If you've ever tried a Nanaimo bar, you know that they're a singular sensation of a treat: unforgivingly rich, unbelievably indulgent, and completely irresistible. That is to say, the perfect holiday treat!
And here's a version which embodies the festive flavors of the holiday season: the Peppermint Nanaimo Bar. It takes the classic bar and gives it a minty makeover, yielding a rich, creamy, buttery and refreshing treat that is the kind of confection that peppermint patties hope to be when they grow up.
Even sweeter? Serving them on adorable sleds made from popsicle sticks and candy canes--the perfect vehicle to deliver these rich treats!
These bars are truly the stuff that dreams (and New Year's resolutions) are made of--and a treat that you'll find hard to resist!
Peppermint Nanaimo Bars
Makes about 24 bars
Adapted from the Official City of Nanaimo recipe
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
1 cup coconut
½ cup finely chopped almonds
½ cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (instant vanilla pudding works in a pinch)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
several drops of green food coloring (optional)
4 ounces good quality dark chocolate
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Prepare the bottom layer. Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased, parchment-lined 8" x 8" pan. Let chill in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.
Cream butter, cream, custard powder, peppermint extract, and confectioners' sugar together well. Beat until light; it should be a thick consistency, but still spreadable. If desired, stir in food coloring until completely mixed in. Spread over bottom layer, making sure that it is as flat as possible (I use a metal spatula to "scrape" it into a flat top). Return to the fridge until the middle layer is completely set. Sometimes I even put them in the freezer so that they will be extremely firm before adding the top layer.
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Add the peppermint extract and stir until incorporated. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer, very gently spreading so that it covers the entire layer--you will need to do this fairly quickly so that the second layer doesn't start to melt or meld with the top layer. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least a half-hour. Serve lightly chilled, or let come to room temperature.
When you're ready to serve, use a sharp knife to slice the bars, and keep a towel on hand to clean the knife frequently between cuts to ensure clean, good-looking bars which showcase the pretty layers.
Candy Cane Sleds
4-5 popsicle sticks
Glue (liquid, "school glue" type)
Markers or paint to write a message on the side
scraps ribbon or foil
4 small candy canes
Atop waxed paper, gently apply glue to the side of one of your popsicle sticks, and adhere a second to it, side by side. Repeat with one of the unglued sides, until you have 4 or 5 sticks glued together (the outside sticks will not have glue facing out). Let dry for about half an hour, or until the glue is set.
Cut pieces of ribbon to the same width as the "sled" and glue across the top and bottom. These strips will not only help the popsicle sticks stay together but provide a nice visual. Let dry.
Turn over, and repeat on the bottom side (this is more for structure than for the look!). Let dry again.
Add any extra garnishes (a second layer of ribbon,etc) on to the sled.
Get together your four mini candy canes. On two of them, break the cane off right at the point at which it starts to curve.
Glue the two broken-off candy canes facing with the broken-off part facing out on the back of the "sled", and the two complete candy canes facing forward. Clip the candy canes with clothespins until the glue has set so that they will stay in place.
Let dry again for about a half hour.
If desired, write a sweet message on the side of your sled, and skate it on over to the recipient!
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