Wow. So simple yet so utterly delicious. This was one of my favorite Daring Baker's challenges for three important reasons -- 1) I didn't lose sleep over it 2) I didn't almost destroy my kitchen in the process of making it, and 3) it was super delicious.
This month we made Nanaimo Bars, a classic Canadian dessert created in Nanaimo, British Colombia. The bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate.
We had the option to make gluten-free graham crackers, but I stuck to original (flour) graham crackers (sorry, I forgot to take pictures of them). I wanted to make these desserts for the BF's birthday, and since he is a peanut butter fanatic, I swapped the traditional vanilla flavored custard for a peanut butter layer. I also swapped the almonds in the bottom layer for salted peanuts, and replaced some of the butter with peanut oil.
And OMG. The result was amazing: a bottom chewy yet crunchy layer of chocolatey goodness, a creamy and sweet peanut butter filling, and a hard chocolate shell on top -- AMAZING. Initially, I thought these bars were going to be just like the many American dessert bar recipes that I do love, but have tried several times. But no -- they were really different. The coconut in the bottom layer really added to taste and texture of these bars, making them very different than other bar recipes I've had. The addition of the peanut oil really added a lot of peanut flavor to this recipe, but of course can be replaced with butter.
The original recipe can be found on Lauren's lovely (and gluten-free) blog. Below is my peanut butter version.
Peanut-Butter Nanaimo Bars (loosely adapted from here)
- 1/4 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
- 1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) shredded sweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped baking chocolate
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, oil, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream together peanut butter, butter, and oil until smooth well. Add the cornstarch and continue creaming. Gradually add half of the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time until smooth. Add vanilla. Continue adding sugar and milk, alternating 2 tablespoons at a time of each. Spread over bottom layer. Spreading this will be a bit difficult at first, since the mixture is very sticky. I let the mixture sit for a while and used a offset spatula to spread it.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.