Monday, October 14, 2019

NANAIMO BARS: Canadian Thanksgiving

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving is held on the second Monday in October. It commemorates the first Thanksgiving in North America that was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in the Eastern Arctic in 1578. They ate a meal of salted beef, biscuits and mushy peas to celebrate and give thanks for their safe arrival in what is now Nunavut.

I've posted various pumpkin/chocolate pies and puddings for Canadian Thanksgiving. Some of the foods are very similar to the U.S. Thanksgiving. But for today's Canadian Thanksgiving, I think Nanaimo Bars, one of my favorite no bake chocolate treats from British Columbia, would be perfect.

Bill Critchfield, a member of my mystery book group, used to make them on special occasions. Bill passed away, and unfortunately his safely guarded recipe passed on with him. Since then, I've tried to create his version of Nanaimo Bars (there are so many variations). This has involved trying different recipes and really exploring the whole Canadian Nanaimo history.  Months of Edible Celebrations had a special post devoted to Nanaimo Bars in conjunction with Pecans several years ago. Interesting that the recipe for Nanaimo Bars in The Pecan Cookbook calls for baking. I don't think Bill used pecans, and I'm sure he didn't bake.

Interestingly, The New York Times had a great article on the History, Culture, and Craving for the Nanaimo Bar! Here's a link

The City of Nanaimo website says: "According to local legend about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry not "Daphne's Delights" or "Mary's Munchies", but "Nanaimo Bars". The entry won a prize, thereby promoting the town as much as her cooking. Some American tourists claim sovereignty over the dessert, referred to as "New York Slice" which is sold in many other places in the world. Nanaimo residents refuse to accept this theory, however, believing that once you set foot on Vancouver Island, there are no other places in the world. The official Nanaimo Bar recipe was available as a handout as well as on quality tea towel and apron souvenirs."

Here's a recipe for Namaimo Bars from the Official City of Nanaimo Website:
  
Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 Tbsp cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut

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.

Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp and 2 Tsp cream
2 Tbsp vanilla custard powder  (I use Bird's)
2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

The really nice thing about this 'refrigerator bar' is that you can adapt it in so many ways by adding different ingredients or substituting different nuts. Very fun! and always good!

Links to other Nanaimo Bar Recipes:

Cookie Madness 
My Baking Addiction (Valentine's Day Nanaimo Bars)
Barbara Bakes
Life's Ambrosia
Playing House (Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars)
New York Times

Sunday, October 13, 2019

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS & CHOCOLATE: Recipe for Super Rich Spanish Hot Chocolate

In the U.S., we celebrate Columbus Day. In terms of chocolate, though, Christopher Columbus was the first European to come in contact with cacao. On August 15, 1502, on his fourth and last voyage to the Americas, Columbus and his crew encountered a large dugout canoe near an island off the coast of what is now Honduras. The canoe was the largest native vessel the Spaniards had seen. It was "as long as a galley," and was filled with local goods for trade -- including cacao beans. Columbus's crew seized the vessel and its goods, and retained its captain as his guide.

Later, Columbus' son Ferdinand wrote about the encounter. He was struck by how much value the Native Americans placed on cacao beans, saying: "They seemed to hold these almonds [referring to the cacao beans] at a great price; for when they were brought on board ship together with their goods, I observed that when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick them up, as if an eye had fallen."

At first, however, the cocoa beans were neglected. Despite the bitterness of the drink produced, Columbus claimed the resulting concoction was a "divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food". 

What Ferdinand and the other members of Columbus' crew didn't know at the time was that cocoa beans were the local currency. In fact, in some parts of Central America, cacao beans were used as currency as recently as the last century.

While it is likely that Columbus brought the cacao beans he seized back to Europe, their potential value was initially overlooked by the Spanish King and his court. Far more exciting treasures on board his galleons meant the cocoa beans were ignored. It was his fellow explorer, the Spanish Conquistador Don Hernán Cortés, who first realized their commercial value. He brought back three chests full of cocoa beans to Spain in 1528 and very gradually, the custom of drinking the chocolate spread across Europe.

