Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake

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If you’re Canadian, you’ve probably had a Nanaimo Bar once or twice in your life. If you’re not Canadian, you probably SHOULD have a Nanaimo Bar once or twice in your life.

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My sister-in-law Mags sent me this recipe as a not-so-subtle hint about what kind of birthday cake she’d like this year (her birthday was February 15th). We usually celebrate her birthday jointly with her dad’s, Papa John, whose birthday is on February 19th. But with a bunch of travel on all sides, we ended up postponing their birthday celebrations until this past weekend, which was MY birthday. So this is a joint cake for the three of us. And it’s amazing.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grab a food processor and chuck in 5 tablespoons cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups graham crumbs, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and 3/4 cup dried coconut.

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Give it a good whazzing, then drizzle in 4 tablespoons melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and whaz it again, until you get some crumbly mixture.

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Take your crumb mixture and dump it into a 10″ springform pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom and a little up the sides, making sure to press extra hard in the corners (I didn’t and it was a little too thick there, so that’s why I am warning you).

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Shove that into your oven and bake it for 5 minutes. When you pull it out, leave the oven on and shove in a large (9″ x 13″) pan of warm water and put it on the rack below where you will be cooking your cheesecake.

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Now, in the bowl of a stand mixer, chuck 4 250g packages plain cream cheese (remember that room temperature cream cheese makes smoother cheesecake). Beat that up until it’s smooth and lovely.

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Then, one at a time, crack in 4 large eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating the whole time.

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Now you can chuck in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 3 tablespoons vanilla custard powder.

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I used Bird’s custard powder here, because that is all that is traditional and right in the world. Beat that up until smooth.

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Pour the mix into your baked crust above your pan of water and bake for 1 hour.

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When it’s done, turn the oven off and crack the door just a little bit and wedge it with a spoon. Leave that for 1-2 hours until the cheesecake is room temperature.

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Don’t fret about that crack. It’s not a big deal. Transfer the cake to a nice plate with care. Chill the cake for a little while.

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To make the lovely ganache that goes on top, toss 1 cup cream and 1 cup chocolate in the bowl of a double boiler and heat until the chocolate melts.

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Whisk until smooth, then let it cool to room temperature.

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Now gently pour it on top of your cooled cake. I had a lot of ganache so I carefully guided it down the sides as well.

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Chill your cake until the ganache is set.

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Serve to all your birthday guests!

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Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes

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Yup.  ANOTHER cupcake recipe.  If you think that’s ridiculous, you’re gonna laugh at what I have planned for Friday.  This recipe has been stored in my Evernote for forever, but I keep seeing the photos pop up on Facebook. I think it’s a not-so-subtle hint that I should probably make them.

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Start with 1 1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds (I used flaked) and mix them with 2 cups dessicated unsweetened coconut in a bowl.  Set that aside for now.

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Toast a wee pinch of the coconut and almonds (I popped mine in the toaster oven) and set that aside as well.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a standard muffin tin with cups.  I like how cheery these are.

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In another bowl, whisk together 2 cups cake flour, 1 cup cocoa, and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

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In yet ANOTHER bowl, ideally the one in your electric mixer, cream together 3/4 room temperature butter, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar for about 3 minutes until pale and cohesive.

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Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time.  Ideally they are also room temperature.  Pour in 3 teaspoons vanilla while you’re at it.

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Now you can start adding your flour mixture in, alternating with 1 1/2 cup buttermilk until it’s all smooth and combined.

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Then you can fold in all your almonds and coconut.

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Scoop the batter into your cupcake cups until they’re’ about 3/4 full.  Now, the recipe didn’t tell me how many this made and so I assumed that it was only 12.

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I WAS WRONG.  AND I WAS OUT OF CUPCAKE LINERS.  So I used the last four I had, then put the rest of the batter in a disposable loaf pan.  I figured it’d make a nice cake to freeze.

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Anyway, bake your enormous number of cupcakes for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean, then you can let them cool completely on a wire rack.

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The Nanaimo-bar-y-ness of the icing comes from using custard powder.  The custard is what makes a Nanaimo bar a Nanaimo bar. Nah-NYE-mo bar.  I love the word Nanaimo.  I may have a problem.

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Right.  Icing.  That’s what we were doing.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together 1 cup room temperature butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 cups icing sugar, and 4 tablespoons custard powder.

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When that’s all combined, pour in as well about 3/4 cup whipping cream for smoothness.

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There, that’s lovely.

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Pipe it onto your cupcakes, and then sprinkle with the toasted almonds and coconut.  That’s it.

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Then you eat it and then it’s gone.  So satisfying.

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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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