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 www.nanaimo.ca. 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.
• 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.
• Graham Wafers: 30 to 45 minutes total active prep, 2 ½ hours to overnight and 45 minutes inactive prep.
• Nanaimo Bars: 30 minutes.
• Food Processor
• 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!)
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.
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.