Canada’s Own…the ‘Nanaimo Bar’

Canadian cuisine varies widely from region to region. A cross-country culinary tour from the west coast to the east represents these diverse origins. Canadian cuisine is the fusion of modern culinary techniques and uniquely Canadian ingredients. Each Province and Territory has something to offer that is exclusively Canadian.

Starting on the west coast in British Columbia, we find a diverse type of cookery. It is in Nanaimo, British Columbia we find the home of the famous and uniquely Canadian dessert called the ‘Nanaimo Bar’. The chocolate slice of heaven as it is referred to, first became known in the 1930’s. It consists of a crumb-based layer, covered with buttery custard and topped with a soft chocolate. In 1985, Major Graeme Roberts of the City of Nanaimo ran a contest to find the greatest ‘Nanaimo Bar’ recipe. Local resident Joyce Hardcastle’s recipe won and has now become the legendary ‘Nanaimo Bar’. You can read all about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanaimo_bar . There are many versions of the recipe online but this is the official recipe courtesy of The Mayor’s Office, Nanaimo, BC http://www.nanaimo.ca/visitors/index_inside.asp?id=189

Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds
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 an ungreased 8″ x 8″ pan.

Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
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.

Chelsea Barr, Media Relations & Travel Trade Destination Nanaimo was extremely helpful with providing me with more current information regarding a new brochure titled the Nanaimo Bar Trail, that let’s the visitor indulge in a self-guided sugary adventure throughout Nanaimo where you can taste many versions of the Nanaimo Bar. The first stop is at the local Nanaimo Museum where you can learn first hand all about the bar’s history. Along the way are a series of stops that serve the Traditional Nanaimo Bar. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy what about; The Peanut Butter Nanaimo bar, Deep Fried Nanaimo Bar, Nanaimo Bar ice-cream, fudge or cheesecake. There is a bar for everyone including a Gluten Free Nanaimo Bar as well as a Vegan version. The brochures are available at the Tourism visitor centres

By the end of your tour you might be thirsty so why not sit down at the Modern Café http://www.themoderncafe.ca/ for a Nanaimo Bar Martini. Owner Scott Cooper says that, “I cannot take credit for the invention of the Nanaimo Bar Martini. The honour would go to one of the bartenders that work here; however, as the Nanaimo Bar Martini is a closely guarded secret, we cannot even divulge any history or give any credit to whom it is so richly deserved.” He did however tell me what the ingredients were in the Nanaimo Bar Martini: Vanilla Vodka, Crème de Cacao, Espresso and Coconut Syrup laced with Chocolate.

The Nanaimo Bar is truly a unique Canadian dessert and deserves a place as part of our culinary heritage. TREASURED RECIPES

Many thanks to: Chelsea Barr, Elizabeth Williams, Jan Kemp, & Scott Cooper for their help with this article and the photographs.

courtesy – Tempt Every Palate blog

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