I have been obsessed for a few weeks now with Nanaimo bars, a rich confection that comes out of British Columbia, from a town indeed called Nanaimo, that consists of a Graham cracker (digestive biscuit for me and others like me), cocoa, coconut and nut crust that underneath a chocolate topping has a rich custard buttercream filling. Before I could make one, however, I had to learn how to pronounce it, and from what I can find out (and I apologise to all Canadians if I am wrong) it is 'ner-nymo' with the emphasis on the 'ny', if that makes sense.
Anyway, I have something of a teen homecoming this weekend and thought these would be the perfect treat to have waiting. The thing is, my children won't do the nuts or the coconut and so I have had to make a Not-Quite-Nanaimo. If you want the real thing, you can read the official recipe here but I thought I'd corrupt you with my version as well.
For the crust, I blitzed 250g Digestive biscuits in a processor along with 125g very soft unsalted butter, 50g cocoa and 100g of milk chocolate buttons made for cooking; otherwise use good milk chocolate that you've chopped before putting in the processor. This will not look like a cocoa-toned cheesecake base when you're done, but a rather alarming dark slurry. Don't panic, just pour it into a well-lined 23cm square tin and put it in the fridge and let it set. (Let the foil or baking parchment come up above the sides of the tin so that you can tug to release later.) I think 20 mins or so should do it but I left mine in the fridge for about an hour while I had supper.
For the filling, I processed (having cleaned out all evidence of the crust) 250g icing sugar and 3 tablespoons of Bird's custard powder to make sure all lumps were out and then added 75g very soft unsalted butter and blitzed and then - still with the motor running - 60ml milk until I had a soft frosting, which I spread onto the set base. It's important you wait until the base is immovable as you don't want any crumbs sullying the custard buttercream.OK, final part: I had left the bars thus far in the fridge overnight (though you wouldn't have to; it just suited me) and I melted 125g of my milk chocolate buttons for cooking along with 75g of the dark chocolate ones and 30g of very soft salted butter. Again good quality milk and dark chocolate (and I might reverse the quantities next time) would do fine, and I only used salted butter because I'd run out of soft unsalted and was too impatient to wait for a packet to lose its chill from the fridge. My impatience also made me melt everything slightly too quickly in the microwave and I felt it was beginning to seize, so stirred in a teaspoon of vegetable oil as I took it out to cool. And once it had cooled a bit, but was still liquid enough to pour, I poured it over the custard buttercream in the tin and put it back in the fridge to set.
I'm afraid I let it set too hard, and then let it get a bit too soft before lifting it out on to a chopping board to cut, which explains why the lines of cream sandwiched between the chocolate layers is not clinically clean cut as it appears in numerous cookery books, but that's life. And anyway, don't leave it out of the fridge for long at any time once it's cut, as it begins to go undesirably soft quickly. It needs to be eaten cold, I feel, and in very small pieces: this is supersweet and very rich. In a good way, of course.
Posted by Nigella on the 26th Aug 2011