Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nanaimo Bars

On Saturday afternoon, I made the much-awaited trip home to Brookfield, to spend Christmas with my family. Although I've only been here 24-hours, I already feel relaxed and rejuvenated, especially after a full eight-hours of sleep last night, which was heaven. My mom and I have been driving around town finishing our last-minute shopping, and this morning we made a trip to the grocery store for necessary ingredients and have spent the last several hours baking and cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

I just completed a batch of Nanaimo Bars, a family recipe that Karen recently shared with me. I had the bars for the first time when I spent Thanksigiving with her family, and they were one of the most delicious desserts I've ever tasted. Karen's mother was a very proud Canadian who often served these bars with tea. The recipe is a popular Candadian dessert that originated in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, in the 1950's. It's a three-layer no-bake recipe, that consists of a crumb-based layer, a custard layer, and a top layer of chocolate. Mmm...delicious.

Bottom layer:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa (not Dutch processed)
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
1 cup coconut

1/2 cup soft butter
2 tbsp. vanilla custard poweder
2 cups powedered sugar
2 tbsp. cream or milk

Top layer:
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate

Butter (or use a cooking spray) a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) pan.

Bottom layer: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 - 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Filling: Cream the butter with an electric beater. Beat in the remaining ingredients. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

Top Layer: In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Spread over the filling and refrigerate.

To prevent the chocolate from cracking, using a sharp knife, bring the squares to room temperature before cutting. Makes about 25 square.

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