Nanaimo Bars - The Baker and The Chef
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
I just joined Daring Bakers!  This is my first challenge and I had quite a lot of fun.  The way it works is one or two members choose a baked good that they would like the group to prepare.  The challenger finds a recipe they want to use and then the group (The Daring Bakers) all prepare it and blog about it.  We all agree to only post the recipe on a certain day so that we all do it on the same day.  It's a lot of fun and definitely can take you out of your comfort zone if someone chooses something really challenging.

The rules are simple:  prepare the item using the same recipe that the challenger posts.  No substituting a recipe you already use or tweaking of recipes except in the case of allergies or personal beliefs (so, if like me you can't have nuts or if you're vegan).  The only changes that can be made are if the challenger specifically says you can change certain things.  Then, make it and blog about it!

For my first challenge we made Nanaimo Bars.  I've heard of these before but have never made them, and I don't think I'd ever even seen them.  For me this was a great challenge.  I got to make something I'd never made before, but it wasn't terribly complicated so I didn't feel too stressed that I wouldn't be able to make them.

The finished bars were incredibly rich and sweet!  It's definitely something that you only need a little piece of.  At first I wasn't sure if I liked them, but they seem to keep forever so I was able to keep going back and cutting a little sliver and they seemed to get better and better.  By the time they were gone M1 and I decided that we did, in fact, like them.  They're a crazy combination of sweeet, salty, buttery and chocolate, which is sometimes EXACTLY what you're looking for.

The big challenge was to make the graham crackers gluten free, however our challenger said we could make them with regular flour if we wanted.  I chose to make the regular flour kind because it would be too expensive to go out and buy all the different flours needed to make it gluten free, especially knowing that I would never use the flours again.  I do have to say that the regular flour crackers were delicious, but other Daring Bakers who made the gluten free type said they were even better than the regular ones.

I had a lot of fun with this, and I'm totally looking forward to the next challenge!

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.
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.

(I made the regular flour crackers.  I had no problems with the dough being sticky or that they baked super fast.  They baked in the 12 minutes the recipes suggests.)
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)

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

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.

If making with wheat, replace the gluten-free graham wafer crumbs with equal parts wheat graham wafer crumbs!
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.
christi harrison
1/28/2010 10:12:01

wow, look at you, joining in challenges! seems like a fun way to spice everything up and what you made looks tasty. although, i wonder about how it had to grow on you. does that make it good? probably!

1/28/2010 12:16:12

Welcome to the Daring Bakers'! Good job on your first challenge!! :)

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