Nanaimo bars are British Columbia’s (Canada) most popular chocolate dessert.
There are many stories about the origin and name of this confection.
According to Wikipedia the oldest recipe appearing in a cookbook goes back to 1953.
However, as I read in the official website of Nanaimo (where you will also find the recipe), the confection became more popular when the Canadian mayor initiated a contest in 1985 to find the ultimate Nanaimo bar and Joyce Hardcastle’s recipe was the one which won.
In order to create my own recipe I read a few recipes on the web to understand what this dessert was about.
The dessert consists of three layers, each one needing time in the refrigerator before proceeding to the next one:
The base is a layer of Graham Crackers Wafers, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, walnuts (I’ve also seen it with almonds), shredded coconut and an egg combined together.
In Greece we do not have Graham Crackers Wafers, which actually have nothing to do with wafers, but in other recipes calling for this biscuit, I used to substitute it with Digestive biscuits.
However, I chose to use real chocolate wafers. I made my own crust using dark brown sugar and did not add egg as I considered it redundant.
I used dark brown sugar and I urge you not to use any other type of sugar (although you can) as this particular one gives a crunch in the biscuit base as well as a lovely caramel flavour.
The middle layer is a rich cream, made of butter, icing sugar, custard powder (or vanilla pudding powder) and milk.
This part was a bit confusing for me regarding the custard powder. My thought at the time was to make a creme anglaise. However the original cream is more like buttercream, so I was thinking to add gelatine to thicken it.
The third layer is the simplest to make. Chocolate and butter melted over a double boiler. I’ve made it many times and love adding black pepper to chocolate.
By mere coincidence, a few days before, my friend Joumana posted about Sahlab drink, which is a popular drink introduced by the Ottamans in the countries they ruled.
Greece and Cyprus were, of course, ruled by the Ottomans and it used to be very popular here as well.
A few days before Christmas my husband and I went to Athens for some Christmas shopping and passing from Plateia Dimarhiou, I remembered a nearby Middle Eastern store and I decided to buy a packet of sahlab to try it.
Of course, this is not the real thing but just a pudding flavoured with Sahlab.
When we tried it, we loved its taste and that is why I decided to use this pudding to make my middle layer.
However, as it is possibly hard to find sahlab, you can substitute the pudding with a pastry cream or any other filling you prefer.
I followed the instructions on the package but although the pudding thickens, it’s supposed to be a drink which will not set.
I don’t know if it would set if I added more powder but I decided to add some gelatine so that it would set.
When I made the drink it seems that sugar was added to the starch as it was sweet, so I did not add any sugar to the cream.
For those who don’t know this drink, “Salepi” is a drink made from the tubers of a kind or orchid which is powdered into starch.
It is then thickened and flavoured with rose or citrus water and drank as a beverage to warm you up during winter.
This beverage was sold by street vendors and it is good to relieve the cough, asthma, stomach pain etc.
It is sweetened either using sugar or honey and flavoured with citrus or rose water, ginger and cinnamon.
This profession will be extinct in a few years here in Greece, as there are only a few old street vendors left.
In Cyprus I am not sure if there are any left.
Although in the past I used to see them very often, especially in Hermou Street, it’s been a long time I have not seen one.
As in Greece it is sold only by street vendors, I was reluctant to try it but if I see one again, this time I will definitely try it.
Base: Filling: Topping: *Instead of using wafers or other traditional biscuits, you can use some of your Christmas leftover cookies to make the base.
*Instead of using wafers or other traditional biscuits, you can use some of your Christmas leftover cookies to make the base.
You can find my Greek recipes in my cookbooks «More Than A Greek Salad», and«Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!» both available on all Amazon stores. Read more here.
Other related Recipes:
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,