Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars are common throughout much of Canada. In some parts of the country, you will find them in every bakery. They consist of three layers: a lower layer that is a crumb-cocoa-butter-nut-coconut mixture, then a middle layer of butter-custard-sugar, and then a top layer of chocolate. They are not baked, and instead each layer is chilled before the next layer is added. Typical recipes have less cocoa, a thicker middle layer, and are sweeter than this one.

This is the recipe for a double batch, which works well because it corresponds to a full box of graham cracker crumbs.

Begin by greasing a 10″x15″ pan with butter.

In a large bowl, mix in order:

1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup regular cocoa
1/2 cup black cocoa (if available e.g., from King Arthur Flour; 
             otherwise use regular cocoa
1/2 cup pasteurized egg product (e.g. EggBeaters)
about 3 cups graham cracker crumbs 
             (one full 13.5 oz box works well)
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans (or other nut such as walnut)

The mixture should hold together very well if pressed, and be right on the edge of being gooey. The balance between the graham cracker crumbs and the egg product is key. I find that for one 13.5 oz box of Keebler Graham Cracker Crumbs, 1/2 cup of pasteurized egg product is just about right, but for other brands of crumbs, the amount of egg product or other liquid needed might differ. If it is crumbly, add a bit more liquid of some sort – e.g., more egg product, 1 tbsp Grand Marnier, or something else of your choice. If in doubt, it is better for it to be gooey than crumbly.

Spread the mixture onto the greased pan, and press down. You might want to roll it flat with a cylinder, e.g., a strong straight-sided glass:

Put it into a fridge to cool and thus harden a bit.

Meanwhile, make the middle layer. Do this by taking

12 tbsp butter (1.5 sticks), softened at room temperature

and cream together with

6 tbsp custard powder (e.g. Bird's Custard Powder)

Then add and mix in order

1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp Grand Marnier
1.5 cups powdered sugar [sifted, if it has lumps]

Once this has been thoroughly mixed, and the bottom layer is cooled and hardened, spread the butter-custard-sugar middle layer over the bottom layer using a rubber spatula. Make sure it’s not too thick at the edges – in fact, it should be thinner at the edges as edge pieces will be not as good.

Put this back in the fridge, and leave it until the middle layer has cooled and hardened.

While the middle layer is hardening, melt (in a microwave set on very low power, and stirring occasionally, or on the stove top in a safe way for chocolate) and mix throughly

12 oz dark chocolate [e.g., about 25 squares of the 17.5 oz bar of 
          Trader Joe's 72% dark chocolate]
3 tbsp butter

Let the chocolate-butter mixture cool until it is no longer hot to the touch. Once the middle layer is chilled, take the pan out of the fridge, and with a rubber spatula, spread the chocolate-butter mixture over the top. Once you have spread it out, you might want to rock the pan back and forth to smoothen the top of the chocolate.

Put the pan back in the fridge, but don’t leave it there too long! You will need to check it every few minutes, as you want to have the top layer harden just enough to allow you to cut the pieces (see image below) without cracking (if the chocolate hardens too much it will crack when you cut through it with a knife). If it doesn’t harden enough, the top will still be too soft and pliable.

Once they are cut, you have the option to put them back in the fridge for a bit to let them harden more. Eventually, though, they will be ready to be carefully removed from the pan.

Store in the fridge once completed, as they become quite soft at room temperature.