21 April 2009

Comfort and Restoration: Nanaimo Bars

Being ill--not really, really ill, but the kind of ill that leaves one prone to whining and snuffling through days and and raspily breathing and used tissue-piling nights--makes me crave comfort. I want flannelette pyjama bottoms, fleece tops and thick, warm socks. I want layers of blankets and comforters piled on the couch. I want (but rarely get at such times) a purring cat withing petting reach...I really want a manly set of arms and legs at my beck and call for glasses of juice, the latest WFI and to summon the strength to change the channel (not even close to happening).

Yup, I'm one of those people who is only still when she's bubbling snot, setting decibel records for sneezing and quite undecided if her vocal chords have taken a turn towards Demi Moore, Joss Stone or Bonnie Tyler. Heck, I've been known to put in more than a full day's work while bubbling snot, setting decibel records for sneezing while her vocal chords have taken turns at mimicking Demi Moore, Joss Stone and Bonnie Tyler.

I gravitate towards garlicky and peppery soups (tomato or cream of mushroom) and buttered toast. Easy, quick and pretty much instafood that still gives me the illusion of "cooking"--which is good, because I generally don't feel like eating. For the most part colds and flus leave me devoid of useful tastebuds. The only ones that seem to function are those that tell me everything tastes like the underside of a soap dish.

But I know I must eat, so whenever possible I gravitate towards the non-cooking option and order in. Chinese food, usually--hot and sour soup, pan-fried dumplings, General Tsao chicken, extra spicy kung po broccoli and beef, thick noodles with veggies, and mushu veggies...Vast quantities of food--far too much for one person who has no interest in eating--prepared in a not so far off kitchen are temporarily stored in the fridge, steadily consumed over the course of a week.

I'm a firm believer that food is healing. Garlic, pepper, ginger--all good and good for you. When I'm snuffling, the hotter, the better. Which is probably the basis of one of my foodish superstitions: I won't begin to feel better until I have one of my special sandwiches, Death Rain potato chips, a bottle of Jones Blue Bubble Gum soda and a Nanaimo bar.

This combination evolved over time--Death Rain and Jones sodas weren't around when I started this little ritual--but the sandwich and the Nanaimo bar remain.

The sandwich, which has been referred to by friends as "Jasmine's special sandwich" is, by most accounts, inedible. The ideal sandwich was first perfected at a now defunct local build-your-own sandwichery. I think my most successful version was roast beef, turkey, cheddar, lettuce, onions, hot peppers, spicy mustard, horseradish, onions, dill pickles and butter on an onion bun. Now I have a version made at the swankyfoodery: shaved rare or Angus roast beef, cheddar, lettuce, onions, pickles, horseradish, "the bomb" (a house blend of predominantly red, hot and oily things), roasted peppers, aubergines and sundried tomatoes on the bread of the day. It's not quite as good but it usually works.

But I think the key is having a Nanaimo bar as my sweet. More often than not, if it's missing the cold will drag on...and on...and on.

So when I endured the never-ending cold I went in search of the sandwich, the chips, the soda and the sweet. The iconic Canadian bar cookie was nowhere to be found. Not at the swankyfoodery, the mediumscarymegamart, any of the Tims on my way from the swankyfooderie to the mediumscary megamart (four), nor the sub shop that used to sell Nanaimos as big as my face. So I didn't have the Nanaimo bar. And the cold took up residence for nearly two months.

When I felt well enough to face pulling ingredients together, I made a batch. It's easy and mostly no-cook. Within a day or two I was less snotty, emitting the daintiest of lady-like sneezes and my voice...well, my voice has alwasy elicited certain comments from men...

Nanaimo bars: the miracle cure for the uncommon cold.

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
110g unsalted butter
50g sugar
30g cocoa
1 egg beaten
150g graham wafer crumbs
50g finely chopped almonds
75g desiccated coconut

Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in a bain marie. Add the egg and stir until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased brownie pan (20cmx20cm/8"x 8").

Second Layer
110g unsalted butter
4dspn (40ml) heavy cream
2 Tbsp vanilla custard powder
250g icing sugar
Cream all the above together. Spread over the cocoa layer.

Third Layer
100g semi-sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter overlow heat. Cool. Once cool (but still liquid) pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator. Once set, cut into as many pieces as you wish.


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Anonymous said...

I'm a big believer of feed a cold and feed a fever, but Nanaimo bars aren't my thing. I'd much rather drown my sorrows in that other iconic Canadian baked good: the buttertart!

People often say mine are the best - who am I to argue?


K and S said...

hope you feel better soon...btw, my remedy is kettle style potato chips and pineapple juice.

Kasha said...

Nanaimo bars! I thought I was the only one that has had the pleasure of experiencing such a treat. Is it a cookie born in Canada? My Mom is from Canada and I guessed I never pondered where she got it. Anyways, it is delicious. She makes them and then freezes them so we can enjoy them for months. Thanks for letting me gander at your awesome blog! Feel free to stop by mine sometime.

Alanna Kellogg said...

Despite my Canadian heritage, I've never ever made nanaimo bars -- thanks for the reminder to put this on my list of Canadian favorites!

Be well, Jasmine ...

Elyse said...

Wow! This is comfort food at its max. How totally delicious. I'm loving the sandwich, chips, and Nanaimo bar combo. This food will totally "heal" you in no time! Everything looks delicious!

Scate said...

My mother in law has been talking about Nanaimo Bars for eons - and I've never seen them let alone tasted or baked. These are on my list to make this week - thanks!! you've just improved some in-law relations. Thanks!

Jenny said...

For next time, M&M's meat shops, they sell them in a big box, frozen, and you can slice off one or two and leave the rest in the freezer!
(Though yours are probably better.)