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.
I absolutely love Nanaimo Bars! They were always a staple at Christmas or when ever you had a dessert try. Not until this challenge did I realize that Nanaimo Bars were a “Canadian Thing”. I guess this explains why my American Fiance and his family had no idea what I was talking about when I spoke of them.
Having a love for Nanaimo Bars I was thrilled when I saw that we were making them for the January Challenge, then I saw Gluten Free and I thought Oh no, these are going to be horrible! We were given the choice to make the Gluten free recipe or make them with regular flour, instantly I thought, Thanks God! I’m going to make the regular ones! Then I thought, Why? I already know how to make them and I know they are good, why not challenge myself, after all this is a Daring Bakers Challenge! I had never made anything gluten-free and it started to peak my interest.
For those who are not familiar, Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Nah-nye-Moh. These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across the country.
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)
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.
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 Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
- 4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter
For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
The final product was very good! I’m so glad I decided to try the gluten-free version. I did not tell anyone they were gluten-free until they were gone and everyone said how much they loved them.
I have to say, I do like my original recipe better but this one is excellent!
Thank you Lauren for a great challenge!