Classic Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

These delightful no-bake bars are almost like candy!  Bar none, these Nanaimo Bars are my all-time favorite bars.  They consist of three layers:  1) a chocolate base consisting of graham wafer crumbs, nuts, cocoa, and coconut; 2) a soft yellow-colored custard-flavored filling made primarily with icing sugar and custard powder; and 3) a rich chocolate ganache topping.

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

There is a lot of mystery around the history and exact origins of  the decadent Nanaimo Bars.  The history has been traced back to the early 1950s when a square, simply called “Chocolate Square” (with the ingredients we know today as “Nanaimo Bars”), appeared in the 1952 Women’s Auxiliary of the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook in British Columbia. Shortly after, circa 1953, the same recipe appeared, under the name of “Nanaimo Bars” in the Edith Adams Cookbook (14th edition). Both recipes have the same common ingredients.  As to who the precise creator of the recipe was, however, has not been definitively determined and the square, or bar, has gone by several names over the years, including New York Slice, Smog Squares, and London Fog Bars.  Whomever it was, they created a sure winner that has endured throughout the years and the treat is commonly known as Nanaimo Bars!

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

These bars are not difficult to make but they do take a little time since there are three parts to the bars — a base, filling, and topping. I recommend making the base in the top of a double boiler or, alternatively, in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  The base can be made in a heavy-bottomed saucepan but it can set up rather quickly using this method and there is always the danger of scorching the ingredients.

For the filling, I use Bird’s brand vanilla custard powder,usually found in the baking aisle of Canadian supermarkets.  However, any vanilla custard powder may be used in this recipe.  Many recipes for Nanaimo Bars only use a couple of tablespoons of custard powder.  However, I find that makes the filling too soft and squishy for handling.  I use 3 1/2 tablespoons of custard powder in my recipe and find it gives a lovely velvety textured filling that will hold its own when handled.

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

While they are called “bars”, I cut mine into squares and, from a 9″x9″ pan, I get 25 delectable squares.  These need to be kept refrigerated, or frozen for longer storage.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:
 
Base:

½ cup butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp cocoa
1 extra-large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
½ cup chopped toasted pecans

Filling:

½ cup butter, softened at room temperature
2½ tbsp whipping cream (35%)
3½ tbsp vanilla custard powder
1 tsp pure vanilla
2 cups sifted icing sugar (aka powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar)

Topping:

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature

Method:

Line 9” square pan with parchment paper leaving enough overhang to easily lift finished square from pan for cutting.

Base:  In bottom of double boiler, bring about 2” of water to the simmer point (around 200°F). Maintain the water at this simmer point over medium-low heat. In the top of the double boiler, melt the butter and then add the sugar and cocoa powder.  Stir to combine ingredients.  Whisk in the egg.  Stir until mixture thickens.  Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts.  Press mixture into prepared pan.  Cool in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

Filling:  In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter and whipping cream together.  Add the vanilla.  Blend in the custard powder followed by the icing sugar, beating until mixture is smooth.  If mixture appears too stiff, add 1-2 teaspoons whipping cream and beat mixture well to combine (note, however, that mixture should not be soupy).  Spread evenly over cooled base.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours.

Topping:  In small saucepan, over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring to mix.  Spread evenly over chilled filling.  Refrigerate to set chocolate, approximately 30 minutes.  Use a sharp, flat blade knife to cut into squares.

Refrigerate bars in single layer in airtight container for up to 5 days or, for longer storage, freeze in airtight container.

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

 

Nanaimo Bars

Decadent no-bake Nanaimo Bars consist of three layers of a velvety custard filling sandwiched in between a chocolate-coconut-nut base and rich chocolate ganache topping
Course Dessert
Keyword Nanaimo Bars
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

Base:

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 extra-large egg room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup chopped toasted pecans

Filling:

  • ½ cup butter softened at room temperature
  • tbsp whipping cream 35%
  • tbsp vanilla custard powder
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar aka powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar

Topping:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp butter softened at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Line 9” square pan with parchment paper leaving enough overhang to easily lift finished square from pan for cutting.

Base: In bottom of double boiler, bring about 2” of water to the simmer point (around 200°F). Maintain the water at this simmer point over medium-low heat. In the top of the double boiler, melt the butter and then add the sugar and cocoa powder. Stir to combine ingredients. Whisk in the egg. Stir until mixture thickens. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press mixture into prepared pan. Cool in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

    Filling: In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter and whipping cream together. Add the vanilla. Blend in the custard powder followed by the icing sugar, beating until mixture is smooth. If mixture appears too stiff, add 1-2 teaspoons whipping cream and beat mixture well to combine (note, however, that mixture should not be soupy). Spread evenly over cooled base. Refrigerate 1-2 hours.

      Topping: In small saucepan, over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring to mix. Spread evenly over chilled filling. Refrigerate to set chocolate, approximately 30 minutes. Use a sharp, flat blade knife to cut into squares.

      1. Refrigerate bars in single layer in airtight container for up to 5 days or, for longer storage, freeze in airtight container.

      Recipe Notes

      Yield:  1 - 9"x9" pan, approximately 25 squares

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      Nanaimo Bars
      Classic Nanaimo Bars