O Canada Yummy Canada!

June 27, 2008 at 3:46 am | Posted in Bars/Brownies, Cookies, Dessert, Puddings/Custards | 12 Comments
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OK..I’ve only been to Canada once in my life..Montreal. The only problem is, I never got to see or experience it, since I was literally still attached to my mother’s umbilical cord. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to visit Canada yet, so I’ll have to go by what I read, see and hear about our friendly neighboring country to the North. This is my first time participating in Sugar High Fridays, and the theme is..well, you can guess from the title and everything I’ve written above.

When I think of Canada, several things come to mind. Nanaimo Bars (obviously), maple syrup (obviously), this very cute hockey player from Windsor, Ontario, who I dated briefly in college (NOT obvious), who explained the ‘Nanaimo Bar’ to me, and a really entertaining show I used to watch as a kid in the 80’s, on PBS, called the Polka Dot Door.

Add Degrassi High to the Canadian shows I used to watch, but I couldn’t extract anything from that in a culinary sense, no matter how hard I tried, although the name of Joey’s band, ‘The ZIT Remedy’, does refer to the ‘DOTS’ that pepper many an adolescent face. OK, I better stop there, as I want to make you hungry, NOT ill!

One thing I wanted to avoid, was making Nanaimo bars, since I figured there would be quite a few Nanaimo bar entries in this edition of Sugar High Fridays, and I wanted to be different. Not to mention, I’ve never made OR tasted Nanaimo Bars before, so I knew I’d be seriously winging it, flavor wise and aesthtetically. However, after mulling it over, thinking ‘maple’, and ‘mousse’, I decided to wing it, and create my own version of it.

A friend gave me this fantastic Sortilege Maple Liqueur, which is a blend of Canadian whiskey and maple syrup, last Christmas, knowing I like to have every flavor liqueur I can get my hands on, for use in cooking, baking, AND the occasional guest who enjoys a cocktail or four. 😀

With all of the above in mind, I set out to create my ‘strange’ but yummy, NON-AUTHENTIC Nanaimo bars. An authentic Nanaimo bar is unbaked, and consists of a buttery, chocolate-graham cracker crust, with an egg, nuts and coconut mixed in, topped with a buttercream layer that contains custard powder, (which is hard to find here in the USA, so most people substitute vanilla pudding powder), and glazed with a melted amalgamation of chocolate and butter – not quite ganache, since we’re missing the cream here.

I decided to forgo the buttercream custard/vanilla powder filling, and instead, in honor of Canada, fill it with a white chocolate-maple (using Canada’s finest maple syrup) mousse, napped with a little Sortliege, and stabilized with gelatin and mascarpone cheese. For the crust, I remained partially true to the original Nanaimo Bar, but eliminated the nuts, as I wanted to make a maple-walnut nougatine or maple candied walnuts to either top each bar, or just serve along with the bars. Instead, I added chopped white chocolate to the base, and THIS is the kicker — I decided on a polka dot Nanaimo bar, as an homage to the Polka Dot Door, which provided me with hours of enjoyment as a child. By folding miniature semisweet chocolate chips into the white chocolate-maple mousse, and piping large dots of melted white chocolate on top of the chocolate topping, I ended up with a variety of polka dots. from top to bottom.

These bars, like the original Nanaimo, are very rich, but the light and fluffy mousse seems to counter that a little bit, although it’s ‘rich’ in ingredients.

In summary, using some of what I know when it comes to our friendly neighbors up north, I decided to take the same route that I’m sure many will be taking, but make it in a way that’s not completely traditional, which is how I came up with my Polka Dot White-Maple Mousse Nanaimo Bars.

Chocolate Graham Cracker Base

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 egg, well beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chunks or chips


1. Line a *9-inch square pan with lightly greased aluminum foil, making sure you leave a decent amount of overhang on two sides (this aids in lifting out the bars when they’re set).

2. Beat the egg in a small bowl or cup. Place butter, light brown sugar and cocoa in a bowl set over hot, simmering water, then stir until melted and uniform. Temper the beaten egg with a little of the hot butter mixture, then add it all back to the main bowl and let simmer, whisking or stirring constantly, until slightly thickened.. Remove from heat. Add graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and vanilla extract. Let cool a few minutes, then add white chocolate chunks or chips. Press firmly into the bottom of the foil lined 9-inch square pan. Place in the refrigerator while preparing the mousse.

* Most Nanaimo Bar recipes use an 8-inch sqaure pan, resulting in a very high chocolate-graham cracker base, but..since I’m trying to be different here, a 9-inch square pan results in a lot less ‘height’, with the filling being the main component.. Let’s just call them ‘Bizzaro’ Nanaimo’s!

