Nanaimo Bars: The sweetest slice of Canadiana

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Nanaimo bars have to be Canada's sweetest contribution to the world of food... like, literally.

So, if you're ever craving sugar, and I mean really craving sugar, this recipe is here for you!

Nanaimo bars

Makes 16 bars

For the bottom layer:
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup desiccated coconut

For the filling:
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the topping:
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Prepare a 9x9-inch pan by lining it with parchment paper.

For the bottom layer, set a large heatproof bowl over 1-inch of simmering water and add in the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Melt the mixture together until fully combined.  Beat in the egg and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 30­­–45 seconds.  Remove the bowl from the heat and add in the graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, and coconut.  Press this into the bottom of your prepared pan and pop it in the fridge to chill.

For the filling, in a medium bowl, beat together the butter and custard powder.  Slowly add in the icing sugar followed by the milk, vanilla, and salt.  Continue to beat until well combined and light and fluffy.  Spread the filling in an even layer over the base and pop it back in the fridge to allow it to continue to chill.

For the topping, either in a double boiler or in the microwave, melt together the chocolate chips, butter, and salt.  Stir well to combine and allow it to cool just slightly.  Pour the topping over the custard layer and spread into an even layer.  Pop the whole pan back into the fridge to cool completely.  To cut, use a very sharp warm knife and prepare for a sugar crash in approximately 2 hours!

Insert Corny Pun Here... Honey Roasted Peanut Caramel Corn

Honey Roasted Peanut Caramel Corn

Honey Roasted Peanut Caramel Corn

If there were such a thing as a buffet that served literally every single type of food, you would most definitely find me near the popcorn.  Whether it's  plain, that almost hypnotic movie theatre yellow, snazzed up with cheese, or coated in a thick layer of sweet, treacly caramel, I will, without hesitation, polish off every little kernel in sight.  

While all and any flavouring will do, this here is kind of a show stopper in my books.  The combination of sweet honey roasted peanuts and an almost flowery honey-infused caramel just makes this oh-so addictive snack that much more gobble-able!

Honey Roasted Peanut Caramel Corn

Makes around 10­–12 cups

10~ cups popped plain popcorn (3~ bags or 1/3 cup kernels, popped)
½ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups honey roasted peanuts

Preheat your oven to 250F and line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil, dull side up, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

Pour all of the popcorn into your largest mixing bowl and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Once melted, add in the sugar, honey, and salt and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium low and allow the caramel to bubble away for 4­­–5 minutes.  Remove the caramel from the heat, stir in the baking soda and vanilla being careful of boil over, and quickly pour the caramel over the popcorn.  Quickly and carefully mix everything together until the popcorn is nicely coated with the caramel, scatter in the peanuts, and continue to stir until well combined and everything is evenly coated.

Divide the caramel corn between the two baking sheets and spread into an even layer.  Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes and rotating the pan halfway through.

Allow the caramel corn to cool completely then break it up and serve!

That sweet and salty crunch of Candied Nuts

Open my pantry and you are pretty much guaranteed to find a store of candied nuts just waiting to be sprinkled on salads, cakes, yogurt, or simply eaten by the handful.  This is the most basic of recipes for candied nuts so feel free to put your own spin on it.  Give this recipe a whirl with almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, or whatever you have on hand.  If you're feeling extra snazzy, add a bit of cinnamon, some crunchy salt flakes, curry powder, or even some fresh chopped rosemary!

Candied Nuts

Makes 2~ cups

¾ cup white sugar
2 cups nuts
¼ tsp kosher salt

Before you start cooking, set up a cooling station for your nuts by placing a silpat or piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

For the nuts, evenly sprinkle the sugar across the bottom of a medium stainless steel frying pan and place it over medium heat.  Without stirring, allow the sugar to melt and turn a lovely golden colour.  Once all of the sugar has melted and is caramelized to a rich amber, remove the pan from the heat and quickly and carefully stir in the nuts. 

Working fast, pour the nuts onto the prepared cooling station and, using a heatproof spoon or spatula, spread the nuts into an even-ish layer.  Sprinkle the top with the salt and allow to cool completely.  Once cool, break the candied nuts apart and store in an airtight container.