You guessed it – it’s another themed month! (cue the fireworks and crazy conga line dancers of joy):
That’s right Simpsons – you win friends with delicious, delicious desserts (unless you’ve poisoned said desserts, at which point, you win a life sentence in jail. And since you clearly can’t be trusted with desserts, you also win a life filled with no desserts (they will have “desserted” you so to speak 😉 ) because of your bad behaviour. And isn’t that the real tragedy here? Why would you give dessert such a bad reputation like that? 😉 ).
Anywho, moving on. What kind of Canadian would I be if I didn’t go way over the top and celebrate this great country of ours with a month filled with national desserts? The terrible kind, that’s what. Don’t worry though, although our country may be 150 years old this month, the various delicious bites of sweetness that I’ll be bringing you are fresh out of the oven (or refrigerator as the case may warrant), and have not been sitting around gathering dust, disease and mold since the inception of our grand nation (because speaking of poisoning people….that’s probably what would happen here. Smallpox and cholera do not need a resurgence on my watch 😉 ).
My sense of order demands that I go about this in an at least somewhat logical manner, so we shall be traversing this magnificent hunk of earth that we call home starting out west and making our way jauntily (because is there any other way to travel?) to the east coast. What that means for those of you who are geographically challenged (and embrace that disability with pride! I am most irrefutably one of you. Anyone who knows me will probably confirm that I couldn’t find my way out of paper bag – although I contend that that may possibly be due to the lack of oxygen in said paper bag. Who wouldn’t get a little turned around while they’re asphyxiating to death? 😉 ) is that we’ll be kicking this month off in a completely wild way. A wild west way. Today, I present you with the humble, yet unarguably delicious, bar named after the town of its inception. Oh Nanaimo, just try and bar me from enjoying your tasty tasty layers (did that only sound a little dirty to me?). For a fun little tale about the origins of the Nanaimo bar, check out this foodnetwork article.
Now I swear that I tried really hard to stick to a traditional(ish) recipe for these, but much like my inability to follow actual directions, recipe directions get relegated to the same line of reasoning (i.e.“I’m sure that’s just a suggestion” or “…but what if I just changed this one thing? And maybe this other thing?…and who wouldn’t add more chocolate?” until the final product doesn’t even appear to be the same species as the original. But let me tell you, you can end up with some pretty interesting results when you allow yourself to veer off the beaten path). These aren’t too far off though I swear. I just thought adding a little instant coffee to the base would give it a richer flavor, and crushed Oreo’s for no reason except that I added them on a whim. Also, obviously the topping needed a little extra “Canada Day” zazz. Oh, and they’re vegan of course, put that seemed a given 🙂 . Oh, and I added some maple to the filling to make them extra “Canada-y” (sure I could’ve just said “Canadian” there, but then I wouldn’t sound like a small town yokel, and that’s usually the vibe I’m going for 😉 ). So, you know, virtually indistinguishable from your memories of them right? 😉
I know it’s sacrilegious to say, and I’ll likely be stoned, but these taste (to me at least) way better than the Nanaimo bars of my youth (although as I recall, we always had the ones from the box, so that might have something to do with it?). For all you true purists out there who are now baying for my blood, will you back off slightly if I agree to rename them “Nom nom”-o bars? 😉
Yield: 20 pieces
- 1/3 cup vegan butter
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons sifted cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
- 1 egg replacer
- 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 4 chocolate Oreo cookies, crushed/finely chopped (optional)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped almonds
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut
- 2 tablespooons coconut creamer (or coconut milk)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
- 2 1/2 tablespoons custard powder (I used Bird’s, which seems to be the standard grocery store one and it’s vegan)
- 1/3 cup vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 cups sifted icing sugar
- 3/4 cups chocolate chips
- 2 teaspoons vegan butter or coconut oil (or vegetable shortening would be fine too)
- 1/3 cup vegan white chocolate chips (optional)
- Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper (you don’t have to do this, but it will make removal and cutting easier later)
- For the bottom layer – in a small saucepan, mix together the butter, coconut oil, sugar, cocoa powder and instant coffee. Heat on low-medium heat until everything is smoothly melted together. Remove from heat.
- In a separate mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, Oreo crumbs (if using), chopped almonds and coconut.
- Add chocolate mixture to the bowl and stir (or use your hands which will be easier as it’s a fairly thick mixture) until everything is fully combined.
- Press mixture firmly into the bottom of your prepared pan. To make it really flat and compressed, I used the bottom of a glass to really press it down.
- For the middle layer – in a small bowl, combine the butter, coconut oil, coconut milk/creamer, vanilla and custard powder. Stir until smooth.
- In a separate mixing bowl, beat together the butter and coconut oil until mixed together. Add in the custard mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
- Add icing sugar in a couple of batches and beat until fluffy/ thick frosting-like consistency (a few minutes should do it)
- Spread evenly over the bottom layer with a spatula and place pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- For the top layer – place chocolate and butter in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute and stir until smooth. Spread evenly over the top of the bars.
- Optional decorative topping – melt white chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. Stir until smooth. Split into two and add a few drops of beet juice or food colouring to one half. Pipe alternating lines of red and white on top of bars and use a toothpick or bread knife to create design on top.
- Store in the refrigerator.