After trying out my new NB recipe, I had to enlist some taste testers to evaluate the new ones against the traditional variety. I had meant to go to the farmer’s market to buy some homemade NBs this past weekend, but didn’t have time. Safeway on the way to work was the best I could do.
I created a short questionnaire to ask people if they already liked NBs. Then, I asked them to rate the appearance of mie next to the traditional ones. Once visually compared, they had to try a bite of each and rate them. I wasn’t able to blind it, nor did that concern me because my bars were spiced and pretty obviously not the same as the traditional ones, making blinding impossible anyway. They also had to describe how they compared the taste of each. After having to buy the bars from Safeway, I added a question on whether the store-bought version was representative of the classic NB.
Eleven people completed my evaluation. Two had never tried NB before. One person said they didn’t like NBs, and was there to see if she’d like the new version. On a scale of 1-10, people liked NBs a score of 7.1 (ranged 3-10).
Every one stated mine looked better. When probed, nine specified it was because mine had decorative white chocolate as well. While any old NB can have white on top, three mentioned specifically they liked the pale colour of the new filling better.
No one liked the store bought NBs better.
Store: 5.0 (ranged 2-7),
New: 8.5 (ranged 7-9)
Six people specifically mentioned liking the spices of the new NBs better (one said “there’s something more Christmasy about sample B). Five also mentioned you could taste more coconut in the new NBs. Eight people mentioned that the new NBs were better because they were less sweet, and five liked the crunch or texture of the new ones better.
The fight against the store bought version wasn’t really a fair fight, but several testers pointed out that store versions are what most people will eat, and five raters thought the were representative of a traditional NB.
My thoughts on the results
I was disappointed that the candied walnuts didn’t come through beyond “crunch”, the browned butter was completely lost, and I thought people would be more excited about the filling. I think the new filling is far, far, better, but not in an obvious way like crunch and spice. Just better.
Overall, my results tell me that people like NBs with fancy topping, crunch, less sugar, and some spices.
If you want to make NBs that just taste freaking awesome but still very traditional, here’s what I recommend:
Improved Nanaimo Bar Recipe
Base: 1/2 cup browned butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 6tbsp cocoa, 1tsp vanilla, 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1 cup unsweetend fancy (large pieces) shredded coconut , 1/2 cup candied spiced walnuts (or just roasted for even less sugar), 1 egg
Melt all ingredients except egg in a sauce pan, remove from heat, stir in beaten egg slowly into hot mixture, press into 9X9 pan lined with parchment
FIlling: 3 egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp water, 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temp), 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, 2 cups icing sugar (note: You could make this richer and still stiff enough when refrigerated by using more butter and less sugar)
Whip the egg yolks until they appear light in colour and a little foamy. Make sugar syrup, and once 238 degrees, whip slowly into egg yolks. Once room temp, whip in butter 1 tbsp at a time, add flavouring and icing sugar.
Melt together 200g very good dark chocolate, 1 tsp of butter (I forgot this before) in double boiler. Spread over chilled based, swirl in white chocolate while still melted, cut when just set a little before it gets hard.