Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nanaimo Bars

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

Nanaimo Bars are a traditional Canadian dessert, featured because the world's eye will be turned to Canada in just 2 weeks for the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Nanaimo (pronounced nah-ny-mo) Bars are made with graham crackers in the crust so in order to make gluten free Nanaimo Bars we had to first make our own gluten free graham crackers.

The graham crackers were simple to make and actually very delicious....they just didn't taste like graham crackers. Made with rice, sorghum and tapioca flour the gluten free graham crackers tasted like a very crispy butter cookie. I would definitely like to make them again...maybe with less expensive whole wheat flour. The kids loved them and couldn't stop eating them and the crackers took no time at all to make once the dough was chilled. And they have 2 Tablespoons of vanilla in them, so what's not to like? I highly recommend making gluten free graham crackers.

The Nanaimo Bars were really tasty as well. The bars basically consist of three layers: 1) graham crackers, almonds, cocoa powder and coconut crust; 2) vanilla/buttercream icing filling; and 3) chocolate topping. They were a snap to make. The only complaint I would have is that they must stay refrigerated, but when you cut the cold bars the chocolate topping cracks all over the place and does not look very nice.
I enjoyed this challenge (and the food we made) very much, but the most rewarding part of the whole experience was the response I got from an acquaintance with Celiac Disease. When my husband heard what my challenge for the month was he asked if he could take the gluten free graham crackers and Nanaimo Bars to a (high school) student that he has who suffers from Celiac Disease. I agreed and after checking with his mother to make sure everything in the recipe was safe for Alex to eat, I sent the desserts off to school with my husband. That afternoon I got a message from Alex that said, "That was the best gluten free dessert I've ever had!" I promised him I would give his mom the recipe. It was great to bring culinary joy to someone on a very limited diet. Thanks Daring Bakers.

Gluten Free Graham Crackers

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.

5. 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. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

6. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.

7. 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.

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
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)

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 (Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar (Confectioners sugar)

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. (This will thicken very quickly.) 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.

Keep refrigerated.

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