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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Daring Bakers hit the Olympic snowfields

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.



A very timely choice given the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics, Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert and are named after their apparent birthplace of Nanaimo in British Columbia. As written on www.nanaimo.ca,
"According to local legend about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry not "Daphne's Delights" or "Mary's Munchies", but "Nanaimo Bars". The entry won a prize, thereby promoting the town as much as her cooking."

Finding the lack of detail in this sweet tale of civic pride a little suspicious, I put my PhD research skills to use and consulted the infallible Wikipedia. It seems that the recipe was not called "Daphne's Delights" or "Mary's Munchies" because it was in fact called "Mabel's Bars". Perhaps Mabel wasn't quite so enamoured by Nanaimo as the local authorities would have you believe. Sadly, the success of Mabel's sweet creation was ultimately her downfall, as the bars became so popular in the coffee shops of Nanaimo that tourists began to refer to them as Nanaimo Bars, thus foiling her attempts at memorialisation. Despite her daughter's best efforts to promote the name "Mabel's Squares" through publishing the recipe in "The Country Woman's Favorite", the name "Nanaimo Bar" stuck, as surely as one of the delicious treats on the roof of your mouth .

Nanaimo Bars also seem to have the Canada/U.S. equivalent of the Australia/New Zealand Pavlova debate, with some New Yorkers claiming that it originated in New York, referring to them as "New York Slice". Wikipedia debunks this claim by stating that Tim Hortons coffee shops in New York sell them as "Nanaimo Bars", but given that Tim Hortons is a Canadian company I'm not sure they qualify as an independent adjudicator. Now, before we call for King Solomon to come and resolve this dispute, let us again consult www.nanaimo.ca:
"The official Nanaimo Bar recipe was available as a handout as well as on quality tea towel and apron souvenirs."
Quality tea towel and apron souvenirs? I'm sorry New York, but unless you've got the recipe printed on snow globes and in a tiny font on quality souvenir spoons, I'm awarding this one to Nanaimo.

Mind you, after trying these bars/slices/squares myself, I'm considering throwing my hat into the ring and calling them Conor's Cubes. I took these into uni and work, and all who tried them loved them. I even got rave reviews from two bona fide Canadians. Whilst making the Graham Crackers takes a bit of work, making the bars themselves is actually quite straightforward, and requires no baking so they're pretty easy to knock up. Given that you can't find Graham Crackers in Australia, I would probably suggest substituting some sort of digestive biscuit if you can't be arsed baking your own.

Thanks Lauren for this month's challenge, although I am a little afraid about the Canadians in my midst now knowing that I am able to make them.



Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
Recipe as given by Lauren, with my notes in purple. Also, note that these are Canadian measurements, so a tablespoon is 15mL whilst an Australian tablespoon is 20mL.

Ingredients
(I only made a half batch of these, and had lots of leftovers for s'mores)

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
(I couldn't find sorghum flour, try as I might, so I split the sorghum flour weight between the other two flours)
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. (I got too busy and left mine in the fridge for a couple of days, it was fine)


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. (I think mine took around 20 minutes)
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. (I have a perfectly good food processor, but I cannot pass up an opportunity to smash things in the kitchen. I would recommend the smashing option.)


Nanaimo Bars
Recipe as given by Lauren, with my notes in purple Also, note that these are Canadian measurements, so a tablespoon is 15mL whilst an Australian tablespoon is 20mL.

Ingredients
Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar (I used caster 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)
(I found that 130 g of shredded coconut is way more than 1 cup, so I measured it out instead of weighing it)

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.)
(Or, substitute with cornflour and use something else to flavour this layer. I did one version with custard powder, and one version with cornflour, mint essence and green colouring)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate (I used half 70% cocoa choc and half milk choc)
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter
(I found this was the most ridiculously tiny amount and ended up doubling this to get good coverage)

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. (It can be tricky to get out of the pan, and my first lot that I cut up had to be "sacrificed".. in the bellies of my housemate and I... I'd recommend lining the pan with baking paper to allow for easy removal and slicing. I also chilled this layer in the fridge while I prepared the next one)


2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer. (I creamed the butter, cream and icing sugar, then split the mixture into two before adding custard powder to one, and cornflour, mint essence and green colouring to the other. After adding this layer I again chilled the whole thing while preparing the next layer)


3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.
(As mentioned, I chilled the bars between adding layers, as I thought this would help get a crisp line between them. As I was explaining this process to my housemate, and the importance of the crisp delineation, I realised I sounded decided like Arnold J Rimmer. I then shut my mouth.)

UPDATE: to do the decoration on the top, I piped melted white chocolate across the top of the bars, then used a toothpick to drag lines in a perpendicular direction to the white choc lines. My dragged lines left a lot to be desired in terms of straightness, but I've never claimed to be particularly straight and I figured I was cutting them into little cubes anyway so noone would be the wiser.



