“Canada’s Favorite Confection”

Little known to most of the world, the Nanaimo bar has been gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds.  Once nothing more than the humble regional specialty of Nanaimo, British Columbia, recipes for this no-bake cookie bar have spread through the pages of the internet like wildfire, so that they’ve become a staple in countless bakers’ repertoires.  Easy enough for the most inexperienced cook or busy housewife to pull off, in addition to the opportunity they offer for flavor customization in the custard layer, it’s easy to see their appeal. For the senior baker looking for an exciting and perhaps a bit demanding new project to tackle, however, they could fall rather short.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Starting with homemade gluten-free graham crackers upped the ante slightly, but I’m sorry to say that I just didn’t find the challenge itself too stimulating, to say the least. Chocolate, vanilla; Cookie, creme; Been there, done that. Adjusting the flavors to include strawberry and thus create a Neapolitan Nanaimo helped to shake things up a bit, if only a very little bit.

Opting to forgo the frosting-like filling originally recommended in favor of a a sliceable strawberry pudding layer, my bars were quickly shaping up into more of a dessert than cookie. Going along with that train of though, I sliced the pieces a bit larger than advised, and set each slice atop a thin smear of chocolate sauce, to be accompanied by a scoop of strawberry sorbet.

Don’t let my lack of enthusiasm fool you into thinking this was a lack-luster dish- The rate at which it disappeared definitely proves otherwise!  The simple construction and fairly unimaginative interpretation on my part just failed to spark my enthusiasm.  A perfectly delicious dessert in its own right, the Nanaimo just isn’t really my baking style, but I can’t say I protested too much when it came time to serve.

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55 thoughts on ““Canada’s Favorite Confection”

  1. Wow! Your Nanaimo bar looks so perfect! The pic is absolutely beautiful. It does look and sound amazingly delicious with that scoop of strawberry sorbet, Mmm!!! Outstanding job for the challenge that isn’t your baking style!!!

  2. Well whatever you want to call it bar or dessert; it sure looks gorgeous Hannah. I completely and utterly forgot the entire challenge but will still be making them, albeit too late for the official reveal date… O well, now I have yours to look at for inspiration..:)

  3. It does look good… but I think you may have outdone yourself! Here’s the litmus test for nanaimo bar:

    1. can you eat more than one without starting to hate yourself?
    2. does it look out of place in a church basement?

    If so, it’s not a nanaimo bar. Which is not necessarily a bad thing ;)

  4. As a Canadian, I’m surprised to read that the Nanaimo bar is Canada’s favorite confection. I’ve only had a handful of Nanaimo bars in my life. I remember the regular versions being pretty good (chocolaty, swishy, creamy good) but the two vegan version I’ve tried were so far off the mark. It’s no small feat to make a vegan Nanaimo bar that tastes similar to the original. That said, I’d love t try your version :)

  5. Sometimes it’s good to be super simple–even if it doesn’t feel like a challenge. Personally, I’d snap up that beautiful gluten-free strawberry chocolate treat in a minute!

  6. Thanks for the concise history of the bar! Your interpretation looks great to me. I am a Canadian, but must say Nanaimo bars aren’t quite my “favorite confection”–though I wouldn’t turn one down, of course. ;)

  7. I have to say, I’m with Jill on this one…as a fellow Canadian, I’ve had a Nanaimo bar exactly once in my life; perhaps it’s a West Coast thing! Your version looks delicious, though…the strawberry pudding sounds like a much nicer option than the cloyingly sweet creme filling of the original. Good job, Hannah!

  8. It’s so funny – I’m from Vancouver and grew up with these things! It was a total shocker to me that the rest of the world didn’t know they existed! haha. That said, as others have mentioned, I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite either – I’d say the butter tart is a much more popular Canadian sweet.

  9. Despite the fact that you didn’t find this challenge too stimulating, I find your photo VERY stimulating – to my appetite. ;-) Holy crap – yum!

  10. Even though you didn’t find the challenge very challenging, I do think you did a pretty good job. Also, the picture is great!

  11. Oh boy, does that look yummers! It’s fantastic that this Canadian treat is growing in popularity beyond the borders of Canada, but it saddens me that, as a Canadian, and even when I was a non-vegan, I have never had a Nanaimo bar (where are italics when you need them?). Heaven help us! Ha… I’m gonna have to give this a whirl. Great job :)

  12. My mom has been making Nanaimo bars for as long as I can remember and I grew up on the East Coast of Canada, so these sicky sweet bars can be found cross country. Tim Horton’s even sells them for crying out loud. The bottom layer is usually sugar, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, margarine and cocoa; custard-type filling and then melted chocolate on top. Chocolate overload and SUPER sweet. I think I’ve OD’d on these things too many times so they don’t really appeal to me much anymore. Your version sounds REALLY good!!
    I agree with briogusto – Butter tarts are more popular. (They are also sold at Tim Horton’s) Then there’s the whole debate of which is better – runny butter tarts or non-runny ones. I prefer runny by far!

  13. These Nanaimo bars desserts are so beautiful-
    What a great version for the Canadian bars
    Love the presentation!
    and the flavor combination must b superb
    Wtg
    Inbal
    (also a DB)

  14. You should be “uninspired” more often, lol, cause you still blew me away with your creativity. I’ve never heard of those cookies before, but I think your version sounds way better!

  15. The strawberry pudding-like layer appeals to me much more than the frosting-like layer so I think that was a good decision. Have never heard of these but would love to try them.

  16. Wow, I would love to make these. Even though they seem to be a bit simple for an advanced baker, I’m sure they would be fun for everyone else. ;)
    I mean come on, it’s a beautiful looking dessert! Personally, I wouldn’t mind how easy it was to make, as long as the results turned out well.

    Could you please share your recipe? The rest of us dilettante vegan bakers would love to try this. Normally, I thoroughly enjoy the posts on this blog, but this time I was quite bummed that you didn’t post your method for these. Ridiculously easy does not necessarily translate to unworthy, in my book. In fact, ridiculously easy is great. There’s nothing for me to complain about if it’s easy and delicious and artful. ;]

  17. Love the idea of making this with strawberry – looks absolutely delicious! And that strawberry sorbet – looks amazing! Love the color there…fantastic! :)

  18. I’m sure your strawberry pudding variety was much better than the original overly sweet one. I didn’t like eating them, but at least they looked nice ;)
    Let’s hope for a nice new challenge :)

  19. I agree with Miss Ann Mai.
    Please share the recipe! We don’t care if it’s “too easy”, we just love the simple joy of creating lovely vegan sweets for our loved ones.

  20. Hmmm..just because you’re more of an “advanced baker” doesn’t mean you should keep the recipe to yourself ;P share with us please and we’ll enjoy making it!

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