Chocolate and Hazelnut Nanaimo Bars
If you have ever had the pleasure of indulging in a Nanaimo bar, you know just how intoxicating it can be: that chocolate-coconut cookie base made with chopped nuts, layered with creamy vanilla custard, and topped with dark chocolate ganache. It’s a distinctly Canadian creation—and the thing I’ve craved the most since I settled in New York 20 years ago.The bar comes from the seaside town of Nanaimo on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. The first official account of the recipe can be traced back to a cookbook published in 1952, but to this day the exact details of how and why it came to be remain shrouded in mystery. Regardless of its history, the Nanaimo bar is one of Canada’s most popular treats, included in every bake sale, sold at coffee shops and bakeries, and made in abundance for birthday parties and school lunches. I can still remember sneaking them off the dessert table at family celebrations and begging my mother to buy them every chance I had.For whatever reason, the bars never gained a following south of the border, and I have yet to come across anything like them here. I have always found this to be not just an unfortunate oversight, but a distinct and glaring hole in the American dessert lexicon—one I’m filling here with one of my own design, that layers a chocolate and coconut crust with buttercream frosting, hazelnuts, and chocolate ganache with swirls of tahini.You can thank me later. First, do yourself a favor and make these bars. Then share them. I think you’ll find you crave them as much as I do.