Additional Information
  • These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer. (These won't last long enough to make it to the freezer. They are too tasty)
  • The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. (Alternatively, find a housemate with a hankering for s'mores, negating the need to store them)
  • 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.

    32 comments:

    Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite January 28, 2010 at 7:11 AM  

    OMG Conor - amazing job on these! Are they really as big as they look because I find I only need a tiny bite of nanaimo bars because they are soooo rich (yes, even I have my limits!). I think I will adopt you.

    Stephcookie January 28, 2010 at 9:13 AM  

    Ooh yours turned out so neat and pretty! Great idea chilling each layer, you really got those perfect straight layers, I was way too impatient so mine were super messy. Love the swirls on top too :)

    Karine January 28, 2010 at 9:20 AM  

    They look so cute! Great job!

    By the way, I don't consider Tim Hortons being a reference whatsoever for nanaimo bars lolol. But I am sure these bars are canadian :)

    Actually, I did not even know Tim Hortons sells nanaimo bars. Oh my, I don't look like someone who lives in a city where there is a Tim Hortons at "almost" every road intersection.

    Food lover January 28, 2010 at 10:07 AM  

    I love the white chocolate decoration on top - it looks perfect!

    penny aka jeroxie January 28, 2010 at 8:21 PM  

    LOOKs AMAZING! And you didn't bring any down to Melbourne?? boooo :(

    Iron Chef Shellie January 29, 2010 at 6:49 AM  

    ooo purty!! I love the look of yours =)

    Nice to meet you last night! I love Perth, so hopefully I can come visit you some time soon!
    x

    Rilsta January 29, 2010 at 11:25 AM  

    Wow, these look so fantastic! I love how you made comments too - very helpful! That split down the middle to make two different flavours is very clever! I wonder if that works for cakes?!

    Is the white on the top layer milk chocolate? And did you get that effect by piping across straight lines and then using a toothpick to make it swirly? Can't seem to find how you did it in your post!

    mademoiselle délicieuse January 29, 2010 at 12:45 PM  

    Love the dual filling flavours in the one pan and the white choc decorating the top is very, very neat!

    Panamahat January 29, 2010 at 9:29 PM  

    Holy Cow, these Conor's cubes look amazing. That's it, I am definitely having a birthday party this year, and I'm going to get YOU to do the sweets! These are on my list, right after those owl babies and the Guinness numbers. Sigh. After staying away from sugar all year until my birthday, I'll probably put myself into a glycemic coma with these suckers...

    Kitchen Butterfly January 30, 2010 at 4:17 AM  

    STUNNINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG. I love the white chocolate/frosting design and this weekend, I'm making these....in a special way for Valentines!

    Kitchen Butterfly January 30, 2010 at 4:18 AM  

    And I'm laughing my head off cause I thought I was the only one who did the foil separation thing - I actually use that trick to bake 2 kinds of cake in one pan. The last one I did was half orange and half apple. You rock.........big time!

    Mr. P January 30, 2010 at 8:12 AM  

    OMG. Somebody really has been getting their bake on! I love the striping on the top, you are what I would call highly skilled.

    I think I'd have the green one.

    Adrian @ Food Rehab January 31, 2010 at 10:13 AM  

    Looks great- and yes, totally with you on the baking paper. I seem to use that more than foil these days when baking!

    pierre February 1, 2010 at 2:14 AM  

    hi conor
    your bars are really beautiful !! happy aussie day !! cheers Pierre in Paris

    thecuriousbaker February 1, 2010 at 11:41 PM  

    Those stripes are dee-vine! and that foil thing is a fantastic idea. Well done for tackling the often tricky area of gluten free baking :)

    Pam February 2, 2010 at 5:05 AM  

    Beautiful! They look truly amazing.

    astheroshe February 2, 2010 at 5:41 AM  

    ORIGIN OF THE CHICK-O-STICK NAME

    How did the Chick-O-Stick get its name? The real answer has probably been lost in our corporate history, but here’s one account by Eric Atkinson, President of the company. Generally, when we began making Chick-O-Sticks in the late 1930’s, that kind of candy was traditionally known as “Chicken Bones”. Back in those days, Atkinson candy was distributed only inside the State of Texas. In the 1950’s, Atkinson Candy Company began distributing their candy nationally and discovered that another company already owned the rights to the name “Chicken Bones” (and that’s probably a good thing). Our then Vice President of Sales, J. Powell Ware, working with Joe Atkinson and an artist for the box company, somehow came up with the name Chick-O-Stick..…and it stuck! Why “Chicken Bones” in the first place? Well, one thing is certain about that – there is no chicken in a Chick-O-Stick! Our best guess is that the toasted coconut on the outside of the candy gives the appearance of a piece of fried chicken.

    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella February 2, 2010 at 6:02 AM  

    Greta job Conor! Mint would be a killer flavour in this with the richness. I went the other well and added caramel lol. Hehe I didn't want to make this for a Canadian friend in case she asked for it all the time (and I didn't know whether she would consider my changes to be scarilege)! :P

    Velva February 2, 2010 at 10:19 AM  

    Wow! those bars look fabulous!! Delicious.

