In my last post I wrote about my Mmm…Canada, savoury submission, Montreal Bagels. Today it’s all about the sweet things in life.
The Mmmm…Canada event is being held to coincide with Canada Day on July 1st. I am both a Canuck and a lover of food so there was no arm twisting required to get me to take part. The Cardamom Addict is handling all things savoury while The Domestic Goddess is looking after the sweet side of Canadian life. The idea behind the event is for a bunch of Canucks, and honourary Canucks, to present delectable submissions of either the sweet or savoury variety that are quintessentially Canadian. Given my love of food I decided to do both. Yesterday it was all about Montreal Bagels for my savoury submission. Today, it’s all about the sweet stuff: Nanaimo Bars.
The history that I remember about Nanaimo Bars is that they were the winning submission made by a Nanaimo (British Columbia) housewife in the 50′s, in response to a dessert bar contest. Or something along those lines. They are ubiquitous in Canada. There isn’t a single grocery store that doesn’t carry a mass-produced version – homemade is always best, of course. They are so popular in fact that I’d be surprised if mine were the only submission in this event. Nanaimo Bars are a three layer bar style dessert. The bottom layer is a chocolatey, nutty, coconut graham crumb base. This is topped with a vanilla custard-like buttercream layer. Finally, it is topped with a chocolate glaze layer. Voila, Nanaimo Bars.
Since I was really short on time, Nanaimo Bars were the perfect choice for this project. They are e-a-s-y to make, no baking required. All they need is a little chilling and before you know it you’re enjoying a diabolically sweet treat. And I mean diabolical. If you have a sweet tooth, this is your dream come true.
Warning: Nanaimo Bars are dangerous to have around. Resistance is futile.
Actually, I was rather cross with hubby yesterday. I had given him very specific instructions to take the entire batch of Nanaimo Bars to work with him for sharing. Imagine my chagrin when I opened the fridge and found them all there. Calling me. What ensued was a torturous exercise in temptation and will power. I was most displeased.
I found a recipe that had originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun newspaper and set about veganizing it. Nanaimo Bars are a cinch to veganize. Earth Balance (vegan buttery margarine) replaces butter, flax meal and water replace egg, plain soy milk replaces milk. This is my adapted recipe:
1/2 cup earth balance (or other vegan margarine)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tbsp flax meal
3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups crushed graham crackers or crumbs
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup earth balance (or other vegan margarine)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder *
3 tbsp plain soy milk
* easy to find in Canada but sometimes difficult to find in the U.S. – instant vanilla pudding powder can be substituted.
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 tbsp earth balance (or other vegan margarine)
- To make bottom layer: Grease a 9-inch square cake pan. I lined the bottom with parchment that stuck out the top so I could lift everything out after – this makes cutting the bars easier (I didn’t want to scratch up my nice pan)
- In a small bowl, beat flax meal and water together until frothy, set aside.
- In a sauce pan over low heat, combine 1/2 cup earth balance, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla . Add flax mixture and stir constantly until mixture thickens.
- Add graham crackers crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts, stirring to combine.
- Press the mixture into the greased pan.
- To make middle layer: In a large bowl, beat together 1/4 cup earth balance, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla custard powder, and soy milk until creamy.
- Spread custard mixture over graham cracker base in pan. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
- To make top layer: Melt semi-sweet chocolate and 1 tbsp earth balance. Pour over chilled bars and spread over top. Return to refrigerator to chill until firm (at least 1 hour).
- I recommend checking in on the squares after maybe ten minutes of this final chilling phase – or as soon as the chocolate topping begins to set a bit enough to score. While it’s still soft, score just the top chocolate layer with the lines you will cut along later. This way you will be able to cut the squares cleanly afterward when the chocolate is fully set, without cracking the tops (like I did).
- Serves 9-16, depending on how you divide them.
Here’s to wishing you a sweet Canada Day!
Since we’re a bit early, promise to check back on July 1st and click on the Mmm…Canada logo at the top of this post which will take you to The Domestic Goddess’ sweet Canadian roundup.