Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Nanaimo Bars

Daring Bakers Logo- Vanilla Fairy

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

It's Daring Baker time again! This time we made Nanaimo Bars. We also had an additional challenge of making our own graham crackers for the graham cracker crumbs needed for the bars. Having always bought graham crackers from the store, I was eager to give the homemade version a try. Especially after seeing Alton Brown make some last week on his cracker episode. Nanaimo bars are not something I had heard of until recently. Being a Canadian favorite, they aren't something that you see very often in the States unless you live closer to the Canadian border. With the Olympics coming up in Vancouver, Canadian foods have been making a big appearance everywhere. Nanaimo bars really peaked my interest because I had no idea what they were.

The graham crackers were fairly simple to make. I made them the night before I made the nanaimo bars. You can get them done in one evening but you could also stretch it out into an afternoon if you needed too. If we weren't going to make them with the gluten free flours, we were allowed to use wheat flour.


Oh my goodness. I loved these. If I had known earlier how good and how simple these were to make, I would have been making them by hand. They were sweet and tasted like...well...graham crackers. Only better than you would find in any box at the store. They were crunchy yet slightly chewy. Delicous plain or with a little of the icing like middle layer of the nanaimo bars.

Graham Crackers

The nanaimo bars were simple but time consuming. You have to make each layer and allow it to chill before adding the next. My only trouble came when it was time for the chocolate top layer. My first try was not thin enough. I think I let it cool too much and it nearly was solid like a candy bar. I was able to spread it slightly but it almost messed up the white middle layer. On my next try I added a touch more butter to make the chocolate stay liquid while it cooled. This time it spread perfectly.

Nanaimo Bars

After a long chill in the fridge, the bars were ready to cut and plate. Or at least I thought I was going to plate them. I had made a half batch and used a small rectangular pyrex dish to make them. These little buggers did not want to come out in one piece. The top layer kept snapping off when I tried to pry them out. I had to go through one row nearly of messy looking ones before I was able to get some nice ones out. I'm sure it would have been the same with the full batch in an 8x8 though.

Nanaimo Bars

I was only able to eat one tiny square because boy these things are super rich. And way too sweet. And too chocolatey. I'm sure they would be great for a large group of people but for just me...not so much. The middle layer was my favorite because it was so icing like. I spread a little of that on the graham crackers and liked that more than the bars. It was nice to try a favorite of Canada but I'll stick to something a little lighter next time.

Thanks to our host, Lauren of Celiac Teen for the great challenge! For more nanaimo bars and graham crackers, check out the Daring Bakers blogroll.

Nanaimo Bars and Graham Crackers

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.

Additional Information:

These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer.

The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Mine lasted about that long.

If making the graham crackers with wheat, replace the gluten-free flours (tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, and sorghum flour) with 2 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp of all-purpose wheat flour, or wheat pastry flour. Watch the wheat-based graham wafers very closely in the oven, as they bake faster than the gluten-free ones, sometimes only 12 minutes.

For the Nanaimo Bars, if making with wheat, replace the gluten-free graham wafer crumbs with equal parts wheat graham wafer crumbs!


1 Treats for Charlie:

Michelle said...

Your bars came out so nice with such even layers.

Wonderful photo too.

I have the worst time making bars of anything. Mine never seem to turn out well at all.

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