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.
Nanaimo Bars are from Nanaimo, British Columbia. However, the story of these Nanaimo Bars takes us to a different Canadian city, arguably its most famous: Toronto.
Growing up a little over an hour away from Toronto I of course have ventured to the city many times. It wasn’t my first time to the city, but my first memory of Toronto sort-of-indirectly inspired my flavours for this month’s DB Challenge.
It was, I believe, my first time going up the CN Tower. We stood on the glass floor, which funnily enough I can no longer do without panicking a little bit. My childhood self was far more adventurous than my current self. We went to the spinning restaurant at the top, and my sister and I ordered Shirley Temples. They came in glasses shaped like the Tower which we kept as souvenirs.
However, the best part of that day really actually had nothing to do with Toronto at all. It was, of course, a book! A booked called, Sleeping Dragons All Around by Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Michele Nidenoff. This book certainly triggered my love of dragons, as well as my fascination with layer cakes, though baking them would not come for a long time (and still I don’t bake them that often). Dragons and cake? This is making about as much sense as piano and pumpkin pie, I think.
The protagonist, in a pink nightgown, is desperately craving leftovers of the Mocha Maple Chocolate Cake just waiting to be eaten in the fridge downstairs. So she tiptoes, tiptoes softly to the kitchen. But the catch is – there are a ton of sleeping dragons throughout her house. The illustrations are fantastic, and the alliterative language just bounces on your tongue – just as delicious as a Mocha Maple Chocolate Cake.
Anyway, long story short, it turns out the dragons are not so vicious and only want a share of the Mocha Maple Chocolate Cake. So they eat cake, dance in the kitchen and don’t do the dishes! Naturally, since reading that book I’ve desperately wanted to make a Mocha Maple Chocolate Cake. However, I don’t think it’d be quite so satisfactory without the dancing dragons.
Now, somewhat an adult, there are dragons of a different kind in life. My ex-roommate, a fan of Nanaimo Bars, was hosting a birthday party this past weekend. However, there were some dramatic dragons supposed to be in attendence, which is enough to make anyone nervous. Inspired by the Canadian theme and the lessons learned from Sheree Fitch (that Mocha Maple Chocolate Cake appeases even dragons, dispells drama and encourages dancing), I thought some Mocha Maple Nanaimo Bars were in order.
I am a bad Canadian, and usually not a fan of Nanaimo Bars. I, like many, usually find them too sweet. I certainly expected these to be even sweeter than usual (Elissa at 17 and Baking also went with maple flavour and wasn’t a fan), but for some reason I really liked these. Perhaps the mocha mellowed it out, but due to being distracted by my Robinson Crusoe audiobook, I had to add the instant coffee after I had mixed the base all together, which meant it didn’t get distributed evenly, so I’m not sure it played that much of a role in the overall flavour. It could also be that I kept the same ingredient amounts, but doubled the pan-size, making thin bars that weren’t too overwhelming.
And so, I brought the bars to the party hoping, like Fitch’s dragons, they would be sweet enough to smooth over the bitter tension everyone was anxious for. The night was fun, and we all danced into the wee hours of the morning – and we certainly did not do the dishes! We woke up the next morning to find cake all over the kitchen floor. Must have been those pesky dragons.
I also did the Homemade Graham Cracker part of the challenge, but did not go gluten-free. I wanted to, but I simply couldn’t justify spending the extra money on fancy flours when I had all-purpose at home. They turned out delicious, but after hearing rave reviews for the gluten-free, I’ll have to try them some day!
I dipped some in 75% dark chocolate and topped with Skor bits. Yum. I found with these that the thinner they were, the better…so keep rolling!
Below are the recipes selected by Lauren. I’ve put the gluten-free graham crackers – if you want to make gluten-full, obviously just replace with all-purpose flour. I imagine you could also replace some with whole wheat flour.
I’ve put my ammendments to the Nanaimo Bar recipe in bold.
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) (obviously I used my gluten-full ones)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped) (I used Skor bits instead)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)
*I added 1/2 tsp of instant coffee to the mix! Add it when you are melting the butter/sugar/cocoa. I’d maybe try more than 1/2 tsp, but my didn’t mix evenly so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about!
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.) (I used butterscotch pudding mix instead)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar
*I added 2 tbsp pure (Canadian to stick with the theme!) maple syrup.
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 (and instant coffee) 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 (and maple syrup) 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.
Enjoy! This was a fun, easy challenge, which leaves open many opportunities for creativity. Plus it was nice to have some props to Canada. Oh, and since I have all that maple syrup…I’m thinking I might have an excuse to make pancakes!