Nanaimo bars were one of my favourite squares when I lived in Canada but it was only in 2012 that I started making them myself. Why it took me so long to make them at home I do not know. My partner asked me, after his first ever bite of a Nanaimo bar a year (six, now, at the time of editing!) ago, why I kept this confection a secret for so long!
The creation of the Nanaimo bar has been attributed to Mabel Jenkins sometime in the early 1950s who lived near Nanaimo, British Columbia, not too far away from where I was born. These sweets have since become Canada’s favourite confection. Just try them and you see will why!
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO MAKE THESE NO-BAKE NANAIMO BARS
- 200 grams digestive biscuits (or graham wafer crumbs)
- 65 grams shredded coconut (or desiccated, if you’re in the UK, or blitz up some coconut slices)
- 50 grams walnuts (I’ve made these using almonds with success too)
- 30 grams cocoa powder
- 1 free range egg
- 115 grams butter (for the base), 60 grams for the middle layer and 1 tbsp for the topping
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 50 grams caster sugar
- 225 grams icing sugar
- 20 grams custard powder
- 2-3 tbsp full-fat milk
- 120 grams dark chocolate – I use 85% cocoa solid chocolate
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HOW TO MAKE THESE NO-BAKE NANAIMO BARS
Step 1: Put the crushed digestive biscuits, chopped walnuts and coconut into a large bowl.
Step 2: Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa powder together in a small saucepan. Add the beaten egg and stir to cook, and stir in the vanilla.
Step 3: Pour the chocolate mix into the dry ingredients and stir well to coat.
Step 4: Press into the base of a lined 8-inch square tin. Chill.
Step 5: Cream together the icing sugar, custard powder and butter, adding enough milk to make it light and fluffy. Spread over the base and chill.
Step 6: Melt the chocolate and butter together and spread over the top. Chill until firm.
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The Canadian recipe uses graham cracker crumbs and shredded coconut, two ingredients I can’t get here in the UK. I’ve substituted them with crushed digestive biscuits and desiccated coconut. I’ve learned, through trial and error (and having ingredients needing to be used up) that thick coconut slices coarsely chopped up in the food processor take these bars to a whole new level of awesome. The texture of the unsweetened coconut slice adds a lovely chew to the base which is lost if you use desiccated coconut.
Also, use as dark a chocolate as you can the for the top layer. I prefer to use a fair trade 85% cocoa solids chocolate for maximum flavour, but I realise not everyone likes their chocolate that dark. I think the dark chocolate adds a nice crack to the chocolate coating which you don’t get if you use plain or milk chocolate.
People who know me know that I am quite a shy, quiet person. It’s a big thing for me to agree to talk in public, but I did so recently (twice!) – once online to a class of writers back in Cape Breton between the ages of 13-18, and again last week here in Shetland to a group of adult learners.
The ESL group of adult learners came from all over the world and, like me, now call Shetland home. We gathered together to talk about food and food blogging, and I’d requested that they each bring a dish native to their home countries. I brought these Nanaimo bars.
It was a lovely, relaxing evening, and we enjoyed tales and food from Italy, Spain, Poland, Norway and even Ecuador. Food is the one thing we all have in common – no matter where we are from or what language we speak, we all eat. It’s a great way to bring people together, don’t you think?
for the base
for the buttercream
- Grease and line an 8-inch square baking tin or butter an 8-inch silicone baking tin.
- Place the digestive biscuit crumbs, coconut and chopped walnuts in a large bowl.
- Melt butter, cocoa powder and sugar together over a medium heat in a small saucepan. Don't let it boil.
- Crack in the egg, and stir well to cook/pasteurise it.
- Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and stir the chocolate mixture into the digestive biscuit crumb mixture.
- Stir until well incorporated and press into the bottom of the prepared tin. Pop into the fridge to chill for an hour.
- To prepare the buttercream, beat the room temperature butter, icing sugar and custard powder together and add enough milk to make it light and creamy.
- Spread in an even layer over the chilled base, and pop into the fridge for a further half an hour.
- To prepare the chocolate topping, melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of barely simmering water.
- Spread evenly over the top of the buttercream, and chill until hardened.
- Cut into squares and serve!
- One year ago: Coconut, Mint & Lime Ladoo
- Two years ago: Cinnamon Brioche Toast
- Three years ago: Carrot, Beetroot & Ginger Juice Pulp Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Four years ago: Foodcycle Breadline Challenge
- Five years ago: Oreo Button Cookies
- Six years ago: Roasted Shetland Black Potatoes with Rosemary & Sea Salt