Let the Baking Begin!

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Food, Holidays
Tags: , , , , , ,

So, I know I went on and on about how much I dislike Black Friday. Personally, I really hate complaining and ranting, so I don’t want that to be the tone of my blog. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite holiday pastimes: baking!

Well,  I guess it’s not just baking. In fact, the thing I’m most famous for, Nanaimo bars, requires no use of the oven. Here’s the recipe my family has followed for quite a while now:

  1. Be sure to have these ingredients: butter, granulated sugar (white, not raw), cocoa powder, an egg, vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, unsweetened shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, heavy whipping cream, powdered vanilla custard, confectioner’s sugar, and semisweet baking chocolate. We’ll get to the measurements in a moment, but pretty much any package you buy of these ingredients will be enough.
  2. Be sure to have these tools: a 9×11 glass pan, wax paper, a double boiler, a mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, and a spatula. The pan doesn’t have to be glass, but I find that metal and Teflon pans are more susceptible to scratches. Other than not wanting to scratch me pan, I also don’t want flakes of Teflon or metal getting into my Nanaimo bars. Something tells me that’s not healthy. Also, if you don’t have a double boiler, that’s fine; you can use the microwave to do all the melting you need. But really, a double boiler is pretty freakin’ awesome, and you should get one if you want to be part of the cool kid crowd.
  3. In the double boiler, melt 1 full stick of butter (1/2 a cup) with 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, 5 tablespoons of cocoa powder, the egg, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (For Honey Maid, this equates to about two sealed packages; I recommend crushing the graham crackers in the packages for easy clean-up), 1 cup of coconut, and 1/2 a cup of chopped walnuts. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture and mix throughly.
  4. Once you mix the above ingredients thoroughly (you’ll know by how dark the cocoa powder has become and that none of it is still powdery), put them into a 9×11 pan. Don’t grease it. Instead, line it with wax paper. Pack the mixture tightly into the bottom of the pan. Put the pan aside until you need it again, which will be soon.
  5. Take another stick of butter (1/2 a cup), and melt it. Cream the melted butter with 3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of vanilla custard powder. When these three ingredients are smooth, add 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Mix these four ingredients until they are smooth and there are no lumps. Pour the mixture over the base that you packed tightly into the 9×11 pan. Chill for one hour.
  6. The final layer is really easy. In the double boiler, melt 4 squares of semisweet baker’s chocolate with 2 tablespoons of butter. I have made the mistake of over cooking this layer: DON’T DO THAT. If the chocolate mixture gets too clumpy, it’s overcooked. The mixture should be smooth and without any clumps.
  7. Pour the final layer of chocolate over the second layer (the one with the custard and confectioner’s sugar). Smooth it out and spread it over the edges so that is covers everything. Chill for one to two hours.
  8. Take the pan out of the freezer and put it on the counter. Warm a very sharp knife under very hot water. Dry it and begin to cut through the mixtures. If you think the knife is cooling (and it will after you cut one section), run it under hot water and dry it again. If the knife is not hot or sharp enough, it will shatter the top layer of chocolate and destroy the aesthetic you’re trying to get (i.e., a nonshattered facade). Be patient while cutting the mixture into bars. It will take about fifteen minutes to cut all of the bars. You can cut the bars any size you like, but keep in mind that they’re very rich. A bar of about 2×3 inches will be more than sufficient.

Now you have yourself a thoroughly Canadian treat! I’ve seen variations that include blueberries, raspberries, or even strawberries, and you’re welcome to try them out. I recommend including the berry layer between the custard and chocolate layers, but that’s me (maybe a cup or so in all). They’re delicious and (as you might guess) absolutely fattening. But, hey. It’s the holidays. Calories and fat don’t count until after January 1. Enjoy!


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