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I heart nanaimo bars. My friend Shannon also loves them. I've seen gluten-free vegan ones, and eaten the delicious ones from LPK culinary groove. But traditional nanaimo bars are a heavy-on-the-refined sugar affair and both of us wanted to create one that steered clear of the white stuff. We both thought of recipes separately and came up with almost identical ones - funny how that happens.
The base and the chocolate ganache were easy to create. The middle layer, however, which gets its flavour and texture mainly from the sugar, was more of a challenge. The vanilla almond cream is delicious in its own right, but not quite like the sugary yellow filling of a nanaimo bar, leading this tasty square to be dubbed by Shannon's husband the Tofino Bar.
1c macadamia nuts
1c cashew nuts
1/2c coconut, shredded or flaked
1/3c raw cacao powder
3/4c medjool dates, pitted
In a food processor, blend the nuts and cacao powder until the mixture is well ground. Add coconut and pulse a couple of times to mix it in. Add dates and blend until a dough is formed.
1 cup almonds, soaked 8 hours, well rinsed
1/2c+2T water, as needed
1/4c medjool dates, pitted
1/4c coconut oil
1/2tsp vanilla extract (or throw in a vanilla bean)
After soaking the almonds, the skin will come off quite easily. Removing the skin will result in a smoother cream. Blend all the ingredients together and place in the fridge or freezer to firm up for 1-2 hours .
2/3c raw cacao powder
1/3c agave nectar
1/3c coconut oil
Sift the cacao powder through a sieve into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and blend with a small whisk until smooth.
In a square or rectangular pan, press the base mixture along the pan to form the bottom of the square. Then spoon in the cream and spread it evenly. Top with a thin layer of chocolate sauce - put in a shallow pan of warm water to keep it melted enough to pour easily.
Note: In the photos here, I rolled out the base mixture and used a champagne glass to cut out the circles.