Growing up, I had no idea that delicious nanaimo bars were a regional thing. Any big group or community event in my area had basically the same menu: fresh salmon cooked over a fire, green salad, potato salad, a bun, and nanaimo bars for dessert. It was only later in life after moving around as an adult that I realized that a) the bars are named for the city of Nanaimo and b) really only well known to people from that area.
(Although oddly enough Wikipedia says they’re also sold “at some small coffee shops along the Mekong River” which is mind-blowing.)
So when I had some Americans in my house over Labour Day weekend I knew what I had to do: spread the word about these amazing dessert treats. I hadn’t made my own nanaimo bars in 20 years, so I decided not to reinvent the wheel and just work off a recipe, specifically this recipe from the site Joy of Baking. I chose it because I liked how it had more of the bottom layer and less of the middle layer. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, so I didn’t want to go overboard on the icing sugar.
This recipe has no baking, which is great. It does require a lot of time, particularly as the bottom and middle layer have to chill, and unless you happen to have a bunch of the ingredients sitting around already it can be quite expensive.
I found this recipe worked great with one exception: the bottom layer was a little too dry and crumbly. It was also quite dense, possibly in part because when I press something into a pan I can get a little carried away, but I quite liked the denseness with the sweet top layers. Next time I would add a tablespoon or two more cream, or water, or even cold coffee.
Otherwise, I have no complaints! I followed the recipe to the letter and the bars came out great. I was fortunate enough to have pecans fresh from a Southern relative for the bottom later, which I think helped a lot with the flavor.
My American guests were thrilled with the results, and I rested easy knowing that I had helped spread the gospel of nanaimo bars to the rest of the world.