Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Nanaimo Bar

Nanaimo Bars come from British Columbia and it is one of Canada's favorite confections. Based on factual information from the City of Nanaimo’s website and online research, all began when a Nanaimo housewife entered a recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest nearly 35 years ago. She called her recipe 'Nanaimo Bars' and when she won the contest, her dessert became popular throughout Canada, but also the town they were named after. These no-bake, three layered bars are famous for a reason, they are delicious. They start with a crumb, cookie-like base, followed by a layer of light custard buttercream, and the crowning glory is a smooth and glossy layer of semi sweet chocolate. 

The base layer is a balanced combination of graham cracker crumbs (or digestive biscuits if you prefer), mixed with chopped nuts, cocoa powder and dried coconut held together with melted butter.

Once this mixture is pressed into a square pan and chilled it is then covered with a rich layer of buttercream made of butter, confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, custard powder (or vanilla pudding powder), and a little milk. 

(Extra information: an important part of this buttercream is the dried custard powder, which was the invention of an Englishman, named Alfred Bird. The custard powder is not readily available in the US, therefore, it can be replaced with vanilla pudding powder). 

The finishing touch to these squares is a coating of shiny semisweet or bittersweet chocolate that provides a slight crunch as you bite into them. Because chocolate is one of the more dominant flavors, make sure to use a good quality chocolate that you enjoy eating out-of-hand. Once the melted chocolate is poured over the buttercream layer and has been left to set, cut the squares with a sharp knife.

There are plenty of recipes and variations of the Nanaimo Bars. In fact, when the City of Nanaimo ran a contest back in 1986 to find the 'ultimate' Nanaimo Bar, there were about 100 recipes submitted.  The middle layer is often replaced by peanut butter, cream cheese, cappuccino flavored mix, mint or even ice cream! And white chocolate can be used on top. To get the legendary recipe, visit the City of Nanaimo's website.

Personal comments after trying the bar: it is tasty, crunchy and creamy and very fatty. Moderate bites is a  must-do! And in New York, you can get them surely at Tim Hortons.