What I miss most about my maternal grandmother, Megan Shackleton (née Lloyd-Jones), is her bubbly, full-throated laugh. When that magnetic sound was directed at you, it made you feel like the most winsome and interesting person in the room. Before she passed away, my grandma suffered a cruel battle with Alzheimer’s, descending into a painful fog of confusion. Many things about her changed and were lost, but some gems came to the surface: precious memories of her childhood in Saskatchewan, Canada, of her beloved brother, Bud, and their pet German shepherd, Princey. Grandma was a very proud Canadian, matched only by her pride in being a member of the Lloyd-Jones clan. Though I knew what her Canadian and family heritage meant to her, there was much I couldn’t understand or connect to—and when she was gone, it felt like the chasm between my world and hers got infinitely harder to breach.
Two years ago, I finally made a pilgrimage to Calgary, Canada, to meet with my great-aunt Kathleen and my second cousins Brenda and Megan, the wife and children of my late great-uncle Bud. My family and I were greeted with many wonderful things—memories and photographs, hugs and barbecue—but one of the greatest treasures lay tucked away in the refrigerator. Cut into criminally small squares was my aunt Kathleen’s Nanaimo bars. A classic Canadian dessert, Nanaimo bars pack a custard powder-based cream filling, velvet ganache topping, and a crust that sports the trifecta of nuts, coconut, and chocolate. Before we left, I was gifted a collection of Aunt Kathleen’s handwritten recipes, including the one for her Nanaimo bars. Perhaps because I am a baker and a romantic, this family recipe felt like I was one step closer to something I had been afraid I’d lost.
As the Bake from Scratch team worked to reinvent this family recipe, I tried to find a way to bring all the strings of my Canadian roots together. I don’t know if my grandmother would have snacked on Nanaimo bars in her day—she was a woman who famously spent her calories on cocktails, not dessert—but I like to think the eggnog- and bourbon-infused version would tempt her and that my meandering story would elicit one of those warm, full-throated laughs. – Kyle Grace Mills, former Managing Editor of Bake from Scratch
- ⅔ cup (150 grams) unsalted butter cup
- ½ (43 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons (91 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt large egg (50 grams)
- 1 large egg yolk (19 grams)
- 2⅓ cups (295 grams) shortbread cookie crumbs*
- 1¼ cups (105 grams) sweetened flaked coconut
- ½ cup (57 grams) finely chopped toasted walnuts
- 1 teaspoon (4 grams) vanilla extract
- Eggnog Custard Filling (recipe follows)
- 6 ounces (170 grams) 64% cacao semisweet chocolate baking bars, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) vegetable oil
- Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper, letting excess extend over sides of pan.
- In the top of a double boiler, combine butter, cocoa, sugar, and salt. Cook over simmering water, stirring frequently, until butter is melted. Whisk in egg and egg yolk until well combined; cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F (71°C), about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cookie crumbs, coconut, walnuts, and vanilla. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan; let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
- Using a small offset spatula, spread Eggnog Custard Filling onto prepared crust in a smooth, even layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- In the clean top of a double boiler, combine chocolate and oil. Cook over simmering water, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Working quickly, pour chocolate mixture over chilled filling. Using a small offset spatula and tilting pan as needed, spread chocolate mixture into an even layer; several times to smooth chocolate mixture and release any air bubbles. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- Using excess parchment as handles, remove from pan; using a warm, dry, serrated knife, cut into bars. Serve at room temperature.
- ¾ cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 2½ tablespoons (24 grams) custard powder*
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) bourbon
- 1 teaspoon (4 grams) vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon (1 gram) ground nutmeg
- 3 cups (360 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 3½ tablespoons (52.5 grams) prepared eggnog
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and custard powder at medium-low speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Beat in bourbon, vanilla, and nutmeg. With mixer on low speed, gradually add confectioners’ sugar alternately with eggnog, beating until well combined and stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium, and beat for 1 minute. Use immediately.