When I was a kid my favourite nanaimo bars were the peanut butter ones. (Well, who are we kidding - not much has changed since this time in my life, including my nanaimo bar preference.)
My mom, every Christmas, made the normal nanaimo bars AND the peanut butter nanaimo bars to ensure that everyone was totally content and well nanaimo-ed. Really, she should earn mother of the year.
(We were so terrible as kids: every Friday night was pizza night, and I didn't like one brand of take-out pizza, the one my sister liked, and my sister didn't like the brand of take-out pizza that I liked, so we ordered from two different pizza places. Every Friday. I look back and wonder how she stayed sane.)
Well, a few years ago I shared my family's nanaimo bar recipe. And this year... drum roll pleazeeee...
PEANUT BUTTER NANAIMO BARS!
Let's take a step back. What are nanaimo bars?
They're a traditionally Canadian treat, from Nanaimo, Canada. The bottom layer is cocoa, coconut, pecan, and graham cracker crumb. The middle layer is butter, custard powder, and sugar. The final layer is dark chocolate. They're, with no doubt, the most delicious cookie that you will ever taste. In your entire life. It's a fact. I promise. BUT! I have seen and tasted terrible looking nanaimo bars at cafes... nanaimo bars that are about 5 inches thick and oozing with off-coloured cream. Really, it's a travesty. The way to go is definitely to make your own. It can take a bit of time, but the process isn't too too complicated, and it makes a ton! They are perfect for sharing at Christmastime. PLUS! You can customize them by altering the cream filling... today we are adding peanut butter, but add in mint extract for a mint-chocolate nanaimo bar, a touch of cocoa powder for a double-chocolate nanaimo bar, or even Bailey's liquor for an adult version of the nanaimo bar... I'm sure it's perfect if you have kids running around who were like me when I was small.
Peanut butter nanaimo bars - what you need:
For the base:
- 1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 egg, whisked
For the filling:
- 6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 heaping tablespoon custard powder (in my family we use Bird's)
For the top:
- 115 grams of dark baking chocolate (4 squares of baking chocolate)
- 2 tablespoons butter (or margarine)
Peanut butter nanaimo bars - what you do:
For the base:
In a bowl, combine the coconut, graham cracker crumbs, and pecans. Set aside.
Melt the butter in top of a double boiler. Add the cocoa powder and sugar. Mix well. Remove from the heat. Slowly mix in the egg. Add the butter mixture to the coconut mixture and combine well.
Put in 8" x 12" pan and pat firmly. Place in fridge to set.
For the filling:
Cream together all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Smooth over the base layer, and then chill in the fridge to set.
For the top:
Over a double boiler, melt together the chocolate and butter. Smooth over the cream layer. Chill in the fridge to set.
Between each layer allow 2-4 hours of chilling time. This can be greatly extended if you only have a few minutes each day to work on the nanaimo bars.
Allow the bars to soften at room temperature a bit before cutting the nanaimo bars into squares. This will prevent the top coat of chocolate from cracking.
Nanaimo bars can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for two weeks, or in the freezer for a few months. I didn't read this anywhere, but this is the way we've done it in my family since forever, and it's worked out perfectly!
I've never tried making a vegan version, but there is only one egg used in this recipe, and it's for binding purposes. I imagine if you substitute a flax egg it would have the same effect. After, you can easily use margarine and non-dairy milk to vegan-ize these treats. The traditional Bird's custard powder is vegan, (be careful! The low-fat varieties are not vegan), and certain types of graham crackers, like Nabisco, are vegan!
Check out the standard nanaimo bar recipe for the traditional version!
It depends how small you cut the nanaimo bars, but this recipe should make around 2 dozen. My mom always cuts them small because she understands that our family knows not self-control when it comes to these delicious treats.
The bottom is compact, but still soft. It blends perfectly into the super creamy and delicious center. The top coat cracks slightly as you bite into it. The combination is perfect. I get over-excited every Christmas because of these cookies for a very good reason!
This is my second year making my mom's nanaimo bar recipe, and I'm still not yet at her level... but very soon I'll be traveling to Montreal and NYC for the holidays... so hopefully she will have packed some of her elite nanaimo bars in her suitcase for us all!
I have a feeling it will be a while before another BAKECETERA post, so Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Years! I wish the best to everyone, thanks for reading and making my 2014 a little bit brighter!!
Baking soundtrack - tunes to inspire your inner baker:
Mr. Faker has appeared often on BAKECETERA, but he's one of my ultimate favourites, and I typically have him on for hours at a time while I stress-thesis-write.