Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nanaimo Bars - A Canadian Tradition

From graham crackers nanaimo bars
The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

From graham crackers nanaimo bars

This challenge is a great way to celebrate Canada and the upcoming Vancouver Olympics! And being a West Coast Canadian I had to take up this challenge (I chose to make regular flour crackers).

Nanaimo Bars are a part of Canadiana - every child knows what it is and most have had the sweet three layer bar many times. Chocolate, coconut, nuts, butter cream and chocolate have caused sugar highs in many Canadian kids and adults alike. I don't remember eating my first nanaimo bar but they were always on the table at any special occasion. I've never made nanaimo bars from scratch (including making my own graham crackers) so this was a baking first in my tiny kitchen.

From graham crackers nanaimo bars

The results were fantastic and soooo much better than store bought which are often too sweet. This recipe produces a nutty and chocolatey base, with a not-too-sweet filling and a dark chocolate finish. I made them yesterday and there is one soon as I finish typing there will be none :)

They are named after the City of Nanaimo located on Vancouver Island. In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts, in conjunction with Harbour Park Mall, initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, almost 100 different variations of the famous confection were submitted. The winner: Joyce Hardcastle. This is the recipe:
Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Bottom Layer

½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs (see here for homemade recipe crackers!)
½ c. finely chopped almonds (I used raw skin on almonds)
1 cup coconut (I used unsweetened desiccated coconut)

What to do:
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and whisk to cook and thicken.You know it is done when it resembles pudding. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or more minutes.

Second Layer

½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream (I used whipping cream but I have recipes that call for milk)
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (if you live in Canada or have access to it, you must use Bird's brand for authentic taste!)
2 cups icing sugar
Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Note: See the little offset spatula in the picture??  I got tonnes of grief from hubby about buying yet another kitchen utensil... "when will you ever use that thing??" The answer: Yesterday! My other spatulas were too big for the pan. Love it when I am right!

From graham crackers nanaimo bars

From graham crackers nanaimo bars

Third Layer

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each) - I used dark Nestle chocolate - great when you don't want something too sweet but you want deep chocolate flavour!
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Note: If you want a slightly thicker layer 2 more ounces of chocolate can be added along with 1 additional tbsp of butter.

Melt chocolate and butter overlow heat. Cool. Once cool (luke warm is ok - especially if you refrigerate the other two layers first) , but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

From graham crackers nanaimo bars

From graham crackers nanaimo bars

From graham crackers nanaimo bars

From graham crackers nanaimo bars

From graham crackers nanaimo bars

Within the Kitchen Tip:
To make the white chocolate design melt 2 ounces of white chocolate. Place in ziploc bag and cut off small part of bottom tip of bag. Make diagonal lines across pan as shown. Using a toothpick drag one end of it through chocolate and then alternate direction and pull through again, wiping the toothpick in between each.

Extra info:
Information on Vancouver 2010 click here.
This video of Vancouver is amazing and a taste of what you will experience is you are coming for the Olympics!


  1. beautiful design on your nanaimo bars :)

  2. yummmm, your nanaimo bars version looks really great!
    Love the presentation and the lovelt decoration
    Great job!
    (also a DB)

  3. I've never heard of Nanaimo Bars before the Challenge, so I was really looking forward to making them. Now I'm thrilled about how good they are. I like the white chocolate design on yours.

  4. I love the step by step! Thanks for sharing.

  5. A family favourite, often made by grandma Renee for our birthdays. 😀