Peanut butter and jam Nanimo bars

Thinking back on my childhood, made-with-love packed lunches were the highlight of my day. Mom would pack healthy lunches with homemade goodies, fruit, veggies and some kind of sandwich. The classic PB and J combination dominated the sandwich-filling world, in my mind. Perhaps that’s why, whenever there’s a recipe that incorporates that flavor coupling, I’m all over it.

While living in Zambia, we visited Canada to see family, and upon our return to Africa a family member sent us home with a book that contained “West Coast” recipes. I’m pretty sure the only recipe we ever used from that book was for Nanaimo bars. Sickeningly sweet because of the creamy mixture sandwiched between an abundance of chocolate and coconut, it’s a child’s kryptonite. Mom would rarely make them, but when she did it was the best day ever.

Now I’m grown-up and back living on the West Coast. All those childhood memories of PB and J sandwiches and Nanaimo bars came rushing back when I stumbled upon this recipe.Another favourite from Oh She Glows, and a crowd-pleaser at a runners get-together: peanut butter and jam Nanaimo bars. The same fabulous chocolate-coconut base as the original, a creamy peanut butter layer, a fruity jam layer, topped off with chocolate and sprinkled in coconut. It’s making me drool just reminiscing about them.

These bars are heavenly; the kind that you can give to someone and they’ll forgive you for anything you’ve ever done. It’s like magic in edible bar form. They aren’t exactly the healthiest snack in the world but when something is made from scratch, there’s always a way to justify eating it. No guilt, pure love and, like everything I else tend to make, excellent with tea.

Peanut butter and jam Nanaimo bars
Recipe from Oh She Glows blog.
Yield: 16 squares

Ingredients:
Bottom Layer

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter (or regular butter)
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp warm water, mixed)
  • 1 ¼ cup peanut butter graham crackers or store bought, processed into crumb
  • 1/4 cup almonds, processed into crumb
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut

Middle layer

  • 1/4 cup non-dairy butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup smooth all-natural peanut butter (if firm, you may need to increase butter)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam

Top layer

  • 4 oz non-dairy dark chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup maybe?)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (or butter)
  • Shredded coconut, to garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Line an eight-inch square pan with parchment paper and grease with butter on all sides.
  2. Bottom layer: in a small bowl mix the flax egg together (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp warm
    water). Set aside. In a saucepan, whisk together the butter, sugar, and sifted cocoa powder. Heat on medium to low and stir frequently until smooth. Now add in the gelled up flax egg and stir well.Now remove from heat and stir in the coconut, processed almonds, and graham wafer crumbs. Stir well and then mix with your hands. Press this mixture into your prepared pan, ensuring that you press it down very firmly. I used a pastry roller to smooth it out, but this is not necessary. Place in freezer to set.
  3. Middle layer: In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat together all the middle layer ingredients except the jam until smooth. Spread middle layer over top the bottom layer with a wet spoon as evenly as possible. Now gently spread on the jam over top. Place in freezer to set.
  4. Top Layer: Melt your chocolate and oil in a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir well until smooth. Remove the pan from freezer and spread the chocolate quickly over the top. Sprinkle coconut on top. Place back in the freezer for about one hour until set. Once set you can transfer it to the fridge to keep until ready or you can place it on the counter for about 10 minutes before cutting it into squares.

Note: Middle layer gets very soft at room temperature. Please keep in the fridge until serving.

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