Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers' January Challenge--The world comes to Canada

Graham Crackers and Nanaimo Bars!
I'd never made graham crackers or Nanaimo bars before this 2-part challenge, so I was excited, more so by the graham crackers than the bars. Nanaimo bars are really sweet. It was an option to make the graham wafers gluten-free, but I used wheat flour to make my wafers, as I seemed that I had nothing in the house to make these, and buying three more flours was not practical for me with all the other ingredients I needed. 

The graham wafers were really easy to put together and the dough was not as sticky as the gluten-free version. After rolling out, I used my new cookie cutters. Turns out that even graham wafers with slightly rude messages are cute! No photos, and I have already eaten the evidence. This was the tastiest dough I have made in a long time, and it was hard to stop snacking on it.

They baked much more quickly than the recipe specified, and if I had paid more attention to the other Daring Bakers' comments, I would have kept an eye on them. As it was, I was also distracted by Australian Open tennis on TV, so I ended up with many dark graham wafers. Those are the ones I used for the base of the Nanaimo Bars. 

The recipe made a lot of graham wafers, so there were lots left over, and they made a great snack with a cup of tea.

The next step was making the base. I toasted some almonds and unsweetened coconut and combined them with the graham wafer crumbs.

To this I added a mixture of butter, sugar, cocoa and an egg that had been cooked in a double boiler.

I spread this in the pan and refrigerated it while I thought about the filling. The original recipe calls for butter, icing sugar, cream, vanilla and custard powder. Custard powder! Ick. I looked at it and vanilla pudding in the grocery store a number of times. I even found an organic version at my local health food store. However, they are basically cornstarch and artificial flavourings and I couldn't bring myself to buy them. I have always found Nanaimo bars too sweet, so I decided to change the filling a little bit. I made a thick pastry cream with some milk, cornstarch and an egg yolk. I beat together some butter and icing sugar and then added the cooled pastry cream gradually. I also added some vanilla bean paste. What I ended up with was a paler, less sweet version of the custard-flavoured buttercream centre. It was really light and fluffy instead of dense and gritty, so I was very happy with it. Unfortunately I have no photos, as this was a late-night affair, and I had no good light. However, you can see it in the finished Nanaimo bars. 

You can also see that there is not a lot of chocolate on top, as, once again, I didn't pay attention to what my fellow Daring Bakers were saying in the forums. Most people found that the 4 ounces of chocolate and a bit of butter melted together was insufficient to coat the top. So, I tried it with 2 ounces of chocolate, and, big surprise, it wasn't enough. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate that hasn't been made into a cake anyway, so I just drizzled on the chocolate and found that there was enough for me. 

These are the 3 pieces I saved for myself, as I gave the rest away. This blogging business is hard work, so maybe I'll go and have one now. Be sure to check here to see the beautiful and creative Nanaimo bars the rest of the Daring Bakers have come up with. 

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and Lauren's notes and gluten-free recipe are after the jump.

Notes for gluten-free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars:
• Glutinous rice flour does not contain any gluten, as it is made from a type of rice called glutinous (or sweet) rice.
• The graham wafer dough is very sticky. Make sure you are flouring (with sweet rice flour) well, or the dough will be difficult to remove from the surface you roll it out on. Also be sure to keep it cold. You do not want the butter to melt.
• I chose these flours because of their availability. Tapioca starch/flour and sweet rice flour can often be found in Asian grocery stores, or in the Asian section of you grocery store. Sorghum can be slightly more difficult to find, but it can be replaced with brown rice flour, millet flour or other alternatives.
• In the Nanaimo Bars, it is very important that the chocolate be cool but still a liquid, otherwise the custard layer will melt, and it will mix with the chocolate, being difficult to spread. Allow the chocolate mixture to come to room temperature but not solidify before spreading the top layer on.

