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


Paderno Factory Sale!

Yesterday may have been a Tuesday for you.

For us, it was Manna day.

I dragged the Pie out of bed at the crack of nine-thirty and towed him the block and a half from our apartment to the ReMax Centre, home to the St. John’s Curling Club.

We had come to take advantage of the Paderno factory sale, a rare opportunity to purchase some quality Canadian cookware.  Yes, there is a Paderno Kitchen store in the city, but without a car, it’s practically in the middle of nowhere, so we don’t go often.  Plus, we hit this shindig last year and found some RIDICU-sales, even though we came at the end of the event.  This time we got there nice and early.

For those of you in St. John’s, the event runs from May 11th to May 16th, and is open from 9 to 9 during the week, 9 to 6 on Saturday, and 9 to 5 on Sunday.

Here are some of the things we saw that we’re thinking about going back for:

I am firmly of the opinion that you can never have too many mixing bowls.  Especially nice ones.  These two sets were especially alluring due to their cheapness. 

We might come back later and get this nice medium-sized cast-iron skillet.  We are trying to use cast-iron more often these days, and now we have a wee one and a huge one and it would be nice to have a medium one.

These are fish tongs.  I’m not going to buy them.  But I thought they looked ridiculous.

My parents have one of these oil sprayers, and it works really well.  It means you never have to buy aerosol cooking spray again.  I have to say that I am rather tempted.

These tiny wooden spoons were so cute!  There’s no way the Pie will let me have even one of them.

We probably won’t come back for this, but it was interesting.  An egg-toss pan, with a little bulge on one end to help you flip your egg.  The Pie might want it.

A selection of cheap serving spoons.  We really don’t have any serving spoons at all, so this is a definite maybe.

I thought these mugs are cute.  I am, however, banned from buying mugs.  Stupid husband and his RULES.

The Pie really, really wants this pizza cutter.  Like REALLY.

Here’s what we ended up with:

This little cast-iron pan is our triumph.  We picked it up from the salesmen’s sample table (basically, the scratch & dent) for ten dollars.  It’s a little dirty but we don’t think those scratches are permanent.  The ones that aren’t scratched are selling for twenty dollars, which is 50% off their original price.  So it’s a real steal.

Also from the scratch & dent table came these two wee darling cafe latte-style bowls.  The littlest was a dollar and the larger one was two.  You can pretty much justify anything for two dollars.

Our most expensive purchase was this pan liner for $10.99.  It makes a good alternative to parchment paper and as I’m planning to make a lot more bread these days I think it will come in handy.

I had to have this silicone spoon, merely because it was turquoise.  And it was only $2.99.  The Pie mocked my choice: “do we really need another spoon?”

Of course, that is coming from the man who insisted we get these miniature tongs (red to match our larger tongs) for $1.99.  So I can’t really trust his judgments.

The Pie is also exceedingly fond of egg mcmuffin-type breakfast foods, so we picked these up for $3.99.

A small icing spatula came away for $2.75.

I also picked up two 9″ pie plates, both deep dish.  This lovely ceramic one was only $7.50, and normally this vintage-style goes for $40 or more.

This nice clear one was only $5.49.

All this loot for a grand total (including HST) of $55.03.  Can’t beat it.

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