Despite having eaten probably a thousand of these over the years, I have never made one before. I guess I thought it would be hard. It really isn’t.
The origins of the Nanaimo bar are shrouded in mystery. Some say they are not from Nanaimo at all, that some housewife merely pointed to a town on a map when she named her crusty buttery bar.
Others (Canadians, mostly, and especially those from Nanaimo), insist that the Nanaimo bar belongs in its rightful birthplace on Vancouver Island. For our purposes, we’ll go with the second story. According to that second story, miners in town would take the bars with them when they went to work.
There are, of course, a hojillion recipes out there for Nanaimo bars. There are a bajillion variations (my neighbour makes a variation with candy canes at Christmas). I kept seeing ones that told you to use custard powder or pudding mix and I kept thinking, where is the original recipe? How can I make this from scratch? Then I realized that using a powder mix IS the original recipe. The custard powder is there more for flavour and sticky-together-ness than it is for making an original custard.
This particular recipe, with some very minor modifications, comes from Nanaimo [Nah-NIGH-mo] itself, which is a tiny town on the tiny Vancouver Island, a few hours’ ferry ride away from Vancouver in British Columbia. Apparently the mayor of Nanaimo held a contest several years ago to find the BEST Nanaimo bar recipe in town. It was re-posted by the owners of the Buccaneer Inn, in Nanaimo. How many times do you think I can say “Nanaimo”? I bet it’s more than you think.
In a double boiler, or a bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water, melt 4 or 5 ounces dark chocolate with 2 tablespoons butter.
Stir it until it’s smooth and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
It will cool faster if you swish it up on the sides of the bowl.
In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, whip together 1/2 cup room temperature butter, 3 tablespoons cream, 2 tablespoons custard powder (I used Bird’s), 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 2 cups icing sugar.
Keep going until it’s light and fluffy.
In another bowl over a pot of water, melt and stir together 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and 5 tablespoons cocoa.
Beat up an egg.
Add that into the melted butter, sugar, and cocoa, and stir to thicken. The egg will cook as you do this, and the texture might turn out a little lumpy, but that’s fine.
Remove the mix from the heat and stir in 1 1/4 cups graham crumbs, 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I used almonds), and 1 cup sweetened dessicated coconut.
You can easily chop the nuts in your food processor.
Press the coconut crumb mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 8″ square pan. Lacking that, I used a 10″ x 7″ pan and hoped for the best.
Spread the yellow custard mixture over the top of the crumb base.
Pour on the melted, cooled chocolate and gently spread it to cover the whole area.
Chuck in the fridge and leave it to chill for at least an hour.
Cut it into squares and eat them all.
Store what you can’t in good conscience finish in an airtight container.