It’s time to get back to normal and have another Daring Baker challenge! I am finishing this one at the last minute, so I’d definitely say things are normal again. I did this one over a couple of days, as it has a couple parts to it. The first part was to make gluten-free graham crackers, and the second part was to use those graham crackers in a traditional Canadian dessert, Nanaimo Bars. (Full recipe at end of post.)
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 have a friend here in York whose husband is gluten intolerant, so I was fortunate enough to be able to get some of my ingredients from her pantry, and after searching all the grocery stores and finally ending up at the health food store, I ended up with all of the ingredients except the custard powder (which was fine, as I just substituted vanilla pudding mix as the recipe suggested).
Once again, this was a dough-like substance, so I was yet again hesitant, and for good reason. I, of course, used a whisk to mix my ingredients, and then cut my butter in as best I could with a fork. I worked on this for quite some time, and really couldn’t see any chunks of butter, so I’m pretty sure I was doing it right thus far. I then whisked together my liquid ingredients, and added them to form my “soft and sticky” dough. It was indeed very soft—not tough to stir like cookie dough, but really easy, like air. I really felt like this was more akin to brownie batter, except even lighter. But I thought it must be right, as it was certainly soft and sticky. Very sticky.
My graham ingredients
My dry ingredients with butter cut in
The soft, sticky batter/dough
Next was turning the dough onto a floured surface in order to shape it into a rectangle for the fridge. Here’s where I became slightly concerned. The term “turn” implies that it will all plop out of the bowl as a complete unit. I basically poured my “dough” onto my floured surface (once again, think brownie batter). And as for turning it into a rectangle, well . . . it was a globular rectangle. But I doused it with flour and tried my best at wrapping it in plastic wrap, figuring it would get more solid when it cooled.
My rectangle of gooey dough
Pretty much didn’t happen. Instead I just had cold cracker batter, even after sitting in the fridge overnight. So I figured I just needed more flour, so I LOADED it up—my parchment paper was covered, and I drenched the top of the dough as well. On the bright side, it was really easy to roll out. I didn’t even really need my rolling pin. Somehow, though, it was still sticky. So when it seemed close to 1/8 inch, I called it good and cut pieces out, but didn’t remove them from the parchment, as they were stuck and not even mildly stiff anyway. I stuck them in the fridge to cool and went to have dinner at a friend’s.
Ready to cook, I guess
When I got home I immediately turned on the oven and stuck my dough batter in the oven. They were supposed to take 25 minutes, but after 15 they smelled like they were burning. The center of the mass still didn’t seem done, even though the edges were looking browned, so I left them in a little longer. I still don’t know if I should have left them in longer or what, because the edges ended up getting black, while the center is more like a soft cookie. I’m guessing the problem may lie in the thickness of the dough. Should have rolled a little more.
The cooked product
Well, the soft bits are still quite delicious, and I have no complaints, except that I needed crunchy graham crumbs for the next part. So I broke apart what I could, and tried to avoid the really burned bits and managed to get my 1 and 1/4 cups of crumbs. I figured once they were mixed with the rest it really wouldn’t be a big deal. So on to part two!
I started on my bottom layer in my makeshift double boiler, and really had no problems. Things melted as predicted, mixed as predicted, and stuck in the bottom of my pan, just like it was all supposed to. Very encouraging. I stuck it in the fridge to cool while I put Emma to bed (it was almost midnight by this time—oops!).
Bottom layer (minus the egg)
Melting in the "double boiler"
Adding all the rest
Bottom layer success!
Then I started on layer two. I think to really get it to cream together, the butter really needs to be at room temperature, which mine was not, so I took another little break part way through mixing and then went back and creamed my second layer and added it on top.
Creaming butter, sugar, etc
Layer two success!
Last, I melted my chocolate and butter, but I went the easy method, and stuck it in a measuring cup in the microwave. I also used dark chocolate chips because I like them more than just semi-sweet. I waited until the chocolate seemed cool enough not to melt the custard layer, but it was rather sticky, so I think it may have been too cool. Also, were I to do this again, I would leave out the butter. I’ve made refrigerated bars before that require chocolate on top, and it works just fine to just melt the chocolate. I feel like the butter made it a little greasy when spreading instead of smooth and creamy. Still worked, though. (Or maybe I didn’t melt it enough?)
Top layer success!
Sadly, I am finishing this in the middle of the night, so I do not have a picture of the finished, cut product. But I will update later in the day tomorrow when I get to it! Oh, and I suggest cutting the bars before the chocolate is all the way hardened, or it may crack (at least in past experience this has been true).
My final opinion on this challenge is this: if I ever do try to make graham crackers again (which I may one day—the unburned parts are very tasty!), I will roll them out thinner. I will also pay more attention at the beginning. Emma was helping me and it’s very possible that with all her constant chatter I mis-measured something. This recipe will not be at the top of my list to try again, though.
On the other hand, the Nanaimo Bars seem to be a definite keeper. They really weren’t too difficult to make, but I would just use regular graham crackers next time. I know I haven’t tasted the whole product all together yet, but I sampled each layer, and on their own, they were each very good (I almost quit at the custard layer and just ate the whole bowl of it!), so I’m pretty confident that they will be enjoyable.
And now I’m off to bed, while visions of chocolate dance in my head.
***Updated*** Ok, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go to bed without tasting it. So I pulled them out of the fridge, cut, snapped a photo, and consumed. Oh, my. Oh, my. Maybe I’m just tired, and that’s making it seem better, but these are good. I have quite a sweet tooth, so I’m pretty sure I’m lovin’ them because they are so intense. But all the work, and the staying up way, way too late is totally worth it at this point in time (I’m sure I’ll have a different opinion when I’m awakened in a few hours by III crying). Anyone in town that wants to try one, you better hurry up, or I am sure to finish them all myself!
Looks aren't everything. So fantastic!!
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 Ingredients
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
Directions: 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 Ingredients:
For Nanaimo Bars —
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)
1/2 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
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter
Directions: 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!
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