dimanche 6 mars 2011

Nanaimo Bars

Recently one of my colleagues asked me about a tasty treat he sampled at the Canadian Stand at the Bazar International* in Luxembourg.  He couldn’t remember the name but said that this Canadian specialty was so decadent that you could only eat 1 piece in a sitting and consisted of 3 layers including the chocolate topping.  “Nanaimo Bars” was the first thought that came to my mind and sure enough after a google check he confirmed that was indeed the treat in question.  It seems that these are so rare in Luxembourg that they are only imported for the Bazar and they sell out quickly.  
Legend has it that Nanaimo Bars originated in the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  Other places have also laid claim to this yummy treat and the search for documented proof of origin is on-going.  Whatever the outcome these tasty treats are truly a Canadian speciality.  
In my house we didn’t make Nanaimo Bars but a close and slightly simpler cousin called “Chocolate Squares”.  These are also very decadent but the base layer doesn’t include egg and the middle layer omits the custard powder so the result is a little less rich and creamy.  These days there are other variations of the squares that include mint and coffee flavours.  I have my own ideas now for some more uniquely European spins on the recipe too.
Since this was my first attempt at the official Nanaimo bars, I used the classic recipe from the City of Nanaimo site http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/visitors/NanaimoBars.html but modified it to use ingredients that are more readily available here and adapted it to metric measurements.  I replaced the graham cracker crumbs with crushed digestive biscuits, used a vanilla pudding powder and custard powder and chose a lower cocoa content chocolate than what I would normally use.  I think the results were acceptably close to the original.  At least I would hope that it will satisfy Nanaimo Bar cravings until the annual return of the imported “REAL THING” at the Bazar in Luxembourg.

Nanaimo Bars
125 mL (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
60 mL (1/4 cup) sugar
75 mL (5 Tbsp) cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
300 mL (1-1/4 cups) graham wafer crumbs (or digestive biscuits)
125 mL (1/2 cup) finely chopped almonds
250 mL (1 cup) shredded coconut
Melt butter, sugar and cocoa power in the top of a double boiler.  Add egg; stirring until thickened.  Remove from heat; stir in remaining ingredients.  Press firmly into an ungreased 20 cm square (8” x 8”) pan.  Refrigerate.
Middle Layer
125 mL (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
40 mL (2 Tbsp + 2 tsp) cream
30 mL (2 Tbsp) vanilla custard power (Bird’s Eye or vanilla pudding powder)
500 mL (2 cups) icing sugar
Cream together butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Spread over base layer.  Refrigerate.
115 g (4 oz) semi-sweet chocolate (+/- 45% cocoa content such as Cote d’Or Noir Puur)
30 mL (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter
Melt together chocolate and butter in top of a double boiler over low heat.  Allow to cool then spread evenly over middle layer.  Chill in refrigerator until set.  
Remove from pan and slice into 16 squares.  
* Bazar International is an annual charity event held at LuxExpo in Luxembourg in late November / early December.