Nanaimo Bars – building a better version. Try this revamped version of the classic Canadian treat with a more substantial base layer and an improved filling.
Yes, I dared to toy with a Canadian classic! The recipe has been around forever but what could make it even better?…well in my opinion at least… but I think you might just agree.
I’ve had several requests over the years for a standard Nanaimo Bar recipe but I’d never posted one. There are practically thousands of websites and blogs online that have the recipe published, so I figured, why one more?
All of those recipes are practically the same, using all of the same ingredients in almost always the same proportions or even exact measurements. It was a question from a friend who asked about the recipe that got me re-thinking it once again. I found myself doing so after each similar request. I guess it was nagging away at me subconsciously all along.
My old friend and work colleague, Irene, wrote to me on Facebook, “Hey Super Barry-do you have a recipe for Nanaimo Bars where you can actually taste the custard vs. the typical sugar-y attack on the palate?” Immediately, I thought she had pinpointed a specific issue that I also often had with the recipe.
Let’s face it, it is going to be difficult to cut the sweetness of a Nanaimo Bar because with a filling of thick icing sugar frosting, they are naturally quite rich. I do like to cut these in smaller portions because of that (I get at least 36 squares out of a 9×9 baking pan), but I also thought that if I played with increasing the amount of the base layer, that could help to balance the sweeter centre better.
After a couple of attempts, I got that part exactly as I wanted it. In order to make the centre a bit more firm, I increased the butter a little and added only whipping cream as the liquid ingredient to bring the frosting together, as in a couple of recipes I’d seen online. I found that the higher fat cream in a small amount, actually worked better because it did not split the frosting and loosen it, as low fat milk can tend to do.
I also added substantially more custard powder to the recipe than many recipes called for. Irene was right, what’s the point of the custard powder if there isn’t a discernible flavour from it? You can find custard powder on Amazon by clicking the affiliate link photo.
The result of adding more custard powder also added more firmness and smoothness to the filling.; another bonus.
All in all I was very, very pleased with the result. I shared them with some of my friends who are devoted Nanaimo Bar lovers and they all agreed. Perfection!
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If you liked this recipe you may also like this incredibly delicious cheesecake recipe.
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 8 tbsp cocoa
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2 1/4 cups graham crumbs
- 3/4 cup fine or medium unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts toasted
- 2 1/4 cups icing sugar
- 1/2 cup custard powder
- 2/3 cup butter at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- 2 tbsp whipping cream
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp butter
Melt together the butter, sugar and cocoa over low heat.
Add the eggs continue to cook, stirring constantly to fully cook the egg to a soft scrambled texture.
Add the graham crumbs, coconut and walnuts.
Mix together until well combined then, press into the bottom of a parchment paper lined 9x9 inch baking pan.
With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, custard powder and icing sugar until it starts to come together.
Add the vanilla paste and whipping cream and beat well until smooth.
This frosting should be very stiff but spreadable. ( Much thicker than you would use to frost a cake for example) If you think it's too thick, you may add a few drops of whipping at a time to bring it to the right consistency.
Spread evenly over the bottom layer. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before adding the chocolate topping.
Melt together the chocolate chips and butter over low heat, just until the chocolate is melted, don't over heat it.
Spread quickly over the chilled frosted layer. Return to the fridge until the chocolate sets.
Cut into squares or bars. These freeze very well.
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