Bringing Canada to South Africa one treat at a time!

Ever wanted to go to Canada? I know a lot of people who have dreamt of one day exploring the vast and beautiful country of Canada and believe it or not, I was once like that myself. Although I was briefly there at an age where adults do not remember anything, but that is just the thing, I couldn’t recall it. And because I couldn’t recall it I longed to return at an older age. To explore and enjoy snow.

I only had my first pair of jeans at the age of ten or so. Before that I lived a life in shorts and skorts. So when we moved to Canada, my family and I had to get all warm clothes so we could handle the weather. Especially as it was the very peak of winter where it got up to -18C sometimes.

Anyway I know many South Africans who love the idea of going to Canada but fear the cold. Though honestly, I wouldn’t blame them.

So instead of them venturing to the icy cold country, I thought I would bring some of it to South Africa.

No, I did not get an artificial snow machine though that would have been cool. No instead I made a great Canadian treat that is often enjoyed at weddings and large parties alike. Although these are loved at parties, anyone could go to a grocery store or frozen food store such as M&M’s Meat Shops to buy these treats.

What are they called? Nanaimo bars!

Look at the layers!
Look at the layers!

Nanaimo bars are these extremely sweet treats with a bottom layer of a chocolate cookie base, a middle layer of a vanilla custard, and an upper layer of chocolate and these beautiful things come from the town of Nanaimo in British Columbia. I believe the woman who made these treats entered a competition and won with these things making them the hit of the country! Now they are enjoyed nationwide by everyone.

And this week they were enjoyed worldwide as I made them for my friends and family to enjoy.

Nanaimo Bars

I got the recipe from this adorable blog called I Wash You Dry – how cute is that name? There are a bunch of great recipes on there! The direct link to the recipe can be found here. I did follow everything to a T though I wish I didn’t when it came to the upper level of the Nanaimo Bars. I just struggled like crazy when it came to the chocolate layer. You’ll see later in photos. However below is the recipe:

Ingredients:

Bottom layer

  • ½ cup (115g) margarine, softened
  • 5 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup (100g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 ½ cups (150g) Digestive cookies
  • ½ cup (64g) walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup (75g) coconut flakes

Middle layer

  • ½ cup (115g) margarine, softened
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla custard powder
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy cream (I used a vegetarian cream substitute)
  • 2 cups (280g) powder sugar

Upper layer

  • 1 cup (200g) chocolate chips
  • 3 Tablespoons margarine
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions:

For crust:

  1. Line tin with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In an oven safe bowl, melt margarine until turned into a complete liquid. In a larger bowl add cocoa, sugar, and vanilla extract. Once margarine is melted, add to cocoa and sugar in bowl and mix well. Whisk in egg and mix until incorporated. Once egg is mixed add crushed cookies, walnuts, and coconut flakes.
  3. Scoop mixture into prepared tin and flatten out. Pop into refrigerator to allow to set.

For custard:

  1. In a large bowl whisk together softened butter, custard powder, and cream until light and fluffy.
  2. Add powdered sugar to custard mixture bit by bit until custard is light and fluffy.
  3. Remove tin from refrigerator and spread custard on crust layer and smooth out. Return tin to fridge to prepare upper layer of Nanaimo bars.

For chocolate:

  1. Melt chocolate, butter, and cream in an oven safe bowl until chocolate is soft. Whisk until melted and smooth. Let cool for 10-15 minutes.

  2. Pour on top of bars and smooth out, chill in fridge until set and cut into small squares.

  3. Store in fridge and enjoy!

So I really hate this top layer. Really really.

Why? Well for some reason the chocolate formed a gross oiliness to it. Like when you are making a soup and the upper layer has an oily layer? The only word I can think of is “vet” this being the Dutch word for fat. Well the upper layer of the Nanaimo bars retained a lot of fat. To the point where after applying the chocolate to the custard layer I had to pat THREE paper towels on the chocolate to absorb all the oil.

Paper towel grooves in chocolate
Paper towel grooves in chocolate
Oil from butter in chocolate
Oil from butter in chocolate

I think the worst thing is that it wasn’t the margarine that did it. I made two Nanaimo bar recipes, one with margarine and the other with unsalted butter. The SAME thing happened with both recipes. I’m not sure what I did differently from the original recipe, but my Nanaimo bars looked gross when not patted down.

Regardless of this issue I had, my Nanaimo bars came out perfectly. I brought them to tea after Pilates this morning and they were thoroughly enjoyed by all. I even got my one friends son to give in to my treats. He who is VERY strict about his diet and exercising. I am very chuffed about that.

If you all are interested in visiting Canada but cannot handle the cold, these Nanaimo bars are the way to handle all! I hope you all enjoy them!

Happy eating!

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2 thoughts on “Bringing Canada to South Africa one treat at a time!”

    1. No way! The two years we lived in AB, we only experienced mild winters. The year we moved I saw that there was -40C weather though.

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