Nanaimo Bars are quite possibly one of the most perfect foods out there (and certainly one of Canada’s finest exports), comprised of a dense, chocolaty crust, a dreamy middle layer of custardy buttercream, and a thick slab of chocolate on top as a crowning glory. But what happens when you add peanut butter to all this awesome?
What happens, friends, is that you get an indescribably rich, irresistible, salty-sweet dessert experience–the type of dessert that a chocolate peanut butter cup wishes to be when it grows up. As a shout-out to its Canadian hometown, this version is made using Mighty Maple peanut butter in the midsection, although any smoother-textured variation would work well in this recipe.
Recipe adapted from the City of Nanaimo.
Prep time: 1 hour 20 minutes (includes 1 hour chilling time)
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Yields: 36 bite-sized bars
For bottom layer
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg, beaten
1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup finely chopped roasted peanuts
1 cup shredded coconut
For middle layer
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup Mighty Maple peanut butter
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder or instant vanilla pudding powder
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon salt
For top layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 ounce each)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter
1. Prepare bottom layer. Melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa in a double boiler until fully incorporated, but do not let the mixture come to a boil.
Add the beaten egg and stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts.
2. Press down firmly into an ungreased 8 x 8-inch pan; try to make the mixture as flat as possible in the pan. Let this cool for about an hour. It will make your life easier, by the way, to put a layer of parchment in the bottom of the pan.
3. Prepare the middle layer. Cream the butter, Mighty Maple peanut butter, vanilla powder, salt, and confectioners’ sugar together, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. If it is too thick, you might want to add a small quantity of milk or cream to the mixture, until it is of a spreadable consistency. Spread over bottom layer, once again trying to make the surface as flat as possible. At this point, I like to put the pan in the refrigerator, as it is easier to spread the top layer on when the buttery middle layer is a bit more solid.
4. Prepare the top layer. Melt chocolate, butter, and Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter slowly over low heat. Once fully melted and incorporated, remove from heat and allow to solidify to the point where it is thick but still pourable. Pour over second layer as quickly as you can so that the middle layer doesn’t begin to melt. Let the bars cool for at least one hour in the refrigerator before serving.