“Named after the city in British Columbia, the traditional Nanaimo bar is a no-bake layered affair with a crumb crust and layers of sweet vanilla filling crowned with chocolate. These here — with a coconut pecan crust, vanilla cream cheese filling, and dark chocolate ganache — are for people who like the idea of the Nanaimo bar but wish it were different: less sweet, more grown-up, a bit modern. Oh, and these are baked. Thus, no claims to authenticity…only a very good bar created by a very good friend, Portland food maven Maya Klein.”
Excerpted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books, 2010).
1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) chocolate cookie crumbs (from 9 chocolate graham crackers)
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) unsweetened dried shredded coconut
1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely chopped pecans
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4.375 ounces) granulated sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (0.875 ounce) packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
7 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with 55% to 60% cacao
A 9-inch square metal baking pan, the bottom and all 4 sides lined with foil
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Mix the crumbs, coconut, pecans, butter, and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar and pat it very firmly into the lined pan. Bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it looks slightly darker at the edges and smells toasted.
While the crust is baking, mix the filling. In a large bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of the remaining granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and then the egg. When the crust is baked, dollop the filling onto the hot crust and spread gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the bars until the edges are slightly puffed, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack for 30 minutes. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Dissolve the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in the cream. Bring 1/2 inch water to a simmer in a medium skillet. Coarsely chop the chocolate and combine with the cream in a medium metal bowl. Place the bowl directly in the skillet of hot water and turn off the heat. Let rest for 5 minutes and whisk until smooth. Set aside until needed.
Pour the warm ganache onto the bars, spread, and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Lift the bars out of the pan by using the edges of the foil liner. Cut into 16 or 25 squares, wiping the knife between cuts. May be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Makes 16 large (2 1/4—inch) bars or 25 smaller bars.