Posts Tagged ‘Canadiana’

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Hell Yes: Vegan Nanaimo Bars (from Oh She Glows)

September 5, 2011

Hey readers!

I’ve talked before about my general ignorance of Canadian cuisine, and of the measly repertoire of veganized Canadian dishes that I’ve accumulated since I moved to Toronto (for the record, it’s three dishes long: tourtière, poutine, and bannock). The problem is that I just never come across many distinctly Canadian dishes in person (in fact, the only tourtière and bannock I’ve ever seen are the ones I’ve made myself). But the other day it hit me, quite out of the blue: there was another Canadian dish that I had known of for a long time and just somehow overlooked—namely, the fantabulous sweet treat known as Nanaimo Bars, named after the (I’m assuming) lovely city of Nanaimo in BC. These small little dessert squares are three-layer brownies (or brownie-ish snacks) consisting of a graham cracker crumb layer on the bottom, a flavored custard layer in the middle, and a chocolate layer on top, with plenty of coconut in there and on top as well. If you can’t tell from that description, they are dangerously decadent and delicious. Yet for some reason, I had never given the slightest thought to veganizing them. But once the thought got in my head, there was no way of getting it out, except by making them for myself.

Fortunately, it turned out that vegan Nanaimo bars had already been thought of and created by the wonderful Angela of Oh She Glows, who posted an extensively detailed recipe for them last Christmas. And let me tell you—this recipe is absolutely incredible. It’s definitely one of the most complicated desserts I’ve ever made (though granted, I am not a very frequent baker), but all the work was well worth it. I perhaps made the work a little harder on myself by making my own graham crackers from scratch as well (which you may have noticed in this post), but overall the whole process was fun, and made a little easier by the fact that all the “baking” is actually done in the freezer. The greatest thing about these bars though is that they do not taste at all vegan: the chocolate is rich (and dark, of course), the custard is wonderful, and the graham cracker crust holds together perfectly and tastes great. These nanaimo bars will (and did) knock the socks off vegans and omnis alike.

As this was my first foray into the vegan nanaimo bar scene, there are a few things I will tweak next time I make this recipe. For example, my graham cracker crumb layer turned out way thicker than it should be, and the chocolate layer ended up a little thinner than desired, so I’ll definitely be fiddling some with those amounts in the future. Also, nanaimo bars allow for a lot of fun variations in the custard flavoring, and I definitely want to try them out with a mint or peanut butter center. But for now, I’m more than happy enjoying what little is left of my delicious first batch. Canada rules.

Until we eat again,

Willie

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Bannock (Canadian Skillet Bread)

June 15, 2011

Ahoy, readers!

Since moving to Canada two years ago, I have always been curious to learn more about Canadian cuisine. After being here for two years, I am still not convinced that there is such a thing as Canadian cuisine—and if there is, then I have no clue who eats it. Sure, there are a handful of signature Canadian dishes, many of which I’ve even recreated here on this blog, such as our recent vegan (gnocchi) poutine, vegan tourtière, and my very own vegan spin on Timbits. But I have yet to discover any sort of flavors or seasonings or culinary techniques that define Canadian cooking in the way other ethnic cuisines are identified. And unfortunately, I am not going to put an end to this ignorance today. However, I did recently discover a new Canadian dish which both tastes great and is easy to make, so I thought I’d at least share that with you!

The dish is bannock, a flat quick bread which is cooked by pan-frying a slab of dough in a skillet, somewhat like a pancake. I found out about this bread from watching this week’s episode of Top Chef Canada, where it popped up in chef Dale MacKay’s almost-winning dish representing the British Columbia Interior. Now a common Canadian campsite meal, the origins of bannock in fact trace back to the indigenous Aboriginal peoples of Canada—so that’s right, this bread is legit Canadian. But it makes sense why bannock would be popular in their cultures as well as among campers. In its simplest form, it requires only flour, salt, baking powder and water to make, about fifteen minutes to prepare, and no more than an open flame and a skillet to cook. Just mix together the ingredients to form a dough, throw it on a griddle, fry for ten to fifteen minutes, and you’re set! Sure, it’s not going to win any awards for style or composition, but for an effective and quick bread, it really can’t be beat, especially if you love that salt-and-baking-powder taste in breads and biscuits as much as I do. Plus, the recipe is easily modified to accommodate whatever other ingredients may be available as well.

For my first foray into bannock baking, I decided to follow this basic bannock recipe found on the webpage of the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests and Range—so that’s right, my bannock was extra legit Canadian. This webpage also includes many other bannock varieties, should you want to experiment. Other bannock recipes can of course be found around the internet as well, but once you get the basic idea of the dish, it’s really yours to mess with, and hard to mess up.

Aside from its history and ease to make, what I like about bannock is that it’s also the perfect summer bread, as there’s no need for an oven, so you can keep your kitchen cool while still enjoying some freshly cooked bread. This also makes it a really good breakfast bread to have in one’s cooking repertoire, especially given its short prep and cooking time.

So I hope you enjoyed learning about bannock! I promise you will also enjoy eating it as well, so give it a try the next time you’re hankering for some bread or biscuit. And please, if you can, help cure me of my ignorance of Canadian cuisine, and let me know if there are any other Canadian dishes that I need to try!

Until we eat again,

Willie

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