treat someone: nanaimo bars from our friends up north

Oh my goodness.  Bake these bars and share them for lots of love.  The first time I tried a nanaimo bar was in the cute little town of Jasper in Alberta, Canada on our 25th anniversary family trip to the Canadian Rockies.  When you are hiking or biking at altitude 4-6 hours a day, you can eat whatever you want. So when we went into town to the very delicious Bears Paw Bakery and the Other Paw Bakery to get sandwiches and treats to pack for the day we grabbed some of these crazy good bars.  Yum.  Do just that too, don't just go to Banff (pretty up on the trails, but crowded), be sure to stay in Jasper too (more breathing room).  Hike Mt Edith Clavell for the most amazing views as you pass hanging glaciers, through the alpine and up above the tree line.  One of my favorite days ever.

These are classic Canadian and Pacific Northwest no-bake, triple-layered confections from Nanaimo (pronounced Na Ny Mo), a city on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.  I really need to make the trip to Van City, birthplace of lululemon and home to the lululemon lab.  We've ventured just briefly to BC to whitewater raft in glacial waters (as cold as it sounds even on a 90 plus degree day in August), but never made it to Vancouver and Whistler.  It will happen.

I made a double batch for the Purdue v Notre Dame night game tailgate.  The leftovers had to go to lulu.  I can not spin, walk, yoga, tennis or etc. enough to eat half a pan by myself and I was quickly headed in that direction.  So good.  Everyone at work wanted to know what was in them and the quick answer is butter, lots of butter.

nanaimo bars day 2

Nanaimo Bars

bottom layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 C unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-process is good)
1/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 C finely crushed graham crackers (one sleeve or 9 whole crackers)
1/2 C almond meal or almond flour (or finely chopped almonds)
1 C shredded coconut (I use organic unsweetened)

creamy middle layer
1/2 C butter, very soft
3 T vanilla flavor pudding mix (I had sugar free)
2 C powdered sugar
1 T milk or cream
1/4 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

top ganache layer
1 C semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
1 T vegetable shortening (Spectrum organic is good), optional

Butter an 8x8 pan and line with foil.  Set aside.  Melt the butter in a medium bowl (glass measuring bowl in microwave works for me) and whisk in cocoa, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth.  Add crushed graham crackers, almond meal/flour and coconut and stir to combine.  (You can do what I do and process the graham crackers in your food processor and then add the other base layer ingredients and pulse until combined).  Firmly press crumbs into prepared pan.

For the filling, either clean out your food processor or use a mixer to blend the butter, pudding powder and powdered sugar together until fluffy.  Add vanilla, salt and 1 tablespoon of milk until smooth and spreadable.  Add more milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time to get desired thickness.  (I barely need 1 tsp of milk total).  Drop by big spoonfuls across base layer.  Spread evenly with and offset spatula.

double batch with cream filling before spreading (camera battery was dying)
In a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate (and vegetable shortening if using) and stir until smooth.  Pour chocolate over top of the filling and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly across the bars.

Refrigerate or freeze for several hours until firm.  Slice into squares.  You might score them about 10 min after chocolate sets to help get clean lines of chocolate.  Store in the refrigerator.


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