Peppermint Nanaimo Bars

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peppermint nanaimoMakes 25 – 30 small bars | start to finish: 1 hour
Peppermint Nanaimo bars taste like a combination of your favorite Girl Scout cookies and the dream of dessert perfection. Some of us would be happy to forget all the other holiday treats and just focus on more Nanaimo bars. Although these Canadian no-bake treats are fairly simple to make, the multi-layered bars take a couple of extra steps beyond a more simple brownie or cookie. The beautiful result makes the special care worth it. This adaptation of the city of Nanaimo’s official recipe showcases a pleasing, bittersweet bite of Theo’s Chocolate. Chocolate wafers replace the traditional graham crackers to layer in more chocolate flavor. Rich and difficult to stop eating, Nanaimo bars are perfect for holiday sharing; it could be dangerous to be left alone with a whole pan and no other plans for them.

Make cookie crumbs either by whizzing the chocolate wafers or graham crackers in a food processor, or by pressing them in a large baggie with a rolling pin. To make gluten-free bars, substitute a gluten-free version of the wafers or crackers.

for base layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer crumbs or graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened both work)

for buttercream

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons powdered milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

for chocolate topping

1 3-ounce bittersweet chocolate bar, minimum 85%, such as Theo’s
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

STEPS:
In a medium saucepan, stir together the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt over medium-low heat until melted and warm. Whisk in the egg and continue to whisk over the heat until the mixture is fully thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the crumbs, nuts, and coconut. Grease an 8×8-inch square pan and press the mixture into the pan, using a piece of plastic wrap to keep your fingers clean. To make the surface flat and smooth, use a spatula, pastry scraper, or the flat bottom of a glass. Place the base into the refrigerator until the next layer is ready.

To make buttercream, beat the ingredients together until light and creamy. Smooth the buttercream over the base layer, using an offset spatula or other spreading tool. Work to make this layer smooth and flat on the top also. Place the pan of buttercream-covered base in the refrigerator until the next layer is ready.

Break or cut the chocolate bar into 1/2 inch pieces. In a small saucepan, slowly melt the butter over low heat. Just when the butter melts, add the chocolate, stirring constantly, and remove the pan from the burner when a few lumps are still present. Continue to stir until the last of the chocolate melts.

Pour the chocolate over the buttercream and gently spread it in an even, thin layer. Immediately return the pan to the refrigerator and allow the chocolate to set for 5 – 10 minutes. Take the pan back out and carefully slice into bars of desired size, using a thin knife. Between slices, wipe the knife off with a paper towel to achieve clean-sided cuts.

Keep bars covered in the refrigerator until ready to eat. They retain their best flavor and texture for about a week when stored properly.

vegetarian • gluten-free, if using gluten-free cookies

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