While I grew up in New England, and visited Canada on a few occasions, I never had the chance to try the amazing Canadian treat known as Nanaimo (nah-NIGH-moe) Bars. It wasn't until just recently, here in Florida, that I first tried and fell in love with them. I absolutely love the custard layer in the traditional recipe, but I have taken the suggestion from my wife and created a Peanut Butter creme layer to take them to the next level. I have seen some recipes online using peanut butter, but I was worried that they would be too oily and not be light enough for the creme layer. Just a few weeks ago, I discovered PB2 - dehydrated peanut butter! It was this product that helped me realize this recipe.
I should start off this Instructable by mentioning that I am not a baker! I usually leave the confectionery creations to my father or one of my brothers. My wheelhouse is typically all things BBQ, but once you see how simple these no bake bars are, you'll see that you don't need pastry skills to whip these babies up.
** Disclaimer - The photos are of a double batch that I made. **
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Step 1: Ingredients
1/2 cup salted butter, diced into pieces
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut OR Quick Oats
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds (I used peanuts)
1/3 cup salted butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4-1/2 cup PB2 - adjust the amount based on the desired peanut butter flavor
2 cups powdered sugar
5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp. salted butter
Step 2: The Bottom Layer
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, add in brown sugar and cocoa powder and whisk until well combined. While whisking vigorously, slowly pour in beaten egg.
Return mixture to heat and cook for 1 - 2 minutes until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Add in graham cracker crumbs, coconut (or oats), and nuts, and toss until evenly coated. ** I have discovered that some people don't like the texture and/or flavor of shredded coconut. In that case, feel free to add Quick Oats to replace the coconut. Although I like coconut, I tend to prefer using oats for this recipe.
Press mixture into a buttered 8 by 8-inch or 9 by 9-inch baking dish. ** I like to use a flat bottomed dish to help press down the bottom layer evenly.
Cover with plastic wrap, place in freezer for 20 minutes or refrigerate for 40 minutes.
Note: The nice part about this recipe is that you get 20 minute breaks between steps. Use this time to clean up your mess before moving on to the next step!
Step 3: Creme Filling
In a mixing bowl, use a beater or stand mixer at medium speed, whip butter, cream and Peanut Butter powder for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Mix in powdered sugar and blend for another minute, until creamy. Don't worry if it seems too dry, it will come together.
Spread mixture into an even layer over chilled graham cracker base. Cover again with plastic wrap put back in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Step 4: Top Layer
Create a double boiler, and melt the chocolate and butter together. ** For those non-bakers out there, be very careful at this stage to not introduce any water into the chocolate. If even a drop gets in the mix, it will seize up the chocolate and you might as well start over.
Pour the chocolate mixture over the top of the bars, and quickly spread to create an even layer. ** If you work quick enough, you can pour out the chocolate, and shake the dish and tap it on the counter to get a nice smooth, even layer of chocolate.
Place the bars back in the freezer for 15 minutes. You can place plastic wrap over the pan, but if you slip and the plastic wrap hits the chocolate, it isn't fun - trust me! I just throw it in the freezer uncovered.
Step 5: Cutting the Bars
In order to cut the bars cleanly, run your sharp knife under hot water after each slice, and clean the blade off with a towel. I would suggest cutting all of the bars in the pan before you start removing squares. Once there is room for the bars to move around, it gets increasingly more difficult to cut.
Once you have cut the bars, place them in an airtight container, or consume immediately! I personally like them stored in the fridge, and letting them rest on the counter for a few minutes before I eat them.
Enjoy, and feel free to share your experiences and suggestions!