Eek! Nine days until Christmas, and I’m nowhere near done! I still have presents to pick up, crafts to make, and a gingerbread house still in pieces. I do this to myself every year. It seems like there’s lots of time… plenty of time… still some time… then BAM! Time’s up! Full-blown panic sets in! I estimate I’m about two days from this year’s panic.
Yes, getting ready for the holidays can be stressful, but the flip side is they’re also a pretty good reason to enjoy all the treats and desserts I (usually) pass over the rest of the year. It’s like my holiday from clean eating. I know I’ll be getting back into the healthy groove of things in January, likely kickstarted with a new Whole30 Challenge, so I’m saying a guilt-free yes to my favourite treats over the next couple of weeks. While I’m making lists, doing last minute shopping, cleaning the house, and hunting down glue sticks for the kids, I’m working on some holiday baking too.
I’m not sure how well known Nanaimo bars (pronounced nah-NIGH-mo) are in the rest of the world, but here in Canada these are a classic. Originating in the City of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, these no bake dessert bars are made with a base of chocolate coconut graham cookie crumbs, custard icing, and a layer of chocolate on top. Nanaimo bars are a holiday tradition for many of us, but what to do when half of your family can’t eat gluten? Just make your own with gluten-free graham cracker crumbs instead!
This is my mother-in-law’s Nanaimo bar recipe and a family tradition every Christmas. Nowadays they’re made with gluten-free graham crumbs and goat milk, but nobody can tell the difference. They’re still my favourite sugar bomb – head and shoulders above the pale tasteless store-bought versions! The best Nanaimo bars are a delicate balance between the cookie base, icing, and chocolate. These have achieved that perfect harmony.
These can be made ahead of time and frozen until needed. (I actually think they’re extra yummy straight out of the freezer still frozen!)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 5 tablespoons white sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup milk or non-dairy milk alternative
- 1/4 cup custard powder
- 4 cups sifted icing sugar
- 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate (4 squares)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Place softened butter, sugar, cocoa, egg, and vanilla extract in a small bowl and set in a pan of boiling water.
- Stir until butter is melted and mixture thickens.
- Remove bowl from water bath and add graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and walnuts. Mix well.
- Spread chocolate coconut mixture in a 9x13 ungreased pan. Pack it down firmly with the back of a spoon.
- Place in fridge to cool for about an hour before adding icing.
- Cream butter.
- Mix milk and custard powder together, then fold into creamed butter.
- Gradually stir in sifted icing sugar to make a stiff icing.
- Spread evenly over chocolate base and allow to set in the fridge, about an hour.
- Slowly melt semi-sweet chocolate and butter in a small double boiler, being careful not to burn the chocolate. Once melted, pour over top and place in fridge to harden.
- Cut into small squares and enjoy!
- Of course you can substitute regular graham cracker crumbs if you don't need this to be gluten-free. You can use dairy milk (cow, goat) or non-dairy alternatives (almond, cashew) in this recipe.
- Nanaimo bars freeze well, so make these ahead of time and freeze for later.
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