Recipe: Nanaimo Bars

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This distinctly Canadian treat can be found on Christmas cookie platters from Vancouver island to the Maritimes. This recipe is from by Joyce Hardcastle, the winner of a contest run in the Nanaimo newspaper in the 1980s, and which became the "official" recipe for the bars. The original recipe calls for a 8x8 pan, but I used a 9x13 to yield more bars of a slightly thinner variety. For peanut butter, mint, and cappuccino varieties, see this site. The bars keep well in the fridge for at least two weeks, and indefinitely in the freezer. They're best served a little on the cold side.

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Photo by Jennifer Ward Barber/freshcrackedpepper.com

For the bottom layer:
    • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
    • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds
    • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

Combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in a double boiler and heat until melted. Very slowly, drizzle the hot mixture into the beaten egg, whisking constantly until thickened. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, and coconut. Press the mixture firmly into an ungreased nine-by-13-inch baking pan.

For the middle layer:
    • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
    • 3 tablespoons half and half or heavy cream
    • 2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding powder
    • 2 cups powdered (icing) sugar

Cream together all the ingredients until light. Spread over bottom layer with a spatula.

For the top layer:
    • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (in chip or square form)
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring frequently over low heat until thoroughly melted. Let cool slightly. When cooler but still liquid, pour over middle layer and spread to cover. Chill in refrigerator until set, for an hour or longer. Using a knife dipped in hot water, cut into small squares (they are very rich!). For perfect presentation, dip the pan briefly in hot water, put a large plate over top and flip the squares over. Flip again using a second plate, and then cut into squares.

To read Jennifer Ward's post on the Nanaimo Bar's place in Canadian cuisine, click here for the story.

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Jennifer Ward Barber is an intern at TheAtlantic.com, where she helps produce the Atlantic Food Channel. Follow her on Twitter, or visit her site, Fresh Cracked Pepper, where she writes about food, life, and triathlon. More

Originally from Canada, Jennifer moved to the U.S. to study journalism at Syracuse University. She graduated with her MA from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in June of 2009.
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