Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A Little Slice Of Home


There's a lot of history in England. I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by it every day, but then again so is everyone else living here! I can't say for sure, but I think I may have a greater awareness of the history surrounding me than most Brits living here do because I come from a country that's only 143 years old. Here in the UK, as well as most of Europe, almost everything is old. I mean REALLY OLD. Walk down any street here and you're bound to come across a building or monument that's at least a few hundred years old. One of my favourite local pubs is over 700 years old, and is rumored to be the second oldest pub in the country with origins dating to the 9th century! It would be pretty difficult to find a building more than 100 years old in Canada. Sure, there are a few - but just a few. So with all this history surrounding me, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that so many of the food names we're familiar with have originated from cities in the UK.
Cheddar Cheese comes from Cheddar - a village in Somerset, England
The Cornish Pasty (one of the UK's favourite snacks) comes from Cornwall - a region of South West England
Jersey Milk/Cream comes from Jersey cows that are raised on the island of Jersey off the coast of England
Yorkshire Puddings comes from Yorkshire - a county in Northern England
Worcestershire Sauce comes from the city of Worcester in the West Midlands of England

But English cities aren't the only ones with famous foods named after them. There's plenty more from around the world:

Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France
Buffalo Wings come from Buffalo NY
Philly Cheese Steak comes from Philadelphia Pennsylvania 
Hamburgers come from Hamburg Germany
Brussels Sprouts come from Brussels Belgium

There are loads of foods named after cities around the wold, but I haven't come across many that are named after Canadian cities. When I was younger I remember seeing Winnipeg Cream Cheese in the stores, but haven't seen it in years. Now it's just Philly. We've got Montreal Steak seasoning, but I think we only call it that in Canada. Then there's Canadian bacon, but it's only called that in the US. I have no idea why they decided to deviate away from the word ham, but in Canada it's just called back bacon or ham. Yeah, I'm pretty sure ham was around well before Canada was. 

BUT there is one food that I can be certain of that originated in Canada, and it shares the name of the city it was founded in. The Nanaimo Bar! Nanaimo bars were invented by a local women in the 1950's for a baking competition. Their popularity quickly spread across Canada because they're so simple to make and they don't require any baking. 


As we're approaching the Christmas baking season, I had a think back to the Christmas treats my mom used to make. Nanaimo bars were always on the dessert table at my parents Christmas parties, as well as a few other goodies I'll be sharing with you in the coming weeks. Nanaimo bars used to be a Canadian secret, but then they started to make their way down south into the US and different variations of the recipe started to emerge. And now with the introduction of the internet they've been making their way around the world through recipe sites and bogs like mine. So perhaps you've already come across these little bars before, and if you haven't you should definitely give them a try. They're simple, and they're delicious!


Nanaimo Bars

Base Layer

½ cup (114g) Butter, softened
2 Eggs
½ cup (113g) Sugar
2 cups (265g) Graham Cracker or Digestive Crumbs
5 Tbsp Cocoa
1 cup (90g) Coconut
1 tsp Vanilla
½ cup (75g) chopped Pecans, Walnuts or Hazelnuts*

* I used hazelnuts in my bars, but if you don't want nuts in yours you can substitute them with another ½ cup of graham cracker crumbs instead.

1. Place the softened butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and eggs in top of double boiler. Mix well and set over boiling water. Heat and stir until it resembles custard.
2. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in graham wafer crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press evenly into a greased 9 inch square pan.  Set aside to cool.

Custard Icing

¼ cup (57g) butter, softened
3 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp vanilla custard powder
2 cups (250g) sifted icing sugar

Cream butter until soft and smooth. Combine the milk and vanilla custard powder, then add to the butter. Blend in the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Spread over the chocolate base. Chill  for 10 – 15 minutes to become firm.

Chocolate Layer

Melt 4 squares (4oz or 114g) semi-sweet chocolate with 1 Tbsp butter and spread over the custard icing. When chocolate has set, cut into bars. *I opted for the easy route, and used an entire large bar (300g) of the Silver Spoon Cake Craft Chocolate covering for these. It's not the best, but it pours and dries well. 

Because I used a lot more chocolate than what was required I had a slightly thicker chocolate layer on my bars.  I found the easiest way to cut these is to freeze them, and had a tall container of very hot water near by.  Dip your knife in the hot water for a minute and dry it off well.  Then use your hot knife to cut through the bars. This will ensure that the chocolate won't crack or the icing layer won't smoosh out, and you'll have nice clean cuts.


I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but I grew up in Victoria, BC which is only about an hour or so away from Nanaimo. I think it's pretty cool that I'm living a zillion miles away, and in a country that's so full of it's own history, I can still can share a bit of my Canadian foodie history with you. And speaking of history, I just have to point out this little plate I used to display my Nanaimo bars on. It's over 80 years old, and belonged to my grandma. She gave me this little piece of Canadian history when I visited her this past summer. It was given to her by her grandma when she went to visit Saskatoon, SK aka "The Big City", which back then was a really big deal. So even though this plate might not be considered very old in the UK, it's definitely old where I come from!


13 comments:

Abbie said...

They look gorgeous!! I'm going to make some of these delights!... That is, as soon as the snow melts and I can make it to the supermarket!

I heart cupcakes said...

I've got to make these for my Canadian friend before Christmas eve. I've read so much about them but have never tried one - they sound wonderful

Made With Pink said...

You definitely have to try them! I'm going to make them again for our Christmas party, but tint the icing part red and another batch green so they're all Christmasy! They freeze really well too, and I actually prefer these cold. They keep in the fridge for ages as well.

Taya said...

yum! these look so good Andrea! haven't had a Nanaimo bar in years..I just might have to try your recipe this xmas :)

Idle Wife said...

I haven't eaten one of these in forever! Like, since I used to sneak them out of my grandma's deep freeze! My favourite part is the base, actually. The rest is almost too sweet. I keep seeing recipes and I should really make these at least once (I bet homemade is so much better), but when you're blessed to be able to walk over to the grocery store and buy them, you know?! It's hard not to!

debug said...

Oh they were so gorgeous..wish I had packed some;-).. Craving some now! I love the little history in yr post

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I can vouch that these were very nice indeed. I cannot believe I'd never heard of Nanaimo bars until this year.

Great to see you twice in three days too! Hope it won't be long until the next occasion.

Alicia said...

I Love Nanaimo bars!~ I live in Vancouver, and went to the University of Victoria as well. My aunts still makes these with my grandma's recipe! Love that you can share these around the world =)

Victoria said...

As a Canadian living the UK I miss Canadian treats, especially at Christmas!! (don't get me started on butter tarts!) Last year I made Nanaimo bars for xmas and my UK family totally gobbled them up...already at the top of the list for this year! yum yum!! :)

Dina said...

i've always wanted to try these. yours look yummy!

Stanislav said...

What an amazing recipe! I’m going to have to try it for the holidays. It reminds me of a French dessert my mother used to make for my father.

I love your blog, by the way!

Lucy said...

I love the idea of making something specific to your home. These look so decadent and delicious, I'd be proud to say they were from my country :)

Carlene & Bob Deutscher said...

We made a cupcake version of the nanaimo bar. Check it out on our blog: http://bsinthekitchen.com/?p=1775

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