Nanaimo Bars are one of the best Canadian food things. If you’ve never had one, you’re seriously missing out. They’re a triple layer bar and are all kinds of delicious. The first layer is a seriously decked-out graham cracker crust—not just cracker crumbs, but toasted coconut, pecans, cocoa, and almond meal. Next up, a layer of thick, pale yellow custard. Mmm. Then, to top it off, a layer of bittersweet chocolate. What more could you want from life?

Most Nanaimo Bars, while delicious, are really, really sweet. And the chocolatey layer is so much harder than the custard it tops that when you bite into the bar you are faced with a rather unfortunate splurting problem, where the custard blurts out the back of the bar as the chocolate squashes it. So I fixed it!

I started with making my own custard, rather than using a combination of custard powder and a pound of icing sugar. By making my own I was able to better control the ingredients, meaning the sweetness level was all up to me. The second problem that had to be fixed was the chocolate one. I did that by using chocolate ganache, which is much softer than solid chocolate. Lovely!

Nanaimo Bars

Crust
¼ cup white sugar
5 tbsp cocoa powder
1¼ cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup almond meal
1 cup finely shredded coconut, toasted
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp table salt

Custard
4 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup white sugar
Pinch of table salt

Chocolate Topping
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
½ cup heavy cream

Line an 8″x8″ (20cmx20cm) pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough to hang over the edges of the pan, and then butter the foil. This will make removing the finished bars from the pan much easier. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Stir together sugar, cocoa, graham cracker crumbs, almonds, and toasted coconut. Using your hands, mix in the butter and the egg. Press the mixture into the bottom of the foil-lined pan and bake for 15 minutes.

Make a paste of cornstarch and a few tablespoons (45mL) of milk. Whisk the remaining milk and cream together in a saucepan, and heat them over medium heat. Don’t let the mixture boil, just get it steaming, and then stir in the vanilla. In a separate saucepan, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt. While whisking, pour a little of the warmed cream mixture into the egg mixture to temper it. Gradually whisk in the rest of the cream mixture, stir- ring constantly to keep the mixture from curdling. Place the saucepan over low heat and stir, constantly, until the mixture is quite thick. It should be thicker than standard custard. Let it cool a bit, and spread the custard over the bottom layer. Chill.

Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Keep a close eye on the cream, as it will go from steaming to enthusiastically boiling over in a split second. Once it’s steaming and you see a few tiny bubbles, pull it off the stove and add the finely chopped chocolate. Leave it to melt for 10 minutes, stirring the mixture every couple minutes to help it along. Once it’s all melted together, let it cool slightly before pouring it over the custard layer and chilling the whole pan in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Remove the bars from the pan by lifting out the foil lining. Gently peel it down, and slice into 20 bars. Keep them in the fridge in a tin or plastic container, with a layer of leftover foil or parchment between layers.