My National

My National

Nanaimo Bar recipe: could this Canadian confectionery bring about world peace?

  |  August 28, 2012

Brian Kerrigan / The National
Brian Kerrigan / The National

These bars always go down a storm in the office when I make them – particularly with the Canadians and the sports desk – so it seems only fair to share the recipe and the story that goes with it.

In 1986 when I lived in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, BC, the city ran a competition to find out who could make the ultimate Nanaimo Bar – a kind of chocolate, coconuty, creamy confectionery of which there are many variations.

Long story short, my friend's mother, Joyce Hardcastle, won the competition, which spawned a business she still runs today.

Be warned, though, these rich treats are not for the faint hearted or the calorie conscious – each layer is loaded with butter – or for those allergic to nuts. They are very tasty, though: one colleague even had a dream that they brought about peace between two warring countries.

Try them out: they are easy to make and require no baking, just refrigeration, and are even better stored in the freezer. The following recipe is very slightly altered to allow for ingredients readily available in the UAE.

Nanaimo Bar

Bottom Layer

½ cup unsalted butter ¼ cup caster sugar 5 tbsp cocoa powder 1 egg, beaten 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs (Note: I can't find Graham wafers in the UAE, so I use plain digestive biscuit crumbs instead) ½ cup finely chopped almonds (or almond powder) 1 cup dried coconut, flaked or powdered

Melt the first three ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Add the egg and stir to cook and thicken, for about a minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the biscuit crumbs, coconut, and almonds. Press the mixture firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" cake tin. Refrigerate until the second layer is ready.

Second Layer

½ cup unsalted butter 2 tbsp and 2 tsp cream 2 tbsp vanilla custard powder 2 cups icing sugar

Cream the butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over the bottom layer and refrigerate until the third layer is ready.

Third Layer

4 oz dark (70 per cent) chocolate 2 tbsp unsalted butter (Note: add more butter if the chocolate mixture seems too thick, it should have a pouring consistency)

Melt the chocolate and butter over a low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over the second layer and chill in the fridge. Refrigerate for about three hours, until solid, then, using a sharp knife, cut into small squares.

For more information visit the City of Nanaimo website