My husband loves Nanaimo bars. When I make these, I could ask for jewelry and he won't even bat an eye. These really need a naughtier name than Nanaimo Bars - like maybe Passion Pucks (to keep the Canadian theme going) or Sex Squared. Seriously, they're that good.
Heralded as "a BC Specialty" or, "Canada's Favorite Confection", Nanaimo Bars are a little slice of home. Some cretins people on the East Coast call them "New York Special" but never in my presence. Canada has few unique native dishes and tagging this with an American moniker just will not do. (Don't flame me, I'm just telling it how it is.)
This recipe is easy enough, but it is a little time consuming as you need to chill each of the layers. One bite though and the effort will be forgotten.
Bottom Layer (Crust):
1/2 C (1 stick) softened butter (Use softened butter so you can keep the heat low and reduce the risk of cooking the egg before it's mixed in.)
1/4 C white sugar
1/3 C cocoa powder
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 C graham cracker crumbs
1 C coconut (either sweetened or unsweetened)
In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder:
and then gradually whisk in egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 - 2 minutes).
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, graham crumbs and coconut:
Press the mixture evenly into buttered or sprayed 9x9 pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).
FILLING (middle layer) :
1/4 C softened butter
2 - 3 TBL milk or cream
2 TBL vanilla custard powder (Bird's) or vanilla pudding powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C powdered sugar
In your electric mixer cream the butter. Beat in the remaining ingredients.
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).
4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (chips work fine, use more if you like a thicker top layer)
1 TBL butter (scale up if using more chocolate)
In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. If the chocolate seems too stiff, add a touch more butter.
Spread chocolate over the filling and refrigerate. Be careful here, if the chocolate is too hot or you haven't chilled the filling enough you'll get greasy pools of unappetizing yuck. The best way to do this is to spread a spoon full at a time and be careful not to reach down into the custard layer with your spatula. If you look carefully at the bottom right corner you can see where I let a glob of warm chocolate sit too long and the filling surfaced.
Chill until chocolate has set. These bars slice best at room temperature, but taste best a little cold from the fridge. I'm usually willing to forgo perfect squares in the name of luscious texture, but if appearance is important, let these warm up a bit before cutting.
Other Options: Add mint, peanut butter or coffee flavor to the filling. Just pick one though - Mint, Peanut butter, Coffee Nanaimo Bars would be unpleasant :-) If using mint, omit coconut.
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