    Emma @CakeMistress February 2, 2010 at 5:18 PM  

    Yummo! Really love the colours and the idea of mint flavouring. Beautifully decorated too!

    Conor @ HoldtheBeef February 2, 2010 at 5:37 PM  

    Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite - woo, thanks! No they are nice little manageable things, maybe 3cm across. I didn't want to kill anyone :D Yes adopt me please, and make sure you do it before you put those dried morels to use!

    Stephcookie - thanks!! The chilling was a good suggestion from a clever friend, and I'm surprised I did it because I'm normally too impatient as well.

    Karine - thank you! No, me neither.. I don't remember seeing them in there when I was in Canada but I guess I was always distracted by the Tim Bits ;)

    Food lover - aw thanks :)

    penny aka jeroxie - thank you! I swear I did but the sniffer dogs ate them!!

    Iron Chef Shellie - thanks! I was trying for 'purty' ;) You too!! Come! Little Creatures awaits!

    Rilsta - thanks! Ooh yes I'd like to try it with cakes.. I guess the cardboard/foil should be fine in the oven as long as you don't get it too close to the element! Yep, that's exactly how I did it, will add it to the post now :)

    mademoiselle délicieuse - thank you! :)

    Panamahat - hehe, thanks :D You have to have a birthday party this year for such a special one! It must be done! I think a glycemic coma is also required, especially with a dashing doctor so conveniently at hand.

    Kitchen Butterfly - thank you!! Ooh I can't wait to see what you make, I know the photos will be amazing. Excellent to know the separation thing works with cakes too. Half orange, half apple cake??? I think my dear that it is YOU who rock!

    Mr. P - oh yeah, gettin' my bake on, woo woo! Highly skilled? Aw thank you! I'll cut an extra big green one for you.

    Adrian @ Food Rehab - I wish I could marry baking paper.

    pierre - thank you! Happy Aussie Day to you too, as it's a few months too early to wish you happy Bastille Day :D

    thecuriousbaker - thank you! I'm really pleased to have done the gluten-free recipe, even if I couldn't track down sorghum flour.

    Pam - thanks so much!

    astheroshe - ahhhh, thank you! Not sure if that actually makes the name even weirder ;)

    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella - thank you! I feel like I should branch out more. If I'm not Cherry Riping something up, I'm minting it up. Loved your dulce de leche ones!

    Velva - thank you! :)

    Emma @CakeMistress - thank you! I'm still perplexed by your ceiling.

    Von February 2, 2010 at 6:02 PM  

    These look so perfect, they look like they're bought from a shop! Yum!!

    Maria@TheGourmetChallenge February 3, 2010 at 10:19 AM  

    I've never heard of these before, but they look so good, I especially love the generous amount in each layer!

    A cupcake or two February 3, 2010 at 11:40 AM  

    Love your version of nanaimo bars. Cool idea with the 2 colours and the pattern on the top. So cute and I am sure they are delish

    Krissy @ The Food Addicts February 4, 2010 at 5:41 AM  

    wow the colors on this dessert are amazing! i want some!!!!!!

    Isabelle February 5, 2010 at 9:19 PM  

    They look divine!
    I really love the colors and the mint flavor. Bravo!

    Conor @ HoldtheBeef February 6, 2010 at 12:12 AM  

    Von - thanks so much! What a nice compliment :)

    Maria@TheGourmetChallenge - thanks! No stingy layers for me, nuh uh! :D

    A cupcake or two - thank you! I had to hold myself back from doing three flavours, I'm glad I had some self control :)

    Krissy @ The Food Addicts - thanks very much!!

    Isabelle - thanks!! I find mint flavours are always a hit (especially when they are nice and green) :D

    Joy February 6, 2010 at 11:44 AM  

    Oh my gosh - your bars look amazing!! Congratulations on a great job!! I couldn't cut my chocolate - it cracked all over the place - but yours looks perfect!! Consider me officially jealous!! :) lol

    MaryMoh February 7, 2010 at 6:24 AM  

    Looks gorgeous and delicious!

    vickys February 13, 2010 at 3:48 PM  

    I totally miss those thick mint slices that you find everywhere in aussie land! :) These look awesomely yum, with the extra thick layer of choc!

    Julia @Mélanger February 14, 2010 at 3:15 PM  

    I love your double up combination. Great idea in the preparation. I do love a mint slice, and love how you incorporated that flavour into this Canadian bar.

    Conor @ HoldtheBeef March 13, 2010 at 12:41 PM  

    Joy - thanks so much! And who cares about the cracks, bet it tasted good enough to be blind to them :)

    MaryMoh - thank you!

    vickys - Mmmmmm thick mint slices. Thanks!!

    Julia @Melanger - thanks! It's amazing how pretty much everyone seems super keen for some chocmint action when you make something like this.

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