If you’re from Canada, you may see this recipe and think, “oh wow, nanaimo bars!” If you’re Chris Gardner, you see napoleon creme brownies.
Chris’ recipe isn’t quite as complex, and though I still haven’t tried an authentic nanaimo bar, I’d venture to say it’s just as delicious — if not more so. Its three layers of cocoa-meets-graham-cracker-crumbs, thick, fluffy cream, and rich, semisweet chocolate coating are decadent enough to make you dream about them for days after tasting just one bite. (I may be a bit melodramatic, but this is no exaggeration. I often found myself hovering by the fridge after my internship, hungrily cutting off little pieces of brownie and eating it without even bothering to sit down. I think my roommates were considering sending me to chocoholic rehab as a result. In hindsight, stuffing my face while shouting, “don’t judge me!” really didn’t make a compelling argument as to why such behavior should be considered totally normal.)
Oh, and did I mention it’s a no-bake dessert? All you need is a microwave to melt the chocolate chip topper.
Each layer has its own set of steps, so for convenience, each is broken up.
Utensils required: double broiler/stovetop (or alternatively, a microwave and microwave-safe bowl if you’re feeling adventurous or desperate — just make sure to microwave in 30-second increments, stirring in between, at each step until the mixture looks comparable to Chris’s description), 9″x13″ baking dish or casserole dish, spoonula, knife (for cutting brownies and smoothing frosting-like ganache), electric mixer (or whisk, though using the electric variety is recommended so your arm doesn’t fall off mid-recipe)
Time commitment: 2 and a half drool-inducing hours, from prep time to chilling to first bite
Part One: The Crust
- 2/3 cup butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa
- 1 1/8 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg slightly beaten
- 2 2/3 cups finely crushed graham crackers (you can buy them in a box precrushed; otherwise, toss ’em in a plastic bag, seal it, and use a spoon to smash away)
Part One’s Steps:
1. Combine first four ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Cook until butter melts.
2. Add egg, continue cooking and stirring until mixture is thick (3 – 4 minutes). You do not want the egg to look like a fried or scrambled egg.
Chris’ Note: I think it’s best to take it off the heat, then add the egg and stir it into the chocolate mix before putting it back on the heat.
3. Blend in graham crackers. Press into an 9- x 13-inch pan. Leave the crust out for about 15-20 minutes to harden.
Part Two: The Creamy Filling
- 2/3 cup softened butter
- 4 Tbsp milk
- 1 (3 ¾ oz) pkg instant vanilla pudding
- 2 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
4. In a new bowl, beat softened butter until smooth. Stir in milk, pudding mix and confectioners sugar. (Be careful adding the sugar – if it gets caught in the beaters it will fly all over the place.) Beat until fluffy.
5. Spread evenly over crust. Chill in the freezer until firm (about 1 hour).
Part Three: The Icing
- 1 (12 oz) package chocolate chips
- 5 Tbsp butter
- drops of milk as needed
6. Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler. Add a couple of drops of milk or more butter as needed to make chocolate spreadable.
7. Cool slightly and pour it over the pudding layer, spreading it like you’d frost a cake. Start from the corners and work your way in.
8. Chill. Nope, sorry, not you, the brownies. Cut the brownies into slices about 30 to 45 minutes after you start chilling. Otherwise the top is too hard to get a knife through.
This recipe is really easy – it just takes a little time.