Variations allowed:
• Although I highly recommend using gluten-free flours, as the chemistry is very interesting and the end result can be amazing, you are allowed to use wheat.
• If making them gluten-free, no wheat, barley, rye, triticale, kamut, spelt, durum, semolina, or other gluten containing ingredients may be used. Removing those ingredients ensures it is safe for those with Celiac Disease and other health issues where gluten causes problems. If you do plan on serving this to someone on a gluten-free diet, also ensure no cross-contamination occurs.
Preparation time:
Graham Wafers: 30 to 45 minutes total active prep, 2 ½ hours to overnight and 45 minutes inactive prep.
Nanaimo Bars: 30 minutes.
Equipment required:
• Food Processor
• Bowls
• Parchment paper or silpats
• Cookie sheets
• Double boiler or pot and heatproof bowl
• 8 by 8 inch square pan
• Hand mixer or stand mixer (You may use a wooden spoon, but this makes it much easier!)
• Saucepan

For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract

1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Nanaimo Bars
For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.


Wic said...

love the bars, but your crackers alone make me jealous.
they look so pretty and I love your idea for making them special.

anjelikuh said...

I agree with you, nanaimo bars are toooo sweet and dense. so i love all the adaptations you made on the custard icing layer. I kept on going, "oh! should've done that too!" while read your entry, lol.

chef_d said...

i love your new cutters! the graham crackers look so good with your name on them. your nanaimo bars look great, and the drizzled chocolate added to the overall effect :)

s said...

great clever it!!

Anonymous said...

Everything looks delicious, and your cookie cutters are so cute! What a great way to put your stamp on your cookies and crackers!

Valerina said...

Wow, I love your graham crackes!! And that picture if all the crust ingredients makes me wish I had some right now. :) Beautiful work!

Pontch said...

I love you wafers they looks so cute.
Great job.

twitcher said...

Beautiful Mary! Excellent photos (as always) and the filling you made sounds very tasty. Those are some fab graham wafers.

vibi said...

Love, love, love it all! Love the cookie printer (I have the same or close anyways!), love the colour of the Graham... love the bars... the pictures and all... and the fact that you can say the Olympics are coming to your homeland!

oonsky said...

Love those wafers too specially the cookie cutter with your logo. Delicious looking bars I must say. I've posted the pistachio bavarois in my site for your baking pleasure...cheers from North Carolina!

Deeba PAB said...

Well done on the challenge. What fun you had with those cookie stamps. Ooh I LOVE them, and the bars too!!

Irina@PastryPal said...

I'm completely enamored with your graham crackers. They have such a British tea-time shape, and the imprint is charming. Lovely!

Anonymous said...

ohmygosh I love the little stamp on your crackers! Did you have it made?

Great work on the challenge, your Nanaimo bars look so cute :-)

Cookie Kelly said...

I must get my own custom cookie cutters. I'm so jealous of yours! LOL, I'm curious what the rude ones say.

Pastry cream filling sounds wonderful. I'll have to try that next time.

Mon said...

Mary those cutters are so adorable! Your crackers look perfect too. Great post.

Jane said...

Mary, where/how did you get that cookie cutter with your blog's name on it?? I love it! Your bars and crackers look just perfect!

:) Jane

Zita said...

Nothing can be more personal than a personally baked & named crackers, look great :)

Malin said...

... You know. I don't believe the part about you having a hard time with your crackers. I just don't. :P

Lovelovelove the graham crackers! And your bars don't look too bad either - so cute. ^^

Mary said...

I got the cookie cutters at Williams Sonoma, and they come with some phrases and 3 sets of the alphabet to make your own. They were stupid expensive with shipping and the huge mark-up here in the great white north, but I am absurdly pleased with them. Here's a link, and maybe someone at WS can send me some free stuff. Ha ha:)

Liz said...

3 pieces is more than enough to keep - I found these so sweet, but had no one to give them away to!

Love your cookie cutters, too.

Elissa said...

I agree with you that the graham crackers were absolutely delicious. I love the little stamped letters and the fluted edges, they make your crackers look like they'd be perfect with a cup of tea :)

Maya said...

Your crackers look fabulous! Love the personalized letters! In fact, they've inspired me to make myself a cup of masala chai (Indian spiced tea) right now!

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. Gosh. Your cutters are so fabulous! They make me want to make "conversation heart" cookies for Valentine's Day... If only I had a set. :)

Great work on your Nanaimo Bars. They look fantastic! I had the same trouble with the chocolate being pretty scarce, but I agree that the bars didn't really need additional chocolate flavor. Good idea giving yours away, too... Mine are currently whispering my name from the refrigerator.

Suzler said...

