Saturday, February 20, 2010
Nanaimo Bars (Oh, Canada!)
In my teens and 20's I was the world's biggest Olympics junkie. I was glued to the TV, Winter or Summer, every sport, every minute of coverage. My enthusiasm has moderated a good deal in recent Olympics, but I can still get pretty fascinated by the competitions, including curling, my every-four-years indulgence, and short track speed skating, which has just as much strategy but a good deal more chaos.
In honor of the Vancouver Winter Olympics I baked Nanaimo Bars, no-bake layered chocolate bars which originated in Western Canada about 35 years ago. I've spent a lot of time over the years in the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver, and I was always happy to see Nanaimo bars on the table for afternoon tea or dessert.
- I found the recipe for Nanaimo Bars here. It is identical to the recipe on the City of Nanaimo website.
- Although there are three separate layers in these bars, and they generate a generous quantity of dirty pans and bowls, they seem easy to make because they are no-bake. Just melt, stir, layer, and chill, and in relatively short order you have completed bars ready to cut and serve.
- I used King Arthur double dutch cocoa powder.
- My toasted almonds were nowhere to be found the afternoon I baked these bars, so I used half almond meal and half chopped toasted pecans.
- The middle layer calls for vanilla custard powder (although apparently you can use powdered vanilla pudding). I was excited to use the Bird's Dessert Powder that I'd picked up on a whim several years ago, which I hoped was the correct ingredient or a close substitute. I gave the powder a little taste and didn't detect much vanilla flavor, so I added a teaspoon of vanilla paste.
The Nanaimo bars turned out to be rich and indulgent, and quite delicious. Although they were sweet, I didn't find them cloyingly so. I piled these on the dessert platter for book group. One of my tasters, JT, doesn't even like coconut and he tried and actually enjoyed these bars. The coconut adds a nice chewy element in my opinion, but it could probably be replaced with a different stir-in ingredient, such as toffee bits (but then they wouldn't be Nanaimo Bars...)