Upcycled Nanaimo Bars? I Can’t Believe They’re Gluten Free!

Nanaimo Bars have been a favourite dainty of mine, since I was a child. Over the years, I have tasted many versions of it ~ both homemade as well as store-bought. I have attempted to make them several times, but must confess that my success rate has not been great. I don’t think I’m alone in my struggle to achieve the perfect base layer. I often find the base to be too dry and crumbly. There is nothing as frustrating as trying to cut a dainty that crumbles apart when you go to serve it. I also found that many times the crust actually tasted dry and lacked flavour as well. I always prefer home baking over store-bought, but eventually gave up on the idea of ever finding the perfect recipe. Eventually, I was served a piece of Nanaimo that seemed to have the perfect base. It was more fudgey and served up beautifully. When I asked for the recipe, I was extended a smile and told it was the “Robin Hood” box mix. I was sold and proceeded to buy the mix and make it as one of the dainties on my annual Christmas baking list. Sadly, Robin Hood discontinued their Nanaimo Mix a few years ago and so I simply omitted it from my baking list. This year I embarked on a mission to find a recipe for the base that would be similar to that of the mix. I googled and searched, but was unable to come up with a recipe. It was then that I decided to come up with my own. I was shocked when my very first attempt came out not only delicious, but held together and served perfectly. I was so excited I just had to share. In addition to it meeting my high expectations…my version is also GLUTEN FREE. I didn’t really intend to create a gluten-free Nanaimo Bar recipe, but as I worked on the recipe, I quickly realized that none of the ingredients I used contained gluten…bonus! So, for all you gluten-free people, here is a delicious gluten-free recipe that does not make you feel like you are sacrificing flavour or texture ~ in my opinion it’s better than some of the more traditional recipes! Obviously, not everyone will agree ~ but I really love my new base recipe which is more like a fudge.  I can’t wait for others to try it and let me know if they like it as much as I do!

Incredible Gluten Free Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:

Base:

  • 2 1/4 cups semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate chips
  • 3/8 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of *thick and creamy coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of medium shredded coconut

Filling:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Bird’s Custard Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons cream + 2 teaspoons
  • 2 cups of icing sugar

Top Layer:

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (or 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate squares)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Line a 9″ X 9″ square pan with parchment paper (or wax paper) and be sure it extends up over two of the sides so you have something to hold onto to remove the set dainties
  2. BASE:  Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe dish. (My microwave has a setting for melting chocolate, so I would do it in very short increments of 15 seconds or so and stir in between, if you don’t have a setting.) The chocolate does not need to melt completely in the microwave it will continue to melt as you stir it. DO NOT over heat.  Once melted, stir in the coconut milk and vanilla. Finally, add the coconut and walnuts to the mixture and stir well to combine.
  3. Spread the chocolate base mixture into the parchment lined pan. Chill in the freezer while you make the yellow filling, but do not allow to set completely or the two layers will separate when you serve.
  4. FILLING:  To make the yellow filling, cream the four filling ingredients together and beat until light. Spread over the chilled bottom layer. Transfer to the fridge to cool while you prepare the top layer. It should set about 10 minutes or so.
  5. TOP LAYER:  Melt the chocolate chips (or squares) and coconut oil in the microwave as in step 2. Once all lumps have been melted, immediately spread an even layer over the yellow filling. I will often spread quickly with a knife and then slide my pan back and forth on the counter to create a smooth even layer, but you have to work fast so the chocolate doesn’t begin to set before you do this.
  6. Transfer the finished Nanaimo Bar to the fridge to set the chocolate. Monitoring the setting is key ~ you want the chocolate to set enough that it is no longer gooey, but not so much that it will crack when you cut it. I usually set my timer and check it after 10 minutes and then about every 5 minutes until the top looks “just set”. I then remove it from the fridge and score the top layer. You may or may not want to slice right through to the bottom, but you want to score through the top layer so that it will not break and separate from the filling when you go to serve it. When I go to cut it into squares, I pull the entire piece out of the pan using the edges of the parchment paper to remove it. This allows me to cut nice even squares.
  7.  It can be stored in either the freezer or refrigerator. The freezer will give it more of a candy bar consistency while the fridge will make it more like fudge.
 
*The “thick and creamy coconut milk” is made by keeping the can of coconut milk in the fridge, so that the water and cream separate. When you open the can, discarded half the water and blended the remaining water with the milk to create a thick, creamy coconut milk.
*I substituted 1 tablespoon of cream with the thick and creamy coconut milk in the filling layer and loved it. I was tempted to try the whole amount, but didn’t. I might try that next time!

This might seem like several steps, but it is really quite quick and easy to whip up. If you decide to give it a try, please let me know how it turns out for you. I hope others enjoy it as much as we did!

About Cindy RoyI am a busy mother, wife and kindergarten teacher. I have a huge list of loves! I love my family, Springs Church, old houses, "up-cycling" and DIY projects, scrapbooking, volleyball, interior design, cake decorating, party planning, healthy eating, and sleeping. I am very organized and reflective, and am continually striving to do life more lovingly, passionately, effectively and successfully.

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