the best - nanaimo bars

Tell the truth! Isn't one of your favourite things about the holiday season the cookie and dessert squares that seem to be a fixture at all festive gatherings? Don't you love trying each gingerbread man and lemon bar and seeing what variations people come up with. Many people make the same treats each holiday season, passed down through the generations, while other people mix it up. I tend to be one of those people that make a few traditional favourites and also try out a few new things.

One of the best squares of all the time has to be the Nanaimo bar. I originally knew it as George as this is what it was called in The Best of Bridge cookbook my mum made the recipe from. (The Best of Bridge is a bit of a Canadian success story started by eight mothers who frequently played bridge with each other. One day, they decided to make a cookbook of all their best recipes and 30 years and 3.2 million books later they were a household name in Canada!) It's a no-bake square that consists of three layers: a chocolate coconut layer, a yellow custard icing middle and a chocolate top.

There are many variations on this recipe but this version is my absolute favourite. If you have only eaten a store-bought version of these bars than you must make your own. Using real butter (which store-bought options rarely do) makes all the difference.

Nanaimo Bars or George (adapted from The Best of Bridge)

First layer:

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 beaten egg
2 cups graham wafer crumbs
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine, put in nine-inch square pan and chill for 1/2 hour.

Second layer:

2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup cream or milk
2 tablespoons custard powder

Combine all ingredients, beating until smooth and fluffy. Then spread carefully on top of first layer.

Third layer:

3 semi-sweet chocolate squares
1/4 cup butter, melted

Melt chocolate and butter together, then spread over second layer and chill.

I dare you to not eat the whole pan in one seating! I often make a double batch of the recipe and put it in a brownie pan. Since none of the ingredients are baked it can be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled with no problems.

Is the Nanaimo Bar on your list of holiday treats? What else makes your festive cookie and square tray every year? I'd love to hear what your favourites are. I might just give them a try myself!