Nanaimo bars

Posted by Anne on February 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm.

I was browsing food blogs looking for inspiration for Olympic-themed cookies or cupcakes to take with me to an Opening Ceremonies gathering, when I saw a treat that looked awfully familiar.

Nanaimo bars!

Or, at least, that’s what the blogs were calling them.

To me, they looked suspiciously like Prayer Bars, one of my favorite holiday treats growing up. My mom made them every Christmas, adding green food die, and sometimes mint flavoring, to that middle buttery-sugar layer. My only two attempts to make them ended in disaster — a crumbly mess. So I gave up on Prayer Bars and kind of forgot about them.

Until these turned up.

The city of Nanaimo claims them as a Vancouver Island specialty (hence, the appearance in Olympics-food-related posts), and even has a spot on its web site dedicated to telling their story. I had to give their recipe a try.

Nanaimo Bar Recipe
Yields: 40-64 bars
Adapted from: City of Nanaimo via Eclectic Cook via The Kitchn

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cups finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken (Roughly 3 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an 8-inch-by-8-inch pan lined with parchment paper (this makes it easier to remove the bars later). Cool in the fridge.

Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons. cream
2 tablespoons vanilla pudding powder
2 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer. Place in fridge for about an hour to let firm up.

Third Layer
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons 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 1 inch squares.


A couple of tips:

I lined my baking pan with parchment paper, so that I could lift the dessert out to cut it into bars. It worked great (and made for super easy clean-up.)

When you’re ready to cut the bars, let them sit at room temperature for a half-hour or so, and/or run the blade of your knife under hot water, to prevent that top chocolate layer from cracking.

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  • Heather says:

    Those look amazing!!!! I’m gonna have to make them soon.

  • Jeanne says:

    Oh my goodness! These look fabulous! Teh recipe is similar to the prayer bars I use to make at Christmas (haven’t made them in years). My mouth is watering just looking at the pictures of your bars. Way to go Anne! Looks like you’ve mastered the recipe.

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