I’m starting to realize that I can’t do everything by hand. And I don’t mean that in the sense of handmade… but that sometimes, you just need machine power when baking. Case in point – these Nanaimo Bars.
When I was studying pastry in Vancouver, our course had us doing almost everything by hand. Whether that was whipping cream, or making meringue, there were few things that we did with our Kitchenaid mixers. One of the few things we did with a machine was an italian meringue – and I resigned myself to not making them while living in this tiny flat. (I also resigned myself to not making marshmallows while here, as it’s pretty much the same process.)
As I couldn’t bring my Kitchenaid mixer from Canada, and had no room to put one here even if I did, I didn’t bother to buy a hand mixer. Maybe it’s because once you go Kitchenaid you never go back? Or perhaps my hand mixing at school had made me cocky? Bah ha ha, you puny machines – look at the strength of my arms!!! Mwah ah ah…
But seriously – if I could whip cream by hand, and make meringues (just not italian), why did I need a hand mixer? Well folks, creaming butter, that’s why! It is easy to do when you’re just softening it for a cookie dough, but trying to incorporate air and make it fluffy?! My upper body strength has its limits. So the next time I need to make a fluffy layer, I may just review my aversion to hand mixers.
For anyone not already aware, Nanaimo bars are something from the West Coast of Canada (named after the city of Nanaimo). They are so ubiquitous that as a child I thought they were as common as chocolate chip cookies. It’s a crust of digestive/coconut/nut/chocolate, covered with a buttery custard layer, and topped with more chocolate. Normally the crust contains graham crackers, but over here I substituted with digestive biscuits.
I personally was never the biggest eater of Nanaimo bars, as I found them too sweet/rich as a child, but homesickness has crept in. Either than or my new Canadian coworker, lamenting the lack of these delectable bars, persuaded me to break out the ol’ wooden spoon.
Maybe you will too? Or do you have one of those fancy hand mixers?
- Base Layer:
- 0.5 cup unsalted butter
- 0.25 cup sugar
- 5 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1.25 cups graham cracker/digestive biscuit crumbs
- 0.5 cup finely chopped almonds
- 1 cup coconut
- Second Layer:
- 0.5 C unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp whipping cream
- 2 tbsp custard powder
- 2 C icing sugar
- Third Layer:
- 114g dark chocolate
- 30g unsalted butter
- Melt first three ingredients over a bain marie*.
- Add the egg, and stir until it has cooked and thickened.
- Remove from the heat, and stir in the crumbs, and nuts.
- Press firmly and evenly into the pan. Chill in the fridge while making the second layer.
- For the custard layer, cream together the butter, custard powder, and icing sugar, until light and fluffy.
- Add whipping cream, and whip until light. Spread over first layer, and chill until firm.
- For the chocolate topping, melt the butter and chocolate together over a bain marie, being careful not to overheat.
- Remove bowl from the heat, and allow to cool. Once cool, but still pourable, spread over the custard layer, and chill to set.
*Bain marie is a fancy way of saying hot water bath. It is used to describe cooking items in the oven surrounded by water (to ensure even cooking), or cooking items in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. In our case, it means the latter.