Wednesday 6 November 2019

Cooking with Gas (or Electric) - Finding Nanaimo

As we know Corner Gas is a Canadian classic, so here at Fan Corner I like to bring you other great Canadian institutions that should not be missed. This week I would like to introduce the world to the Nanaimo Bar! Let's start with a little background before we get to the nuts and bolts of it...or the nuts and chocolate which would be more accurate.

Way back in Caveman times there was very little to do before dinner time other than wait for someone to invent everything. There were only three things that had been invented back then and they were Rocks, Dinosaurs and Joan Collins. There wasn't very much to choose from when it came to food either. Cooking was at a very experimental, dangerous stage. You could eat something and die or be eaten by something and die.

The first known photograph of Neanderthal Man, taken roughly one bajillion years B.C. was taken just before the very
first friction burn was tended to in the caveman emergency ward

Everything you could eat was very chewy, the subtle art of tenderizing meat had bypassed the pre-evolved synapses of Cro-Magnon man. It wasn't until one pioneer became the worlds first celebrity chef that things changed. Gorgon Ramsey turned cookery on it's head literally over night.

Whilst dining in "Thurg's All You Can Eat Wings"  Gorgon grew tired of trying to bite his way through three feet of Pterodactyl wing and loosing the best part of his expensive bridge work in the process. In a rage he grabbed the nearest patron by the ankles and used him to batter his dinner into oblivion. The result being a tender juicy treat that you didn't leave your molars in when you finished eating.

Gorgon became a sensation overnight and his grizzled face, penchant for expletives and horrendous hair transplants could be seen documented on cave paintings all around the world.

This was the birth of modern cookery. Since those primitive times we as a race have developed no end of gastronomic delights to tempt the taste buds. Everything from Rosbif à l'alsacienne to Escargots de Bourgogne to Strawberry Pop Tarts. We can do the lot mate. 

Of all the courses that can be enjoyed at the dinner table none are more popular than desert. Every country will have their own "specialty de la mason" which is German for "tastes nicer than a house brick". Canada is no exception.

Nanaimo bars contain 1,500 calories so it is recommended that you eat them a layer at a time which are 500 calories each and that is lots less, obviously! Corner Gas Fan Corner: Making diets easy and fun!

Nanaimo bar is a Canadian dessert item of Canadian origin which requires no baking. It is named after the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia which in turn is named after the famous fish that went missing only to be found again in a sushi bar in Rowhampton, U.K. 

The sweet treat contains three layers: a wafer, nut (walnuts, almonds, or pecans), and coconut crumb-base; custard flavoured butter icing in the middle; and a layer of chocolate ganache on top. The custard filling is traditionally made using Bird's Custard Powder. Many varieties exist, consisting of different types of crumb, different flavours of icing (e.g., mintpeanut buttercoconutmocha and raspberry), and different types of chocolate.

The earliest confirmed printed copy of a recipe using the name "Nanaimo bars" appears in the Edith Adams' prize cookbook (14th edition) from 1953. A copy of the book is on view at the Nanaimo Museum. However, following research into the origins of Nanaimo bars, Lenore Newman writes that the same recipe was published in the Vancouver Sun earlier that same year under the name "London Fog Bar". The recipe later also appears in a publication entitled "His/Her Favourite Recipes, Compiled by the Women's Association of the Brechin United Church" (1957), with the recipe submitted by Joy Wilgress, a Baltimore, Maryland, native. (Brechin United Church is in Nanaimo.) Nobody could agree who was the originator of the recipe so an all in tag mud wrestling match was arranged by the church which ended in a tie between Edith and Joy so to this day the origin of the bar will never be certain. 

Never feed Nuns after midnight or get water on them. These Nun's are all jacked up on the sugar and Sister Marjorie Flunge used too much bleach on her Wimple again
The first printing of recipes featuring Nanaimo bar ingredients is found in the 1952 Women's Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook, which features three nearly identical recipes that differ only slightly from the modern Nanaimo bar. They are referred to as the "chocolate square" or the "chocolate slice". Where they differed was that instead of chocolate, nuts and custard the Hospital variant included mud, anthrax and knitting needles. It was later discovered the recipes in their cookbook were designed to up the institutions intake of patients as part of a devious black market bed pan scandal. 

Lucretia Flappes destroys the evidence whilst her husband is rushed to hospital after she dropped her hair curlers in the soup again 
Other unconfirmed references date the bar back to the 1930s, when it was said to be known as "chocolate fridge cake". This reference has been dismissed as it would be far too silly to put a fridge in your cake, it would be too heavy to carry in your lunch box. No school child should suffer a hernia at such an early age for the sake of pudding.

Conjoined triplets Steve, Roger and Trevor Fencing-Post look forward to the weekly fight over who would get a chicken leg for dinner
The popularity of the bar in Nanaimo led local residents to mobilise to have it voted "Canada's Favourite Confection" in a National Post reader survey. In 1985, Mayor Graeme Roberts initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo bar recipe. The recipe submitted by Joyce Hardcastle, a resident of Nanaimo, was unanimously selected by a panel of judges.

Corner Gas Fan Corner only wishes to bring you the best of everything. So here for your delectation is the Joyce Hardcastle recipe with easy to follow instructions

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut
1. Pour 2 cups (500 ml) water into bottom of double boiler. Place on stove over medium heat and bring water to simmer.
2. In top of double boiler; combine butter, cocoa and sugar; place over simmering water. Heat, stirring, until butter has melted and mixture is smooth.
3. Add beaten egg; stir until thick. Remove top of double boiler from heat. Stir in graham wafer crumbs, coconut and almonds.
4. Scrape into parchment paper-lined 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish. Press firmly to create even bottom layer.
5. Tip: If you don’t have a double boiler, half-fill a saucepan with water and heat over medium heat until water begins to simmer. Then, place a metal or glass bowl over the simmering water and proceed as directed.

Wendy Grated-Carrot was a pioneer of eco-friendly cooking. She recharged herself before every dinner time.

Second Layer

½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar
1. In bowl, cream together butter, cream and custard powder. Gradually add icing sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Scrape over bottom layer, smoothing top with spatula or palette knife.
No one ever discovered the reason for the sudden rise of migraine attacks in the 1970's

Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1. In clean double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. When cool, but still liquid, pour over custard layer.
2. Cover and refrigerate until cold.

Well done you have now completed your first Nanaimo bars! So combine with chili cheese dogs and you have the perfect dinner to watch Corner Gas with! Leave your comments and pictures of your efforts below. Pictures of empty plates with the caption "Burp" won't count.

With thanks to Andrew Bartholomew and his Mum for the inspiration.

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