We did it, pumpkins! We’ve made it through Thanksgiving and are now hurtling toward Christmas. Soon all the food blogs will be peppermint-this and gingerbread-that (including yours truly, natch) but before we jump to decking the halls, I want to share this sweet little lollipop recipe with you.
Raspberry Nanaimo Pops are a variation on Nanaimo bars, which you may not be familiar with if you’re not a Canadian food aficionado. (What? I’m sure those must exist…somewhere…) They’re named after the town of Nanaimo in British Columbia, and they’re made of a crust of chocolate, graham, coconut, and nuts, topped with a creamy custard filling, and finished with a layer of thick chocolate.
Fun fact: Jason & I actually went to British Columbia on our honeymoon! Although our perception may have been slightly skewed because we went in the middle of a warm and sunny summer, it remains one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Since then, I’ve always felt a kinship to Nanaimo bars—I mean, they’re from Canada, and I’m practically Canadian because I visited that one time—so I’m happy to be spreading the word about this totally underappreciated cookie!
My version of Nanaimo bars is a little different from the traditional recipe. For one thing, you may notice that they’re not bar-ish so much as pop-ish. I thought it would be cute to skewer little Nanaimo bites and dip them in chocolate instead of spreading the usual chocolate layer on top. The bars are so rich, they work best as 2-bite morsels anyhow, so making them into small lollipops makes them a more manageable, realistic size.
The other break from tradition is making the filling raspberry flavored. I used pulverized freeze-dried raspberries, which give a really intense, sweet-tart flavor and bright pink color to the filling, without sacrificing the creamy texture. The same raspberry powder is sprinkled on top for a vivid, flavorful decoration.
These pops are timeless, of course, but since it is December, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they would be a cute addition to a cookie plate, or party buffet. Just sayin’.
P.S. I mentioned this on Instagram, but those stripey lollipop sticks? Yeah, I made those! I covered regular white sticks with some washi tape I had lying around, and it worked like charm! It’s easy to apply and once it’s on, it doesn’t come unstuck or move around. I am so excited to washi tape aaaallll of my lollipop sticks from now on.
Recipe Notes: The filling in Nanaimo Bars is traditionally made with custard powder, which adds a creamy texture and subtle flavor. Because the filling in this version has such a strong raspberry flavor, the custard powder is somewhat lost. I included it in the instructions below, but I don’t think the pops would lose anything (except authenticity!) if you were to omit it. You could also substitute an equal amount of instant vanilla pudding powder to give the filling a similar creamy texture. Additionally, the crust contains an egg that is cooked over a bain marie on the stovetop. If undercooked eggs are a big concern for you, consider using a pasteurized egg, or perhaps bake the crust in the oven to make sure the egg is fully cooked.
- 1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 14 cracker sheets)
- ½ cup finely chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts)
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cubed
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1.2 oz freeze-dried raspberries (to yield 1 cup raspberry powder)
- 6 oz (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp custard powder (optional)
- 3 tbsp cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 lb chocolate candy coating
- 24 lollipop sticks
- Line a 9x9 pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the graham crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts in a large bowl, and stir well.
- Fill a saucepan with about an inch of water, and place it over medium heat. Fit a double boiler or close-fitting metal bowl on top, and place the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in the double boiler. Stir occasionally until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Add the beaten egg to the cocoa mixture and whisk continuously until it cooks and thickens. After a few minutes, the mixture will get very thick and shiny. If the fat seems to separate out, continue stirring or whisking until it reincorporates.
- Once cooked, scrape the cocoa mixture into the bowl with the graham crumbs and stir to combine until no dry streaks remain. Scrape the crust mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands to press it into an even layer. Set it aside while you prepare the raspberry cream.
- Place the freeze-dried raspberries in a food processor, and blend them until they are a fine powder. I like to stop when they’re not quite completely pulverized, to give the cream some texture.
- Place the softened butter in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat it until the butter is creamy. (Alternately, you can use a hand mixer and a large bowl.) Add the powdered sugar, custard powder if using, cream, and vanilla extract, and beat on low until combined. Scrape down the bowl, and then add ¾ cup of raspberry powder, reserving the rest of the powder for decorating. Turn the mixer to medium, and beat for about a minute until the buttercream has lightened in color and texture.
- Spoon the buttercream out onto the crust and smooth it into an even layer. Refrigerate the pan until the buttercream layer is very firm and set, about 2-3 hours.
- Remove the bars from the pan using the foil as handles. Use a large sharp chef’s knife to cut it into about 24 pieces—I cut it into 6 rows of 4 rectangular pieces each. Melt the chocolate candy coating in a medium bowl in the microwave, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating.
- Use a wooden skewer to poke a hold in the crust of each piece. Dip the tip of a lollipop stick in the melted candy coating, then push it into the hole in the crust and place it on a baking sheet covered with parchment or waxed paper. Once all of the bars are skewered, refrigerate the tray briefly to make sure they’re very chilled and the coating that holds the lollipop sticks in place is set.
- Re-warm the candy coating, if necessary, then dip a pop in the coating, submerging it completely. Let excess coating drip back into the bowl, then place the dipped pop back on the baking sheet. While the coating is still wet, sprinkle the top with raspberry powder. Repeat until all of the pops are dipped. Refrigerate the tray to set the coating.
- Store Raspberry Nanaimo Pops in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For the best taste and texture, let them sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before eating.
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