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Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bar

March 13, 2008


The fantastic Nanaimo bar stayed mysteriously hidden from my radar for a long time. Canadians, shame on you for not sharing! These are a no-bake chocolate square from the city of Nanaimo, British Canada. Wikipedia describes them as consisting of a “crumb-based layer, topped by a layer of light custard or vanilla butter icing, which is covered in soft chocolate. Many varieties are possible by using different types of crumb, flavours of custard or icing (e.g. mint, peanut butter), and types of chocolate.” Peanut butter you say? I’m sold.

In just a few clicks of searching for photos of this bar, I have come across a multitude of variations. Some have more crumb than icing, some have equal parts of each, some have ground nuts in the crumb layer, while others look smooth and velvety. This bar sounds like a fantastic base for experimentation. So grab the recipe and go crazy!

This version uses graham cracker crumbs, almonds and coconut in the base, a peanut butter filling and a thin layer of semi-sweet ganache on top. And to give an example of a variation, here is another recipe that has a smoother texture and a vanilla custard filling. Perhaps it would taste yummy with a peanut butter ganache on top? Oh, the possibilities!

Photo by flickr user MAOJ.

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars (from FoodNetwork)
Yields 5 dozen bars

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds

Peanut Butter Filling
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Chocolate Glaze
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1. Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan or casserole with aluminum foil, with long flaps hanging over each edge.

2. For the cookie: Put the butter in a heatproof medium bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer over medium-low heat. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar and cocoa, and stir to combine. Add the egg and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until warm to the touch and slightly thickened (it should be about the consistency of hot fudge), about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in graham crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press the dough firmly into the prepared pan. (Save the pan of water for melting the chocolate.)

3. For the filling: Beat the butter, peanut butter and confectioners' sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light. Spread over the cookie and freeze while you prepare the chocolate glaze.

4. For the glaze: Put the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl, and set over the barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. (Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt at 50 percent power in the microwave until soft, about 1 minute. Stir, and continue to heat until completely melted, about 1 minute more.). When cool but still runny, pour the chocolate layer over the chilled peanut butter layer and carefully smooth out with an offset spatula. Freeze 30 minutes.

5. To serve, remove from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Pull out of the pan using the foil flaps and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares with a sharp knife. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Tip: Finished bars can be wrapped in the pan in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month.
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