Who would have guessed?
A little Vancouver Island dessert is winning a gold medal at the Olympics. It’s even getting international coverage. (See here and here.)
We Canadians get pretty chuffed when international papers take notice of our humble food culture. You see, we don’t have a unified food culture: we are a country of immigrants and first nations. Our food traditions have roots around the world that sprout into Canadian classics: pierogies, tortière, smoked salmon, poutine and butter tarts to name a few.
But it’s the Nanaimo bar that’s taking the international press by storm!
The Nanaimo bar was created in Nanaimo, a small city on Vancouver Island, in about the 1950s. Apparently, it signified a baking revolution because it called for store-bought cookie crumbs. (Oh, the scandal!)
You might think that would make this recipe extremely simple. Well, it’s not hard, but it does take time for each layer to set.
Traditionally, it has three layers: a coconuty chocolate base, a custard icing, and a soft chocolate top.
But I think the Winter Olympics call for mint. I give you: Olympic Nanaimo bars.
They go well with snowboard cross, curling, ice dancing, hockey . . . whichever Olympic sport you want to watch.
I’ve adapted this recipe from Canadian Living Magazine. If you’d like to see the original, it’s here.
Go, Canada, Go!
Note 1: You can use either regular or gluten-free chocolate cookies. If you use gluten-free cookies, this is a gluten-free recipe. I used these and they worked well.
Note 2: If you’d like to make the bars nut-free, use an extra 1/3 cup of coconut.
olympic nanaimo bars
makes about 20 bars
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 tbsp. white sugar
1 tbsp. cocoa
1/3 c. coconut
1/3 c. pecans or walnuts
1 1/2 c. chocolate cookie crumbs
3 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tbsp. milk
1/2 – 1 tsp. peppermint extract (depending on your desire for minty strength)
2 c. icing or powdered sugar
1-2 drops green food colouring (optional)
4 oz. (125 g.) semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
preparing the base
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Cut 1-2 inch diagonal slits in each of the corners to help it sit more snugly. (Although mine never really sits perfectly.)
In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together. Make sure the mixture isn’t too hot – you don’t want to cook the egg – and beat in the egg. Stir in cocoa and mix well. Stir in the coconut, nuts and chocolate cookie crumbs.
Press into the prepared pan. Bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack.
Once it has cooled, pull it off the parchment paper and set the base on a plate or back in the pan.
preparing the filling
Stir the melted butter, milk and peppermint extract together. Beat in the icing sugar till smooth. Add the food colouring one drop at a time – you don’t want to scare people with a super-intense green!
Spread on the cooled base. Refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.
preparing the topping
Melt the chocolate with the butter in a double-boiler or a metal bowl suspended above simmering water. (You may be tempted to add a drop of peppermint extract here. DON’T DO IT! The alcohol could make the chocolate go funny.)
Spread over the set filling. Let sit for 5 minutes. With a butter knife, score the top to form as many bars as you’d like (about 20). Refrigerate till set. Cut into bars.