I Baked: Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo 5

Don't worry, I don't know how to pronounce it either, but I have to give credit where credit is due for this one. A big thanks to Mr. Hal Oral for finding this recipe, asking me to make it, while all he has to do is show up and eat it. A tough, tough job it is being my friend. But I digress. 

These bars are a traditional Canadian dessert made up of three scrumptious layers: graham crackers, chocolate, sugar, coconut, walnuts and/or pecans on the bottom, buttercream in the middle, and a nice layer of chocolate ganache on top. Mmmm. These treats (called N.B.'s for short) come from the town of Nanaimo, British Columbia, and were created by a woman who entered a chocolate squares contest. Needless to say, she won the contest – and if you make these, you will understand why. They're DIVINE; sweet, chocolatey and just a hint of coconut. Even though it's somewhat of a time consuming process (despite the fact that you don't have to bake them), it's definitely worth every step, or in this case, every layer. 

I got this recipe (or Hal did) from thejoyofbaking.com. I tweaked it slightly, but it's basically the same. I added a bit of heavy cream to the chocolate ganache (to thin it out a little), added more cream to the buttercream mixture (it was too thick to spread with the measurements they gave), and used both walnuts and pecans for the nuts (they only use one). And if I had to make this recipe again, which I'm sure I will, I would consider adding some more butter or liquid of some kind to the bottom layer – it was fine, but a little crumbly. Also note the brand of chocolate I used – I recommend a high quality chocolate for this. ENJOY!  


  Nanaimo choc

Nanaimo Bars

 Bottom Layer:

 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter – room temperature

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (Skinny Pig Note: I used Scharffen Berger unsweetened cocoa)

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (Skinny Pig Note: I used Nabisco Grahams)

1 cup coconut (Skinny Pig Note: either sweetened or unsweetened, I used unsweetened organic coconut flakes)

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (Skinny Pig Note: I used 1/4 cup pecans, 1/4 cup walnuts)


Middle Layer:

1/4 cup unsalted butter – room temperature

2 – 3 tablespoons milk or cream (Skinny Pig Note: I used about 4 tbsps)

2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (Bird's) or vanilla pudding powder (Skinny Pig Note: I used vanilla pudding powder and it was dandy)

2 cups powdered sugar (confectioners or icing) sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Top Layer:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (Skinny Pig Note: I used Scharffen Berger Semi-sweet 72% Cacao)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tbsp heavy cream (Skinny Pig Note: this was my addition)


Butter or spray a 9×9 inch (23 x 23 cm) pan with a non stick vegetable spray. Skinny Pig Note: Pam works just fine. 

Bottom Layer:  In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Skinny Pig Note: IMPORTANT – very slowly in a steady stream stir in the beaten egg, otherwise you will have chocolate scrambled eggs, and believe me, no one wants that. Cook, stirring smoothly and constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 – 2 minutes).  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Skinny Pig Note: this mixture, as I mentioned previously, is a bit crumbly. Feel free to add a bit more butter to this. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan.  Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Nanaimo Bottom Mix

Middle Layer: In your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add remaining ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth. Skinny Pig Note: Don't give up on the mixing – it will be crumbly at first, but if you keep mixing on a med-high speed, it will turn into a rich, smooth buttercream. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk. Skinny Pig Note: I added an extra 2 tbsps of heavy cream. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 mins).

Nanaimo Buttercream
Mmm buttercream…

Top Layer:  In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Skinny Pig Note: Add the heavy cream after the chocolate is melted and stir in. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

Nanaimo Melted choc
Look how beautious…

Nanaimo Top Layer 2

To Serve:  To prevent the chocolate from cracking, using a sharp knife, bring the squares to room temperature before cutting. Skinny Pig Note: Dip sharp knife in hot water too – this helps prevent cracking. 

Yield: Makes about 25 squares

Read more:http://www.joyofbaking.com/NanaimoBars.html#ixzz17a4It4k8



One Comment

  1. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

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