White Chocolate-Maple Mousse

7 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt, Valrhona Ivoire), finely chopped
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2T maple liqueur*
2T water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 8- to 8.8 ounce container mascarpone cheese**
1/4 oz package of powdered gelatin
1/4 cup water
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups miniature chocolate chips


1. Combine the white chocolate, maple syrup, maple liqueur and water in a bowl set over simmering, hot water. Stir and cook until the chocolate is melted and everything is uniform and hot (mixture will be very liquidy). Add vanilla extract. Transfer the white chocolate-maple mixture to a large bowl and gradually add mascarpone, whisking until mixture is smooth. Cool mascarpone mixture until barely lukewarm.


2. Sprinkle the gelatin over1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Let sit until the gelatin is softened, then heat the bowl over hot water to dissolve it, or dissolve it in the microwave for 10 – 40 seconds. Keep checking every 10 seconds until it’s liquid and smooth. Whisk dissolved gelatin into the lukewarm mousse base until thoroughly combined, making sure it’s uniform and smooth..no lumps or bits of anything should remain. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer to be sure, if you’d like.

2. Using an electric mixer or whisk, beat the 1 cup of cream in a medium bowl until peaks form. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture in 4 additions. Fold in miniature chocolate chips. Pour over chocolate graham cracker base, and let chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

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*You can substitute 1 tsp pure maple extract plus 1 1/2 Tablspoons of water if you can’t find the liqueur, or would prefer not to use it.

**Cream cheese can be substituted for the mascarpone, although it’s not as smooth, creamy and mild as mascarpone. If you do use cream cheese, make sure it’s at room temperature and soft, before incorporating it into the hot maple-white chocolate base.

Chocolate Topping

6 oz semisweet chocolate (you can use milk or bittersweet chocolate, depending on your preference), chopped.*
3 T unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter together in a bowl set over simmering, hot water. Mix well until melted and uniform. Remove from heat and let cool until it’s lukewarm. Pour over the top of the set mousse and spread quickly. Chill in refrigerator until ready to pipe white chocolate polka dots.

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* Use 8 oz of chopped chocolate and 1/4 cup (half a stick) of unsalted butter if you want a thicker topping.

White Chocolate Polka Dots

8 oz good quality chopped white chocolate, chopped


1. Place chopped white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan with simmering, hoi water. Be careful not to let the bowl with the chocolate in it touch the water as it could seize up and/or burn (I like to remove the chocolate from the heat before it’s fully melted and stir, letting the residual heat melt it completely until smooth). Pour the melted chocolate it another bowl, and let it cool a little before continuing.

2. Pour the melted chocolate into a cornet (parchment cone), snip off the end, and pipe large (or a variety of sizes) ‘heaping’ polka dots over the ‘set’ chocolate topping. You can also use a plastic or ziplock bag, just snip off one end. Let chill in the refrigerator until set, but about an hour before serving, take it out, and let it come to room temperature, as the chocolate coating will crack if cut into while cold. You could cut into them immediately, using a knife dipped in very hot water, or run over a gas flame, wiping the knife in between each cut, and dipping it into the hot water or running it over the gas flame again. Personally, I prefer to let it come to room temperature. As the old gem of wisdom goes, patience is virtue!

The amount of bars you get depends on how small or large you cut them. These are rich, so medium to small squares or rectangles, would be perfect. I cut mine into medium rectangles, as you can see below

Maple Candied Walnuts

1 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup of walnut halves, toasted
Coarse sea salt, such as Fleur de sel (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the walnut halves out on a baking sheet. Toast for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occcasionally, until you can smell them and they’ve turned a little darker. Split one open to make sure it’s toasted through before removing from the oven. You can also do this in a dry skillet, stirring until toasted. Place the toasted nuts on another sheet pan lined with a silpat or parchment paper or lightly greased. Let cool.

2. Pour maple syrup into a small to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it reaches the hard crack stage (about 300-310 degrees F). Add nuts to syrup and coat well. Working quickly. Immediately remove them from the saucepan, using a slotted spoon, to the lined baking sheet and separate them as best you can (using anything but your fingers, unless you have asbestos hands!). Using a spoon, drizzle any leftover syrup over each nut and sprinkle lightly with sea salt, if using. Do NOT touch until the candy coating has set and cooled. Scatter a few over individual bars, and/or around the plate you serve them on.


The finished product…after many experimentations and tastings. It’s a little busy, but subtract the liqueur, and this would make a great party sweet for kids. OH, and adults too, of course!

By the way, still ‘learning’ this new camera, as I have very little experience with the correct way to shoot still and stylish food photos, Plus there are a lot of settings on this camera that are currently Japanese to me..and quite daunting to say the least..so bear with me. Only the bottom photo was taken with the G9, but by the looks of it, I have quite a ways to go!