It was still served as a beverage when the Spanish first brought chocolate back to Europe. Cortez, described chocolatl as "the divine drink ... which builds up resistance and fights fatigue," and his countrymen, conceived the idea of sweetening the bitter drink with cane sugar.

The recipe for the sweetened frothy beverage underwent several more changes in Spain, where newly discovered spices such as cinnamon and vanilla were added as flavorings. The original chili pepper that made the spicy drink was replaced by sugar to make a sweet beverage. The sweetened chocolate beverage was a luxury that only a few could afford.

By the 17th century, the drink became common among European nobility. In London, chocolate was more widely available, and those who could afford it could enjoy the drink in coffee and chocolate houses.

Super Rich Spanish Hot Chocolate 
Makes two mugs!

Ingredients 
5 Tbsp good quality unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
4 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp corn starch
1 tsp Mexican vanilla extract
1 cup water

Directions 
Combine cocoa powder, sugar, and corn starch in small bowl.
Pour COLD water into small sauce pan, add vanilla extract and cocoa mixture, and cook at medium low heat, stirring constantly.
Cook until it thickens and serve immediately.

Friday, October 11, 2019

DARK CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN SEED SEA SALT BARK: National Pumpkin Seed Day

Somehow I missed National Pumpkin Seed Day on October 3! But October is all about Pumpkins and Halloween, so here's a great recipe for Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Sea Salt Bark that treats pumpkin seeds in a sweet way--chocolate with a sea salt finish.

Pumpkin seeds like chocolate are heart healthy, immune boosters, and great for brain power, among other health benefits!

DARK CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN SEED SEA SALT BARK

Ingredients 
Canola oil cooking spray
1-2 cups dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds  (raw or toasted-I prefer toasted)
1 tsp sea salt

Directions
Coat 9 x12 inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, and line with parchment, leaving overhang on ends.
Melt chocolate in double boiler or heatproof bowl over saucepan of simmering water, stirring.
If chocolate is too thick, add canola oil as needed to thin.
Pour melted chocolate onto baking sheet, and spread in even layer with spatula.
Immediately sprinkle pumpkin seeds then sea salt over chocolate.
Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Peel off parchment and break bark into pieces.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

WHITE CHOCOLATE ANGEL FOOD CAKE: National Angel Food Cake Day

Today is Angel Food Cake Day. I'm more of a Devil's Food Cake person, but here's a White Chocolate recipe for White Chocolate Angel Food Cake from Godiva Chocolate.  Although I am posting a Retro Ad for Angel Food Cake, the recipe below is all from scratch!

White Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Ingredients

Cake
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups egg whites, at room temperature (about 11 to 12 large eggs)
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 bars (1.5 ounces each) Godiva Ivory Chocolate, grated or finely chopped

Add:

Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Berries:
1 cup fresh red raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
White chocolate curls 

Directions

Cake
Position oven rack in lower third of oven. Heat oven to 350°F.
Sift together confectioners’ sugar, cake flour, and salt onto sheet of waxed paper.
Put egg whites in clean, dry bowl of electric mixer. Beat egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add granulated sugar in steady stream, beating just until whites are thick and form slightly stiff peaks. (Do not over-beat)
Gently fold in 1/3 of sifted dry ingredients over whites just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in remaining dry ingredients with vanilla and grated white chocolate in two additional batches.
Gently pour batter into ungreased 10" angel food or tube pan, spreading evenly. Tap gently on counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake 35 minutes or until top is firm and springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan on a large bottle (such as wine bottle or olive oil bottle) and cool completely.
To remove cake from pan, run long knife or thin metal spatula around outside edge of cake and gently remove side portion of pan. Then, run knife around inside of center tube, loosen bottom of cake with long knife or thin metal spatula and remove cake from remaining portion of pan. Place on cake plate; cover with plastic wrap if not serving immediately.

Whipped Cream:
Combine heavy cream and granulated sugar in a medium, chilled bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer until soft peaks form; whisk in vanilla.
Place sweetened whipping cream in refrigerator until ready to serve cake, up to 2 hours.
Combine berries in a medium bowl and toss lightly.

Assembly:
Cut cake with serrated knife using a sawing motion. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and berry mixture. Garnish with white chocolate curls.