Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Nanaimo bars

Canada is responsible for so many of my favourite things - maple syrup, Neil Young, Alice Munro, Anne of Green Gables... it's got the best flag, wonderful place names (Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland...), two languages and these biscuity-cheesecakey-chocolatey squares, named after a town in British Columbia.

Traditionally, Nanaimo bars are a no-bake affair but this recipe, which I discovered on a Canadian food blog, calls for a tiny bit of oven time and takes a few liberties with ingredients. The end result is well worth it - a chewy, nutty biscuit-base wrapped in the aroma of toasted coconut, a robust, lightly sweet cheesecake filling and a rich, skating-rink-smooth layer of dark chocolate ganache to top it all off. What else is there to say? O Canada.

Nanaimo bars
Adapted from Seven Spoons

Weigh the cookies first then stick them in a ziplock (or tied-tight plastic) bag and take out all your aggression with a rolling pin by smashing them into crumbs. Just as satisfying is knowing Nanaimo bars freeze brilliantly and taste just as good straight from the freezer (no need to even defrost) as they do freshly made.

1 1/2 cup (5 oz) chocolate cookie crumbs (I used Arnott's Choc Ripple)
1/2 cup unsweetened dried, shredded coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
8 tablespoons (4 oz) butter, melted
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons sugar
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespons firmly-packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
7 oz dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil or baking paper, ensuring there is some overhang on two opposing sides (for you to be able to lift the baked whole out before cutting it into squares).

Mix the crumbs, coconut, pecans, butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar and pat it very firmly into the lined pan. Bake the crust for 10-12 minutes, or until it looks slighly darker at the edges and smells toasted.

While the crust is baking, mix the filling. In a large bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of the remaining sugar until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and then the egg. When the crust is baked, dollop the fillling onto the hot crust and spread gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the bars until the edges are slightly puffed, about 10 minutes. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Dissolve the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in the cream. Combine with chocolate in a double-boiler or in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Let sit for 5 minutes then whisk til smooth. Set aside.

Pour the warm chocolate mixture on top of the chilled cheesecake layer, spread, and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Lift the bars out of the pan by using the edges of the foil or baking paper. Cut into 16 or 25 squares, wiping the knife between cuts. 

Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.


  1. God, that looks amazing Alice! Ames

  2. I know from experience these Nanaimo bars are completely awesome.

  3. i agree Alice - straight from the freezer is a great way to eat these!