A slightly different treat this Sunday, some Nanaimo Bars, a fridge set slice which requires no baking whatsoever. Nanaimo Bars were created in Canada in the 1950's by a lady from the town of Nanaimo and submitted to the Women's Institute Fundraising cookbook. They're still so popular they were recently voted 'Canada's Favourite Confection' and it's easy to see why. I'd never heard of these bars before but they looked amazing with their three layers of loveliness - full of butter, chocolate and custard sweetness. The bottom layer is a cocoa-rich rocky road-esque layer, the middle is a sweet custard buttercream and the topping is a dark chocolate ganache which tempers the toothsome layers below. Basically, they're delicious. The recipe would be easily adaptable as well, I can imagine adding mint, peanut butter or berry puree to the middle layer.
This recipe is from Edd Kimber, aka The Boy Who Bakes, who won the Great British Bake Off last year. I'm absolutely addicted to most cooking shows so obviously I have been glued to one that focused on baking! I really liked the two finalists last year, Ruth Clements (of The Pink Whisk, I tried making her Chocolate Lime Pie a while ago) and Edd, who was the worthy winner. He has just released a baking book which feature some classics (often with a twist) and his own creations, which really set this apart from other baking books. The classic twists are fun and surprising, such as pumpkin pie eclairs, raspberry ripple vanilla cake and brown sugar pannacotta. His own creations include interesting flavour combinations such as speculaas brownies, caramel and cinnamon cake and gianduja dacquoise cake (a meringue and chocolate hazelnut cake) - all very tempting to make.
The recipes are straightforward and there's a definite North American influence to his baking, mentioning visits to the US and his Canadian family in the book. There are decadent American-style desserts such as banana cream pie and chocolate and banana brioche bread pudding, and coconut cream cheese french toast certainly sounds like something you could order at an upscale hotel in New York for breakfast, along with bananas foster pancakes. His Northern roots still remain too and there's a delicious sounding cross between a Yorkshire curd tart and Eccles cake (Ceccles cake!) that I'm sure I'll be making soon. It's not an advanced baking books but there are lots of fun new flavours and modern ideas to try such as white chocolate and matcha mousse, ginger and chai pannacotta tarts and chocolate, pecan and salted caramel tart. Edd also teaches macaron baking classes and there are very thorough instructions for his rose and raspberry macarons and hazelnut and chocolate macarons. Each recipe features an introduction which shows a bit of his personality and a photograph of the finished product which I always appreciate in a cookbook! Another recommended baking book buy, particularly if you like experimenting with flavours.
(makes about 40 squares, I used 2 brownie pans)
For the base
300g digestive or rich tea biscuits
75g caster sugar
45g cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g desiccated coconut
75g walnuts, coarsely chopped
For the middle layer
345g icing sugar
3 tablespoons custard powder
100ml double cream
For the top layer
225g dark chocolate, finely chopped
200ml double cream
30g unsalted butter, softened
1. Press a piece of foil into the base and up the sides of a 23 x 33cm baking pan and set aside. Put the biscuits into a food processor and pulse until they resemble breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, put them in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.) Set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a medium pan set over medium heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder, then gradually beat in the eggs. Put back on the heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, coconut, biscuit crumbs and walnuts. Press this mixture evenly into the prepared pan, making sure to press the mixture in firmly so that it isn't too crumbly when set. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.
4. To make the middle layer, beat the butter using an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the icing sugar until smooth. Add the custard powder and cream, and beat slowly until combined, then beat on high until light and fluffy. Spread in an even layer across the chilled base, then chill for a further 30 minutes.
5. To make the top layer, put the chocolate into a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium pan bring the cream just to the boil, then pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for 2 minutes before gently stirring together until smooth.
6. Add the butter and stir until the ganache is smooth. Pour over the custard layer and spread in an even layer. Chill until set. Note: Try to pour and smooth the ganache really quickly to get a smooth surface for your topping.
7. To serve, use a sharp knife and cut into small squares. To get a clean cut run the knife under hot water, then wipe dry, before cutting.