Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nanaimo Bars

I had my first Nanaimo Bar back in 2008 while I worked in the bakery at The Fresh Market. There these Canadian treats were called Dream Bars and I quickly learned how delightful they were. These were one of the first desserts I made on my own, inspired by the ones I so often enjoyed at the bakery. I made them again this past Sunday and was quickly reminded of how delicious these little bars can be.

These take a little time to throw together, due to the preparation of three different layers. No actual baking is involved, however, and these would be a great dessert to make when you don't feel like heating up the house. These certainly aren't difficult to make and would be a perfect project for a new baker.

While I was combining the ingredients for the bottom layer, I noticed the mixture was a lot more greasy than I would have expected (or remember it being from years ago when I first made these bars). I actually blotted the top of the bottom layer with a paper towel after pressing it into my pan. I'm not sure what caused the excessive greasiness at the time, but the bars set up great and tasted fabulous.

In my opinion, the real star of these bar is the second, creamy layer. I've been trying to get my hands on custard powder for ages as I really wonder if the taste of the bars would dramatically improve with using custard powder. Unfortunately I still couldn't find any around town, so I make these with your basic vanilla pudding powder. They are absolutely divine custard powder or not!

I followed Jaime's advice to use a hot knife to slice through the bars. This made cutting them a breeze, but I did notice that little streaks of melted chocolate would mar the pale yellow custard layer. The bars are still pretty, imperfections and all. I find bars like this, with distinct layers, very visual appealing.

These bars keep fabulously when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. At the bakery we would get these in frozen, thaw and cut them. I'm sure the homemade version would freezer just as beautifully. These are great chilled, just from the fridge, but I prefer them after they've had a chance to warm up a bit so the layers get soft and creamy. Absolutely divine!

Nanaimo Bars
via My Baking Addiction, originally from here
Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. blanced almonds
1 cup coconut (I use sweetened coconut)

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. (I ground my graham crackers in a food processor then processed the almonds and coconut with the crumbs until the almonds were finely chopped). Press firmly into a parchment-lined 8″ x 8″ pan. Refrigerate while making second layer.
Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (such as Bird’s Custard Powder; I used vanilla pudding powder)
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and powdered sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer. Refrigerate while making third layer.
Third Layer
4 oz. bar semi-sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator. Slice with a warm knife when ready to serve.
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