I wanted to bake something to celebrate. Some years I make maple cookies, a variant on gingerbreads with a healthy dose of maple syrup. Some years it's maple and pecan melting moments. If I think of a quintessentially Canadian baked treat, I think of butter tarts. However, it appears most others think of Nanaimo bars.
I have to admit I'd never heard of them until a Canadian acquaintance asked if I could bake some. I guess they hadn't spread to small town southern Ontario by 1985, the year I left to live in the UK. However, I googled for recipes and they look delicious.
The story goes that Mabel Jenkins, a woman from just south of Nanaimo British Colombia made these bars for a baking competition in the 1950s. They became hugely popular, spread far and wide, and apparently have been sold by the mighty Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain. (Although the idea of going to Tim Horton's for anything other than a Dutchie is madness).
I didn't get the chance to bake them for my fellow Canuck when he originally asked. I thought Canada Day would be the ideal opportunity to rectify that.
I followed the recipe from here for the most practical of reasons. Many recipes call for almonds, which I do not have. This one had walnuts or pecans - I have both and I LOVE pecans. A clear winner for me!
50g caster sugar
1 beaten egg
200g crushed digestive biscuits
50g dessicated coconut
50g chopped pecans (or walnuts, or almonds, blah blah blah.)
Melt the butter. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa. Add the beaten egg and return to the heat briefly, beating furiously to stop the egg getting scrambled. Once thickened, remove from the heat and mix in the digestive crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press the mixture into an 8" square tin and refrigerate for 1 hour
50g soft butter
2 tbs custard powder
splash of vanilla
230g icing sugar
2-3 tbs double cream
Beat the ingredients together to make a spreadable buttercream, adding just enough cream to make it easy to work with. Spread across the base layer and refrigerate for 30 mins
120g dark chocolate
1 tbs butter
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of hot water. When liquid enough to pour, spread across the custard layer. Chill for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
As I type, the tray of bars is cooling in the fridge ready for slicing. They are VERY rich and sweet - I haven't had a finished bar but the constituent parts are enough to dissolve my teeth just looking at them. The kids are dying to tuck in. I'll report back when I can tell you how the bars have gone down.
Happy 145th birthday, Canada!
Edited to add - Oh. My. God. Terrifyingly sweet and rich, yes, but absolutely lush. The kids are already begging for more. If you fancy some, I'd drop by our house sharpish!