Friday, 5 October 2012

Nanaimo Bars - for AlphaBakes

New month, new challenges to face! The first one to get my attention was an attempt at courgette and lemon jam, for Tea Time Treats, which ended up on the compost heap, so I'll gloss over that and move onto the AlphaBakes challenge, which is the letter N this month.

Surprisingly, N is a very small section of the index in most of my baking books - after the generic 'nuts' I rarely found anything other than 'nutmeg' or 'Nutella', neither of which appealed. However one seldom used book suggest Nanaimo bars, which did sound rather appealing. They've hovered around the edge of my awareness for a while - I made a point of eating one on holiday in Vancouver a few years ago - but layered bars are fiddly to make, and chocolate topping usually ends in a messy disaster for me, so I'd never made them. Actually, that makes them sound just right for a baking challenge, even though they aren't usually baked!

I checked the recipe in my book against those online, and found one huge discrepancy! My recipe used a biscuit crumb base, and added an egg to the vanilla custard filling. All the online recipes added the egg to the biscuit crumb base and made a simpler buttercream filling. As some of the websites I checked claimed to be 'authentic' I thought I'd better use one of them. In the end, I chose the recipe on Joy of Baking, simply because the conversion from cups to metric weights had already been done! In fact most of the recipes were remarkably similar, so I could have chosen any of them!

The recipe was quite straightforward, although cooking the egg into the butter, sugar and cocoa mixture was a bit nervewracking - I expected a pan of scrambled egg, as most recipes use a double boiler at this point! I substituted chopped hazelnuts for the walnuts in the recipe, as FB prefers the taste of hazelnuts. I made my bars in a 12 x 8" (30 x 20cm) tin, although this was really too big for the recipe. I'll admit that in my haste I thought the tin I'd picked up was 10 x 8", which is not a million miles from a 9" square tin, so I've only myself to blame that the bars didn't seem very deep! However, leaving this aside, everything else went smoothly, and I remembered to cut the bars with a hot knife. I cut the traybake into 24 bars around 2.5 x 1" in size.

These little bars were absolutely delicious, and well worth the fiddling about and the time spent waiting for each stage to set. I was concerned about the raw custard powder in the buttercream, and it did taste a little floury on it's own, but sandwiched between the two chocolate layers it wasn't at all noticeable. The coconut was the predominant flavour in the base, but that and the hazelnuts added texture too. The only down-side was that the buttercream softened at room temperature, so the bars really needed to be refrigerated, or they were difficult to eat.

AlphaBakes is a monthly baking challenge based on a randomly chosen letter of the Alphabet - see the rules here. It's hosted alternately by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker, and Caroline, from Caroline Makes. This month Ros chose the letter N and will post a round-up of entries at the end of the month.


Baking Addict said...

What a great use of N!! I couldn't think of anything else apart from nutella and nuts - both of which I've used in my entry! I've been wanting to make these for ages - they do look really good. Thanks for entering AlphaBakes.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Fascinating! I have a recipe for those (AWW cakes & slices, possibly the "little used book" you referred to) but I have never tried them! I actually think they look "right" - you wouldn't want them deeper or the custard would squidge out when you bite them.

Snowy said...

I saw a recipe for these Suelle, and have been wanting to try them. They look delicious.

celia said...

Suelle, they look fantastic! A bit like the old fashioned slices we all grew up on. I'm glad they worked out so well for you! :)

Caroline said...

I've seen a few recipes for these, and really must get round to trying them. It's just the whole 'waiting for the layers to set' stages that puts me off - it always seems like too much hassle. It's the same for millionaire's shortbread!

Suelle said...

I know what you mean Caroline - it's what puts me off this type of thing too - who wants to wait 3 hours before eating what you've made?

Foodycat - that's what happens when they warm up too - the hard chocolate floats and slips on the soft buttercream and it squidges out. It wasn't the AWW book - I didn't think to look there for a Canadian recipe! ;)

Thanks, Celia and Snowy - they were delicious and worth making once.

Chele said...

I have had Nanaimo Bars on my must bake list for what seems like forever. I love the use of the hazelnuts in your version, two thumbs up from me ;0)

Unknown said...

Love the look of your Nanaimo bars. They remind me of Millionaire shortbreads x