One of my absolute favourite desserts are Nanaimo bars – a Canadian dessert, originating in the City of Nanaimo, BC. Apparently, it all began when a Nanaimo housewife entered a recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. She called her recipe ‘Nanaimo Bars’ and when she won the contest, not only did her dessert become popular throughout Canada, so did the town they were named after. These no-bake, three-layered bars are delicious. They start with a crumb base, followed by a layer of light custard followed by a smooth layer of semisweet chocolate.
I have never attempted to make Nanaimo bars as they are readily available in most grocery stores and just seem a bit too confusing to attempt on my own. Unfortunately, Celiac Disease prevents me from jumping in my car and picking up one of my favourite treats, so I took the plunge and decided to come up with my own gluten free version. I was pleasantly surprised with the end result – they tasted exactly like the regular version!
Graham Cracker Crumbs:
- 1 cup sweet rice flour
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour
- 1/8 cup potato starch
- 1/2 cup margarine, melted (or butter)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (using the ingredients above and step 1 in directions to make)
- 1 cup flaked coconut
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3 tablespoons cream
- 2 tablespoons custard powder
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet baking chocolate
- 2 teaspoons butter
- Mix graham cracker crumb ingredients together with an electric mixer and spread evenly in a 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Stir until well crumbled and return to oven and bake another 10 minutes until browned. Once cool, blend graham cracker crumb mixture in a blender until it is finely ground.
- In the top of a double boiler, combine 1/2 cup butter, white sugar and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Beat egg in a separate bowl and slowly add a spoonful of the heated butter/chocolate mixture while constantly whisking (this will prevent the egg from curdling). Whisk the egg mixture slowly into the rest of the butter/chocolate mixture, consistently, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the graham cracker crumbs (from step 1) and coconut. Press into the bottom of an 8×8 inch pan, lined with parchment paper.
- For the middle layer, cream together 1/2 cup butter, cream and custard powder until light and fluffy. Mix in the icing sugar until smooth. Spread over the bottom layer in the pan. Chill to set.
- While the second layer is chilling, melt the semisweet chocolate and 2 teaspoons butter together in the microwave. Spread over the chilled bars. Let the chocolate set before cutting into squares (this is very important – I failed to let the bars cool completely before cutting into them, and ended up with some messy squares – the picture below demonstrates my impatience!)
- Freeze bars in freezer and take out as needed.