Monday, December 21, 2009

Nanaimo Bars - Quick to make (in theory) and a brief blogging hiatus

I belong to an amazing church!  We also have an amazing pastor, whose wife is one of the kindest and sweetest ladies I've ever met.  When Susie asked me if I'd be willing to make Christmas cookie for her, for a cookie exchange-- I agreed to do it.  Truth be told, I have never done any kind of cooking or baking for hire.  I figured that bar cookies would be a slam dunk-- and I remembered that, years ago, I used to make Nanaimo Bars at Christmas Time.  If you've never heard of Nanaimo Bars, then let me tell you-- these are incredibly good and a very popular dessert treat that has origins from a town in Canada-- Nanaimo, British Columbia, to be specific..

The most common version has three layers-- the bottom layer is a graham cracker and Dutch chocolate crust, glued together by butter, egg and walnuts (or pecans) and coconut.  I have never added the coconut, because coconut is a love/hate kind of ingredient that I don't want to take chances on.  I love coconut, but some of my family members don't. The middle layer-- ah, that's my favorite part. It's a buttercream.  I've seen recipes that call for vanilla pudding mix, but I only use Bird's Eye Custard-- it's a must.   (Please take note of the Bird's Eye Container -- which was unopened-- that claims "Easy to Open".)

I would like to write a letter to the person who designed this packaging!  I had a custard explosion (the lid flew off! that set the tone for the rest of this cookie making adventure... oh, let me tell you!  It began with my wanting to quadruple the recipe. I couldn't find my original recipe, so I searched the internet for a recipe hat I could print. I found one from  Sunset Magaziine's website, and read the ingredients. Everything looked just as I remembered-- yep, I was ready. I had my four professional size cookie sheets ready to go. I was all set up for the assembly line:

I love my Cuisinart food processor!  Let's see-- I start with graham crackers (turned to crumbs) and then walnuts, finely chopped-- pecan work, too.

I obediently followed the directions-- beat the eggs, add sugar, coco powder and then I paused.... bake the cookie crust?  This didn't sound right!   But, how could Sunset be wrong? So, I baked the first batch, and it came out wrong-- like really wrong-- crumbly, falling apart no-way-is-this-going-to-hold-together wrong.

The crust tasted bitter (too much cocoa and not enough sugar) so it went into the garbage-- and I do not like wasting food! So, I searched the internet again-- sure enough, the butter, egg, sugar and Dutch Cocoa should have been cooked over a double boiler (which thickens it) and then it's combined to the graham crackers and nuts.  The last photograph in the collage (above) shows the right consistency of the bottom crust.  I don't have photos to show you, of the double boiler process--because I was in a grumpy mood and I had to start all over again.  Sunset Magazine will get a comment from me, telling them that their recipe is so, so ... not authentic! But, I need to practice forgiveness!  I forged on, and made the buttercream.

This is absolutely delicious! So good!  For the love of Pete, please find Bird's Eye Custard Powder. It's so much better than instant vanilla pudding. Trust me!

It was getting late, and I had lost my natural lighting-- so these photos are not up to the quality I strive for. After the bottom layer has set (in the refrigerator), you add the layer of butter cream. That has to set (about 30 minutes) and then you melt the chocolate.  I admit, that I tempered my chocolate with both butter and cream.  You have to work fast-- and if the chocolate is super hot, it will melt the buttercream.  Now, let the bars chill until the chocolate is almost "set"-- but not completely ice cold. Why? You  risk cracking the bars-- I am speaking from experience.

Trimming the bars was a challenge, though I was glad that I made these on parchment paper. That way, you can lift them out and cut these on a solid surface.  Susie, this is the mess that you didn't see!

This piece had my husband's name on it. I didn't want to look at at Nanaimo bar, after this fiasco! Truth be told, I like chocolate but only in very small doses.

What a nightmare of cleanup!  My husband helped me out, assuring me that they were delicious.  In the end, I was happy that I got the job done. I refused to take money for my time. Considering my "Murphy's Law" experience, I wasn't going to charge for my time!   Luckily, I'm posting this recipe the right way-- and it shouldn't take long at all, should you choose to accept this mission.  I was happy to do a favor for Susie.  She was so thankful and that made it all worthwhile. I would definitely make these again, now that I have the correct recipe. They are truly a delectable cookie bar-- though very, very rich!

I haven't baked one single dessert for my Christmas Eve dinner. My family has whittled down to be very small-- like a total of five people.  I'm thankful to be on vacation, so that I can do things that bloggers have been posting for weeks-- Christmas decorations and all kinds of cookies.  I doubt I'll make many cookies, but I can assure any of you folks who haven't baked a thing-- Nanaimo bars are easy and very delicious. Just be sure to keep them refrigerated-- or freeze them to enjoy for weeks! 

I will be taking a blogging break for a few days. I'll be posting a recipe on Christmas Day. Until then--

Wishing all of you safe travels and a
blessed Christmas!

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Susan said...

A very Merry Christmas to you and your family. Enjoy some "me" time and Froehliche Weihnachten fur alle.

Frieda said...

Oh, so this was the fiasco, huh? Still look beautiful and yummy! You will undoubtedly be blessed in more ways than one for all your tireless efforts...Ü

Monica H said...

These look delicious and I can't say that I've ever had anything like them before. Sorry they were such a hassle. You're such a good friend!

Kate said...

Debby, thank you for sharing one last dose of sugar before you take your hiatus! These look delicious and I will flag it for after I am rid of the current level of sugar flowing through me!!

Thank you so much for your help and friendship this last year. I hope that you have a wonderful holidays with your family!

TKW said...

You are right, Debby! My recipe for Prayer Bars is very similar! I think the white filling in my recipe is thinner, but other than that, they look a lot alike!

Enjoy your holiday, sweetie!

ARLENE said...

They look so delicious, but not only wouldn't I be able to get the Bird's Eye powder, I would be intimidated after your experience. What a kind person you are. Enjoy your time off.

Valerina said...

Despite the ornery custard container your bars look just perfect. I love Nanaimo bars. :)

Happy Holidays!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Oh, I made these once! I couldn't believe how decadent and addictive Nanaimo Bars are. And, I've been working them off on the exercise bike every since! Good luck with your baking and Merry Christmas!

Cristie said...

I've reviewed this recipe before, but never attempted it- you get some kind of award. Enjoy every bite and the holidays!

bella said...

I always love to try one new recipe every Christmas and this looks like the one I'm adding for next year! I hope that your Christmas is beautiful and blessed. I'm so glad to have found your blog and your friendship! Hugs, sweetie! Roz

AdriBarr said...

Merry Christmas to you! Those cookies look fabulous!