I’d like to announce that this will be the second Nanaimo Bar entry on this blog. I don’t have many recipes since I don’t blog as often as I’d like, but yet I have TWO Nanaimo Bar entries, yep, TWO, I’m not Canadian, and in fact, I’d never had a Nanaimo Bar prior to blogging. As you might have assumed, both entries were challenges..the first, a ‘Sweet Canada’ Sugar High Fridays, when I was just a blogging sprout, the second..this month’s Daring Bakers challenge.
The first time I made them, for the SHF challenge, I concocted this white maple mousse filling, which was pretty tasty, but damn, I went way overboard with the white and dark chocolate ‘polka dots’ inside and out, rendering them a bit too rich for an already rich bar. OH, and the photos..yikes! I actually thought they were quite good when I took them. Hey, I didn’t know squat about photography, what can I say? I still sort of don’t – I just got a better camera.
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 www.nanaimo.ca.
When I saw this months challenge, my first thought was; ‘Welllll..I already have a Nanaimo Bar post, and they are rather rich, so what to do, what to do….’ Remember, I don’t have a lot of people to feed, so lots of challenge food gets thrown out after we’ve had our share. However, I adore Lauren – a total sweetheart of a girl, so there was no way I wasn’t going to take part in her challenge. It was a matter of getting creative and taking these bars somewhere other than Canada.
First let me start by saying that this challenge had a hook, and a great one, I might add. We got to make our own graham crackers. We were also given the choice of going gluten-free..meaning there were some flours we would have to use that most of us do not have on hand. Eyeing my barely used sack of spelt flour from the Daring Cooks Indian Dosa challenge, it was a pretty easy decision. NO.
Granted, I would have loved to have tried these gluten-free, but the flours we needed would eventually join the spelt in its perpetual limbo. It was going to be whole wheat flour or bust. Well, in this case, KA white whole wheat flour, which was what I happened to have on hand. I actually got a little excited when the dough smelled and tasted like graham cracker. Well, duh, it’s supposed to taste like graham cracker, but it was kind of a cool moment (collecting self). They were phenomenally crispy and (not surprising) blew all supermarket brands away flavor wise.
That said, I was not going to make these into big, honking bars. I feel Nanaimo Bars need to be whittled down a bit, because as already mentioned above, they’re rich. By doing this, you don’t waste a bar with one or two bites taken out of it due to the richness. Granted, many love a sinfully rich bar cookie or layer bar, but I’m not one of them, so, ignore all of that if you have a major sweet tooth.
So, I decided to go tropical. What an oxymoron, huh? –Tropical Nanaimo bars. From the rugged chill of Canada to the warm breeze and sandy white beaches of Key West and Hawaii. My reasoning wasn’t out of any kind of rebellion, juxtaposition or fusion, but simply due to the fact that I felt the juice and zest of a lime or key lime would cut the richness.
UPDATE 5/14/2015: Barb from Vancouver Island, where Nanaimo bars originated, emailed me to let me know that the weather there is actually tropical like, and they even have palm trees! So, my presumption that tropical is an oxymoron for this Canadian treat, was way off, and in fact, it suits it perfectly! Thanks, Barb!
Since I was taking a cruise down key lime highway, what better than macadamia nuts in lieu of almonds (can you hear the surf and ukulele?). The coconut was already at the party, so it all fit together like Heidi Montag and (insert any plastic surgery procedure). I also felt that a a very thin layer of white chocolate ganache would be better suited to the tangy lime than dark or milk chocolate, so I did that too. Finally, I nixed the dark cocoa in the graham cracker crust, and instead used sweet ground white chocolate powder, reducing the sugar in both the filling and crust.
Having said all that, (I have a lot more to say this time, huh?) due to my prior Nanaimo sugar shock, gut bomb, ‘I feel the diabetes lurking’ experience, I didn’t think the bars needed to be as thick as they usually are, so I used a 10-inch square pan instead of an 8-inch, to insure slimmer layers, layers that don’t make your teeth want to sink back into your gums. I cut them into very small squares, bite-sized, to be precise (the last photo is just for show, those were miniaturized after I snapped), unless your mouth is the size of a thimble. This resulted in a much more pleasurable Nanaimo experience, minus leftover bars with one or two bites out of them.
I will make these again because the homemade graham cracker crust was absolutely diiivine,. I think I need to try these with a peanut butter sumptin’ filling…..one day.
If you’d like the recipe for authentic Nanaimo Bars and homemade graham crackers, click HERE. Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll for more Nanaimo Bars and takes on the Nanaimo Bar. Well worth the click.
- ½ cup (115 g) (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- ¼ cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons ground white chocolate or milk powder or malted milk powder (75 mL) (or unsweetened cocoa for a dark chocolate base, if desired)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1¼ cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) toasted macadamia nuts, chopped
- 1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)
- ½ cup (115 g) (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (40 mL) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
- 1¼ cups powdered sugar
- The juice and zest of one small key lime or lime
- A bit of green food color (optional)
- 4 ounces (115 g) white chocolate
- 2 tablespoons hot heavy cream
- For bottom layer: Melt unsalted butter, and sugar in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 x 8 inch pan.
- For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar and lime juice together well. Beat until light in colour. Stir in lime zest, Spread over bottom layer.
- For Top Layer: Melt the white chocolate and heavy cream over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill. Cut into bars of your desired size, and do the hula while reading Hemingway.
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