Bites of History: Christmas sweets have a long history around the world _lowres

Photo by Cynthia L. Nobles -- The no-bake Nanaimo Bar is common on Canadian Christmas cookie platters and is inextricably tied to the City of Nanaimo.

Advocate-tested recipe

The Official Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Makes 24. Adapted from a recipe by Joyce Hardcastle, winner of the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe contest sponsored in 1986 by the City of Nanaimo (nah-NIGH-moe), Vancouver Island, British Columbia. No one can definitively say when or where this no-bake cookie was invented, but it is common on Canadian Christmas cookie platters and is inextricably tied to the City of Nanaimo. And, thanks to availability in coffee shops, they’re becoming more and more popular in the U.S.

Bottom Layer:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

¼ cup sugar

5 tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch process)

1 large egg, beaten

1¼ cups graham cracker crumbs

½ cup finely chopped almonds

1 cup shredded coconut

Second Layer:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder, or substitute 3 tablespoons dry instant vanilla pudding mix

2 cups powdered sugar

Third Layer:

4 squares (4 oz.) semisweet chocolate

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. For bottom layer: In the top of a double boiler, melt butter and add sugar and cocoa. Whisk in egg and continue whisking until thick and smooth, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in graham cracker crumbs, almonds and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8-inch-by-8-inch pan. Chill 30 minutes.

2. For second layer: In a bowl, combine butter, cream, custard powder or pudding mix and powdered sugar and beat using medium mixer speed until smooth. Mixture should be very thick, yet spreadable. Spread over crumb layer and chill 30 more minutes.

3. For third layer: Melt chocolate in cream in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir until smooth and let sit at room temperature until cool but still pourable. Pour evenly over 2 cookie layers in pan. Chill until set. Using a sharp, hot, dry knife, slice into 36 pieces. Store covered in the refrigerator and serve chilled. Can be frozen and served slightly defrosted.