Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Johnson-style Nanaimo Bars

Yesterday was Canada Day, so Joel and I celebrated like we always do - poutine for dinner, Nanaimo Bars for dessert, and watching a show that teases about the differences between Canadians and Americans.  To my dismay, however, I learned that most of my friends had never tried a Nanaimo Bar and / or didn't know what they were!  So here, friends, is the recipe I use.  I've never tried an authentic Nanaimo Bar, but I've made so many substitutions, I'm sure they no longer taste authentic.  :)  They do taste delicious, though.  

This is a refrigerated no-bake bar-style cookie... kind of.  The actual prep time for each layer is very short, but there's about an hour and a half of setting time.  The tiny parenthetical asides are my personal notes, learned in the process of making these. :)

Start with a pan (I use 9" round) lined with foil or plastic wrap.  It's much easier to cut and serve these if you can remove the whole thing from the pan.

Please don't judge me.  I am NOT a food photographer.
Bottom layer:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature (Salted butter works, too.  Also, since you're melting it, it doesn't need to be room temp.)
1/4 c. sugar
5 T cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers or most of a store-bought graham cracker crust:) (For gluten-free, I'd sub in quick oats. This ingredient is mostly for texture anyway.)
1/2 c. finely chopped almonds (If your almonds have freezer burn, finely chopped pecans are also delicious.)
1 c. coconut (We don't like coconut, so we use quick oats instead.)

Melt butter, sugar, and cocoa powder together.  Slowly add to beaten egg.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients.  (I do that step with a spatula in the pan I'm going to use.)  Press firmly into ungreased pan.  (Eat a forkful.)  Refrigerate.  

Hm.  It looks like I snuck some Heath bars into the bottom layer last year.  Yum!
Middle layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (Again, salted is fine.)
3 T whipping cream (I couldn't tell any difference when I used milk.)
2 T custard powder (or vanilla pudding powder)
2 c. powdered sugar

Cream all ingredients together and spread onto the bottom layer.  Refrigerate 30-60 minutes (so it stays separate from the top layer.)

I cover it with plastic wrap during setting time so it doesn't absorb any funky fridge odors.
Top layer:
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips) (REALLY USE SEMI-SWEET, even if you're a slave to milk chocolate when baking.)
2 T unsalted butter (Salted is good.)

Melt together.  When cool but still liquid, pour over other two layers.  Refrigerate at least one hour.

Enjoy!  Really - I think it's impossible not to.

(I told you I made a lot of substitutions:)


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