Friday, December 14, 2012

When Artists Cook

"Christmas makes me feel emotional, it may bring parties or thoughts devotional..."

When Christmas rolls around I tend to start humming Christmas carols and generally smiling a lot. I love Christmas. Everyone seems to be happier, there's a festive mood in the air and sometimes there's even snow. It's the best time of the year, bar none.
We here in the McLean household go all out for Christmas. As I've mentioned, we're not so much into Halloween and Thanksgiving is usually a quiet affair, populated with rented movies and full tummies. Christmas however is an all out celebration-fest. 

We start shopping in September, menu planning begins in October and baking begins in November (for stocking the freezer with sweets & savories). The tree goes up December first. (at the latest, we usually don't make it that far). In fact, there is a funny story about my parents going through FOUR Christmas trees one season when I was a baby because they put it up so early that the trees kept dying! (I mean, it would have to be a Christmas miracle for a cut tree to last 5 weeks, sheesh!)

We love to bake for Christmas, as I said, we fill the freezer to bursting with wonderful edibles. This year though, is the first year we've gone gluten free (I'm Celiac). So, we've started early (First week in October) so we can tweak holiday favorites and make sure they work with all the substitutions needed. 

Our first total success has been our Nanaimo Bar recipe. Now, you may not know, I live in Nanaimo British Columbia, Canada, the original home of the famous Nanaimo Bar!! Good God almighty, they're yummy. 

So, I thought I'd share my new version of this spectacular dessert.
We recently bought a cool new mini cheesecake pan that makes 2" round morsels of scrumptiousness but you can use a regular 8" x 8" square pan. 

As an artist, I'm always thinking about what the final product will look like so when I came across this straight sided mini morsel maker, I just had to have it (besides, it also helps with portion control!) I plan for each recipe to have it's own "look" and "flair". I like to combine interesting shapes, sizes, colors & textures to make my holiday table look it's artistic best. To me, it isn't good enough to just serve what I prepare, it has to be esthetically and interestingly pleasing to the eye.  Ok, here's the recipe!!
Jenn's Official Nanaimo Bar Recipe

From: Jenn McLean
Yield: makes 16 pieces (2")
Category: Squares & Bars
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups GF graham wafer crumbs (can substitute crushed cornflakes or gf vanilla cookies if you can't find gf graham)
  • ½ c. finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 5 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream (or 4-5 tbsp milk)
  • 4 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (Birds brand is gluten Free)
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
With second layerWith chocolate covering
  1. Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8' x 8' pan (or 16 hole individual mini cheesecake pan). 
  2. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 min. Let cool.
  3. Cream butter, cream, vanilla, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer. (the consistency of softened butter)
  4. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat (or carefully in microwave). Cool slightly. Once cool, but still liquid, pour or spoon over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
  • Instead of semi sweet chocolate, milk chocolate can be used if you like that better. I do half and half!!
  • If you are using an 8" x 8" square pan, remember to score the chocolate where you will be cutting the bars, this prevents unplanned breakage of the hardened chocolate top.

Here's wishing you & yours the most Merriest of Christmas' and a Spectacular Holiday Season to all!


(You can find Jenn at "Just Add Water Silly")