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nanaimo bars

February 3, 2009

Nanaimo Bars are a uniquely Canadian sweet, kind of like the infamous butter tarts.  I love both Nanaimo Bars and butter tarts.  A lot.  These might just be our official national desserts. 

According to folklore, the original Nanaimo Bar recipe stemmed from a recipe submission by a “housewife” in Nanaimo British Columbia about 35 years ago.  The city of Nanaimo has an amusing write up about the Nanaimo Bar phenomenon.  Some Nanaimo civic employee has quite the wicked sense of humour to write that blurb. 

My parents moved to Vancouver Island about 12 years ago, and first settled in the city of Nanaimo.  I thought they should open a take-away stand in Nanaimo right at the ferry and called it The Nanaimo Bar.  My mother is an excellent baker and my dad could bird watch while she sold product.  Brilliant, huh?

Sadly, it never took.  But you can get Nanaimo Bars in Nanaimo, but it is harder than you might think.  I have been on a hunt for Nanaimo Bars there and nobody has taken up my awesome business idea.  Other than the grocery stores (yuck), you can get magnificent Nanaimo Bars in the Old City Quarter, at Bocca.  Known by the locals as Bocca on Fritz.

Or you can come over to my house and dig into the Nanaimo Bars that Ella made after school today:

nanaimobarNow, Ella and I critically reviewed these bars.  Ella did a fine job of putting them together (there’s no baking involved), but they had too much base.  And the base was kind of dry.  And there was not enough of the creamy middle stuff (icing sugar and custard powder).  And she would have doubled the chocolate topping if she had known that the recipe was so chintzy.  There’s no low-cal, low-fat version of the Nanaimo Bar.  You have to go WHOLE HOG, or go home. 

The recipe came from Best of Bridge.  It was good, but not fabulous, so I’m not going to type out the whole recipe.  I did enjoy cutting the pan into squares, and then eating the pieces that were not ‘even’. 

There is an art to the perfect Nanaimo Bars.  What’s your favourite Nanaimo Bar recipe?  Share it in the comments and Ella will try again.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2009 8:39 pm

    Those sound like my kind of Nanaimo bars… I like the base best. It must be the coconut.

    Zed has never made these for me before (I’m still waiting), but this is his mom’s recipe and the whole family swears by it, so here it is. Good luck in your hunt!


    Mix the following:

    1/2 cup unsalted butter
    3 tbsp cocoa
    1/4 cup granulated sugar

    Add to this…

    1 cup fine coconut
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts
    2 cups graham wafer crumbs
    1 tsp vanilla

    Add to this…

    1 egg well beaten
    Pinch of salt

    Spread flat on a cookie sheet
    Chill for 3-4 hours

    FILLING (in a separate bowl)

    2 cups icing sugar
    1/4 cup soft butter
    2 tbsp (heaping) custard powder
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 tbsp milk

    Mix all ingredients & spread on first layer


    2 sq sweetened baker’s chocolate, melted
    1 tbsp butter

    Spread over filling.
    Chill for 2 hours before serving.
    Cut in squares

  2. February 3, 2009 8:40 pm

    I always have good success with the Best of Bridge recipes and I’m surprised the base out scaled the middle and top by so much. Good thing to know, as I’ve always wanted to try my hand at homemade Nanaimo Bars and their recipe was high on the list.

    I couldn’t even imagine what a low-cal, low-fat version would end up like.

  3. February 3, 2009 9:34 pm

    Aha, Marianne – your recipe has some fixes – the crust is more spread out (on a baking sheet), and the egg would help with the dryness of the crust.

    Sounds like a winner…I will have Ella adjust accordingly…

  4. February 3, 2009 9:49 pm

    In my youth I made these a lot. For the BoB recipe I found that I would make the base, but put it in a 9 by 13 pan. Then double the middle. When it came to the chocolate I think I used 8 ounces of chocolate with a tablespoon or two of butter.

    In the end I like the Company’s Coming recipe a little bit better. I get disappointed when the middle isn’t that sweet. That recipe has a nice balance.

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