O Canada: Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

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.

Nanaimo Bars

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.

Nanaimo Bars

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.

Nanaimo Bars

Stir it until it’s smooth and set it aside to cool to room temperature.

Nanaimo Bars

It will cool faster if you swish it up on the sides of the bowl.

Nanaimo Bars

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.

Nanaimo Bars

Keep going  until it’s light and fluffy.

Nanaimo Bars

In another bowl over a pot of water, melt and stir together 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and 5 tablespoons cocoa.

Nanaimo Bars

Beat up an egg.

Nanaimo Bars

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.

Nanaimo Bars

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.

Nanaimo Bars

You can easily chop the nuts in your food processor.

Nanaimo Bars

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.

Nanaimo Bars

Spread the yellow custard mixture over the top of the crumb base.

Nanaimo Bars

Pour on the melted, cooled chocolate and gently spread it to cover the whole area.

Nanaimo Bars

Chuck in the fridge and leave it to chill for at least an hour.

Nanaimo Bars

Cut it into squares and eat them all.

Nanaimo Bars

Store what you can’t in good conscience finish in an airtight container.

Nanaimo Bars

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Author: allythebell

A corgi. A small boy. A sense of adventure. Chaos ensues.

7 thoughts on “O Canada: Nanaimo Bars”

      1. With affection and respect, just wanna say that Nanaimo has a population of about 80,000, so not all that tiny. Since I’m being all correct-y, may as well say that the ferry ride from West Vancouver to Nanaimo is 90 minutes. 🙂 Not trying to be a jerk, just helping out my fellow BCers…

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  1. Sorry — should have added that I love your blog! Found it through Karen’s The Art of Doing Stuff, and think you are great. Come see us in BC sometime, we’ll take the ferry over Nanaimo & have some Nanaimo bars at ground zero! 🙂

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    1. Thanks SheShe! I guess I’m just looking at it through the filter of my nine-year-old self. When I was growing up in Victoria the ferry ride from the island to the mainland took FOREVER. Though I have to disagree with you on the size of the town. St. John’s has only a slightly larger population, and IT is tiny. At least it feels tiny sometimes. Though perhaps that’s just the island effect?

      I will actually be heading out west this summer for two weddings, and I plan to drag the Pie out to Victoria to show him around. Maybe we’ll make the trip up the Malahat and have ourselves a snack!

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      1. Fair enough! O’ course, my dad is a city councillor of another BC town, population about 620, so talk about your filters…

        If you make it ‘up Island’ this summer, try the best Mexican food I’ve had outside Texas, on a little houseboat moored in the marina in Nanaimo called Penny’s Palapa (Patty’s?) — whatever, there’s just the one floating Mexican cafe there. 😉 Delish!

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