Mocha Nanaimo Bars

Traditional Nanaimo bars

I was sitting here thinking that now Spring is here – and Summer will arrive before we are ready for it (are we EVER ready for it?).

We baked desserts all winter long because using the oven helped heat the kitchen. As the outside temps rise, the last thing we want to do is light that oven!

I was thumbing through my old recipe box and stumbled across a recipe I got back in 1986 when I attended Expo 86 in Vancouver, BC. It was for Nanaimo bars, a dessert that originated in Vancouver and quickly became a Canadian fave. You can now find it all through Canada, the Pacific Northwest and now, even in California!

It’s a great dessert – not a cookie or a cake – but reminiscent of both! So try this on your family. I’ve included alterations for both the traditional and mint versions but the mocha is my favorite with coffee, iced coffee, hot or iced tea, or a cold glass of milk!

Mocha Nanaimo Bars

Layer 1:

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 c shredded coconut
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts or pecans

Layer 2:

  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee dissolved in 2 Tbsp. hot coffee
  • 2 Tbsp. custard powder (I use Bird’s Custard Powder)
  • 1 tsp. Kahlua (optional)

Layer 3:

  • 5 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Grease or spray a 9″ square pan.

Layer 1:

In the top of a double boiler, combine butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and cocoa. Set over boiling water and mix until slightly thickened. Add graham cracker crumbs, coconut and chopped nuts and mix well. Remove top of double boiler; add graham cracker crumbs, coconut and chopped nuts. Press into prepared pan. pressing down to spread evenly. Let rest for about 15-20 minutes.

Layer 2:

Combine all ingredients 2 and spread evenly over Layer 1.

Layer 3:

Melt chopped chocolate over hot (not boiling) water. Don’t let any water or steam drop on the melting chocolate or it will “seize” and become unusable. Very slowly, stir in butter until butter is fully melted in the chocolate. Spread evenly over Layer 2.

Refrigerate 1 hour. Cut into squares or bars.

Toque

Tip from the Toque:

For traditional Nanaimo bars, in Layer 2, omit the coffee and increase milk to 3 Tbsp. For mint bars, to Layer 2 of the traditional, add 1/4 tsp. mint flavoring.

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