Nanaimo Bars

Last week, many Daring Bakers published posts featuring the Canadian treat Nanaimo Bars. Contrary to what you may think, this post does not qualify for participation. Why on earth not? Well, I didn’t make my own graham crackers, and that, dear friends, was last month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge.

I made these bars to welcome the upcoming Winter Olympics to Canadia, a place I don’t know too much about. Canadian things I love include maple syrup, Japadog, and these bars. Nanaimo Bars have an American cousin that sometimes goes by the name Magic Cookie Bar, and other times Seven Layer Bar. I’ve been making those since high school, but I find the Canadian version more sophisticated, so I might forever replace Magic Cookie Bars with Nanaimo Bars.

This is an easy no-bake recipe filled with rich and sweet ingredients; I just don’t know who wouldn’t like them. If you have tree nut allergies, please omit the almonds and increase the coconut/graham cracker crumb amount. Give them a try, eh?

Nanaimo Bars
adapted from The City of Nanaimo

Bottom Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup shredded coconut (can be sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons vanilla pudding mix
2 cups confectioners sugar

Top Layer Ingredients:
4 ounces dark chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Making the bottom layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 9 by 13 inch pan.
2. Making the middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. Making the top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
4. Once chilled, cut bars into 2 inch squares or diamonds. Bars freeze well; keep leftover portions in freezer for later use.

Lemon Bars

To tell you the truth, these lemon bars existed over a few weeks ago. I don’t have an excuse for delaying the post – I just never got around to writing it. And now, I don’t even a story to tell about the lemon bars. I suppose I can talk about the leftover lemons that are still sitting in the fridge, but that’s not really interesting. Or perhaps I made the lemon bars because I could anticipate the sunny mood I’d be in when I would finally write the post. Sure, why not. I’m currently in a cheery mood because the weather’s finally reaching warmer temperatures around here! I never got used to the cold weather being a Texan gal, so I’m a happy camper during the summer time. It’s not summer yet, but at least I can retire my winter coat for now. Back to the lemons… they sure are sunny and cheery.

Lemon Bars
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

1/2 pound unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (3 to 4 lemons)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9×13 baking sheet.
2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
3. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed.
4. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
5. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
6. For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
7. Cut into squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar.