Gord Brownies: Maple-Bacon Nainamo Brownies

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Gord Brownies: Maple-Bacon Nainamo Brownies
Happy Friday, friends! And not just any Friday, but Canada Day long-weekend, Friday! A weekend that represents more Canadianism than any other, I am certain. For many, it's a perfect weekend for loading the car to the max and heading to the cottage, camping or any other version of glorious northern summer outdoor-ness. For the rest, it's still an iconic weekend of all things Canadian, and a celebration of this incredibly diverse, gorgeous (and let us not forget friendly) country. This past October, we lost the most iconic and beloved Canadian musician/poet/activist, Gord Downie--the front man for The Tragically Hip (also affectionately known as simply "The Hip") since 1984. The Tragically Hip's music saw incredible and record-setting success over the years, and while doing so, became the soundtrack to countless Canadian weekends, cottage trips, garage parties, dockside beer drinking and everything in between. I would bet that you couldn't find a soul north of the US border who doesn't have a deep-rooted connection to the sound and the memories that the band created over all of those years. So what does this all have to do with brownies? Well, in honour of Gord Downie, we are making Gord Brownies! I mean, how could we not? The kids have just finished school for the summer, which typically makes this weekend even more exciting for all. And if you aren't planning a weekend away (Canadian or otherwise), weekends are perfect for trying new recipes that are quick, easy and super-shareable. But, wait, what the heck is a Gord Brownie?     So I wanted to make something very Canadian, but that wasn't already a thing (I love to experiment) and, as with any country, there are certain flavour and recipes that come straight to mind. For us, it's maple syrup, Nanaimo Bars and, um, bacon... I wondered if there was a way to bring these things together in a way that was decadent and lovely, but not disturbing, haha. You know what I mean? It's easy to slap things together for shock value, but if we're going to make it, it's definitely important that the flavours and textures work in a way that, well, works. Although baking with maple and bacon is not a new idea in these parts, I personally had never done so, so I came up with the Gord Brownie: a rich, maple-bacon brownie base topped with a classic Nanaimo Bar filling (for those of you who aren't familiar with Nanaimo Bars, you can learn more here, but in short they are typically a chocolate-coconut based bar with this delightful creamy, yellow custard filling and topped with a chocolate glaze. They are named after the town of Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia) and topped with a maple-chocolate glaze and finally...our Sweetapolita "Tragically Chip" Sprinkle Medley! The Tragically Chip Sprinkle Medley (VEGAN | KOSHER | GLUTEN-FREE)  is an awesome topping because it contains premium Canadian (obvi), crunchy, colourful candy-coated chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles, so it pops on the glossy chocolate glaze and adds a sweet taste and crunchy texture. Of course you could use any sprinkles you love! So...bacon! So I used the base of my favourite brownie recipe, and added a heap of maple syrup to sweeten (besides tasting magical, maple syrup has superfood benefits, and it all just makes good sense to add it in!). I topped the brownie batter with maple-brown sugar candied bacon, and those alone are a unique-but-decadent, chocolatey and oh-so-Canadian treat, but just to take it further we will do our triple layer version. What I love about the Nanaimo filling is that it's only a handful of ingredients, including butter and confectioners' sugar, but also includes Bird's Custard Powder, which gives it this sweet, nostalgic vanilla flavour. You don't have to use the Bird's brand, but that does make it a little more official :). For the glaze, I added a good dose of maple syrup to premium semi-sweet chocolate, butter and salt, which is such a versatile base for any chocolate glaze. You might remember we used it here, but in the Root Beer variation for our Root Beer Float Cake, and I have used it many times in other desserts. The maple flavour isn't super-strong but there is a hint of it and it gives it a natural sweetness, which is a nice change from the super-sweet (but super-delightful) Nanaimo filling. If for some reason you wanted to make these without the bacon, or if you don't have bacon on hand, simply omit that part of the recipe and carry on. (If there is no bacon, you can leave these at room temperature for up to a week--they last a long time, or well, will keep that long, but they never actually last!) Just don't forget the sprinkles, friends!  Here is the recipe for these Oh Canada treats. Have a safe and happy weekend!

Gord Brownies: Maple-Bacon Nanaimo Brownies

Moist, chocolatey maple-infused brownies topped with candied bacon, creamy Nanaimo filling and topped with maple-chocolate glaze and Sweetapolita "Tragically Chip" Sprinkles. 

For the Maple-Bacon Brownie Base

  • 8 slices quality bacon
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) plus 2 tablespoons (30ml) for bacon pure maple syrup
  • 6 1/2 oz (200g) best quality chocolate chips, callets or chopped (*see notes)
  • 1 1/2 sticks (175g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (155g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp (5ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

For the Nanaimo Filling:

  • 3 cups (345g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup ( custard powder (Bird's brand, if possible)
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) water

For the Maple-Glaze:

  • 5 oz (150g) best-quality chocolate chips, callets or chopped (*see notes)
  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (85g) sprinkles! (*see notes )

Make the Maple-Bacon Brownie Base:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉ (175℃). Line a 9 x 9-inch pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and the 2 tablespoons (30ml) maple syrup. 

  2. Cook the bacon: Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and place a metal cooling rack over top. Lay the bacon slices across the rack with no overlapping. Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 10 minutes, then turn the bacon over and bake for another 5 minutes. Brush both sides of the bacon with the sugar/syrup mixture and return to the oven. Continue baking until crisp, but repeat basting every 10 minutes, about another 30-35 minutes total. Remove from the oven and set side. When cool, cut the bacon into small, 1/4" pieces. 

  3. Make the brownies: Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, but make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Leave to melt until smooth. 

  4. Remove the mixture from the heat, and whisk in the sugar and maple syrup until well combined. Add the flour and salt, and whisk until blended. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until smooth. 

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula or palette knife. Add the bacon pieces on top of the batter, in a single layer across the top. Bake the brownies for 30-35 minutes, until the top cracks slightly and the centre is soft. Let cool completely. 

For the Nanaimo Filling:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or any mixing bowl if you are using a handheld mixer), and beat on the lowest speed until the confectioners' sugar is blended in. Increase the speed to medium-high, and beat the mixture until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes. 

  2. Transfer the mixture onto the cooled brownie base, and spread evenly. Chill for 30 minutes. 

For the Maple-Chocolate Glaze:

  1. STOVETOP METHOD: In a medium heatproof bowl set over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, butter, maple syrup and salt until smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool slightly. MICROWAVE METHOD: Add all of the ingredients to a heatproof bowl or measuring cup with spout. Microwave at high heat for 1 minute, then stir. Continue to heat in 30 second intervals until the mixture is completely melted. The glaze will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. When ready to use, warm the glaze over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave.

  2. Pour the glaze over the Nanaimo filling and spread evenly. Chill for about 5 minutes before sprinkling the well, sprinkles, on top. Chill until firm, and then use a knife to loosen the any sides that are stuck to the pan, and then use the parchment sides to lift the brownies from the pan. Cut into squares on a cutting board. 

  • For the brownies and the glaze, I used Callebaut Semi-Sweet Callets.
  • You can certainly omit the bacon from this recipe, but it does make it pretty darn Canadian (sorry, but it does.) 
  • For the Nanaimo filling, I always use Bird's Custard Powder
  • I used the Sweetapolita Tragically Chip Sprinkle Medley, which are pretty ideal, but you can use any sprinkles your heart desires! 
  • These babies are perfect for cottage weekends, after-school snacks and more!

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  • Rosie Alyea
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