  16. Glad you enjoyed our local claim to dessert fame. I grew up near Nanaimo and these are a staple any time of the year. I have to agree with the earlier poster...you really need to use custard powder (Bird's) and not pudding. The flavour is completely different. I've been living in the U.S. now for over a decade and I can find Bird's here, but maybe it's because I'm in a more metropolitan area. I'd suggest ordering a can or two of Bird's online someplace, or getting a Canadian friend to ship some your way!

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    Replies
    1. Okay, okay. Next chance I get to sit down and search for Bird's Custard Powder, I will. I think I've actually seen it for sale on Amazon.com.

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    2. Alright, Lisa, I just purchased large can of Bird's custard powder on Amazon (for $10.90; free shipping w/ Amazon Prime). It should arrive early next week, and hopefully by next weekend I'll have a new post ready to describe what I think of true Nanaimo Bars. I'll be sure to use cocoa powder and sugar instead of the Ghirardelli chocolate as well. I'm excited! :)

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  17. Sorry but this is not the recipe for Nanaimo Bars. I should know - I lived in Nanaimo. The recipe was concocted by a lady who lived there. No pudding int he Nanaimo bar -- it uses custard powder - usually Bird's or Horne's custard powder - and the difference is amazing.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the correction. If you'll go to the following post, you'll see that I eventually did get some Bird's custard powder and love them so much more that way. I put a note at the end of my little monologue on top, but it must have been missed.
      http://www.food-pusher.com/2013/03/traditional-nanaimo-bars.html

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  18. For a simple oreo crust or an oreo/graham mix crust with no pecans or coconut, how much oreo (or oreo and graham) would you use?

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    1. It's been a long time since I've tried the Oreo crumbs, but as a rule of thumb, whatever I replace with Oreo crumbs, I use that same measure. So if I replace the graham cracker crumbs, I use 1 1/2 cups Oreo crumbs. But if I only wanted Oreo and no nuts or coconut or graham, then I'd use 3 cups of Oreo crumbs (to replace the 1 1/2 cups graham crumbs, 1/2 cup nuts and 1 cup coconut).

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