Finally, click on the Mmm…Canada logo at the top left of this entry, which will take you to The Domestic Goddess’ Sweet Canadian roundup.



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  1. What a great idea for switching up Nanaimo Bars! And I love your inspiration. Growing up in Toronto, I of course watched The Polka-Dot-Door too!

    Thanks so much for joining in on Mmm…Canada!

  2. Thanks, Jennifer! Looking forward to many more 🙂

  3. Hey Lisa This cake looks so so cute! It looks fun to do and fun to eat as well!
    I looked all arround your blog for your email but couldn’t find it, so I’ll write here. You asked how to join the DBers, well just go here: http://daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com/ and on the right side you’ll find the founders email and you just have to email them and they’ll get you in, you’ll be baking with us in August then. Join, it’s a lot of fun, sure you’ll enjoy it!
    About my camera, I have a Samsung 7.0, it’s a very normal one, nothing fancy. I think I’m just lucky to have good natural light in my kitchen.
    Cheers and thanks for your visit! Rita

  4. Ahhh, such wistful memories of the polka-dot-door..Your Nanaimo Bars belong in a culinary art gallery I think – mine look a bit like they’ve been dragged behind a truck compared to yours 🙂 Seriously beautiful work, and way to dress it up so sweetly!

  5. oooh awesome bars!! i really love the idea, i too made nanaimo bars but they are not even close to these wonder works of art!!! 🙂

  6. Rita,

    Thanks so much for the link and advice about lighting. That seems to be the KEY and consensus when it comes to photography..NATURAL LIGHT. Unfortunately, I don’t have much natural light in my apartment, but I realized that snapping photos at dusk (thank god it’s summer, since I work all day), right by the window, now that I’m getting used to futzing with the settings, has started to give me some better photos. Not great, but better than anything that’s currently on my blog!


    Thank you so much for your sweet compliments. However, I think I piped the dots too ‘heaping’ and large, and next time I’m going to make a chocolate ganache topping, using white chocolate ganache for the dots (smaller ones), so it not only looks better, but doesn’t ‘pop’ on top.

    That said, I would love to see your Nanaimo bars! I’m sure they’re gorgeous, but I can’t link to you. Do you have a blog or somewhere I can see them?

    The thing I’ve learned about Nanaimo bars, during this first attempt, is that once the chocolate topping sets, it’s really hard to cut them into perfect bars! I looked up Nanaimo bar photos on Flickr, and none were perfectly cut without cracks or little imperfections, although they still looked delicious!

    Regardless, imperfections are part of what says ‘I made this myself’, and gives the baked good a ‘homey, comfy’ look and feel 🙂

  7. Hi Lisa 🙂 I’m SO glad you found my blog after WordPress decided not to turn me into a link – thanks a lot WordPress! – but I digress – YES, that chocolate topping is persnickety isn’t it…now I know why the store-bought ones are already scored on top. I was all set to do that but then I got sidetracked with those attention-needy montreal bagels. You totally made my day regarding the photos – I use an ancient sony point and shoot digital, and I’m dying for a dslr! If I’m very good, maybe Santa will bring me one 🙂 – please visit my blog again sometime – I’ll definitely be visiting yours!

  8. JZ

    Thanks so much for your sweet comment! I left a comment on your Nanaimo entry, I hope you got it! Blogger always messes with me when I try to log in and post comments, plus, those wavy, psychedelic letter codes to prevent spam. My eyes! LOL

  9. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  10. Hi !! 😉
    I am Piter Kokoniz. Just want to tell, that I like your blog very much!
    And want to ask you: what was the reasson for you to start this blog?
    Sorry for my bad english:)
    Piter Kokoniz, from Latvia

  11. hahahaha! You crack me up! I love reading your thoughts.. so funny! Okay so yeah, I think I’d prefer the less sweet key lime variation, but hot damn, I’d sell my husband for good Canadian Maple Syrup. 😉 I want this liquor you speak of! I must do a lil research! I think the dots are adorable. Did you ever watch a show called uhmm.. crap I can’t think of it.. but it was something like “The Schmoozes” or “The Smoo’s” they were animated blobs. hahahahaa! It was a Canadian kids cartoon that I used to watch when I was a kid.. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was about, but it’s kinda stuck with me over the years.

    Oh and then there’s Canadian Curling. I used to be a huge fan of that as well.. until I graduated to Hockey. Better looking players. 😉

    Okay my love.. thanks for the giggles this morning. Now I’m hungry. 😛


  12. […] City, where Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives has stolen my heart with her Polka Dot White-Maple Mousse Nanaimo Bars. Her inspiration was a Canadian-produced television show of my own childhood, The Polka Dot […]

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