Your crackers are so perfect and cute! I love them. I'm also impressed that you managed to keep only three Nanaimo bars for yourself - very generous indeed!

Great post. :)

Arlette said...

what a cute cookie cutters...
great bars as well....

Jenni said...

Great job on your bars, but I am utterly jealous of your cookie cutter!!! Where did you get them? They made your graham crackers super special!!!

tonic said...

I also love your cutters!! I must look into getting some of those! Your nanaimo bars look delicious - love the step by step photos!

Cakelaw said...

Your stamped Graham crackers are adorable - love them!

Rachel said...

Love the name stamps..and you've given me ideas the next time I make the bars.

Natalie said...

Great minds think alike. :) Well done on the middle layer substitution!
..Oh, and the stamped graham crackers are too adorable..

Anonymous said...

Thanks for dropping by on my blog. Yours is wonderful! I thought the same about the middle layer and considered making a pastry cream too! And love your personalized cookies too!

Monika said...

Your graham crackers are adorable! Love your cookie cutters :) And your bars look tempting as well. Great job!

kate the bake said...

I love your crackers and your bars, thanks so much for posting the link for buying the cutters ... now to see if they will ship to the UK!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary, those crackers are cracking .. sorry I couldn't resist!

I've seen the 'rude' cookie stampers on other cookies and I must get myself some ;-)

Lauren said...

Your grahams are adorable! I love that they're stamped =D. Such a wonderful job on my challenge - everything looks amazing!

msmeanie said...

I love your graham crackers. They are adorable! The pastry cream sounds delicious. I love the chocolate shavings on top too. Beautiful!

misterrios said...

That stamp is amazing! I hope you made the crumbs from the scraps and not the crackers because those are just too pretty to crush.

I also had a problem with the custard powder- I could only find pudding powder. I was fully prepared to make my own custard and even bought 10 eggs (Germany and it's love for metric). In the end, though I bit the bullet. Wish I had been as adventurous as you!

Claire said...

I love the thin coating of chocolate that you used on top. I think I would have preferred that as well. I'm not a huge chocolate fan. The cutters you used for your graham crackers are TOO cute! great job.

Anonymous said...

Your cookie cutter is awesome!! Such cute graham wafers with your name on it, love it!

The step by step pics are great too..

Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries said...

I love that your graham crackers are stamped with your name--so cool!! Great pictures and your bars look delicious! :)

Lisa said...

I was actually shocked to learn that you had never made nor tried Nanaimo bars before - but then I realized I was stereotyping Canadian's palates lol Yours turned out lovely, and I love your graham crackers with the Mary Mary Culinary stamp. Well done all around!

Dharm said...

Superb! I love the way you printed the words on your crackers!! I didnt have the time to do the challenge though this month.... Great job on yours!

Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" said...

Fabulous job! I love your custom cookie cutters...I bet the "socially unacceptable" ones were too funny.

I had trouble with the filling as well. I couldn't get my butter to absorb all the powdered sugar & custard powder. Can't say I liked the flavor of Bird's either. I ended up adding more milk and vanilla extract just to eradicate the flavor of the Bird's. You made a great choice in choosing pastry cream instead.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Anonymous said...

GORGEOUS graham crackers!!! Oh my gosh, I love those custom cutters! MUST have. And your bars look totally delicious!

Tami said...

Can I just be yet one more person to complement you on a challenge well done, but more specifically for your cookie cutter (s). I love it! Need to get me something like that.

berry lovely said...

Oh, I really love your name cookie cutters, makes your graham crackers look really professional.

Aparna said...

What lovely signature crackers! How do you get those?
They almost over shadow your very nice bars.

Catherine Langevin said...

Thanks Mary for passing by my blog and writing my first comment! :D
Your crackers looks so neat! I love them!
I will sure try them again and hope to get as a lovely result as yours!
See you soon!

Memória said...

Too cute!! I love how your graham crackers have your blog name on them!! Great job on this challenge!

ButterYum said...

Absolutely adorable!


Cherine said...

Great job :)

Angela said...

Mary, If you ever need anything from WS again, let me know, I am 10 minutes from a store and will do your shopping for you! I miss nanaimo bars, haven't had them in years. Maybe I should introduce them to the Yanks! Great job!