Sunday 18 January 2015

Nanaimo Bars

A few months back, a colleague and fellow canuck announced the happy arrival of twin nephews, both born in the area of Nanaimo. This had given him a hankering for Nanaimo bars, so he asked me if I knew any place here in Edinburgh that sold them. Not wanting to immediately confess I had not heard of them, I quickly googled them and determined that I had not, in fact, ever seen them here...nor did I recall ever tasting them. I am obviously not Canadian enough. My husband has had to correct my pronunciation of these several times and I still don't even know how to say it.

My curiosity was piqued, and they looked simple, so I offered to make some for him and they were well received by him(as were the off-cuts by my family). I even got good quality loose leaf tea in payment, always welcome in my house.

Several months later, he has asked to commission another batch, so I have agreed once more in hopes of restocking my tea shelf.

Of course, this time I didn't manage to do things like measure out ingredients or source everything ahead of time, because I'm stupid like that. Our kitchen is in a bit of a state at the moment due to the recent replacement of our broken boiler, a happy event that unfortunately resulted in the destruction of three kitchen cupboards. You never know just how much stuff you manage to cram into a small space until you have to empty it and find it a new temporary home. Think clown cars at the circus, or perhaps Mary Poppins' bag. Right now the temporary home of all the clutter is the kitchen worktop, and the containers, dishes, and gadgets are precariously balanced and leaning against our hot water tank, threatening to fall into the gap never to be seen again except by the creatures that live in tenement walls.

I had very little space to cook on, so rather than crushing digestive biscuits and then measuring them, and grinding up nuts and then measuring them, I just roughly guessed and threw them into a food processor with some coconut. Oh, shredded coconut of North America (and elsewhere, no doubt) how I miss you. Desiccated coconut is all that can be found here (unless I want to pay £10 a bag or so at Lupe Pintos) and it is a poor imitation of its saturated cousin.

This is what it looked like after a bit of pulsing. The recipe had asked for chopped almonds, but I didn't have any, so hazelnuts were used instead as I still have a massive bag in my cupboard from a care package sent by my mother.

I then turned to melting butter and stuff together. Normally I'd do this in my microwave, but the wiring by the microwave isn't working right now. Our wiring is very important to someone, and they have put us in a queue and will give us a representative as soon as possible to fix it. Of course, I could always just ask again at another time.

Here we had a nice smoothish mixture and two small children magically appeared, asking if what was I making and if they could have some now and if not now when I was done and could they have the spoon please.

Is that chocolate, mummy? Can I help? What's that? Are you adding an egg?

Once the egg was added in, it came off the heat and the other stuff got added.

It then looked like this, and something felt different but I was trying too hard not to shout to be able to stop and figure out what looked wrong and why.

Only did I later realise, after I had put this in the fridge, what I had forgotten. I'll leave you in suspense for now.

At this point, mixing spoons were distributed and there was a brief moment of silence.

On to the next layer! It asked for regular cream and I didn't have any, but I did have sour cream, so I added a mixture of sour cream and milk. If it's good enough for other icing, it's good enough for these, I thought. Enough icing sugar (2 cups) should be able to hide the difference, I figured. The important part, the tasty fatty fats, would still be in it. I also put in Bird's custard powder (invented by a man whose wife was allergic to eggs) and butter.

And I got out the electric beaters to mix it as I felt like I needed some background noise to drown out my muttering.

You are supposed to spread it on in one pristine layer, so naturally mine looked like this. Why is the bottom layer so crumbly? I asked myself. And then I realised I had calculated incorrectly earlier. The recipe had asked for a half cup of butter in the bottom layer and I'd weighed out roughly 60 grams of butter. Unfortunately that is 1/4 cup, not 1/2 a cup, leading the the bottom layer being more crumby that it should be. Crumbs. The only thing to do now was push on.

On to more chocolate. And more butter. You might as well call these butter bars. Again, normally I'd do this bad baby in the nuke-o-matic, but today it was a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water.

I prefer the microwave as it's easier to abandon it if motherly duty calls, but it just wasn't meant to be.

Mmmm...Butter and chocolate...

I poured it on top, and put it in the fridge to set.

So when I took it out of the fridge it looked like this.

The long greaseproof layer meant it was easy to pull out for slicing.

And while the bottom layer does come apart from the top a bit, and I felt the dry coconut somewhat lacking, my husband assures me these are entirely edible.

Let's hope my colleague agrees.

Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Bottom Layer½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs/digestive biscuit crumbs
½ c. finely chopped hazelnuts
1 cup coconut 
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into a lined 8" x 8" pan.
Second Layer½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp sour cream and 2 Tsp. milk
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar
Cream butter, cream, milk, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
Third Layer4 oz dark chocolate
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
Once set, remove from tin and slice into bars. Store in fridge.

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