The recipe presented here is based on the “Ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe” by Joyce Hardcastle printed in the TourismNanaimo Brochure of the region. You can find this on this weblink http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/visitors/NanaimoBars.html. There you go, attribution and share alike – swapping recipes is such a good example of Open Source in action. Oh! and Nanaimo is a smallish city on Vancouver Island in Canada, just in case you were wondering “Where the …… is Nanaimo?”
Because I tend not to cook sweet things and cakes (despite the impression you might get from the other recipes on this website) I followed this recipe unusually closely. But, this is a Canadian Recipe and calls for Canadian ingredients that are not available here in New Zealand, so I had to modify the recipe a little to suit what was available. The final results were pretty much bang on what I had tasted at “Serious Coffee” when I visited Nanaimo. Serious Coffee is a coffee shop which is part of the “Nanaimo Bar Trail”.
I will say though that as I was making it I was HORRIFIED what goes into them. Basically what is not fat is sugar. These things are really really really bad. Not that it stopped me eating most of them after they were made – my Partner was wiser and wished to maintain her svelte figure…she took a tub of these to her work and gave them to her colleagues who were apparently less concerned about their svelteness. The feedback from them was good. After making (and consuming these) we started looking for ways of creating a much more healthy Nanaimo Bar – which would obviously not be a Nanaimo Bar anymore, but still, the inspiration was there. We found a bunch of recipes where others had attempted this, but have yet to make up a batch ourselves. This is briefly introduced at the bottom of this page.
Here is the recipe for the not-particularly-healthy Nanaimo Bar as rendered using New Zealand ingredients, and here is a photo to prove it.
Yet another example of Hamish’s stunning cuisine photography. It even looks like the genuine article from Nanaimo!
Nanaimo Bar Recipe
The mildly healthy layer – compared to the rest that is.
- ½ cup unsalted butter (butter, cripes! Who uses that crappy stuff?)
- ¼ cup sugar (half a cup of sugar? OMG that’s more sugar than I use in a year….if you ignore the brewing of course.)
- 5 Tbsp. cocoa
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 cups Home Brand Round Tea Biscuit crumbs (Yep, as cheap and plain as I could go.)
- 1 cup shredded coconut. (Yikes! Do you know how bad coconut is? That’s a lot of 100% saturated fat.)
The original recipe called for Graham Wafers. Nobody has heard of them here, apart from my Canadian friend. Incidentally we found out via Wikipedia that the original Graham Wafer was developed by some weirdo called Sylvester Graham who was concerned about the “unhealthy carnal urges” of
the youth of the day everyone and developed these crackers to control lust. Hmmm, just as well the cream and chocolate will counter that. Maybe a bit of rum or whiskey should be added too just to make sure.
The original recipe also called for chopped almonds but we didn’t have any so we just added more Tea Biscuits instead. A possibility would be to add chopped sunflower seeds and start on the road towards healthiness.
OK, so you have your ingredients, here is what to do with them. First melt the butter together with the cocoa and sugar in the microwave on low. Once melted add the egg and stir to cook and break up. Remove this from the heat and stir in the biscuits which you have crushed with a pestle and mortar and add the coconut. At this point you could add the sunflower seeds if you are using them. Press this nice mass of warm unhealthiness into an ungreased tin or casserole dish top. I used a 180mm x 250mm Pyrex casserole dish top and that worked well.
The not at all healthy layer
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp. and 2 tsp. cream
- 2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
- 2 cups icing sugar (that’s more icing sugar than I have used in my entire life!)
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
Cream the butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. The original recipe says “spread over bottom” but does not elaborate on whose. If, having done that you still have some left over, spread it over the fudge base.
The other not healthy layer.
- 120g of fair trade chocolate or 120g of 72% cocoa dark Ghana Whittaker’s chocolate. You know the real stuff made with real cocoa rather than that denatured crap that Nestle / Cadbury sell.
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave on low and allow to cool. While it still has some ability to be spread, pour it over the second layer and then chill it in the refrigerator. Score it into slice size bits before it cools too much.
That was pretty much it. It was incredibly dangerous to eat.
Healthier Options for Nanaimo Bars
At this time I have not attempted to make a healthier rendition of the Nanaimo Bar but given the shear amount of badness in the recipe above, it should not be much of a challenge.
We did look around to see what other “Healthy Nanaimo Bars” people had developed, and found quite a few. …some of them quite amusing.
Quite of few of the “Healthy” Nanaimo Bars we found made use of Coconut Oil and other Coconut products as a substitute for the butter and such in the mistaken belief that it is healthier. Coconut Oil, Coconut butter etc are even worse for you that dairy being pretty much 100% saturated fat.
We found a “Raw Nanaimo Bar” recipe which is vegan, gluten free, dairy free, raw, grain free. You can find it here: www.damyhealth.com. So what does it have in it? Coconut oil and lots of it. I don’t know if fat vegans exist, so its probably not a problem for them to eat something like this.
Another called “Healthy Nanaimo Bars” by Homemadehearts went somewhat easier on the coconut oil but makes use of coconut flour. It also makes use of heaps of dates as a sweetener and binder which seems like a good solution for making the base.
The one that amused us most was the “Lentil-Spiked Nanaimo Bars (Gluten-Free + Vegan)” by Sondi Bruner. They created the recipe as their entry into the Canadian Lentils “lentil recipe contest”. Incidentally they have some other interesting recipes on their site for those looking for a health food adventure: Chocolate Kale Brownies, or Maple Butternut Squash Smoothies? While the recipe still has coconut oil in it, it appears to be a fairly minor addition (at least compared to the other recipes).
As for my own attempt, that has yet to happen, but I feel the most appropriate method will be something vaguely similar to a chocolate capped custard square with a date and tea biscuit fudge base. For the first attempt we’ll leave out the lentils, but I am intrigued by this …. maybe I can work in some kale too? No maybe not.
Update. You can find our Moderately Healthier Nanaimo Bar Recipe described here.